Category Archives: Morality

Catholic requirement to fight evil!!! Put on the armor of salvation!!


“Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong.   Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks.   We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.   So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.

Be ready! Let the truth be like a belt around your waist, and let God’s justice protect you like armor.   Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet.   Let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the flaming arrows of the evil one.   Let God’s saving power be like a helmet, and for a sword use God’s message that comes from the Spirit.

 Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God’s people.   Pray that I will be given the message to speak and that I may fearlessly explain the mystery about the good news.   I was sent to do this work, and that’s the reason I am in jail. So pray that I will be brave and will speak as I should.”

-Eph 6:10-20

Trains of thought are a lovely thing!  I LOVE where they take me, perhaps even if those who love me most are not as enthralled?  🙂  Please especially pray for Kelly, Mara, and Nora.  Bless them.  🙂

Asking questions is one of the characteristically Catholic things I love MOST about being Catholic!  Maybe you have noticed?  No?  It is.  It’s true.  I do.

“There’s a deeper war we must fight, all of us! This deep war against evil!” – Pope Francis

The Holy Father’s Angelus address for Sept 8
September 08, 2013 01:51 EST
-Catherine Harmon

“Below is the partial text of Pope Francis’ Angelus address for September 8, delivered this morning in Rome to the assembled crowd in St. Peter’s Square, the morning after the Holy Father led a prayer vigil for peace in Syria in that same space. Translation via Vatican Radio.


Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In the Gospel for today, Jesus reiterates the conditions for being His disciples: not putting anything before your love for Him, carrying your cross, and following Him. Many people came up to Jesus, wanted to be one of His followers; and this would happen especially in the wake of some prodigious dream, that indicated Him as the Messiah, the King of Israel. But Jesus doesn’t want to create illusions for anyone. He knows full well what awaits Him in Jerusalem, the road that the Father is asking Him to take: it’s the road of the cross, of sacrificing Himself for the redemption of our sins. Following Jesus doesn’t mean taking part in a triumphal parade! It means sharing in His merciful love, becoming part of His great mission of mercy towards each and every man. The mission of Jesus is precisely a mission of mercy, of forgiveness, of love! Jesus is so merciful! And this universal forgiveness, this mercy, comes through the cross.

Jesus doesn’t want to carry out this mission alone: He wants to involve us too, in the mission that the Father entrusted to Him. After the resurrection, He will say to His disciples. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you… If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven” (John 20, 21.22). A disciple of Jesus gives up all his or her goods, because he or she has found in Him the greatest Good, within which every other good receives its true worth and meaning: family relations, other relationships, work, cultural and economic wealth, and so forth… A Christian detaches from everything, and then finds everything in the logic of the Gospel, the logic of love and service.

To explain this requirement, Jesus uses two parables: the one of the tower to be built, and the one of the king who goes to war. The second parable goes like this: “What king, marching to war against another king, would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other, who was advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace” (Luke 14, 31-32). Here Jesus doesn’t want to discuss war, it’s only a parable. But at this moment in time, when we’re strongly praying for peace, this Word of the Lord affects us closely, and fundamentally it says: there’s a deeper war we must fight, all of us! It’s the strong and brave decision to renounce evil and its seductions, and to choose good, fully prepared to pay personally: that’s following Christ, that’s taking up our cross! This deep war against evil!

What’s the point of fighting wars, many wars, if you’re not capable of fighting this deep war against evil? There’s no point! It’s no good… This means, among other things, this war against evil means saying no to fratricidal hatred, and to the lies that it uses; saying no to violence in all its forms; saying no to the proliferation of arms and their sale on the black market. There are so many of them! There are so many of them! And the doubt always remains: this war over there, this other war over there – because there are wars everywhere – is it really a war over problems, or is it a commercial war, to sell these arms on the black market? These are the enemies we must fight, united and coherent, following no other interests but those of peace and of the common good…”

“His will be done; His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven!”


St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

O glorious prince St. Michael,
chief and commander of the heavenly hosts,
guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits,
servant in the house of the Divine King
and our admirable conductor,
you who shine with excellence
and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil,
who turn to you with confidence
and enable us by your gracious protection
to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.
-1 Peter 5:8–9

“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.”
-Saint Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002

“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.”
-Pope Francis, Halloween 2014


Marie Collins, Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

I wish I could tell you, over the past eight years, Marie’s story is unique.  It is not.  It is all too, too tragically familiar.  Dealing with evil is difficult.  But, as disciples, it is required.  The Catholic Church is an institution with a 400 year cycle time.


-by Peter Kreeft, PhD

“The problem of evil is the most serious problem in the world. It is also the one serious objection to the existence of God. No sane person wants hell to exist.

When Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote his great Summa Theologica, he could find only two objections to the existence of God, even though he tried to list at least three objections to every one of the thousands of theses he tried to prove in that great work. One of the two objections is the apparent ability of natural science to explain everything in our experience without God; and the other is the problem of evil.

More people have abandoned their faith because of the problem of evil than for any other reason. It is certainly the greatest test of faith, the greatest temptation to unbelief. And it’s not just an intellectual objection. We feel it. We live it. That’s why the Book of Job is so arresting.

