In My Father’s House There Are Many Mansions


We are now in November (where has the year gone??) and, as usual, we dedicate special prayers and penance for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This year, Holy Mother Church graciously extends the related indulgences through November, just as it was done last year, for similar reasons. One of our brothers found out via the FSSP newsletter, and we gladly share here the good news. Please see below the details!

For those who want to understand the topic of indulgences a bit more, we suggest going over the relevant portions of our article on the Portiuncula Indulgence.

For those who don’t mind a bit more of reading, here is a link to a 7-page reflection, based on Sacred Scripture, on All Souls Day and All Saints Day, written by one of the brothers: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zGlBpOZPVp10OMppYT2lHk9_x2YQHopp/view?usp=sharing

click to zoom

Some details from the extended 2020 decree:
“a.- the Plenary Indulgence for those who visit a cemetery and pray for the deceased, even if only mentally, normally established only on the individual days from 1 to 8 November, may be transferred to other days of the same month, until its end. These days, freely chosen by the individual believers, may also be separate from each other;
b- the Plenary Indulgence of 2 November, established on the occasion of the Commemoration of all the deceased faithful for those who piously visit a church or oratory and recite the “Our Father” and the “Creed” there, may be transferred not only to the Sunday before or after or on the day of the Solemnity of All Saints, but also to another day of the month of November, freely chosen by the individual faithful.
The elderly, the sick and all those who for serious reasons cannot leave their homes […] will be able to obtain the Plenary Indulgence as long as they join spiritually with all the other faithful, completely detached from sin and with the intention of complying as soon as possible with the three usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), before an image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, recite pious prayers for the deceased, for example, Lauds and Vespers of the Office of the Dead, the Marian Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, other prayers for the deceased dearest to the faithful, or occupy themselves in considered reading of one of the Gospel passages proposed by the liturgy of the deceased, or perform a work of mercy by offering to God the sorrows and hardships of their own lives.
Finally, since the souls in Purgatory are assisted by the prayers of the faithful and especially by the sacrifice of the Altar to God (cf. Conc. Tr. Sess. XXV, decr. De Purgatorio), all priests are strongly invited to celebrate Holy Mass three times on the day of the Commemoration of all the deceased faithful, in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution “Incruentum Altaris“, issued by Pope Benedict XV, of venerable memory, on 10 August 1915.”
Below are some prayers from the Liturgy for the Saints and for the Holy Souls!

click to see full size

“I want to send you all to Heaven!”


“[A] lovely, subdued melody floated through the forest above the solitary and forsaken little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, just when a shepherd was passing by with his sheep. The shepherd turned pale and looked up at the fallen-in roof, but there was nothing to be seen. “Have they got an organ now?” he wondered. He pushed the little door open. All was dark and still within. Overhead the music was becoming more and more heavenly, as a hundred golden voices seemed to mingle in counterpoint. “Lord, how beautiful! It’s enough to make one want to die, it’s so beautiful!” he thought, for he was so moved that he could not utter a word. His heart told him what was happening…” 

From “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, Timmermans

August 2nd is coming along, and with it, two happy occasions – the “Great Pardon” (as the Portiuncula Indulgence is known in some places) and the “flocking” of the Franciscans of Life (regulars and externs) to the Motherhouse after a bit of a hiatus from community gatherings.

There will be a note of sadness, as our dearest brother Leo will not be with us for the first time…since his passing on May 26th of 2020. Four hundred years earlier, St. Philip Neri passed away on the very same day. Let’s pray for the repose of our dear brother Leo, and ask in a special way for the intercession of St. Philip, “Pippo Buono” as the Romans called him due to his kind and gentle disposition… All who knew our Brother Leo knew of his natural gentleness and kindness, which is what, perhaps, inspired our Superior to name him Leo at Novitiate, in honor of that first brother Leo, a gentle soul whom St. Francis used to call “ you little lamb of God”.

But this article – which from its prolixity you will most likely know is authored by brother Bernardo – is not so much about our community as it is about the Portiuncula Indulgence! We will go over the Porziuncola, “Santa Maria degli Angeli”, and then we will dig a bit more into the matter of indulgences – a matter of heavenly and motherly love – and its relationship to the wonderful Sacrament of Confession – so, please, stay with us!

On Saint Mary of the Angels, called Porziuncola (“little portion“)

 1704 illustration from “Collis Paradisi Amœnitas, seu Sacri Conventus Assisiensis Historiæ“, as found on p.107 of “The Story of Assisi” by Lina Duff Gordon

If we dig a bit, we find a nice summary by Pope Benedict XV on the salient points regarding this very special place, which we summarize below:

  • It is taught that in the days of Pope Liberius (IV century) pilgrims from Palestine brought here a fragment of the sepulcher of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that is to say, the place of the Assumption, and thus was the place named Saint Mary of the Angels.
  • Here St. Francis wrote the rule approved by Pope Innocent III (“admonished by divine vision”, writes Benedict XV).
  • Here Clare, the noble virgin of Assisi, having forsaken the world, was clothed in the poor Franciscan habit, and instituted the second Order.
  • Here also originated the Third Franciscan Order [note of clarification: that of the Penitents, whose ancient rule we follow].
  • By this place were the first Chapters of the Franciscan order, including the famous “Chapter of Matts” of Pentecost.
  • Here St. Francis, after refusing six times, finally agreed that he and the brothers would share a meal with St. Clare and the sisters. It is recounted that their souls glared so brightly that the people from the surrounding areas thought the forest was ablaze.
  • Here St. Francis had a vision of the Lord and Our Lady, and went to Perugia to implore Pope Honorius III in 1216 for a most extraordinary and unusual favor: “that anyone who comes [to the Portiuncola] confessed and penitent be absolved from the punishment and guilt from the day of baptism to the day and hour of entrance in said church”. Such an indulgence was unheard of in those days! Yet, three times did the Supreme Pontiff give his assent. Upon the Saint rejoicing and departing his presence, came the Pope’s affectionate remark and the Saint’s moving reply:
    • You simpleton, where are you going? What proof do you carry?
    • Your word suffices to me! I seek no further instrument, other than the Virgin Mary be the parchment, Christ the notary, and the Angels the witnesses!”.
      • There is a pious story coming from the nephew of one of the early brothers, who accompanied Francis back from Perugia to Assisi. They stopped to rest a while and, upon awakening, St. Francis said: “Brother Masseo,I tell you from God that the Indulgence that the Supreme Pontiff gave me is confirmed in heaven!
  • Here Francis stood by the entrance after returning from Perugia and, stretching his fatherly arms, said to all:

“I want to send you all to heaven!

I announce to you an Indulgence

which I obtained from the mouth of the Supreme Pontiff…”

St. Francis at the Portiuncola, 1226
  • Here Francis implored his Guardian and his brothers to take him to die. 
    • “No, no! To Our Lady of the Angels! – Francis begged – I want to die where I began!” (from “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, by Timmermans)
  • Here that he dictated his wondrous Testament: https://ofm.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Testament.pdf
  • Finally, here he died, naked on the floor (ref. Job 1:21), a broken, small 43-year-old man, marked with the Stigmata of the Lord he so loved, surrounded by his brothers who so loved him, under the loud warbling of hundreds of larks soaring heavenward…St. Francis of Assisi, whom Holy Church would call the Seraphic Father, the Alter Christus, but who, in his letters, introduced himself as little brother Francis….the little one….your servant…a worthless and weak man.

