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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Priests Must Keep the Internal Forum


It is precisely this internal forum and the seal of the sacrament that is being threatened by politicians, law enforcement those pursuing litigation in light of the clergy scandals.

A Courageous or Timid Church?

Msgr. Pope touches a cord on the Archdiocesan Blog that is very dear to my heart, the fact that a “timid” Church is in contradiction to its very nature as a sign of contradiction in the world.

Msgr. Pope speaks of the new secularized faith as “Sad, pathetic, wrong, and cowardly—hardly the revolutionary faith that got Paul arrested. . . . We have got to rediscover how revolutionary our Catholic faith truly is to this world gone mad. And as we proclaim healing and an allegiance to something other than this world, we will become increasingly obnoxious to the world around us. . . . No tame, domesticated Christianity will threaten or change this world. When Paul preached, the people rioted. Modern preaching too often incites only yawns and indifference.”

St. Paul and the other apostles did not qualify the Gospel and so they faced arrest, torture and martyrdom. The early Church was persecuted precisely because the truths of Christ allowed for no compromise or tolerance for participation in false worship. Even a pinch of incense to the Roman gods or to the so-called divine emperor was too much. Today’s world misconstrues the incident of the Roman coin and the likeness of the emperor. When Jesus said give to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, he was avoiding a trick to have him either arrested by the authorities or to be rejected by the crowds as a traitor. Ours is a jealous God. What belongs to him? The answer is everything, even Caesar! Many in contemporary society play games with their Christianity. They create a false image of Christ to follow, one that would have fit in nicely with the pantheon of ancient pagan deities. Indeed, the battle over religious liberty is a symptom of this— as if believers could restrict their faith and values to the inside walls of churches and during Mass. And yet, the dismissal at the end of Mass echoes our commission to take the Good News out into the world. The ideal is not co-existence with the world or evil but rather to plant the seeds for repentance and conversion. Today many Catholics are silent upon important issues. A candidate for the office of governor in Maryland is a “practicing Catholic” and yet he is on the record as pro-abortion, yes even for allowing partial-birth infanticide. How can we reconcile this with the faith? The issues continue to mount: no fault divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriages, lack of support for parochial schools, contraception giveaways in public schools, free contraception, abortion on demand and growing sympathies for euthanasia. Sins are counted as rights and Catholics and their Church are expected to fall in line. Wimpish silence satisfied in the past, and that was bad enough, but today complicity is demanded.

St. Paul would exorcize the demonic, not try to accommodate it. Too often we hear from churchmen that we do not want to alienate politicians on “other issues” that are important to us, like the status of immigrants, or just employment, or the dismissal of capital punishment, or tax breaks for churches, etc. We cower to the power of the secular world when we should bring the authority of Christ to bear on the challenges of our day.

Christianity was persecuted by the Roman Empire precisely because it was viewed as intolerant. Today, much of the faith has lost its teeth. The enablers for the murder of children are invited without sanction to take Holy Communion. Even high level shepherds hypothesize ways to get around or to turn a blind eye to homosexuality, adultery and fornication. We are urged to find a new language, removed from that used in Scripture, so that no one might get their feelings hurt. The fact that these activities might cost people the kingdom and their share in everlasting life does not seem to measure up anymore. Who are we to judge? We are the people given the gift of the Holy Spirit and who follow the Light of the World, dispelling the darkness. What is saving faith? It is courageous obedience to God, qualified by charity. That’s who we are and what we are about!

The Marriage Crisis

I regularly follow the wisdom on Msgr. Charlie Pope’s blog for the Archdiocese of Washington.  Recently, he posted on the following question:  “In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions of this week, are we coming to a point where we should consider dropping our use of the word “marriage?”  A number of Catholic voices are arguing that we should disengage ourselves both with the word “marriage” and from allowing clergy to function as civil magistrates in witnessing them for the state.  Certainly I am sympathetic with what they hope to accomplish.  However, I am already on the record, from past discussions, as opposed to such a retreat.  Both sides can play word-games.  Towards the end, he poses a second question, “Should the Catholic Bishops disassociate Catholic clergy from civil ‘marriage’ licenses?”  Again, I appreciate the underlying reasoning; we want to avoid guilt by association and giving apparent approbation.  My fear is that any such move would be contrary to a well-ordered or structured society (which is a good in itself).  It would also constitute a retreat that opponents in the public forum would exploit.  It seems to me that our laity would bear the blunt of the suffering and challenge that would come from such a move.


