Pro Pontiff, Pro-Magisterial, Pro-life, Pro-family. These articles reflect these values and I believe should be Interesting to Catholics. If there are any article I have missed, or you feel should not be here, or you agree/disagree with, then please feel free to post a comment.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Catholic Scriptural Teaching on Death

Dear Catholic Exchange:
I am asking about what happens at the time of death from the Catholic way of teaching, and what Scripture do I use to support it.
Melissa W. Sais
Dear Ms. Sais,
The human person is body and soul (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 362; Gen. 2:7). At death the body and soul are separated. This separation results in death to the body. Unlike the body, which can die and decay, the immaterial aspect of the human person lives on. After death, the person is in a temporary disembodied state awaiting the resurrection at the end of time. In this resurrection, even the body will ultimately be glorified and joined to the soul in a new way (Catechism, no. 366). (Please note that the Catechism provides many Scriptural references, pointing to those passages from which the Church gains much of Her understanding of these truths.)
At the moment of death each individual faces his own particular judgment. He is judged by God based upon the actions performed and the faith expressed during his life (cf. Catechism, nos. 1021-22).
Scriptural support for the Christian teaching of particular judgment can be found in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk. 16:19-31) and in Christ’s words to the good thief (cf. Lk. 23:43). Additional references include St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians in which he implies that death is the entrance to reward (2 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:23). Sirach 11:28-29 might also be read in light of a particular judgment, as can Acts 1:25 with the descent of Judas and Revelation 20:4-6, 12-14.
At the individual's particular judgment, he receives one of three different possible “sentences." First, if a person dies in friendship with God, he goes to share in the “communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed” in heaven (cf. Catechism, no. 1023-29). Secondly, if a person dies in God’s friendship, but still “imperfectly purified,” he undergoes purification in purgatory before entering heaven (cf. Catechism, no. 1030-32). Lastly, if a person dies in a state of mortal sin, having willfully rejected God, that soul descends into hell to suffer eternal punishment (cf. Catechism, no. 1033-37).
The Church teaches that at the end of time there will come the Last Judgment, in which all will be present and the “truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare” (Catechism, no. 1039; cf. 681-82, 1038, 1040-41).
The references to the particular judgment which all men undergo at death are few and far between compared to references of the final judgment and the Second Coming of Jesus — which very much lies at the center of the New Testament writers’ idea of salvation. In that day, Jesus Christ told us that He will gather together the sheep (the saved) and the goats (the damned) for the Last Judgment (Mt. 25:31-46).
The final judgment is really God’s final victory over His enemies, chief of which are sin and death and the devil who is the author of these. On this day, all those who belong to Christ will rise from the dead in resurrected bodies that can no longer die (cf. 1 Cor. 15; 1 Thess. 4:16 ff.; Col. 3:4; Jn. 5:28, 6:44). Then will the reign of Christ and all his saints over a “new heavens and a new earth” will be consummated (1 Cor. 15:20-28; Rev. 5:9-10,21:1; 2 Tim. 2:11-12; Rom. 8:12-17). This final judgment, which theologians refer to as the eschaton, is really the hope of Old Testament Israel and is the thing to which all the Hebrew Scriptures pointed. Christ’s fulfillment of God’s promises to His people, seen provisionally in His own obedient death and resurrection, will on the day of the final judgment be perfectly realized in those who belong to Him. On that day, God will be all in all, and all the elect will see Him as He is.
For additional information, please refer to the following Faith Facts: Who Art in Heaven: The Dwelling Place of God, Purgatory, Hell: The Self-Exclusion From God, and Persevering to the End: The Biblical Reality of Mortal Sin. You may also wish to read from the related sections in the Catechism as noted in the text of this letter.
United in the Faith,
Kathleen Rohan
Information Specialist
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

Purgatory Still?

by Fr. William Saunders
I hardly hear purgatory mentioned anymore. I have even heard some Catholics say we do not believe in it anymore since Vatican II. What is the right teaching?
Christian love knows no boundaries and goes beyond the limits of space and time, enabling us to love those who have already left this earth. Therefore, not only the belief in purgatory but also the spiritual duty to pray for the souls there remains part of our Catholic faith.
Contrary to what some may erroneously believe, Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church asserted,
  • This sacred council accepts loyally the venerable faith of our ancestors in the living communion which exists between us and our brothers who are in the glory of Heaven or who are yet being purified after their death; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea, of the Council of Florence, and of the Council of Trent. (No. 51)

Moreover, the Catechism clearly affirms the Church's belief in purgatory and the purification of the soul after death:

  • All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but, after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. (cf. No. 1030-32)

As Vatican II stated, the Church has consistently believed in a purification of the soul after death. This belief is rooted in the Old Testament. In the Second Book of Maccabees, we read of how Judas Maccabees offered sacrifices and prayers for soldiers who had died wearing amulets, which were forbidden by the Law. Scripture reads, "Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out" (12:42), and "Thus, [Judas Maccabees] made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from the sin" (12:46). This passage gives evidence of the Jewish practice of offering prayers and sacrifices to cleanse the soul of the departed.

Rabbinic interpretation of Scripture also attests to the belief. In the Book of the Prophet Zechariah, the Lord spoke, "I will bring the one third through fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and I will test them as gold is tested" (13:9); the School of Rabbi Shammai interpreted this passage as a purification of the soul through God's mercy and goodness, preparing it for eternal life. In Sirach 7:33, "Withhold not your kindness from the dead" was interpreted as imploring God to cleanse the soul. In sum, the Old Testament clearly attests to some kind of purification process of the soul of the faithful after death.

The New Testament has few references about a purging of the soul or even about heaven for that matter. Rather the focus is on preaching the Gospel and awaiting the second coming of Christ, which only later did the writers of sacred Scripture realize could be after their own deaths. However, in Matthew 12:32, Jesus's statement that certain sins "will not be forgiven either in this world or in the world to come," at least suggests a purging of the soul after death. Pope St. Gregory (d. 604) stated, "As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come." The Council of Lyons (1274) likewise affirmed this interpretation of our Lord's teaching.

The key to this answer, however, is to see the beauty behind the doctrine of purgatory. We believe that God gave us a free will so that we could choose between right and wrong, good and evil. Our free will allows us to make the one fundamental choice — to love God. An act of the free will also entails responsibility. When we choose not to love God, and thereby sin, we are responsible for that sin. God in His justice holds us accountable for such sins, but in His love and mercy desires us to be reconciled to Himself and our neighbor. During our life on this earth, if we really love God, we examine our consciences, admit our sins, express contrition for them, confess them, and receive absolution for them in the sacrament of penance. We perform penances and other sacrifices to heal the hurt caused by sin. In so doing, we are continually saying "yes" to the Lord.

In a sense our souls are like a lens — when we sin, we cloud the lens; it gets dirty, and we lose the focus of God in our lives. Through confession and penance, God cleanses the "lens" of our souls. When we die, if we leave this life fundamentally loving God, dying in His grace and friendship, and free of mortal sin, we will have eternal salvation and attain the beatific vision — we will see God for Who He is. If we die with venial sins or without having done sufficient penance for our sins, God in His love, mercy and justice will purify our souls, "cleanse the lens" so to speak. After such purification, the soul will then be united with God in heaven and enjoy the beatific vision.

As we ponder the beautiful understanding of purgatory, we must never forget the importance of praying for and having Masses offered for the repose of the souls of our loved ones. Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical "Mirae caritatis" (1902) beautifully elaborated this point and emphasized the connection between the communion of saints with the Mass:

  • The grace of mutual love among the living, strengthened and increased by the Sacrament of the Eucharist, flows, especially by virtue of the Sacrifice [of the Mass], to all who belong to the communion of saints. For the communion of saints is simply...the mutual sharing of help, atonement, prayers, and benefits among the faithful, those already in the heavenly fatherland, those consigned to the purifying fire, and those still making their pilgrim way here on earth. These all form one city, whose head is Christ, and whose vital principle is love. Faith teaches that although the august Sacrifice can be offered to God alone, it can nevertheless be celebrated in honor of the saints now reigning in Heaven with God, who has crowned them, to obtain their intercession for us, and also, according to apostolic tradition, to wash away the stains of those brethren who died in the Lord but without yet being wholly purified.