On the Great Pardon, or the Portiuncula Indulgence

One scholar wrote: 

“it seems incredible that a perpetual plenary indulgence with no attached condition of almsgiving or personal sacrifice should have been granted in favor of an obscure chapel in Umbria. Yet we have six sworn statements of contemporaries, regulations of the General Chapters of the Order, and 53 pontifical acts of the XIVth century either confirming it or defending it”.  

The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Jan., 1939), p. 466

This is just as St. Francis had told Pope Honorius: “If it is the work of God, He will make it manifest” – and this He has done – through His Church – through the centuries!

Of this plenary indulgence can benefit the faithful – for themselves or for a deceased as suffrage

(a) either by directly visiting Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Porziuncola shrine it contains (in Assisi)

or (b) by visiting, within the US (to our understanding) a minor basilica, a cathedral, or a parish church.

The conditions, to our understanding, are as follows:

  • Receive absolution in sacramental Confession
    • (in the time period including the 8 days before and the 8 days after the visit of the church)
  • Attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion within the same time period
    • (although it is convenient that this occur on the day the work is performed)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Visit the church
    • …where they will renew the profession of faith through the recitation of the Credo (which, to our understanding, can be either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed…).
    • …and they will recite a Pater (Our Father) to reaffirm their dignity as children of God received in Baptism
    • …and they will pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, condition which is satisfied by reciting one Pater and one Ave, although one may also recite any other prayer if recited for this intention. This would also be fittingly performed on the same day.

On Indulgences in general, and Plenary Indulgences in particular – or, how to gain one

To benefit from an indulgence, the person must be baptized, must not be excommunicated, and hopefully in the state of grace. Furthermore, one must have the general intention of gaining the indulgence, and of course carry out the works mentioned above.

Most importantly, however, for the indulgence to be plenary and not partial, it requires the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin

This has been historically considered the most complex of the conditions: no man, however holy, can call himself free of sin, but many can honestly call themselves free of affection towards sin, to the best of their knowledge!

In 2004, the Apostolic Penitentiary used the following language:

…as long as they are totally free from any desire to relapse into sin…

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20041225_miraculorum-maximum_en.html

On SpiritualDirection.com (an apostolate of the Avila Institute by our kind friend Dan Burke) , Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC writes (we paraphrase!):

“The requirement is not “freedom from all sin“, rather, that “there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce”.

A person should know if he’s in compliance, because an attachment implies a refusal to fix a situation – as when sometimes, deep down, we don’t want to let go of certain sins, even if “small”.

This is quite different from weakness, or habitual sin that is being battled…to souls in these situations, the Church is ready to aid!”

Confession, Reparation…and Indulgences – or, how they are closely related!

Pray to the good Lord to take away any desire, albeit small or hidden, for sins both grave and venial, and go as far as to bring forth in your heart a salutary hatred of sin, remembering that God is all-good and all-loving and that even the smallest sin displeases him. 

After all, what is an indulgence if not but a “continuation” of the Sacrament of Penance? That is to say, “a remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven”? 

We know that the matter of sacramental Confession is the acts of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction.

say NO to sin!

We should strive to a perfect contrition (CCC 1452) and perfect contrition builds more and more on detachment from sin, first from the “great” sins and then from the “small” ones! A devout soul, then, should not find much difficulty in complying with the requirement to be detached from all sin. The rest of us should simply keep working our way there, knowing that it is entirely up to us to not want to sin, while it is entirely a gift of God to bless us with the grace needed to overcome sin. “Without me – says the Lord – you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), but He also says, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), and later, to St. Paul, “my grace is enough for you” (2Cor 12:9).

In the form of the Sacrament, “I absolve you, assuming the penitent did not put any obstacles, such as willfully lying or withholding, or later failing to do any satisfaction, but rather that the penitent had a sincere sorrow for their sins and a firm resolution to avoid them in the future, all their sins from the very moment of Baptism (or from their last Absolution) till that moment are forgiven and remitted through the power of the Keys – even sins that you may have forgotten to mention!

The pains of Purgatory in a painting by Fontebasso

Yet, such forgiveness and remission of sin does not imply the forgiveness of the temporal punishment due to every sin.

Sin carries both a stain and a punishment. When the stain is cleansed from the soul by sacramental absolution, the temporal punishment is not always remitted, except through the remedy of satisfaction, by avoiding near occasions of sin, resolving to sin no more, and doing works of penance. Such satisfaction also atones to our Mother the Church, whom we often forget is injured by our sins, and it also deters others from sin by way of example.

Last but not least, temporal punishment is the reason for Purgatory…the ecclesia dolens… Someone reported that St. Padre Pio once said: “let us do our Purgatory here on earthby accepting everything from God’s hand“. (ref. Job 1:21…again…)

Interiorly, satisfaction heals the wound caused by sin. St. Bernard taught that “the stain is removed from the soul by God’s mercy, while the wound is healed through the remedy of penance…and even then, some scar remains”.

In this we see the great love and care of Holy Mother Church, Bride of Christ and as such minister of Redemption, custodian of that great treasury of expiatory works of Christ and the Saints! By granting an Indulgence, our Mother the Church is coming to our help in ridding us of the temporal punishment we have accumulated by our sins – or, when we apply the indulgence to a faithful departed, to help us help one another!

St. John Paul II summarized this wonderfully in 1999:

“[indulgence] is a sensitive subject, which has suffered historical misunderstandings […]

The starting-point for understanding indulgences is the abundance of God’s mercy revealed in the Cross of Christ. The crucified Jesus is the great “indulgence” that the Father has offered humanity through the forgiveness of sins […]   in the logic of the covenant, which is the heart of the whole economy of salvation, this gift does not reach us without our acceptance and response. […] 

[I]t is not difficult to understand how reconciliation with God, although based on a free and abundant offer of mercy, at the same time implies an arduous process which involves the individual’s personal effort and the Church’s sacramental work.

For the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, this process is centered on the sacrament of Penance, but it continues after the sacramental celebration. The person must be gradually “healed” of the negative effects which sin has caused in him (what the theological tradition calls the “punishments” […] Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion towards the fullness of love.

The temporal punishment itself serves as “medicine” to the extent that the person allows it to challenge him to undertake his own profound conversion. This is the meaning of the “satisfaction” required in the sacrament of Penance.

The meaning of indulgences must be seen against this background of man’s total renewal by the grace of Christ the Redeemer through the Church’s ministry.

The Church has a treasury, then, which is “dispensed” as it were through indulgences. This “distribution” should not be understood as a sort of automatic transfer, as if we were speaking of “things”. It is instead the expression of the Church’s full confidence of being heard by the Father when – in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints – she asks Him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace. In the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can also benefit the faithful departed […]

We can see, then, how indulgences, far from being a sort of “discount” on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion “of all attachment to sin, even venial sin” […]

Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion. They particularly show our faith in God’s mercy and in the marvellous reality of communion, which Christ has achieved by indissolubly uniting the Church to himself as his Body and Bride.”

