What the Phillies can teach us about Indulgences

The Philadelphia Phillies have just won the 2008 World Series. I had nothing to do with it — heck, I haven’t really followed the team during the regular season since the days of Del Unser — and yet I’m very happy right now.

That’s a good analogy for indulgences. Somebody else does a great deal of work, and I, through some simple act (prayer in one case, watching TV in the other) get some of the benefit.

Source

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Why It’s Appropriate to bar pro-abortion politicians (and other grave sinners) from the Eucharist

With the Democrats nominating pro-abortion Catholic politicians for national office in each of the last two election cycles, the topic of whether or not such politicians should be barred from receiving the Eucharist has been hotly debated. So intense was the debate that even the mainstream secular media picked up on it, and some even attempted to understand the issue before printing articles about it. I’ve mentioned before that the resulting conversation about the issue likely harms the Democrats as the wide gap between their claimed faith and actions is made apparent, but let’s focus this time on the effect of such a stance on the souls of the politicians in question.

First, despite the recent claims by Senator Biden and Speaker Pelosi, the Church’s teaching against abortion has been consistent. As I write, 13 bishops have corrected Biden and 26 have corrected Pelosi on their false claim that the Church’s teaching on abortion is a recent development. In fact, the teaching against abortion goes back as far as the Didache (or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), which contains the teaching “you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” (chapter 2, verse 1) This document is thought to have originally been written as early as AD 70. (The Church likely left it out of the Bible because its apostolic origin could not be confirmed, although some accepted it as inspired.)

So, the consistent teaching of the Church throughout its two millennia has been that abortion is in fact a grave sin. Why should grave sinners then be denied participating in reception of Communion? Well, for this we can turn to the Bible. Saint Paul write “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:27) Why would this be?

Early Christians drew a parallel between the Eucharist and the Tree of Life in the story of the Garden of Eden. (Hang on, it makes sense eventually.)

In John 6 (my personal favorite exposition of the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist), Jesus tells us that He is the Bread of Life and in order to have eternal life, we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. A few samplings:

I am the bread of life.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.

Early Christians immediately saw the parallels between Christ’s Body and the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, which also promised eternal life. After Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, God banished them from the Garden, saying, “See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad! Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever.” (Gen 3:22) Remember, too, the definition of “knowing” in the Biblical sense; by “knowing” evil, Adam and Eve have in some way become intimate with it. Now that Adam and Eve have the stain of evil on them, eating of the Tree of Life will trap them in that state of sinfulness eternally. So, in order to protect us from permanent sinfulness, God expelled our parents from the Garden until such time as He would send a Savior.

Given the parallels between the Tree of Life and the Bread of Life, we can see why those in manifest sin, whether private or public, should abstain from receiving the Eucharist: to receive unworthily “traps” us in our sinfulness. So, those who are knowingly unworthy of reception should not present themselves. (This was former Wilmington Bishop Saltarelli’s approach, to remind those in such a state that they should not receive Communion until they are reconciled with the Church.) In the case of those whose sins are public, the response should be different. As Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican has said , ”If they should not receive, then they should not be given.” The public nature of some sins require a public response, lest more of the faithful be drawn into that same sin. To pick on a Republican, Rudy Giuliani shouldn’t be allowed to receive Communion not only due to his stance on abortion, but also due to the fact he’s not validly married and quite publicly guilty of (as far as we can tell) unrepented adultery.

So, despite the assumptions of many on both sides of this debate, barring pro-abortion politicians from reception of Holy Communion isn’t a punishment, but a protective measure, in many ways:
1) it protects the sinner in question from falling deeper into sin
2) serves as a wake-up call to the sinner that they need to mend their ways
3) it alerts others that the behavior in question is not acceptable and therefore not to emulated

The policy of the Diocese of Wilmington has been that we should pursue “gentle persuasion” in order to attempt to win the conversion of these politicians’ hearts. Unfortunately, it’s not working. Can anyone name a Catholic politician who has undergone such a conversion? If anything, the situation has gotten worse since the 1970s. When first elected, Biden was pro-life and disagreed with Roe v. Wade and believed “the right of abortion was not secured by the Constitution.” (Source) To pick another prominent example, Ted Kennedy was also pro-life at the time. We’re going backwards and losing ground.