I am not blind to the dire crisis we face.  It is true that marriage as an institution has been largely redefined by our society.  The movement on behalf of same-sex unions is a case in point; of course, if left unchecked it will not stop there.  Next we will see the return of polygamy.  Despite the many scandals faced by the Church, there are even depraved people pushing for pedophilia and pederasty.  There is already a bizarre effort in Australia for a man to marry his pet goat, the degradation of bestiality.  The U.S. bishops reminded us in their failed initiative that marriage is in trouble.  While I am hesitant to criticize our holy shepherds; the fact is that marriage has been in trouble for some time now and we were largely silent.  Contraception nullifies the consummation of the marital act.  Millions of abortions seek to erase through murder the fruit of marital love.  No-fault divorce allows for quick separations and remarriages.  Prenuptial Agreements insert doubt against the vows and a lack of trust from the very beginning, thus making those marriages null-and–void.  Couples fornicate and cohabitate, essentially saying that you do not have to be married to have sex.  Well, when you separate sex and marriage, you also set the stage for infidelity and adultery.  Once sex is disconnected from marriage it is very hard to reattach it with any kind of necessity.  Our society is saturated by an erotic and pornographic media that destroys courtship and sexualizes relationships.  This dilemma is so pervasive that the inner person has lost any sense of propriety or decency.  Viagra gives the old stamina to neglect their coming judgment and condoms give the young license under the illusion of protection.  Wedding dresses that once expressed modesty and femininity are increasing replaced with skimpy gowns akin to those on television dance contests.  Ours is the generation where all rights, even the right to life, are supplanted by the emerging and absolute right to have sex with anyone regardless of promises and unions.  The children are caught up in the middle of this whirlwind.  This is so much so that we even dress our little girls like the prostitutes that walk the street.

Much Ado about a Word

Msgr. Pope makes the accurate observation that the Church and society-at-large mean very different things by the word, “marriage.”  Of course, this is also the situation with many other terms as well.  While language is fluid and hard to control; it can certainly be manipulated.  Look at the word GAY.  This expression for joy or happiness has become the source for giggling when used in old songs.  It has now been exclusively usurped by the homosexual community.  Another word in peril is RELATIONSHIP.  When we hear teens or young adults use it these days, they generally mean a sexual friendship with a certain degree of exclusivity.    The word that most troubles and saddens me today is LOVE.  What precisely does it mean anymore?  We do not want to cast it off and so the dictionary definition gets longer and longer.  Look at how we use it.  “I love my car.  I love my dog.  I love my job.  I love my house.  I love donuts.  I love strippers.  I love my wife.  I love my children.  I love God.”  Then we have expressions like, “Let’s make love,” a euphemism for sex.  We give it so many meanings that the word begins to mean nothing.

