Showing posts with label bishops. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bishops. Show all posts

Friday, August 27, 2021

It’s Iimi! What’s A Catholic To Do?

At youth group, the discussion topic of the Bishops and the proposed document on the Eucharist is raised again. Iimi discusses the requirements of a worthy reception and the danger of people thinking they are owed the Eucharist whether they are properly disposed or not. Paula—who has started attending—asks what a Catholic needs to do in the midst of all the commotion.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It’s Iimi! Just Who is Factionalized Here?

With the Bishops’ meeting beginning tomorrow (6/16/21), I thought this would be a good time to get out one final manga on the misconceptions and hostility directed against it. Like Iimi does at the end of this piece, I urge the readers to pray for our bishops that they may reach a decision that is God’s will.

In this episode, with Daryl being absent from the youth group, Sean goes on the attack over bishops acting “in opposition” to the Pope and accuses Iimi of acting against the Pope. Iimi points out that while she might have preferences on what should be done, she will be obedient to the teachings approved by the Pope even if it should go against her preferences. 

For those who are interested in the “behind the scenes” notes, this comic was written script first, instead of constructing both text and pictures at the same time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Mirror Error on the Wall…

Iimi spends time with her youth group. The topic of discussion is Problems in the Church and How the Church Should Face Them. Unfortunately, Sean and Daryl want to argue in favor of their own factions. Iimi thinks that is the problem.

Sunday, January 31, 2021


After the elections, people from both sides of our dualistic political system have accused the bishops of supporting the other side, using the same arguments. Iimi deals with Daryl and her mother deals with her co-worker, Jean. The attacks presented here are ones I personally dealt with on Facebook debates. The only difference is I removed most of the abusive language I saw there.

Thea and Jean’s discussion is more civil because they are more mature and professional than high school students. Not because that faction is more mature.

The thing to note is how both factions make the same errors. They just draw contrary conclusions from their misinterpretations.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Reflecting on Critics of the Church Dispensations Over COVID-19 and the Mass

In various times, we have had different plagues and other crises. The Church has dealt with them in various ways based on the needs of the people and the knowledge of science at the times. As science progressed, the precautions that were not intrinsically evil were adopted. Those that were morally unacceptable were rejected.

Unfortunately, certain Catholics react in a hostile manner to the Church responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and laws establishing quarantine. These Catholics argue that, in past centuries, the Church did not close off Masses. Therefore, the Church today should not close them. Especially since “only” 8000 people have died (as of the time I write this).

These arguments overlook some crucial concerns. For example, in the influenza epidemic of 1918, fifty million people died and one-third of the world population was believed to have been infected. Like today, there was no vaccine, so the governments then did what they do now (isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings). The Church cooperated with these restrictions. We could also look at the Black Death of the 14th century where an estimated 75 to 200 million people died, where people did not know of germs and how they spread. The result was that people did not know about effective methods to prevent the spread of disease.

The problem is that the Catholics criticizing the Church today expect it should continue the Medieval practices  that led to keeping the churches open during past plagues. I believe that they’re mistaking the lack of knowledge in the past for trusting God, arguing that we don’t have faith today. The question they need to ask is whether the Popes and bishops of the Middle Ages would have carried out those policies if they had the understanding of germs that we do now.

I don’t say this to blame the Church. Understanding germs certainly would have been impossible before the discovery of the microscope (AD 1590~). Some try to bash the Church as being “anti-science” and therefore to blame for epidemics (blaming it on witchcraft). That’s bad history. The science§ of the time—regardless of the culture—didn’t know how diseases were spread. They could only reason that because of the unhealthiness of certain areas, certain phenomena associated with those areas (like “the air”). That could limit some bad effects (like “don’t live in a marsh”) but not all of them (like “don’t spread germs”) since they hadn’t been discovered yet.

But both the Church and State know more about germ theory now than they did in the 14th century. As a result, they implemented policies that were unknown then. Quarantine and suspending public Mass are part of this.

Yes, keeping the Commandment to keep holy the Lord’s day is important. But in a serious situation, a bishop can implement a policy that suits the needs of his diocese, dispensing the obligation to attend Mass. We’re still obliged to keep the Lord’s Day holy. But we must not endanger others in doing so. 

It’s true that COVID-19 hasn’t killed as many people (yet?) as the flu. But it would be a false analogy to argue that, because of this, we don’t need to do anything different. COVID-19 spreads more widely than the flu and can be spread by people before they even know they have it. So if you go to Mass and don’t know you have it. You can spread it to others before you know you have it. Then they go off to spread it to their homes before detecting the symptoms in themselves.

If others have it, they can spread it to you in the same way and you can spread it to your own household in the same way. Depending on how close together people live in your diocese, it can have a greater or lesser impact and the diocesan restrictions can be greater or lesser. So it doesn’t mean that the bishop of a diocese that needs fewer restrictions is “holier” or “has more faith” than the bishop that needs more restrictions.

The grumbling against the bishops reminds me of the criticism against the Church concerning previous contagions. 

Occasionally, critics have blamed the Church for past epidemics. For example, many say the Church is “to blame”for the AIDS crisis in Africa because of her condemnation of contraception. Such critics overlook the fact that, as with COVID-19, modification of behavior can help prevent the spread of disease more effectively than risky behavior. Those who are infected and still choose to have sexual intercourse effectively refuse to modify their behavior to prevent contagion. Perhaps they do not realize the selfishness of such behavior, and can’t conceive ofliving any other way. But this is another example where critics want the Church to accommodate them.

