Courage over Consequentialism in the Hierarchy

And behold, a man came up to [Christ], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.—Mt 19:16-22

In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II uses the above account from Matthew 19 to attack the modern moral theology errors of “consequentialism” and “proportionalism.” The Pope accurately explains that consequentialism “claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice.” He continues that proportionalism “weighs the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the ‘greater good’ or ‘lesser evil’ actually possible in a particular situation.”—Veritatis Splendor #75. Both of these errors, consequentialism and proportionalism, are a far cry from how Christ answers so clearly: “Keep the commandments” to his questioner saying,”What good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

To understand proportionalism, imagine this account that has probably happened in most every diocese of the USA in the past 30 years: A bishop begins weighing all the hate-mail that repeatedly lands on his desk against a young, conservative priest. That bishop begins to judge that the peace of a diocese weighs greater than a particular priest’s priesthood. To avoid further troublesome effects in his chancery, the bishop decides to end the conservative priest’s active ministry by either lying about him or sending him to the psyche ward at St. Luke’s. The bishop does not want to end that young priest’s priesthood. He has just proportionately weighed that a few small lies about one soul is probably worth a thousands other souls not being disturbed enough to write letters to the chancery.

Now, if you’re convinced that the above imaginary bishop made an unfortunate but prudent decision, then you just sided with the proportionalism that led the high priest Caiaphas’ to kill Jesus Christ: “It is better for you that one man should die for the people, than for the whole nation to perish.”—Jn 11:49-50. Astonishingly, Caiaphas almost seems to admit that killing Jesus is a bad idea!  Indeed, Caiaphas figures that killing Christ will have proportionately less detrimental consequences than a schism within Israel which might eventually attract the attention of the Roman Empire.  Orthodox but cowardly prelates today should remember that the one thing that Caiaphas feared—the Roman Empire destroying the temple 40 years later—was exactly what he effected by setting into motion the execution of Jesus Christ by using proportionalism! St. John notes a few verses later that Caiaphas’ ability to become a self-fulfilling agent in Christ’s death (albeit accidentally and sacrilegiously) was an effect of being high priest that year: “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.”—v. 51.

To understand consequentialism, imagine this story that has also proved to be unfortunately quite common in most dioceses of the USA beginning in the 1970s: A certain bishop receives numerous, credible reports that a certain priest molested children. The bishop then decides to lie to the public about that priest, but this time the bishop makes the priest out to be better than he is. He says he is still “fit for public ministry.” The bishop did want not want to lie to his diocese about a predatory priest.  It’s just that he believed that doing the right thing in the present, namely, sending the child-molesting priest to prison, would lead to bad consequences in the future like many Catholics leaving his diocese.  (Like Caiaphas, this is exactly what would happen 40 years later due to his actions!) This error of using consequentialism to make decisions in a diocese shows that evil never pays.  Remember that Pope John Paul II described the moral theology heresy of consequentialism as “claim[ing] to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice.”—Veritatis Splendor#75. (Unfortunately, Pope John Paul II seems to have turned a blind-eye to the complaints that started to pour into the Vatican in 1998 regarding Fr. Marcial Maciel being a child-molestor.  Was the Pope incredulous as to the accusations? Or was the Pope using consequentialism in his decisions to protect that wicked demiurge and juggernaut founder of the Legionaries of Christ?)

For a decision to be moral, it must have a good intention, a good object (act) and good circumstances. Catholic moral theology has always infallibly taught that if even one of these three is missing, it is bad decision. Thus, if you refrain from speaking the truth while maintaining a good intention (eg keeping the diocese together or preventing the schism in the Church) then you have committed a mortal sin.   In short, the end does not justify the means. This is very basic stuff. But proportionalism and consequentialism are just Satan’s advanced loopholes around this. Perhaps the problem is pride—that we preists and priests and bishops and Cardinals and Popes think that our proportions and consequences of the future of the Church somehow outweigh us doing the right thing in the present. It might be just this basic error that we don’t think that moral theology applies to us, especially when we have a whole Church’s image to repair amidst distressing scandal.

Bishop Gracida of Texas is a great hero of mine for publicly questioning the valid resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  I know for a fact that at least one other Cardinal in the world is questioning this, too.  But even if you do not buy our “resignationalist” approach to the current crisis, then at least ask this:  Where are all the bishops denouncing the weekly heresy that we are now hearing from the top down?  I don’t mean that liturgical digits are being denied by people in the Vatican.  I mean basic tenets of the Creed are being overturned on a weekly basis.  Most good bishops of the world now know that parts of the Creed are being publicly denied in material heresy.  But if you were to quietly ask any decent bishop or Cardinal why he does not oppose the current errors coming at him from the hierarchy above him, and even in the Vatican, he would probably sigh and say, “And just get in trouble and lose my diocese? Then you’d just have some liberal bishop replace me!”  This seems like a conservative and strategic answer. Unfortunately, his answer is mortally sinful since it is based on the moral theology heresy of consequentialism. Here is why: The end does not justify the means, whether those means be sins of commission or omission. Have you ever thought of the fact that sins of omission do not justify a good end?