What does the word MARRIAGE mean?  Is it just a civil contract to make having sex easier or more convenient?  If that is all it is, it is no wonder that couples are cohabitating without it.  Some states have argued for different types of marriage contracts, one more easily dissolved than the other.  There was even an effort to impose marriage licenses with term limits.  If after five years, if the spouses were unhappy, they could opt not to renew.  The marriages would then automatically expire.  The divorce epidemic, something which Protestant churches pamper by their failure to enforce Christ’s command in Matthew against divorce, has given us what is essentially serial or progressive polygamy, one spouse after another.  Proponents of “open” marriages suggest that couples should still be able to have sex with others outside their bond.  I know one instance where a man lives with both his wife and his mistress in the same house.  The girls share him.  Largely gone is the Catholic-Christian equation that marriage is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman who are called to be faithful to each other until the death of one of the spouses.  Marriages are rightly directed toward the good of the spouses and the generation of new human beings, children.  Stripping marriage of its propagative element is to make marriage wholly something else.  Even infertile couples must express their union in that act which by nature is directed to the generation of new human life.  That is why something like condomistic intercourse is intrinsically evil, even in marriage, yes, even among older infertile couples.  Too many couples feign the marital act and live in relationships that are not true marriages.  The large cases of annulments are cases in point.  People can share their bodies like cats and dogs but they are ignorant of the true parameters of marital love and union.  Although a natural right, they have made themselves ill-disposed to the sacrament.  Required six-month waiting periods and marriage preparation are attempts to remedy the dark situation.  However, couples frequently go through the motions and tell the moderators and clergy what they want to hear.  I recall one priest praising a couple he was working with for doing all the right things before marriage.  On the way out one evening, I overheard the prospective groom tell his girl, “What a jerk!”  Later I found out from parishioners that they had been cohabitating the whole time and only went to the priest’s Masses once-in-a-while to fool him about their religiosity.  They spent a fortune on the wedding and we never saw them again.  I heard a few years later they divorced because “they grew apart.”  When Catholics marry outside the Church, in the eyes of God they do not get married at all.  However, Catholics who marry in the Church might also start their unions with deception.  Planting lies today often leads to weeds tomorrow.

I will echo Msgr. Pope in giving the definition of MARRIAGE from the universal catechism:

[CCC 1601]  The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.

What are we to do when the definition given to marriage in no way parallel’s the understanding of the Church?

Msgr. Pope proposes that we stop using the word “marriage” and substitute instead, “holy matrimony.”  He explains:

“The word ‘matrimony’ also emphasizes two aspects of marriage: procreation and heterosexual complementarity. The word comes from Latin and old French roots. Matri = ‘mother’ and ‘mony,’ a suffix indicating ‘action, state, or condition.’ Hence Holy Matrimony refers to that that holy Sacrament wherein a woman enters the state that inaugurates an openness to motherhood. Hence the Biblical and Ecclesial definition of Holy Matrimony as heterosexual and procreative is reaffirmed by the term itself. Calling it HOLY Matrimony distinguishes it from secular muddle that has ‘marriage’ for its nomen.”

He readily admits that there are problems with trying to regulate language in such ways.  If I recall correctly, I was among those unconvinced and “perturbed that we were handing over our vocabulary to the libertines.”

We can play word games but our opponents are not fools.  They were not happy with the notion of “civil unions” and wanted “marriage.”  Don’t be surprised that they will also be speaking of their bonds in terms of “holy matrimony.”

Marriage is a natural right.  Opting to use another word is not going to change this fact.  Homosexuals and lesbians can feign marriage and the state might recognize it; but, in truth such unions are a violation of the natural law.  The debate or argument is best sustained by retention of the vocabulary.  We must insist that same-sex marriage is a fiction.  Surrendering the word would only grant them the false sense that they had succeeded in making their argument.

If we cannot even defend a word like “marriage,” then how can we defend all the ideas behind it?  This conflict is not just about marriage; it is a fight over the hearts and minds of people.  So-called same sex-marriage is just one weapon in the enemy’s arsenal.  The goal of our critics is to redefine the Church out of existence.  The government administration wants to become the sole arbiter of marriage; but more than this— it views Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, and Catholic hospitals as standing in its way.  Threats to close would only make them nationalize these institutions and they would argue that such is a “necessity” for “the public good.”  This is the goal of our antagonists.  If American society is to be remade then the Church must either change to insignificance or be destroyed.  This is the fight we face.