St. John Paul II, PP – General Audience – 29 Sep 1999
“Virgo Ecclesia Facta” – the Church is our loving Mother

The “Right” to Kill?


What is the dictionary definition of euthanasia?

The word “euthanasia” used in a medical context refers to an easy, painless, happy death, during which it was a “physician’s responsibility to alleviate the ‘physical sufferings’ of the body.”

The ethical problem with this definition, from a non-religious point of view, is found in the word “happy”.

– Who guarantees that the person will be happier dead than alive?

– Even the patient cannot know what lies on the other side of death. He or she can’t choose a “happiness” that is not guaranteed.  It is unethical for one to desire that which conflicts with natural law.  Nature has a time and a means for each of us to die.  In choosing euthanasia we’re assuming greater authority over life and death than nature.  If humans can have greater authority over life and death than nature, how do we explain that human beings can reproduce naturally or with medical assistance, but cannot create life out of nothing?

– Reproduction technology such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) replicates nature. Therefore, the laws that govern life are built into nature, not man or his technology.

 

How many forms of euthanasia are there?

We can identify 3 types of euthanasia.

  1. voluntary euthanasia (euthanasia performed with the patient’s consent).

We cannot govern when and how we are conceived; how can we determine when and how we are to die?  Man is naturally oriented toward the greater good.  If he or she chooses euthanasia, it’s because he or she has become convinced that death is a greater good than life.  But why?

Mental health professionals will tell us that a person who commits suicide is unstable.  Is the person who allows another to kill him, emotionally stable?  What is the difference, between me holding the gun to my head and me handing to another person a lethal injection and passively allowing him to inject a deadly chemical into my blood stream?

People who are advanced in years, or very ill, may desire death. Usually, they don’t desire to be killed.  There’s a big difference between yearning for the end of suffering and paying a medical professional to end his suffering by killing him.  The emotional stability of those who give a medical professional the authority to kill them can, and should, be questioned.  Is this not abdicating one’s right to experience the human condition?  Is this truly choosing to end pain or feelings of neglect, or is it taking the quick way out, so a not to deal with pain or old age, especially if the senior feels abandoned by his loved ones?

If the older person feels that life is not worth living, there has be a process that led him or her to this conclusion.  What is that process?  Is this valid reasoning?  There are many false conclusions derived from false premises.  These constitute invalid reasoning.

Photo (C) Christian Marta-nez Kempin

  1. Non-voluntary euthanasia (where the patient is unable to give their informed consent, for example child euthanasia).

A child with Down Syndrome or other intellectual disability may be unable to think about abstract situations.  Are we helping the child understand the difference between life and death? Or are we choosing to terminate our responsibility and care for the child?  If the case is that loved ones can’t stand to see a child “suffer”, euthanasia is a service to others, not to the victim.

  1. Involuntary euthanasia (which performed on a patient against their will).

Is it ever justified to take the life of a person with disabilities who is enjoying his life in a way that’s different from the typical person?

Is it ever justified to decide that grandma has given all there is to the family, the community and to society, therefore we can forcefully take her life?  Where is the justice in this?

In many countries people wear seatbelts, even when they are passengers.  Why?  To increase the probability of staying alive in the event of an accident.  Why can a passenger in a car determine his end, but grandma cannot do the same?  If she were riding to the clinic where she’s going to be euthanized, the family would likely insist that she wear a seatbelt!

From “The Omen” (2006)

“From a strict medical ethics perspective, international guidelines following the Hippocratic Oath and the World Medical Association Declaration of Geneva still consider euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide as a morally forbidden practice” (Journal of Clinical Research and Bioethics).

The Hippocratic Oath still exists.  The value of the oath was right in the past, why is it not right in the present?  If that’s the case, let’s question every value that has been handed down to us and allow the next generation to question what we hand down to it.  The continuity of humanity would be in grave danger.  Has the Declaration of Geneva, by the World Medical Association, been rescinded?

“The physician must … have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm.” Hippocrates

Now that we have looked at euthanasia using non-religious (secular) rules, let us move into Christian rules that are binding to all who profess the Faith.

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2324: Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.

Euthanasia is contrary to the dignity of the human person, because it reduces the victim to an object, no longer a person.   It is contrary to the respect due to God, our Creator, because we are interfering and sabotaging God’s plan for the individual and the world.  The absence and presence of a single person changes the entire chessboard.

  • (CCC) 2277: Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
  • Thus, an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.
  • The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

Our intentions may feel right. What we feel or think is right does not change the gravity of taking a life.  If one changes his opinion, can he bring that person back?

The very fact that we cannot restore life to the person that we killed should tell us that we have no moral authority over life and death.

It is often believed that euthanasia, in whatever form, will bring the greatest balance to happiness over unhappiness. To believe that man can bring the greatest balance is crossing the fine line between submitting to God and taking His authority into our hands – as if we could deliver such happiness.

The Holy Family: “Plan A”


This Sunday, which is also New Year’s Eve, we celebrate the Holy Family.

In the eyes of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus we find a family that experiences an intense relationship with God while at the same time deeply involved in the everyday struggles of daily life – yes, even Our Lord, who “in every respect was tempted like us yet did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Pious modern considerations aside, we must bear in mind that the Holy Family is not the result of lack of planning. The Incarnation and Nativity of the Savior may have been surprising, but not unplanned. The Holy Family is the very mirror of the Holy Trinity, a mirror thought by the Almighty before the beginning of time and manifested only in the “fullness of time”.

Joseph of Bethlehem, of the line of King David, was not living at Nazareth by coincidence. He did not meet Our Lady by coincidence. They were soulmates. He is the good, faithful, and discrete servant of God, of whom the Church says: “He made him the lord of his household, and prince over all his possessions” (Litany of St. Joseph, 1909). He is the model of fatherhood for the divine Child.

Mary of Nazareth, of the line of King David, was not just any woman. As the ancient Little Breviary says, “In the beginning, before the centuries, I was created, and for eternity I shall remain. In the holy place I ministered before Him” (Eccl. 24) She is the Woman of whom Genesis spoke. She is that virgin handmaiden that would be found with child, a child to be named “God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14). She is the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”.

And what shall we say of the Infant, the Child, the Man Jesus, born in Bethlehem, called from Egypt, known as the Nazarene? He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is our Lord and our God. He is the Just One that rains down from above, the King of Glory who comes, the Hope of the Nations. He is “the Living One, who was dead, and now is alive forever and ever” (Rev 1:18). “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).

The Almighty for whom nothing is impossible has brought forth in the Holy Family the mirror of the domestic Church. As the Holy Father reminds us, the Holy Family is united in pilgrimage, and in doing so it teaches us, and our families, to journey together in a life that is a series of small and big pilgrimages.