Likewise, the Catechism asserts, "From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic Sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God" (No. 1032). Therefore, when we face the death of someone, even a person who is not Catholic, to have a Mass offered for the repose of his soul and to offer our prayers are more beneficial and comforting than any sympathy card or bouquet of flowers. Most importantly, we should always remember our own dearly departed loved ones in the Holy Mass and through our own prayers and sacrifices to help in their gaining eternal rest. Since we are approaching the feast of All Souls (November 2), now is a good time to remember our deceased loved ones by either having a Mass offered for their repose or, if the parish offers one, to remember them in the special All Souls Novena.

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blessing the Grave

Fr. Pavone
I recently had the privilege of blessing the grave of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who was murdered on March 31, 2005 by dehydration. Her grave is not far from the place where she died, and where people from around the world had gathered to protest and pray.
Those who visit the gravestone, however, will notice something highly unusual. While on most graves there is an inscription of two dates — when the person was born and when he or she died — on Terri's there are three.
Here's exactly what the grave says:
Born December 3, 1963
Departed this Earth February 25, 1990
At Peace March 31, 2005
The whole world knows that she died on March 31, 2005. National and global media were present at the scene for days, covering every detail. Media were present again when I preached at her funeral mass. We know when she died.
But her gravestone has become a pulpit for the euthanasia movement. Those who killed her are now using her grave as a platform for their twisted ideology. What they are trying to say is that once her brain was injured in 1990 and she was no longer functioning like most of us, she wasn't one of us anymore. She "departed this earth."
This is actually a variation on an ancient heresy, which says that we are really spirits inhabiting a body. Terri couldn't communicate normally. So, her "spirit" must have left her. The body was just a shell left behind.
Those who believe she really "departed this earth" in 1990 can therefore pretend it was OK to kill her in 2005. After all, it wasn't really her. She was already gone.
This is heresy, because Christianity teaches that we are a unity of body and soul, not simply a soul "using" a body. The body matters. What we do to the body, we do to the person.
Moreover, the gravestone inscription is a deep insult to all who are disabled, and to all those who love and care for them. Should they be considered already dead, too? Are we just wasting our time caring for them?
Euthanasia advocates would have us think so.
A recent news story about a disabled unborn child quoted one as saying, "There's no human life there." Isn't that the same idea? They think the baby has already "departed this earth," so they don't hesitate to abort the body.
As I blessed Terri's grave, I also prayed that God's people would be kept safe from this falsehood. And I recalled being in Terri's room the day she died. I remembered her face, dehydrated from not having had a drop of water in two weeks. I recalled seeing the flowers, inches away, on her night table. They were immersed in water. And as I left the grave, I gave a final glance to the vase of flowers that was standing by the stone.

The Compendium’s Promise

Rich Leonardi

This fall marks the release of the long-awaited Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, providing us an opportunity to take stock of the state of catechesis in the Church in America and to examine the potential of this new teaching tool.
As its name suggests, the Compendium is based on the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. Sales of the Catechism (CCC), first released in 1992, have been impressive, with at least 8 million sold worldwide. Catechetical elites wrongly claimed that the Catechism was exclusively for bishops, priests, and other professionals. But there simply aren’t enough of these professionals to account for the number of books sold. Interested lay Catholics couldn’t gobble up copies fast enough.
However, if the purpose of the CCC was to bring about a revolution of orthodox religious instruction after two decades of the post-Vatican II “silly season,” it fell a bit short of the mark. Not only was it resisted by the very people who were supposed to have embraced it, i.e., parish instructors, but its 700-page heft proved intimidating to many members of the laity.
Where it succeeded was in providing orthodox Catholics with a yardstick against which to measure the public statements of those charged with teaching the Faith in their parishes. Prior to the Catechism’s release, their options were limited. They could cite an “unofficial” local catechism, but that could be dismissed as merely someone else’s opinion. Alternately, they could hunt and peck through the decrees of Vatican II, but until recently those documents were not widely available. With the release of the official Catechism, the faithful now had a comprehensive, Magisterium-issued guide. In one book, Catholics could find an authoritative explanation of the Creed, Scripture, the Commandments, and the Mass and Sacraments. Pope John Paul II called it “a sure norm for teaching the Faith.”
Publishers caught on too. The USCCB’s committee on catechesis recently found that two-thirds of the religion textbooks targeting Catholic high school students were so out of conformity with the Catechism that they had to be scrapped entirely. Those that made the cut proudly displayed their conformity as a Catholic “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval. Similarly, pre-publication local catechisms revised their texts to reflect the teachings and emphasis of the CCC. A new wave of books and guides summarizing the document and explaining it to the laity grew in popularity.
Publishers caught on too. The USCCB’s committee on catechesis recently found that two-thirds of the religion textbooks targeting Catholic high school students were so out of conformity with the Catechism that they had to be scrapped entirely. Those that made the cut proudly displayed their conformity as a Catholic “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval. Similarly, pre-publication local catechisms revised their texts to reflect the teachings and emphasis of the CCC. A new wave of books and guides summarizing the document and explaining it to the laity grew in popularity.
And this is where the Compendium comes in. At a mere 200 small pages capturing 598 questions and answers, it parallels and abbreviates the longer CCC. Although some experts may roll their eyes at the re-introduction of an official teaching document using such a format, Q&A columns frequently are the most popular features of secular and religious newspapers and magazines. Likewise, FAQ documents are used in everything from product descriptions to science textbooks to sales training manuals. So it is a format which the laity likely will find very familiar.
A few years ago, when a friend suggested the use of a Q&A catechetical text to lead a course of instruction at his parish, he was told that the Church now frowns on “memorization.” Yet here is Pope Benedict XVI in his introduction to the Compendium: “The dialogical format also lends itself to brevity in the text, by reducing it to what is essential. This may help the reader to grasp the contents and possibly to memorize them as well.”
Lay Catholics should consider conducting a personal apostolate to greet the Compendium. First, buy yourself a copy and read it, perhaps even memorizing key passages. Second, buy an extra copy for your parish priest or church library. Next, distribute copies as Christmas gifts for friends and family members. Lastly, offer to lead or coordinate a Compendium discussion group, either at your parish or in your home.
Let us work to make it so.
  • © Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
  • Rich Leonardi, publisher of the blog Ten Reasons, writes from Cincinnati, Ohio.


1. "There's no such thing as absolute truth. What's true for you may not be true for me."

People use this argument a lot when they disagree with a statement and have no other way to support their idea. After all, if nothing is true for everyone, then they can believe whatever they want and there's nothing you can say to make them change their minds.
But look at that statement again: "There's no such thing as absolute truth." Isn't that, in itself, a statement that's being made absolutely? In other words, it applies some rule or standard to everyone across the board -- exactly what the relativists say is impossible. They have undone their own argument simply by stating their case. The other problem with this statement is that no relativist actually believes it. If someone said to you, "There is no absolute truth," and you punched him in the stomach, he'd probably get upset. But by his own creed, he'd have to accept that while punching someone in the stomach may be wrong for him, it might not be wrong for you.
This is when they'll come back with an amendment to the original statement by saying, "As long as you're not hurting others, you're free to do and believe what you like." But this is an arbitrary distinction (as well as another absolute statement). Who says I can't hurt others? What constitutes "hurt"? Where does this rule come from? If this statement is made based on personal preference, it means nothing for anyone else. "Do no harm" is in itself an appeal to something greater -- a sort of universal dignity for the human person. But again, the question is where does this dignity come from? As you can see, the further you delve into these questions, the closer you come to understanding that our concepts of right and truth are not arbitrary but are based in some greater, universal truth outside ourselves -- a truth written in the very nature of our being. We may not know it in its entirety, but it can't be denied that this truth exists.

2. "Christianity is no better than any other faith. All religions lead to God."