Ministers of the State or of the Church

My initial sentiments emerged as an aside to the courageous crusade of Bai Macfarlane against No-Fault Divorce.  The question arose as to whether clergy compromised themselves by acting as witnesses for the state, signing the marriage licenses and returning them to the courts.  Msgr. Pope continues to sign them, he says, out of holy obedience to the Archbishop.  Speaking for myself, I think we would forfeit too much by surrendering this privilege to the state.  I suspect that problems might escalate instead of get better.  Further, if the Church should opt out, would not our couples still have to get their civil licenses before Church weddings? He seems to think not, arguing that they should “in no way consider themselves as wed, due to a (meaningless) piece of paper from a secular state that reflects only confusion and darkness rather than clarity and Christian light.”  I recall arguing with a hippie years ago who regarded the marriage license as just a piece of paper.  In response, I cited that it came along with the Church sacrament and that it also respected the state’s right to regulate marriages as an integral building block to society.  The state is taking a wrong turn with these same sex unions but we should still take advantage of our rights as citizens.  That piece of paper says that as a member of society, I still have a voice and that marriage is an institution that must be acknowledged, regardless as to whether others are given such acknowledgment wrongly (in the past because of divorce and today also because of same-sex unions).  Opting out will undermine a structured society, its institutions, and the protections and rights we take for granted.

I have immigrants in my parish from Asia and Africa.  Their home nations do not give the privilege that our clergy enjoy in being able to witness marriages.  Some of them have only known tribal weddings.  Others have licenses from a judge or notary public.  While they should have immediately had their marriages solemnized by a priest, they put the process off.  Children were conceived.  Time went by, maybe years, and now they all need Church convalidations.  Would we reduce all marriages in the Church to convalidations?

If we attempt to marry people in Church who are not legally married; we will be facing all sorts of headaches.  We would be opening the door to rampant bigamy where people would be civilly married to one person and married in the Church to another— without the recourse to the legal fiction of divorce.  At present the state recognizes all Church unions even though the Church does not acknowledge every civil union.  The last thing we should want is to segregate the Church into her own private ghetto where there are “us” and “them.”  We have every right to a place in the public forum and should fight for it.  Our married couples have every right to the protections insured by law (tax incentives, inheriting property, healthcare and insurance, custodial issues with offspring, hospital visitation and the right to make medical decisions for a sick spouse, and sharing a name).  Marrying couples without civil licenses would once have opened our couples to prosecution for cohabitation.  Even if this is a bygone concern, there is still the prospect of scandal.  Some will view “married in the Church” but “not in the state” as NOT being married at all.  The children from such unions could be labeled as “bastards” by our critics.

The Church has a responsibility to be fully integrated into civil society as a constitutive part.  There will be conflicts but accommodations will have to be made that will not compromise our message and mission.  Maybe there is a need for different types of licenses from the state for religious weddings, distinguishing them from civil ones?  Indeed, there are different theologies between the churches.  Some view the clergy person as the one who performs the marriage.  Catholics view the spouses as the ministers of the sacrament to which the priest witnesses.  Episcopalians and others will probably even allow and celebrate same-sex unions.  We may become a minority voice in this society but we should not allow that voice to be silenced.  Taking our toys and going home angry will not fix the situation.  The retreat of the Church would be precisely what our enemies want.  I fear that it would further erode the foundations of our civilization.  Caesar’s empire might be pagan, but the Christian and the Church still have obligations to maintain a society that would protect our rights and freedoms.

I would maintain the status-quo with priests witnessing marriages for the state.  However, there may come a day when that is taken away from us.  We can cope with that when it comes.  Civil disobedience might then take many forms, some of which could be extremely bizarre.  One priest suggested that all our religious houses claim same-sex unions so as to get the marriage benefits and healthcare.  I know one case already where a married couple got divorced but still live together so as to have better retirement benefits.  I suspect that laws will be passed to force couples and the Church to behave.  How far do we want to press it?  Speaking for myself, I really hate retreating.

The Larger Challenge

It is my hope that we will have courageous shepherds and a supportive flock.  I foresee priests facing fines and jail time for hate-speech in regard to teaching and preaching against homosexuality.  After all, the Church’s language about marriage in the recent Supreme Court case was appraised as bigotry.  Hum, we might have to take priests entirely out of the marriage scenario if all our clergy are locked up.  Already, while the Church is currently protected, and we cannot be forced to marry homosexuals, organizations like the Knights of Columbus are not safeguarded.  At this writing the free-standing Knights of Columbus halls in Maryland have been notified that due to their state charters they must rent for the wedding receptions of homosexuals and lesbians.  The pressure is already on.

