Tag Archives: Family

Mercy Killing of Consciences

sam woman

Today, many Catholics believe that “mercy” consists in remaining silent before someone’s sinful lifestyle, so as to let that individual’s gasping conscience, well, die in peace. I think this is the “mercy” that the media is begging the bishops to invoke over those who have fallen into gravely sinful lifestyles: Leave them alone, so they can go on living in peace.

And both parties’ consciences are alive.  barely.

Here’s my proof that America still has a conscience: The media does not attack Mormons or Muslims for jaw-dropping beliefs like the reception of a pile of women for every man in the afterlife (a strange overlap of Islam and Mormonism.) Why doesn’t the media attack such preposterous tenets of religion? Because it’s short-lived fun to mock ideas that are clearly irrational. I’ve never heard of Anderson Cooper mocking the idea of a planet in the afterlife for every Mormon man who gets his favorite sister-wives to keep him company in outer-space. It’s like disproving a child who is dreaming.

But no one is laughing at Catholics who speak out against gay “marriage.” Is this because we have been hateful?  No.  It’s because everyone’s conscience is made in God’s objective image and likeness. Intellectually there is a relativism invading the country, but in the hearts of everyone on earth, I believe this to be true: Relativism can not be incorporated into the human heart, especially the human heart seeking God. Relativism has not gained full ground of the conscience yet. The proof is the anger (which is unfortunately rebellion against their own conscience.) If opposition to same-sex marriage was ridiculous like Mormon planets or Muslim virgin-heavens, then no one would care about us backwater, slack-jawed Catholics or our so-called bigoted beliefs.

You see, if the final exterior agent of traditional Judeo-Christian belief (the Catholic Church) reflects the interior-but-objective, flickering, dying pilot light of your conscience that you’re trying to kill, then the Catholic Church is the one thing that is keeping your conscience alive…and you hate it. This is because long before rules were found in the catechism, they were found in your heart.

Fighting against Catholicism may appear to be fun on the blogs, but there’s always a sadness and anger that accompanies the wit. Why? Because fighting God is exhausting, and it brings out the venom. Ironically, the venom is a good sign that such a conscience is still alive.  If a sting of conscience is an embrace from God, and if conscience is objectively created, then we’re talking about a divine embrace that brings rebellion and fury (probably because of the clash of true conviction and false religious advice.)

We hide our fury behind words like “mercy.” Notice how many Catholics today offer suggestions for the Pope and bishops to make the teachings of the Church more “merciful.” Notice how these arguments (in regards to the inner-life of a man or woman’s conscience) are similar to the arguments for euthanasia: Let them die in peace. Essentially, we’re talking about the mercy-killing of the soul.

Even otherwise-orthodox theologians will say half-joking but fully- erroneous statements like: “Ignorance is the eighth sacrament that saves more than the other seven.” Ignorance never saved anybody.  Only Jesus Christ did.  But what they mean is that for a sin to be mortal, it must be done with full knowledge. While this is true, the hyper-emphasis on this single tenet of Catholic moral theology misses the enormous counter-weight: Moral knowledge does not have to be book knowledge.  The truth is that God stamps natural law on the soul at the moment of conception:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.—Rom 1:19-20

Thus, many mortal sins are committed by people who don’t know Catholic theology.  I’ll stick to that shocking statement because in the above chapter, the Apostle Paul continues to explain that pagan tribes are still guilty before God for homosexual sins.  Why?  Because even before they hear of Christ, they know such sins are wrong by looking into their heart and outwards to creation.  Yes, God can surely forgive such sins in the confessional within a His heartbeat of His Divine Mercy, but let’s be clear:  You don’t have to be a Bible-reading-Catholic to know that you should not put a scissors into a baby’s head, or that you can not physically put a male-part into a male-part.

Thus, “ignorant” pagans still need a Savior. And He is mighty to save me and anyone else of grievous sins. You see, if ignorance of the Gospel were enough to save a person, then St. Francis Xavier never should have gone on hundreds of perilous journeys around the South Pacific and Indian Oceans to baptize hundreds of thousands.

