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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Empowering or redefining women?


These days there are many discussions inside and outside of Church circles that boil down to sex.  When we speak of empowering women in the Church, what exactly are we looking for if not Holy Orders.?  In the mind of many people the only way to empower women is to assign them roles that are reserved for males, such as deacons, priests and bishops.

“Go tell my brothers that I will meet them in Galilee.”

This example begs the question.  Do we really understand the difference between empowering and commissioning?  There is a difference between someone having the power to consecrate the Eucharist and being sent to do so.  When you ordain a class of ten males, they receive certain sacramental powers that they can exercise only with the authority from the bishop, not only because they are males. From here comes the term “to grant faculties.”  Only a bishop can grant you a license to legally celebrate the Eucharist. You have the sacramental powers, but you lack the legal authority to use those powers.   Without the bishop’s permission, you cannot exercise those faculties be you male or female.

Let’s look at the exercise of authority.  “Go tell my brothers to go up to Galilee where they will see me.”  But to whom does Jesus commend this great message?

Who else was in the garden on that first morning of the week:  the angel, Peter, John and three Mary’s. However it is Mary is commissioned to deliver the message “The tomb is empty and I have seen the Master.”

We have all known our fair share of deacons, priests and bishop unable to deliver message as  did Mary, with the power that comes only from Truth. 

Published in: on April 21, 2015 at 9:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

True and charitable obedience — pleasing to God and neighbor


Pope Francis and Franciscans of the Immaculate

Pope Francis and Franciscans of the Immaculate

It seems that these days everyone wants to gripe and whine about the pope, bishops, and the synod on the family, the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) or the Mass of Paul VI (Novus Ordo).  Then there are such subjects as abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception, divorce, remarriage and Holy Communion and women’s ordination.

Yesterday, I saw another article claiming that Pope Francis has done great harm to Summorum Pontificum, the document written by Pope Benedict clarifying that the Tridentine form of the mass for the Roman Rite was changed a bit by Pope St. John XXIII, but never abrogated.  The gist of this complaint is that allegedly Pope Francis told the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate that they may not celebrate the Tridentine Form without asking for specific permission to do so.  To some people, this is a form oppression and a violation of law.

To get past this point, let’s clarify that the Franciscans of the Immaculate were never founded to be a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) community.  When they were founded, the Mass of Paul VI or Novus Ordo was the ordinary form of the mass for the Latin Church.  Secondly, Summorum Pontificum clearly states that the superior general alone can make rules about who and when the TLM is celebrated in public or in community, but he must make these rules in keeping with the proper laws of his institute.  This means that he must look at the constitutions of his institute and see what they say about the older rite and the newer rite, if they say anything at all.  In most cases the constitutions do not speak to this point, because they were written before this became a hot question.  Therefore, there is nothing in proper law that allows a superior permission to make the Extraordinary Form of the mass (TLM) to become the norm for his community.  The question needs to be put on the table to the community to vote on.  Once the community votes on it, the Holy See must approve the change that is to be made to the constitutions.

Let’s remember that the Franciscans of the Immaculate, like any other religious community owe obedience to the Holy Father.  At the end of the day, the Holy Father is the legitimate superior general of every institute in the Catholic Church, because he alone exercises universal jurisdiction.    Therefore, we cannot accuse the pope of overstepping his boundaries or of abusing power.  If you have the power to do something or to prohibit something and you make use of it, how can it be an abuse?

Some will argue that the pope cannot use his power to do harm.  This is true.  No one can use power to do harm.  Power is given to us for the common good.  There are times when we use power with the intention of doing something good and somewhere in the process something goes wrong and the end result hurts more than it helps.  This was not the intention of the person exercising the power.  This was the result of many random acts that were against the idea in the first place.    In this case, one can say that the end result was that the lay faithful who were benefiting from the TLM celebrated by the priests of the Franciscans of the Immaculate no longer had that benefit.  Obviously, they were hurt by Pope Francis’ decision to stop the TLM among the Franciscans of the Immaculate.  Did the Pope intend to hurt these folks?  I don’t think so.  He intended to put out a fire within the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

This does not mean that the TLM is prohibited or that the Franciscans of the Immaculate are being suppressed.  It means that people who had come to depend on the Franciscans of the Immaculate to provide a TLM mass have to look elsewhere, which is an inconvenience.    In fairness to the Pope and to the friars, this congregation was never founded for the explicit purpose of celebrating the mass in the Extraordinary Form (TLM Form).  The congregation’s mission is to walk the Gospel in the footsteps of St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Francis of Assisi under the protection and patronage of the Immaculate.

