Pope Francis is Wrong About the Death Penalty. Here’s Why.

This article by Steve Skojec from his site One Peter Five.  It details the reasons for the death penalty in Catholic teaching.  Please read it carefully.

In light of today’s news that the pope has “changed the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the death penalty, saying it can never be sanctioned”, we are reprinting this as a reference point for concerned Catholics. – SS, 8/2/2018

When the first version of this column was originally published in March, 2015, it was occasioned by comments made by Pope Francis to the effect that the Death Penalty is never justified. Since then, it has become necessary to revise and update it, due to additional comments on the topic from the pope. Of particular note, these appeared in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (83), which states: “the Church not only feels the urgency to assert the right to a natural death, without aggressive treatment and euthanasia”, but likewise “firmly rejects the death penalty”.

You can read the rest here:  https://onepeterfive.com/pope-francis-wrong-death-penalty-heres/

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Winter Approaches

The spiritual equivalent of the approaching demographic winter in Europe and the world has surely taken a firm hold in Ireland. A recent report (April 03 2018) in the Irish Examiner on the state of the Catholic Church in Ireland paints a very grim picture of the future for the Faithful in this country. Contrast this with the visit of the last (and first) papal visit in 1979. Thirty eight years of continuing secularisation has brought about a huge change of attitudes in Ireland towards the Church and the Faith and coupled with an abandonment of the traditional catechism has resulted in a largely clueless laity who are antagonistic towards the Catholic Faith.
“On the ground, a survey of archdioceses and dioceses around the country shows an ageing priesthood, with human resources stretched. It has meant parishes relying more on the laity, particularly the volunteering parish councils, while a small but growing number of serving priests are from overseas. Senior figures within the Catholic Church are warning that the ageing profile of priests and the lack of new ordinations could mean a further reduction in its footprint around the country.
A survey of archdioceses and dioceses highlights the changing face of the Catholic Church in Ireland. It found that human resources are being stretched, that a small but growing number of parishes are without a resident priest, and that there is an increased role for deacons and for priests coming to serve from overseas. At least half of the 25 archdioceses and dioceses around the country have seen an aggregate fall in the number of priests serving within them in the past five years, while almost half have parishes which have had to reduce the number of Mass services they can offer. A handful of dioceses and archdioceses have parishes which do not have a resident priest or share a priest with another parish — with warnings that this could increase unless there is a rise in the number of people who can serve.”
The various dioceses are struggling and there are a few notable attempts to combat the incontrovertible decline. None of these however would appear to be particularly Catholic. For instance the report states that the Archdiocese of Armagh established a seminary in 2012, based in Dundalk, Co Louth — The Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary. The 17 seminarians who are studying there are part of Neocatechumenal Way communities throughout the world and will be ordained as priests of the Archdiocese of Armagh. The Neocatechumenal way is a pseudo Catholic organisation which teaches Lutheran doctrines and has closed liturgies which have split parishes around the world. Indeed they have been ejected from many dioceses internationally because of their cult like behaviour and heterodox teaching. This cuckoo in the nest is seen as a good thing by the preeminent See in the country!

 

The diocese of Limerick has taken another direction. In 2016 it held a Synod. “The Synod was a three-day gathering of 400 delegates — 300 lay and 60% female — in Limerick after an 18-month listening process that engaged with over 5,000 people across the diocese. Some 97 proposals across six themes that covered the biggest issues for the Church were agreed.” A synod historically has been held from time to time in various dioceses in order to correct abuses or organise the diocese more efficiently. It involves the clergy and Bishop and few lay people. This was thus a far cry from a true synod and the results (see the pastoral plan here http://www.synod2016.com/sy/assets/File/2016/LimerickDiocesePastoralPlan2016.pdf) were predictable. The calls for lay leadership in liturgical and other areas, the reduction of parishes to social outlets for community organisers and the pushing of ‘green’ and other fashionable issues are to the fore. Under the heading “Liturgy and Life” the plan calls for training to be provided for lay volunteers to lead liturgies when priests are absent. I cannot see how all of this will not end up with the balkanisation of the diocese and its further distancing from the Catholic Faith.
As regards clergy from other countries serving in Irish dioceses are concerned a recent incident comes to mind. During the so called ‘Same sex marriage referendum’ a priest of Nigerian nationality, Fr. Joseph Okere, while serving as curate in St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford, preached a homily in which he stated that the Marriage referendum was the Devil’s work. It made the newspapers and was swiftly apologised for by Fr. Okere’s superior…Bishop Francis Duffy! As one member of his diocese wrote in a letter to him,
“The priest didn’t say anything that was untrue (if the report was accurate) and he was speaking in the Cathedral of the diocese. So why did you feel the need to apologise? You would appear to have internalised the commands of the Church’s oppressors.
The report states that one person walked out because he did not like what was being preached, “I am a Catholic and gay and I have never felt unwanted, but this was like something you would have heard 30 years ago. The Church just has to stop this – enough is enough.” I’m assuming that this individual (who didn’t mind being named) means by “gay” that he is a practicing homosexual. He was given the truth by a genuinely charitable priest and you apologise for that charity. I can understand why the Independent and the Longford LGBT “community” wants the Church to succumb to the secular zeitgeist but why are you doing it’s bidding?”
The report paints a picture all too familiar to most traditional Catholics but the large mass of the country’s baptised seem to be blithely unaware of the broad road they are travelling and its inevitable end. Perhaps they simply don’t care?