The Catholic who gets angry with his bishop or the Pope over the existence of restrictions is behaving in a similar way. He or she wants the Church to accommodate how they want to live in a condition where that way of living might do harm to themselves or others.

Ultimately we still have to keep Sunday holy, even if we cannot attend Mass. We have the Bible, the Missal, the Rosary, free downloads of the Liturgy of the Hours app, televised Mass, and other ways to worship until we are free of the epidemic and can go to Mass again. 

Yes, most of us are unable to physically receive the Eucharist under these circumstances. And that is a painful loss.But this is also an opportunity to remember that there are many in the Church who are also unable to attend Massdue to age, infirmity, or lack of priests. We must pray for the grace to go forward until we are delivered from this pandemic.


(§) And it was science in the sense of observation of cause and effect, drawing conclusions. But people forget that the technology we take for granted—or even now consider obsolete—did not even exist yet and so, the science of the time could not be as effective.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Traveling in a Dangerous Direction

He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged. (Lumen Gentium #14)

In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin. (Gaudium et Spes #16)

Continuing a theme from last time  the Pope and bishops have consistently and forcefully spoken out, warning Catholics against losing sight of our moral obligations towards the least of our brethren… warnings that are often received with hostility from Catholics who support the political policy or the party promoting it. 

This hostility is shown by accusing the bishops of being the ones with a political bias (“the Church should stay out of politics!”), by employing the tu quoque fallacy (“why doesn’t the Church clean up X first?”), the either-or fallacy (“the Church should be focusing on Y instead”) or by shifting the responsibility (“It’s the fault of Z for being in this situation”).

All of these accusations do demonstrate something: that these critics are aware that the Pope and bishops are speaking against the position they defend for whatever motive. If these critics are Catholics, they cannot claim ignorance that when they teach, the Pope and bishops are to be heeded, not finding excuses to reject that teaching.

can. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

Code of Canon Law

Liberal Catholics tend to attack the Church for teaching against things like abortion and sexual morality while conservative Catholics tend to attack the Church over social teachings. Both offer excuses as to why they can ignore the Church teaching, calling those areas of dissent “unimportant” and holding the things they already agree with as vital truths that the Church should focus on. But both forget that the deadliest sin for an individual is not some horrible crime if the person has no inclination to commit it. It is the unrepented sin which one refuses to heed the Church over (cf. Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). Remember, a Cafeteria Catholic is a Cafeteria Catholic whether they reject Church teaching on contraception and abortion on one hand, or reject Social Justice teachings on the other.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 reminds us of the obligation of the Church here:

You, son of man—I have appointed you as a sentinel for the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me. When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life. 

When the Pope and the bishops warn us about the sins we excuse in ourselves, it isn’t because they’re blind to their own political bias. It’s because we are. They are warning both of the evils in their political factions, but we have a habit of forgetting when they speak out against those we disagree with and bitterly remember when we ourselves are rebuked.

If the Pope or a bishop teaches something that seems wrong to us, we have an obligation to investigate the Church teaching and whether we either misunderstood what they said or misunderstood the actual teaching itself. Yes, individual bishops lack authority and fall into error if they teach or act in opposition to the Pope (cf. CCC #883). Yes, a Pope can make a mistake speaking as a private person. Yes, both are just as much sinners as we are. But Christ established the Catholic Church and gave the Apostles and their successors under the headship of Peter and his successors the authority to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). Without knowing where the final authority lies, we could never know who to trust and who to avoid. 

If we want to be faithful to God, we must be faithful to His Church and not looking for excuses to evade obedience. Otherwise, we’re on a short road to disaster.

Monday, May 6, 2019

We Know Who Our Teachers Are

One comment I frequently encounter in these times of confusion is the one that states. “I don’t know who to follow.” This comment certainly does show confusion in the Church because it shows that some Catholics have lost sight of who teaches,

The Church teaching consistently points out that the Pope is the successor of St. Peter and the bishops are successors to the Apostles. They have the same authority to bind and loose as St. Peter (Matthew 16:19) and the Apostles (Matthew 18:18). Rejecting their teaching is a serious matter (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16).

There is no denying there have been faithless bishops. There is no denying there have been morally bad Popes. But that doesn’t change the fact that God has entrusted His authority with the Apostles and their successors, making no exceptions for our obedience. In fact, The Lord made clear that there was a difference between obeying the authority of the teacher and the hypocritical personal practices of the teacher:

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. (Matthew 23:1-3).

Yes, we may have bishops who act wrongly, and we must not follow that. But when they teach in communion with the Pope, they teach with authority. As Lumen Gentium #23 tells us:

This collegial union is apparent also in the mutual relations of the individual bishops with particular churches and with the universal Church. The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful. The individual bishops, however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches, fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic Church. For this reason the individual bishops represent each his own church, but all of them together and with the Pope represent the entire Church in the bond of peace, love and unity.

Since the Pope and bishops are the legitimate authority of the Church, we trust that The Lord, the invisible head of the Church, will protect that authority from teaching error. They have the authority to bind and loose, and even the ordinary magisterium requires religious submission of intellect and will (see canons 752-753) [§].

