All posts by Father David Nix

Colbert vs. Mother Teresa

In this short video, Stephen Colbert (comedian-turned-theologian) says “Faith ultimately can’t be argued; faith has to be felt.”  Let’s cut through his poor philosophy and consider reality:

1) Feelings are often no different from biochemical pleasures.  God uses feelings in all stages of prayer, but it is not central to the substance of the soul where the Blessed Trinity resides.  If faith must be “felt” as Colbert said, then where does that leave Mother Teresa who couldn’t feel anything for 60 years of prayer?  But false-positives abound, too:  If I drink an enormous Chemex hipster coffee and feel like a saint who could take on the world, did I just “feel” an increase in my faith?  Of course not.  That is because there is some correlation between good spiritual “feelings” and the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norephinephrine. That’s why we called coffee in seminary “liquid consolation.”  But we were joking.  Sadly, Colbert was not.  Back to neurotransmitters:  These reuptake mechanisms are also found in more intense pleasures (like cocaine.) So, “feeling your faith” doesn’t increase faith anymore than cocaine.  Even atheistic scientists will agree with me here:  Spiritual “feelings” are frequently nothing more than the release of biochemicals in the brain. I make no moral judgment against either feelings or pleasure here.  God created both and can affect both in prayer, but it’s not the central tenet of faith.

2) One’s opinion of truth is only as good as the evidence that one has to support it. Few doubt this truth in science, but if religion refers to truth, then this is true in religion also.  Regarding feelings and logic together, Colbert does admit that “they do not defy each other but complement each other. ”  He then says, “Logic itself will not lead me to God.”  This is partly true,1 but there’s a glaring omission in the above video:  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical binary event (true or not true) upon which hinges our entire creed.  “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”—1 Cor 15:17.  Colbert inadvertently disparages the starting point of Christianity, namely, that the Resurrection and Divinity of Jesus Christ can be given some real evidence. Or rather, we can not prove that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but we can disprove the contrary with pretty air-tight historical arguments found in books like Kreeft/Tacelli’s Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.

For all the Social Justice Catholics that promote Colbert, we have to admit it’s ironic that Colbert puts the emphasis on feelings—something the poor don’t have the luxury of always enjoying in their daily walk with Christ.  The Christians being crucified by ISIS may not “feel” their faith, but they have a hope in the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ based in a historical event.  But I guess feelings are good for a multi-millionaire hanging with the Jesuits of Manhattan.

Yes, for Colbert, “faith ultimately can’t be argued; faith has to be felt.”  In this philosophy, random biochemicals in the brain must take precedent over truth. Besides this conclusion being false for both Jesus on the cross (not good feelings but lots of truth) and St. Thomas Aquinas (who says very little of feelings and lots of truth) there’s actually another odd problem with Colbert Catholicism:  It’s the most boring version of Catholicism we have heard since the 1970s.  Almost all of my Gen-X friends raised by progressive-Catholic baby-boomers have left the Catholic Church.  Inclusive-Catholicism turned out to be exclusive-Catholicism, precisely because it was founded on the feelings of a few ex-hippies instead of the Truth.

Most normal people long for one of two ways of life:

Feelings=Pleasure=Religion of hedonism (max out on pleasure.)

or

Logic=Truth=Religion of Catholicism (max out on truth and love, but it hurts just a little on the way to heaven.)

At the end of the day, here are our best two options: An-unbridled-pleasure-fiend or a total saint.  I don’t believe in a middle-ground—practical or theological—where you get neither.

This isn’t to say that Catholicism is cold-cut syllogisms without any affections of love of Jesus Christ.  Nor does it mean that all pleasure is bad.   God made feelings and God made pleasure.  But at the end of the day, we have to decide if we’re going to live for feelings or the truth.  2

So, what is faith, then?  “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.”—Heb 11:1.  Evidence means just that—evidence, as I wrote above in regards to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ.  But if Colbert wants this at a more personal level, the word “faith” in Greek (πιστις) is actually also the same as trust.  It means a trust-of-life, not just a single statement of salvation.  It means daily decisions, not just a single act of consent of the intellect (Protestantism) or emotions (Colberism.)  You see, if faith is trust, then this includes loving and hard decisions in the body all day long, including chastity, for “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”—2 Cor 5:10.

Jesus rarely said “Believe in me.”  He frequently said “Follow me.”