If you haven't heard this one a dozen times, you don't get out much. Sadly enough, the person making this claim is often himself a Christian (at least, in name).
The problems with this view are pretty straightforward. Christianity makes a series of claims about God and man: That Jesus of Nazareth was God Himself, and that he died and was resurrected -- all so that we might be free from our sins. Every other religion in the world denies each of these points. So, if Christianity is correct, then it speaks a vital truth to the world -- a truth that all other religions reject.
This alone makes Christianity unique.
But it doesn't end there. Recall Jesus' statement in John's Gospel: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." In Christianity, we have God's full revelation to humanity. It's true that all religions contain some measure of truth -- the amount varying with the religion. Nevertheless, if we earnestly want to follow and worship God, shouldn't we do it in the way He prescribed?
If Jesus is indeed God, then only Christianity contains the fullness of this truth.

3. "The Old and New Testaments contradict one another in numerous places. If an omnipotent God inspired the Bible, He would never have allowed these errors."

This is a common claim, one found all over the internet (especially on atheist and free-thought websites). An article on the American Atheists website notes that "What is incredible about the Bible is not its divine authorship; it's that such a concoction of contradictory nonsense could be believed by anyone to have been written by an omniscient God."
Such a statement is generally followed by a list of Biblical "contradictions." However, claims of contradictions make a few simple errors. For example, critics fail to read the various books of the Bible in line with the genre in which they were written. The Bible is, after all, a collection of several kinds of writing...history, theology, poetry, apocalyptic material, etc. If we try to read these books in the same wooden way in which we approach a modern newspaper, we're going to be awfully confused.
And the list of Bible "contradictions" bears this out. Take, for example, the first item on the American Atheist's list:

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Exodus 20:8
"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Romans 14:5

There! the atheist cries, A clear contradiction. But what the critic neglects to mention is something every Christian knows: When Christ instituted the New Covenant, the ceremonial requirements of the Old Covenant were fulfilled (and passed away). And so it makes perfect sense that Old Testament ceremonial rules would no longer stand for the people of the New Covenant.
If the critic had understood this simple tenet of Christianity, he wouldn't have fallen into so basic an error.
The next item on the American Atheist list is similarly flawed:

"...the earth abideth for ever." Ecclesiastes 1:4
"...the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

So, the Old Testament claims that the earth will last forever, while the New says it will eventually be destroyed. How do we harmonize these? Actually, it's pretty easy, and it again comes from understanding the genre in which these two books were written.
Ecclesiastes, for example, contrasts secular and religious worldviews -- and most of it is written from a secular viewpoint. That's why we find lines like, "Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything." (Ecclesiastes 10:19)
However, at the end of the book, the writer throws us a twist, dispensing with all the "wisdom" he'd offered and telling us to "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." (12:13)
If a reader stops before the end, he'll be as confused as the critic at American Atheists. However, since the viewpoint that gave birth to the notion of an eternal earth is rejected in the last lines of the book, there's obviously no contradiction with what was later revealed in the New Testament. (And this is just one way to answer this alleged discrepancy.)
The other "contradictions" between the Old and New Testaments can be answered similarly. Almost to an item, the critics who use them confuse context, ignore genre, and refuse to allow room for reasonable interpretation.
No thinking Christian should be disturbed by these lists.

4. "I don't need to go to Church. As long as I'm a good person, that's all that really matters."

This argument is used often, and is pretty disingenuous. When someone says he's a "good person," what he really means is that he's "not a bad person" -- bad people being those who murder, rape, and steal. Most people don't have to extend a lot of effort to avoid these sins, and that's the idea: We want to do the least amount of work necessary just to get us by. Not very Christ-like, is it?
But that mentality aside, there's a much more important reason why Catholics go to Church other than just as an exercise in going the extra mile. Mass is the cornerstone of our faith life because of what lies at its heart: the Eucharist. It's the source of all life for Catholics, who believe that bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ. It's not just a symbol of God, but God made physically present to us in a way we don't experience through prayer alone. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:53-54). We're honoring Jesus' command and trusting in that promise every time we go to Mass. What's more, the Eucharist -- along with all the other Sacraments -- is only available to those in the Church. As members of the Church, Christ's visible body here on earth, our lives are intimately tied up with the lives of others in that Church. Our personal relationship with God is vital, but we also have a responsibility to live as faithful members of Christ's body. Just being a "good person" isn't enough.

5. "You don't need to confess your sins to a priest. You can go straight to God."

As a former Baptist minister, I can understand the Protestant objection to confession (they have a different understanding of priesthood). But for a Catholic to say something like's disappointing. I suspect that, human nature being what it is, people just don't like telling other people their sins, and so they come up with justifications for not doing so.The Sacrament of Confession has been with us from the beginning, coming from the words of Christ Himself:
"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" (John 20:21-23)
Notice that Jesus gives His apostles the power to forgive sins. Of course, they wouldn't know which sins to forgive if they weren't TOLD what sins were involved.
The practice of confession is also evident in the Letter Of James:
"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." (James 5:14-16)
It's interesting that nowhere does James (or Jesus) tell us to confess our sins to God alone. Rather, they seem to think that forgiveness comes through some means of public confession.
And it's not difficult to understand why. You see, when we sin, we rupture our relationship not just with God, but with His Body, the Church (since all Catholics are interconnected as children of a common Father). So when we apologize, we need to do so to all parties involved -- God AND the Church. Think of it this way. Imagine you walk into a store and steal some of their merchandise. Later, you feel remorse and regret the sinful act. Now, you can pray to God to forgive you for breaking His commandment. But there's still another party involved; you'll need to return the merchandise and make restitution for your action.
It's the same way with the Church. In the confessional, the priest represents God AND the Church, since we've sinned against both. And when he pronounces the words of absolution, our forgiveness is complete.

6. "If the Church truly followed Jesus, they'd sell their lavish art, property, and architecture, and give the money to the poor."

When some people think of Vatican City, what they immediately picture is something like a wealthy kingdom, complete with palatial living accommodations for the pope and chests of gold tucked away in every corner, not to mention the fabulous collection of priceless art and artifacts. Looking at it that way, it's easy to see how some people would become indignant at what they think is an ostentatious and wasteful show of wealth.
But the truth is something quite different. While the main buildings are called the "Vatican Palace," it wasn't built to be the lavish living quarters of the pope. In fact, the residential part of the Vatican is relatively small. The greater portion of the Vatican is given over to purposes of art and science, administration of the Church's official business, and management of the Palace in general. Quite a number of Church and administrative officials live in the Vatican with the pope, making it more like the Church's main headquarters.
As for the impressive art collection, truly one of the finest in the world, the Vatican views it as "an irreplaceable treasure," but not in monetary terms. The pope doesn't "own" these works of art and couldn't sell them if he wanted to; they're merely in the care of the Holy See. The art doesn't even provide the Church with wealth; actually, it's just the opposite. The Holy See invests quite a bit of its resources into the upkeep of the collection.
The truth of the matter is that the See has a fairly tight financial budget. So why keep the art? It goes back to a belief in the Church's mission (one of many) as a civilizing force in the world. Just like the medieval monks who carefully transcribed ancient texts so they would be available to future generations -- texts that otherwise would have been lost forever -- the Church continues to care for the arts so they will not be forgotten over time. In today's culture of death where the term "civilization" can only be used loosely, the Church's civilizing mission is as important today as it ever was.

7. "Dissent is actually a positive thing, since we should all keep our minds open to new ideas."

You might hear this argument a lot today, especially in the wake of the abuse scandal in the Church. Everyone wants to find a solution to the problem, and in doing so some people are advocating ideas that are outside the pale of our Catholic faith (i.e., women priests, being open to homosexuality, etc). A lot of people blame the Church for being too rigid in its beliefs and not wanting to try anything new.
The truth is, a lot of the ideas for reform that are floating around today aren't new. They've been around for a while, and the Church has already considered them. In fact, the Church has spent its entire life carefully examining ideas and determining which ones are in line with God's law and which aren't. It has discarded heresy after heresy while carefully building up the tenets of the Faith. It should come as no surprise that there are thousands of other Christian churches in existence today -- all of them had "new ideas" at one point that the Church had decided were outside the deposit of faith.
The Church has an important responsibility in protecting the integrity of our Faith. It never rejects ideas out of hand, as some dissenters would claim, but has two thousand years of prayer and study behind the beliefs it holds to be true. This doesn't mean that we can never disagree on anything. There's always room to discuss how best to deepen our understanding of the truth -- for example, how we can improve our seminaries or clergy/lay interactions -- all within the guidelines of our Faith.