That means that if I refrain from correcting heresy in the those above me for the sake of keeping my faculties just to hear another 10,000 confessions, I commit a mortal sin based on the moral theology heresy of proportionalism. If a certain bishop were to tell us that doing the couragous thing would be all “too human” and that we should wait around for divine intervention, this would be approaching the spiritual heresy of quietism. If a certain Cardinal were to refrain from correcting the heresies of those above him so as to save the Church from schism (read: Caiaphas) or if that Cardinal were to stay silent so as to save his own hide to one day to become Pope, this too would be the moral theology error of consequentialism.  Consequentialism and Proportionism are the two moral heresies freezing every prelate of the world from doing the right thing in the worst crisis in Church history.  The end does not justify the means, even if those means are sins of omission with the good intention of your ministry’s self-preservation, or even preservation of the Church against schism.

Correcting another’s heresy (even those above us) is not only a heroic act, but a necessary act according to St. Paul and St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas: “It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter’s subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Galatians 2:11, ‘Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects.”—St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologicae II.II.33 art 4 reply to objection 2.

Many prelates would respond to the above with a sign of resignation:  “Ahh, but no one would listen to me, anyway!  I’m just a bishop of a small diocese in the Philippines.”  Well, look at what God tells the prophet Jeremiah:  ““When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction.’”—Jeremiah 7:27.  Look at that first sentence again.  Have you ever heard of a mission that God has sent a man on where he has already told him that he will fail?  It’s astonishing that God tells Jeremiah ahead of time that the nation of Israel “will not listen to you.”  Jeremiah obeys anyway.  Why?  Because it is GOD!  It is GOD telling him too.  Does that not mean anything to anyone anymore in the Catholic Church hierarchy?  Jeremiah does not have time for the heresy of consequentialism by arguing that “no one will listen to me.”  Yeah, God already told Jeremiah that.  We obey God, anyway.

Look, this is not me just being a weekend warrior with a keyboard or a mere priest who is virtue-signaling against a hierarchy because he has to be a hermit.  I’m using big words like “consequentialism”and “proportionism”because that is what moral theologians have called this error.  But you don’t need to be a moral theologian to do the right thing as a father, spiritual or biological. Imagine this:  Imagine a biological father is walking in the mountains of Colorado with his seven children.  Imagine a mountain lion attacked one of his children.  Would that father go and fight off that mountain lion? Yes!  What if it cost that man his life?  He would still do it.  Can you imagine what kind of bad father would do an internal proportionalistic debate when a lion attacks his daughter?  It might go like this:  “Well, if I go and fight that lion off my oldest daughter, then it might kill me, and then my other six children would have no father.  It is probably better that I leave the lion to eat my daughter because I would not want my other six children to be raised fatherless.” Such is the reasoning of why so many bishops will lie.  They love their own digs more than the salvation of souls. But the opposite of proportionalism is what comes naturally to any virtuous father, biological or spiritual:  Do the right thing.  Always. Regardless of consequences, regardless of a weighed outcome.

And some bishops have done the right thing in history, regardless of consequences, even knowing of a coming failure that would cost them their seats in the diocese.

For example, in the 4th century, St. John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople, the second most important city of Christendom behind only to Rome. Hundreds of thousands of people in modern-day Turkey looked to this great preacher to guide them to holiness. But one day, St. John Chrysostom knew he had to rebuke the Empress Eudoxia. St. John knew her temporal power. He knew very well that if he rebuked her, he might lose his seat as Patriarch over Constantinople. He knew that his people would be like sheep without a shepherd. He knew that hundreds of priests would go without his guidance in their ministries and perhaps thousands of the laity might fall away from the sacraments.

St. John Chrysostom Confronting Empress Eudoxia by Jean-Paul Laurens

So, what did St. John Chrysostom do? He not only rebuked the Empress. He did it at Divine Liturgy.  He called her a “Jezebel” publicly!  Of course, she sent him into exile. Twice. Both times, Chrysostom had to leave his beloved Constantinople and her people.  But he was simply reported to say at that time: “Violent storms encompass me on all sides, yet I am without fear because I stand upon a rock. Though the sea roar and the waves rise high, they cannot overwhelm the ship of Jesus Christ.” Chrysostom returned months or years later, one night. The people got wind of his return, and thousands went out on boats on the Bosborus, lighting up candles in the night to welcome their beloved spiritual father back!  So, we must ask: What were the consequences of him not following the moral heresy of consequentialism? Of him not weighing souls of tomorrow against doing the right thing today? The answer to this is that St. John Chrysostom got canonized. St. John Chrysostom got declared a doctor of the Church. St. John Chrysostom was to then be read by millions of Christians, East and West, and people will be reading St. John Chrysostom until Christ returns in glory.  Most importantly, St. John obeyed God and subsequently became a hero to all the biological fathers of Constantinople in that 4th century who desperately wanted to see a soldier of Christ do the right thing without compromise or fear.