Mother Teresa’s faith went deeper than both emotions and logic.  For 60 years she did not “feel her faith.”  Yet she got up at 3am or 4am to pray for two hours before her Eucharistic Lord and served Jesus in the poorest of the poor in the streets of Kolkata for decade after decade.  Mother Teresa was living trust in the body when the feelings weren’t there.  These were decisions she lived out in her body, and yet her emotions were so dark that she had to make constant acts of faith in God via her will—acts that were above and beyond the dark night of the soul that lasted a grueling 60 years.  This is a tough marriage to a Divine Spouse!  She often complained lovingly of her silent lover…

In fact, at the risk of scandalizing my readers, I’ll point out what she once wrote to a friend:  “Pray for me, pray that I may have the courage to keep on smiling at Jesus—I understand a little the tortures of hell—without God.”  I used the word “scandalized” because you should be surprised that Mother Teresa felt herself (not made herself, but felt herself) to be “without God.”  And yet, she made constant acts of faith—essentially hope against hope—of having no feelings of God, yet seeking Him anyway.

Since her death, many people who felt on the verge of suicide have since found strength in the ways of Mother Teresa.  People who had struggled their whole life with very personal sins and thought God abandoned them found hope in Mother Teresa.  Why?  Because, they reason,  if God loved Mother Teresa even when she couldn’t feel Him, then His love must still be there.  If God could love Mother Teresa as she was, maybe He loves me in my serious sin.  They are right.  And it is still His kindness that leads us to repentance.

In fact, in that same letter, Mother Teresa explained her suffering for the life of the world:  “I have no words to express what I want to say, and yet last First Friday—knowingly and willingly I offered to the Sacred Heart—to pass even eternity in this terrible suffering, if this would give Him now a little more pleasure—or the love of a single soul.”

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  1. St. Thomas Aquinas found this debate so important that it’s his very first response in his 3000 page “summary” of the Catholic Faith: “It was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man’s whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth. Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation. It was therefore necessary that besides philosophical science built up by reason, there should be a sacred science learned through revelation.”—ST I.1.1 respondeo

  2. Colbert, if you ever read this, I’ll happily discuss this on or off the air in your studio.  Our mutual friend, Fr. Z (not the blogger), can hook us up.  

All Souls Day and Syria

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I have no intention of making this blog page a news source (much less a newsletter of personal prayer intentions) but I thought that today, All Souls, would be an important day to highlight the civil war in Syria. Today, I write a very short post to simply beg for your prayers on the behalf of 250,000 who have died.

St. Thomas Aquinas said that the greatest work we can do on earth is to pray for the dead, as I blogged about here.  It is good to visit the cemeteries and to pray for the repose of the souls of our loved ones, but our family is bigger than that; we can let the internet create a one-world order of evil or we can let the internet unite a one-world family by baptism and charity.

Right now, your family in Syria needs your prayers. The land of the Apostle Paul has recently seen 8 million ejected from their homes amidst torture and unspeakable pain.  A quarter million people have been killed, including the recent crucifixion and beheading of 11 Christian missionaries. Obviously the latter is surely in heaven, but satan is hard at work:

ISIS is predicted in the next couple days to attack a town of Christians called Sadad, about the last city in the entire world that speaks Jesus Christ’s own language of Aramaic. Imagine a group of Catholics who pray the Our Father in the same language that Jesus did. They are about to be killed and they depend on your prayers.  Let us pray for their protection, but if God allows them to join the army of white-clad martyrs, may they die “as sorrowful—yet always rejoicing, as poor—yet making many rich, as having nothing—yet possessing everything.”—2 Cor 6:10

Repost: The Greatest Work

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All Souls Day and all of November is the month to pray for the dead, so I decided to run my first “re-post” on this very topic.  (Don’t worry.  I have a new blog post coming out Friday called “Stephen Colbert vs. Mother Teresa,” and also don’t miss my recent commentary on New York Times’ Ross Douthat.)

Every Christian is called to do the “Works of Mercy,” upon which our final judgment will be based, as seen in Matthew 25: 1 Did you know that St. Thomas Aquinas considered one of them to be the greatest and most encapsulating? Before scrolling down to see the answer, see if you can guess which one:

The Corporal Works of Mercy are:

  1. To feed the hungry;
  2. To give drink to the thirsty;
  3. To clothe the naked;
  4. To shelter the homeless;
  5. To visit the sick;
  6. To ransom the captive;
  7. To bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are:

  1. To instruct the ignorant;
  2. To counsel the doubtful;
  3. To admonish sinners;
  4. To bear wrongs patiently;
  5. To forgive offences willingly;
  6. To comfort the afflicted;
  7. To pray for the living and the dead.

