This is today’s homily, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost in the TLM calendar, preached in Steamboat Springs for this new groom and bride, Keenan Fitzpatrick and Brianna Fitzpatrick (née Lawson.)
In the 16th Sunday after Pentecost (Traditional Latin Mass Calendar) the Apostle Paul writes I bow my knees before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.—Eph 3. In the homily I only quoted five of these, but included here 1 are all of the promises that the Mother of God made (through St. Dominic) to all people who pray the Rosary daily.
1) To all those who shall recite my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and very great graces.
2) Those who shall persevere in the recitation of my Rosary shall receive some signal grace.
3) The Rosary shall be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin, and dispel heresy.
4) The Rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies; it will substitute in hearts love of God for love of the world, and will lift them to the desire of heavenly and eternal things. How many souls shall sanctify themselves by this means!
5) Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary, shall not perish.
6) Those who shall recite my Rosary devoutly, meditating on its mysteries, shall not be overwhelmed by misfortune. The sinner shall be converted; the just shall grow in grace and become worthy of eternal life.
7) Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
8) Those who recite my Rosary shall find during their life and at their death the light of God, the fullness of His graces, and shall share in the merits of the blessed.
9) I shall deliver very promptly from purgatory the souls devoted to my Rosary.
10) The true children of my Rosary shall enjoy great glory in heaven.
11) What you ask through my Rosary, you shall obtain.
12) Those who propagate my Rosary shall be aided by me in all their necessities.
13) I have obtained from my Son that all the members of the Rosary Confraternity shall have for their brethren the saints of heaven during their life and at the hour of death.
14) Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are all my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
15) Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.↩
A friend of mine who is a beautiful wife and mother of seven children was in a supermarket this week. A 50 year old man stopped her and then sarcastically asked her if she knew what “caused” having seven kids. She texted me about this and then added her and her husband’s thoughts on this:
Some days the world just wears you down and a part of you starts to feel like maybe you are a freak. Not just about having a lot of kids, but about everything. And then you realize you need to spend some time in adoration and start to once again see life through Jesus’ eyes and not the world’s. The world is so blind and hard-hearted that what is beautiful and sacred just can’t be comprehended by it.
Why is the world so hard-hearted to Christians today?
As I said earlier, it’s not because we’re being hateful on issues of sexuality. So why do Catholics constantly get mocked for following Christ and His Church in the silence of their homes? Is it because they’re secretly judging their neighbors and everyone feels it? Maybe…but I think today’s feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist can shed light on the psychology of the conviction of conscience.
Now, there’s a lot of Herods in the Bible but I want to consider Herod Antipas (20 BC-AD 40), the tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea. He’s the one who mocked Jesus before His execution. He’s also the one who ordered John the Baptist’s death for having spoken out against his adulterous relationship.
Now, most Bible movies do a pretty good job at capturing the love/hate relationship between Herod and the Baptist because of this one very rich line in the Gospel: “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.”—Mark 6:20
I believe it was Earnest Hemingway, an unbeliever, who liked to travel the Deep South of the USA and listen to fire and brimstone homilies in Baptist Churches. Apparently it made him feel alive, or at least he heard these homilies “gladly.” This curiosity was also found in Herod.
But of the 2.5 million people populating first century Palestine, why would a somewhat-powerful governor like Herod move beyond curiosity towards the murder of a homeless man who had been calling him out for living with his brother’s wife? I mean, really—2.5 million people are silent about his adultery, and then one guy who is half-dressed in skins and eating crickets calls this magistrate out for a sexual sin many miles away on the Jordan River and Herod panics? What exactly got under Herod’s skin? Or better, what gets under Herodias‘ skin? The answer is that they secretly recognize John the Baptist as the mouthpiece of the one, true God they are running from.
As I wrote in a post called Mercy Killing of Consciences:
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.
I know John the Baptist wasn’t a baptized Catholic, but killing John the Baptist was Herod trying to kill his own conscience, for Herod’s conscience was not created by Herod-himself in a relativistic way, but by God-Himself in an objective way.