I can already hear the objections: Does this mean that all non-Catholics go to hell?  Pope Pius IX gave the clearest answer in the 19th century:  “By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into it, will perish in the flood. Nevertheless equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not, for this reason, guilty in the eyes of the Lord.”—Pope Pius IX (Ott 312, Denzinger 1647.)

Jansenists and liberals both make the exact same theological mistake: What is the least that I need to do to escape the wrath of God?

The above is a worthless question when we hear why Jesus Himself says He came to earth:  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.—John 3:17

Jesus came to save us, and He can be trusted more than the neo-con theologians who over-play the card about “full-knowlege and consent of the will.”  Legalistic exoneration is not mercy.  What is the definition of mercy?  Mercy is a heart given to the miserable. Even better, it is to bring the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the miserable, like me, and like every sinner. Literally, the etymology in all Romance languages of that word misericordia is this: giving (dia) the Heart of Christ (cor) to the miserable (miseri).

Perhaps our model of mercy for a time of sexual sin should be Jesus when He encounters the woman at the well who is herself in sexual sin:

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink,” for His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”—John 4:7-10

Although He knows her past, Jesus does not make her feel her shame. In fact, they begin a remarkably casual conversation on mudane things like buckets and wells and tribal chatter long before He gets to the difficult topic of her being divorced and re-married five times. By the time He gets there, she is so moved by His love that she changes her life.

So also, we need to be bold but tender with those whom we are evangelizing. Notice that Our Lord does not encounter her in a way that is self-righteous or even more nauseating: passive-aggressive-self-righteous. So also, we need to speak as gently as Jesus to any woman at the well. Christ speaks first as a friend—in things earthly, like thirst—before speaking of sin or worship. Our tenderness and sincerity may turn a great sinner into a great proponent of Christ and His Church:

Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.—John 4:39a

She knew that her ignorance did not save her anymore than darkness brings light. Only Jesus Christ is the light that every human heart desires (openly or secretly!) Ignorance is not “the eighth sacrament that saves more than all the rest.” Let’s stop this Catholic “mercy-killing” of consciences (as if any Westerner with the internet could claim invincible ignorance!) Since indifference is worse than hatred, then I propose that pretending like everyone is headed to heaven is the worst act of hatred we could enact in the lives of our family and friends.

This realization of the truth of the Gospel is not a carte blanche to be self-righteous.  We simply trust that every heart was made for Jesus Christ and His Church, not just those who are currently Catholic. But if you really can’t get the right words to share with a sinner, remember: Our Lady of Fatima was clear that God will do the heavy lifting if we but pray and sacrifice for souls. You gotta be doing at least one (evangelizing or sacrificing) if you as a Catholic have any love for anyone but yourself.  Complaining will not get you to heaven.  May we show them the Rescuer, the Deliverer, the One Who is mighty to save!

 

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.

Gay “Marriage”

comply

The topic of mercy in the confessional is a different topic from today’s Supreme Court Decision. First of all, I believe in infinite Divine Mercy. Every person is made in God’s image and likeness. Jesus Christ on the cross can restore that likeness of God to anyone—those struggling with same-sex attraction—as well as those struggling with other issues. That’s no problem for God.

But today’s Supreme Court decision is a problem of government regulation of family, so we’ll consider this in three sections:

  1. CIVIL RIGHTS
  2. CHURCH AND STATE
  3. THE CHURCH AS A WITNESS IN THE WORLD

I’ll be traveling across the country, so this will be my last post for a couple weeks.  That’s why it’s so long.  So take your time, or read it all in one gulp.

I. CIVIL RIGHTS

CNN’s opening story today shows a picture of a young African-American man waving a rainbow flag and the headline reads: “In a landmark opinion, a divided Supreme Court ruled Friday that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a victory that until very recently would have seemed unthinkable.”

If it is truly a civil-rights issue, why has the media nearly ignored the fact that black Christians across the country nearly-categorically abhor the thought of gay-marriage as a civil rights topic like their own battle?  They find it offensive to compare sodomy to having black skin.  Consider the rapper Bizzle’s take on gay-marriage:

“Sayin’ it was the way you was born and I’m sure you lust like I do, just in a different form. But I’m married, so if I give into mine, I’m a cheater; if you give into yours, you just fight to make it legal…We were all born in sin. But Christ died so that we could all be born again.”

