Tag Archives: Doctrine

Repost: The Greatest Work

purgatory

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)

Prophesy from Malachi

Host

I’m on the traditional calendar with an older “Divine Office.”  But today, Pope Francis and every synod bishop in Rome should have read Malachi chapter one in their new Divine Office. It’s the Scripture readings that every priest has promised to pray on the day of his ordination. In Malachi 1, God Himself tells what He thinks about the priesthood, the worthiness of a sacrifice, divorce, and false-mercy becoming a mockery of God. If everyone at the synod has their mind made up (for better or for worse) then perhaps this is a last offer of unity…or even a last offer of mercy for those who would tamper with Scripture, timed impeccably by God, as always:

The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi:  And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name? ’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you? ’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations…And this second thing you do:  You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

—Malachi 1:1-14, 2:13-16

God said “My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.  But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised,” and “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence.”  Combine these two and you have a clear injunction against sacrileging the altar of sacrifice with divorce-and-remarriage.  And yet Pope Francis’ men are promoting open communion with the sole restriction being a false understanding of conscience.  1

But I mention Malachi 1 because I imagine God is still merciful to Pope Francis and the synod Fathers “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  But if they don’t listen, what would justice look like?  Of course, God only wills the good of His children, but if we, His beloved children reject His hand, we also reject His protection.  Justice entails losing God’s protection.  Primarily, this would mean the loss of souls to Satan, especially if the Pope’s moral theology statements remain purposefully vague.

But there is something at the physical level, too.  I am reminded that the number one goal of ISIS is not the destruction of the USA but the physical destruction of Rome.  This is not some ultra-conservative doomsday prophesy.  In fact, the best article I read on ISIS comes from the left-leaning Atlantic Magazine.  Graeme Wood’s  What Isis Really Wants has over half-million FB likes.  Do a quick search for the word “Rome” in this article, and you will see that Rome appears 10 times.  ISIS wants to destroy Rome.  We need God’s protection.  Now is no time to mock His doctrine or discipline on marriage.  2

No Pope or bishop can ever change God’s Word.  Their job is to aid in the interpretation of Scripture in concert with Sacred Tradition.  So when bishops conceal heresy with mercy, or give the theological wink-and-nod to kill consciences, Divine Justice is being tested.  How are these men more merciful than Jesus who died for sinners like me?  They’re not.  They have overlooked the fact that there is no mercy without repentance.  In a Vatican-approved apparition called Our Lady of La Salette, Mary said in 1846 to the French children:  “Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.”  Pope Pius IX approved and promoted this apparition.

I’m not saying we’re there yet.  But I do know that Mary’s call to the faithful transcends this silly synod…just as timeless and infallible Catholic teaching transcends this synod, too.  There will always be good bishops and bad bishops. We worship neither.  That’s why it’s still awesome to be Catholic, regardless of certain bishops trying in vain to change Church teaching.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not worth reading any more news on the synod. Why get flustered? God will protect us from evil or from this evil He will bring good (and open schism would indeed be better than the current silent-smiley-schism.)  Either way, Our Lady of La Salette showed us the way to Her Son:

Finally, I call on the Apostles of the Last Days, the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, who have lived in scorn for the world and for themselves, in poverty and in humility, in scorn and in silence, in prayer and in mortification, in chastity and in union with God, in suffering and unknown to the world.  It is time they came out and filled the world with light.  Go and reveal yourselves to be my cherished children.  I am at your side and within you, provided that your faith is the light which shines upon you in these unhappy days.  May your zeal make you famished for the glory and the honor of Jesus Christ.  Fight, children of the light, you, the few who can see.


