THURSDAY     March 9, 2000    vol. 11, no. 49    SECTION ONE

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SECTION ONE Contents: Go immediately to the article:
  • Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW - second part of his column on priests
  • THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS - Yesterday's Ash Wednesday Papal Audience
  • APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH: Installment 128: Actual Sin - part one
  • Events that occurred today in Church History


  • Priests should be respected as such and treated with the utmost charity in all things for Canon Law commands this behavior from all

       In his column today, Pat Ludwa continues his thread on the priesthood. Last Monday he dealt with how the world has infiltrated many within the ranks of this hallowed fraternity dedicated to Christ. Today he outlines, through the guidelines of Sacred Scripture and Canon Law, how we must treat our priests regardless of their faults. In a positive spin he clearly delineates that we must be charitable in every way. While there will always be personality clashes, never should we attack a priest personally in word or deed for he is consecrated before God and is an Alter Christi in confecting the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, soul and Divinity at Holy Mass. He also, through his vows and the sacraments, has the power to bind and loose as Our Lord charged Peter in Matthew 16: 15. Pat points out the procedures we must take when a priest strays from Church teaching. He emphasizes that we had better be able to back up our arguments with Church documents and encyclicals when challenging the priests for they are not as dumb as some may think. Seven to thirteen years of preparation assures this. For his column today, Upholding the Priesthood, see VIEW FROM THE PEW

    Upholding the Priesthood

          The scene opened with a young priest in the confessional. "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. Well, I haven't sinned yet, but I think I might." Confused, the young priest asked what the penitent meant by that. "Father, I'm pregnant and I'm thinking of getting an abortion. What do you think I should do?" The scene moves from the priest in the confessional and pans to the woman confessing this. In her hand isn't a set of rosary beads, but a small tape recorder. She was going to 'get the goods' on this young, liberal priest.

          This was the opening scene, as best as I could recall, from the now cancelled (thank God) television show "Nothing Sacred." Volumes could be written on the errors here, not least of which is the person's violating the sacredness of the confessional. But one might ask, and it has been, what can we do about priests who violate Church teaching? Who do and teach things the Church clearly says is wrong?

          "Then said Jesus to the crowds and to His disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice'" (Matthew 23:1-3). "Christ's faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church." (Canon 212; #1)

          Because of the unique office of the priest, and of Who it is Who calls him, we are duty bound to be respectful of priests. God, calling them, also holds them to a higher standard than we could ever. But this isn't to say that we are therefore duty bound to allow error, apostasy, or even heresy to continue unchallenged.

          Priest's can err in word and/or deed. They are just as vulnerable as we all are, maybe even more so, that is why care must be taken when considers correcting or challenging a priest. First and foremost, we must consider "...as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her'" (John 8:7).

          This isn't to say we cannot correct but rather, we cannot forget that we too have sinned. A priest, being God's, is under even greater attacks, more temptations than we. When a priest falls, we shouldn't expose his fall, to the delight of his enemies or to the scandal of the Church.

          "A Patarine or a Manichean, a witness of Francis' renown and sanctity among the people, resolved to take unfair advantage of this influence to attract people to his sect, destroy their faith, and reduce the priesthood to scorn. The pastor of this parish was causing a scandal by living with a woman….."Tell me: if a priest maintains a concubine and thereby stains his hands, must we believe in his teaching and respect the sacraments he administers."….in the presence of all the parishioners he went to the priest's house, knelt down before him and said: "I do not really know whether these hands are stained as the other man claims they are. In any case, I do know that, even if they are, this in no way lessens the power and efficacy of the sacraments of God; those hands remain the channel whereby God's graces and blessings stream down on the people. That is why I kiss them out of respect for what they administer and out of respect for Him who delegated His authority to them" (St. Francis of Assisi; Omnibus of Sources, pgs 1605-1606).

          Needless to say, if a priest, or any religious, commits a crime, such as child abuse, action should be taken. However, we should not add to it by creating or spreading rumors. If the charge is found to be possible, they should be reported to his superior, either the Diocesan bishop, or his Order's Minister. If we do anything else, we just "destroy their faith, and reduce the priesthood to scorn" as the heretic above tried. "No one may unlawfully harm the good reputation which a person enjoys, or violate the right of every person to protect his or her privacy" (Canon 220).

          But what of a priest who teaches what the Church expressly forbids? First, we again, must approach this with charity. It is possible, even probable considering the state of many of our seminaries that they do not know that they are teaching in opposition to what the Church teaches.