This relationship of faith, peace, joy, and deep charity is never isolated and exclusive, but rather always open and welcoming towards the other, the neighbor, even the stranger. Do we not see Our Lady and the preborn Christ undertake a difficult journey and a long stay to visit Elizabeth, mother of the Baptizer? Do we not see relatives of the Lord traveling with, and even dedicating their lives to, our Lord? We hear of “his brothers and sisters”, and of James “the brother of the Lord”, and exegesis teaches us that they were not children of Joseph or Mary, but relatives. Does not the Lord after the Resurrection tell the holy women to go back to the apostles with a message that begins: “Tell my brothers…”? And did He not say, surrounded by the crowd, “he who does the wil of my Father is my brother and sister”? Did Mary not welcome John as her son, and John take Mary as his mother? Has she not called upon us time and again as “her children”?

The Lord came “that we may have life, and have it to the fullness”. The Holy Family proclaims the value and inviolability of human life from the first instant of conception to the very last moment of our life on earth, when we experience natural death as willed by God. In this we have the experience of St. Joseph, patron of a holy death, the first of the Holy Family to end the earthly pilgrimage.

Thousands of years – in fact, millions of years, according to the most widely accepted scientific theories – have passed in the life of humankind. “Grow and multiply” was the commandment given to Adam and Eve, and one of the unfortunate effects of Original Sin (welcomed by some confused scientists as a “survival skill”) was the disordered, unregulated search of a mate not merely for reproduction but also for mutual pleasure, often without any stable bonds. We see this even in some of the early parts of the history of the Chosen People of God, to whom the Lord commands not to commit adultery and not to desire the neighbor’s spouse. We witness it in the astonishment of the crowd when Christ says: “He who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart…what God has united no man can divide”.

God’s perfect plan for the human family, like all things in the economy of salvation, developed over time (our time, since God transcends such limitations). Wisdom and knowledge were given to mankind to bring forth order, stability, and holiness in society and in the world.

However, the same Culture of Death that led to the slaughter of the Innocents and to the unspeakable depravity of the pagan nations has slowly regained its grip upon the world at large, thanks to a slow but steady process of secularization that has broken the divine bond between faith and science and relegated religion to the sphere of the few while building altar upon altar to the Idol of Science, the golden calf of modern mankind, from whose udders all seek to drink a life-giving milk that cannot be and will not be. Nihilism and two world wars have brought disillusionment and despair in the hearts of men. A distorted rebound has led to narcissism, hedonism, and the hyper-sexualization of entire sectors of society.

It was only a matter of time before man’s idolatry brought forth artificial means to regulate birth and, when impossible, to terminate preborn life before, as someone once said, “the pregnancy becomes established”, or even afterwards, for no atrocity of old ages can compare to the sanitized surgical procedures employed in “early termination of pregnancy”, or rather, extermination of the unborn through abortion.

Now we have stores, pharmacies, places once honored as houses of healing, not merely selling means of contraception but in fact “joyfully” promoting abortifacient drugs such as Levonorgestrel, popularly known as “Plan B” or “Take Action”, marketed with the absurd misnomer “emergency contraceptive” based on brand-new definitions of “conception” and “pregnancy”.

From a Facebook pharmacy group

And we see some pharmacists and pharmacy staff react with amusement and even joy at the spike of sales of such products during the Holidays – especially during Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!

The Curse of Babel still weighing heavily upon us, men have become better at verbal engineering than they have at chemical and genetic engineering. Therefore while the methods to tamper with God’s perfect plan for human reproduction are still rather primitive, the Culture of Death has developed beautiful, polished words to define and re-define concepts, with the ultimate goal of rationalize its own selfishness and then, in total delusion, establish it as the superlative of its very essence, speaking of “reproductive healthcare” to describe drugs and surgeries that alter, cut, destroy, and kill. And to all those involved in healthcare, we ask the question – whatever happened of the enlightened ethical principle of Hippocrates, upon whom the medical profession was once bound by oath, which begins with the imperative “Primum, Non Nocere”, “First, Do No Harm”?

The manufacturers of “Plan B” state that their product “is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization. In addition, it may inhibit implantation by altering the endometrium.” In other words, “Plan B” may cause a newly-conceived embryo to die (and be expelled) because it cannot implant itself in the lining of the womb.

“May” is a vague word. Can it be quantified? Yes, to some degree. Dr. Donna Harrison has written extensively on how when “Plan B” is administered one to two days before the egg is due to be released, then egg release is not reliably prevented and breakthrough ovulation occur 71% of the time. Furthermore, most of those ovulations show luteal-phase defect, namely the ovary does not produce enough progesterone to allow the embryo to survive. So, the embryo formed would not survive long enough to produce a positive pregnancy test.

Can we quantify even further?

Dr Chris Kahlenborn writes that Plan B “has a high potential to work as an abortifacient” and “taken on the day of ovulation or later…it appears to be useless and may actually increase a woman’s risk of becoming pregnant” – a fact verified by pro-Plan B scholars (Trussel, Davidoff). Furthermore, women with a BMI over 30 who take Plan B have a 400% higher failure rate (confirmed by Dr. Anna Glasier).

DOJ recommends Plan B for raped women, but most emergency rooms rarely if ever test women’s ovulatory status (luteinizing hormone and progesterone levels), actually increasing their risk of pregnancy. Dr. Kahlenborn also points out that there is theoretical evidence that Plan B — like other progestins — may cause slowing of tubal transport of the embryo, which increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy (generally fatal for the embryo with or without emergency surgery).

Finally Dr. Kahlenborn mentions that soon we will be able to better quantify the abortifacient effect of “Plan B” through advanced testing – still experimental – that can often detect the presence of pregnancy within 48 hours of fertilization.

But those who state such facts are bound to become pariahs of the academic and research ivory towers, and to be labeled in the public square either with political misnomers or with the good old slogans of “railing against women’s rights”, particularly the “right to choose what to do with her own body” – although it is a fact that the result of a sperm fertilizing an egg is, at best, a new human being and, at worst, a parasite, but in any case an independent being, not part in any way of the mother’s body. And for those who insist on pushing the idea that the fruit of conception “holds the mother hostage for 35-40 weeks”, we must remind you that the mother-preborn relationship is not symbiotic but mutually protective, as countless scientific papers have shown.

In the past Centuy, St. John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI worked arduously in examining views and opinions concerning married life, and especially the correct regulation of births. The result was the groundbreaking, magisterial document “Humanae Vitae”, in which Paul VI, against a worldly tide that sought to strike God’s plan for the family with a “new plan”, declared infallibly that “Marriage…far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces…is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator… that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives… Married love is total…faithful…exclusive…fecund…ordained toward the procreation and education of children”.

While calling upon married couples to embrace responsible parenthood with regards to both biological processes and innate drives and emotions, Paul VI reminded us that there are precepts of natural law, expounded by the magisterium of the Church…established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break. Among these shines forth the fact that “an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life” and therefore such an act is not just wrong for Catholics, but is in fact “equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman”.

It is a truth of the faith and a part of natural law that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded, as is direct sterilization and any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation.

While the world and the Culture of Death recoiled in horror at the “atrocious” and “merciless” statement of the Church, lifting up the banners of “overpopulation” and “sexually-transmitted diseases”, and the politically powerful banners of “empowerment of women”, the Holy Father declared in Christ that “though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it…consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.”

Humanae Vitae was prophetic in understanding the consequences that this mindset would have on mankind: “marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards…man may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires…the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law…the responsibility of procreating life…left to the arbitrary decision of men”.