Let’s consider the African-American community outside of the rather predictable Bible-believing world of Pentecostals and Baptists.  Let’s consider urban, black California, and their take on gay-marriage as a civil-rights topic.  Did you know that in 2008, a whopping 70% of black voters voted against considering same-sex unions to be called a “marriage”?  This means that even non-Christian blacks do not see gay-marriage as the same as a civil-rights movement.

Finally, on the topic of Civil Rights, it’s important to realize that not all gay leaders in the world see the issue of gay-marriage as as one of Civil Rights. For example, the homosexual mayor of a French town believes the following about gay marriage:

“As a society we should not be encouraging this. It’s not biologically natural. We [gays] do not have the fertility, in the sense of making a baby. We have plenty of other forms of fertility..artistic, for example, and other forms of fertility..In my case, I feel I’ve connected with my village, and I’ve reinvigorated a village that was dying, fading. I know how to create ties within my community. In summary, the law I advise would be whatever’s best for the child. One must favor what is best for the child. Nobody can deny, I believe, that it’s best for a child to have a mother and a father who love each other as best they can.”—Jean Marc

Now whose civil rights are being considered? The children? Or only the parents?

Finally, before we get into the philosophy of marriage in the Church and State, let me give one more obvious statement: Sodomy was not legalized today. That has been legal for a long time. It’s about the control of the Church by the State that goes a lot deeper.

II. CHURCH AND STATE

Many people cite “the separation of Church and State” as an argument for gay-marriage. First of all, the term “separation of Church and State” is not in the Constitution, nor in the Amendments. It comes from a letter by Jefferson to a Church assuring the Christian community that the State would not trample the rights of the Church, not vice versa.

Since gay marriage is a biological impossibility (Since when do Christians despise science?) then the only question that remains is this: Is gay-union a government issue or a sacramental issue? If it’s a government issue, then yesterday’s decision regulated private acts. If it’s a sacramental issue, yesterday’s decision regulated public acts.

But we all know that private acts of marriage have been unregulated for some time in this country.

Thus, the government now regulates the public witness of marriage. In fact, the English word liturgy comes from the greek leitourgia, meaning a public act of worship.  If the witness of a “leitourgia” must answer to Obama, it’s only a matter of time before priests like me are put in prison. Bring it. Already a priest in Canada is in prison for this. Maybe he’s like the Apostle Paul: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.”—2 Cor 11:23.

Bring it. I decided to forfeit a family not to be fed cakes and pies by comfortable parishioners but to follow in the footsteps of my hero, St. Paul.

The reason the government is inept to rule on marriage is because marriage is based on matter and form, where the government repeatedly says that emotions can be shared by people of opposite or same-genders.
Of course they can.

However, “to define marriage as primarily an emotional relationship…would put the government in the business of defining and even regulating marriage.”

So, if love is primarily emotional, then the complementarity of man and woman in the marital embrace is not substantial to marriage, but accidental. If it’s accidental, then gender is a social construct, not one of biology. (You may have noticed that these are sacramental terms: Substance and accident.)

If love is simply emotions, then there is no problem with gay marriage. But the sacrament of marriage is founded upon natural law holding that that which is complementary is substantial, not accidental, especially (but not exclusively) within the act of procreation.

Where is love found? In the emotions or in the body? You might think that the Christian answer is “in the emotions.”  But it’s not.  This is because we’ll not be judged on our emotions, but rather “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.“—2 Cor 5:10.  Or just look at a cross and wonder if feelings defined love then.  Rather, it was a body in sacrifice that those with same-sex attraction are invited to follow, as every Christian is asked to follow.  So much for discrimination.

Indeed, when God became man, everything we were to do in the body would take on supreme connection to real angels or real demons. There is no neutral moral act.