The problem can be stated very simply: If God is so good, why is His world so bad? If an all-good, all-wise, all-loving, all-just, and all-powerful God is running the show, why does He seem to be doing such a miserable job of it? Why do bad things happen to good people?…

If God is the Creator of all things and evil is a thing, then God is the Creator of evil, and He is to blame for its existence. No, evil is not a thing but a wrong choice, or the damage done by a wrong choice. Evil is no more a positive thing than blindness is. But it is just as real. It is not a thing, but it is not an illusion..

Second, the origin of evil is not the Creator but the creature’s freely choosing sin and selfishness. Take away all sin and selfishness and you would have heaven on earth. Even the remaining physical evils would no longer rankle and embitter us. Saints endure and even embrace suffering and death as lovers embrace heroic challenges. But they do not embrace sin.

…The cause of suffering is sin. …

We are single creatures, not double: we are not even body and soul as much as we are embodied soul, or ensouled body. So the body must share in the soul’s inevitable punishment, a punishment as natural and unavoidable as broken bones from jumping off a cliff or a sick stomach from eating rotten food rather than a punishment as artificial and external as a grade for a course or a slap on the hands for taking the cookies…

If the origin of evil is free will, and God is the origin of free will, isn’t God then the origin of evil? Only as parents are the origin of the misdeeds their children commit by being the origin of their children. The all-powerful God gave us a share in his power to choose freely. Would we prefer he had not and had made us robots rather than human beings?…

The worst aspect of the problem of evil is eternal evil, hell. Does hell not contradict a loving and omnipotent God? No, for hell is the consequence of free will. We freely choose hell for ourselves; God does not cast anyone into hell against his will. If a creature is really free to say yes or no to the Creator’s offer of love and spiritual marriage, then it must be possible for the creature to say no. And that is what hell is, essentially. Free will, in turn, was created out of God’s love. Therefore hell is a result of God’s love. Everything is.

No sane person wants hell to exist. No sane person wants evil to exist. But hell is just evil eternalized. If there is evil and if there is eternity, there can be hell. If it is intellectually dishonest to disbelieve in evil just because it is shocking and uncomfortable, it is the same with hell. Reality has hard corners, surprises, and terrible dangers in it. We desperately need a true road map, not nice feelings, if we are to get home. It is true, as people often say, that hell just feels unreal, impossible. Yes. So does Auschwitz. So does Calvary.”

Please pray and ACT for the safety of ALL children!!!! Lord, be merciful to us ALL!!!!  Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, Mother of the Church, Mother of Christian Families, pray for us!!!

“…He shall come to judge the living and the dead…”


What is Catholic teaching on transgenderism?


To the Catholic mind, the disorder of transgenderism is really a crisis of faith, doubting the wisdom and purpose of the Creator.  The Church views gender dysphoria as a mental illness. Intentional mutilation is always immoral.  Recent medical evidence suggests that in a majority of cases the procedure (gender reassignment surgery) increases the likelihood of depression and psychic disturbance.

A transgender individual is a person who experiences sustained Gender Identity Disorder (a.k.a. GID, Gender Dysphoria, BID, etc.). Their genetic gender is different from their perceived gender. Some describe themselves as a woman trapped in a man’s body, or vice versa. Others view themselves as having a male brain in a female body, or vice versa.

“Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his bodily composition he gathers to himself the elements of the material world; thus they reach their crown through him, and through him raise their voice in free praise of the Creator… For this reason man is not allowed to despise his bodily life, rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and honorable since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. Nevertheless, wounded by sin, man experiences rebellious stirrings in his body. But the very dignity of man postulates that man glorify God in his body and forbid it to serve the evil inclinations of his heart.” -Gaudium et Spes, 14.1





Paragraph 6. Man

355 “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.”-Gen 1:27.  Man occupies a unique place in creation: (I) he is “in the image of God”; (II) in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; (III) he is created “male and female”; (IV) God established him in his friendship.


Equality and difference willed by God

369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being man” or “being woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator…. Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God”. In their “being-man” and “being-woman”, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.






2331 “God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image . . .. God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion.”…

2332 Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

2333 Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life…

“…individuals suffering from gender dysphoria syndrome must be treated with compassion. They need spiritual counseling which will help them realize the great love of God Who loves them as individuals who have been created in His image and likeness. They need proper psychotherapy which will help them to face realistically their human situation and the world, and the consequences of their actions on themselves and their relationships with family and friends. Such counseling will also direct them to spiritual, intellectual and social pursuits to realize their self-worth and divert their preoccupation with sexual identity.” – Rev. William P. Saunders,, Arlington, VA, 2001.


Why does the Catholic Church teach homosexual acts are intrinsically evil?


“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” -CCC 2357


THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WANTS YOU TO HAVE AWESOME SEX!!!!  It’s true.  It does.  But, let’s define some terms.  You could say the Catholic Church holds sexual union as sacred.  So sacred it places it within and confines it to a sacrament.  In Catholic theology, sacraments are “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.”

This is easier if you have had some philosophy, literally the “love of wisdom”.  Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.

Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. In more casual speech, by extension, “philosophy” can refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”.

The Church, from the beginning, has understood the world has an implied rational order due to the nature of creation itself.  The Church “holds these truths to be self-evident”, so to speak, when reflected upon.  Truth cannot contradict truth.

But, humans being sinful beings, can and do and have always and will always pervert the rational truth distilled from philosophy and revelation to fit their own agendas, to fit their own definitions of their “truths”.

The Church does not believe there are many “truths”.  Rather, it holds there is only One Truth, Jesus Christ, and it strives, under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit, to come to an ever more full understanding of that Truth.

In Catholicism, a “mystery” is not something unknowable, it is something infinitely knowable.  We are only limited by our own humanity as to why God had pre-ordained such things, and things as such.

We may NOT make ourselves gods, and make our own “truths”.  We do, therefore, have free will, as God’s gift, and, frankly, also the inherent challenge and responsibility to use or to abuse the created world as we do, even contrary to the Creator’s will.  We have the freedom to cure terrible diseases, to feed the starving, to free slaves, but also to commit genocide, to enslave, to exploit, to oppress, to make war, to annihilate.  We also have the freedom to use our sexual gifts, our ability to participate in the creation of beautiful life, and the freedom to abuse them towards selfish and unproductive ends.

There is no genuine love of the Creator nor anything else without free will.  The realization of the gift of free will means, as with any freedom or authority we may possess, that there is also the intrinsic freedom to abuse our free will, to choose wrongly, to act against the intentions and the will of the Creator.  This is a heavy responsibility.  We must choose wisely.  Our choices have consequences here, in this life, and in eternity.

The Natural Law

Very simply put, the natural law is that moral behavior which can be determined through reason by its architecture, form, function, and effects.  The end NEVER justifies the means.  The Catholic Church understands human beings to consist of body and mind, the physical and the non-physical (soul), and that the two are inextricably linked. Humans are capable, but only proper moral formation inclines them to judge rightly, of discerning the difference between good and evil because they have a conscience, and the divinely mandated obligation to do so.

The Divine Law

Gen. 19:8-9,13, Jude 7, Ezek. 16:49-50, Lev. 18:22, 20:13, 1 Cor 6:9-10, Romans 1:27, provoking the wrath of the Almighty.  Prov 1:7.

Love must be fruitful

The Catholic definition of “love” is very specific.  It MUST, NO exceptions, comport to the the natural moral law.  It MUST, same deal, comport to the Divine law.  It MUST be open to life.  It MUST be open to fecundity, and fruitfulness.  It MUST occur within the Sacrament of Marital Union.

  1. Because homosexual acts violate the natural law as implied by the sexual “complementarity”, or sexual differences, between male and female, both in biology, and in the total complementarity of a person’s personal identity in  their masculinity or femininity,
  2. Because they violate the Divine law,
  3. Because, by definition, they cannot be naturally fecund, ever, and are inherently closed to natural procreation,
  4. Because of the above, homosexual acts cannot, ever, be blessed in the Sacrament of Marriage,
  5. Because of all these, homosexual acts can never be approved.

This position is objectively determined as a consequence of faith in Jesus Christ.  It has nothing to do with “liking” or “disliking” anyone.   It has nothing to do with subjective preferences, conditions, opinions, or agendas.  Nothing.  It has been the Church’s consistent teaching.  Those who object are just waking up to the Church’s teaching in greater clarity, which cannot be a bad thing.  “Truth is not determined by a majority.” – BXVI

All are called to chastity in their particular state of life.  Homosexual persons must be accepted with respect, compassion, dignity, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives.


“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…” & empty confessionals.


Everyone’s least favorite sacrament, I realize.  Imho, we need to start hearing GOOD homilies that address sin in a healthy, but straightforward way, no canned sermons, no ill-prepared random thoughts, just cause you can.  No more bad liturgy, bad music, bad children’s choirs, as cute as they may be.  Good, edifying liturgy, unsullied by parish politics.  Keeping the peace at the cost of the Good News?  Sin and its deleterious effects, not just “happy, happy, joy, joy”.  No sin, no need for a Savior, right?  Maybe after five decades, of “happy, happy, joy, joy” we no longer are sinners?  That could be the impression.  Works for me, and a lot of others, too, apparently.

Real homilies, GOOD homilies.  We ask clergy to do a LOT!!!  There is a PLETHORA of FUNDRAISING on Sundays, of EVERY flavor.  Give the cows a break, would ya’?  The business NEVER gets neglected.  The Catholic Church NEVER met a dollar or other currency, it didn’t like.  If you want a return to the confessional, the clergy leading by example, as they always should.  And, cool it with the money.  It’s a real turnoff.  Imho.

I’ve thought about the “take it directly to Jesus” approach.  I have.  I need to name my sins, TO ANOTHER PERSON, for me, to make sure I really “own” the responsibility, that I truly am no longer in denial, not a river in Egypt, and face it, directly.  A BIG part of being forgiven, for me.  I need to hear another human being say to me “I (God) absolve you…”  I NEED that.  A nun or two has also heard my confession, as well, informally.  I feel just as absolved.  I do.  Thank you, Fathers & sisters.  Thank you.

