Showing posts with label disobedience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disobedience. Show all posts

Monday, August 8, 2022

It’s Iimi! (Not) A Typical Anime Beach Episode

What would you get if you took an anime-style Beach Episode and removed the fanservice, the love confessions, all the hijinks and replaced them with a Socratic dialogue about why Jesus can’t be other than what Christians profess Him to be? You’d probably wind up with something like this comic, which is … (Not) A Typical Anime Beach Episode

Pre-Comic Notes: This episode makes use of terms that are familiar to fans of anime/manga, but may not make sense to other readers.

The “Beach Episode” and “The Bathhouse” are two recurring anime/manga themes. In Japanese culture, families do go to the beach during summer break, and communal bathing (sex segregated) is common. 

In anime, these tropes are often used as an excuse to showcase the female characters in skimpy outfits and sexualized poses (“fanservice”) with male characters trying to get glimpses of them. Frequently this is done with the teasing of a (never quite successful) attempts to confess love and/or possible intimacy between the male and female leads. It’s aimed at the male reader. 

This comic is a subversion of these tropes, replacing “fanservice” with theological dialogue, and poking fun at how western anime fans would be uncomfortable if they actually found themselves placed in these situations that anime and manga treat as common.

Post-Comic Notes: You didn’t think it would be that easy for Iimi to succeed, did you? It’s one thing for Kismetta to find flaws in Islam. It’s quite another to move towards accepting the chief claim of Christianity after years of claims made against it. Apologists aren’t God. They can help remove stumbling blocks in the path. But only God can give the grace.


Accounts of Muslim converts to Christianity all point out the difficulty of overcoming the belief that Jesus was only a man. A holy man to be sure, but still only a man. It’s not just Muslims of course. As far back as the Pagan Romans, we could see philosophical monotheists finding the idea of God becoming man to be offensive… that was seen as beneath the dignity of God.


This is why it’s important to pray for those who struggle with accepting our beliefs. We who were brought up in our faith do not have to unlearn the things that contradict it, so sometimes we don’t grasp just how hard it is for those who come from outside to do that.

Monday, June 6, 2022

It’s Iimi! Desperate Defiance (Part I)

Paula asks Thea for permission to skip the review days before finals. Thea refuses because she knows that Paula desperately needs those days to recover her grades after the chaos of the past year, and because she knows Paula’s mother has insisted on making sure that Paula keeps her grades up. Will Paula accept? Or will she decide to make an act of… DESPERATE DEFIANCE 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Ersatz Fidelity

Ersatz: adjective. Made or used as a (usually inferior) substitute for something else. German = compensation, replacement.

During the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI it was easier to confuse conservatism with Catholicism because the greatest evils of the era condemned by the Catholic Church also happened to go against the conservative ideology. Under the pontificate of Pope Francis, it has become easier to confuse liberalism with Catholicism because the greatest evils condemned by the Catholic Church also happened to go against the liberal ideology. It would be false to say that the Catholic Church moved “left” or “right” during these pontificates. The Church still is teaching what she has always taught. But certain groups of Catholics have fallen into error either by assuming that their ideology is correct, or that an ideology they oppose is wrong.

I have seen some Catholics protest in response that they are not at all political. But that is to miss the point. Our fidelity to the Church, as established by Christ with His teaching authority, must come above our defense of party X or condemnation of party Y. If we make excuses for one group that we would not make for another or if we condemn one group more harshly for the sins we shrug off when the other party does it, then we are partisan despite our protests. If we argue that “the stakes are too high” to speak out against the party we think of as less of a threat, then we are partisan despite our protests.

Think about it. When the Church speaks out on an evil, do we get angry if the bishops did not speak out at the same time on another issue? We should be aware that the bishops have condemned all the evils present in our country. It is our own ignorance and bias that leads us to only notice it when the side we think is less evil is condemned while ignoring it when our opponents are condemned.

We also display this fault when we say that the Church “neglected” issues we favor under certain Popes and got “back on track” under certain Popes. That sort of behavior guarantees that whoever succeeds Pope Francis will be viewed on a Left-Right axis. If the successor tends to be more like St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, it will be seen as a “rejection” of Pope Francis. But if his successor is more like himself, it will be seen as a “rejection” of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. That’s entirely the wrong approach to take.