St. John Paul II reinforced this theme in Evangelium Vitae, discussing all new threats to human life. Specifically mentioning contraception and of the more dangerous “contraceptive mentality”, the Holy Father declared that often contraception and abortion are “fruits of the same tree” and that, even when “practised under the pressure of real- life difficulties”, are a great evil, to be avoided at all costs.

In a very concrete, level-headed stance, the Holy Father also reminds us that “in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.”

The issue at hand is not the use of this product or that chemical, but what St. John Paul called “an objective “conspiracy against life”, involving even international Institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization and abortion widely available [and presenting them] as a mark of progress and a victory of freedom”.

St. John Paul points out that, in partial fulfillment of what Paul VI had written, various declarations of human rights show a remarkable contradiction, namely “the mentality which carries the concept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as a subject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipient autonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others”. In other words, this is a Hobbesian “state of war agaist all” in which “man is a wolf to man” and only the fit deserve to survive. Yet “the theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others”!

Furthermore, St. John Paul points out that this distorted, self-centered, and delusional notion of freedom “marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion”, “exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them”. Reaching the heights of contradiction, then, in the Culture of Death “freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others”.

Furthermore, at a biological and psychological level “the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited”.

“Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: in this way the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the “enemy” to be avoided in sexual activity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents.”

Pope Francis emphasized in “Laudato Si” that this mindset extends indeed beyond the care for self and brings a deterioration of the care we have for our common home:

” How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away””.

Pope Francis, living one century later, teaches that the world has gone beyond doctrinal relativism and has embraced “a misguided anthropocentrism, a practical relativism [where human beings] give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative…irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests”. This indeed has given birth to a new idol, this time a true “abomination of desolation”, namely “the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power”, in an inseparable, contradictory spiral of mutual enslaving and annihilation.

In “Amoris Laetitia”, the Holy Father points out yet another very modern issue, namely how “consumerism may deter people from having children, simply so that they can maintain a certain freedom and life-style”. This is certainly not a difficulty in the face of “forced State intervention in favor of contraception, sterilization, and even abortion”, which “the Church strongly rejects”. He further points out that today’s growing trend to either enter marriage in a hasty way or cohabitate without marriage is “selfish, calculating, and petty…[failing] to recognize the rights of another person and to present him or her to society as someone worthy of unconditional love”.

What are we to conclude?

The mindset that seeks to control beyond all natural and moral law ultimately tampers with the very nature of human beings. It is foolish at best, insane at worst, to tamper with something impressive and delicate like the reproductive system, with consequences that transcend the biological and span into psychology, social development, and human ecology.

Our stance on life, parenting, birth control, contraception, and abortion fundamentally alters and determines our relationship with self, other members of our species, our environment, and other species.

Ultimately, the rationale for contracepting is rooted in very simplistic and hedonistic reasons, backed up by cheap science, industry-funded academia, and politically backed organizational policies.

The Culture of Death to whom so many subscribe has developed all sorts of more-or-less-veritable stories (overpopulation, reducing STDs, reducing world hunger, women’s healthcare, reproductive rights) to justify a simple fact, that stands alone in all its base, brainstem-cerebellum (primitive) selfishness: human want to fornicate with as many mates as possible, no commitments, no matter the consequences, based on external consideration and pheromonal drive. Faith-based and religious considerations aside, from a purely evolutionary standpoint one may even go as far as to argue that such an attitude made sense… 2 million years ago! However, today it is nothing but primitive and irresponsible.

Yet in the first world, it is the foundation of “reproductive healthcare” and is being imposed on its citizens, misused for population control of the pariah of society, and exported to third-world countries whose natural resources are more important than their human resources! How can we open our hearts to migrants, if we are involved in a collective effort to reduce their population in their home countries? How can we become welcoming towards the stranger that unjustly has nothing and out of mercy needs everything, when we are hostile towards the very fruit of the womb, who in justice has nothing and deserves everything?

May the contemplation of the Holy Family, so important and dear to St. Francis, lead us back on the Way, that we may understand or at least humbly and wisely submit to God’s perfect plan for humankind.

Often, removing Life-Support IS euthanasia.


The Franciscans of Life have as part of their foundational charism “paying special attention to…the chronically and terminally ill and their families and caregivers”.

mission

In particular, we are called to”bring Christ’s compassion to the sick, especially those whose lives are threatened by the culture of death. We believe that death with true dignity occurs when man dies at the time and in the manner determined by Providence, not by man. To accelerate death in the name of dignity is a distortion of the meaning of dignity. It takes away from man what God has given him, the capacity to share in redemptive love. […] To help families and healthcare providers choose life, the brothers will work for the creation of education programs on end of life issues that proclaim the moral law and teach that the sick and elderly are not a problem to be solved, but brothers and sisters to be loved.”

Yet, “Recognizing that we are simple men, we do not aspire to do great things, but to be faithful in the small things”, with the Church and in submission to the Local Ordinary and the Magisterium of the Holy Father. This of course implies that we collaborate closely with other groups. First and foremost, of course, with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of  Miami.

mc04

But we are also in fruitful exchange with other national and international groups that tackle the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

One of our friends, indeed one of the most outspoken and reputable groups against assisted suicide, is the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, headquartered in Canada. Their documentary “The Euthanasia Deception” is an eye-opener.

One of the traits of the Franciscan charism is the emphasis on “preaching and using words only when necessary” (a phrase attributed to St. Francis, but actually coming from the writings of Brother Thomas of Celano, his biographer). In general, Franciscans do not argue. Argument leads to division. Yet, instructing and correcting are some of the works of mercy that our Lord entrusted to his followers. Therefore the brothers’ formation includes an academic aspect, “without extinguishing the spirit of prayer”, as St. Francis wrote to St. Anthony of Padua. This formation implies that although the brothers may be men of silence, they are not rocks. And we know that sometimes it becomes necessary for rocks to cry out (cif. Luke 19:40).

Far be it for us to enter into a dispute with our esteemed friends of the EPC, or to argue with one of the world’s foremost critics of assisted suicide and utilitarian bioethics, Wesley Smith JD. Yet, this time we have to rise to the occasion for the sake of clarity and for the benefit of the voiceless.

Earlier this month, EPC featured an article from Dr. Smith titled “Removing life support is NOT euthanasia“. We must humbly observe that both the article and its title are incomplete and, unfortunately, problematic under several aspects.

First and foremost, the author zeroes in on a patient who wants to remove his ventilator and die for the sake of organ donation…thus falling into the fallacy of doing an evil to accomplish a good.

As the Catechism reminds us, “a good intention does not make intrinsically disordered behavior good. The end does not justify the means. A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself. It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

Beyond this point (which we will address again later), the fundamental premise of the article is flawed, namely that “we all have the right to refuse medical interventions even if it is likely to lead to death“. On the contrary, we know that there are certain medical interventions that we are morally obliged to seek and provide! To do otherwise would constitute euthanasia.

The author pointedly mentions that the patient’s wish to remove his ventilator and die “is his right”. We respectfully disagree: there is no such a”right to die”.