Open Letter to Pope Francis From a Former Member of the Roman Curia

The following letter originally appeared in a German language magazine called ‘Focus’.  It neatly describes the pontificate of Pope Francis thus far.  With thanks to One Peter Five.

Holy Father,

On the occasion of your Christmas Allocution in 2014, you called on your curial employees to make first an examination of conscience. Indeed, Advent is an occasion to reflect upon the promises of God and what He expects from us. You claimed that your employees had to be an example for the whole Church, and you then listed a several “illnesses” from which, in your view, the Curia is now suffering. At the time, I had considered this statement to be rather harsh – yes, even unjust – against so many in the Vatican whom I know personally – while you were talking, instead, as if you knew the Vatican, but either only from the outside or only from above. Nevertheless, this speech of yours has actually inspired me to write this letter to you. Following your own example, I shall omit to speak about all the good that you are doing and are speaking and I shall thus only list those aspects of your exercise of the papal office which seem to me to be problematic:

1. An emotional and anti-intellectual attitude of yours which is often tangible and which has difficulties in dealing with theories and doctrines

The alternative to the Teaching Church is the Arbitrary Church, and not the Merciful Church. Among not a few of your own chosen employees and close counselors, there is to be found a true lack of competence, both in teaching and in theology; these men often have behind them a career within the Church’s government or in a university’s administration, and they think rather all too often in pragmatic and political terms. You, as the Supreme Teacher of the Church, thus have to make clearer the primacy of the Faith – for your own sake, and for the sake of all Catholics. Faith without doctrine does not exist.

2. Authoritarianism

You are distancing yourself from the wisdom which is preserved in the Church’s traditional discipline, in Canon Law, and also in the historical practices of the Curia. Together with your disdain for (supposedly) theoretical teaching, this propensity leads to an authoritarianism of which even the founder of your Order of Jesuits, St. Ignatius himself, would not approve. Do you really accept those admonitory voices who say what you, personally, do not immediately see nor understand? What would happen if you were now to know my own name? It would be helpful to act in a less authoritarian way in order to change the current climate of fear.

3. A populism of change

Today, it is popular to call for change. However, especially the Successor of Peter has to remind himself and others of that which changes only slowly, and even more so of that which does not change at all. Do you really believe that the approval which you receive from the opinion-makers in the realm of politics and of the media is a good sign? Christ did not promise or prophesy to Peter popularity in the media and status in a star cult (John 21:18). A great many of your statements awaken wrong expectations and give the harmful impression that the teaching and discipline of the Church could and should be adapted to the changing opinions of the majority. The Apostle Paul is here of another opinion (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:14)

4. Your own conduct is seen as a critique of how your (often canonized) predecessors have lived, talked, and acted

I cannot recognize how this attitude comports with the humility which you have so many times invoked and demanded. Such humility is indeed needed, especially when it is about continuing the tradition which goes back to the Apostle Peter. Your conduct implicitly proposes the idea that you intend to re-invent somehow the Petrine Office. Instead of preserving faithfully the heritage of your predecessors, you want to acquire it [the heritage] in a quite creative way. But, did Saint John not say: “He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?

5. Pastoralism

Only recently, you said that you especially like those parts of the papacy where you can act like a pastor. Of course, neither a pope nor a pastor should raise any doubts as to whether the Church is following the teaching of Christ in everything she currently does (Pastoral Care, Sacraments, Liturgy, Catechesis, Theology, Caritas); finally, everything depends upon the revealed Faith as it comes to us in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and which is thus binding upon the consciences of the faithful. We cannot even live the Faith and pass it on to others, if we do not know it. Without a good theory, we are – in the long run – not able to act in a good manner. Without teaching in the field of pastoral care, we shall only have emotional and largely adventitious successes.