All three Popes—like their predecessors—have taught on all the moral issues of the era. If you read Pope Francis on abortion and same sex “marriage,” you will see his views are like his predecessors. If you read St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI on economic justice§, immigration and the environment, you will see they sound like Pope Francis. The narrative that we have “fallen away” or “finally gotten on track” does not show problems with the Popes or the Church. It shows problems with us.

In a similar way, when we place our bishops in political categories because of how they view the loss of the sense of Sacred over the Eucharist, it does not show a problem with the bishops. It shows a problem with us. Yes, our bishops can make errors in judgment and even choose to sin through commission or omission. But we cannot use that fact to reject them when they teach us.

We need to realize that our problem is ersatz fidelity. When we consistently get angry at one side and consistently get angry with the Church when she does not target that side, that once again shows that the problem in the Church is us. We justify why we cannot act against what the side we think of as less evil while refusing to consider the same arguments used against us by those who think the other side is less evil.

The result is we believe that the Catholic Church rests with us and we cannot be in the wrong when we interpret Church documents, or the words of Popes. If the Pope and the bishops in communion with him should ever speak out on an issue we think is “less important,” we immediately think that the Church is in danger of—or already is—error. That is not faithfulness to the Church. That is imposing our template on whether we will obey and calling those conditions “fidelity.”

This also applies to how we approach those bodies that the Pope gives authority. Canon law points out:

CAN. 754 All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and to proscribe erroneous opinions, particularly those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops puts forth.

So, if we try to argue that a document of the CDF lacks legitimacy because it was not signed by the Pope, we are also guilty of ersatz fidelity. The documents and decrees cannot be promulgated without the approval of the Pope.

Yes, some conservative Catholics claim to be “truly faithful” while picking and choosing which teachings to follow. But so do the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” or “Pope Francis Catholics” (a term I loathe) who interpret Pope Francis in a way that justifies what they were going to do anyway. Members of both groups believe that Pope Francis supports sexually active same sex relationships—despite all his rejections of it—and only disagree over whether that “support” is good. When these factions fight over this to claim that they alone are the faithful ones, I can only shake my head, because both are wrong¥.

I believe that if we want to be truly faithful, we will need to change our thinking. If we encounter a Pope or bishop acting in a way that we cannot square with what we think the Church should be, we should first ask if we were the ones who have somehow gone wrong. Otherwise, our supposed fidelity is exposed as a sham: We are not faithful in learning from the Church that teaches with Christ’s authority. We are creating a cheap substitute that merely bears a similar appearance.



[†] Falling into the ideology trap is not merely endorsing one party. We can also do this by bearing a special hostility for one party to the point that we ignore the other evils from the side we think of as less at fault.

[‡] We should note that these Catholics do testify against any defense through ignorance when they bring out a Church condemnation of their opponents’ position to condemn their party.

[§] For example, look at St. John Paul II in his Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.

[¥] Some of the readers might wonder if I am overlooking the possibility that I might be guilty of this myself, I can only say, “Of course I am… but I try not to be.” I will admit that even when writing this piece, I have found my thoughts flitting over to the behavior of others I wish would listen. But, when I catch myself doing that, I try to go back and see if I have been guilty of the same. Of course, I have preferences on what should be done. But I believe we should be willing to consider why it is if the Church decides on a different path.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Reflecting on the Current Rebellion

You shall not commit murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not corrupt boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not practice sorcery. You shall not kill an unborn child or murder a newborn infant. And you shall not desire the goods of your neighbor. (Didache Chapter 2.2)


* * *


Here is another suggestion, which may not be without its value—if you find yourself thus apparently deserted by the light of faith, do not fluster and baffle your imagination by presenting to it all the most difficult doctrines of the Christian religion, those which unbelievers find it easiest to attack; do not be asking yourself, "Can I really believe marriage is indissoluble?  Can I really believe that it is possible to go to hell as the punishment for one mortal sin?"  Keep your attention fixed to the main point, which is a single point—Can I trust the Catholic Church as the final repository of revealed truth?  If you can, all the rest follows; if you cannot, it makes little difference what else you believe or disbelieve. (Msgr. Ronald Knox, In Soft Garments, pages 113-114).


Back in 2016, I wrote a piece about the attack against the authority of the leaders in the Church. At that time, the main issue was people using the misconstrued words of Pope Francis to push an agenda either to excuse rejecting a teaching or to undermine obedience to the Pope. Five years later, the main issue is… pretty much the same thing.