In contrast to this, we have individuals and groups who presume to speak against this authority. A cardinal, a bishop, a priest, or a member of the laity dislikes what the magisterium says and issues a statement implying or accusing the magisterium of error. But, acting apart from the Pope, they act without authority. It’s like the members of the early Church who tried to argue that to be Christian, one must be Jewish first. In issuing their response, the Apostles rebuked their acting without authority:

Then the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. This is the letter delivered by them: “The apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number [who went out] without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’ ” (Acts:15:22-29)

No doubt those members of the Church thought they were defending what the Church should be, but what they thought right was deemed wrong by St. Peter and the apostles. Those self-appointed defenders of the Church were deemed without mandate and disturbing the peace because they acted without the authority of the Church.

Now some might cite Galatians, where St. Paul opposed St. Peter, but that is a misapplication. The text reads:

And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. And the rest of the Jews [also] acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11–14)

St. Peter’s action was not a false teaching. It was avoiding drama over the controversy about Jews and Gentiles. It caused scandal in the local Church and needed to be corrected. But this is an example of Matthew 23:1-3. Not following the bad example of one who teaches with authority.

We do know who teaches with authority. The Pope and bishops in communion with him. We know that those who presume to act outside of this communion are without a mandate and disturbing the peace. If we are concerned about the magisterium going “the wrong way,” let us remember that The Lord promised to protect His Church and He is entirely reliable.

Yes, a morally or intellectually bad Pope is not impossible—though I deny Pope Francis is one—but this has never falsified Christ’s promise to protect His Church and never will. And this is why I continue to have faith in the Church, regardless of what disturbers of the peace might claim.

[§] the text of the canons, for quick reference:

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Catholic “ME-gesterium” Pitfall

One of the popular citations used against Pope Francis (or Vatican II) comes from St. Vincent of Lerins, on defining what is Catholic:

Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

Commitorium, Chapter 2, §6

The definition is true in itself. The Catholic Faith is consistently taught from generation to generation. No faithful Catholic would deny it. The witness of the Apostles and their successors is constant, and someone who taught otherwise (St. Vincent was writing against the novelties of Donatists and Arians) was identified as heretical when they contradicted this ancient Faith.

The problem with the modern citation of this ancient writing (written AD 434) is it overlooks the legitimate development of doctrine. As St. John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia Dei, #4:

The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, "comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".(5)

But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in his Church.(6)

The problem with the current attacks on the legitimate development of the Church teaching is that the critics use St. Vincent of Lerins falsely. They look to what the Church Fathers and Medieval Theologians said about a topic and compare it with what the Church says today. But they confuse what the Church Fathers wrote with what they think the Church Fathers mean, not understanding the context of the writing.

Here’s an example. I have encountered some Feeneyite leaning Catholics who argued that non-Catholics necessarily go to Hell because Pope Boniface VIII wrote, in the Bull Unam Sanctam: “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” Since non-Catholics aren’t subject to the Pope, these Catholics argue that non-Catholics cannot be saved.

The problem is, the context of Unam Sanctam was not written about those outside of the Church. It was about King Philip the Fair, of France, demanding that the French clergy put obedience to him before obedience to the Pope. Pope Boniface was teaching that no secular ruler could claim a higher authority over the Church. That doesn’t mean that one can refuse obedience to the Pope. It means that these Catholics were misapplying a teaching in a way that was never intended. Whatever “contradiction” they think they saw with later teaching, it was never intended by the original teaching.

This is a growing problem with the Church today. Faithful Catholics are not wrong to study the writing of the Saints and Doctors of the Church. But if they rely on their own “plain sense” reading without considering subsequent development on how it is applied, they risk deceiving themselves into making themselves into what I call a “ME-gesterium,” where they pass judgment on Church teaching on the grounds that what the Church teaches doesn’t match with their personal interpretation.

I think Blessed John Cardinal Newman’s words about converts who left the Catholic Church again applies to this mindset as well:

I will take one more instance. A man is converted to the Catholic Church from his admiration of its religious system, and his disgust with Protestantism. That admiration remains; but, after a time, he leaves his new faith, perhaps returns to his old. The reason, if we may conjecture, may sometimes be this: he has never believed in the Church’s infallibility; in her doctrinal truth he has believed, but in her infallibility, no. He was asked, before he was received, whether he held all that the Church taught, he replied he did; but he understood the question to mean, whether he held those particular doctrines “which at that time the Church in matter of fact formally taught,” whereas it really meant “whatever the Church then or at any future time should teach.” Thus, he never had the indispensable and elementary faith of a Catholic, and was simply no subject for reception into the fold of the Church. This being the case, when the Immaculate Conception is defined, he feels that it is something more than he bargained for when he became a Catholic, and accordingly he gives up his religious profession. The world will say that he has lost his certitude of the divinity of the Catholic Faith, but he never had it.

An Essay in Aid to a Grammar of Assent, page 240

In the case of the “ME-gesterium” Catholic, he or she probably remains in the Church, but considers any future development of the Faith to be “error” that needs to be overturned.

The Church is infallible in teaching ex cathedra in a special way. But the protection of the Church also falls on the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church—which is the normal way the Church teaches [§]. As Ven. Pius XII put it (Humani Generis #20):

20. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me";[3] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

Likewise, Lumen Gentium 25 tells us:

25. Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place. For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

This is confirmed in Canon 752:

can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

Notice that the Church consistently teaches that even the ordinary magisterium is binding on the faithful. This undercuts the common claim that whatever is of the ordinary magisterium is merely opinion that is liable to error.

The “ME-gesterium” has a dangerous pitfall: it assumes that the individual can clearly understand the past writing of the Church but the Pope and bishops in communion with him do not. It assumes that the individual cannot err but the Pope can if his teaching goes against their understanding. It assumes that every teacher past and present speaks and reasons as a 21st century American so a grasp of history (ecclesiastical and secular) and culture is not needed to understand the full import of past teachings in the context of today.