Our public schools are teaching that any reservation about homosexuality is discrimination.  What will our children then think of their churches?  Must we extract all our children from the public schools?  Who will pay to place them into Catholic institutions?  Homeschooling is an option for some but not for all.  Where are we going from here?  If the government and the media are more successful than the Church in forming consciences and teaching values; then what avenues are left?  The issue is far more complex than any nomenclature of marriage or whether priests are authorized as civil magistrates.  The question is how does the Church function and survive in a non-Christian society?

Catholics did not unanimously support the U.S. bishops in the Marriage Matters campaign.  Indeed, large numbers were vocal in opposition.  We hesitate to name names and are always fearful of our tax-exemption status.  But if we are going to be shunned in a matter similar to racists over the issue of homosexual acceptance; then we will no doubt forfeit such benefits in the days ahead.  I know I sound pessimistic and cynical.  But that is what I see coming.  The Church waited too long to find her teeth.  She is an old dog grown weak from inactivity and abandoned by her pups.  There are wolves coming.  They want the Church out of the way.  Look at the various initiatives of the current administration.  Starting with appointments in religious churches and schools, then forcing churches to violate their basic principles and next pressing upon us what was once an unthinkable depravity— all these are attempts to redefine the Church out of existence.  The president’s view of religion is seen through the prism of secular humanism.  Anything else is judged as extraneous and must go.

There are some who are pawns to those who hate the Church.  Others actually think that they are catalysts for positive change in the Church and society.  Look at all the Catholic politicians who oppose the U.S. bishops and who dissent on Church teaching.  The chief advocates in Maryland and in Washington are baptized Catholics.  Like Msgr. Pope, I have my opinions; and like him, in obedience we both defer to the Archbishop and the national shepherds of our Church.  We share our ideas, pray for courage and know that God will not abandon his children.

Cardinal Dolan’s Benediction Prayer at the DNC

With a “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” let us close this convention by praying for this land that we so cherish and love:

Let us Pray.

Almighty God, father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, revealed to us so powerfully in your Son, Jesus Christ, we thank you for showering your blessings upon this our beloved nation. Bless all here present, and all across this great land, who work hard for the day when a greater portion of your justice, and a more ample measure of your care for the poor and suffering, may prevail in these United States. Help us to see that a society’s greatness is found above all in the respect it shows for the weakest and neediest among us.

We beseech you, almighty God to shed your grace on this noble experiment in ordered liberty, which began with the confident assertion of inalienable rights bestowed upon us by you: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected. Strengthen our sick and our elders waiting to see your holy face at life’s end, that they may be accompanied by true compassion and cherished with the dignity due those who are infirm and fragile.

We praise and thank you for the gift of liberty. May this land of the free never lack those brave enough to defend our basic freedoms. Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty: the first, most cherished freedom bequeathed upon us at our Founding. May our liberty be in harmony with truth; freedom ordered in goodness and justice. Help us live our freedom in faith, hope, and love. Make us ever-grateful for those who, for over two centuries, have given their lives in freedom’s defense; we commend their noble souls to your eternal care, as even now we beg the protection of your mighty arm upon our men and women in uniform.

We praise and thank you for granting us the life and the liberty by which we can pursue happiness. Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community. May we welcome those who yearn to breathe free and to pursue happiness in this land of freedom, adding their gifts to those whose families have lived here for centuries.

We praise and thank you for the American genius of government of the people, by the people and for the people. O God of wisdom, justice, and might, we ask your guidance for those who govern us: President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, Congress, the Supreme Court, and all those, including Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, who seek to serve the common good by seeking public office. Make them all worthy to serve you by serving our country. Help them remember that the only just government is the government that serves its citizens rather than itself. With your grace, may all Americans choose wisely as we consider the future course of public policy.

And finally Lord, we beseech your benediction on all of us who depart from here this evening, and on all those, in every land, who yearn to conduct their lives in freedom and justice. We beg you to remember, as we pledge to remember, those who are not free; those who suffer for freedom’s cause; those who are poor, out of work, needy, sick, or alone; those who are persecuted for their religious convictions, those still ravaged by war.