Finally, pardon the borderline-blasphemy, but imagine if Jesus Christ had followed the moral theology errors of proportionalism and consequentialism. If Jesus Christ had followed these two moral theology of the end justifying the means, it would have sounded something like this: “I have a good thing going with these life-changing miracles and powerful teaching. If I keep telling the Pharisees that they are hypocrites, they might end my healings and terminate my raising people from the dead.  If I oppose the Pharisees anymore, they will certainly end the most important thing: My preaching of My Father’s Kingdom! Thus, I better make peace with the Pharisees, because if they crucify me, then my awesome ministry ends!”

Of course, this type of thinking was exactly how St. Peter saw things when Jesus had to rebuke him and call him a “Satan.”  Jesus knew that it was a temptation to put worldly success—even in ministry—above doing the right thing that would lead to the cross. Christ had to shock-therapy Peter into seeing at that moment that the world would not be saved without the cross, and that Christ could not climb the cross by weighing measly human consequences on the future when He was called in his Sacred Humanity by His Own Sacred Divinity to do just one thing: The right thing, today, without compromise, even if it meant raising the ire of the religious leaders of His day.

Yes, such an act amidst a corrupt hierarchy will usually lead to the end of one’s ministry…and the redemption of the world.

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  1. Most of this blog post is about the clergy, but let me give an example that applies to laymen. Imagine your boss at work always misuses the Holy Name of Jesus Christ. Do you correct him? You reason that the consequences of such a correction coming from your mouth would be the anger of your boss, and the subsequent loss of your job. But, if you lose your job, then your family goes hungry. God couldn’t possibly want you to have your family go hungry! Could He? So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.—Ezekiel 33:7-9. 

On Sorrow in a Good Confession

The sacrament of penance, also called the sacrament of reconciliation (or confession) has four necessary parts, three of which are on the part of the penitent: 1) contrition (sorrow) 2) confession of sins (to a priest, in person) and satisfaction (also called your penance, done outside the confessional.) The one aspect of a good confession executed by the priest is absolution (provided the priest has judged the penitent worthy of absolution.)

Last year during Lent, I gave a sermon called How to Make a Good Confession found on both my podcast and Sensus Fidelium‘s YouTube on these external parts of confession. Since then, I have started to read the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X (CPX) and I have discovered an overwhelming importance on sorrow for sins while approaching the confessional that I did not include in the above talk. In this very short catechism (which I recommend for any adult or teenager) Pope St. Pius X spends a full four pages on sorrow as the most important part of a good confession! (To give you an idea of how short a catechism this is, Confirmation only takes up three pages.)1

I normally do not write commentary blog posts on another’s words, but below I am going to give a few insights below the questions and answers of the CPX dealing with sorrow in confession.  (If you only want to read the saintly Pope’s words on contrition in confession, you can obviously skip my commentary in the bold red font below.)

23 Q. How many conditions are necessary to make a good confession?
A. To make a good confession five things are necessary:
(1) Examination of conscience;
(2) Sorrow for having offended God;
(3) A resolution of sinning no more;
(4) Confession of our sins;
(5) Satisfaction or penance.
Notice that the external parts of confession are verbal confession, absolution and satisfaction (your “penance” to do.) The silent or internal parts of a confession (in the heart and mind) are examination, sorrow and resolution. The CPX says that of all the parts of confession, sorrow is the most important!

24 Q. What should we do first of all to make a good confession?
A. To make a good confession we should first of all earnestly beseech God to give us light to know all our sins and strength to detest them.
This one obviously refers to examination of conscience. As we ask God for light to know our sins, we should also have a pen and paper handy so as to write down our sins before entering the confessional.

11 Q. What is contrition or sorrow for sins?
A. Contrition or sorrow for sin is a grief of the soul leading us to detest sins committed and to resolve not to commit them any more.
Notice that the rest of this blog post will deal with sorrow.