That’s why Obama wants to stop the Little Sisters of the Poor in the HHS mandate . That’s why a 50 year old man in a supermarket harasses a young mother of seven. Both bullies know that that’s how they should have lived. If you think this is an exaggeration, then what other explanation would there be for them to go out of their way? It has to be personal conviction of conscience at how others silently live their lives for God:
“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us, and opposes our actions…the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.”—Wisdom 2:12a, 15
I don’t know that supermarket stalker’s past, but statistically an American man of his age has already paid for one to two abortions, not to mention one or two dozen dead children from several decades of abortifacient-pills-induced sex. I don’t know this guy’s conscience, heart or past, but I’m just saying statistically this is the truth for an American male of his age. (Do the math if you want.) Of course he’s going to feel convicted by a Catholic woman who lived the way he should have. His conviction came out as sarcasm. Herodias’ came out as murder.
There’s only one truth of how humans should live, and it’s entirely found in the Catholic Church, so we should probably stop apologizing so much. Yes, it’s true that we Catholics lost a lot of credibility in the priest scandals of the past 50 years that destroyed so many lives, and for that we do need to keep apologizing. But the Truth remains on walking billboards like my friend in the supermarket. She and many others are heroes and white martyrs of marriage, like John the Baptist was a hero of marriage carrying his red martyrdom in the picture above. They’re both formidable Marriage Defenders: one married, and one celibate.
I wasn’t so clear on this at first. Yesterday, I texted my friend back that I would have punched that a** in the face if I had been there in King Soopers.
Later, I realized that creeping behind that broken old creeper’s sarcasm was probably a hunger and even sadness for the family he had contracepted away. In the face of such brokenness and/or hostility (only God knows) it can still make us wonder how to act. Here’s my suggestion: Catholics are not called to act like weird-o-cult people who act strange in order to appear holy. But we are called to live normal, fun lives in a way that seeks Christ fully, especially in the Eucharist and in the daily Rosary. Doing simply that may make others say of us: “The very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others.”
Once we boldly but humbly accept the fact that our manner of life is unlike that of others, then it’s easy “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”—Titus 3:2-5
The reason why the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox hesitantly accept divorce and remarriage today can be traced back to a 9th century synod, where Greece had a pre-emptive episode of England’s Henry VIII’s libido issues. In fact, the Greek bishops of the 9th century held a synod to recognize the legitimacy of the emperor Constantine’s second marriage. A Greek monk, St. Theodore, stood alone in the breach, calling this synod the “Adultery-Synod,” moecho-synodus in Greek. Like history that would be repeated seven hundred years later in England with Henry VIII versus St. Thomas More, the Greek bishops and the emperor stood behind the synod of adultery, not behind the saint.
St. Theodore the Studite was also a champion in speaking against slavery and iconoclasm (removing pictures from Churches.) But in upholding traditional marriage, he suffered the most. He was whipped, imprisoned and exiled away from his monastery. The saint not only blew the whistle on the emperor, but also on those priests who gave silent consent to his sin. St. Theodore said that in “crowning adultery, the priest, Giuseppe, is in opposition to the teachings of Christ and has violated the law of God.” Roberto de Mattei remarks that “for Theodore, the Patriarch Tarasios had likewise to be condemned, since, even if not approving the new marriage, he showed himself tolerant of it, thus avoiding the Emperor’s excommunication and the priest Giuseppe’s punishment.”
St. Theodore simply stood by Jesus Christ who said: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”—Luke 16:18
Before applying this to the upcoming synod, I want to consider an important question of Catholic morality: When a monk-saint quotes Scripture against his own bishops, how is this different from Martin Luther? If both used the Bible-alone for morality, then how could it be true that one died a heretic and the other a saint? Indeed, even the 1983 Code of Canon Law says “Christ’s faithful are bound to adhere, with a religious submission of mind, to this authentic magisterium of their Bishops.”—Can 753. Where do we draw the line as Catholics?
Before getting to the answer, I want to further build up my argument against St. Theodore. Orthodox and Catholic theologies rightly consider the transmission of truth to flow through the hierarchy of the Church (Bishops to Priests to Laity.) This is a reflection of the hierarchy of truth given through the 9 choirs of angels (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, etc.) This hierarchy of communication should not be broken. This is how Orthodox and Catholics are different from Protestants: The order of hierarchies is not to be considered clericalist, but angelic.
For humans, the true interpretation of Sacred Scripture comes from God through the bishops through the priests through the parents to the children. This is how catechesis should work. Notice this beautiful cascading down of the truth. Similarly, within the angelic choirs’ hierarchy, there is a cascading-down of truth, but it is a non-verbal, angelic illumination: The angels who are closest to God, the Seraphim, communicate down to the Cherubim and likewise to the Thrones to the Dominations to the Powers to the Principalities to the Archangels to the Angels to finally the angels’ work in our lives on earth. (Notice that the highest angels do nothing but contemplation and the lowest angels deal with measly human affairs.)