6. Exaggerated display of the simplicity of your own way of life

Of course, you want to set an example – but is it better for you yourself to take care of all kinds of daily chores? In ascetical questions, the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing (Mt 6:3); otherwise, the whole thing appears somehow to be insincere. If you really want to drive cars that are ecological, you have to invest, by the way, much more, or to ask someone to give you as a gift the more expensive technology that is thus needed: for. ecology has its price.

7. A particularism which often subjugates the goals and purposes of the Universal Church under the viewpoints of only a part of the Church

This attitude appears nearly comical with regard to a pope. Additionally, our world is now much more interconnected, more mobile, and more proximate than ever. Especially today, it is a treasure that the Catholic Church is throughout the whole world always the same. It corresponds to the global life realities that Catholics in all countries live, pray, and think in a similar vein (and with each other together).

8. An urge for constant spontaneity

A lack of professionalism is not a sign for the working of the Holy Ghost. Expressions like “to breed like rabbits,” or “Who am I to judge…?” might possibly impress some kinds of people, but, in reality, they lead to grave misunderstandings. Constantly, others have to explain what you really meant to say. To act without a plan and outside of the protocol has its time and place – but it should not become the standard. You owe this respect to your employees (in Rome and in the whole world). The measure of spontaneity is much smaller among popes than among pastors.

9. Lack of clarity about the interconnectedness of religious, political, and economic freedom

Many of your statements indicate that the state should rule more, control more, and be responsible for more areas, especially in the economic and social field. We in Europe are used to very strong states. However, history has proven wrong the idea that the state can take care of everything. The Church has to defend non-governmental institutions which can provide things that the state could not provide (in that way). Against the tendency to expect everything from the state, the Church has to help people to take care of their own lives. The welfare state can also become too powerful, and with it, too paternalistic, authoritarian, and illiberal.

10. Meta-Clericalism

On the one hand, you show very little interest in the clergy, on the other hand, you criticize a clericalism which is more of a phantom than something that is real. One cannot compensate for this lack of interest with a good intention or with statements in front of smaller groups. The bishops and priests have to know again that the pope stands behind them when they defend the Gospels “in season and out of season,” even if it is done in a way that does not personally please the pope. It is not good that some think that the pope sees many things quite differently from the Catechism, and that others then imitate him in order to make a career under this pontificate. As a pope, you of necessity have to serve the continuity and Tradition of the Church – even non-Catholic Christians are of this opinion. It may well be better for you to cut back on your innovations and provocations; we anyway already have many people who do that. Your Magisterium, as such, is already in itself the ultimate provocation and innovation – after all, you are the Representative of Christ and the supreme teacher of our supernatural Faith. “Grace, Mercy, and Peace” are coming “from God, the Father, and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in Truth and Love” (2 John 1:3); and they only come together in a complete package. If, during this coming Year of Mercy, you are now preparing yourself for Christmas, please take this occasion as an incentive to find out for yourself what you have yourself neglected in the recent past. Let yourself be helped by your own employees who will only learn from you if you are willing to learn something from them. Like me, many others have difficulties with the way you sometimes talk and act. But that can be fixed, if it becomes clear that you listen to what others have to tell you. Unfortunately, I know that you are not yet capable of dealing well with such criticism – that is why I do not put my name on this letter. I want to protect my superiors against your wrath, especially the priests and bishops with whom I have worked for many years in Rome and from whom I have learned so much. You might want to work on taking away such fears – from me and from others – or, even better, to make such letters as this one superfluous, namely, by learning something from others.

In this spirit, may you have a blessed and contemplative Season of Advent!

A Chaplain of Your Holiness

Who Are We To Judge?

who-am-i-to-judge-

While certainly affirming our Lord’s teaching to go out into the highways and by-ways to seek the lost and of being a light to the world, have you ever run across a situation where you simply cannot put yourself in the presence of a particular individual(s) because of the lifestyle they choose to live? People whose manifest and unrepentant sins are so scandalous that you believe it would be spiritually damaging for you or your family to engage with them in any way? People whom you basically shun or shut out of your daily life intentionally?

We all have these people – and maybe you feel a little bit bad about your approach to them? Maybe you feel conflicted. After all, you remember the “sinners and tax collectors” stuff from the New Testament and the “who is my neighbor?” stuff and you wonder whether it is really just to simply exclude a person from your life because of their sins. After all, you were a sinner and God did not exclude you.