8. "Properly interpreted, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. Rather, it weighs against promiscuity -- whether homosexual or heterosexual. Therefore, we have no reason to oppose loving homosexual relationships."

As homosexual activity gains greater acceptance in our culture, there'll be more pressure among Christians to explain away the Bible's clear prohibition against it. It's now the standard liberal party line to claim that the Bible -- when understood correctly -- doesn't disallow homosexual activity. But this claim flies in the face of clear passages in both the Old and New Testaments. The first, of course, is the famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you recall, two angels were sent by God to Sodom to visit Lot:"But before [the angels] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.' Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, 'I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.' But they said, 'Stand back!' And they said, 'This fellow came to sojourn, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.' Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door. But the men put forth their hands and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut the door." (Genesis 19:4-10)
The message of this passage is pretty clear. The men of Sodom were homosexuals who wanted to have relations with the men inside the house. Lot offered them his daughters, but they weren't interested. Shortly thereafter, Sodom was destroyed by God in payment for the sins of its people -- namely, their homosexual acts. This fact is confirmed in the New Testament:
"Just as Sodom and Gomor'rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire." (Jude 7)
But these certainly aren't the only passages in the Bible that condemn gay activity. The Old Testament contains another unambiguous condemnation: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22).
And these statements aren't reserved to the Old Testament alone.
"For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error." (Romans 1:26-27)
It's awfully hard for a liberal Christian to explain this away. There's simply no mention here merely of gay promiscuity or rape; rather, Paul is weighing against ANY homosexual relations (which he describes as "unnatural," "shameless" and "dishonorable"). Liberal Christians are in a bind. How, after all, does one harmonize homosexuality with the Bible? Their solution, it appears, is to strip the Bible of its moral power, and run in rhetorical circles trying to escape its clear message.

9. "Catholics should follow their conscience in all things...whether it's abortion, birth control, or women's ordination."

It's true -- the Catechism says quite plainly, "Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. 'He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters'" (1782). This teaching is at the heart of what it means to have free will.
But that doesn't mean that our conscience is free from all responsibility or can be ignorant of God's law. This is what the Catechism refers to as having a "well-formed conscience."
The Catechism assigns great responsibility to a person's conscience: "Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil.... It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking" (1777).
In other words, our conscience isn't just "what we feel is right" - it's what we judge to be right based on what we know of the teachings of God and the Church. And in order to make that judgment, we have a responsibility to study and pray over these teachings very carefully. The Catechism has a section dedicated entirely to the careful formation of our conscience -- that's how important it is in making right decisions.
And in the end, whether right or wrong, we're still held accountable for our actions: "Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed" (1781). When properly formed, it helps us to see when we've done wrong and require forgiveness of our sins. By seeking a fully-formed conscience, we actually experience great freedom, because we're drawing closer to God's infinite Truth. It's not a burden or something that keeps us from doing what we want; it's a guide to help us do what is right. "The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart" (1784).

10. "Natural Family Planning is just the Catholic version of birth control."

Natural Family Planning (NFP) has enemies on all sides. Some believe that it's an unrealistic alternative to birth control (which they don't think is sinful anyway) while others think that it's just as bad as birth control. NFP has had to walk a fine line between both extremes.
First of all, the main problem with birth control is that it works against the nature of our bodies -- and nature in general. It aims to sever the act (sex) from its consequence (pregnancy), basically reducing the sacredness of sex to the mere pursuit of pleasure. NFP, when used for the right reason, is more of a tool used for discerning whether a couple has the means (whether financially, physically, or emotionally) to accept a child into their lives. It involves understanding your own body, taking careful stock of your situation in life, discussing the issue with your spouse, and, above all, prayer. Rather than cutting yourself off from the full reality of sex, you are entering into it with a better understanding of all aspects involved.
People who favor birth control point to those people who can't afford more children, or whose health might be at risk from further pregnancies. But these are perfectly legitimate reasons to use NFP -- situations where it would be perfectly effective -- and the Church allows its use.
Other people think that taking any sort of control over the size of your family is like playing God, rather than letting Him provide for us as He sees fit. It's true that we must trust God and always accept the lives He sends us, but we don't need to be completely hands-off in that regard. For example, rather than throwing money around and saying that "God will provide," families carefully budget their finances and try not to overextend their means. NFP is like that budget, helping us prayerfully consider our situation in life and act accordingly. It's part of our nature as humans to understand ourselves and use our intellect and free will, rather than passively expecting God to take care of everything. We're called to be good stewards of the gifts we're given; we must be careful never to treat those gifts carelessly.

11. "Someone can be pro-choice and Catholic at the same time."

While this may be one of the most common myths Catholics hold regarding their faith, it's also one of the most easily dispelled. The Catechism minces no words when talking about abortion: It's listed with homicide under crimes against the fifth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill". The following passages make this clear:
"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception" (2270).
"Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable" (2271).
"Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life" (2272).

It can't be stated more plainly than that. Some people might argue, however, that being "pro-choice" doesn't mean being in favor of abortion; lots of people think abortion is wrong but don't want to force that opinion on others.
There's that "what's true for you might not be true for me" argument again. The Church has an answer to that, too:
"'The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin'" (2273).

The sanctity of life is a universal truth that can never be ignored. Advising someone to get an abortion, or even voting for a politician who would advance the cause of abortion, is a grave sin, because it leads others to mortal sin -- what the Catechism calls giving scandal (2284). The Church stands forcefully and clearly against abortion, and we as Catholics must take our stand as well.

12. "People's memories of their past lives prove that reincarnation is true...and that the Christian view of Heaven and Hell is not."

As society becomes increasingly fascinated with the paranormal, we can expect to see claims of "past life memories" increase. Indeed, there are now organizations who will help take you through your previous lives using hypnosis. While this may be convincing to some, it certainly isn't to anyone familiar with the mechanics of hypnosis. Almost since the beginning, researchers have noted that patients in deep hypnosis frequently weave elaborate stories and memories...which later turn out to be utterly untrue. Reputable therapists are well aware of this phenomenon, and weigh carefully what the patient says under hypnosis. Sadly, though, this isn't the case with those interested in finding "proof" for reincarnation. Perhaps the greatest example of this carelessness is the famous Bridey Murphy case. If you're not familiar with it, here's a quick outline:
In 1952, a Colorado housewife named Virginia Tighe was put under hypnosis. She began speaking in an Irish brogue and claimed to once have been a woman named Bridey Murphy who had lived in Cork, Ireland. Her story was turned into a bestselling book, "The Search For Bridey Murphy," and received much popular attention. Journalists combed Ireland, looking for any person or detail that might confirm the truth of this past-life regression. While nothing ever turned up, the case of Bridey Murphy continues to be used to buttress claims of reincarnation. That's a shame, since Virginia Tighe was exposed as a fraud decades ago.
Consider: Virginia's childhood friends recalled her active imagination, and ability to concoct complex stories (often centered around the imitation brogue she had perfected). Not only that, but she had a great fondness for Ireland, due in part to a friendship with an Irish woman whose maiden name was -- you guessed it -- Bridie. What's more, Virginia filled her hypnosis narratives with numerous elements from her own life (without revealing the parallels to the hypnotist). For example, Bridey described an "uncle Plazz," which eager researchers took to be a corruption of the Gaelic, "uncle Blaise." Their enthusiasm ran out though when it was discovered that Virginia had a childhood friend she called Uncle Plazz.
When a hypnotized Virginia began dancing an Irish jig, researchers were astounded. How, after all, would a Colorado housewife have learned the jig? The mystery was solved, when it was revealed that Virginia learned the dance as a child.
As the Bridey Murphy case shows, the claims of past-life regression are always more impressive than the reality. To this day, not a single verifiable example exists of a person being regressed to a former life. Certainly, many tales have been told under the control of a hypnotist, but nevertheless, evidence for reincarnation (like that for the Tooth Fairy) continues to elude us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