          We have must first be sure that what he teaches, explicitly or implicitly is opposed to what the Church teaches. We're all aware of the abuses and errors which have been hoisted on the Church in the 'spirit' of Vatican II rather than what Vatican II actually teaches. We cannot help a priest if we go and say, "Father, you're mistaken to say such and such, because the Church teaches otherwise", and not be able to show him where the Church actually teaches it. Nothing is worse than saying that some unnamed teaching or encyclical says something. Is he supposed to take our word for it? He's probably had teachers, far more qualified than we, who have taught him something else.

          "To lay members of Christ's faithful belongs the right to have acknowledged as theirs that freedom in secular affairs which is common to all citizens. In using this freedom, however, they are to ensure that their actions are permeated with the spirit of the Gospel, and they are to heed the teaching of the Church proposed by the Magisterium, but they must be on guard, in questions of opinion, against proposing their own view as the teaching of the Church" (Canon 227).

          One may even wonder if they have the right to approach a priest in this. "Christ's faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church. They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals" (Canon 212; 2 and 3).

          This doesn't imply a spiritual free for all. "Christ's faithful have the right to worship God according to the provisions of their own rite approved by the lawful Pastors of the Church; they also have the right to follow their own form of spiritual life, provided it is in accord with Church teaching" (Canon 214).

          So, let's say that you have gone to your Pastor or priest, trying to point out his error, and he rebuffs you. You have all the Encyclicals, Vatican II and other Council documents, the Catechism, etc, and he still rebuffs you, then... "Christ's faithful may lawfully vindicate and defend the rights they enjoy in the Church, before the competent ecclesiastical forum in accordance with the law" (Canon 221).

          If after doing all you could, you have the right, even the duty, to take it to his bishop or superior. Again, at no time, have we the right to spread rumor, innuendo, or aspersions about him. "Lay people have the duty and the right to acquire the knowledge of Christian teaching which is appropriate to each one's capacity and condition, so that they may be able to live according to this teaching, to proclaim it and if necessary to defend it, and may be capable of playing their part in the exercise of the apostolate" (Canon 229)/

          This is simply the exhortation given us by our Lord Himself: "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 the heathen and the publican" (Matthew 18:15-17).

          The last is the most extreme. If, in love and service, you show him his error via Church teaching, and he refuses all efforts to correct him, you may be forced to seek a priest to serve your needs elsewhere. The Church doesn't encourage 'shopping' for a parish which suits you, but if one is not getting what they need, what they have the right to: "Christ's faithful have the right to be assisted by their Pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church, especially by the word of God and the sacraments" (Canon 213).

          Now, sometimes the issues go beyond the local parish level and enter the national and/or international scene. Again, no one may attack the priest personally, but one has the right and even obligation, to proclaim and defend the teachings of the Church (Canon 229).

          When Fr. Andrew Greeley wrote an article, published extensively in the US, accusing the Hierarchy for the loss of Mass attendance, etc, I wrote a response to it. When Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles wrote a pastoral letter on the Eucharist, which was published throughout the US, Mother Angelica took issue with it. It was ambiguous at best.

          In neither case, was the person of Fr. Greeley nor Bishop Mahoney attacked. And Mother Angelica was not encouraging the people of L.A. to disobey Bishop Mahoney, only that what they were teaching was, at least, suspect. Especially in the case of Mother Angelica, she had the right and duty to point out the problems with the Bishop's letter in regard to Church teaching, especially since that letter was widely distributed.

          In conclusion: "Flowing from their rebirth in Christ, there is a genuine equality of dignity and action among all of Christ's faithful. Because of this equality they all contribute, each according to his or her own condition and office, to the building up of the Body of Christ" (Canon 208). "Christ's faithful are bound to preserve their communion with the Church at all times, even in their external actions. They are to carry out with great diligence their responsibilities towards both the universal Church and the particular Church to which by law they belong" (Canon 209).

          If we do not follow these perscribed actions to assist the priest, then, instead of helping them, we only serve to add to the scorn of the priesthood.

      Pax Christi, Pat

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    Lent affords all of us the opportunity to renounce worldly trappings by changing our lives through the disciplines called for during this Holy Season

       Today we bring you the Holy Father's Weekly Papal Audience imparted yesterday on Ash Wednesday from Paul VI Hall where Pope John Paul II, on the first day of Lent, reminded all of the significance of receiving ashes on this day and invited all to cross through that door of conversion and embrace the spirit of Lent through fasting, abstinence, sacrifice, almsgiving and prayer and call upon Jesus to accept our sinfulness and purify us in His Most Merciful and Sacred Heart. See THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

    The Holy Father's Weekly Papal Audience from yesterday, Ash Wednesday, March 8, 2000

      Dear Brothers and Sisters!