The issue in question is the Eucharist and receiving in a worthy manner. What drives this question is the fact that certain Catholic politicians are protecting and expanding abortion as a “right,” contrary to the obligations of Catholic teaching. Catholics conscious of grave sin must not present themselves for Communion (canon 916). Manifest public sinners must not be admitted to Communion (canon 915).


Among the bishops, the dispute is over reminding the faithful about what the Eucharist is and how they must be disposed to receive. In the past, American bishops have went along with a “let the individual bishop decide how to handle it in their diocese” approach. Unfortunately, since the treatment varies from place to place, some politicians appear to be facing no consequences for their actions.


Adding to the confusion is the misrepresentation of Pope Francis’ words on the Eucharist. It is true that the Pope said that the Eucharist is medicine for the sinners, not a reward for the saints… and there is nothing wrong with that statement, properly understood. All of us are sinners in need of salvation. Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy stressed Confession and he told priests not to make it difficult for those seeking to return.


The problem is some are twisting his words in a way that denies the need for that  repentance. The Catholic understanding is that God will continue to forgive us when we fall. But people forget that part of being reconciled with God is the intention of turn away from sin. Yes, we will fall again. But the The result is some Catholics do think the Eucharist is a reward… in the sense of a Participation Trophy. The common attitude is that one can go on sinning with no need for reconciliation or firm purpose of amendment to “go and sin no more” (cf. John 8:11).


This attitude is exposed when we see people treat abortion as a “political issue” and falsely accuse the bishops of political bias. It shows a serious problem when Catholics think of it as a “liberal political policy” and not the “deliberate killing of the unborn child” that was condemned since the First Century AD (see the quote from the Didache at the top of the article). Catholic Politicians and their defenders ignore this universal denunciation, treating it as a matter of preference.


In addition, we see extensive use of the tu quoque fallacy which distracts from the issue at hand by accusing the bishops of ignoring other issues. If one wants to to discuss these issues separately, that can be done. But the fact that Bishop X is accused of wrongdoing does not remove the guilt from the evil of abortion or the requirement of the proper disposition to receive the Eucharist. The bishops have to respond to that. Ezekiel 3:17-21 tells us:


Son of man, I have appointed you a sentinel for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me. If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked and they still do not turn from their wickedness and evil conduct, they shall die for their sin, but you shall save your life. 


But if the just turn away from their right conduct and do evil when I place a stumbling block before them, then they shall die. Even if you warned them about their sin, they shall still die, and the just deeds that they performed will not be remembered on their behalf. I will, however, hold you responsible for their blood. If, on the other hand, you warn the just to avoid sin, and they do not sin, they will surely live because of the warning, and you in turn shall save your own life.


The bishops as shepherds are the sentinels. Regardless of whether we accept or reject their warning, they must speak out or perish. And we are called to obey the teachings of the Church because the Church teaches with the authority given by Christ. (Matthew 7:21-23, 16:19, 18:17-18, Luke 10:16, John 14:15, John 20:23). If we will not give our obedience to the Church, we are rejecting Christ.


This current rebellion is a symptom of a larger problem. We will follow the Church only as far as that obedience costs us nothing. But if she tells us specifically that we are supporting evil, we get angry. That can be Catholic Democrats on abortion, or Catholic Republicans on unjust immigration policies. It can also be Catholics belonging to political parties of other countries with their own situations of sin. In all of these cases, the Church teaching crosses national boundaries.


If we are angry when the Church does speak out, we should recall the words of Msgr. Knox, quoted above: “if you cannot [accept the teaching authority of the Church], it makes little difference what else you believe or disbelieve.” The parts we pick and choose will be of no avail at the final judgment when God asks us why we did not listen to the Church on the rest.




(†) It should be noted that people routinely practiced abortion and infanticide when the Church condemned this, so it is not a cultural belief.

Monday, June 21, 2021


In a past article, I discussed how the reaction of American Catholics to the USCCB voting to draft a document about the Eucharist showed a deep and dangerous situation that needs correction. I likened the backlash against disciplining public sinners to an iceberg. However, as the backlash grows, it has also revealed what a vocal portion of the non-Catholic United States population thinks about the Catholic Church: they hate us when we say that certain things are evil, and actions have consequences. They take advantage of this backlash to claim that the Catholics of the world agree with them and try to silence the Church. If we would just be silent on these evils and be a charitable NGO instead, the world would have no problem with us. 