The scandal of allowing pro-abortion politicians to receive Communion and portray themselves as “devout” Catholics has misled the people of Christ’s Church and the politicians themselves into believing such stances are acceptable. The price isn’t just the millions of lives lost to abortion, but also potentially the eternal souls of the politicians in questions. The stakes are literally eternal; we need to take a more serious approach to conversion of hearts and acknowledge that the current approach has failed.

Bishops Correct “Devout Catholic” Biden

Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, issued the following statement:

Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press” (see http://www.usccb.org/prolife/whatsnew.shtml). On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.

Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.

However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter. The Church recognizes that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.

The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception (see http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/fact298.shtml). The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.

The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. This is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into those who have moral value and those who do not and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.
While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.

Source

First Pelosi and now Biden. I guess Democrats haven’t internalized the concept yet that the Catholic Bishops will no longer carry water for them.

Catholic Politicians and Abortion

Duffy wrote a post about Biden, Pelosi and abortion that bears some further comment. I posted a response saying that, although the selection of Biden was no doubt done to reach out to Catholic voters, it will likely hurt more than help since it forces the Bishops to respond and a significant number of Catholics still listen to the Bishops.

It goes beyond that though as I reflect more on the issue. This post at The Corner deals with some of the other issues that come with a Catholic pro-choicer (this was written in response to the idea of Tom Ridge as McCain’s running mate):

A pro-choice Catholic is always the very worst kind of pro-choicer to put on a national ticket. Kerry and Ferraro demonstrated why: The actions (or even the inactions) of the hierarchy always generate lots of talk. It is inescapable. The candidate is in an untenable position — e.g., I recognize that I am not in good standing with my Church and therefore refrain from receiving communion. That doesn’t look too good. The alternative: I do receive communion, even if it is in defiance of the rules. That looks even worse. There is no way to win with a pro-choice Catholic. And, of course, the candidate always has to make sure to duck trying to receive in any diocese headed by a courageous bishop! Ridge being denied communion would be a great photo-op — for Democrats.

But there’s still another issue: the appearance of honesty and trustworthiness. As the candidate is confronted about the disparity between the faith they claim to profess and their public actions, that disparity becomes more and more apparent to voters. After all, there might be one or two people in the country who don’t know that the Catholic Church is pro-life, but that’s about it. The more they hear a Catholic politician claiming to be in union with the Church’s teaching despite their pro-abortion stance, the more they have to think about the following questions:

1) Is he lying to us?
2) If so, what else is he lying to us about?
3) If he’s not lying to us, is he lying to himself?
4) If so, what other facts does he not grasp? Or how tight a grip on reality does he really have?
5) Who’s he kidding?
6) If he can cast aside opinions he claims to deeply hold, what else will cast aside when it’s convenient? What promises that he’s making now will he forget about later?

This is especially likely to be a problem for Biden, who seems fairly combative by nature. He claimed in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor that “My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine.” He’s going to be called on that again and again and likely dig himself a deeper and deeper hole. He won’t be able to help himself and it will only hurt his chances of being Vice-President.

So after thinking more about it, my comment over on Duffy’s blog was incomplete. It’s not just going to hurt him among Catholics, but among all voters. They’ll see a glaring inconsistency that will be attempted to be rationalized and excused but those will ultimately fail.

Bad pick by Obama.

40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

Tomorrow (Friday the 25th) is the 40th anniversary of the issuance of Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s long-held denunciation of artificial means of birth control.
While that encyclical was widely reviled at the time (and today, although understanding of its wisdom is growing), it’s often forgotten that until 1930, Christian communities were nearly unanimous in rejecting artificial means of contraception. That year, the governing body of the Anglican Communion voted to allow contraception between married couples in limited circumstances. Within just a few decades, that new belief had spread like wildfire among Protestant communities, despite Pope Pius XI responding within less than a year with his encyclical Casti Connubi, rejecting the Lambeth Conference’s doctrinal innovation and reminding Christians everywhere of the consistent historic rejection by Christians of artificial contraception. (See here for quotes from early Christians, even as early as a few decades after Christ, rejecting contraception. Also, remember the story of Onan in Genesis 38:6-10, who God punishes for practicing coitus interruptus.)