True Joy Is to Be Found in Serving Others

Vatican Information Service
At midday on Monday in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father received pilgrims who had come to Rome for the canonization of Blesseds Jozef Bilczewski, Zygmunt Gorazdowski, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, Gaetano Catanoso, and Felice da Nicosia.
Speaking of St. Jozef Bilczewski, who was archbishop of Lviv of the Latins, Ukraine, and of St. Zygmunt Gorazdowski, priest, the Pope indicated how "both carried out their priestly ministry united to Christ and totally dedicated to man."
"A pre-eminent figure of the Chilean nation," the Pope said, "was St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, priest of the Society of Jesus. The aim of his life was to be another Christ." This saint, he went on, "calls everyone to responsibility, and especially to sanctity. May he intercede for you all that you carry back to your homes, ecclesial communities and social milieux the light that gave splendor to his life and joy to his heart."
Benedict XVI pointed out that St. Gaetano Catanoso "announced the reign of God with apostolic ardor and with the conviction of a witness. He administered the Sacraments, and above all the Holy Eucharist," and "placed himself at the service of the lowest and of the most isolated," of the poor and the abandoned.
In greeting pilgrims from the area of St. Felice da Nicosia, especially Friars Minor Capuchins, the Pope said: "In a world strongly marked by concern for appearance and for selfish wellbeing, St. Felice reminds everyone that true joy is often hidden behind small things and is achieved by carrying out one's daily duty in a spirit of service."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mary, Woman of the Eucharist

Bishop Paul Loverde, Diocese of Arlington, VA
Saturday, October 22, 2005
(The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on Oct. 15 during the Diocesan Pilgrimage at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.)
The relationship of mother and child is unique. We know this from our own personal experience: how we would instinctively run to our mother and seek her help in time of need.
In the days following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, our hearts were profoundly touched by the pictures of mothers holding their children to protect them. We read — with tears welling from our eyes — the stories of mothers searching frantically for their children or children crying inconsolably because they can not find their mothers. Yes indeed, the relationship of mother and child is truly unique.
We have come here on pilgrimage this day because we too have a unique relationship with our Blessed Mother. Each one of us has a unique relationship with Mary, so today we are expressing in a tangible way, by coming to Mary’s House, to this Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, our great love for this Mother, whom Jesus gave to us as He hung dying on the Cross.
What does "pilgrimage" mean? Does it not mean "people journeying together to visit a holy place"? Indeed, it does! Today we are repeating what is projected in our first reading: "The elders of Israel and all the leaders of the tribes came to … Jerusalem to bring up the ark … from the City of David, which is Zion." We are a people who have journeyed together: we are the Church of Arlington on pilgrimage to this holy place. We have come here with one request: "Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, lead us to Jesus."
It is Mary’s role to lead us to Jesus, the source of all holiness. Her advice to us is timeless and timely: "Do whatever He tells you." And Jesus tells us to draw closer to Him and, through Him, to each other, especially in and through the Holy Eucharist, which is both a sacrifice and a sacrament.
How does Mary lead us to Jesus? By the witness of her life. She is indeed the first and the best disciple of the Lord. Keeping our eyes on her, we do not go astray. Keeping our eyes on her, we imitate her virtues and way of life, for she is a true model and guide. She is our Mother!
Mary is the woman of faith above all others. When she heard God’s word and discerned His will, she surrendered totally in obedient faith. We see this so clearly in today’s Gospel account. What does Mary do once she realizes that the Lord God is asking her to become the mother of His Only-begotten Son? She surrenders in faith and in trust. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Do we obey God’s will in our lives as did Mary? Will we be more willing to follow her example and seek her help, so that like her, we too may live: "Let it be according to your word, O Lord"?
Mary is the woman of charity. Hearing that Elizabeth, her elderly cousin, is pregnant and in need of assistance, Mary travels in haste to visit Elizabeth, Zachary and the unborn John the Baptist. In the presence of need, do we, like Mary, hasten to offer assistance that is real and practical?
Mary is the Woman of the Eucharist. This title is especially dear to us during this pilgrimage because our gathering here today brings to a close our diocesan celebration of this Year of the Eucharist. As we know, the late Pope John Paul II called Mary "Woman of the Eucharist" in his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia": "Mary is a ‘woman of the Eucharist’ in her whole life. The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery" (No. 53). Pope John Paul II reminded us that our faith in the Real Presence must reflect Mary’s deep faith in the Eucharistic Presence of Her Son. Every time we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, is not Jesus present in us similarly to how He was present in Mary’s womb? Does not the "Amen" which every believer says when receiving Jesus in Holy Communion echo the Fiat or Amen Mary said in reply to the angel? Above all, was not Mary the first "tabernacle" in history as Jesus dwelt within her, and are we not also other "tabernacles" when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion?
Above all, is not Mary the Woman of the Eucharist, because she does lead us to Jesus, whose Real Presence is made present at every Mass and remains among us in the tabernacles of our churches? Does not Mary desire with all her being that we be drawn into deepened intimacy with her Son? And this intimacy with Him is nurtured and strengthened above all by our union with Him in the Eucharist. This is why Sunday Mass is so essential in our lives. Without Sunday, we cannot live, as our Holy Father recently reminded us! Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is also so necessary often, if not daily!
Yes, as we celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice and receive Jesus Himself in Holy Communion, like Mary, we too become living tabernacles, holy temples of the Lord. Filled with His Presence, we then bring Him into our homes and onto our streets. Pope Benedict XVI put this so beautifully in his homily on Corpus Christi. Referring to the Eucharistic procession on that day — a procession similar to the one in which we took part earlier today, our Holy Father said: "We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, onto the streets of our own city. We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be streets of Jesus! May our homes be homes for him and with him! May our life every day be penetrated by his guidance" (homily on May 26, 2005). Yes, we ask Mary to lead us to Jesus in the Eucharist, so that, reliving His Dying and Rising at Mass and praying before Him truly present in the tabernacle, we may then live this Eucharistic mystery out there in the real world by pouring out our lives in loving and humble service of God’s people, beginning with the family and always including those in need.
O Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, lead us who form the Church of Arlington, to Jesus Your Son! Make us a Eucharistic people, serving the Lord in holiness of life, revering His presence in our neighbor and proclaiming His greatness! Help us, dear Blessed Mother, to open our entire being, always more, to Christ’s presence; help us to follow Him faithfully day after day on the streets of our life, (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Corpus Christi homily) until our pilgrimage ends and we arrive home to be with you and with Jesus, Your beloved Son and our Redeemer, forever and ever. Amen!

Good Work, Bishop Wiegand

In Loretto High School, a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California, there is student rebellion of sorts. A teacher who had served as a Planned Parenthood volunteer and publicly written in favor of facilitating abortion for students was terminated, thanks to William K, Wiegand, Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento
At a recent open-house at the school, some parents sensed that something was very wrong. For example:
  • a poster on one wall stating that "Our girls can be anything they want to be" and showing a group of girls dressed as a coven of witches;
  • bookshelves displaying the books of notorious clerical dissenters; and
  • another poster promoting an event sponsored by the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the name of which does not even hint that it is a Planned Parenthood donor.

Later that night the rightly very concerned parents discovered the inspiration for these decidedly un-Catholic displays in a Catholic high school. This article appeared on the front page of the Sacramento Bee:

A drama teacher at a Catholic high school in Sacramento was fired Thursday
after church officials learned she had previously volunteered at an abortion
clinic, school officials said Friday.

Marie Bain, 50, of Sacramento, who had taught at Loretto High School since
August, was dismissed after a student's parent obtained pictures showing Bain
escorting people into a Planned Parenthood clinic last spring.

The pictures were delivered to Bishop William K. Weigand, head of the
Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, who outlined the decision to terminate Bain in
an Oct. 5 letter to the president of the all-female school.

"Obviously, the very public nature of Ms. Bain's previous volunteer activity
at a Planned Parenthood Clinic is inconsistent with her position as a teacher at
a Catholic high school and her role as a collaborator in the formation of
Catholic women," Weigand wrote. "Abortion is gravely immoral and Ms. Bain's
active and public participation in the procurement of abortions is morally
inappropriate and unacceptable with regard to her work as a teacher at

Reached at home Friday night, Bain acknowledged that she had been fired and
that she had volunteered at Planned Parenthood before taking the Loretto

"There are many things I would love to say, but I don't want to jeopardize
anything. I am pursuing many avenues," she said.