The problem is, we cannot just be a philanthropic organization if we are to be faithful to Christ and His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We are sent to instruct the world on what we need to do if we would be saved (cf. Acts 2:37-40). If we refuse to do that, we will be held accountable for those who fall into damnation from our silence (Ezekiel 3:17-21).


It is true that Pope Francis has stressed mercy and compassion in how the Church reaches out to sinners. There is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some people misinterpret Pope Francis and his calls for mercy and compassion by assuming that people can come to communion if they “feel called” without repentance or changing their behavior. That is not and never was any part of his call for mercy.


It is also true that, in Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis stressed that we cannot assume mortal sin without determining if all the conditions (grave matter, full knowledge, free consent) are present. And, in the context of divorce and remarriage, there are situations where the knowledge or consent might be lacking. But we are not talking about people who were badly instructed or coerced into a situation where they cannot escape an invalid marriage. We are talking about Catholic lawmakers who say they will not follow their Church’s teaching against legalizing and expanding abortion as a “right.” Since the Church has made clear that abortion is grave sin and politicians are obliged to oppose it, canon 916 requires those in grave sin to not “receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession” does apply. And those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion” (canon 915). So, the Church in America needs to address this issue. Those Catholic lawmakers who do work to protect and expand the evil of abortion must be corrected. 


Among the bishops, the disagreement is over how to handle this matter. Since we must not commit rash judgment, we must not impute bad will to the bishops we disagree with. That can be hard when one has passionate feelings on what we should or should not do, but sometimes being a Catholic is difficult because we must be willing to put God’s will above our own. American Catholics often resent and rebel against teachings we disagree with, praising or condemning the Popes and bishops depending on whether what they say line up with their views. Both sides downplay their own rebellion with special pleading, while being rigorous towards those they disagree with, even though they are guilty of the same thing.


So, while the bishops might legitimately have different views on how we should best approach those who know what the Church teaches and refuse to change, we cannot use that difference as an excuse to defend those we politically favor who do wrong. The Church in America needs—as the Ladaria Letter reminds us—to unite around the teachings of the Church and come to a common understanding on how to respond to those who refuse to follow these teachings.


Our part is to stop judging rashly. If someone calls the ~73% of the bishops who voted in favor of drafting a document “defying the Pope,” they have rashly judged. If someone accuses the ~24% who voted against drafting the document “pro-abortion” or “pro-Democrat” they have rashly judged.


The document has not been drafted yet and will not involve President Biden when it is drafted§. Acting against pro-abortion politicians in one’s own diocese is already permissible. The anger over national policy is months—possibly years—premature.


The iceberg of Catholic factionalism and dissent needs to be broken. Catholics need to relearn obedience to the Magisterium and charity towards those they disagree with.  If we can do that, we can break the iceberg that threatens the mission of the Church. If we will not, then we are merely part of the iceberg of rebellion.




(†) I have encountered people who deny they have factional leanings, but I can only ask, “Is that really true?” Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us are tempted to give one side a “pass” when we either fear the opponent more or favor our side. Justice forbids us to act that way, however.


(‡) Only 50%+1 is necessary to begin drafting such a document. However, approval for a national policy (which may or may not be included in the final draft submitted to Rome) either has to be unanimous or 2/3 and approved by Rome.


(§) Canon 1405 restricts judging a Catholic head of state to the Pope.

Saturday, June 19, 2021


Canon 915: Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.


Canon 916: A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.


There is a rule of thumb for an iceberg. For every foot sticking out of the water, ten feet are below the surface. So, except for when a change of balance causes a shift that reminds us about how big it is, the visible portion looks less threatening than it actually is. Aside from the practical nautical knowledge of navigation in icy waterways, this knowledge makes for a lot of memes involving what lies beneath a problem.


In the aftermath of the USCCB meeting of June 16-18, I think the iceberg meme serves as a useful symbol for the hostile response directed towards the bishops. Yes, we now have an ominous threat emerging where Catholics—including Catholic politicians—have reacted with hostility towards the decision to draft a document that in part looks to consider the requirements for receiving the Eucharist. But that threat was not caused by the USCCB vote. It was always that big beneath the surface. What the vote did was expose just how big the threat is.