And most of all, God Almighty, we thank you for the great gift of our beloved country.

For we are indeed “one nation under God,” and “in God we trust.”

So dear God, bless America. You who live and reign forever and ever.


Note:  The major networks purportedly cut away from the convention and did not show the prayer.

Religious Liberty, Traditionalists & Obedience

The SSPX has made no secret of its opposition to the teachings about religious liberty both espoused at Vatican II and in the recent USCCB campaign against government intrusion.

We have faced many challenges to our religious liberty.  At one time Catholics were forbidden entry into certain colleges like William and Mary.  Catholic churches were burned and our worship was curtailed.  Later there was the issue of public education and the reading of Protestant bibles.  Catholic schools emerged to insure the faith of generations of children. 

In more recent times there has been the issue of prayer in schools, the celebration of religious holidays and public symbols, and the status of the Sabbath or Sunday blue laws.  The emphasis has shifted from a preference given to the Protestant faith over the Catholic, to an atheistic secular humanism that is hostile to all faith.  Today, there is a concerted effort to force the Church to compromise on matters like homosexuality, artificial contraception, and abortion.  Will the Church face charges of hate-speech for opposing same-sex unions and homosexual acts?  Will the Church be forced to pay for contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization in healthcare plans?  How far will this fight go and how strong and courageous will we find Catholic churchmen.  And will the Catholic people stand with their shepherds or with an anti-Catholic modernity?  We would expect that traditionalists would be of one mind with conservatives on such matters; but such is not always the case.

The Church would not argue that religious liberty is absolute or that it “necessarily” applies to all creeds equally. However, the principle of religious liberty and freedom of conscience are critical to the Church’s understanding of human dignity.  The more a religion reflects the objective order and spiritual truth, the more that faith must remain free from coercion. Mormons once taught polygamy and were rightfully corrected by the federal government. Satanism is restricted on military bases because occult services in the nude conflict with the military code of conduct. Sometimes peculiar things are tolerated in other religions so that the Church herself might benefit from non-interference, matters like the pacifism of Quakers and rigid alcoholic temperance. Then there are acts that cause quite a bit of debate, matters like snake-handling, the prohibition of blood transfusions (Jehovah Witnesses) and interdictions toward inter-racial dating. However, there are also clear limits as with ritual euthanasia, human sacrifice, bondage or trafficking, and the abuse of children.

Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order. For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range: that is, the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary.  (Dignitatis Humanae #7)

Given the persecution of the Church in England, the separation of the Church and state was interpreted as a way to protect our interests. While an ideal state is one where the Church and state are in harmony, history has proven that such unity is hard to achieve and even harder to maintain. There was also the unpleasant side-effect that with the Reformation, the creed of the land followed the local prince. While such was legally tolerated in Europe to prevent bloodshed, this arrangement was very unfair to Catholics who felt abandoned by Rome and a Catholic Europe. Religious liberty in the United States permitted the Church to expand at a rate that surprised even the Holy See. Marylanders rejoiced to be liberated from the penal laws. Our Catholic school system grew to be second to none. It must be added that the separation of Church and state never meant a disavowal of traditional religious values or culture. Such is the extreme that we see today from organizations like the ACLU and the liberal People for the American Way. The American state was viewed by many of our founders as a Christian one, not atheistic as some contend today.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right. (Dignitatis Humanae #2)

If everyone were Catholic, we might presume that the public values and laws would reflect this fact. But states that are largely Catholic do not always remain sympathetic to the Church. Mexico in the 1920’s would be a case in point. The rupture of the Reformation took place in what were formerly Catholic nations. Never underestimate original sin and the hunger of men for power.

While we might hope and work for the day when earthly realms would recognize Christ and his Church, we leave such eventualities to divine providence. Anything else would be a pelagian nod to earthly utopias. Our emphasis is always upon the kingdom of Christ which is ushered in by God’s grace.