Bain's termination, announced Friday afternoon, was met with tears from
students at the college preparatory school on El Camino Avenue. She was
described as a passionate teacher with a dramatic personality who pushed her
students to memorize their lines with precision.

Bain had been preparing her students for a four-day run at the end of the
month of "The Young and Fair," N. Richard Nash's 1948 play about balancing one's
idealism and personal ethics."

She is exceptional" said Sister Helen Timothy, the school's president.
"Students thought very highly of her."

"We lost a great teacher," said Cynthia Mitterholzer, the dance instructor
who will take over for Bain.

Mitterholzer said teachers working at a Catholic school understand they must
follow certain rules.

However, "I think that your personal life is your personal life, and she
complied with everything asked from the school in her contract."

Weigand, who is out of town, was unavailable for comment. The Rev. Charles
McDermott, vicar episcopal for theological affairs for the diocese, said
employing teachers who have volunteered at abortion clinics sets a poor example
for students."

To support abortion is contrary to the position the Church has held for
nearly 2,000 years," he said."If you participate in that way, you are not
qualified to teach in a Catholic school because teachers are inevitably role
models."…In July, a letter to The Bee signed Marie Bain of Sacramento voiced
opposition to laws requiring teens to notify parents if they have an

"Like it or not, teens get pregnant," the letter stated. "And the most
important issue is keeping them safe. Safe means access to reliable health care,
not gut-wrenching red tape."…

She volunteered weekly for about nine months for Planned Parenthood, greeting
patients and ushering them past anti-abortion protesters who frequently
demonstrate outside clinics, said Katharyn McLearan, director of public affairs
for the local Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.

"We have protesters who hold very graphic signs and are very intimidating,
and they sometimes come up to patients' cars," said McLearan. "She was there to
be a friendly face and address their concerns"….

Weigand, in his letter, said the case serves to emphasize the importance of
checking employee backgrounds to ensure that "those entrusted with forming
responsible Catholic women at Loretto High School share our important Catholic
moral beliefs and can serve in all respects as worthy role models for our young

Let there not be any confusion: the Catholic Church is not tolerant of abortion or those who facilitate and promote it because abortion is gravely sinful.

What is tragic, if the Sacramento Bee article is accurate, is that the Catholic high school principal and other faculty at the school saw nothing wrong with hiring and retaining a pro-abortion Planned Parenthood activist to teach at a Catholic girls' school.

Thank God for Bishop Wiegand.

The good bishop was absolutely right to terminate an employee who promotes and facilitates abortion and publicly wrote in favor of facilitating abortions for students.

What is most disconcerting is the report that it required the intercession of the good bishop to end Ms. Bain's employment by a Catholic high school. Photographic evidence of Ms. Bain's active participation at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Sacramento reportedly did not cause the school principal to take the necessary action.

When the same evidence reached the good bishop, he did not flinch. He did what needed to be done. Now perhaps the Catholic high school principal needs an extended leave of absence to go on retreat and pray.

Michael J. Gaynor is a New York attorney admitted to practice in the New York State courts, the United States District Court for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He has written articles for The National Law Journal, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and the Long Island Catholic as well as numerous online publications and recently appeared on The World Over With Raymond Arroyo (EWTN).

This article is adapted from one of his columns.

Bishop Fires Catholic Schoolteacher for Volunteering at Planned Parenthood Abortion Center


A Catholic schoolteacher has been fired for volunteering at a Planned Parenthood abortuary.

Marie Bain, a drama teacher at the all-girls Loretto High School was dismissed by local Bishop William Wiegand after a parent brought him a picture showing Bain ushering young women into the abortuary, past pro-life protesters outside.

Planned Parenthood said Bain volunteered weekly to abet the women in obtaining the abortions. “She would wear a planned parenthood vest, just really welcome them in,” said Planned Parenthood spokesman Katharyn McLearan, according to a Fox40 Morning News report.

Bishop Wiegand’s directive affirmed that “public participation in the procurement of abortions is morally inappropriate and unacceptable.”

“We can’t have it,” added the Catholic Schools Superintendent Dom Puglisi. Puglisi said it is okay for a teacher to have privately held convictions, but if these beliefs digress from Catholic teaching, it is not okay to demonstrate them publicly. “Parents have made a commitment to send their children to a Catholic school so they have certain expectations on us.”

(This article courtesy of

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Biblical Evidence Against Divorce and Remarriage

Dear Catholic Exchange:
I was reading your article today on “Annulments and Eternal Salvation.” This is very timely. Thank you for your article. I am in a similar situation of being married to a man who was divorced. He was married in the Orthodox Church the first time and we married in the Orthodox Church. I recently came back to Catholicism and also found out that my marriage is not valid in the Catholic Church, therefore I am unable to receive the grace of the sacraments. My husband is not a practicing Christian, and this causes me great difficulty in trying to make him understand the implications this has on our both our salvations. In your article you mention that if we would like to have an extensive analysis of Matthew 19 or information on the practice of annulments in the early Church, to let you know. I would like to have that information; can you please send it to me or refer me to a website where I can read it?
Also do you have any advice for couples like us, in which there is one believer and one who isn’t? My husband does not approve of my conversion and is causing me great difficulty.
Thank you,
Angela H.
Dear Angela,
Regarding Matthew 19, the main source of controversy is the so-called exception clause in which divorce and remarriage are forbidden except in the case of porneia. In Matthew 19:9, Christ says, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” You asked for biblical and other historical evidence against the common non-Catholic position, i.e., that Christ sanctioned divorce and remarriage in the case of adultery and possibly for other reasons. In answering this question, you also asked for evidence that (1) the exception means separation from bed and board in the case of adultery (also known as the (civil) divorce-but-no-remarriage position) and (2) the exception refers to unlawful marriages, i.e., incestuous “unions” in which there never was nor could be a valid marriage. This view is known as the consanguinity position.
The position allowing for divorce and remarriage actually only dates to the 1500s and began with the Catholic theologian/philosopher Erasmus, who argued for divorce and remarriage for reasons of adultery alone. (1) Although Erasmus eventually disassociated himself from this view, the position has come to bear his name. God Himself notes that He hates divorce (Mal 2:16), let alone divorce and remarriage, and an examination of Scripture and historical evidence will show that Christ taught in Matthew 19 — and the Church continues to teach — that divorce and remarriage is morally wrong. (2) At the outset, we also note that the Church recognizes as legitimate interpretations of Matthew 19:9 both the consanguinity position and the view that there can be separation from bed and board in the case of adultery, but no remarriage, for such an action would itself also be adulterous.
Geographical Context: A Key in Understanding Matthew’s Exception Clause
In examining Matthew 19:1-12, some scholars don’t seem to recognize the importance of the geographical location of Jesus’s teaching and the Pharisees' corresponding “test” (Mt 19:1-3; cf. Mk 10:1-12). The Marcan and Matthean “tests” are historically important because they occur in King Herod’s territory (southern Transjordan — Perea). (3) Jesus is placed in an apparent “Catch-22” situation. Siding with the liberal Hillel school would cast Him as more permissive than the conservative Shammaites, with Jesus uncharacteristically falling short of their understanding of the law instead of strengthening or superseding it (cf. Mt 5:17-20). (4) But siding with the Shammaites would put Jesus in a politically dangerous situation, for Herod had recently divorced his wife to remarry his brother’s wife, Herodias, and opposing the union had cost John the Baptist his life (cf. Mt 14:1-12). Given Matthew’s Jewish audience and the Herodian geographical component, the test becomes much more compelling: “Your ministerial credibility or your life,” the Pharisees seem to be saying to Jesus, either choice effectively serving to “destroy” His threat to their authority and way of life, as they had earlier resolved to do (cf. Mt 12:1-14).
Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ test by citing Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 (Mt 19:4-6), and the Pharisees seem to understand Him as saying the passages collectively supersede any interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (Mt 19:7). Jesus says that the Mosaic divorce decree was a concession to hard hearts, but such was not God’s original design.
The Pharisees argue against Jesus, pointing to the commandment of divorce (Mt 19:7; [cf. Mk 10:4]). He parries their objection by interpreting Deuteronomy 24:1ff. as a concession (Mt 19:8a [cf. Mk 10:4-5]) which is contrary to God’s original intention: “but from the beginning it was not so” (v. 8b). This alteration puts the Torah prescription on divorce into perspective against the wider-reaching order of creation: the commandment of divorce is only a concession which, as such, points back to the created order [i.e., Genesis 2’s provision on marriage] as the criterion by which it should be interpreted (emphasis original). (5)
Background to Christ’s Comments in Matthew 19: The Biblical Foundations of Marriage in Genesis
There is ample biblical evidence to support the permanence of marriage in Genesis. The word-pair of "flesh" (bâsâr) and "bone" (étsem) in Genesis 2:23a has indissoluble, covenant implications in Old Testament usage (cf. Gn 29:14; Jgs 9:2; 2 Sm 5:1 [1 Chr 11:1]; and 2 Sm 19:13ff.). The terms can perhaps best be rendered in English as “flesh-frailty” and “bone-power”:
  • In our verse (Gn 2:23), the poles of “flesh-frailty” and “bone-power” mean to express the entire range of intermediate possibilities from the extreme of frailty to power. Thus the relationship affirmed is one which is affirmed for every possible contingency in the relationship, as we affirm in the marriage formula, “in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want.” (6)


While the word-pair can refer to blood ties, “brother” and “bone and flesh” more likely refer to the sharing of covenant oaths.