Bless Me, Father
May 21, 2007 Issue, America Magazine
-by Rev. James Martin, SJ

“The statistics are alarming. According to the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate, a survey in 2005 showed that 42 percent of Catholic adults, when asked how often they went to confession, answered Never.

Alarming but hardly surprising. Is there any American Catholic who does not know how empty the confessionals are in this country? The days of ritual visits to confession on Saturday afternoons are over for most Catholic families. In that same survey, 32 percent of Catholics said they confess their sins to a priest less than once a year.

More worrisome is the fact that active Catholics, not just lapsed or lukewarm Catholics, avoid the sacrament of reconciliation. Brian Stevens, 35, is a Catholic who is completing a master’s degree in pastoral ministry at St. Thomas University in Miami, and has just accepted a job with Catholic Charities. He does not go to confession. One reason he stopped was that he could not find a parish he liked. Not going to confession goes to the heart of feeling disconnected from the local church, Stevens said. He disagrees with blaming the laity, adding, There’s a reason for the decline; it points to a flaw in the way it’s been presented. It’s not the people’s fault.

Many younger Catholics in particular find the sacrament beside the point. Tom Beaudoin, a theology professor who writes frequently about young adults, notes that for his students at Santa Clara University in California, the sacrament is simply not an issue. I have had students talk to me about baptism, marriage, funerals, but never confession, he said. It hardly registers with them.

What has happened to confession in the U.S. church of the 21st century? Has there been a flaw in its presentation? More important, what can be done to invite Catholics to participate in the sacrament that is at the heart of our experience of the love and mercy of God? In short, how can the sacrament of reconciliation register with people?

What Happened?

Even a short history of the sacrament could fill volumes. Briefly put, the rite of reconciliation developed gradually. It is based on Jesus’ granting to the apostles the power to forgive sins, as recorded in the Gospels (Matt 16:19, John 20:23). During the first and second centuries, Christians debated whether a baptized person who had committed serious sins (for example, murder, adultery or apostasy) could be reconciled to the church. In the third century, Tertullian advanced the idea of penance, which took the form of a public act of penitence. But what most Catholics would call confession did not began in earnest until the late sixth century, when Celtic priests began to incorporate auricular confessions as part of their spiritual counseling. By 1215, theologians at the Lateran Council were reflecting and writing on the practice, which had become more widespread. The Council of Trent also took up the sacrament, laying down clear guidelines for its use.

The Second Vatican Council placed a greater emphasis on sin as an offense against both God and the community. It also declared that the rites of the sacrament were to be revised so that they more clearly express both the nature and effect of this sacrament. Vatican II defined three forms of the rite, renamed the sacrament of reconciliation: first, for individual penitents; second, for several penitents with individual confession and absolution; third, for several penitents with general confession and absolution. In the wake of Vatican II, Catholics grew accustomed to seeing reconciliation rooms supplementing or replacing the old confessionals.

The sacrament, then, has been developing slowly over centuries. So how did the church in this country move in just a few decades from full to empty confessionals? Most experts point to a confluence of factors.

The first is a profound change in the sense of sin. As John Baldovin, S.J., a liturgical scholar, points out, this is both good news and bad news. On the one hand, we’re not obsessed with sin any longer, he said. On the other hand, people don’t think of themselves as sinners, which is a big problem.

Some observers note factors like an American culture that increasingly stresses victimization, rather than taking full responsibility for one’s sinful actions. Many are not all that open to recognizing personal responsibility, said Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Contemporary Catholics may also feel that the psychologist or spiritual director fills the same needs that the confessors once did.

The second is a shift in emphasis on the presentation of the sacrament. After Vatican II, not only did priests begin to speak more frequently about social sins, like racism and sexism; they also reminded parishioners that the penitential rite at the beginning of the Mass was an important way to reconcile oneself with God and others. Father Baldovin surmised that because of the new three-year cycle of readings, priests were also preaching more homilies about stories of the forgiveness of Jesus, emphasizing God’s mercy more frequently than before. While they heard the good news, this may have relativized their sense of sin, he said. As a result, some Catholics may have become confused about whether or not confession is still necessary.

A few Catholics have told me that the church’s ecumenical stance after Vatican II further influenced their view of confession. Mary Collier, 60, a lifelong Catholic in Peoria, Iowa, said, If God is going to welcome Protestants and non-Christians to a life beyond, and they didn’t go to confession, I highly doubt that I’ll be left out because I’m not going. She almost never participates in the sacrament. I’m part of that 42 percent, she said.

Overall, said Kurt Stasiak, O.S.B., author of the widely used manual A Confessor’s Handbook, Parishioners don’t get a sense that this is an important thing to do.

The third reason behind so many empty confessionals, according to nearly all observers, is the publication of Humanae Vitae, in 1968, the Vatican’s encyclical on birth control, whose teachings on contraception were not only widely rejected by many American Catholics but also, in the eyes of those who disagreed, lessened the credibility of the church’s stance on sexual morality in general. Catholics began to doubt not only the need to confess sexual sins but also the moral authority of the church, whose representatives would absolve them from these sins.