12 Q. What does the word contrition mean?
A. Contrition means a crushing or breaking up into pieces as when a stone is hammered and reduced to dust.
When King David commits adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) and David’s subsequent murder of her husband Uriah (2 Sam 11) David then composes the Miserere in repentance (Ps 50/51.) That Psalm has the famous line, “A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit:  a contrite and humbled heart, O God, Thou will not despise.” (DRB.) The word afflicted in the DRB is broken in the NIV and shabar in the Hebrew.  That word contrite in the English is dakah in the Hebrew.  I was surprised to see how much of the CPX section on sorrow reflects the Hebrew dictionary on those two words of the Miserere.  Below, King David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, asks for a heart that is crushed, collapsed, smashed to pieces, broken down, torn violently, ruptured, wrecked and shattered:

Q. Why is the name of contrition given to sorrow for sin?
A. The name of contrition is given to sorrow for sin to signify that the hard heart of the sinner is in a certain way crushed by sorrow for having offended God

18 Q. Of all the parts of the sacrament of Penance which is the most necessary?
A. Of all the parts of the sacrament of Penance the most necessary is contrition, because without it no pardon for sins is obtainable, while with it alone, perfect pardon can be obtained, provided that along with it there is the desire, at least implicit, of going to confession.
In my above podcast, I said very little about deep, heart-felt contrition, or sorrow.  I now see I was lacking in that sermon in one major thing:  In his catechism, Pope St. Pius X treats of contrition not as a shallow feeling but “the most necessary part of the sacrament of Penance”!

36 Q. What is sorrow for sin?
A. Sorrow for sin consists in grief of soul and in a sincere detestation of the offence offered to God.
Notice this includes the affective level of grief, but also a detestation of past sins in the very intellect and will.

37 Q. How many kinds of sorrow are there?
A. Sorrow is of two kinds: perfect sorrow or contrition; and imperfect sorrow or attrition.

38 Q. What is perfect sorrow or contrition?
A. Perfect sorrow is a grief of soul for having offended God because He is infinitely good and worthy of being loved for His own sake.
If you have trouble coming up with imperfect contrition (attrition) or perfect contrition, my first suggestion is:  Simply ask God for true sorrow for your sins.  He probably will give it.  Secondly, another way to spur your heart on to sorrow for your sins is to watch the scourging scene in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ:

St. Mary Magdalene realized He took the consequences that should have been hers.

39 Q. Why do you call the sorrow of contrition perfect sorrow?
A. I call the sorrow of contrition perfect sorrow for two reasons:
(1) Because it considers the goodness of God alone and not our own advantage or loss;
(2) Because it enables us at once to obtain pardon for sins, even though the obligation to confess them still remains.
If you are about to die without a priest, ask God immediately for the gift of perfect contrition—that is—sorrow for sins because you are overwhelmed at the goodness of God (more than fear of hell.)  The best habitual approach to love of God and your own salvation is of course frequent confession and a constant sorrow for past sins, while realizing that the one thing greater than my ability to sin is my Heavenly Father’s ability to forgive me.

40 Q. Perfect sorrow, then, obtains us pardon of our sins independently of confession?
A. Perfect sorrow does not obtain us pardon of our sins independently of confession because it always includes the intention to confess them.
I can not believe how many “decent” priests have heretically instructed their faithful that they can go to receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, as long as they “say the act of contrition at beginning of Mass.”  This is absolutely and patently false, according to numerous infallible Church Councils and Popes.  Even if you could not get to the front of the Confession line before Mass, you may never, ever go to Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, even if you believe you have made an act of perfect contrition with total sorrow.  Even with perfect contrition, you must confess mortal sins before receiving Holy Communion.  (Priests in mortal sin may not offer Mass before confession, either.)

41 Q. Why does perfect sorrow or contrition produce the effect of restoring us to the grace of God?
A. Perfect sorrow or contrition produces this effect, because it proceeds from charity which cannot exist in the soul together with sin.
This means if you commit a mortal sin and then your plane is about to crash and you make an act of perfect contrition (harder than it looks) then you will be saved.  But if your plane pulls back up and you’re going to live (!) then you still may not receive Holy Communion until confession. One reason for this is because perfect sorrow always includes the intention to confess the very sins which one felt such sorrow over at the most immediate opportunity that you have to confess.

42 Q. What is imperfect sorrow or attrition?
A. Imperfect sorrow or attrition is that by which we repent of having offended God because He is our Supreme Judge, that is, for fear of the chastisement deserved in this life or in the life to come, or because of the very foulness of sin itself.
The Church ruled around the 12th century that imperfect contrition was sufficient for a good confession.  Two doctors of the Church had debated this up to that ruling.  How merciful of the Church for her to declare that fear of hell is enough to save your soul preceding a good confession.  (Of course, it is better to want to avoid sin due the goodness of God, but approaching with “fire insurance” makes a good confession, provided it is accompanied by firm resolution of amendment to avoid in the future the sins that you confess.)  In other words:  Aim for contrition (sorrow), but always be assured that attrition (avoidance of future sin) is sufficient for a good confession.

43 Q. What qualities must sorrow have to be true sorrow?
A. Sorrow in order to be true must have four qualities: It must be internal, supernatural, supreme and universal.

44 Q. What is meant by saying that sorrow must be internal?
A. It means that it must exist in the heart and will, and not in words alone.
Whoever said that pre-Vatican II Catholicism was routine words without any relationship to God has obviously never read the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X (or any saint, for that matter.)