Pope Paul VI, in Humane Vitae, didn’t just deal with theological issues though. Paragraph 17 discusses the likely consequences of popular acceptance of birth control:

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods 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, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

It’s certainly not true that respect for women has increased in our society. Between your typical magazine rack and the increase in violence against women, Pope Paul VI has been sadly prescient. So too has his prediction of government mandates of sterilization and contraception. Look at China with their one-child policy of forced sterilizations and abortions, which many international organizations, especially those related to the UN, hold up as a model to be followed, rather than a crime against humanity to condemned.

Similarly, the spread of abortion is clearly related to the acceptance of contraception. After all, if a child is a by-product we can actively avoid (something we’re “punished with“), why not terminate an existing pregnancy if contraception fails? It’s a very logical conclusion once pregnancy becomes something to be avoided. If a child can be rejected before conception due to inconvenient timing, why not soon after? This is why we won’t change the culture to reject abortion unless we also focus on getting the culture to reject contraception: it’s a straight line from contraception to abortion. A contracepting culture will be an abortion culture.

At the core of this issue is one simple question: what is sex for?

Nature provides us with two obvious purposes:
1) Sex makes babies (procreative)
2) Sex draws those involved in it closer to each other emotionally (unitive)

Simple observation has told us that for millennia. In so many ways, Catholic teaching on sexual morality can be drawn from those two points.

Sex is reserved for a marriage between a man and a woman because it provides the stability and environment best suited for raising a child. Children simply respond better to the complementarity of having parents of the opposite sex, and the bond of marriage provides a stability to the relationship that aids in keeping that complementary relationship around. The unitive aspect of sex can draw people who won’t make a successful marriage to believe they could. As has been said many times, sex is a great way to make up. Since sex releases the same hormones as love, having premarital sex can lead couples to confuse sex and love, leading to trouble in a marriage when the frequency of sex declines.

Similarly, contracepted sex denies the more obvious biological purpose of sex: reproduction. Sex while contracepting is really nothing more than mutual masturbation. Rather than two people coming together open to creating something greater than themselves, it ultimately becomes about pleasure, and often, their own pleasure. It takes an act that allows human participation in God’s act of creation and makes it solely about us, our wants, our pleasure, leaving God out of what is supposed to be a sacred moment. Indeed, under Catholic teaching, especially as expressed in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, sex is a sacrament.

So far from opposing or hating sex, as is often claimed, the Church teaches that is is given to us by God as a symbol of Heaven. The Church doesn’t place limits on sexual activity because we’re prudish or puritanical, but because it’s so wonderful that it must be treated with the respect and dignity it deserves, not just as another bodily function.

Sex is wonderful; treat it that way.

The Vatican & Women “Priests”

Vatican sends threat over women priests – CNN.com

The Vatican announced Thursday in a general decree that it will excommunicate anyone who would attempt to ordain a woman as a priest and the woman herself.

According to the decree, the excommunications would take place with immediate effect.

A quick search of the Vatican website didn’t turn up the document in question, so I’m largely speculating. (It often takes a little while, if ever, for many documents to be translated into English by the Vatican.) But given the fact that the excommunication would take immediate effect, it’s likely a latae sententiae excommunication, one that occurs automatically upon a certain action. These actions are generally reserved to serious violations of Church and Divine law. Some examples of actions that incur such a penalty are: procuring an abortion knowing that it’s gravely sinful, a priest violating the secrecy of the confessional and, as we see know, pretending to ordain a woman a priest. (One point: under Canon, or Church law, a latae sententiae excommunication is only effective if the person committing the act is aware of the penalty. Ignorance of the law is an excuse under Church law.)

In reality, a woman can no more be made a priest than a chocolate chip cookie could be consecrated into the Body and Blood of Christ or a dog could be baptized. It’s just the wrong physical matter and therefore the attempt at a sacrament would fail. So all these ordination attempts are no more than playacting. This doctrine has been held since the earliest times of the Church. We see it in the Bible at the Last Supper: Christ ordained his Apostles as priests with the washing of the feet, meaning only men were ordained as the first priests. Had He wished to ordain women, He certainly would have done so, so we can only assume that He had His reasons and as His followers, we should have faith in Him. I don’t completely understand the reasons for it myself, but I take it on faith that Christ knew what he was doing and wouldn’t let His Church go astray.