Ultimately, the danger of the ME-gesterium is pride. The individual thinks they cannot err, but the Church can. In claiming to defend the Church from “heresy,” they take the first step towards it: denying the authority of the Church to determine the proper interpretation of the timeless teachings to meet the moral concerns of today. 

If we want to be faithful Catholics, let us recognize that God protects His Church. Not all Popes or bishops have been saints. Some were bad men. But God protected the Church from error in the worst of times. That protection exists now and until the consummation of the world (Matthew 28:20). If we do not believe that, we should recognize it as a warning sign that our own faith is in danger.


[§] Most ex cathedra teachings were made to combat heresies which refused to obey the Ordinary Magisterium.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

So You Say...

Another day, another manifesto issued by certain Catholics claiming that the Pope is guilty of heresy and calling on the cardinals and bishops to take action against him. There’s nothing new about this one. It’s based on the interpretation of the Pope’s words by a small number of priests and laity—already notorious for their hostility to the Pope in the past—compared to their interpretation of previous Church teaching.

There’s a problem, of course. That problem is these accusers are committing the begging the question fallacy. Their “proofs” that the Pope’s words are heretical is dependent on the unproven assertion that the Pope is a heretic and therefore whatever he says, that goes against their understanding of Church teaching, must be said with the intention of obstinately denying a truth of the Catholic Faith (canon 751). But their assumption must be proven true, not assumed to be true. And here lies the problem. We have to ask the following:
  1. Are their interpretations of the Pope accurate?
  2. Are their interpretation of past teaching accurate?
If the answer to either question is, “No,” (and it is) then these individuals are not defenders of the faith, but blind guides, leading the blind.

When it comes to the interpretation of the Pope’s words, we need to realize that his critics are notorious for relying on out of context soundbites and turning them into radical statements. Do you remember the term “Rabbit Catholic?” Outraged Catholics assumed that the Pope was against large families and pro-contraception. Actually, he was speaking about a woman guilty of providentialism (expecting God to take care of all consequences while refusing to use the legitimate means God provides to avoid the consequences—effectively putting God to the test). This is the sort of thing that gets twisted into “Pope promotes heresy.”

Good scholarship doesn’t do that. When there is a question about meaning, one studies the context of the problematic statements, discovering that there is no error. Just a different way of expressing the truth. 

So, who determines the authentic interpretation of the truth? The answer is the Pope and bishops in communion with him. That doesn’t mean that the Pope makes up whatever he wishes (a common accusation by anti-Francis Catholics). It means that when the Pope teaches—even in the ordinary magisterium—we are obligated to give religious submission of intellect and will (canon 752). We trust that since God protects His Church from error, He will prevent the Pope from making a binding teaching out of error. That doesn’t mean the Pope will be impeccable in the governance of the Church. It simply means that we can trust God to protect us from a morally or intellectually bad Pope—things which I deny this Pope is. This trust is important as there is no way to appeal against the decision of the Pope (canon 1404). Either we trust God to always protect His Church or we admit we can never know when to trust the Church.

Since the signatories of this letter represent no part of the magisterium (none are bishops, one could argue they are not in full communion with the Pope either), we cannot accept their claims to judge the orthodoxy of the Pope. Fr. Nichols O.P. (the only signatory with wide recognition) has written some insightful books on theology, but that does not give him the authority to teach in a binding manner against the Pope. No matter what one may think of the arguments in the letter (I’m not impressed), there is no authority behind it. The letter can’t claim “the Pope contradicts Church teaching.” It can only say, “we think the Pope contradicts Church teaching.”

To which I reply: “So you say. But the Pope has the authority to bind and loose, not you. So I will follow him, not you.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Reflections on the Eve of the Summit

[Preliminary Note—None of this should be interpreted as being directed at those who were victims or family members of victims. Nor should it be interpreted as telling them to “be quiet.” This is about understanding the issues and the purpose of the summit while avoiding condemning it for not doing what it never was supposed to.]

Let’s be clear on something. The Abuse Summit being held in the Vatican is not going to be an Inquisition. It’s not going to drag McCarrick before the body in chains. Bishops won’t be forced to accuse themselves of covering up or being part of a “homosexual cabal.” There won’t be an auto da fé. It won’t be an ecumenical council either. We won’t see the summit drastically changing Church disciplines or teachings. Anyone expecting this (especially the “Summit will be a failure unless they do X” crowd) will be disappointed.

What there will be is a meeting aimed at making the bishops aware of their obligations in the face of reports of abuse, and making clear that this is not just an “American (or western) problem.” There will be discussion of what worked or failed to work. There will be listening to victims. And there will be prayer. The success or failure will not be in what is said and done. It will be in what each country’s bishops do in response.

Notice the vast difference between the two visions. It seems like some people who hate the Pope and some people who want the Church to drastically change her teachings in general are setting expectations that they know will not be met so they can claim failure and allege “coverup” as the reason.

But there are things we need to do to prepare for the summit. First, we need to realize that when corruption festers, it takes years, even decades to clean up. That’s because we not only have to track down people responsible, but also identify and correct those false ideas that might have led people to think that staying silent was a legitimate option. This means educating Catholics about the difference between being faithful to the Church and being silent because a member of the clergy abuses his authority by abuse or coverup.