45 Q. Why must sorrow be internal?
A. Sorrow must be internal because the will, which has been alienated from God by sin, must return to God by detesting the sin committed.

46 Q. What is meant by saying that sorrow must be supernatural?
A. It means that it must be excited in us by the grace of God and conceived through motives of faith.

47 Q. Why must sorrow be supernatural?
A. Sorrow must be supernatural because the end to which it is directed is supernatural, namely, God’s pardon, the acquisition of sanctifying grace, and the right to eternal glory.

48 Q. Explain more clearly the difference between natural and supernatural sorrow.
A. He who repents of having offended God because God is infinitely good and worthy of being loved for His own sake; of having lost Heaven and merited hell; or because of the intrinsic malice of sin, has supernatural sorrow, since all these are motives of faith. On the contrary, he who repents only because of the dishonour or chastisement inflicted by men, or because of some purely temporal loss, has a natural sorrow, since he repents from human motives alone.
Notice that several times the CPX says our number-one drive to a good confession should not be a random laundry list of sins, but the “goodness of God.”

49 Q. Why must sorrow be supreme?
A. Sorrow must be supreme because we must look upon and hate sin as the greatest of all evils, being as it is an offence against God.

50 Q. To have sorrow for sin, is it necessary to weep, as we sometimes do, in consequence of the misfortunes of this life?
A. It is not necessary to shed tears of sorrow for our sins; it is enough if in our heart we make more of having offended God than of any other misfortune whatsoever.
How many Catholic Americans would consider a single mortal sin in a family member to be a worse “misfortune” than the loss of a whole family in a car wreck or a home in a fire?

51 Q. What is meant by saying that sorrow must be universal?
A. It means that it must extend to every mortal sin committed.

52 Q. Why should sorrow extend to every mortal sin committed?
A. Because he who does not repent of even one mortal sin still remains an enemy to God.
I could not find the quote, but St. John Chrysostom explains somewhere that hiding a single sin in confession invalidates the entire confession.  He compares it to a surgeon excising malignant cancer from a patient who keeps some of the cancer hidden, in a different area.  Of course, the cancer in such a case will remain and will grow.  The CPX is saying even more:  Not only is an integral (complete) confession enough, but one should feel sorrow for every mortal sin of his past.

53 Q. What should we do to have sorrow for our sins?
A. To have sorrow for our sins we should ask it of God with our whole heart, and excite it in ourselves by the thought of the great evil we have done by sinning.
If this blog post is making you feel bad for not having enough sorrow, don’t worry!  Just simply ask the Father in the name of Jesus for more sorrow for you sins.  I believe He will give it to you.  Again, go watch the scourging scene of the Passion of the Christ while remembering He took your place at the pillar.

54 Q. What should you do to excite yourself to detest your sins? A. To excite myself to detest my sins:
(1) I will consider the rigour of the infinite justice of God and the foulness of sin which has defiled my soul and made me worthy of the eternal punishment of hell.
(2) I will consider that by sin I have lost the grace, friendship and sonship of God and the inheritance of Heaven;
(3) That I have offended my Redeemer who died for me and that my sins caused His death;
(4) That I have despised my Creator and my God, that I have turned my back upon Him who is my Supreme Good and worthy of being loved above everything else And of being faithfully served.
I recently saw a video of a very famous American social-media priest (much more conservative than Fr. James Martin SJ) who said that when we return to confession, this is not God giving me another chance, but it is me giving God another chance!  This is borderline-blasphemy. The saints would never say that confession is man giving God another chance.  When we “consider the rigour of the infinite justice of God” there is no room to believe anything but the truth:  Confession is truly God giving man another chance at His own supernatural life.

55 Q. In going to confession should we be extremely solicitous to have a true sorrow for our sins?
A. In going to confession we should certainly be very solicitous to have a true sorrow for our sins, because this is of all things the most important; and if sorrow is wanting the confession is no good.
How many careless confessions I have made…Oh Lord, I Fr. David Nix repent of this.  Please stop scrolling and say a “Hail Mary” for me if you have actually made it this far in my long blog post.

56 Q. If one has only venial sins to confess, must he be sorry for all of them?
A. If one has only venial sins to confess it is enough to repent of some of them for his confession to be valid; but to obtain pardon of all of them it is necessary to repent of all he remembers having committed.

57 Q. If one has only venial sins to confess and if he does not repent of even one of them, does he make a good confession?
A. If one confesses only venial sins without having sorrow for at least one of them, his confession is in vain; moreover it would be sacrilegious if the absence of sorrow was conscious.

58 Q. What should be done to render the confession of only venial sins more secure?
A. To render the confession of venial sins more secure it is prudent also to confess with true sorrow some grave sin of the past, even though it has been already confessed.  It has been said that the best way to make a good confession is to confess, pretending that the priest is Jesus in the Garden.  If your next confession were to be made to Jesus in the Garden, already taking the burden of your sins, how would you confess?  As a laundry list? Or with great love?