  1. The Archbishop of Chicago is theologically correct in his statement that conscience is “inviolable.” But if conscience itself can self-absolve from the grave sins he discussed in that link, then there is no longer a need for a Magisterium nor the sacrament of confession.  Archbishop Cupich is not a party-crasher.  He said: “I came here at the request of the Holy Father. In fact, I was not elected. I was appointed by the Pope to come here.” Although open communion will probably not be promoted explicitly next year by Pope Francis, the notion of “inviolable conscience” seems well on its way to replace (at least at the level of discipline if not doctrine) both the Scriptures and the Magisterium.  It’s important to note that a post-synod statement is not to be considered ex-cathedra infallible nor considered to be articulated faith and morals of the ordinary Magisterium. Thus, although Pope Francis’ continued errors would not overturn the indefectibility promised by Christ to Peter in Matthew 16 regarding the Catholic Church, this would lead to an unprecedented loss of souls. We must pray for nothing short of conversion or intervention. Error has indeed been spoken. In May of 2013, Pope Francis preached at the Domus Santae Martae. While speaking of atheists at Mass, Pope Francis said: “We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” By “there,” Pope Francis meant heaven. Hebrews 11:6 is very clear on belief and salvation. 

  2. A faithful bishop from Poland attending the synod said:  “Practically all are repeating that there will be no doctrinal change, but this is understood in different ways. For if you add to this first group that disciplinary changes are possible, this means, in practice, that doctrinal stability is being nullified. In my opinion one cannot speak of the separation of the practice of the Church from her doctrine, from her teachings. The two are inseparable. I have the impression that many supporters of this modernity, are in fact thinking about changing doctrine, yet calling it a change in Church discipline. It is a disturbing point in these discussions, for it is strongly emphasized: “we accept the entire doctrine”, but there immediately follows a suggestion that doctrine has nothing to do with it. This is greatly worrying me, for one and the other are saying that they want no change in doctrine. From where then, are arising these practices opposed to doctrine?”—Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, translation from Toronto Catholic Witness.

Infallible? Part 2 of 2

A lightning strikes the basilica of St Peter's dome

One of the surprising things I have found among priests and laity during the Pontificate of Pope Francis is that certain people who used to despise the word “obedience,” say ten years ago, now go on quoting “obedience” as if they were St. John of the Cross.

I walked into a tea-house yesterday and I got surrounded by three adults older than me who first wanted to know what I was, why I had a long black robe on and what I thought of Pope Francis.  As to the third, I simply said that the first public words of Jesus and John the Baptist were “Repent and Believe” and that the measure of a Pope is to the extent that the people have heard that same call to repentance and faith (as repentance and faith are the only two portals towards hope of loving Jesus Christ as He deserves.)

Now that I think about it, judgment of a Pope does not belong to a priest like me, but to God…and maybe a bit to history, many centuries in the future:  A pope will ultimately not be judged on his popularity, but whether he is bringing consciences to life—or allaying consciences to remain asleep.  Thus, it’s my job as a priest not to judge the Pope, but to remain obedient and to preach the Gospel.

There is excitement and concern, from the left and right respectively, that the October 2015 “Synod on the Family” will change Church teaching on divorced and remarried receiving Holy Communion as well as those in homosexual unions being allowed to receive Holy Communion.  You might imagine that I don’t participate in the excitement of “the left” that doctrine might change, but did you know that I don’t participate in the worry to “the right” either?

Here’s why:  A synod does not carry the weight of infallibility.  In my last post, I explained the levels of infallibility, the highest being the Sacred Scriptures, which speak clearly on the above issues of sexuality and worthy communion in Matthew 19:9 and 1 Cor 11:26-29. The Council of Trent is another example of an aspect of Divine Revelation that is also infallible.  It too speaks clearly on the sacraments of Marriage and the Eucharist.

However, a synod does not only not have the weight of infallibility, but there is precedent for error in a synod!  This false-synod was the 18th century  Synod of Pistoia where Jansenism was promoted.  Jansenism is the heresy of despair of God’s mercy.  It’s sneaky that Satan may now be tempting the Church hierarchy towards presumption of God’s mercy, the opposite of the above.  The devil’s tricky with that pendulum swing!

Thus, if the bishops go against the Bible in October, the Bible wins.  This is not Protestantism.

I hope I’m wrong, but I predict error coming in the October 2015 Synod of the Family, followed by some form of beautiful or powerful Divine Intervention.  This is not because I’m a Savonarola prophet of doom.  It’s simply because of the manifest and public, shameless teaching of the Cardinals who have been recently promoted in these “family matters,” as reported by Life Site News:

Cardinal Godfried Danneels: The retired former archbishop of Brussels was a special appointment by Pope Francis to the 2014 Synod of Bishops. In addition to wearing rainbow liturgical vestments and being caught on tape concealing sexual abuse, Danneels said in 2013 of the passage of gay “marriage”: “I think it’s a positive development that states are free to open up civil marriage for gays if they want.”