UPDATE (8:34 AM): English Text of the Decree:

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

General Decree

On the delict of attempted sacred ordination of a woman

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in virtue of the special faculty granted to it by the Supreme Authority of the Church (cf. Can. 30, Code of Canon Law), in order to safeguard the nature and validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, decreed, on the Ordinary Session of December 19, 2007:

In accordance with what is disposed by Can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, he who shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive Holy Orders, incurs in a latae sententiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.

If he who shall have attempted to confer Holy Orders on a woman or if the woman who shall have attempted to received Holy Orders is a faithful bound to the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, he is to be punished with the major excommunication, whose remission remains reserved to the Apostolic See, in accordance with can. 1443 of the same Code (cf. can. 1423, Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches).

The present decree enters in force immediately after its publication in L’Osservatore Romano.

William Cardinal Levada
Prefect
Angelo Amato, s.d.b.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
Secretary

(Published in L’Osservatore Romano of May 29, 2008 – permanent link)

So, I was correct on the nature of the penalty.

And an understandable explanation, with appropriate links, by a leading canon lawyer.

The Vatican & Women “Priests”

Vatican sends threat over women priests – CNN.com

The Vatican announced Thursday in a general decree that it will excommunicate anyone who would attempt to ordain a woman as a priest and the woman herself.

According to the decree, the excommunications would take place with immediate effect.

A quick search of the Vatican website didn’t turn up the document in question, so I’m largely speculating. (It often takes a little while, if ever, for many documents to be translated into English by the Vatican.) But given the fact that the excommunication would take immediate effect, it’s likely a latae sententiae excommunication, one that occurs automatically upon a certain action. These actions are generally reserved to serious violations of Church and Divine law. Some examples of actions that incur such a penalty are: procuring an abortion knowing that it’s gravely sinful, a priest violating the secrecy of the confessional and, as we see know, pretending to ordain a woman a priest. (One point: under Canon, or Church law, a latae sententiae excommunication is only effective if the person committing the act is aware of the penalty. Ignorance of the law is an excuse under Church law.)

In reality, a woman can no more be made a priest than a chocolate chip cookie could be consecrated into the Body and Blood of Christ or a dog could be baptized. It’s just the wrong physical matter and therefore the attempt at a sacrament would fail. So all these ordination attempts are no more than playacting. This doctrine has been held since the earliest times of the Church. We see it in the Bible at the Last Supper: Christ ordained his Apostles as priests with the washing of the feet, meaning only men were ordained as the first priests. Had He wished to ordain women, He certainly would have done so, so we can only assume that He had His reasons and as His followers, we should have faith in Him. I don’t completely understand the reasons for it myself, but I take it on faith that Christ knew what he was doing and wouldn’t let His Church go astray.

UPDATE (8:34 AM): English Text of the Decree:

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

General Decree

On the delict of attempted sacred ordination of a woman

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in virtue of the special faculty granted to it by the Supreme Authority of the Church (cf. Can. 30, Code of Canon Law), in order to safeguard the nature and validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, decreed, on the Ordinary Session of December 19, 2007:

In accordance with what is disposed by Can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, he who shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive Holy Orders, incurs in a latae sententiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.

If he who shall have attempted to confer Holy Orders on a woman or if the woman who shall have attempted to received Holy Orders is a faithful bound to the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, he is to be punished with the major excommunication, whose remission remains reserved to the Apostolic See, in accordance with can. 1443 of the same Code (cf. can. 1423, Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches).

The present decree enters in force immediately after its publication in L’Osservatore Romano.

William Cardinal Levada
Prefect
Angelo Amato, s.d.b.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
Secretary

(Published in L’Osservatore Romano of May 29, 2008 – permanent link)

So, I was correct on the nature of the penalty.

And an understandable explanation, with appropriate links, by a leading canon lawyer.