59 Q. Is it well to make an act of contrition often?
A. It is well and most useful to make an act of contrition often, especially before going to sleep or when we know we have or fear we have fallen into mortal sin, in order to recover God’s grace as soon as possible; and this practice will make it easier for us to obtain from God the grace of making a like act at time of our greatest need, that is, when in danger of death.


  1.  I also discovered one correction I need to make to the above sermon that I gave last year on the external parts of a good confession. In that talk, I said that one of the many things necessary for a priest to avoid sin in hearing confessions is to never change the words of absolution. Any small change would make the confession illicit but valid (that is, offensive to God’s law but still leaving the penitent cleansed.) He must say these words in Latin, or any other language exactly as the Church has given us. I said in that talk that if the priest were actually to change the final words of confession, “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit” then that confession would not only be illicit but invalid. Since reading the CPX, I have since discovered that a valid confession must include the above four things, but that the words of absolution that make it valid are slightly shorter:

    7 Q. What is the form of the sacrament of Penance?
    A. The form of the sacrament of Penance is this: “I absolve thee from thy sins.”

    This is not to say that the priest ever wants to say anything shorter than the full words of absolution given him by the Church (much more than simply “I absolve you from your sins”) but that the penitent can be assured he is forgiven should he simply hear the words “I absolve you from you sins” and has at least some sorrow for all his sins.  Again, hopefully the priest says the full 50 words given him by the Church (in Latin or any other language) to make the words of absolution both licit and valid (pleasing to God and effective) but the bare minimum you should listen every time, in order to assure your sins are forgiven, is this: “I absolve you from you sins.”

Salvation Podcast 2

Pace Pelagius, what are the three things that the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X says that we need to get to heaven? Can natural good works get us to the supernatural goal of heaven? Why did Pelagius deny Original Sin? Why is grace needed in the wake of Original Sin? When should babies be baptized? Can any sin be forgiven in confession? Can suicides be saved? Can non-Catholics go to heaven? Can a good-hearted non-practicing Catholic be saved? Do most Catholics go to heaven? Is it hard to be saved? Must we die in sanctifying grace or is ignorance of the Gospel enough to be saved? What about death-bed conversions? What about making extra reparation for sins after confession? Can Ben Shapiro get to heaven by simply following his conscience?

Salvation Podcast 1

Who was Pelagius and what is Pelagianism? How did Pelgianism in the 5th century lead to ecumenism in the 20th century? Has ecumenism led the Vatican to begin an approach to the UN’s Agenda 2030? What is “one world religion”? Is salvation a free-gift or must we work hard for it? What is that 18th century heresy of Quietism? How does free-will come into salvation? What importance does faith, grace and works make in our lives?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”—Eph 2:8-10

The Simple Gospel

Our Patristics professor in seminary said something that I will never forget. He said: “Don’t read the Scriptures with a higher IQ than who it was written for.” I’m going to keep coming back to this line, “Don’t read the Scriptures with a higher IQ than who it was written for,” so I need to explain first what it does not mean.

My professor was a very intellectual man, so he was not saying that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was created to trick peasant-doofuses into becoming Christians or later that Catholicism would become the opium of the illiterate-masses. Nor did he mean that the Deposit of the Faith was transmitted by Christ to a group of shallow fishermen who went forward to find the most deceivable people to baptize. 

While re-reading Acts of the Apostles, I recently discovered that the Apostles were actually not sloppy in their original observance of Judaism (despite how Protestant movies often portray them as saccharine-sweet modern used car-salesmen.) The opposite is true, in fact, as is found in Acts of the Apostles. Despite his impetuosity and fast tongue to Our Lord (even after Christ’s Resurrection!) consider below how St. Peter has an insistence on how he has always adhered to Mosaic law:

The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.—Acts 10:9-16

The idea of Don’t read the Scriptures with a higher IQ than who it was written for also does not also does not mean that the infinite orthodox interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures are immediately obvious to even the greatest of theologians. Both scientists and theologians define simple as “nothing lacking and nothing superfluous.” Thus, God Himself is simple, nothing lacking but nothing superfluous.  But God is not simplistic. So also, the Sacred Scriptures. It has been said that the Gospel of John is easy enough for a child to play in but deep enough for a theologian to drown in.  So, my prof’s line Don’t read the Scriptures with a higher IQ than who it was written for does not mean we don’t need theologians who will go deep into typology.  

Indeed, we need holy theologians, but not legalistic scribes.

I believe that if Satan tricked the religious leaders of the first century towards a religious attitude so legalistic to the right that they would not recognize the first coming of Christ, it would equally be the perfect trick of Satan to trick the religious leaders before the second coming of Christ to adopt a religious attitude so legalistic to the left that they would not recognize the time of Christ’ second return.