As one renowned pro-life apologist states on Catholic Answers, “a right is a moral claim, and we have no claim on death — death has a claim on us. Some people see the “right to die” as a parallel to the right to life, but this is based on faulty reasoning. The right to life is based on life being a gift we can neither destroy nor discard, whereas the “right to die” is based on the idea that life is a thing we possess and may discard when it no longer meets our satisfaction.The culture of death, which chants, “My body, my life, my choice” also chants—by the same logic—”My body, my death, my choice.”

By skipping over some critical issues regarding end-of-life care and life-support, the article fails to grasp the fact that removing life support is too often the most common (and most hidden!) form of euthanasia, even though it may happen in plain light and with the full support of “the law”, as in the well-known case of Terri Schiavo and the less-known (but much closer to us) case of the sister of our Founder and Superior (see here, and follow-up article here).

But let us go back to the issue at hand: the removal of life support.

Too often, life support measures such as feeding tube, water, and oxygen are defined in the medical paperwork as “extraordinary means to prolong life” (or, worse, “to prolong the natural dying process”). When their removal causes death, it is a form of euthanasia. One quite common in Florida.

Ask yourself the following question: can we ordinarily live without food and water?

Yet, patients (especially elderly patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices) are often asked if they want to “die a natural death” or “prolong the dying process through extraordinary means” (where food and water are defined as “extraordinary means to prolong life”!). The former (“die a natural death) appears to be the way to go, even for a well-formed Catholic…except that it actually gives the caretaker the ability to pull out your feeding tube and hydration. There is nothing natural in death by starvation and dehydration!

As St. John Paul II reminded us, Catholic bioethics and morality states that Artificial Nutrition and Hydration (ANH) “always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act”. This applies also and especially to persons in persistent vegetative state (PVS). The CDF clarified that the only three moral exceptions are “(1) when ANH would be impossible to provide; (2) when a patient may be unable to assimilate food and liquids; and (3) when ANH may be excessively burdensome for the patient or may cause significant physical discomfort”.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center reminds us that “We should provide food and water, even by [alternative] means, to all who are in need of them and can physiologically benefit from them. There are various means of providing nutrition and hydration, some of which are more invasive than others. The least invasive means of providing food and water should be used. The more burdensome to the patient a particular intervention, the less likely it is to be morally obligatory. In principle, the provision of nutrition and hydration by artificial means does not differ in its moral dimension from the provision of food and water by fork and cup. Both constitute ordinary means of preserving life. The fact that someone is in a state of unconsciousness and is not expected to recover [does not justify] depriving that person of food and water. If the provision of food and water proves to be useless (if they are not being assimilated by the body) or if it causes serious complications (aspiration pneumonia, infections, etc.), it can be stopped. ”

In short: “Whenever a recommendation is made not to provide food and water, one question to ask is “What will be the cause of death?” If the answer is dehydration and starvation, and artificial nutrition and hydration can be easily supplied and assimilated, then not supplying them is a form of euthanasia.”

The Catholic Medical Association also agrees that “discontinuing nutrition and hydration for a patient who is not imminently dying violates in its intention the distinction between ‘causing death’ and ‘allowing death.’”

Now let’s go back to the ventilator issue addressed in the article. A ventilator is a machine for artificial respiration.

Can we ordinarily live without oxygen?

Neuroscientist Fr. Pacholczyk, Ph.D. (National Catholic Bioethics Center) explains that “ordinarily, a ventilator offers a reasonable hope of benefit for the patient that can be obtained and used without excessive pain, expense, or other significant burden. Ordinary implies a moral obligation.”

However “if the patient’s condition is worsening with the nearly certain outcome that he will die in a few hours or days, then ventilation would be “extraordinary”, assuming all end-of-life matters have been taken care of. It may be decided that the use of a ventilator becomes extraordinary or disproportionate because it no longer achieves its perceived outcome. Withdrawing the ventilator would not be an act of euthanasia, because the patient would be dying due to the underlying condition. Yet, occasionally, ventilators may end up being part of a long-term solution.”

It is unclear from Dr. Smith’s article whether the patient who generously wishes to donate his organs is in a position to request in good conscience the removal of his ventilator. We are only told that the patient is “dying of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)”, which can have multiple interpretations. One of the question on the table (and our friends at the National Catholic Bioethics Center are much more qualified to answer it) is whether, upon removal of the ventilator, the patient would die as a result of the ALS (allowing death) or as a result of suffocation (causing death). Another question is whether the ventilator is excessively burdensome on the patient. In any case, the bottom line is the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means of supporting life. Sorry, it is not as simple as “it’s his right” to remove the ventilator; nobody has an a priori right to die.

We could address DNR, dialysis, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, invasive surgery, heart-lung resuscitation, and antibiotics, and when they may be judged morally extraordinary or disproportionate. But this is beyond the scope of this article.

We do hope that we have clarified the main topic: more often than not, removing life support IS euthanasia, when we look carefully at the whole picture. Only then we realize that most of the time such life support is ordinary, beneficial…and morally binding.

For those who wish to learn more, the Franciscans of Life are always available to provide more information. You can touch base with us here. You may also want to learn more about Living Will and Advanced Medical Directives that can protect you and your loved ones from the dangers of “hidden euthanasia”. The page of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FLACCB) provides them in English and Spanish. Again, we are here to point you in the right direction, whether you are a patient, a family member, an inquirer, or a healthcare practitioner, physician, or nurse.

Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life.

 2017_01_baby_holds_finger


Please note: the contents of this article do not constitute medical or legal advice. When it comes to end-of-life decisions,  you should consult with your pro-life physician, spiritual director, confessor, chaplain, or another highly qualified authority such as the experts of the National Catholic Bioethics Center by calling their 24/7 hotline (215) 877-2660 (select Option 4 if urgent) or by submitting an online request.


 Br. Bernardo, FFV

Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 11:39 PM  Leave a Comment  

Three Peas in a Pod we’re not – Scott Eric Alt, Robert Spaemann and I – Maybe two


To better understand this comment, I would refer you to the excellent post by Scott Eric Alt on Interacting With the Spaemann Interview on Amoris Laetitia ,

three peasNow my two cents.

I’m having a problem with the Professor Spaemann’s answers and those of others of the same way of thinking.  It is not impossible for anyone to disagree with something in an Apostolic Exhortation.  This much is true.  They are written to offer some guidance, not to teach.  One can always disagree with the guidance that is offered.  Before I continue, allow me to say that we can and often do teach through the guidance that we offer.  Anyone who’s a parent knows exactly what I mean, but back to the professor.

I never trust these reports.  It is often the case that the gaps between what the subject said and the reporter wrote are as numerous as the craters on the moon.  For the sake of this discussion, let’s give the interviewer the benefit of the doubt and accept that he is reporting without too much editing.

It is my opinion that the Professor’s responses are not helpful on two fronts.

First:  They present a dark side of the exhortation, but the speaker fails to give you observable results from past experiences that prove the existence of such a dark side.  Philosophy works with and based on systems.  I could not find that system that the professor uses to arrive at his conclusions.  Therefore, I can only assume that the systems are not reported, which does not allow those of us who know some philosophy to question the methodology leading to his conclusions.  The other possibility is that he is not using systematic thinking, but it projecting his predictions based on subjectivity (gut feeling).