We affirm that the formula of 23a [“bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”] is a covenant formula as in its other uses we have examined. The formula is intensified by the double use of bâsâr and étsem to express the profound loyalty and solidarity of purpose which is now expressed. They are bound by oath now to share in their common cause in every circumstance of weakness and every circumstance of strength. (7)


The covenant argument is further strengthened by the words used in Genesis 24. Dabaq (to cleave) “carries the sense of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty.” (8) Another scholar agrees, noting that


  • the first part of v. 24 has the language of covenant relations, to abandon (ázav) and to cleave (dabaq). The latter term, when used of interpersonal relations, as in any context, is clearly a covenant term. It is especially used in Deuteronomic contexts in clusters of covenant words to speak about loyalty to covenant partners (Dt 11:22; 10:20; 13:5; Jos 23:8; and 1 Kgs 11:2). In the speech of Joshua 23, for example, the term suggests an exclusive relationship which asserts the jealousy of the covenant partners and excludes all other relationships. Conversely, the term (ázav) refers to abandoning one covenant commitment for the sake of another [non-binding union] (cf. Jer 1:16, Hos 4:10). The two terms in Genesis 2:24 also speak of [legitimately] terminating [or diminishing one’s commitment to] one loyalty and the embrace of a new one. Thus it substantiates the covenant formula of 2:23a.


Finally, in 2:24b the term “one flesh” can of course be taken to refer to kinship and blood relations, but in light of our understanding of v. 23, it can refer to all those who have a mutuality of concern and loyalty. (9)


Divorce and Remarriage: A Legitimate Exception?


The timeless nature of Genesis 2 and the time-conditioned nature of Deuteronomy 24 are affirmed by Christ’s own words in Matthew 19:4-8. In addition, from a grammatical perspective, the divorce-and-remarriage understanding of Matthew 19:9 does not fit with the disciples’ response to Jesus’s teaching that it is better not to marry: “If Jesus gives an interpretation already current, the horror of the disciples in v. 10 is unmotivated.” (10) Furthermore, some scholars argue that Matthew 5:32 teaches that divorce is generally adulterous but that “some divorces are not adulterous,” e.g., ones in which a spouse has committed adultery. From this perspective, remarriage after divorce in light of Matthew 5:32 is also adulterous (cf. 1 Tm 5:8). In Matthew 19:9, these scholars argue that Jesus repeats His statement only after positing the “fundamental reason” why divorce is not allowed: that man cannot sunder what God has joined together.


It is only after explaining His reason for not permitting divorce that Jesus repeats His statement in 5:32, that divorce is, in most cases, adulterous.... Matthew 5:32 is dealing with divorce simply as an example of adultery, whereas Matthew 19:9 is involved with the larger question as to the fundamental reason why divorce is not allowed. (11)


That divorce can be adulterous only seems to make sense when “it is assumed that a woman would be forced by the exigencies of life to remarry,” says another scholar. “Perhaps it is a warning — aimed primarily at the husband — that to abandon a woman is to force her into sin.” (12) Some scholars argue that the exception qualifies or applies to not only divorce but also remarriage, meaning that remarriage is allowed in some cases. But, as indicated earlier, if that is true then the Matthean account is rendered nonsensical, because the responses of the Pharisees and Christ’s disciples convey that they understand that Jesus is making no exceptions for remarriage, and Jesus says nothing to disabuse them of their understanding.


Indeed, both the Pharisees and His disciples understand that Jesus is teaching against divorce and remarriage, and Jesus only affirms their understanding, much to their discomfort. Jesus also uses the introductory “I say to you” in Matthew 19:9, a device He uses here and elsewhere to distinguish himself from prevailing Jewish views on the law (cf. Mt 5:21-48). Finally, an increasing number of scholars relate Matthew 19:11, like 19:10, back to Jesus’s teaching on divorce and remarriage, that some can accept Christ’s decree on divorce but others cannot; yet, implicitly, all are called to do so. (13) Verse 12 evidently speaks of a voluntary state of life, and therefore most commentators see it as a call to celibacy — as lived by Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist — as opposed to a further encouragement to the separated to refrain from remarriage. (14)


In light of all the evidence, interpreting the exception clause in Matthew 19:9 as allowing any type of divorce and remarriage would contradict the creation norm of Genesis, as well as the practice of the early Church.


It is clear, however, that what was involved was mere separation from bed and board and not “dissolution” of the marital relationship in the modern sense, with the possibility of remarriage thereafter. The lack of evidence for divorce (in this modern sense) and remarriage in the first five centuries is the more striking in view of the fact that throughout this period both Jewish and pagan law did permit divorce and remarriage. (15)


If Jesus allowed divorce and remarriage and the Catholic Church amended His teaching in a more restrictive manner, why is there no evidence of such a controversy, as there are for other disputes throughout the Church’s history?:


  • Such a theory is no more plausible than a theory that the “Lord’s day” was originally a Friday and that it changed to Sunday without leaving any trace of the change and without any controversy over the change. Those who have been involved in church leadership know that beliefs can change gradually and subtly; changes in practice are much harder to bring about. (16)


Understanding the Exception: The Meaning of Porneia


Why then does Matthew include the exception clause, if not for sanctioning divorce and remarriage under any conditions? The key word in the passage is “unchastity.” The Greek word used is porneia, which can mean adultery (cf. Sir 23:23) or fornication (Mt 15:19). However, proponents of the consanguinity position argue that Matthew uses moichea, the typical biblical term for adultery in 15:19, but chooses porneia in Matthew 19:9 and 5:32, which can also mean incest. According to this position, Christ sets aside the Mosaic provision of Deuteronomy 24 while reaffirming the Levitical provision against marrying one’s parent or brother or sister (cf. Lv 18:6-11). In other words, some Old Covenant provisions are timeless, but the creation norm of Genesis remains foundational. The consanguinity position fits because, even though the law against incestuous unions was well-known, people can benefit from reminders and this exception would also be instructive to Christ’s non-Jewish followers.


Many early Church Fathers believed that Christ’s exception meant divorce in the case of adultery but no remarriage. This position has been construed as allowing for separation from bed and board for an individual case of adultery, but Jesus seems to be talking about significantly worse moral conduct.


The answer appears to lie in the surrounding narrative context of Matthew 18, which many scholars do not consider. In chapter 18, Jesus teaches His disciples that they should always seek reconciliation like the Good Shepherd (18:12-14) and forgive limitlessly, as the use of the number seven (denoting “completeness”) and its being multiplied by 70 (18:21-22) for emphasis conveys. (17) If a Christian is going to separate from his spouse, Jesus seems to be teaching, it had better be for especially scandalous conduct, porneia, which etymologically means “prostitution, harlotry, whoredom,” being an abstract noun related to porne, “harlot,” and to the verb porneuein, “to act as a harlot” (18).... In the first instance porneia is mostly “harlotry,” [and] “extra-marital intercourse,”... [although] often means “adultery.” (19)
In the event of ongoing sexual misconduct that would cause public scandal and/or jeopardize the faith and general well-being of a faithful spouse, separation from bed and board is admissible but not remarriage, with the faithful spouse always forgiving and seeking restoration of the relationship (like the Good Shepherd) or at least praying for the conversion of the unfaithful spouse. (20) Those who don't forgive will be dealt with harshly (18:23-35). Christ is calling His disciples to the type of love He has for them.