The fourth reason may be the simplest: because of busier lives, American Catholics are not as able to keep the Saturday afternoon ritual of going to confession with their familyif they know about that practice. Very few people under the age of 35 even have the experience of that as a weekly event, said Paula Fitzgerald, a campus minister at John Carroll University in Ohio.

Taken together, these four reasons help to explain why short confession lines are the norm today. According to the CARA survey, only 12 percent of Catholics go to confession more than once a year. Perhaps the more important question is: What can the church do about it?

Old Strategies, New Solutions

While most scholars agree that the sacrament has fallen on hard times, they also agree on steps that can be taken to rejuvenate the sacrament and reintroduce it to the faithful. Father Stasiak, who teaches at St. Meinrad’s School of Theology in Indiana, said that while the sacrament is on the decline, some parishes are attracting many people to confession.

He notes four general strategies, echoed in various ways by other experts, which make for good attendance at confession.

First, priests can encourage their parishioners to participate in the sacrament. Priests can talk from their own experience about the sacrament, not as an obligation but as an opportunity, said Father Stasiak. Bishop John Cummings, the emeritus bishop of Oakland, Calif., agrees. Where there are priests who are cheerful and hopeful about the sacrament,he said, it will work.

The biggest barrier in many Catholic minds to such encouragement is the notion that the sacrament is unnecessary. Monica Andrews, 35, a former campus minister, is a social worker who lives in Seattle with her husband and infant daughter. She hasn’t seen a priest for confession in eight years. I just don’t feel that I need to verbalize my sins, she said. I feel like I can confess to God in prayer. Mary Collier raised a similar objection. Nothing against priests, but why go to a human being to ask for forgiveness if I can go to God?

Pastors are trying a variety of ways to respond to such objections. During this past Lent, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, of Washington, D.C., rolled out an ambitious archdiocese-wide program, The Light Is On for You, designed to attract people back to confession. This is a moment when we need to be aware of how diminished the sacrament is, in terms of its regular use, said the archbishop. When asked about these objections, he responded that Jesus established things in such a way that people could be assured of forgiveness. It’s a human need to hear from the other side, I accept that,’ he said. Jesus built that into the sacrament.

Father Stasiak suggests that the parable of the prodigal son is helpful when responding to such objections. Imagine how different the story would be if, instead of the forgiving father meeting the son with outstretched arms, the younger son had come home and found a note from the father tacked to the door. You need that personal connection, Father Stasiak said.

A second component concerns the priority of scheduling. Today the traditional Saturday afternoon hourlong time slot may be both insufficient and poorly timed, given many families’ busy weekend schedules. The problem is exacerbated in one-priest parishes or when a single priest is asked to care for several parishes. But timing may be everything. A centerpiece of Archbishop Wuerl’s Lenten initiative was asking all the churches in the Washington Archdiocese to remain open from 7 to 8:30 on Wednesday evenings during Lent, as a way of recognizing the timetables of contemporary lives. Why not offer it when people have a chance of being free? the archbishop said. We need to make the sacrament available in a way that people can actually access it.

Creative scheduling of penance services, including seasonal communal gatherings during Advent and Lent, may also encourage Catholics who may feel turned off by the box. And Paula Fitzgerald noted that retreats and spiritual direction at John Carroll have helped young Catholics feel more inclined toward the sacrament. During spring break this year, at the 10 p.m. Mass we had two or three students approach the presider to say, We came from retreat, would you hear my confession?’

Third, the church needs to do a better job in catechesis, say experts. Peter Fink, S.J., editor of The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, who taught the confession practicum at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology for 31 years, put it bluntly: It has been a failure of catechesis. Father Fink, who is now associate pastor at St. Francis Xavier Church in New York City, suggested that catechesis should move from focusing on sins that need to be forgiven to forgiveness that heals sinfulness. We have failed to convince people that the sacrament is more about how good God is than how bad we are. Poor education of the faithful in the basics lies at the heart of the decline of participation in the sacrament. Some adult initiation programs, for example, still spend only a few minutes discussing the sacrament.

Ironically, some Catholics who do not go to confession nevertheless show a deep understanding of what the sacrament should be. Brian Stevens said, If it was actually about reconciling oneself to the community it would make more sense. Appealing to some Catholics may be as basic as reminding them that what they are seeking is what the sacrament is already designed to offer.

Archbishop Wuerl responded to the catechetical problem by issuing a lengthy (and highly readable) pastoral letter to his archdiocese, titled God’s Mercy and the Sacrament of Penance, as part of his Lenten renewal program. It covers both the scriptural and more broadly theological bases for the sacrament, and it uses an encouraging tone and basic language that make it easy for most Catholics to hear and understand. The sacrament of reconciliation is the story of God’s love that never turns away from sin, reads the letter. It endures even our shortsightedness and selfishness.

To ensure that the message would be heard, the Archdiocese of Washington distributed 100,000 brochures and launched what The Washington Post called a marketing blitz, buying ad space on buses, billboards and on the radio.