Did something go wrong?  Yes.  I don’t know what went wrong.  I’m not a member of that community.  I can see what’s going wrong outside of the community.  Pope Benedict XVI started an investigation into the Franciscans of the Immaculate, not Pope Francis.  Pope Francis inherited it, but almost everyone blames Pope Francis for it.  Like most popes, Pope Francis is not too enthusiastic about people using the mass for their political battles.  Therefore he restricts the permission to use the Tridentine Form to those who have specific permission to use it.  He never said that it could not be used.  He said that one must ask first.

Whatever Summorum Pontificum says about what priest can celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the mass, we cannot forget that the Motu Proprio does not bind the pope, including the one who wrote it, much less the pope who succeeds him.  He is free to abrogate it, edit it and interpret it.  It is not up to us to tell the pope what he can or cannot do with law.

Boniface VIII in “Constit.” reminds us that the sovereign pontiff is the most fruitful source of . . . law; he can abrogate . . . legislate to the whole Church or part thereof, a country, or a given body of individuals . . . he is not legally obliged to obtain the consent of any other persons and his power is limited only by Divine law.

Another important point here is that this is a situation between a pope and a religious community of Pontifical Right.  Meaning . . . that the pope is the highest ranking superior, above whom there is no appeal and who has absolute authority over the religious community.  He need not speak ex cathedra to be obeyed.  If we look at the writings of St. Francis, he promises obedience to the Bishop of Rome, commands that all the brothers obey him and his canonically elected successors for all time.  In essence, Francis binds everyone to obey the pope, regardless of the matter involved, except sin.  To put it more bluntly, it’s not for any of us, outside of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, to demand to know what happens within the community or to speak as if we had the authority to make a judgment on a situation that does not fall under our jurisdiction.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the good brothers have not asked us for our help, comments, opinions and interventions.  These are well educated men, free to ask for help if they need it, and who have a good understanding of how the legal system in the Church works, should they choose to make use of it.  Instead, it seems that they have chosen to apply one of our Seraphic Father’s admonitions.

The Lord says in the Gospel: he “that doth not renounce all that he possesses cannot be” a “disciple “and “he that will save his life, shall lose it.”  That man leaves all he possesses and loses his body and his soul who abandons himself wholly to obedience in the hands of his superior, and whatever he does and says—provided he himself knows that what he does is good and not contrary to his [the superior’s] will—is true obedience. And if at times a subject sees things which would be better or more useful to his soul than those which the superior commands him, let him sacrifice his will to God, let him strive to fulfil the work enjoined by the superior. This is true and charitable obedience which is pleasing to God and to one’s neighbor.

 

Upon this “quarry” I will build my Church?


Since the closing of the extraordinary synod there has been a great deal of commentary on the blogosphere about the reception of Holy Communion by Catholics who are divorced and invalidly remarried.  The question is not so much as to whether the first marriage was valid and the second is not or the other way around.  The question on everyone’s mind seems to be whether or not Pope JPII W EUCHARISTFrancis is pushing for a relaxation of the law that currently exists, which says that people who are conscious of grave sin should not receive Holy Communion.  Living with someone as if he or she were your spouse when the person is not, would be one of those occasions when objectively one is culpable a grave sin.

I wouldn’t have written this article, if I thought that this is the only issue on the table.  After all, Pope Francis has not said anything that indicates that he is trying to persuade the bishops to change the law or keep the law.  What we seem to be hearing from the Holy Father is that he wants every voice to be heard.  Sometimes, when one opens the door to every voice one finds discordant voices.  Whether it’s prudent to open the door to every voice is an important question.  However, in the case of the extraordinary synod on the family, it’s a moot question, because the horse has already left the starting gate.

We have seen cardinals, bishops, theologians, religious and laymen speak on the synod and the documents that were published after.  The points that concern most people are whether or not these men and women in invalid marriages should bride & groombe allowed to receive Holy Communion; whether or not same-sex couples have something positive to contribute to the Church; and whether or not we can find any good in situations where people who are not spouses live as if they were.  I certainly can’t claim to have the answers to these questions, because they are above my paygrade.  Even if I thought I had the answer, the Holy See is not really interested in my opinion, because it’s not my place in the Church to speak as an authority of matters of faith and morals.  That authority is reserved for the local bishop.  I can only speak as an authority in my home and in my community with the Franciscans of Life.  Even there, I can only repeat what the Church teaches; I cannot teach anything that is outside of Church teaching as if it were the “official” Catholic position.

Here is precisely where we’re having problems today.  The blogosphere is overpopulated with voices that not only have something to say about these questions, but want to speak and be heard as if they had the BOOKS ON HEADauthority to make pronouncements to the rest of the Church.  When they speak they sound intelligent, because they can use big words, throw around some citations from previous popes, councils and older catechisms and there are times when their arguments have some logic.  To the average layman (not as in non-ordained, but as in newbie to Church politics) these voices can be very impressive and persuasive, to the point that these readers become talking boxes for the bloggers.  You hear them repeat, verbatim, what a blogger has written.  This is an interesting development, because the blogosphere seems to be giving birth to its own oral tradition within the Catholic Church and some people are beginning to take this tradition seriously.