Second:  I caution people to be careful with those who claim to love the Church and to have been a consultant to this pope and a friend to that one.  This can be and probably is true.  Sometimes, these relationships can obscure one’s sense of duty.  Even though the Professor was an advisor to St. John Paul II and a friend to Benedict XVI, as a faithful Catholic philosopher, his first allegiance is to the Church, not the individual popes.  Therefore, I would expect him to use his skills and his intimate experience with these two giants to help his audience see the points of contact and continuity between AL and tradition.  In no way does this detract from his right to use his intellect to say, “This can be said more clearly,” or “This raises this question that we need to submit to someone in authority to respond.” 

In doing so, one is faithful to the Church, does not throw the current pope under the bus, is not sucked into the typical Church politics of “conservative vs liberals”, and helps people see the good in the exhortation while encouraging them to ask questions respectfully and with trust in the integrity of the person answering.

BA Degree for Sale (Bachelor of Abortion)


not_disposableThere was a recent event at one of the major Catholic universities in the United States that hosted as the ‘only speaker’ the national director of Planned Parenthood.  Someone said that the invitation was made by a student organization with the organization’s money.  This is probably true.  Why would anyone lie about it?

The question is not who issues the invitation, the question is to whom and for what can student organizations in Catholic colleges and universities issue invitations?  The idea that those who run our Catholic colleges and universities have little or no authority to veto such decisions raises another question.  Who’s running our Catholic colleges and universities?

If a school, of any level, is run like a good business, it surely has a business plan, company policies that protect the interest of the business.  Of course, every good business man or woman knows that the best interest of the business is to produce the product that is offers.  In Ex Corde, Pope St. John Paul II, reminds us that

“It is the honor and responsibility of a Catholic University to consecraJOHNPAUL-BABYte itself without reserve to the cause of truth. This is its way of serving at one and the same time both the dignity of man and the
good of the Church.”

This begs the question, “What truth does Planned Parenthood bring to the halls of Catholic academia?”  The very notion that students should be exposed to the arguments for abortion and contraception, as they are exposed to the arguments for natural family planning and the right to be born is ludicrous in the extreme.

A child in school goes through fire drills several times a year; but never through the actual flames.  Why?  Because the idea is to teach the children safety before they are ever exposed to flames, not after.

How many of our college age students have never been exposed to the pro-abortion and pro-contraception ideology that they need to bring in a “prestigious” proselytizer against the right to be born?

lighthouses-lighthouse-looking-wide-open-sea-horizon-cloudThey would be better served by an influential evangelist who proclaims the Gospel of Life without compromise.  After all, don’t we send out young to Catholic colleges and universities to learn the truth or has parenting succumbed to the god of money?  Do parents send their youth to college to learn how to make money or to serve society and save their souls?

The Joy of Love and the Burden of Anger – Amoris Laetitia and Onus Irae


How-The-Human-Nervous-System-WorksI have to share this, because I must be missing something.  I’m more than half-way through Amoris Laetitia.  I just finished the “infamous” Chapter Eight.

As I read through this document, I can see some statements that need further clarification or better wording, simply because most people do not think in Spanish and write in Latin or Italian.  That’s an unusual cross-over.  As one who speaks Spanish and Italian, I reread those expressions that sounded odd to my Anglophone ear, repeating them to myself in Spanish and realized, “Oh, this is the way an Argentine would say X; whereas a European or an American would say it this other way.”

Contrary to what the Blogisterium is saying, I did find where the Holy Father makes some very precise points.  Marriage is indissoluble.  A relationship between homosexual persons can in no way be elevated to the level of marriage.  We cannot disregard the rules, just because time changes. And the exception is not the rule.

I can appreciate the fact that he describes what is happening in marriage and family life in First World countries and even in South American middle class society.  His description is quite accurate.  I can testify to this as one who has lived on three continents and four countries.  It’s not a pretty picture, but it is what it is and we, Catholics and non-Catholics, have to begin to help heal the wounded, where they’re at, while at the same time teach the younger generation what they need to know before marriage, to avoid more casualties in the future.  I believe this is the tone of this exhortation.  We have to fight to secularist perception of love and commitment.

I don’t get the impression that the Holy Father is trying to change rules, disciplines, traditions, moral laws or doctrines.  He means to paint a portrait of what love, marriage and family should be and what it is in many parts of our society.  We don’t like the picture, but it won’t go away because we don’t like it.  We have to attack the problem with a double barrel, palliative and preventative.

In short, I can’t find anything that is heretical or new, other than the pastoral approach that the Holy Father suggests.  I use that word, because he is suggesting, not demanding.

In addition, I don’t agree with the manner in which some people speak about the Holy Father and the exhortation.  There are many things that people in positions of authority do and say that may upset us.  That does not give us the right to call the Vicar of Christ a heretic, Modernist, agent of the devil, or any other such labels.

If there is one thing that our holy Father Saint Francis taught not only his brothers and sisters, but also the people of his day, was to speak and think about the pope, bishops and other clergy with reverence and humility.  He had no problems seeing weaknesses, nor did he have problems defending what he believed to be true.  But he had a very serious problem with any Franciscan or lay person who spoke disrespectfully about the pope or the rest of the clergy.

The argument, “I’m not a Franciscan,” doesn’t apply here; because Francis’ example of holiness, humility, charity, respect and submission was for the benefit of the entire Church, not just for those in his religious family.

When reading the exhortation, do not be afraid to disagree or to ask for clarification; but run away from the temptation to malign the good name of anyone, especially the Vicar of Christ.  He does not have to be perfect to command our respect.  This was made very clear by the Council of Trent and Vatican II.

Humble people who ask questions, offer suggestions, and show respect get further ahead than those who are hostile. Hostility creates distance between people.  It does not build bridges of communication and reflection.

Published in: on April 14, 2016 at 12:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

AMORIS LAETITIA: Advice for Mature Catholics


FRANCIS COAT OF ARMSI’ve been reading some commentaries on the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia”. I’d like to point out some errors that we have to avoid.

First — we need to read the document very carefully, pray over it, and read it again before we comment on it.

Second — let us remember that an apostolic exhortaion is not a catechism. Do not expect an apostolic exhortation to repeat what is already stated in every catechism of every generation. I use the admonitions of St. Francis of Assisi as an example. If you read them, you’ll not find anything in his admonitions that is already stated in the Rule and Constitutions. The admonitions are reflections that flow from the study and observance of the Gospel. The same principle applies to an apostolic exhortation.

Third — Do not let others determine what you should like or not like about the exhortation. Nor should you allow others to tell you that something is great or something is bad without giving you a specific example.

Fourth — If there is something that you find problematic, quote it when you share it. Dissect it so that others know what you find to be a problem. Leave an opening for others to agree or disagree with you. Dialogue is essential in understanding these writings.

Fifth — Because something is not mentioned in the apostolic exhortation, it does not mean that the Church has neglected a particular point or doctrine. Apostolic exhortations, like any other writing, must flow. Sometimes a specific statement or subject makes the writing sound awkward and does not add to what the Holy Father is saying.

Sixth — Remember, extreme reactions, to the left or to the right, are equally misguided. Extremes are circular. Eventually, the extreme left meets the extreme right at some point on the other side of the circle.