Some critics, particularly within the SSPX, would criticize the model of religious liberty taught by the late Fr. John Courtney Murray. They go so far as to fault its promulgation at Vatican II as the source for global apostasy and secularization. However, Father Murray simply gave voice to what he saw as the American experiment. I would argue that it was not an ingredient in the subsequent conflict with modernity, Vatican II or no Vatican II.

It is simplistic to demonize the council or to give a heightened importance to the pre-conciliar Church that it did not possess. The council was an attempt by the Church to respond to a changing world. Not everything worked out and many purposely distorted the meaning and purpose of the gathering. However, the world’s bishops did gather, it was a legitimate council, and the Pope ratified it. Those who utterly reject it will find themselves in opposition to a crucial Church teaching— that the universal Magisterium so gathered is safeguarded by the Holy Spirit. It is no wonder that those who oppose the council are neither united to the majority of the world’s bishops nor in juridical union with the Holy See. There are only two options open to critics of the council. Either there was a misapplication of the council by those who invented a “spirit of Vatican II” or there is no supernatural agency protecting ecumenical councils, the Magisterium and the Pope. It is for this reason that castigating the council is a very dangerous thing for a “faithful” Catholic to do. It leads either to a Catholicized variation of Protestantism or to atheism.

It is true that Cardinal Ottaviani shared a number of concerns about the council and his view regarding Church/state relations. It is no secret that this holy prelate was unhappy, especially given that his schema for the council was brushed aside and replaced. But he was only one man and in the end he was obedient. The fact remains that the majority of the world’s bishops and the Pope signed off on the council documents. The issue here is clearly one of ecclesiology. Pope Benedict XVI was at the council and yet critics would try and tell him what was what. The arrogance in all this is insufferable.

Church social teaching cannot be merely theoretical but must reflect the pragmatic reality of the world where we find ourselves. While there are stable elements, the political teaching reacts to the world around us: the disappearance of monarchies, the rise of democracies, capitalism and the world economy, the threat of communism, and increased secularism. Today, we would also add the effect of technology and communication, as well as the rise of fundamentalist Islam and their lack of tolerance toward the Church. The Church is seeking for ways to grow and arguing for its right to exist, no matter how societies might change.

Some critics contend that the “post-Vatican II Church” is apparently afraid to sanction those teaching heresy or promoting immorality; however, it is quick to enforce “disciplinary rules.” They resent that Archbishop Lefebvre was disciplined for consecrating bishops without a papal mandate while heretical priests remain in “good standing” to teach heresy and to actively dissent. I would argue that it is no less scandalous for traditionalists to dismiss the guidance of the Holy See. More than discipline is at stake but a fundamental view regarding ecclesiology and divinely appointed authority. The scandal is worse for those who feign fidelity to the Holy See while failing truly to obey the successor of St. Peter. No one expects fidelity from the liberal dissenters. Their only deceit is that they might still claim to be Catholic; but that is a shallow lie through which all but the most ignorant can penetrate. I would also argue for a heavier hand by the Church but I am neither a bishop nor the pope. I am sure the shepherds have their reasons for what they do. I suspect that the most liberal dissenters just do not respond to sanctions. The issue is not whether leftist dissenters have been properly punished; but, rather have breakaway traditionalists displayed sufficient contrition to have the last of their sanctions removed? I would place the highest gravity or wrong with the SSPX. They should have known better. Who knows what good their presence within the Church would have merited these past forty years? Instead, they abandoned her and circled the wagons. The consecration of bishops against the will of the Holy See threatened a parallel church. It is no minor crime. It deserves penance prior to absolution. I think this is the ultimate holdup. They can quickly find fault in Rome but wrongly imagine that they are immaculate and had no other recourse. What they did was wrong. It was a grievous sin. The Pope removed their excommunication, not out of justice but from charity. Pope Benedict XVI is a gentle man where I would have given them ultimatums. I am not convinced that the SSPX will ever return to juridical unity. That is my opinion and I hope I am wrong. Those who too closely align themselves with them, even if just for an anachronistic love of the old liturgy, may find themselves ultimately outside the lawful Catholic Church. They will join the Orthodox churches of the East in their schism from Peter, the ROCK of the Church and Vicar of Christ.