Second, we need to recognize this isn’t the first step finally taken for opposing abuse. It’s not the final step that will fix everything either. The Church has made many attempts to prevent abuse and ensure that the abusers did not go unpunished. Some worked. Some didn’t. For example, when you read the 1917 Code of Canon Law, you see that there were rules that mandated that the bishop be informed of abuse by a priest in a timely manner [†]. For example:

Technically, if these canons had been followed by all parties, this could have prevented McCarrick from getting away with his crimes for so long.

Unfortunately, these canons didn’t understand the victim might be unable to overcome trauma and shame to come forward. Nor did it allow for the possibility that those who were supposed to pass that information on would fail to carry out their duties. It was also assumed that an abuser priest acted out of attraction to a specific person, and moving the priest away from that victim would end the problem. These assumptions were obviously wrong, and probably added to the sense of suffering for the victims.

So, we can see it’s not a case of “the Church became lax after Vatican II.” We can’t just “go back,” because the known cases from the 1930s until Vatican II happened during this supposed strong period. What the Church is doing now is recognizing where procedures for dealing with these accusations have been ineffective, and working on sharing where the procedures have succeeded.

And in some cases they have. In the United States, the of number of cases peaked in the 1980s, and then began to decline. Since 2002, after the Dallas Accords, new cases of abuse have fallen sharply. The new revelations of priests who abused and bishops who covered up were not recent cases. They were old cases recently uncovered [§]. Yes, they should have been revealed when the other cases were discovered. Yes, this lack of disclosure seriously damaged the faithful’s trust in the Magisterium of the Church.

But, we cannot assume everyone must have known and everyone must be guilty. Between the 1930s and the 1980s, there have been many bishops in the dioceses. Some made decisions that enabled abusers, but some did not. The Church cannot punish the innocent. She must investigate to see who knew and willfully covered up or refused to report. They must be held accountable. The problem is, those are not the only bishops out there. For example:
  • Bishops who sincerely believed the advice from psychiatrists that the priest should be moved.
  • Bishops who succeeded the bishop who made the decision, not knowing about the problem.
  • Bishops who assumed that their predecessors had properly dealt with any problems.
  • Bishops who proactively try to root out problems when they become aware of them [@].
None of those groups of bishops covered up, and should not be punished as if they did. So when people say the bishops instead of some bishops, that response is unjust. No matter how vile the crime, the person who is not guilty is not guilty.

So, yes, call for justice. It’s your right under canon 212—so long as you do it reverently, and give religious submission of intellect and will to the teaching authority of the Church. But don’t call for vengeance or scapegoats. That’s incompatible with our faith.

Please keep these things in mind as the media reports (and probably misreports) on the Summit. Remember what they are attempting to do, and judge the summit on that. 


[†] While some states in the US and some nations like Australia are trying to violate the seal of Confession by forcing priests to reveal what was said, the Church did have a rule that if the victim confessed their part, the priest was supposed to tell them of their obligation to tell the bishop. Judging by the number of cases that took decades to come forward, this policy obviously didn’t work. The 1983 code eliminated the one month requirement for the victim:

[§] In the Pennsylvania report, the number of cases that were not past the statute of limitations was in the low single digits.

[@] After discovering he was misinformed about the Barrios case, Pope Francis was solidly in this camp.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Thrown Under the Bus: Pope Francis and the USCCB Conference

[Note—this article intends no disrespect to the bishops. Under Canon 212, I am expressing my concerns that the reaction at the November conference is being misused by the Pope’s critics to make it appear that he is to blame for this. I plead with them to consider the unjust resentment directed against him because of it.]

The aftermath of the USCCB bishops’ conference last month led to one undeniable conclusion: the secular and Catholic media are generally treating the Pope as if he were the one to blame for the state of the abuse crisis.

There were things leading up to it: for example, Vigano’s (unjust, in my opinion) accusations started the narrative that the Pope was part of the coverup conspiracy. There was also the Pope effectively telling the reporters to do their homework and investigate the claims themselves (which showed Vigano’s accusations had more holes than Swiss cheese riddled by a machine gun) which was wrongly portrayed as “no comment.” Using the “argument from silence” fallacy, the Pope’s critics argued that his refusal to play along with a stunt (that was obviously calculated to be released at a time that would cause the most damage), as “proof” that he was hiding the truth that would convict him (also a “shifting the burden of proof” fallacy).

This sets the background for the USCCB conference in November. The bishops planned to vote on some proposals involving oversight and sanctions against covering up bishops that were potentially in conflict with canon law. Then, on the opening day of the conference, it was announced that the Vatican had ordered that the bishops not vote on these issues, and wait instead for the meeting of all the leaders of bishops’ conferences scheduled for February. Cardinal DiNardo and others expressed “disappointment” at the decision, Catholics were outraged. The term, “swept under the carpet” was a common epithet.

Except it wasn’t. Cardinal Müller and others pointed out that these proposals were literally submitted at the last minute. There was no time to review them properly to make sure there were no conflicts [§]. In other words, the Vatican wasn’t covering up. Those responsible for submitting the proposals in a timely manner dropped the ball in an unforced error [@]. But bishops were saying they were disappointed instead of saying mea culpa. It was troublesome because it’s not like this requirement was unknown prior to November 2018.