My friends, this is not a happy-clappy blog, and I am not going to go into a moralizing lesson on how we ought not to shun these people. In fact, I am going to suggest the opposite: that your guilt is misplaced and that you are right to shun or shut out manifest certain sinners from your life. In fact, the Sacred Scriptures not only allow for such shunning, but positively command it in certain circumstances. Let us take a look and the long-neglected practice of Christian “shunning”.

First, let us recall Matthew 10:12-15:

“And when you come into the house, salute it, saying: Peace be to this house. And if that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it; but if it be not worthy, your peace shall return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet. Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”

The only sin or evil that is mentioned here is the refusal of a person or persons to listen to the Gospel or be willing to receive a Christian in order to hear the Gospel. If this occurs, Jesus commands the disciples to “shake the dust from your feet”; in New Testament era jargon, this reflects a demonstration of repudiation or separation. Pious Jews used to do this after passing through a Gentile city to demonstrate their repudiation of the Gentile customs they had to endure whilst in a city on business. The command of Christ to do this signifies that the believer repudiates the unbelief of the infidel. But not only is the unbelief repudiated, but the believer must physically separate himself from the presence of the obstinate infidel by “going forth out of that house or city”; St. Paul and Barnabas do just this in Acts 13:50-51 after meeting hostility in Pisidia. They shake the dust off their feet and move on to another city, leaving the unbelievers to themselves.

Note also our Lord not only commands repudiation and physical separation, but pronounces a woeful judgment on the unbelievers.

This is not shunning in the positive sense of a believer refusing to see a scandalous sinner; rather, it is the believer removing himself from the presence of obstinate unbelievers. But the principle is introduced that a physical separation from an obstinate infidel – and that word obstinate is key – is sometimes necessary.

Jesus also discusses shunning in Matthew 18:15-17:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

First, note that this is applied to “your brother”; i.e., another member of the Church. That this is evident is denoted by Christ’s reference to “the Church” as the authority the two brethren can take their problem to. If the errant brother was not also a member of the Church, why would the Church have jurisdiction to hear the case? So Christ applies this teaching to other Christians, not unbelievers in general.

Second, the obstinacy of the brother who refuses to listen “even to the Church” merits shunning. “Let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” means shun him; it is common knowledge that pious Jews shunned the company and homes of Gentiles and tax collectors, and Jesus’ admonition is that one remaining obstinate in his sins is to be shunned by the Church.

Let us go on to 1 Corinthians, where we see St. Paul has taken the concept of physical separation in cases of obstinate refusal to listen and applied it to cases of sexual immorality within the Church:

1 Corinthians 5:19-13

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

Like in Matthew 18, we see the practice of shunning being invoked to deal with cases of obstinate sin within the Church. And in case Jesus’ teaching was not clear enough, St. Paul goes to lengths to explain that he is not suggesting that Christians separate from the sinners of the world – for to do that, one would need to leave the world! On the contrary, it is those who call themselves Christian yet persist in sin who must be shunned. Notice also that, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the world, St. Paul assumes that Christians are discerning, judgmental people: “Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?”

But why do believers in obstinate sin -sexual immorality in this case – deserve to be shunned? Why not extend this to unbelievers as well? After all, sin is sin and scandal is scandal, right?

Well, not really. Adultery is always scandalous, but when adultery occurs in the case of a Christian it is especially scandalous because the Christian ought to know better. This is why St. Peter admonishes, “let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker” (1 Pet. 4:15), and also why Jesus warns that a Christian who falls into grave sin is in a much worse state than a sinner who was never in a state of grace to begin with (cf. Luke 11:23-26). In other words, there is particular scandal about obstinate sin or unbelief when one should know better. “If your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you is darkened, how dense is that darkness! (Matt. 6:23).

Note that Paul recommends a very strict separation in the case of these obstinate sinners. We are not to “associate” with these people – and as if to make sure we understand how serious Paul is, he specifies that we are not even to eat with such people. He goes on to quote Deut. 17:7, which says “purge the evil from the midst of you” and has reference to the execution of the death sentence against Israelites guilty of worshiping other gods. Given this, it would be difficult to argue in context that Paul’s admonition to shun sexually immoral Christians is not meant to be taken literally. This also demonstrates that Paul is not referring to a juridical excommunication – although excommunication is a kind of formal shunning on the part of the whole Church. Rather, he is referring to the way individual Christians are to treat other individual Christians who are habitually sexually immoral.