Certainly the license to teach theology has been stripped from numerous liberal theologians. Many have faced discipline and censure, such as: Fr. Leonardo Boff, Fr. Charles Curran, Fr. Matthew Fox, Fr. Hans Kung, Sister Margaret Farley, and Sister Elizabeth Johnson. The latter two were quite recent and Sister Johnson was my academic advisor many years ago in seminary. I have read all her books and concur with the evaluation of the U.S. bishops about the improper use of metaphor. It is so peculiar that liberal dissenters grieve about their treatment from the “right-wing” Holy See and yet certain arrogant traditionalists cry like babies that they are the only ones getting rough treatment. I would give them all a swift kick in the pants!

While there is much talk about a silent schism and a liberal fifth column of bishops who oppose Rome while weak bishops look on passively, I would include all four of the SSPX bishops as still another column opposed to the Magisterial teaching office and the living Pope. Those who castigate the council and Rome will become sedevacantists, mark my words. Liberal bishops are dying off and yet many of them would still bend the knee to Rome. The SSPX bishops have made themselves autonomous and the arbiters of all things Catholic. They want Rome to bend to them! Only the Magisterium under the Pope has the authority to interpret past Magisterial documents. The wolves are coming from every side; yes even some of the so-called sheep-dogs may revert to their wolfish ancestry. Defenders of the SSPX are wrong to say that four bishops (who are even fighting among themselves) can trump the Pope and 5,000 bishops who teach and minister in union with him! Sorry, but they are very much mistaken.

Addressing traditionalists, the Pope has given you the freedom to worship with the Tridentine Mass. You should be satisfied with that, say your prayers, raise your families, and steer clear of critiquing a lawful council of Holy Mother Church and the Holy See. Do not join the renegades, no matter what pretense to holiness or devotion they might exhibit.

I love our traditions. I see continuity in our faith. There is no pre-Vatican II Church. There is no post-Vatican II Church. There are various disciplines and rites, but old or new, there is only the Mass— the sacrifice of Calvary from which we receive the “bread of life” and the chalice of salvation”— the real presence of the risen Lord.

But I have no stomach for trouble-makers on the left or right. Pope Benedict XVI is the Pope. He is Peter. He is the Vicar of Christ. If you want to be saved, be subject to him and to those bishops in union with him— period.

Fortnight for Freedom: EWTN The World Over

Host RAYMOND ARROYO’S exclusive interviews with CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago and CARDINAL DONALD WUERL, Archbishop of Washington to kick of the USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom, their national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.

MOST REV. ROBERT MORLINO, bishop of Madison, on religious liberty, the federal budget proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan, and the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign by some Catholic religious sisters in protest of the proposed Ryan budget.

Cardinal Wuerl on Religious Freedom

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, talks about our religious freedom to the DC Young Adults at DC Theology on Tap on Tuesday, May 22, 2012.

Cardinal Wuerl also explains the significance of the lawsuit filed by Catholic institutions across the country to protect their First Amendment right to religious freedom. Cardinal Wuerl explains why the suit is necessary in light of the attempt by the government to redefine what is a religious institution.

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Fortnight for Freedom: Liberty & the Catholic Legacy

At the “Celebration of Freedom,” thousands gathered in prayerful celebration of the heritage of religious liberty in America and the vital contributions of Catholics in building this nation. This documentary-style film highlights the history of our struggle to protect religious freedom in the United States of America.

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Fortnight for Freedom: Our Freedom at Stake

Chancellor Jane Belford explains the impact of the HHS mandate on the freedom to practice religion and the reasons for the lawsuits filed on May 21, 2012.

Fortnight for Freedom: Preserve Religious Liberty

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, explains the significance of the lawsuit filed by Catholic institutions across the country to protect their First Amendment right to religious freedom. Cardinal Wuerl explains why the suit is necessary in light of the attempt by the government to redefine what is a religious institution. He explains that under the new definition, the work of Mother Teresa no longer would qualify as “religious enough”.

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