As of today, the government now regulates family.  If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the next step of liberal totalitarianism for a country a bit “ahead” of us is this:  German police stormed a homeschooling family’s house for homeschooling against the law.  This wasn’t in 1940.  It happened in 2013:

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/we-are-empty-german-homeschooling-family-raided-four-children-seized-by-gov

Europe has already reached this level of totalitarianism, and oh, by the way, in Scandinavia few apply for gay marriage anymore.  They won that political battle many years ago and now monogamy isn’t so attractive to many gays.  It was all an attack on the traditional family, not civil rights.

Married people could sustain just as much persecution as priests, because now that the government regulates family life, this doesn’t just induce a permissiveness of gay “marriage ” upon society, but it also invites a new stringency of control upon sacraments and family-life.  For instance, not baking a cake with two grooms on it could land you in the slammer.  I’d rather be a priest in prison than a married-man in prison.  With today’s decision, I may end up there for refusing any battery of attempted-marriages (not just homosexual ones.)  That would make prison interesting!

III. THE CHURCH AS A WITNESS IN THE WORLD

Obama said today’s decision was “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.” Let’s write about that: Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. Some bishops today say that the universal Church is better than ever before. In Genesis 19, “God destroyed the cities of the plain,” Sodom and Gomorrah. But today, there was no fire from the sky today at the Supreme Court Decision. Maybe everything is okay.

Or maybe the silence found in Church and political leadership nowadays is the very punishment from God.

The reason I’ll bank on the latter is because the Bible makes it clear that the Jews sustained so many calamities precisely because of God’s singular love for them. He punished them quickly, on this earth, so that they would return to Him.  The nations who continue in their sin, unchecked, is apparently the worst punishment that God could bring upon a nation, according to the Bible:

Now I beseech those that shall read this book, that they be not shocked at these calamities, but that they consider the things that happened, not as being for the destruction, but for the correction of our nation [Israel.] For it is a token of great goodness when sinners are not suffered to go on in their ways for a long time, but are presently punished. For, not as with other nations (whom the Lord patiently expecteth, that when the day of judgment shall come, He may punish them in the fulness of their sins) doth He also deal with us, so as to suffer our sins to come to their height, and then take vengeance on us.”—2 Mac 6:12-15

What this means is that the nations that continue unchecked in their sins (no earthquakes or tsunamis) are actually storing up the fullness of God’s wrath, reserved for the afterlife. This is because their arrogance has blocked them from receiving the chastisements that a Father gives his son. The saints say that when Church or political leaders are silent, it is the worst punishment of God’s justice that we as a Church or nation can endure.

So, we have to remember that the early Christians in Rome weren’t threatened by the Emperor. They weren’t even threatened by a government putting priests or families in prison.  We American Catholics care way too much about politics. The early Christians in Rome didn’t care if the Emperor was Decius or Valerian. Both would hunt them down.  Thus, the Christian’s vocation is simple: Worship God as He deserves, and then get your family and a few neighbors to heaven. They really didn’t worry about the government as much as the state of their own souls. Selfish? No. Your soul will last longer than the United States of America.  St. Agnes’ soul has lasted longer than the Roman Empire.  Your soul (and later your body) will live forever in heaven or in hell, much longer than this crumbling country of the United States. So, just do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a perverse and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.—Phil 2:14-15

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Nota Bene: National acceptance of gay “marriage” has it’s entire root in contraception. You really should be pro-both or anti-both (as happily most Americans are.)  Both have globally separated babies and bonding. So, you can’t rip on those acting out same-sex actions (closed to life) if your heterosexual actions have been closed to life.  It’s no wonder, in a contraceptive society, that the smaller same-gender-attraction population has felt discriminated against.  In all charity, I don’t expect you to get this post if you don’t think contraception in marriage is devastating.  So, here’s the best mp3 to understand contraception—scientifically and religiously—in an hour:  http://www.janetsmith.excerptsofinri.com

Family Roles and the Sacrifice of the Mass

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The masculine and the feminine in the liturgy is a common topic on the blogosphere right now, so I want to put polemic aside and just see how the Sacred Scripture sees male and female symbolism in the sacrifice of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Because we’re looking to Scripture, I want to quote the man who I believe is the greatest Scripture scholar alive, Dr. Brandt Pitre. He is a young husband and father raising several children in Louisiana. Dr. Pitre contends that, for St. Paul, the main difference between male and female is not strength versus weakness, but rather transcendent versus immanent. Let’s consider the definitions of these two terms before looking at the Bible:

Transcendent—beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience. (For God) existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe.