Cardinal Walter Kasper: A few days into his pontificate Pope Francis praised one of Cardinal Kasper’s books, and then selected the cardinal to deliver the controversial keynote address to the consistory of cardinals advocating his proposal to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion in some circumstances. This proposal led to the high-profile debate at the first Synod of Bishops on the Family. Cardinal Kasper has again been selected as a personal appointee of the pope to the second Synod and regularly meets with Pope Francis. Kasper defended the vote of the Irish in favor of homosexual “marriages”, saying: “A democratic state has the duty to respect the will of the people; and it seems clear that, if the majority of the people wants such homosexual unions, the state has a duty to recognize such rights.”

Archbishop Bruno Forte: The archbishop of Chieti-Vasto was appointed Special Secretary to the 2014 Synod by Pope Francis. He is the Italian theologian who was credited with drafting the controversial homosexuality section of the infamous midterm report of the Synod which spoke of “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation.” When questioned about the language, Forte said homosexual unions have “rights that should be protected,” calling it an “issue of civilization and respect of those people.”

Father Timothy Radcliffe: In May, Pope Francis appointed the former Master of the Dominican Order as a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace despite his well-known support for homosexuality. Writing on homosexuality in 2013, he said: “We must ask what it means, and how far it is Eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.” In a 2006 lecture he advocated “accompanying” homosexuals, which he defined as “watching ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord.”

Bishop Johan Bonny: The bishop of Antwerp in Belgium has just been named as one of the delegates to the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family despite open dissent on homosexual unions. While being named as a delegate to the synod may not in itself constitute a major promotion, what is unique about Bonny is the extremity and clarity of his dissent. “Inside the Church, we must look for a formal recognition of the relational dimension that is also present in many homosexual, lesbian and bisexual couples,” he said in a December 2014 interview. “In the same way that in society there exists a diversity of legal frameworks for partners, there must be a diversity of forms of recognition in the Church.”

 

Let me (Fr. Nix, now) be very clear that I am obedient to Rome and the bishops, but no bishop can change the words of Jesus Christ and what He said about divorce or what the Holy Spirit has said through the Apostle Paul on acting out any sexual sin (heterosexual or homosexual.)  Pray hard that I’m wrong about error coming down the pipes of this October Synod, but if I’m not, just remember that a synod can not change the words of Jesus Christ.  This is not a Protestant who believes in Sola Scriptura.  That is why I wrote on the hierarchy of doctrine in my last post, quoting Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on the Sacred Scriptures and Councils (part of the Magisterium.)

I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m right and the synod disseminates error, “the right” will frenzy on how to explain the doctrinal confusion and “the left” will frenzy on how to rejoice over the doctrinal confusion. Either approach would be both unnecessary and superfluous.  That’s because this synod is pastoral in nature, not doctrinal.

Speaking of “pastoral” men at the pre-synod last year, I wish I could have told them all that it’s not that hard to present the words of Love-Incarnate-Himself as “merciful and pastoral,” even on topics of marriage. I could have assured them of this by recounting many conversations I’ve had in bars, taxis and shady streets.  So, why didn’t anyone at the pre-Synod (to my knowledge) present on how to reach real people with a real Gospel?  I fear they know neither a concrete Gospel nor any real people.

So, unfortunately there is precedent for error in a synod. And, again, we have to be thankful that no synod can change the faith or morals of Holy Mother Church, especially that Faith articulated in Scripture, Councils, Creeds, Church Fathers and the Ex-Cathedra statements made by two Popes.  These five things (not synods of pastoral discussion) are the transmissions of faith and morals that fall under Christ’s promise of the indefectibility to the Church:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”—Matthew 16:18-19

The upcoming synod is not bound in heaven.  It’s doctrinally Little League…but…It could still cause millions of souls to go to hell through misguidance towards presumption of God’s mercy on sexual matters.  Thus, it could become the Major League for Satan.

That’s why we have to pray so hard.