Answer to my quiz:  St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Of all prayers, the most meritorious, the most acceptable to God, are prayers for the dead, because they imply all the works of charity, both corporal and spiritual.”

As if the picture didn’t give it away…In any case, the last one of all fourteen is considered the most important:  Praying for the dead.

How beautiful that a person in a wheelchair on earth can do the greatest work of mercy that entails all of the other ones! To pray for the souls in purgatory is considered the greatest deed a human can do, according to St. Thomas Aquinas.  It is the greatest petitionary prayer we can utter on earth, in which we do all 14 works of mercy.  (No time to explain right now, but you can probably figure it out.)

I am convinced that never in the history of the Church have the Holy Souls of Purgatory been so ignored.  As you probably know, they cannot pray for themselves, but they can pray for us.  This is one of the reasons we must pray for them.  Are they in the millions?  billions?  I hope so, because that means a lot are saved.  Some saints have claimed that their power to intercede for you and for me is greater than the intercession of the saints.

Love the souls in purgatory by praying for them a lot. That is my resolution at my new parish, for I have utterly failed up to this point.

The early Church documents I have read seem to say that the earliest Christians prayed more for the dead than they even prayed for the living. Love the souls in purgatory by praying and offering sacrifice for them a lot. If you don’t love the souls in purgatory as a lover (for the others’ sake) then love them as a mercenary, for in praying for them they will reward you a thousandfold while you are on earth and/or purgatory one day…a speedy exit will be assured, they say.


  1. The Final Judgment

    “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    (Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)

How Long Is Eternity?

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Welcome to Virginia Beach, home of America’s friendliest people and worst drivers.  (Well, that’s my assessment, but it’s a great place to be, all things considered.)  This is a military area known as the “Redneck Riviera.”  The entire metropolitan area is a waterland of fresh and salty rivers containing about ten 100,000-person-cities collectively known as Tidewater or Hampton Roads. It’s  home to the Atlantic Fleet of the Navy, countless other military bases and real-life heroes they make movies about (literally.)  But not every soldier comes back home to Hampton Roads…

So, where do all the dead soldiers and normal civilians go?  100% of them ultimately go to heaven or hell.  Do they all go to heaven?  No.  “Small is the gate and narrow the road” that leads to heaven, said Jesus.  This isn’t a scary post, but to show you how long heaven and hell last, I’m going to try to fit eternity into an analogy of space and time.  Someone will cleverly point out that eternity is actually longer than my analogy.  True.  But even that becomes  a greater argument a fortiori to avoid hell and get to heaven.

Imagine you are standing on Virginia Beach like me, and you take a handful of sand:

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Then, you brush all the sand off except for one tiny grain:

From Skitch

Can you see it with your iPhone 6s?  It’s in the orange circle.  Let’s say you have to hold that single grain of sand for 100 years.

…okay….waiting 100 years….

Then you flick off that single grain of sand into the ocean:

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…and then you have to pick up a second grain of sand:

From Skitch-2

Hold that second grain of sand for 100 years on the beach…time elapse…

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…flick it into the ocean.  Then take a third grain of sand.  Hold it for 100 years.  Flick it in the ocean…Then you pick up the fourth grain of sand and you have to hold that one for 100 years…time elapse on the beach…

Imagine you have to do that with every grain of sand from Virginia Beach to Miami, each grain being held for 100 years:

From Skitch

How long would this take?  I did the math.  It would take at least 56,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years to hold every grain of sand from Virginia Beach to Miami if you did 100 years for each grain of sand, each of which is closer in size to a grain of pepper than a grain of salt.  When you have held every speckle of sand from Virginia Beach to Miami, then and only then can you can begin to grasp how long heaven or hell will endure for every man and woman on this short-lived planet.

We’re talking about trillions and trillions and trillions of years somewhere mind blowing  if the soul be immortal.  If Jesus rose from the dead (and thus Christianity be true—and I’m 100% sure it is—but I’m beefing-up Pascal’s wager here) then we’re talking trillions and trillions of years in unspeakable torture or trillions and trillions and trillions of years gazing upon the face of God in supersonic contemplation and bliss.