The hidden part of the iceberg in this metaphor was just how large the number of American Catholics who failed to grasp what the Eucharist really is and how we are to prepare ourselves to receive it, combined with the failure to understand that the teachings of the Church are not opinions that can be rejected. The result is, when the bishops voted (fewer than 25% voted against it), it brought how big a problem it was to the surface.


The situation is that the long held teaching is being labeled as “weaponizing the Eucharist” by those who fall under the prohibition. And that demonstrates, as Ven. Pius XII put it:


Perhaps the greatest sin in the world today is that men have begun to lose the sense of sin. Smother that, deaden it — it can hardly be wholly cut out from the heart of man — let it not be awakened by any glimpse of the God-man dying on Golgotha's cross to pay the penalty of sin, and what is there to hold back the hordes of God's enemy from over-running the selfishness, the pride, the sensuality and unlawful ambitions of sinful man? Will mere human legislation suffice? Or compacts and treaties? In the Sermon on the Mount the divine Redeemer has illumined the path that leads to the Father's will and eternal life; but from Golgotha's gibbet flows the full and steady stream of graces, of strength and courage, that alone enable man to walk that path with firm and unerring step.


The loss of the sense of sin makes reception of the Eucharist “a right” and the Church insisting on our need to receive sacramental confession if we are conscious of grave sin “being political.” It is a problem that runs deep and over a long period of time. With no past agreement on how to handle it, this reaction demonstrates the opposition has hardened.


This is not going to be a lament on what might have been. There is no point in saying “we should have dealt with this earlier.” We have to deal with the situation as it exists now. Unfortunately, because the bishops are in disagreement (168 for, 55 against, 6 abstentions), those Catholics who are supporting what the Church has always called evil can play on this division to attack those who want to enforce the Church teachings.


That does not mean we can attack those 55 bishops who voted against writing the document. Sure, under canon 212 §3, we can make our concerns known… if done “with reverence toward their pastors.” But disagreement over how to handle a situation does not automatically prove a rejection of Church teaching or moral laxity.


Nor can we claim that the 168 bishops voting in favor of writing a document are acting “in opposition to the Pope.” The Ladaria Letter did not forbid the bishops taking action. It called for “agreement as a conference,” which doesn’t necessarily mean a unanimous vote (73% voted in favor. A 2/3 margin is required). During the process of drafting it and before voting for it, there will be opportunities to come to agreement on what is to be done.


But we should be speaking out against the dissent that attacks Church teaching. Sure, one can legitimately say that Bill Barr was wrong to sign off on an execution (this is currently a popular tactic on the internet… though it’s a tu quoque and the differences are greater than the similarities). But, if these critics are aware that his action was wrong (and it was), then they are without excuse for not also condemning the continuing actions of the pro-abortion politicians who enable and protect the evil of abortion.


So, I believe that the iceberg that threatens the Church in the United States is the disobedience and the justification for evil given when that evil is on our side. It is easy to be self-righteous towards the other side’s faults. But, if we will not repent of our own failures while condemning the other side for theirs, then we should remember the words of The Lord: “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you (Matthew 7:2).” This does not mean that the Church is guilty of being judgmental when she applies censure to the recalcitrant who publicly flaunt their disobedience. But it does mean we play the hypocrites if we excuse our own side—going against the teachings of the Church—for what is unforgivable for our enemies.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Look to Your Own Beam First

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Those involved in factional fighting might pretend to be acting for the “good of the Church,” but the reality is they are selectively quoting what the Church teaches to discredit their political opponents. Then, when challenged over the sins of their own side, they argue that “the stakes are too high” to worry about that at this time. The problem is this way of thinking will never find the “right time” to challenge their own faction. There will always be a perceived crisis that prevents us from looking to reform ourselves.

But we are called to change ourselves regardless of what others do. Our Lord tells us:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Yes, teaching others to reject evil is part of the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). But if we will not do what we expect others to do, we will answer for it.

This gets worse as Catholics misidentify Church teaching and political preference. The result is accusing Catholics on the “other side” of wrongdoing, while never asking themselves about their own behavior.