Seventh — Pay close attention to the citations that the exhortation includes from the writings of Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and other Church documents. This is an attempt to connect the present with the past. To understand the connections, one needs to read carefully.

Eighth — Notice that the exhortation makes three kinds of statements: admonitions, doctrine, and pastoral recommendations. We are used to apostolic exhortations being admonitions, pastoral or dogmatic. This particular exhortation blends the three.

Ninth — Remember respect. One is allowed to disagree with the pope. Saints and other theologians have done so in the past. However, none of them have ever been disrespectful in expressing their disagreements. We don’t hear them calling popes: Modernists, eretics, diabolical, dumb, mentally ill, or apostates. Name calling is never appropriate, especially when it applies to our parents, spouses, children and popes. Who of us would dare apply any of these labels to a loved one, because we believe him or her to be in error? Usually, we try to point out the error. This may lead to heated discussions, but the conversation limits itself to the subject on the table, not the character of the participants. We owe the Holy Father reverence, obedience and respect.

Tenth — Let us be humble and keep in mind that our opinions are not absolute truth, even when we quote truth. That which we quote may be true, but our understanding and application of said truth may be mistaken. We must be open to hearing opinions of those who do not think as we do. We must discuss our concerns with those who are knowledgeable in theology and who are authorized to teach it: parish priests, religious educators, Catholic theologians, Catholic theology teachers, many religious brothers and sisters who are trained in theology and Christian Spirituality.

I hope these points will help you as you navigate through this or any other papal writing.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia.html

St. Pius X – our “Brother Giuseppe”


We are celebrating today the feast of a Franciscan saint, Pope Pius X. Born Giuseppe Sarto, he entered seminary at 15, was ordained at 23 and became pastor of Salzano (province of Venice) at age 32, where he remained for the following eight years.

Young_St_Pius_X

It is during his residence in Salzano where he became a professed member of the “Ordo Franciscanum Saecularis”. Originally known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, this was the third order founded by St. Francis after that of the Friars Minor (the Franciscans) and of the Poor Ladies (the Poor Clares). It welcomed those who wished to follow the life of the Gospel but could not join the “regular” orders – this included married men and women, diocesan clergy, and also those who were single but discerning the call to marriage.

“Brother Giuseppe” was known for his kindness to the poor. He restored the Church of Salzano, enlarged the hospital, and was known during his years as bishop of Mantua to give copies of texts of dogmatic and moral theology to poor seminarians.

Upon election as bishop of Rome, with the name of Pius X, he followed his spiritual father St. Francis in promoting devotion to the Holy Eucharist, even when this meant breaking with long-established customs in the Latin Church.

He encouraged the faithful to receive Holy Communion daily in a time in which frequent communion was far from being the customary practice. He also dispensed the sick from the pre-communion fast, which at the time was due from midnight of the previous day. Furthermore, he strongly promoted giving First Communion to children as soon as they manifested sufficient discretion, lowering the “age of reason” from 12 to 7 years old. Finally, he urged the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in order to worthily receive Holy Communion.

Intending to “restore everything in Christ”, he began a series of extensive reforms of the liturgy.

SMaria_degli_angeli_Porziuncula

The Porziuncula, a simple church where the first Franciscans praised and glorified God

The first step he took in this direction was to affirm the primacy of Gregorian chant in the Latin churches, but not for the reasons that some today wish to attribute it… He did so because it represented a much simpler musical style than the theatrical style that was predominant at the time, namely Classical and Baroque compositions. His intent was all-encompassing: by restoring the chanting by the people, he wished to restore the active participation of the faithful in the liturgy. In this he would be echoed by his successor to the Chair of Peter, who insisted that chant had to be restored to the use of the people since “it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers“.

Insisting in the importance of the participation of the lay faithful in the life of the Church, St. Pius mandated that catechism classes be established in every parish in the world, and redacted a Catechism known for its “simplicity of exposition and depth of content”, which found its worthy successor in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, not StPiusXatDeskaimed to the use of the clergy but to the entire People of God.
His most encompassing reforms were of the Code of Canon Law and of the Divine Office. The former received a universal structure. The latter was a major revision: he abolished and forbade the Breviary established by St. Pius V, promulgating a revision that rearranged the psalms, dividing them when too long, and significantly reducing the individual Hours. The changes also made necessary a reform of the Roman Missal, which was completed in the 1920 typical edition by his successor to the Apostolic See. This was the fourth revision of the so-called “Tridentine Mass” since the day that St. Pius V established it as the norm for most diocesan clergy of the Latin Rite.

During his pontificate, St Pius X was very close to the people in times of natural disasters – we recall the earthquake of Calabria and the eruption of Mount Vesuvio – and showed his paternal care towards the Secular Franciscan Order by asking the Franciscan friars to take spiritual care of them (see the Latin document here). The Franciscan spirit which permeated his life and pontificate could be summarized by his words concerning the Catholic attitude towards the Holy Father:

“How must the Pope be loved? Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth. When a person is loved, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to execute his will, to interpret his desires. When we love the Pope, we make no arguments around what he disposes or demands, or about how far obedience must go, and in what things one must obey; we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough…we do not place his orders in doubt…we do not limit the scope in which he can and should exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other people no matter how learned who dissent from the Pope, who may be learned but are not holy, because he who is holy cannot dissent from the Pope.

This is the cry of a hurting heart, that with deep bitterness I express, not for your sake, beloved brothers, but with you in order to deplore the conduct of many priests, who not only dare to debate and criticize the wishes of the Pope, but are not ashamed to reach impudent and shameless disobedience, with much scandal for the good and with so much ruin of souls. (Discorso 18-XI-1912)”

In this he echoes the words of the Seraphic Father who writes:

“Brother Francis, and whoever may be at the head of this religion, promises obedience and reverence to our Lord Pope Innocent and to his successors. And the other brothers shall be bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors. […] Let all the brothers be Catholics, and live and speak in a Catholic manner. Let none of the brothers preach contrary to the form and institution of the holy Roman Church. (Rule)

The Lord gave me and still gives me such faith in priests who live according to the manner of the holy Roman Church because of their order, that if they were to persecute me, I would still have recourse to them. And if I possessed as much wisdom as Solomon had and I came upon pitiful priests of this world, I would not preach contrary to their will in the parishes in which they live. And I desire to fear, love, and honor them and all others as my masters. And I do not wish to consider sin in them because I discern the Son of God in them and they are my masters.”  (Testament)

St Pius was known to have said: “I was born poor, I lived poor, and I wish to die poor.” Falling ill on the feast of the Assumption, also weighed down by the distress of the First World War that he had tried so difficultly to prevent, he expressively prohibited the embalming of his remains and was buried in a simple, unadorned tomb in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica.

tomb_Pius_X

To him the Lord entrusted the Church at a very difficult time – when the world was transitioning into the Great Wars that would forever change its face and usher a new era for civilization in terms of destruction and reconstruction. We are all indebted to him for the courage and simplicity with which he embraced the task of laying the foundations for a comprehensive renewal of the Church.

For those who wish to read some of his writings, you may visit the page dedicated to him on the website of the Holy See, here.