In fact, the situation probably would have been worse if the Vatican had just allowed it to go for a vote. Canon law requires that decrees from such a meeting be reviewed and approved before they can take effect. Both the 1917 and 1983 Codes of canon law make this clear:

(1917 Code of Canon Law)

(1983 Code of Canon Law)

If these dubious proposals had been voted on and, after review, found to be in conflict with canon law, they would have to be rejected. But do you think people would recognize “oh, the bishops were corrected”? No. The Pope would be attacked as “blocking reform” and vilified by people either unaware of or uninterested in the fact that the Church is governed by the rule of law, not arbitrary decrees [&].

This is not a case of the Pope “having the right” but being unwise to use it (as someone told me). This is a case of the Pope being in the right. There may or may not be canonical problems with the proposals. But that must be determined before they can be promulgated. The USCCB (for whatever reason) failed to submit their proposals in a timely fashion then. The USCCB can submit their proposals to the February meeting where this can be determined now. Then we can determine their merits and whether they fit in with or contradict the nature of what the Church is.

But the use of language expressing “disappointment” over something that could not be otherwise is stirring up resentment against something that is not the fault of the appropriate Vatican Congregations (Congregations of Bishops and CDF), and to use it risks looking like “throwing the Pope under the bus for the failure of others.


[§] I find it curious that many Papal critics who rightly laughed at Pelosi’s “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy,” wanted the Vatican to accept exactly that.

[@] I don’t know if it was bad planning or deliberate. But it seems to me that to avoid rash judgment, we must not make an accusation of malfeasance without proof.

[&] Canon Law, like secular law, can be amended. But it can’t just be ignored when we desire it.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Reform or Rebellion?

(Preliminary note: I am not writing about the very real pain of abuse survivors and their families. I am writing about combox warriors who are recklessly attacking the authority of the Church in the name of “reform.”)

The Church is the ordinary means the Lord uses to bring His salvation to the world (see CCC #738). It also consists of sinners in need of salvation, some of them doing some pretty wicked things or being indifferent to wrongdoing within their power to oppose. We have, on one side, Bible verses insisting that the Church teaches with His authority (Matthew 16:19, 18:18) and to reject the Church is to reject Him (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). On the other side, we have the Bible warning the shepherds of their faithlessness (Ezekiel 34:1-10) but also pointing out the obligations of obeying teaching authority while not following personal behavior (Matthew 23:2-3).

We have a Church that binds and looses with Our Lord’s authority, and a Church where the men who lead it can sin. These things are not contradictory. We believe that God protects His Church from teaching error in matters of faith and morals, but those who lead the Church still need to work out their salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). There is no guarantee that a successor to the Apostles will make wise decisions in governing his diocese, but he still has the authority to teach in a binding manner—provided that he remains in communion with the Pope. 

Now, it is true that clericalism is wrong. Clericalism tends to reduce a diocese or a parish to a fiefdom where the bishop or priest can arbitrarily act as he pleases, while members of the laity believe they have to accept it. Instead, the magisterium is the servant of, not master over, Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Pope and bishops in communion with him pass on the teaching of the Apostles from generation to generation. Unfortunately, some members of the Church are confusing these things. They think that defending the magisterium of the Church is clericalism. A bishop teaching is not clericalism. A bishop becoming a law unto himself, setting aside his obligations, is clericalism.

Realizing that, the actions of a growing number of Catholics are dangerous. They confuse the teaching authority of their bishop with his sins. If the bishop did wrong (or is suspected of doing wrong), the mob says he has no authority and his fate should be decided by laity. I’ve seen some Catholics argue that we need lay leadership since the bishops can’t be trusted. I’ve even seen a priest call for an ecumenical council with full participation of the laity—which is to give them voting power—because he thinks bishops can’t be trusted.

Remember, I’m not talking about reactions to McCarrick or specific bishops who seem to have deliberately covered up a predator priest. I’m talking about attacks on the authority of The Bishops in general. The problem is, in attacking this way, they are undermining trust in the legitimate authority of the Church. This is the kind of thing that can lead to schism, rejecting the Church if it doesn’t respond to the scandals in the way the mob wants. That’s why, even though I want the Church to censure the wrongdoers, I think this movement goes in a direction I cannot support.

Going back to the Old Testament, we see that regardless of the wrongdoing of the leaders, the Lord also punished those who would usurp that authority which God had given them.

The Rebellions of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16:1-35)
shows how God treats rejection of those He chooses to lead

Throughout history, we have had people angry at corruption in the Church. But some of the movements angry at that corruption wound up separated from Christ’s Church. I don’t think they set out to leave the Church. Rather, the Church not going the direction they wanted led them to decide the leadership was wrong and they were justified in rejecting them. I don’t think this current movement is at that point. I’ve seen some members affirm they intend to stay. But Luther also intended to stay. He didn’t. So, as St. Paul pointed out (1 Corinthians 10:12), “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”

No, we shouldn’t just accept any misuse of authority that a priest or bishop commits. Yes, let us make our needs known reverently, as canon 212 tells us. That can include serving the Church in finding just solutions to this evil. But let’s also remember canons 752-753 on authority. If we would be faithful to Jesus, we must hear His Church. 

Don’t accuse me of not caring about victims in writing this. I do care. This scandal has opened my eyes to failures to shepherd where I assumed common sense and policies should have been in place. We do have to get the filth out of the Church. But I believe that this internet apostolate of wrath is not going to solve the problem. Any true reform will keep the nature and teaching authority of the Church in sight. If it doesn’t, it’s not reform. It’s rebellion—and I will not participate in rebellion.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Come What May, The Church Remains

The scandals have shaken the Church. McCarrick and the 300 priests who have credible accusations [§] against them abused their positions to molest children and that is inexcusable. Some bishops were more interested in avoiding scandal than in shepherding their flock. That too is inexcusable. The Church has a procedure to canonically investigate and try bishops and that should be done [†].