Finally, parishes can provide good confessors. People will be more likely to gravitate to good confessors if they can be assured of compassionate priests, who will, as Father Fink says, speak a word of forgiveness. This is not to say that every priest or bishop can be a Padre Pio or a John Vianney, who were renowned for their skill as confessors. (St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, is said to have spent 16 hours a day in the confessional.) But hearing confessions is an art. Father Stasiak addresses it at length in A Confessor’s Handbook, which includes a helpful list of dos and don’ts, like Do not accuse; do not insult and Don’t get caught up in your own words.

An even more basic idea comes from Father Fink, who said, I used to tell my students simply to imagine what Jesus Christ would say to the person before you.

God’s Mercy

Archbishop Wuerl is hopeful about the long-term results of his Lenten program. So far it has been remarkably successful, with a dramatic increase in people coming to the sacrament, he noted a few weeks after it started. Churches where the sacrament remains a vital part of parish life tend to use a combination of strategies.

Parish priests and pastoral associates must trust that in this sacrament the church is offering something of value even today to a society that minimizes sin, emphasizes victimization over personal responsibility, places enormous demands on people’s time and fosters distrust of institutions. The sacrament of reconciliation offers something everyone desires: God’s mercy. As Father Peter Fink said about his own need for the sacrament, I go to stand before God as a sinner and to hear a word from God that says, Don’t go away. I’m still with you.’”


Sin is communal…only in extreme emergencies, confession.

Reconciliation_Pope-Francis (1)

“If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.” -1 Jn 1:10

I had the…displeasure, you might say, of witnessing a communal penance service during a Catholic Mass in my life.  Mass was going on in a large auditorium in the Chicago suburbs.  The celebrant said some prayers, and then asked people to stand up when they felt forgiven.  One-by-one the entire congregation, or the majority, stood.  I did not.  I was in too much shock.  I don’t “think” I’m a wet towel?  I like to think I try to keep it real?  Hip?  As much as I can at 49?  Externally, I was in physical control.  Internally, I needed to be sedated.  I did finish Mass, though.  Yeah.  🙂

I realize Penitential Rite III of Vatican II, in very extreme circumstances, allows something along this vein.  None of these extenuating circumstances were present in this regular Sunday Mass, whatsoever.  I am not the Sunday Mass police, whatsoever, however, as an amateur Catholic wonk, I did drop a dime to the chancery, such was the scandal I personally encountered and felt.  🙁


A Communal confession is valid only for emergency or unusual circumstances such as for those who live in remote areas or in a situation where there are insufficient priests available to hear everyone’s confesssion prior to attendance at the Holy Mass. (We are to be in the “state of grace”, absolved of all guilt due to mortal sin through the Sacrament, right?  Prior to receiving communion?  Remember that part?  I know you do, gentle reader.  I know you do.  I have faith, and trust, and confidence in you.  I do.  Pray for me, when I receive the Sacrament, and my examen is “fuzzy”.  Please, pray for me.  Please.)  Under ordinary circumstances it cannot replace individual confession (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1483 and Code of Canon Law # 961 and # 962).

However, sin is communal.  No sin is EVER a strictly personal matter.

3/12/2009, -by Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia (retired)

“In a book which he wrote about his famous father, Enrico Caruso, Jr. described the atmosphere in the villa where Caruso lived and worked. The mood of the place was always determined by what the great tenor was doing. If he was sleeping, everyone was quiet. When he awoke, his enthusiasm for life was infectious and everyone seemed to rejoice with him. If his southern personality was expressed in anger, everyone in the villa trembled!

We don’t have to live with Enrico Caruso to know how the mood, words and actions of one person can affect an entire home. This can likewise be true of a place of business. One person can affect the entire atmosphere of a place and either raise it up with joy and enthusiasm or lower it with tension and anger.

This is also true of the community or family which we know as the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. The actions of one member can either build up the Church of Christ through virtue and fidelity or weaken it by sin. It is mysterious how the actions of a human person can affect Christ’s Mystical Body but such is the power of human freedom that God not only allows us to make free choices but also allows our choices to build up or weaken the Church he has founded. This is why we can say that sin has both a personal and social aspect.

In the Exhortation, which followed the Synod of Bishops that had discussed the Sacrament of Penance, Pope John Paul II wrote: “By virtue of a human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others. There is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the ecclesial body and the whole human family. In this sense every sin can be considered a social sin” (Reconciliation and Penance, 2 [December 1984]).

The Sacrament of Penance

The Sacrament of Penance is always a vital part of our Christian lives but we highlight it in a special way during this Lenten season. This great Sacrament of God’s mercy has always manifested both the personal and communal aspects of sin and forgiveness. However, it has done this in different ways down through the centuries.

In the early centuries of the Church, there was a role given to what is called public penance. This was a penance performed in the midst of the community to highlight the truth which we have been discussing, namely the social as well as the personal aspect of sin. Public penance was not imposed upon everyone and it depended on the nature of the sin.

Saint Augustine wrote, concerning public penance: “If the sin is not only grievous in itself but involves scandal given to others, and if the bishop judges that it will be useful to the Church, let not the sinner refuse to do penance in the sight of many or even of the people at large, let the sinner not resist, nor through shame add to the mortal wound a greater evil” (Sermon 151, n. 3).