Immanent—existing or operating within; inherent. (For God) permanently pervading and sustaining the universe.

We’ll come back to these definitions to see how they play into the liturgy, but first let’s look at a human analogy. Pitre tells the story about how one of his children ran in the street and scraped her knee. His wife comforted the child, held her, cried with her, nurtured her and bandaged her. A bit later, when his daughter was done crying, Brandt lovingly reminded her that she could sustain a lot worse injuries if she continues to play in traffic.
Immanent: The female gaze nurtures the family within and by compassion. Transcendent: The male view looks beyond to prevent unintended negative consequences in the future. This isn’t to say that women aren’t smart enough to do anything but put on Band-Aids and it doesn’t mean that men are called to be heartless disciplinarians who only think of the future. But Pitre’s family story does give a clue where we’re going as we equate transcendent with male and immanent with female. (See the definitions above, again.)

Another human example before we get to the liturgy: When I do “honest-question-and-answer-with-Fr. Nix” for uncatechized high-school students, I let them ask me hard questions. Inevitably, someone wants to know why women can’t be priests. I begin by asking all the girls to immediately raise their hands if they have imagined in their mind the day when they (the girls) get on one knee and propose to their future groom. Of course they all giggle; no hands are raised. Horrified, I ask “Why not!?” In a voice that says you idiot you already know the answer, some bold girl usually says, “Because I want my fiancé to propose to me.” I agree with her. Then, I get into explaining that just as the young man can and will hold out the ring, making the first move to the bride, so also only the priest can hold up the body-of-Christ and say to his bride, the Church, “This is my body.”

Yes, “the primacy of self-donation relies on the man” as St. John Paul II said in his Theology of the Body Wednesday audiences. The man must go beyond himself. A woman deserves to be pursued, and, although overused in Catholic circles today, there is truth to the analogy that the young man is the bee and the woman is the flower. She truly is “a garden enclosed” as Solomon wrote of his beloved. I even try to give these teens a PG version of transcendence and immanence in the intimate gift of marriage: The man must be the first to make the move outside himself both physically and spiritually. Even in making children, man gives in order to receive; woman receives in order to give. He goes outside himself into the garden enclosed, a garden that will eventually nurture new life in warmth and tenderness, away from the hostile, outside world.

You probably see where this analogy is going:

-transcendent≈beyond≈heaven≈male

-immanent≈immediate≈earth≈female

Another disclaimer to prevent mindless comments below: This is not to say male=good and female=bad. In fact, the writings of every Catholic mystic who I’ve ever read who has visited heaven say there are more women there in heaven than men! (Read that sentence again if you think this article is sexist.) Thus, this male/female business is not a description of good/bad. Another disclaimer: I am fully aware that religions cross some lines on this topic of transcendence. The idea of Allah is totally transcendent in Islam. The idea of pagan gods is mostly immanent (like all the gods of the Egyptians when Moses lived there: dogs, frogs, river…notice, all things of this earth.) Only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is totally transcendent and totally immanent, hence the name God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I recently got back from Mother Teresa’s home for the dying in Kolkata, India. Next to this home, there is an enormous temple to the goddess Kali, who is the goddess of destruction. Hindus worship the idols that are made of the things of this earth. In fact, even though I didn’t go into the temple, I walked a mile-long street in front of the temple to find full tens of thousands of idols and flowers to purchase and subsequently worship.