In any case, besides the hierarchy of the transmission of truth among the angels revealing the perversity of a Sola-Scriptura-interpretation of Divine Revelation, there is the positive and beautiful call to an order of obedience to the hierarchy in this transmission of truth in both communities—on earth and in heaven. This obedience of low angels to high angels was never violated.
Except for once—now my counterargument—when St. Michael the Archangel himself attacked Lucifer for placing himself above God Almighty. During the great angelic battle in heaven (Rev 12:7), the military ranks were indeed broken and God blessed the lower angel reminding the disobedient higher angel that no one is like God (מיכאל, Mi-cha-El? Who is like God?) Not even the Seraphim are like God.
Not even the bishops. Martin Luther broke rank against the bishops to begin a mutiny against Divine Revelation on marriage. St. Theodore the Studite broke rank against the bishops to end a mutiny against Divine Revelation of Marriage. Actually, Theodore never broke rank. He essentially said Who is like God’s Divine Revelation on the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. Even in this, Theodore obeyed the Church hierarchy who supported the Emperors who threw him into exile three times. He never started a new “Church.” Theodore suffered within the Church—not without in schism—all for the sake of the truth. Holy Orders must be honored, but still Theodore gave primacy of place to God: No synod can change the truth of the Gospels and the traditional Magisterium.
People often say that the sensus fidei (sense of the faithful on doctrinal issues) is infallible, implying that we need a democratic vote of doctrines like contraception. Bishop Morlino of Madison wonderfully answers these people by reminding them that the infallibility of sensus fidei actually includes not only those Catholics alive, but also those dead: the billions of Catholics who have gone before these dark days, who held firm to the truths of the Gospel (or at least tried to, an important attraction to the Divine Mercy of Our Redeemer.)
Speaking of ancestors, all four of my mother’s grandparents relocated in the early 20th century from Counties Mayo and Roscommon, Ireland to the South Side of Chicago. Thus, I have a great love for Chicago Catholicism. My heart broke when I read the new Archbishop’s homily from this week (23 August 2015.) Archbishop Cupich said the following about the upcoming synod of sexuality:
“With the upcoming synod, it is clear that the Holy Father is calling the Church to examine our categories of expression about what we believe and be open to new avenues and creativity when it comes to accompanying families. All of this has much to say to us in Chicago, that we not settle for solutions that no longer work, expressions that no longer inspire and ways of working that stifle creativity and collaboration.”
With my extended family’s roots in Chicago, I have to wonder: Which expression of Catholicism is not working in Chicago? Bernadin’s seamless garment? Or perhaps Cupich is speaking of the many families found in this video of a Mass in Chicago in 1941, narrated by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with Archbishop Cupich’s denotation in the above quote. He said nothing heretical in the above quote. But let’s remember: Only a legalistic society considers denotation without connotation. Is the connotation of Archbishop Cupich’s quote that the Catholic Church will integrate “creativity” in regards to doctrinal “solutions that no longer work” in reference to the morality of homosexual actions or Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried? We’ll have to wait until the synod to see!
Telescoping outside of the world of sexual morality, let me say a brief word on the morality of the tongue and pen: I wonder how many of us Catholics of all vocations, priest and laity, right or left, think that we’ll be able to stand before God at our death and justify our small lies and large deceptions of others by saying things like, “Technically in my denotation, I did not say…”
We priests and bishops will answer to God for teaching sins of both commission and omission, for God will not be tricked by our legalistic subterfuge. I think that at our judgment, each one of us will answer both for the denotations and connotations of our words. We will answer not only for what we “technically” said, but for the fruits in others’ lives produced by our teachings and even attitudes.
These fruits (life-based or rotten) found in others’ lives (most especially our children’s catechesis, be them our spiritual children or biological children) will all be made clear at the General Judgment, for then we will see the outcome of the lives that we formed so intimately. There will be no word games at the General Judgment—only an arrival at our eternal reward—where we join those we guided in word and example, for better…or for worse.
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!
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:
- CIVIL RIGHTS
- CHURCH AND STATE
- 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:
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
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
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-Padre” 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:
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.