Indeed, theologians today are more legalistic than they have ever been in the history of the Church since the first century scribes. Here’s a few examples:

  1. Many young men have been told by priests that (based on a seriously ambiguous line in the new Catechism) that if they have the habit of masturbation, that very habit reduces culpability and it is thus not a mortal sin. Those guys go on sinning into their own marriages and thus endanger their marriages and salvation.  I hope someone will come and tell them that loopholes don’t save; only Jesus Christ saves.  This is the Simple Gospel. But if they listen to that modern confessor…. Loophole theologian: 1. Soul won for Jesus: 0.
  2. Almost every tribunal in the USA doles out endless declarations of nullity (annulments) based on a Canon in the Code of Canon Law that says if a couple had “lack of due discretion” in their time of engagement, that marriage might not be valid.  Well, guess what:  That is every vocation, including my priesthood.  Did I have “due discretion” of the priesthood before I ended up in this mess?  No, but I’m still a priest. Now, I have no problem with “lack of form” annulments, but the “lack of due discretion” thing is for new Pharisees and scribes to manipulate without any end.  I often tease families with five or ten kids that I could get them an annulment under “lack of due discretion” despite having 7 kids!  The couple then laughs nervously at me when I say this. But I mean it: Through this legal loophole, tens of thousands of American marriages (which God has put together) have been sundered apart by modern day legalistic scribes who essentially say: “Better to declare it null through ‘lack of due discretion’ so as to get them ‘out of sin’ as they’re already in bed with their new squeezes.” Satan via gentle scribes: 1. Marriage: 0.
  3. Under the clause “Those who through no fault of their own do not know the Catholic Faith can still be saved,” we have actually created an entire effeminate army of theologians, priests and bishops who essentially teach that everyone is saved, barring major malice in their hearts to God at the very last breath of their lives. If you try to argue with such theologians, they (much like first century Pharisees) will have a loophole (usually quoting Lumen Gentium) as to why every non-Catholic will be saved as long as they didn’t know about the Catholic Church—and even then—could anyone really reject Jesus if they saw His loving face? I mean: Could anyone really commit a mortal sin with full knowledge and full consent of the will if they knew God? Of course not! Therefore, everyone is saved. Satan via liberal legalism: 1. International missionary congregations: 0.

Yes, I realize that it is ironic that a Traditional Latin Mass priest is saying most modern theologians and tribunal officers are mostly Pharisees and scribes.  But I believe in a Simple Gospel with no loopholes. It’s not because I’m mean or less merciful, but precisely because I believe the Cross of Jesus Christ does not need any loopholes to have power! I explained many of these modern legalistic errors more in-depth in this podcast, the same talk as found in this Sensus Fidelium video:

Do you see how modern day Catholic scribes (found literally everywhere in the West!) have used historically-untried but currently-universally-accepted theology to totally empty the Cross of Jesus Christ of all its power? The Gospel is very simple, and it was made for the average person to understand.  

Here is the basics of the Simple Gospel found in Scripture and Catholicism:

Jesus Christ is God who died a horrible death as a man for you and me. Christ had to be a man, so as to offer a human body for our sins done in the body. Christ had to be God for this sacrifice to be boundless and blameless. This sacrifice is perpetuated forever in the Holy Mass.  The merits of Jesus’ infinite love is transmitted by baptism and it is a totally free gift that saves us (1 Pt 3:21) but we will be judged on our actions (Mt 25:31-46.)

No loophole will save you from this:   Not a priest telling you that your mortal sin is not a sin or a Tribunal telling you that you’re not married.  Indeed, salvation only comes from Jesus Christ, “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”—Acts 4:12.

All through seminary, I said that Pope John Paull II was the Pope for the blue-collar man but that the old Popes like Pope St. Pius X were the over-intellectuals. The more I read these two Popes, the more I now realize that the opposite is true. Although Pope John Paul II comes to orthodox conclusions, it is only through an endless philosophical sea of anthropocentric phenomenology. Pope St. Pius X, however, simply said the faith in a way that could be understood by, say, a plumber in Chicago in the 1940s.  The great thing about perennial Catholicism is that if a plumber in Chicago in 1940 committed a mortal sin on a Friday night, he went to confession on Saturday afternoon before he went to receive Holy Communion on Sunday morning.

People might retort to my above example, “Oh, but that plumber didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!”

My response:  Really? How do you know that? I am not so sure about that. When I was with the FSSP for six months, I will never forget an older woman who once said to me, “When I was in Catholic school, there wasn’t a tweet every time a Pope burped. The Pope was just a picture on the wall at my Catholic grade-school. We had a relationship with Jesus and Mary.” Think about that: We had a relationship with Jesus and Mary. Yes, she was referring to the 1940s. In fact, she and I weren’t even talking about having a relationship with Christ when she said that…which is why I know it came out as truth. The more and more I talk to old people, the more I don’t buy the garbage that no Catholic had a relationship with Jesus Christ before Vatican II.