      1. Lent represents the culminating point of the path of conversion and reconciliation which the Jubilee Year, this privileged time of grace and mercy, offers to all believers for the renewal of their own attachment to Christ, one and only Savior of humanity. I wrote this in my "Message for Lent 2000," and with this conviction, let us embark today, Ash Wednesday, upon our Lenten itinerary of penance. The daily liturgy invites us to pray that the Heavenly Father may give to Christians a way of true conversion, beginning with fasting, so that they may use the weapons of penance to fight a victorious battle against the spirit of evil.

          This is the message of the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, which during Lent becomes even more eloquent. Humanity, every person, is urged to conversion and penance, and is driven to friendship with God, so that he may receive the gift of supernatural life, which fulfills the deepest aspirations of his heart.

      2. Receiving ashes on the head today makes us remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. This thought, a human certitude, is not confirmed in order to make us passively resigned to our destiny. Rather, while highlighting the fact we are mortal creatures, the liturgy reminds us of God's merciful initiative to make us participants in His own eternal and beatific life.

          In the evocative rite of the imposition of ashes there resounds for the believer an invitation to not let ourselves be chained to material realities, which, however valuable in themselves, are destined to pass away. Rather, he must let himself be transformed by the grace of conversion and penance, to reach the bold and peace-giving summits of the supernatural life. Only in God does man fully find himself and discover the ultimate meaning of his existence.

          The Jubilee door is open to all! Let all enter, all who are oppressed by sin and recognize they are lacking in merit, all who feel like that dust which the wind disperses; let all who are weak and disheartened come to obtain renewed vigor by the Heart of Christ!

      3. The imposition of ashes is accompanied today by the traditional practice of fast and abstinence. Surely these do not entail mere external observance or ritual fulfillment, but are eloquent signs of a necessary change of life. First of all, fasting and abstinence fortify the Christian person in the struggle against evil and for the service of the Gospel. In fasting and penance, the believer is asked to renounce goods and legitimate material satisfaction, in order to acquire better interior freedom. This disposes us to listen attentively to the Word of God and to give generous assistance to our brothers in need.

          Fasting and abstinence must therefore be accompanied by gestures of solidarity towards those suffering and going through difficult times. In this way penance becomes a sharing with the marginalized and needy. This is also the spirit of the Great Jubilee Year, which urges us all to show in a concrete way Christ¹s love for those of his brothers deprived of life's necessities, victims of hunger, violence and injustice. In my Lenten message, I wrote in this regard: "How can we ask for the grace of the Jubilee Year if we are insensitive to the needs of the poor, if we are not responsible for guaranteeing the necessary means for life with dignity to all people?" (n. 5).

      4. "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). Let us open our hearts to these words, which resound frequently during the Lenten season. The path of conversion and adherence to the Gospel, which today we embark upon, makes us feel that we are all sons of the one Father, and reinvigorates our yearning for unity of believers and concord among peoples. I ask the Lord that every Christian may feel profoundly, in this Jubilee Lenten season, his responsibility to be reconciled with God, himself and his brothers. This is the road on which the wish for full communion of all Christ's disciples will be realized. May we quickly reach the time when, thanks to the prayer and faithful witness of Christians, the world recognizes Jesus as its only Savior and, believing in Him, obtains peace.

          May Mary most holy guide us in these first steps on our Lenten path, so that, passing through the holy door of conversion, we may all hope in the grace of being transfigured into the image of Christ.

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    Appreciation of God's gift of Christ's Redemption and His Church to guide us as to what is Actual Sin     Today we continue with our new series in the search to uncover the wonderful treasures of the Church contained in the great Deposit of Faith. Today we present the second part of the catechesis on Original Sin as explained in My Catholic Faith and how in the forbidden "apple" the worm of Original Sin was washed away by redemption through Christ's victory of the Cross. For part one in the 127th installment, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH

    installment 127: Actual Sin part one

          Christ permitted Himself to be tempted by the devil. After Our Lord's forty days' fast in the desert, the devil appeared to Him and tempted Him to gluttony, to pride, and to avarice. But Our Lord resisted the devil and sent him away. Then angels came to minister to Him. God wishes to show us that temptation, far from being a sin in itself, is a cource of merit if we resist firmly. Then God will send us His blessings and consolations, and we shall be dearer to Him after our successful fight against temptation.

          Actual sin is any wilful lthought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God. There are two general classes of sins: original and actual. Original sin is the kind of sin that we inherit from Adam. Actual sin is the kind of sin that we ourselves commit. In general, when we speak of "sin" we mean actual sin. Sin is an offense against God, a violation of His commandments. To sin is to despise God, to disobey Him, to offend Him. One who sins takes the gifts that God has given, and uses them to insult Him.