This is the outrageous claim of Christianity that is worth investigating, considering the stakes.

But here’s the single part you may have missed from the analogy:  All those grains of sand are determined by the first grain of sand.  Why?  You may remember that we set each grain of sand at 100 years.  100 years is how long you will spend on earth! You will not get a second grain (unless you’re my grandma.)  Thus, the first grain of sand in your hand on Virginia Beach is your time on earth.  Every subsequent grain of sand in your hand (each lasting 100 years) is a long trip to Miami.  This is just the beginning of heaven or hell.

If there’s even the tiniest chance that Christianity is true, then we could all agree that no amount of honors, pleasures or riches could possibly be worth risking 560,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of sand for…

From Skitch

That’s how long you have on earth:  One grain of sand at 100 years.  So,

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul?—Mark 8:36

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.—Matthew 5:30

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No other holidays reflect the gravity of this decision as much as:

  • October 31st, Halloween, the reflection of hell.
  • November 1st, All Saints, the reflection of heaven.
  • November 2nd, All Souls, the reflection of purgatory.

Do you see why God might allow suffering in your life now?  It’s to detach you from one grain of sand (100 years on earth, “a bad night at a bad inn,” according to St. Teresa of Ávila) to obtain 560,000,000,000,000,000 grains of sand (add two zeros to see it in years.)   What amount of suffering or unhealthy attachment to sin would not be worth detaching yourself from a grain for a whole beach?  Nothing could be that pleasurable.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.—Romans 8:18

Get your family to heaven, no matter what it costs.  Jesus paid 100% of the price, but for salvation to be realized we must cooperate—with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind.

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Eucharistic Procession 2015

Friends helped me make this 1 minute video of our Eucharistic Procession on the boardwalk of Virginia Beach.  This Eucharistic Procession was spearheaded by my pastor and continued by him and many others the past few years.  Special thanks to Mike Cistola, Keith Forrest and especially John and Rich at Tele-Video Productions of Virginia Beach.  Our goal is to see these in every city, especially on the East Coast, so please post this on social media and share it with your pastors.  It’s great evidence what one pastor can do to fire up a whole city.

Make sure to watch it in HD.

Marriage Prep and “Annulments”

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The basics of annulments can teach us a lot about the beauty of marriage.  The first thing to realize about an annulment is that it is not a Catholic divorce.  The starting point for why divorce does not exist in the Catholic Church is simple:  Jesus said: But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. ’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. ’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.—Mark 10:6-9.  No man (not even a priest or bishop or the Pope) can break up what God has put together at a sacramental marriage since an unbreakable bond of love was formed at the words of the altar and at the consummation of the bed.

This means that neither adultery, nor fighting, nor “divorce,” nor even the Catholic Church can break what God has put together.   The only thing that can break the bond of marriage is the death of one of the two members.  Set me as a seal upon your heart,as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death.—Song of Songs 8:6.

Imagine a man whose body and soul is represented by a 2 x 4 piece of wood.  Imagine a woman whose body and soul is represented by another 2 x 4 piece of wood.  They can only become one flesh by forming a bond, represented below by superglue. In the Catholic West, the unbreakable bond is formed by the couple at their wedding in the presence of a priest who must witness it to make it sacramental:

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In the Catholic East and the Orthodox East, the unbreakable bond is formed by the priest:

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Notice that in both cases, two become one via an invisible and invincible bond.  (In real life, they’re happily married to each other and pregnant with their fourth.)  In any case, the superglue bond is a bond that is essentially not formed by the couple nor the priest, but by God Himself.  The only thing that dissolves the superglue is death, for God is the author of life and death.  That means that neither a big argument, nor a cute secretary, nor a priest of the Catholic Church can break this bond:

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Essentially, in the eyes of both God and the Catholic Church, a “divorce” is a modern myth, for divorce doesn’t exist.   This is why Jesus Christ said such shocking words:  And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for adultery 1   and marries another, commits adultery.”—Mt 19:7-9.

If a Catholic couple gets married without a priest (or not in a Catholic Church without prior permission from the bishop of their diocese) then this situation is called a “lack of form” in getting married.  The diocese’s ecclesiastical court is called a Tribunal.  The Tribunal will always admit that two Catholics married outside of the Catholic Church (without a dispensation from the bishop) never actually formed a sacramental bond in the first place.  Thus, they declare in about two weeks that there was a “lack of form.”   After the necessary paperwork, the couple can marry each other (convalidation ceremony) or they are free to marry someone else because there never was a marriage in the first place.  This is one type of annulment process.