At the risk of sounding like these voices, I have to state that bloggers are just that and no more.  St. Francis of Assisi held that a man is what he is before God, san francisconothing else.  This has been part of Franciscan tradition and culture for 800 years.  Why?  Because it works.  Why does it work?  Because it’s true.

When we read what someone puts out there, be he a cardinal, bishop, religious, concerned Catholic layman we must keep this person in his or her proper context.  He or she is what God sees, not how he presents himself.  When God looks at a cardinal, he sees a bishop who has a specific place in the Church, with a specific assignment, specific role and mission.  He does not see another Peter, because there can only be one Peter.  The Church is built upon the faith of one rock, not an entire quarry.

The same applies to lay writers, who are often very impressive.  Nonetheless, they are not Peter.  All of these people are commenting on what Peter has said, failed to say, should say, will never say and that’s fine and dandy.  They are commentators.  We have to take them as such.  I do not take the commentator at clerics playinga Super Bowl show and credit him with the same authority that I credit the referee.  At the end of the day, the person who makes the call whether the ball is in or out of bounds is the ref, not the guy at the microphone.  The guy at the microphone can call the shot anyway he likes it, but his call is not going to determine the outcome of the game.

Listening to and reading what every blogger in town has to say about divorce, remarriage, Holy Communion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, cohabitation, the family, sex, and many other topics that fall under the umbrella of “family” can be very interesting and very enlightening.  I certainly like knowing what other GOD IS HIDDEN WITHINpeople are thinking.  But I have to remind myself that what I’m reading are the talking points and opinions of others like the sportscaster at the Super Bowl.  These are not the officials who call the shots that shape the outcome of the game.  The only person who can call those shots is Peter.

So far, in this entire discussion on the family, Pope Francis has only said that a synod of bishops has no authority to make or change rules, much less dogma and that the pope calls a synod under his pope franciswatchful eye and under his authority.  Therefore, he and only he can decide what to keep or throw out from what comes from the synod.

Those people who are saying that the Church is going to do A, B, and C, because the synod fathers said something in favor of A, B, and C can be very mistaken.  The Church is going to do whatever Peter decides.  It may be A, B, and C or D, E, and F.

Do not take these bloggers too seriously, nor reporters for that matter or people doing interviews.  Remember St. Francis of Assisi.  A man is what he is before God, nothing else.  None of these men is Peter.  They have strong opinions and are often very rational.  Other times they have very strong opinions and are very illogical.  I don’t pledge my support to the former, because as logical as his opinion may be, he lacks the authority to speak for the Church.  I listen to his opinion and like Mary; I hold these in my heart.  On the flip side, I don’t pledge my allegiance to the latter either, because his opinions are illogical.

Saint Pius XUntil the Church tells me that what appears illogical to me must be obeyed and held, I have no duty to do so.  The key here is “to me”.  Just because something seems right or wrong to me, does not make it so.  Just because I think I understand what the Church has traditionally said on a specific subject does not mean that I do.

We are very proud of what we think, to the point that we throw our ideas out there as if they were revealed truths and we’re willing to insult, hurt, and ignore others who do not agree with our understanding of the faith, morality or Catholic tradition. Which leads me to ask whether at the end of the day, all of these interviews that people are giving, all of these opinions that people are posting on blogs concerning the Church, the family and the pope, and all of these sound bites are just another temptation to pride and disobedience.

How much of all that is said is about love of God and man and how much is about love of one’s opinion and one’s idea of what “is” means?

Listen attentively, not aggressively


bride & groomThe subject of the family is central to any discussion of the Gospel and society.  God has always chosen to reveal Himself through the family.  He created Adam and Eve as parents to the human family.  He called Abram and Sarai to become mother and father of many nations.  He brought Moses out of his biological family, grafting him to a royal Egyptian family so as to bring His Israelite family out of slavery.  He raised the royal family of David from which he would take human nature in the Holy Family at Bethlehem.  His told Mary “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee,” (Mt. 28:10).  Throughout salvation history, God has spoken to the world through family life and from within the family.

The Franciscans of Life, though we are a very small and young family, are not less or more Catholic than our other Catholic brothers and sisters.  Christ calls us to live the Gospel in the manner that St. Francis of Assisi lived it.  Building on the experiencelogo of St. Francis, we believe that Christ also calls us to remind the world that the Gospel is a gospel of life.