It was the confessor who would determine the necessity and the extent of the public penance imposed upon a penitent. This was done not to cause shame to the penitent but to highlight the communal nature of sin and the weakening of the Body of Christ caused by it. These periods of public penance often took place during the Lenten season, with the penance beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending with a formal ceremony of reconciliation on Holy Thursday. This practice of public penance gradually changed.

Although public penance was once a part of the celebration of the Sacrament, we must not confuse the manner of celebrating the Sacrament of Penance with the Sacrament itself. Penance is the Sacrament which Christ established to bring about the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism. The Church is given the power to dispense the mercy of Jesus in this Sacrament. The priest, who acts in the person of Jesus, forgives sins in the name of the Church.

In this way, the public nature of forgiveness continues to be represented when this Sacrament is celebrated. It is the priest who, as the minister of the Sacrament in the name of the Church, also represents the public life of the Church. In this very private and intimate Sacrament, in which individual sin is confessed and forgiven, there is still a public role exercised through the ministry of the priest, who represents the entire Church.

In his Encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ, Pope Pius XII beautifully expressed this mystery. He wrote: “As Jesus hung on the Cross, he not only satisfied the justice of the Eternal Father, but he also won for us, his brothers and sisters, an unending flow of graces. It was possible for Him personally, immediately, to impart these graces but He wished to do so only through a visible Church that would be formed by the union of people, and thus, through the Church, every inspanidual would perform a work of collaboration with Him in dispensing the graces of Redemption. The Word of God willed to make use of our nature, when in excruciating agony, He would redeem mankind. In much the same way, throughout the centuries, He makes use of the Church that the work begun might endure.

“Jesus Christ wishes to be helped by the members of His Body. This is not because he is indigent and weak, but rather because He has so willed it for the greater glory of His unspotted Spouse.

“Dying on the Cross, Christ left to the Church the immense treasury of the Redemption. Toward this she contributed nothing. But, when those graces come to be distributed, not only does Christ share this task of sanctification with His Church, but He wants it, in a way, to be due to her action” (Mystici Corporis, 44).

A life beyond

We have all heard the word “supernatural.” This means something which goes beyond or above the natural. In our natural understanding of what is public and what is private or personal, we tend to think in physical or visible terms. If we can see something, it is public. If something is hidden or known to us alone, it is personal. The Christian life, however, is a great reality which is real while not always being physical.

In the Sacrament of Penance, we may see just the priest and the penitent. However, because we are dealing with an action of God’s grace, given through the Church, we are actually dealing with something public and communal.

The sin of the inspanidual, which may be known to that person alone, has an effect on the entire community, thereby giving it a communal aspect. The forgiveness of God transmitted by the priest in Confession is an action involving the Church. It is through the ministry of the Church that the inspanidual sinner is reconciled to God and the family of believers.

Once this reconciliation has taken place, the inspanidual is able to go out once again and fulfill his or her communal role in building up the Church of Christ.

In speaking to the Bishops of the United States on their ad limina visit to the See of Peter, Pope John Paul II described this unity this way: “Only when the faithful recognize sin in their own lives are they ready to understand reconciliation and to open their hearts to penance and personal conversion. Only then are they able to contribute to the renewal of society, since personal conversion is also the only way that leads to the lasting renewal of society. This personal conversion, by spanine precept, is intimately linked to the Sacrament of Penance” (Address, 15 April 1983).

Jesus wishes us to have a relationship with Him which is real and living. He has given us dramatic signs of His love. However, in order to live that life fully, we must go beyond what is natural and visible. We live that life in union with the community of the Church which He founded and which, according to His plan, is the dispenser of that life.

When we sin, we weaken the entire Body of the Church and when we are sorry and ask forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we receive forgiveness from Christ but through that same Church. This is the wonderful plan that God has designed for our salvation.”

I am not only a teacher of youth, but an activist for their protection.


Legal Pot Is a Public Health Menace

-by William J. Bennett and Robert A. White

“The great irony, or misfortune, of the national debate over marijuana is that while almost all the science and research is going in one direction—pointing out the dangers of marijuana use—public opinion seems to be going in favor of broad legalization.

For example, last week a new study in the journal Current Addiction Reports found that regular pot use (defined as once a week) among teenagers and young adults led to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ. On Aug. 9, the American Psychological Association reported that at its annual convention the ramifications of marijuana legalization was much discussed, with Krista Lisdahl, director of the imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, saying: “It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth.”

Since few marijuana users limit themselves to use once a week, the actual harm is much worse for developing brains. The APA noted that young people who become addicted to marijuana lose an average of six IQ points by adulthood. A long line of studies have found similar results—in 2012, a decades-long study of more than 1,000 New Zealanders who frequently smoked pot in adolescence pegged the IQ loss at eight points.

Yet in recent weeks and months, much media coverage of the marijuana issue has either tacitly or explicitly supported legalization. A CCN/ORC International survey in January found that a record 55% of Americans support marijuana legalization.