However, certain Catholics have taken it further. In their mind, all the bishops should have known and therefore cannot be trusted. They believe that only the laity can save the Church and demand that they lead the investigation, determine the fate of bishops, and have a say in their replacements. The implication is that since none can be trusted (unproven) they cannot lead us. It’s a very anticlerical movement that shows some people do not have a clear understanding of what the Church is.

Others have shown signs of believing that the Church is a simply human institution. I’ve seen parents say they weren’t sure if they wanted their children baptized and priests wonder if the gates of hell have prevailed against the Church (cf. Matthew 16:18). These too are a sign of people not understanding what the Church is. 

What we need to remember is the Catholic Church is the Church Our Lord, Jesus Christ, established and promised to protect, remaining with it until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). That doesn’t mean that the leaders of the Church will be sinless. Even in the best of times, there is corruption. Even with the holiest of Popes and bishops, there are bad decisions. That doesn’t mean we have to be fatalistic about the current crises in this time. Of course we have to work to clean up the Church. But regardless of corruption in the Church, Our Lord’s promise remains. Individuals sin, fall into heresy or schism. But Our Lord does not permit the Church to teach error in His name [¶] regardless of what some of the shepherds may do. 

Remembering this is how we discern true reform from rebellion. In every time of crisis, the true reform has come from those who gave submission to those tasked with leading the Church. False reform came from those who rejected that authority. In fact, the false reform usually spun off into heresies or schisms. 

What we need to remember is that the Church exists as the ordinary means [∞] Our Lord uses to bring His salvation to the world and help us discern how to live faithfully, and that He has entrusted the teaching office to the successors of the Apostles—the Pope and the college of bishops in communion with him. Our Lord made hearing His Church mandatory (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). So, when we encounter a movement which refuses or undermines the teaching authority of the Church, we know this movement is not of God.

I understand it is frustrating, especially since some bishops have been revealed as failing to look after their dioceses. How can we tolerate knowing that other bishops, guilty of similar things, may be undetected? The answer is, we must trust that even if a sinful priest or bishop should escape detection, God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). Our Lord’s warning about millstones (Matthew 18:6) should terrify them about dying unrepentant. We trust that God can and will protect the Church from going astray.

I admit that may be a small consolation for the victims and their families. They do want justice—rightly. But we need to realize that, being but men, our magisterium will not do a flawless job of rooting out corruption, no matter how diligent and sincere they are. For the rest, we must leave it up to God, painful as it may be.

So let us pray for the faithful clergy in this time of trial. Let us pray for the unfaithful clergy that they may repent and be brought to repentance and salvation. Let us pray for the victims, that they might be consoled. Let us pray that we act wisely and not out of sheer emotion. And then, after praying, let’s get to work—but let’s work with the Church, not against her.


[§] Barring any exculpatory evidence a la  the Cardinal Bernadin case—which I do not expect—I have no reason to question the credibility of the cases.
[†] As I understand it, the statute of limitations is past for criminal charges or lawsuits.
[¶] This protection is not “prophecy.”  It isn’t a guarantee of personal moral perfection either. Rather it is a negative protection. It prevents the Church from teaching error, but it doesn’t mean further development isn’t possible.
[∞] Ordinary means is the normal way Our Lord carries out His mission. There’s nothing to stop Him from using an extraordinary means, but it would be presumptuous on our part to knowingly refuse His ordinary means and demand something unusual to save us.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Church Will Be Saved Despite—Not Because of—Their Attacks

Yeats, The Second Coming

As things continue, we see those who once defended the Church from unjust attacks join the ranks of the unjust attackers. Seizing on injustice that exists in the Church—and always will as long as sinful human beings are part of it—they seek to tear down the whole of authority because they dislike how some of those tasked with teaching and guiding have failed in carrying out their task.

What these people want is a wrathful response to wrongdoing, without considering whether the wrathful response is the right one. Wrongdoing exists in the Church. Therefore it must be the fault of the entire college of bishops. If they had done their jobs—so the argument goes—sin would not exist in the Church.

But until the final judgment, sin will always exist in the Church. I don’t say that to be fatalistic. I say that to point out that the attitude of “throw the bums out” is not going to solve the problems in the Church. Some in charge may indeed need to be removed to correct the current wrongdoing. But that correction must be done justly. That means determining who are guilty of wrongdoing, not assuming all are guilty and attacking the entire Church for not doing a mass purge.

I think these Catholics have allowed their dissatisfaction with how wrongdoing is handled to fester into assuming the entire system is unjust. Their arguments differ, depending on whether they identify with the morality of the political left or right, but they boil down to a belief that the Church is wrong in some way and the Pope and/or the college of bishops are to blame. 

The problem is many people assume that what they have heard is actionable when it is not. Take, for example, the recent Crux story about a seminarian who (anonymously) posted his account on Twitter. The line that made me go “hmm...” was this:

“If it is true....” I am not calling this unidentified man a liar. It may well be a true account. The problem is, with anonymity and with no identification, we cannot act on it.  Which diocese? Which seminary? Did the person he talked to even pass the complaint on to the bishop? There are a lot of things that a proper investigation has to know. We rightly want justice and reform. But if the things that “everybody knows” are stories without details like this, there’s a limit to what the Bishop can do. Sure, he can ask general questions. But that might turn up nothing...or even turn up misinformation if he asks the person who covered up. Without facts to act on, he can’t even know for certain that the story is true. Remember Cardinal Bernadin, for example.