          No person exists who does not sin, however holy he may be. The only human being who was created without sin, and never committed sin, was the Blessed Virgin Mary; this was a special privilege bestwoed on her because she was to be the Mother of our Savior. Saint John says: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). We fall step by step from temptation into sin. The different steps at times follow each other rapidly and are accomplished in the twinkling of an eye.

          Sin is not committed without temptation. First an evil thought comes into the mind. This in itself is not sinful; it is only a temptation. A man may be in a jewelry store looking at some jewels. The salesman turns away to talk to someone else, leaving a precious diamond ring on the counter. The thought enters the man's mind that it would be easy for him to take the ring and walk away unnoticed. This is temptation, not sin.

          If we do not immediately reject the thought, it awakens in the mind an affection or liking for it. If the man in the above example does not resist and reject the thought, but plays with it, and becomes pleased with the idea, he thereby gives partial consent, and commits a slight sin.

          Next the thought is followed by an evil desire in which we take pleasure. If, still playing with the thought, the man wishes that he could take the diamong ring without being noticed, the consent is complete, and he commits a sin in his heart (interiorly).

          The resolution to commit the sin when occasion presents itself follows. Then the exterior act is committed. Finally, the man glances to see if the salesman is still busy. Then he takes the ring and walks away with it. Thus the wish or desire has been translated into an exterior act. Even should the man be prevented from stealing, he is guilty of grave sin. An exterior sin is more evil than in interior sin, because it is attended by worse consequences.

      Tomorrow: Actual Sin part two

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    Events that happened today in Church History

       On this day 432 years ago in 1568, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was born in Lombardy during the papacy of Pope Saint Pius V and, though his aristocratic father tried to influence him to become a career soldier while serving the court of King Philip II of Spain, he turned his back on the world and became a Jesuit seminarian, returning to Rome to teach the poor there while continuing his studies. Alas, he never reached the priesthood, dying on June 21, 1591 from the bubonic plague during the pontificate of Pope Gregory XIX. For other time capsule events that happened in Church history on this date, see MILLENNIUM MILESTONES AND MEMORIES

    Historical Events in Church Annals for March 9:

    • 390 A.D.
    • Death of Saint Pacianus, Bishop of Barcelona. He is best known for his Exhortation on Penance thesis and for being one of the earliest of saints to employ the term "Catholic."

    • 1440 A.D.
    • Death of Saint Frances of Rome, religious founder. For more on this saint, see DAILY LITURGY.

    • 1452 A.D.
    • Pope Nicholas V is the last Roman Pontiff to perform a coronation of an emperor when he crowns Frederick III as the Holy Roman German emperor.

    • 1463 A.D.
    • Death of Saint Catherine de Vigri a patrician lady who gave it all up to become a Poor Clare nun and dedicate her life to God as abbess of the cloistered contemplatives. God rewarded her with many mystical encounters with Jesus and His Blessed Mother which are recorded in her diary titled "Manifestations". Like Saint Bernadette her body remains incorrupt today behind glass in Bologna. Many miracles have been attributed to her after her death. She was canonized by Pope Clement XI in 1712.

    • 1568 A.D.
    • Birth of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga in Lombardy to an aristocratic family who served the court of King Philip II of Spain. While his father pushed him toward a military career, he felt the pull toward the priestly life and would enter the seminary of the Society of Jesus and go on to serve others and teach catechism to the poorest of poor in Rome while a seminarian. He would die on his feast day of June 21, 1591 at the age of 23, succumbing to the plague. He was canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII and declared Patron Saint of Catholic youth by Pope Pius XI.

    • 1857 A.D.
    • Death of Saint Dominc Savio in Mondonio, Italy. A protege of Saint John Bosco, Dominic, born in Riva, Italy in 1842 to a peasant family of ten children, was blessed with mystical gifts experiencing visions and private revelation messages, many of which were conveyed by John Bosco to Pope Pius IX. He was a victim soul who died from tuberculosis on this date at the tender age of 15. St. John Bosco helped hasten his canonization by serving as his Postulator for his cause. He became the youngest non-martyred saint to be canonized in the Church when Pope Pius XII elevated him to sainthood in 1954, proclaiming him Patron Saint of choirs and juvenile delinquents.

    • 1998 A.D.
    • The Holy See releases the document "The Ecumenical Dimension in the Formation of Those Engaged in Pastoral Work" in which it dilineated what the laity's role was in assisting priests in parish programs and the doctrinal basis of ecumenism in dialoguing with other religions to assure that Catholics don't "sell themselves up the river" through compromise in dogmas, doctrines and teachings that cannot be compromised.

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    March 9, 2000     volume 11, no. 49
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