But what happens when a Catholic couple got married by a priest and they are not happy with each other 5 years into marriage?

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Notice that the bond still remains in this couple’s [feigned] unhappiness.  This is why it is so important to really be sure about the person you marry:  There’s no take-backs, no “prenups,” no re-dos with another potential spouse in the Catholic Church.  The only way the couple can even think about an annulment is by proving that one of them did not have the freedom of will to form a sacramental bond on the very day of their wedding.

When this happens, the Tribunal looks retrospectively (back through time) to see if they had all the ingredients of the glue (especially mental capacity) in their engagement time leading up to the wedding and on the wedding day itself:

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If they did not, then perhaps the bond will be retroactively declared null.  But this is only a “best guess” about the past.  This process is not an assessment of who is currently happy in their marriage.  If an unhappy Catholic Couple looks back through their common life together and honestly believes that one of them was not free to marry the other because of mental incapacity, then they can petition that the Tribunal declare their bond to be null (nothing.)  “Declaration of nullity” is more accurate than “annulment” because the Church looks back through time at that putative bond and says: “In our best guess, you didn’t have the freedom to consent to a lifetime commitment, so we don’t think there ever was a bond:”

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A person is not annulled. A couple is not annulled. A marriage is not annulled. A bond is declared nullsometimes, and even this is a best-guess.  It is not an infallible or efficacious act of the Church.  It’s not even a privilege-granted.  The diocese’s null-paperwork basically says: “We think one or both of you had freedom missing at the altar.” 2

When the Tribunal’s “best guess” on an annulment is objectively wrong in God’s eyes, then we can conclude that God still views the original marital bond as real, even when the annulment paperwork has declared the opposite.   Such a declaration from a Tribunal  is not an infallible binding of the Church. 3 However, the couple can still still remarry since they were obedient to the Catholic Church that God established (provided they were honest in the paperwork.)  But the members of a tribunal will answer to God for denigrating the sacrament of marriage if they handed out annulments carelessly, literally putting asunder what God has put together.  In fact, without vigilance and prayer in Catholic Tribunals, the Eastern Orthodox would be justified in calling our Catholic annulment discipline practically the same as the Orthodox concession for divorce, even while Catholic doctrine remains theoretically untouched.

In a “declaration of nullity,” when a bond is thought to have never existed, this is often done under the title of Canon Law number 1095 which is “incapacity for consent.”  Perhaps on the day of the wedding there was an unrevealed addiction or a lack of sufficient reason.  Or, perhaps it was a lack of prudent discretion or a psychological instability.  Is anyone getting married in their right mind?  No.  (Nor ordained.  Vocations are hard.)  Thus, there had to be an extraordinary incapacity to form a marital bond (more than cold-feet at a wedding) to start the annulment process.  St. John Paul II said of the annulment proceedings that “real incapacity is to be considered only when an anomaly of a serious nature is present.”—St. JPII on 25 Feb 1987.

Canon Lawyers have a term and it is “to favor the bond.”  It means that a bond of marriage is given the benefit of the doubt.  It seems merciful not to “favor the bond” when assessing if a couple who has applied for annulment should have their bond declared null when they have “moved on” and “moved in” with a new partner of civil marriage.  The million dollar question in Rome today essentially boils down to:  Is it best for the Tribunal to issue a declaration of nullity just to legalistically get them out of the imputation of sin?

Well, the actual bond on the day of the wedding has to be honestly assessed in view of finding an extraordinary anomaly, not ordinary lack-of-due-discretion.  If not, the bond will never be favored in that diocese.  When the leanings of a Tribunal are not towards the original bond of marriage, but rather towards a legalistic avoidance of the imputation of sin for new civil bonds to be given free-license, then the opposite effect of mercy starts to take place in a diocese:  Couples begin to wonder if anyone has a real mental capability to get married.

Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Roman Rota in 2009:

First of all, there is a need for a new and positive appreciation of the capacity to marry belonging in principle to every human person by virtue of his or her very nature as a man or a woman. We tend in fact to risk falling into a kind of anthropological pessimism which, in the light of today’s cultural context, would consider marriage as practically impossible. Apart from the fact that this context is not uniform in the various parts of the world, genuine incapacity to consent cannot be confused with the real difficulties facing many people, especially the young, which lead them to conclude that marital union is, as a rule, inconceivable and impracticable. Rather, a reaffirmation of the innate human capacity for marriage is itself the starting point for enabling couples to discover the natural reality of marriage and its importance for salvation. Ultimately, what is at stake is the truth about marriage itself and its intrinsic juridical nature…which is an indispensable premise for the ability to understand and evaluate the capacity required to marry.—Pope Benedict XVI’s Address to the Roman Rota on 29 January 2009, 8th paragraph.

In other words, you don’t have to be St. Anne and St. Joachim to form a valid marriage bond.  Children deserve Tribunals to favor the bond.  Why?  Because the souls of children are permanent, so they need a permanent structure of love in which to grow up, even when times get hard.  4 What happens when you start to wonder if your diocese would give you a quick annulment without sufficient reason?  At the end of the day, it’s a matter of the marriage covenant in the shadow of God’s covenant.  If you know that you’re still married after a big argument—that is, if you know you’re not going to go to the Tribunal for an annulment after a big argument—then you know that God’s love must be something like that:  Unbreakable.  This is because even a broken man and broken woman’s love are capable of maintaining a dim but real reflection Christ’s unbreakable love on the cross for His bride:

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So, do you see why it’s so important who you choose to marry?  In the eyes of God, you only get one bond your whole life, one shot at getting your whole family to heaven.  Who is the person most likely to do that?  The blog ucatholic had a tremendously moving post here.

Perhaps the only practical solution to the endless annulment game is to have priests actually meet with their engaged couples.  Yes, priests may actually have to sacrifice time for their spiritual children.  My first pastor told me that I should not witness the sacramental marriage of any couple unless I had given them 5 one-hour meetings.  A good layman I knew once said that any priest who stacked up more than two annulments a year should be “tried for pastoral malpractice.”

Time to start marriage prep…

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Don’t they look excited for my Bible Study on marriage?

But really, here’s the truth:  If I’m going to take seven years and six-figures of the laity’s money for my vocation (seven years in seminary, not my annual income!) then I think I can give back five short hours for the laity’s vocation.  After all, they do make the promise “til death do us part:”

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  1. Here, Jesus is talking about is a separation due to adultery and even in the case of adultery, the Church teaches that a person cannot remarry until the death of one or the other spouse because the marriage bond still exists.  Reasons for annulment will be discussed in the next footnote.

  2. Other reasons the Church would consider declaring the bond null would include:

    • Consanguinity (being of the same blood line)
    • Not being old enough
    • Lacking sufficient reason
    • Coercion, violence, force or grave fear
    • Previous marriage or religious vows or ordination
    • Simulation, fraud or deceit on who a person is.
    • Addiction
    • Opposition to monogamy
    • Opposition to children (absolute opposition, not only the use of contraception.  Although it’s a mortal sin, premeditated use of contraception is not enough for a declaration of nullity unless there was an unrevealed and unreversed sterilization.)
    • Absolute impotence
    • Ratam non consummatum (vows at altar but no intercourse ever.)
    • Conditions on the future (pre-nups)
    • Refraining from vows or Catholic sacramental procedures

  3. Before publication, I checked this with a Roman-educated exorcist.  He confirmed: “Tribunals bear a tenuous relationship with the ‘power of the keys’ given to the Church. Diocesan tribunals are exercises of a bishop’s particular magisterium, not that of the Church authority as a whole. This means that their decisions do not share the charism of infallibility. So by definition their binding and loosing is not automatically guaranteed to be in line with the Mind of Christ.”

  4. The Catholic Church allows for immediate separation when there is danger or violence to one spouse or children.  This should happen long before an annulment gets discussed.  Code of Canon Law #1153 says “If either of the spouses causes grave danger in soul or body to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving.”