Again, I am not accusing victims of lying. Nor am I trying to make excuses for bishops who did wrong. I am saying we need to determine the truth of the matter. We should keep in mind the Apology of Socrates on knowing and not knowing.

Apologia 21. Be like Socrates, not the other guy.

I cite this to point out that many people think rumors that “everybody knows” is the same thing as proof. It’s not. “Everybody” knowing a rumor is not the same thing as people with the responsibility finding information they can act on.

In this scandal, many critics think they “know” and, therefore the bishops are all guilty. But the questions to ask are: Who told? Were they reliable? Who was told? Did they pass it on? With answers to these questions, we can find the truth and hold the guilty responsible. Without answers, but thinking we know, we can only rashly accuse.

Unfortunately, in times of scandal, the person who says “let us seek the truth first” gets accused of supporting the status quo. But we cannot rush to judgment, especially if we have previous animosity with the accused. 

This is why I say “stop and seek the truth first,” instead of “hold all the bishops accountable.” Yes, those within the Church who were culpable for enabling abuse should answer for it. That’s a major part of reform. But the “guilty until proven innocent” mindset will not lead to reform. It will lead to mistrust and anticlericalism to the point where Catholics will justify disobedience on the grounds that the bishops didn’t act as they thought best.

The Church will be saved despite those angry critics. Not because of them.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thoughts on Reforming and Deforming

[Preliminary Note: This article should not be seen as making a blanket condemnation of everyone who wants justice in the current scandals. Rather, it is warning about a certain anticlerical attitude promoted by some factions in this call for reform. I don’t intend to accuse any individual of supporting these errors. Rather I point out certain dangerous errors so they can be rejected in the search for true justice.]

The current scandals in the Church provoked legitimate concern. When wrongdoing exists, it needs to be addressed quickly and justly. The problem is different people have different ideas on what is quick and just. When something is proposed that doesn’t meet their ideas, the assumption is that “nothing is being done.”  The thing to remember is, the Church has things that cannot change. If we want reform that goes against the nature of the Church, that “reform” will not happen. We cannot demand the Church betray what she is in order to meet our demands. 

Throughout history we see the difference between real and false reform. The true reform works with submission to those tasked with shepherding the Church. The great reforming saints dealt with corruption in the Church while submitting to the judgment of the Pope and bishops. On the other hand, movements like the Lollards dealt with corruption by treating the Pope and bishops as adversaries that must be opposed. They ended up by attacking the teachings of the Church that stood in their way. If a bishop said their demands were not compatible with the teachings of the Church, the bishops were considered to be enemies of reform.

The question we need to ask, when faced with things we dislike in the Church, is whether we will accept the authority of the Pope and bishops when they make a decision as shepherd of the entire Church or diocese. Yes, canon 212 does say we have the right or duty make known our concerns (“with reverence towards their pastors,” which few seem to notice). But that doesn’t mean what we want is fully compatible with Church teaching. If we want something that violates Church teaching, the Pope or bishop must refuse that request.

Unfortunately, instead of assessing their demands, these factions tend to accuse the Church of stonewalling or “business as usual” or “good old boys club.” They certainly run the risk of falling into thinking these Church teachings are obstacles to good. History shows that movements like these turn into heresy (demanding a rejection of these underlying teachings) or schism (rejecting the authority of the teachers).

I don’t say this to advocate clericalism. I don’t say this to advocate “business as usual.” Instead, I say this because any true reform must work with the shepherds of the Church. A proper reform must identify where the problem lies and what sort of correction is compatible with the teaching of the Church. For example: The Lollards under Wycliffe thought that the problem of corruption among the clergy was the rejection of the clergy itself.

While I don’t see a Lollard style rejection (yet?), I do see troubling attitudes. “How can we trust the bishops to police themselves?” is a common charge. The demand follows that any solution must have the laity deciding what must be done—without input from the clergy. 

I believe that question is a warning sign of error. It is the foundation for a rejection of the clergy justly exercising their authority to determine how to apply Church teaching if that exercise doesn’t go the way the critics want. If one is tempted to think “the whole damn structure is corrupt,” then it’s easy to start thinking that we must remake the whole thing to suit our own beliefs on what it should be.

But if those beliefs are wrong, then the attempt at reform will also go wrong. As Catholics, we recognize that the magisterium has the authority to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19, 18:18), interpreting how to apply teaching to a particular age. Any true reform must recognize that authority and submit to it. Yes, there will be corruption in the Church. Yes, it needs to be eliminated. Yes, there will always be disappointing actions we think fall short of what is needed, and No, we shouldn’t just take a fatalistic attitude about that.

But we need to recognize that a proper reform cannot exclude the Pope and bishops, and cannot begin with the assumption that all are guilty until proven innocent. A movement that thinks this way is cutting off those who have the authority and responsibility to determine whether a proposed reform is compatible with what Our Lord established the Church to be. That way lies ruin.

Yes, we of the laity have the right, and sometimes the duty of making our needs known—but respectfully and giving the proper submission required when they exercise their lawful authority.

I think one thing that is getting lost is trust in God and prayer. We should be praying for God to guide the Pope and faithful bishops to seek out a just solution. We should then work with them in getting that needed reform. But if we think we can reject the Pope and bishops as part of the problem, we will not reform the Church.

We will deform it.