However, in the ancient near East, it was “a first” for a Mesopotamian to hear of a God who transcended even the notion of having a name. Yes, this is our God: I AM WHO AM. Thus, not having a name, is one reason why Adonai is transcendent. No one could control Him. No one could manipulate Him. Unlike a legion of pagan goddesses, Yahweh is one in Being. The many pagan gods (and more often, goddesses) were usually earth-based, not heaven-based. In the Bible, St. Stephen quotes the prophet Isaiah to the high priest before his martyrdom. Notice how he highlights God’s transcendence:

“Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.”—Acts 7:48
Why was there a male-only priesthood in the Old Testament? Many critics of Western religion claim that this was because of the misogynistic tendencies of Judaism. However, this is easily disproved by a cursory glance at Greco-Roman culture, which had both unspeakable violations against women and female priestesses. Judaism is different on both accounts. Dr. Brandt Pitre gives us a clue why God revealed himself as father, not as mother: He was to be experienced as totally transcendent so that He would not be conflated with the gods (demons) of this earth, especially those of the ancient near East.

The Incarnation of Christ then brings new beauty and a surprising immanence to God’s other-worldliness and majesty: God, who is beyond us in holiness, comes into our mess, to take our sin. The groom comes for His beloved! Christ comes to die for His Church on earth. But lest we fall into presumption, we had to recognize His Majesty first, hence we have the Old Testament being revealed before the New Testament.

There is something true about the term “Mother Earth” or sailors who refer to the ocean as a “she.” Most cultures understand that “she” is immanent, here-and-now. Have you ever heard our planet referred to as “Father Earth”? Of course not. Every culture I have ever read about uses the term “Mother Earth.” I don’t know why this is, but I’ll give it a shot: It’s because deep in every human’s heart we know that Earth is life-giving, relationship-based, like a woman. “Woman is the archetype of humanity,” wrote St. John Paul II. Why? Because God creates us and pursues us.

God is transcendent and beyond. The primacy of self-donation relies first upon God. We never asked to be created. Not men. Not women. He first loved us. No one thought to invite the second person of the Trinity to earth to save us. Not men. Not women. Woman therefore is the archetype of the Church, for we all stand in reception mode before God, albeit in a non-sexual way. Still, the sexual act is a dim reflection of this reality: Man gives in order to receive and woman receives in order to give. The Church remains feminine in a state of reception, for only Jesus can give the Eucharist through his priests. (On a personal note, I believe that is why I am so turned-off by women distributing the body of Christ. It is not because women are less holy. Rather, if a theology of the body has anything to do with the Mass, the notion of female EMHCs promotes the same reality spiritually that transvestitism promotes physically: Living outside the roles of the primacy of the gift of the body. That sounds polemical, but only if gender matters neither for marriage nor for the liturgy. The one thing you can’t do is disapprove of same-sex marriage and then claim that the above paragraph is extreme.)
Even the male anatomy points beyond, like the straight lines of the Liturgy of Old. It is transcendent, beyond itself, gazing to the heavens…not gazing in the eyes of parishioners with a goofy smile. Circles, on the other hand, represent the uterus, the immanent gift of a woman to form children and maintain children within her—within her physically for nine months, and within her heart spiritually for decade after decade after decade. Men know this love spans continents. This is why most dying soldiers in the jungle of a foreign country clamor in their stupor for their mother. The dying men need to be back in the immanent arms of mercy, of compassion. Sometimes, the very body that once gave life has the capacity to bring something back to life by simple nurturing and love. This is why these men cry (rightly! usually but not always!) for their Mom, not their Dad.

Most Americans now believe in the reality of the above paragraph, even if they don’t like stereotyping. But I would argue that this is why the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is so important right now. Barring abortion and contraception, the West understands the role of mother and immanence. However we have lost the notion of the transcendent—the reality of God as Father. This goes beyond the fact that the Latin Mass doesn’t have hyper-immanent music like “Let us build the city of God.” (Yes, God, perhaps we could use Your help in building Your city.) Rather, the Latin Mass is all about God. Consider which direction the priest faces, and the volume of his voice. The little sinful priest is in the presence of a formidable Majesty of infinite holiness. We have to ask: How did Moses speak on Mt. Sinai? What if Moses had turned His back on God—even if it were to try to win the people to God for good reasons? What fool would turn his back on the lightning, thunder, trumpets and smoke? Both in Old and New Testament, the priest is making propitiation to God; he is speaking to God; God is transcendent in a way that is far beyond the little priest. This is why the Latin Mass is anything but clericalistic.