10 I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

Recently, the war between the Original Pro-Life Movement (hereafter OPLM) and the New Pro-Life Movement (hereafter NPLM) has flared up again. It is not a new conflict. It happens in America with every change of a Presidential party in power. One party thinks that abortion is a “human right.” The other recognizes it is not. Catholics, of course, can never licitly support abortion… even though some Catholics do.

The battle of the OPLM and the NPLM basically comes down to how abortion should be weighted when it comes to the moral obligations of voting. Both factions are caricatures of what the Right to Life means. The OPLM generally argues that abortion is the worst evil of our times, and we can never licitly vote for a candidate or party that supports legalized abortion. The NPLM tends to argue that since the other social justice issues are a part of the Seamless Garment of Life, we need to elevate them in the discussion. Unfortunately, the practical result of this factionalism is that the OPLM argues that “the stakes are too high” to hold candidates accountable for issues other than abortion, while the NPLM argues that “the stakes are too high” to worry about abortion. The OPLM Catholic tends to vote Republican regardless of that party’s failings and the NPLM Catholic tends to vote Democrat regardless of that party’s failings.

Both factions are quick to point out the failures of the other side. But, neither does more than pay lip service to their own side’s failures. The result is, hostility and self-righteousness grow apace.

The fact is, the Catholic Church does indeed teach that the Right to Life is the first right. However, her teaching shows that both factions have gone wrong:

In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of the rights of the human person. It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change—let alone eliminate—them because such rights find their source in God himself.

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fĂ­nds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

The Church has never yielded in the face of all the violations that the right to life of every human being has received, and continues to receive, both from individuals and from those in authority. The human being is entitled to such rights, in every phase of development, from conception until natural death; and in every condition, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor. The Second Vatican Council openly proclaimed: “All offences against life itself, such as every kind of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and willful suicide; all violations of the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures; all offences against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, degrading working conditions where men are treated as mere tools for profit rather than free and responsible persons; all these and the like are certainly criminal: they poison human society; and they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”. (Christifideles Laici 38)

So, on one hand, Catholics cannot limit the right to life to abortion. On the other hand, Catholics cannot reduce the importance of abortion… it is listed next to murder and genocide, after all. Moreover, certain rights are considered secondary to the right to life. So, while rights to housing and healthcare are important, we cannot sacrifice the obligation to oppose abortion to them.

I would say that contra the OPLM, we do have an obligation to speak out against more than abortion. But contra the NPLM, we also have an obligation to oppose abortion as the first assault on the right to life.

Therefore, I think the assaults on the bishops are unjust. The OPLM is wrong in saying that the bishops ignore abortion. They are not. But the NPLM is wrong in claiming that the bishops were obsessed with abortion and neglecting the other issues. Anybody paying attention to the USCCB releases showed they spoke about all the issues Americans were wrong over… but they were always attacked for not speaking about Y, when the focus of the debate was X.

Let us face the facts: when a Presidential administration is in line with Church teaching on X but wrong on Y, the bishops will tend to focus on Y. If the administration is in the wrong on abortion, the bishops will speak out on abortion. If the administration is in the wrong on immigration, the bishops will speak out on immigration. They are not behaving in a partisan manner. I would say that the person accusing them of being partisan is the one who is biased. 

We can see this OPLM v. NPLM factionalism in play with the USCCB expressing concern over Biden and abortion. Both factions will pick out their heroes and villains on how they face the fact of a pro-abortion Catholic President… the first in US history§.

And I think that is the key to the situation. America has had pro-abortion presidents before and Catholic pro-abortion politicians before. But this is the first time we have had a Catholic pro-abortion President in the United States. So, the US bishops are dealing with something entirely new#.

So, it does not help when the OPLM and NPLM are picking out heroes and villains from the bishops. Yes, the bishops are publicly divided over what should be done, and that should not be. Yes, we do need a solution on how to handle it. And yes, all of us (including me) have ideas on what that solution should be. But our response should be prayer for them to reach a wise decision, not accusing the bishops we disagree with of bad will. Because of this, I say that the OPLM and NPLM need to spend more time considering the beam in their own eyes and less on the splinter in the eye of their foes. It might help coming to a non-partisan response that helps the bishops instead of hindering them.


(†) Relatively speaking. Often, a political party will support an action that the Church teaches but do so with a different motive.

(‡) “Pro-Choice” is a propaganda term where the party tries to separate the claimed personal feelings of the politician from what he does, even though the claimed personal feelings have no impact on what he freely chooses to do. We should not use the term.