Nowadays we have many Catholic celebrities who tell us to have a relationship with Jesus Christ in large stadiums with great emotions. Now, unlike most priests who offer exclusively the Traditional Latin Mass, I actually like these Catholic celebrities. I mean it. Many people on the Steubenville speaking circuit actually bring lots of young people to Jesus Christ, and sometimes there is even doctrinal content to their call to surrender.  I’m not being sarcastic. I believe the Holy Spirit very much works at these conferences. But such conferences and Catholic celebrities are only necessary because we have trashed the simple Gospel of pre-Vatican II dogma and liturgy. Yes, I actually believe that the Acts of the Apostles is the same faith that drove immigrants to build Churches like St. Francis De Sales in St. Louis (the shot at the very top of this blog post that I snapped one night while visiting there last year.)  Yes, the same Simple Gospel drove Acts of the Apostles and Polish immigrants, even if our Churches in the West happened to be bigger and more ornate than the underground Church.

Modern youth conferences (not WYD Masses, to be sure, where I have seen people committing sacrilege by making-out at Holy Mass) but the good youth conferences and mens’ conferences and women’s conferences are essentially collateral circulation.  Collateral circulation is what happens when the body creates a concessionary artery when the main artery is clogged.  In my analogy, of course, the original artery is a simple and Holy Priesthood, where the most simple priest (like St. John Vianney) could show up in any country and bring an Apostolic dogma and liturgy to a simple people.   Concessionary circulation is Steubenville conferences.  It’s fine, for a time, in this current Church crisis…but we must return to what Catholicism has always been.

What has it always been?  It has been a Simple Gospel of heaven and hell, redemption and sin.  You did not need a PhD in loopholes, I mean Canon Law, to get people to heaven.  Priests of every century would simply teach their peasants and geniuses alike the Creed, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments and the sacraments. I blogged about how easy it was to transmit traditional Catholicism to everyone (not just the elite) in The Over-Intellectualization of the Catholic Faith. Such peasants could have an IQ of 80 or 180 and still start to establish the reign of Christ the King in both their hearts and society.

For example, a simple Spanish Franciscan showing up as a missionary to pagan Mexico in the 16th century did not need any laser beams, nearly-invisible megaChurch microphones around his face or cool intro-songs with dry-ice fog to announce his entrance. That is because it was the same convicting beautiful faith that the soldiers of World War II found at Holy Mass, a catechesis in and of itself that led to not only love of God but fear of God:

Chaplain Dennis Murphy celebrates mass for the men of 65th AAA Bn., at Bolo Point, Okinawa. July 19, 1951. Nelse Einwaechter. (Army) NARA FILE # 111-SC-378561 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1464

Catholic Church history has no pendulum between conservative and liberal like we were told in High Schoo.l Catholicism is Catholicism that has simply endured four major Church crises, the worst of which we are in right now. The Catholic Faith of the Desert Fathers in the 3rd century was the same as the Catholic Faith of the 13th century Franciscans and Dominicans and the same Faith as the great Doctors of the Church and international missionaries of the 16th century. There were no scribes and loopholes who emptied the power of the cross, as we sadly see today. Even the early Christians (even with all of their beautiful speaking in tongues, which I believe is a real gift) were closer to traditional Catholics today than Pentecostals.

No one can argue the facts: Traditional Catholicism made one billion Catholics, where US Catholicism has bled one million Catholics every year since the year 2000. Why should a basic blue-collar man take the faith seriously if it can be argued away by loophole-loving scribes?

So, what do you do about this in your family? The best I can do is to tell you to purchase the Catechism of Pius X. It sounds daunting and scary, but it is actually easier to read than even the Baltimore Catechism for children! The Catechism of Pope St. Pius X has no errors in it like: “Muslims…together with us…adore the one, merciful God.” While the new CCC was written for bishops to distill further down into their own pastoral needs, and whereas the Catechism of the Council of Trent was actually written for priests, the Catechism of Pius X was made for the layman:

It was recently translated into English by Aeterna Press. And while I would encourage Aeterna Press to fix up the punctuation typos (found on nearly every single page of their production) it my still my absolute go-to, gold-standard for all teaching and evangelization. I encourage anyone who reads this blog post to purchase many copies. It is only $7 on Prime and it explains the entire Catholic faith in what can be read in less than two hours. It is a total treasure of the faith in only 150 pages (with huge spaces between lines.)

Such is the simple faith of the deposit Jesus Christ handed down to the Apostles. Like the Bible, in this Catechism, you will find no loopholes, only that Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church can bring you to see the fullness of Our Father’s face in heaven. Such is the Simple Gospel found in none of the duplicitous tongues of our modern liberal scribes Pharisees, found teaching and annulling the power of the Gospel over the Western-Hemisphere.