As Padre Pio said, “Pray, Hope and Don’t worry.”  God will straighten it out, even if things go down bad in October.

Infallible? Part 1 of 2

St_Peter_Besenzi

Many Protestants believe that Catholics believe that anything the Pope says is infallible. This is a superstition. Strangely, some “progressive” priests have recently been promoting this superstition.

We must return to the sources of revelation, especially those sources which the Church considers to be “without error.”  Pope Leo XIII wrote that the following five aspects of Catholic Revelation can be held to be definitely without any error:

1) Sacred Scripture

2) Councils (eg. the Council of Trent)

3) Creeds (eg. Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed.)

4) Anytime the Church Fathers speak in union.

5) Ex-Cathedra Statements by the Pope (only done twice in history, on Mary’s Immaculate Conception [1854] and Mary’s Assumption [1950.])

All five of the above are without error (a negative charism) but only one of them is considered to be word-for-word, no-more and no-less exactly as God willed it, functioning as a positive charism:  The Sacred Scriptures.

This may smack of Protestantism or fundamentalistism even to the best of Catholics.  It is not. It is Our Faith:

For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit.”—Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, #20.

After reading this 1893 encyclical by Pope Leo XIII, the analogy I choose to describe his description of doctrine is a dart board:  Every part of the Creeds or Councils are guaranteed by the Holy Ghost to land on the dart board.  But Scripture hits the bull’s eye every time.

Some of the greatest preaching and miracle-working saints had the entire Bible memorized.  An example would be St. Anthony of Padua.   St. Thomas Aquinas also had the whole Bible memorized.  In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas’ gives two sides of a theological argument.  He settles the argument not by his own authority as an innovator (as some Scholastics seem to imply) but by the Bible, rightly interpreted by the Magisterium and Church Fathers. (The Church later put her stamp on St. Thomas as the clearest and most reliable interpreter of Scripture.)  But Scripture remained the fountain, and St. Thomas the fountain-keeper.

Thus, neither St. Thomas Aquinas nor a Pope nor a synod can contradict Scripture, the highest source of Divine Revelation flowing directly from the Divine Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ.  Even then, the only topics considered infallible are articulated faith and morals.

John Allen (who writes for the liberal National Catholic Reporter) actually has an excellent article on Pope Francis, where Pope Francis admits he is a bit rusty on modern topics:

http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/07/13/under-francis-theres-a-new-dogma-papal-fallibility/

Notice that within 65-minutes with reporters, Pope Francis explained his lack of surety at least seven times with phrases like: “I don’t understand it very well”; “I don’t know if it’s true”; “It’s an error of mine not to think about this,”; “If I make a mistake, with a bit of shame I ask forgiveness and go forward”;  “I don’t want to say something wrong” and  “one sentence can be manipulated.”

I appreciate the humility on economic topics, but I could have told you “I don’t know.”  (I only found out what a mortgage was last year at the age of 35.)

But as to far-reaching theological statements of Pope Francis, let me say only say that I’m tired of semi-orthodox theologians and bloggers telling us that Pope Francis didn’t really mean what Pope Francis said.  It was fair to give that odd grammatical clean-up team in Rome (and the neo-con Catholic blogs in the USA) a bit of modification-leeway at the beginning of his Pontificate. But now the liberals are probably right about one thing: Pope Francis means very much what he says, and he believes what he promotes. If a man should be taken at his word, shouldn’t the Pope? In pre-kindergarten, monitors would make peace between children, saying things like “Frenchy didn’t mean what he said…” Pope Francis means what he says.  He is an adult who officially sits on the seat of Peter.  The Pope (like St. Thomas Aquinas) has always been called to be the interpreter of the Faith, not the interpreted.

We must respect the Pope, but that doesn’t mean everything the Pope says is without error, as the Holy Father readily admits. John Allen points out that for a Pope’s words to be considered infallible, there are three requirements outlined by Vatican I that must be met with precision for a Pope to make an infallible ex-cathdra decision:

  • It pertains to faith and morals.
  • It does not contradict Scripture or Divine Revelation.
  • It’s intended to be held by the whole Church.

No such doctrinal proclamation has ever been made by Pope Francis, or any Pope for that matter since 1950.