(§) Remember, when the first Catholic President was elected, Roe v. Wade was over ten years away, so it was not a factor.

(#) Canon 1405 does limit the judging of a chief executive of a country to the Pope. But that is beyond the scope of this article and will need to be addressed another time. Briefly, it can be used to interpret the meaning of the Ladaria letter as saying that the bishops need to be unified and talking to Biden privately before bringing it before the Pope. It does not mean that those bishops wanting to move beyond the status quo are wrong. Also, keep in mind this canon was not part of the revision of canon law.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

When Factionalism Masquerades as Piety

11 For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:11-13)

27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. 31 If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; 32 but since we are judged by [the] Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

The USCCB is planning to discuss the Eucharist and the deficiencies in proper understanding among American Catholics. This is reasonable. When a majority of the faithful do not realize that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or if they think everybody should be allowed to receive regardless of the state of their souls, that is a clear sign that we need remedial education. The bishops are—regrettably—divided over what the best response should be. As a result, Cardinal Ladaria has issued a statement urging the bishops to reach a unified approach.

This is understandable. The USCCB is not a mini-Vatican where a majority vote can impose policy on all dioceses. The individual bishop is responsible for teaching and enforcement in his own diocese. So, a USCCB resolution is only “binding” on the whole Church in America only if all the bishops implement it. But, at the same time, different levels of enforcement are causing a scandal among the faithful. When some, like Cardinals Gregory and Cupich, openly disagree with others, like Archbishops Gomez and Cordileone over how to handle Catholic politicians who openly work to expand abortion in this country, confusion will erupt, and factional Catholics will seize on this to push for their own agendas.

And the title of this article is aimed at these Catholics, not the bishops. I might prefer one approach over the other among the bishops, but I do not believe either approach intends to undercut the Church teaching. The same cannot be said about Catholics on the internet calling one group of bishops “heretical” or the other “legalistic.” They have picked a side, focusing on the sins of the other while ignoring those of their own side. These factions “cherry pick” what the Pope and his predecessors have taught in a way that justifies what they say while ignoring the full message.

As a result, we see some Catholics point to the words of St. John Paul II and contrast them with the words of Pope Francis. One will be portrayed as championing the true meaning of Catholicism. The other will be portrayed as causing harm to the real meaning. For example, in Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II pointed out that divorce and remarriage while the other spouse still lives is grave matter. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis points out that we cannot assume that all the conditions of mortal sin are present in that remarriage without the confessor investigating the case. When understood in context, neither Pope contradicts the other. But when partisan Catholics pick sides, we are presented with “heroes” and “villains” among the bishops that line up with our partisan views of what should be done. Bishops speaking out against sins we think are worse are praised. Those who speak out against sins we think merit less concern wind up attacked as heretics or legalists. Ironically, the same bishop can be attacked by both sides when he points out the Church teaching on two different issues where one is seen as “conservative” and one as “liberal.”

When we do this, we are guilty of the factionalism, even if we think this is piety. The Catholic who says, “I am for Francis” or “I am for John Paul II” and contrasts them as opposed is guilty of what St. Paul condemns. If we want to be for Christ, we need to be for Pope Francis… and Benedict XVI, and St. John Paul II, and St. Paul VI, and St. John XXIII… all the way back to the beginning of the Church. Yes, some of the successors of St. Peter were unworthy of the office. But the teachings of the Popes remain true, although future Popes can make adjustments and clarifications to fit the needs of the current time.

If you are opposed to rigorism, remember laxity is also an evil. If you are opposed to laxity, remember rigorism is also an evil. The Church navigates between the two seeking to reflect both Our Lord’s mercy and justice. If we sacrifice one in favor of the other, we are not doing God’s will.

Bringing this back to the discussion of the Bishops, the Eucharist, and our response, we need to be aware that this is not a case of “good bishops vs. bad bishops.” Their discussion is about what is the proper response to the fact that so many Catholics have gone wrong about what the Eucharist means and what proper disposition to receive means. But, if we turn this into a fight where we say the bishops should focus on X instead of Y, we are not helping. We are part of the problem. We see this happen all the time when someone says the Church should stay out of politics and focus on saving souls… forgetting that our sins can involve political behavior and not just personal.