FOCUS Breakout Sessions

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If you want to see something new and serious from me, see here.  But, on my Evernote,  I recently looked at this satire that my teammate and I had made a decade ago for an upcoming conference while working for FOCUS (also in Virginia, where I am now—but back in 2004.)   Forgive a few inside jokes, but here’s our FOCUS conference breakout-session title suggestions, mostly still valid suggestions for the next one:

  • Protestants: Friend or Foe?
  • Rainforest Decline: Ecoterrorism and the Catholic.
  • How I made it to Life on the Rock.
  • Dare We Hope that All Be Saved?
  • Why Lord of the Rings was, like, totally Catholic.
  • Fashion Tips for the New Evangelization
  • FACT: What it originally stood for.
  • Christendom vs. Steubenville: When will the war begin?
  • MTV and the Jesuits: “Keepin’ It Real” on the way to hell.
  • Breakout sessions: Why they’re much cooler than workshops.
  • Do we have to be circumsized to be saved? Rethinking Acts 15.
  • Mel Gibson vs. Justin Kraft: Who will win?
  • File 852UY: Superstar FOCUS team infiltrates the KGB with spiritual multipication.
  • A Heureumenic Analysis of Rahnerian Eschatological Solipsism
  • So you want to be a eunuch? Rethinking Matthew 19.
  • Predestination: Why you’re in Bible Study and your friends aren’t.
  • Fun with Puns with Dr. Hahn:  It’s Scott to be Good!
  • Laser beams and the Vatican
  • Fundraising in Hawaii: “It was so much fun!”
  • Xtreme fasting: So extreme you don’t need the “E”
  • The “I-know-Tony-Ariniello-Show!”…overbooked and canceled.
  • Ways to Pretend You Belong in a Dorm.
  • RPGs and How to Avoid Them—By Off. Kuetemeyer
  • Why I deserve a Motorcycle—By Jim Jansen
  • Bishop Morlino vs. Bishop Chaput: Who will get the guys?
  • Lethal Weapon 5: How Mel Gibson told Jim Caviezel he won’t be in this one.
  • Dumb things that Eck and Horn did on a mountain this summer: a documentary.
  • The life of Shane Ortega, as mimed by Jim Caviezel.
  • Self-flagellation: Then and Now
  • Hippolytus: From Anti-Pope to Saint in 12 easy steps
  • Deep Blue: The Staring Contest Between Staples and Martino
  • “We Built This City on Rock and Roll: My life before Benedictine,” by Dr. Ted Sri

Battle of Lepanto

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Today is the 444th year after the battle of Lepanto, the most important naval battle in history.  Without it, Muslim Turks would have taken over Italy in 1571.  Because of the Mother of God’s role in this naval battle, Pope St. Pius V asked that every first Sunday in October be thenceforth remembered and honored as the Feast of the Holy Rosary.  The full story of the naval battle is at Catholic Answers, but this homily ties in the current battle in the Church, and the victory that will come through the Rosary:

Incarnation Meditation

 

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“One will be sent in the flesh,” thundered the most beautiful Trinity to the angels and all the courts of heaven eons ago. In perfect harmony they rejoiced. But later, they wondered if anyone but a lowly archangel like Raphael (still more glorious than a burning star) could dare condescend again to take flesh as Raphael did for Tobit. Their best guess for the new assignment was Gabriel. God said “Gabriel will go…but in spirit as preparation. One much higher than he will become flesh.” “But how?” the angels wondered, “A cherubim’s eyes would melt the trees and mountains. No human warrior’s body could even instantaneously hold the power of a seraphim. Who will go in the flesh?” And they intuited through each other like laser beams, seared and alit by the thought of leaving the splendor of heaven for the dirt and sorrow of earth with man. And then the answer came from God:

“I will become man.”

After ages of silence, awe, wonder, war and adoration, a high angel said “The Lord’s voice flashes flames of fire. What warrior shall you absorb for your powerful and wise task?” And God replied “I shall assume the body and nature of a poor baby, and I will eventually be nailed to a tree to die quietly, without friends. This will be for mercy, for all.” All fell down in confused adoration that the essence of God would be humility.

Silent Before Me

Here’s a song I wrote in seminary about the Passion of Jesus Christ. Lyrics here 1


  1. You’re in the garden, thinking of me. Blood falls like water, so I could be free. Taken in the night, for the sins of my flesh. Those were my chains, Lord, on your chest.
    Jesus….You love me more…than I could imagine
    I adore…Your Sacred Heart…silent before me.
    Stretched a the pole with blood in your eyes. Skin torn to pieces so that I might rise…Whips start smashing, what do you see? Your mother and me Lord, looking to thee…
    Jesus….You love me more…than I could imagine
    I adore…Your Sacred Heart…silent before me.
    ‘Forgive them Father,’ you say from the cross. Naked and helpless, since I was lost. I’ll live forever, cuz you bore it for me. Yet you thirst for my love, Lord, so now I may say…
    Jesus….You love me more…than I could imagine
    I adore…Your Sacred Heart…silent before me.