Finally, let us turn to 2 John 1:7-11 for the next development of the practice. Christ has given us the principle that obstinate unbelievers ought to be separated from, as well as members of the Church who are obstinate sinners; St. Paul uses the example of habitual sexual immorality among Christians as an practical example of Christ’s precept and goes to great lengths to state that the separation should be total – we should neither “associate” nor “eat with” such person.

St. John the Apostle applies this to not only immoral Christians, but heretical Christians as well. Let us turn to 2 John 1:7-11:

“Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.”

St. John is speaking clearly of doctrinal deviations, for he references anyone who “does not bring this teaching.” In other words, heretics, those who obstinately refuse to “abide in the teaching of Christ”. We are to neither welcome these people nor even let them into our houses. Like St. Paul, St. John advocates a total shunning of the heretic. But unlike Paul, John gives the rationale: “To welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.”

This is an important point. Even if we personally disagree with homosexual acts, if we welcome a practicing homosexual who professes to be a Christian into our homes, we are in fact affirming his wicked lifestyle and thus sharing in his evil deeds. Remember, one of the traditional ways of partaking in the sin of another is by silence. Receiving one into the house signifies a kind of silence regarding the person’s errors; unless of course you are visiting with the person for the express purpose of calling them to repentance – the correct context in which to understand Christ’s eating with tax collectors and sinners, by the way – but the problem is too many people fraternize with heretical or immoral Christians whilst simultaneously keeping silent about their immoral lifestyles. They thus refuse to perform a spiritual work of mercy while affirming the sinner and thus sharing the guilt of their sins.

On the contrary, shunning is a type of admonition of the sinner, a kind of call to repentance by avoidance of physical communion – symbolizing that the obstinate sinner has broken communion with God and the Church. It is like a personal-social boycott against sin, and as such is actually a spiritual work of mercy.

By the way, St. John does not say this practice applies only to really bad heretics, but to “everyone” who does not abide in the teaching of Christ.

In St. John, we see the kernel of the traditional understanding of the relationship between “heresy” and “obstinacy”; heresy is defined as a kind of obstinate, inflexible refusal to believe or “abide” in sound teaching. The heretic and the habitually immoral Christian are to be shunned because their obstinacy is a scandal and to continue to commune and associate with them as if nothing were wrong would be to make us complicit in their sins. This is why St. Athanasius refused to receive communion with Arius and why St. John the Apostle removed himself from a public building when he learned a notable heretic was inside (St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III.3.4).

So what sorts of practical conclusions can we draw here?

First, there are appropriate situations for actively shunning the company of other people. Who? According to the New Testament, other Christians who are obstinately living in sin, especially sexual immorality, as well as heretics. We do not go out of our way to avoid the sinners of the world – those folks are targets for conversion and anyhow its impossible to get away from them ultimately. But we do expect a certain degree of behavior and fidelity “on the inside” of the Church, to use St. Paul’s language. Those Christians who obstinately refuse to maintain it ought to be avoided. What sorts of people in your life fit this description?

Second, that this shunning is physical and total – refusal to associate with, eat with, or even greet these people. How would this look in your life were it put into practice?

Third, that refusal to do so in fact makes us guilty of these people’s sins. It is not an act of Christian charity to invite your lesbian niece and her girlfriend over for Christmas dinner while not saying anything to them about their sin. In fact, to do so would make you guilty of sharing in their sin. Examine your conscience here.

Fourth, in all these cases, Christ, St. Paul and St. John are all more interested in preserving the integrity and sanctity of the faithful believer than worrying about the feelings of the obstinate sinner being shunned. So should we.

Fifth, we need to keep this teaching in proper perspective. After a person repents, we are to welcome them back joyfully (cf. Luke 15:7, 2 Cor. 2:6-11, Luke 15:22-24). Furthermore, this cannot be used as an excuse to avoid evangelism. As we said above, this teaching clearly applies to those called by the name of Christ, not unbelievers in need of Christ.

Finally, it is not arrogant judgmentalism or Pharisaism. St. Paul himself affirms that it is our business to judge those “on the inside.” Still, such judgments should be made in humility, not out of a sense of superiority.

So do not feel guilty that you did not invite your lesbian niece and her girlfriend to the family party. Put away your nagging questions about whether you ought to attend the third marriage of your Uncle Gary. You are doing the correct thing by shunning these people. To do otherwise is to affirm their evil deeds and partake in them. There is a place for shunning in Catholicism, and if we weren’t so paralyzed by seeming judgmental or harsh, we would realize it.

“So shall you purge the evil from your midst.” ~Deut. 17:7

This is taken from the blog “Unam Sanctam Catholicam”.  The title is mine.