The priest speaks on behalf of the community, but he is not speaking to the community in an immanent, relationship-based way (except for the homily which is considered a pause of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to traditional Catholic teaching.) Why? Because in the sacrifice itself, the priest (both Hebrew and Catholic) is making sacrifice for the community, and the community’s opinion of him is irrelevant. In the Old Testament, the priest is there to “sanctify for the purification of the flesh” and the New Testament priest goes beyond this to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:13, 14)
I don’t know what Dr. Pitre thinks of the Latin Mass, but now that we understand transcendent and immanent, male and female (from the Scriptures) I want to bring this theology and anthropology to the Liturgy itself and give four reasons why the Extraordinary Form of the Mass wonderfully maintains the masculine transcendent in a unifying way:

1) The quiet voice of the priest reminds the people that God is beyond them. “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak, eyes, but do not see.”—Psalm 115

2) The Traditional Latin Mass, where everyone faces the same direction, is a reminder that moral doctrine is not determined by looking within the community but outwards to Divine Revelation. Usually the sermon at the TLM conveys this reality too, but not always.

3) The priest is a father, and it is he who is given the gift by God to launch his family transcendently into the world by strengthening them with the Holy Eucharist. Dr. Brandt Pitre quotes a stunning secular statistic: Children will imitate their mother’s religious habits from age 1-13 but they will imitate their father’s religious habits from age 14 to death. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but it was upwards of 80% or 90%. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass respects this in having no Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (most of whom are women in the Ordinary Form, statistically speaking.) Ite Missa Est is translated by Archbishop Fulton Sheen as: “Go. The sacrifice has been sent to God.” Do you notice how masculine and transcendent that is? Of course, this is no truer in Latin than it is in English. That’s not the point of departure. The rub is this: Who gave you Holy Communion is going to be spiritually linked to your transcendent launch (a father’s role) into a hostile world. Of course, the Eucharist is still the strengthening body of Christ regardless of the hands of the distributor. But look at the very vocabulary of the previous sentence. This is why within Byzantine Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, the role of the priest as sole-distributor of Holy Communion is not only psychological, but essential to respecting the sacrifice and even the ordering of the angels. Why? Because the order of the angels—all of whom are present at Divine Liturgy in varying ranks—is ontologically reflected in the role of the male and female genders within this supreme act of worship. The priest functions as Christ; the deacon symbolizes an angel; the head-covered-woman symbolizes Mary (or even the wholeness of the Church.) For the Eastern Fathers, few crimes could compare with disrupting this order of worship and the distribution of the Sacred Mysteries. Folks, few off Athos are fighting over the Filioque anymore! I firmly believe that ecumenism with the East will fail until we fix our own liturgy.

4) The externals of the Traditional Latin Mass highlight the fact that the Mass is a sacrifice before it is a meal. Venerable Fulton Sheen pointed out how grotesque it would be if the Old Testament sacrifice animal were first eaten before it was sacrificed. So also, the Catholics who clamor for a Eucharistic meal but refuse to live sacrifice become “parasites on the Body of Christ,” according to Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

The transcendence of a sacrifice belongs to a male priesthood, called to go outside of his family, for the primacy of self-donation relies upon the man to make atonement before a God of infinite love and infinite holiness. The form of the Mass offered will naturally reflect the type of priest that you get, and vice versa. A priest who has formed himself to be an entertainer for Christ’s people will still be an entertainer, even with purified intentions of the salvation of souls. But a priest who sees his role as both self-immolating victim and sacrifice-confector will live in that way—joyful that He stands with Christ—but awesomely aware of eternal consequences.
We’re in a crisis of being unable to accept a quiet, transcendent priest who will not change doctrine. Not unlinked, we’re afraid of the silence and majesty of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. People understand that we have to be kind and talkative (immanent) but they do not understand that Divine Revelation and worship must touch upon the transcendent. As Dr. Pitre said, the most masculine thing ever said was: “This is my body given up for you.” The most feminine thing ever said was “Be it done unto me according to your will.” This is the life of Christ and His Church. The Son of God first lived in His Triune glory beyond us, and then (and only then) can we name it as a beautiful surprise that His Majesty would choose to be immanently Emmanuel, God-With-Us.