Let us not forget that during the 2020 elections, Catholics on both sides of the political divide placed the bishops on the other side of that divide, using the same arguments. Bishops of the various committees spoke about issues that fell under the purview of that committee. But critics criticized them for ignoring other issues… issues that were addressed by the bishops of the relevant committee.

If we want to escape this factionalism, we need to stop looking at it from a partisan perspective. We need to look at it from the perspective that the Church teaches. We have an obligation to live according to His commandments (see Matthew 7:21-23, John 14:15), and we can break His commandments in public ways as well as personal. No faction is free from guilt on this matter. So, yes. We must call out the intrinsic evil of abortion. We must call out the evil intent some promote in issues like immigration. We cannot ignore either one. But, if we are angry that a specific Church statement condemns one specific idea without mentioning the other, we have missed the point, because the Church does issue separate statements dealing with that issue as well.

We should be honest and acknowledge we prefer that the Church spend 100% of their time speaking on the sins of others and resent it when she speaks on sins our preferred faction is guilty of. But the Church does not only need to speak to them. She also needs to speak to us. If we will not do that, our piety is simply a masquerade for factionalism and we are harming the Church by dividing her.

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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

What About Us?

Pay attention to the bishop, if you would have God pay attention to you. I offer myself up for those who obey the bishop, priests and deacons. May it be my lot to be with them in God. Toil and train together, run and suffer together, rest and rise at the same time, as God’s stewards, assistants and servants. Please the leader under whom you serve, for from him you receive your pay. May none of you turn out a deserter. Let your baptism be ever your shield, your faith a helmet, your charity a spear, your patience a panoply. Let your works be deposits, so that you may receive the sum that is due to you. In humility be patient with one another, as God is with you. May I rejoice in you always.


—St. Ignatius of Antioch


One temptation Catholics face was described by the future Pope Benedict XVI as taking the prayer in the Communion Rite, “look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church,” and changing it, by practice, into look not on the sins of our Church, but on my faith. In other words, we subverted the recognition of our sins and the holiness of the Church by elevating our own perceived superiority to the flaws of the sinful members of the Church… in other words, if the Church does not work the way we think it should, we take it to mean the Church is in the wrong and that is the fault of somebody else. The Catholic who thinks that the Church would be fine if those in charge would do things their way have fallen into the trap. 


We have seen this in articles that portray legitimate incidents of confidentiality as “secret” or decisions to make no changes as “neglect of important issues.” Such people selectively cite Canon 212§3 to justify their actions. Yes, Canon 212§3 exists for us to respectfully express our concerns about the needs of the Church. No, it does not mean we can rudely dismiss the actions of those who are tasked with making decisions on how to handle things.


Of course, the individuals within the Church from the laity to the Pope can and do sin. They can make errors of judgment in the administration of the Church. We should be praying for them because of that fact. But we all too often focus on the actions on the part of them—the “Pope and/or bishops,” while ignoring our own role among the laity. Many seem willing to gleefully cite the sentence—falsely attributed to St. John Chrysostom or St. Athanasius—that “The road to hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lampposts that light the path” when we dislike the things the Pope and bishops have done, while ignoring Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16, and John 14:15 that remind us that our failures of obedience are not a minor matter.


We are all called to follow the Christian life and the specific vocation that God may call us to. That calling may be something official within the Church, or it may be a private action. We do need to act in communion with the Pope and the bishops in doing so. If they should rule that a ministry must be done one way, or must not be done another way, then that should be a huge clue that we cannot impose that conflicting vision on the Church. But, if we take the “look not on the sins of our Church, but on my faith” approach, we will fall into error… perhaps even into heresy or schism if we become obstinate enough.


I recognize that readers might immediately think of the behavior of an individual among the clergy who does wrong and think, the author wants us to follow blindly! No. I do not call for that. I can legitimately express concern about the German bishops for example, because they appear to be in opposition to the Pope and bishops in communion with him. But I do think that when we get indignant over the legitimate exercise of authority in the Church and are tempted to say that the Church is the one in the wrong, we have the obligation to ask ourselves: What About us?




(†) It seems that the origin of the saying was John Wesley who apparently wrote that St. John Chrysostom should have said it: “A lifeless, unconverting minister is the murderer-general of his parish. . . I could not have blamed St. Chrysostom, if he had only said, ‘Hell is paved with the skulls of such Christian priests!’”