St. Augustine espoused a third position regarding the exception clause, specifically that there is no exception. According to Augustine, Jesus is focusing on the basic issue of divorce and remarriage and conveying to the Pharisees and His disciples that the issue of porneia is a non-issue and thus has no relevance to the discussion. In other words, even gross sexual misconduct does not warrant divorce and remarriage.


In summary, it is clear from biblical and other historical evidence that God established marriage as an indissoluble covenant, and that Jesus recovered and restored this teaching for the kingdom of God. There is much textual evidence in and related to Matthew 19:1-12 that points to this conclusion: the nature of the test in Matthew 19:1-3; Jesus’s use of Genesis 1-2 in interacting with the Pharisees and their response to Him in Matthew 19:4-8; the nature of the exception clauses in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9; including the use of porneia (particularly in light of the context of Mt. 18); and the disciples’ response to Christ in Matthew 19:10 and His response to them in Matthew 19:11-12. The Church, having received and appropriated this teaching of Mt. 19, then made unequivocally clear via its definitive, Spirit-guided teaching (cf. Jn 16:13; 1 Tm 3:15) that divorce but no remarriage could occur.


Divorce and remarriage is a widespread and painful pastoral problem among Christians today. Yet Christ has only given His Catholic Church the power to determine whether a particular marriage is binding (cf. Mt 16:18-19; Mt 18:15-18). We must encourage divorced and invalidly remarried Christians to be faithful to Christ and His Church, either separating from their civilly married spouses or at least living as brothers and sisters with them. Christ tells us to confidently seek Him first (Mt 6:33) and that His truth will set us free (Jn 8:32), enabling us to handle any temptation that we encounter (1 Cor 10:13).


United in the Faith,


Sarah Rozman

Information Specialist

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  1. J. Carl Laney, “No Divorce and No Remarriage,” Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views, ed. H. Wayne House. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1990), p. 38.
  2. The Church may declare that a marriage never existed (declaration of nullity or annulment) or, in rare circumstances, dissolve a valid marriage. A valid and consummated sacramental marriage (i.e., between two Christians) may never be dissolved. See our FAITH FACT on “The Annulment Process” and “Divorce and Remarriage: The Church's Perspective” for more information.
  3. Cf. Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 377.
  4. In some instances, Jesus appears to propose a lax view of the law (cf. Mt. 12:1-14), but even in those cases He is showing his transcendent authority in fulfilling the law, setting aside disciplines that were not meant for all times.
  5. Paul Hoffman, “Jesus’ Saying About Divorce and its Interpretation in the New Testament Tradition,” Concilium: The Future of Marriage as Institution, vol. 55. ed. Franz Bockle (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970), p. 57.
  6. Walter Brueggemann, “Of the Same Flesh and Bone (Gen. 2:23a),” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 32 (1970): 533-35.
  7. Ibid. 539.
  8. E. S. Kalland, “Dabaq,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1., ed. R.L. Harris (Chicago: Moody, 1980), p. 178
  9. Brueggemann, “Of the Same Flesh and Bone (Gen. 2:23a),” 540.Henry Wansbrough, O.S.B., “St. Matthew,” A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, eds. Fuller, Rev. Reginald C; Johnston, Rev. Leonard; and Kearns, Conleth (Nashville: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1975), p. 937.
  10. John J. Kilgallen, “To What are the Matthean Exception-Texts (5:32 and 19:9) an Exception?” Biblica 61 (1980): 102-05.
  11. Richard N. Soulen, “Marriage and Divorce: A Problem in New Testament Interpretation.” Interpretation 23 (Oct. 1969): 445.
  12. Quentin J. Quesnell, “‘Made Themselves Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 19:12)’” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 30 (1968): 340-58; cf. Wansbrough, “St. Matthew,” p. 938.
  13. Wansbrough, “St. Matthew,” p. 938.
  14. John J. Hughes, review of L’eglise Primitive Face au divorce du Premier au Cinquieme Siecle (Theologie Historique, 13) Paris: Beauchesne, 1971, in Journal
  15. Tony Lane, “Till When Us Do Part? Divorce Part I,” Today, Sept. 1986, p. 37; as cited in Heth, “Divorce, But No Remarriage,” pp. 97-98.
  16. Wansbrough, “St. Matthew,” pp. 936-37.
  17. Fitzmyer, S.J., “The Matthean Divorce Texts and Some Palestinian Evidence,” 208.
  18. Hauck and Shulz, “Porneia,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, eds. Friedrich, Gerhard, and Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968) p. 587.
  19. Cf. G. Fitzer, “Porneia,” Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Balz, Horst and Schneider, Gerhard. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), p. 138.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Eternal Life Is a Gift, Not a Reward

Monsignor Dennis Clark, Ph.D.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rom 4:1-8 / Lk 12:1-7
Just about everyone who ends up reading this homily today has almost certainly been baptized and made some kind of commitment to walking in the Lord's footsteps. Ideally that should mean that all the parts of our lives are well integrated and in full alignment with one another. So, for example, our conduct in the parish parking lot after mass should match the way of living we prayed about just minutes earlier. Likewise, our conduct of our household, our business practices, and our private lives should be well matched with our faith commitment and the example of Jesus. In a word, our deeds should match our faith words across the board. But that's not the way it works with us in reality. For everyone of us, there are locked rooms, sometimes full of secrets, sometimes their contents well known to all, but locked in any case, and cut off from the rest of the "house" that is our life. Our goal, as we strive to grow more holy and more whole is to open those rooms, face what's inside, and realign what's there to match what's best in us. It's a lifelong process, one that in fact will not be finished even when we die. Thus, as we face the Lord after we've taken our last breath after a lifetime of labor, we'll still not be able to say, "I've come to claim my reward." Instead, we'll know more clearly than ever that the eternal life we've always hoped for remains a gift that our Father wants to give us, not because we've earned it but because He is good. Thanks be to our good God!

Synod Fathers Meet in Language Groups

Vatican Information Service

Saturday, October 15, 2005

VATICAN CITY — Friday and Saturday morning, the language groups will continue their work in preparing and approving the texts to be presented tomorrow afternoon in the Synod Hall. In the meantime, various in scriptis (written, not spoken) discourses by some of the Synod Fathers have been made public. Given below are excerpts from three of those in scriptis discourses:

BISHOP IAN MURRAY OF ARGYLL AND THE ISLES, SCOTLAND. "Liturgy is a key instrument of evangelization and must be celebrated in a language which draws the faithful into the heart of the mystery of faith. Texts should transcend the vagaries of linguistic fads. Local languages present particular difficulties, as in my own diocese with Scots Gaelic. In situations like this, local conferences of bishops should be given the authority to produce and approve such liturgical texts. Migrants from European countries require the services of chaplains of their own language who will accompany them."

ARCHBISHOP LIBORIUS NDUMBUKUTI NASHENDA O.M.I., OF WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA. "The theology of the Eucharist touches almost every major area of theology. From Vatican Council II forward, all major themes have been treated. Thus, any document forthcoming from the Synod of Bishops should provide a balanced, interrelated treatment of the theme. It would be a mistake to produce a document which treats only some of the themes as a corrective to certain perceived abuses. The document should rather offer pastoral suggestions responding to the needs of people on the ground who are deprived of the gift of the Eucharist (for example, divorced persons receiving holy communion, to mention but one such situation). We should, at all costs, avoid producing a disciplinary document, or one perceived to concentrate on rubrics without a firm underpinning of theology. ... We Synod Fathers should all be aware that the document we produce is to be a part of the trilogy on the Eucharist produced recently. First, the letter of our late Holy Father, Mane nobiscum Domine; then the reflection issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship; and now the Synodal reflection."

ARCHBISHOP FELIX ALABA ADEOSIN JOB OF IBADAN, NIGERIA. "I wish to address this assembly on the pastoral care of immigrants. .