To proclaim the Gospel of Life, one must proclaim the Gospel of the Family.  It is in the family where Life calls out to life (Vita ad vitam vocat).  If we follow the Gospel, we must accept that human life begins within the context of family.  Every human being has a dignity that protects his right to be conceived, nurtured and born into a family.  He has a right to protection, formation, and to receive care from a family.  At the end of life, he has the right to die naturally in the arms of his family.

From within the natural family, God calls men and women to form new and younger families, as well as families of brothers and sisters who consecrate their lives to live francis and clareaccording to the Gospel.  Such a consecration can take different expressions, from monastic, religious order, society of apostolic life, secular institute, diocesan hermits to consecrated virgins.  To the degree that these associations reproduce the relationship between Christ and his apostles, whom he calls “my brothers”, these are real families. They foreshadow family life in the Kingdom of God beginning with the Trinitarian family.

These thoughts help us who are trying to follow the extraordinary synod on the family with great interest.  Our Catholic identity comes from feeling with the Church.  We’re not talking about feeling emotional.  We’re talking about loving God and man with the Church.  To do so, we must know what the Church is thinking.

Here is where we must draw an important line.  We, brothers, remind ourselves that a synod is a listening session for the Holy Father and from that session will come ideas that the Holy Father will consider for the ordinary synod in October 2015.  The Holy Father will exercise his authority once he has all of the information on hand.

Because the synod has no authority, it all rests with the pope.  The brothers are not alarmed by some of the statements that the media alleges that some bishops have made, nor are we alarmed by those that we know some bishops have made.  The Church cannot change revealed truth.

As stated above, to proclaim the Gospel of Life one must proclaim the Gospel of the Family.  However, it is not we who decide what the Gospel says or does not say.  It’s the teaching 1240044_302298416577020_831596592_nmagisterium of the pope that teaches us what the Gospel says.  It’s important to listen carefully to what the bishops are telling the pope about family; because when all of this discussion is over and done with, the pope will probably issue a post synod exhortation that will carry the weight of the Church’s teaching authority.  Listening carefully requires that we withhold reacting to what is being said until the pope speaks.

We don’t have to agree with every idea that the bishops put on the table.  The pope invited them to be honest and candid.  When you have that kind of openness, you’re going to have to put up with a degree of chaos and nonsense as well.  We cannot have open dialogue without crisis.  There is no such thing.  An open dialogue invites all parties to re-examine what we believe and give respectful thought to what we have never thought about before.  This includes those of us who are not in Vatican City right now.  Not only should synod participants be listening attentively, every Catholic must listen attentively and resist the temptation to judge, condemn, and bash anyone who says something that sounds wrong to us.

There are always some challenges.  These are what lead to crisis or struggle.  The speaker may be wrong.  The person may be quoted incorrectly.  The statement may be sloppy so that it does not accurately reflect what the person is really thinking.  The idea may need to be expressed using tighter language so that it avoids ambiguity.

The Franciscans of Life are listening, assessing what makes sense and what sounds outrageous.  Regarding that which sounds outrageous, we are not pointing fingers at any bishop or cardinal.  We are not labeling anyone a Modernist, conservative, liberal or traditionalist.  We are not sounding the alarm of apostasy among the bishops.  On the contrary, if it sounds outrageous to our ears, we try to understand why it sounds outrageous to us.  The statement may truly be outrageous or we may be hearing it incorrectly.

In the meantime, the Franciscans of Life continue to pray for the pope, the synod fathers, the family and the world.  We continue to hold on to what the Church has traditionally taught us NEWMANabout the family; but we are open to the fact that there are always new experiences that help us better understand what God is saying to us about Himself and our salvation.  These experiences should not be ignored.  Very often, new experiences contribute to our understanding of doctrine.  They don’t change the doctrine, but they can enhance our comprehension.

We invite other Catholics to listen attentively.  Be faithful to what the Church has always taught and be honest and humble enough to admit when we realize that we can still be taught more.  No one ever reaches a ceiling of understanding of God and his divine plan for the human family.  Let us avoid characterizations, name calling, judging people, and self-righteousness.  Let us embrace the truth that the Church has taught using whatever experience can help us better understand the truth.

At the end of the day, we’re looking for the truth that God has revealed to us about the family.  We want to understand whatever there is out there to be understood, not just pieces here and there.  If we ignore those whom we consider to be on theJesus and boy opposite side of the house, how would we know that we truly understand what God is revealing to us?  To understand we must listen, ask questions, separate the reasonable from the unreasonable, truth from falsehood, and Gospel from fashion.  Only then will we be on the right path toward achieving our ultimate goal, to know God, serve God and love Him with all of our heart, mind, body and soul, here and in eternity.

Let us listen attentively, not aggressively.