The disconnect between science and public opinion is so great that in a March WSJ/NBC News poll, Americans ranked sugar as more harmful than marijuana. The misinformation campaign appears to be succeeding.

Here’s the truth. The marijuana of today is simply not the same drug it was in the 1960s, ’70s, or ’80s, much less the 1930s. It is often at least five times stronger, with the levels of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, averaging about 15% in the marijuana at dispensaries found in the states that have legalized pot for “medicinal” or, in the case of Colorado, recreational use. Often the THC level is 20% or higher.

With increased THC levels come increased health risks. Since Colorado legalized recreational use earlier this year, two deaths in the state have already been linked to marijuana. In both cases it was consumed in edible form, which can result in the user taking in even more THC than when smoking pot. “One man jumped to his death after consuming a large amount of marijuana contained in a cookie,” the Associated Press reported in April, “and in the other case, a man allegedly shot and killed his wife after eating marijuana candy.” Reports are coming out of Colorado in what amounts to a parade of horribles from more intoxicated driving to more emergency hospital admissions due to marijuana exposure and overdose.

Over the past 10 years, study after study has shown the damaging effect of marijuana on the teenage brain. Northwestern School of Medicine researchers reported in the Schizophrenia Bulletin in December that teens who smoked marijuana daily for about three years showed abnormal brain-structure changes. Marijuana use has clearly been linked to teen psychosis as well as decreases in IQ and permanent brain damage.

The response of those who support legalization: Teenagers can be kept away from marijuana. Yet given the dismal record regarding age-restricted use of tobacco and alcohol, success with barring teens from using legalized marijuana would be a first.

The reason such a large number of teens use alcohol and tobacco is precisely because those are legal products. The reason more are now using marijuana is because of its changing legal status—from something that was dangerous and forbidden to a product that is now considered “medicinal,” and in the states of Colorado and Washington recreational. Until recently, the illegality of marijuana, and the stigma of lawbreaking, had kept its use below that of tobacco and alcohol.

Legality is the mother of availability, and availability, as former Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. put it in his 2008 book on substance abuse, “High Society,” is the mother of use. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, currently 2.7 million Americans age 12 and older meet the clinical criteria for marijuana dependence, or addiction.

Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, has estimated that legalization can be expected to increase marijuana consumption by four to six times. Today’s 2.7 million marijuana dependents (addicts) would thus expand to as many as 16.2 million with nationwide legalization. That should alarm any parent, teacher or policy maker.

There are two conversations about marijuana taking place in this country: One, we fear, is based on an obsolete perception of marijuana as a relatively harmless, low-THC product. The other takes seriously the science of the new marijuana and its effect on teens, whose adulthood will be marred by the irreversible damage to their brains when young.

Supporters of marijuana legalization insist that times are changing and policy should too. But they are the ones stuck in the past—and charting a dangerous future for too many Americans.”

Pray for our young people.  Pray for Mara, please.  They are in such need of our prayers and active protection.  We will be judged by Him on how we defended the most vulnerable, I firmly believe, and the Gospel says.


Avoiding Scrupulosity – Mt 7, “By their fruits you will know them…”


A healthy, mature Catholic faith requires refraining and protecting oneself from scrupulosity. What is scrupulosity? Read on. Beware of malpracticing, even well intentioned clerics, bishops, Orders, laypeople and groups. They ARE out there. Go where by parish, priest, people, His everlasting mercy and love are embraced, practiced, and offered. JOY IS YOUR EVERLASTING BAPTISMAL RIGHT!!!! Especially so among the purported faithful. It is their baptismal obligation to ensure this for you!!! NEVER settle. NEVER! He is worth not settling!!! And, so ARE YOU, in His image and likeness. Require you be treated as such. Require it! Always! NO exceptions!!!! NONE!!! The Lord demands, requires, and orders it so!!! Jn 13:34.  Loving Jesus DOES NOT mean or ever imply being a door mat, or close, or worse.  Suffering is part of life.  Pray for those who cause it for you, but abuse is never ok, especially anywhere near or around church, ever.

If you don’t feel like you are in the presence of Jesus Himself among others (esp. Christians!), you’re in the wrong place! If you’re pressured, made to feel bad, instead of being gently counseled to consider your actions and their effect on yourself, others, your soul, your future, its implications if you continue, you’re in the wrong place. Trust me. Been around the Catholic block…a little. HEALTHY Catholic clergy and laypeople ARE the majority. Be discriminating in this vital area. The love and mercy of the Lord does not hurt. Quite the contrary. Seek out a healthy and well-balanced confessor. Trust in His (the Lord’s, and hopefully, your confessor’s) 🙂 everlasting mercy. That is not presumption, that is Divine Mercy. Divine Mercy!! Divine Mercy!!! Amen. Amen. Amen. Praise Him! Praise Him, Church!!!

-by Rev. Thomas M. Santa CSSR (Fr. Thomas M. Santa, a Redemptorist priest, holds masters degrees in religious education and divinity. He is director of Scrupulous Anonymous and president and publisher of St. Louis-based Liguori Publications. His book Understanding Scrupulosity is available from Amazon.)

“The Vatican II document “Church in the Modern World”(Gaudium et Spes) offers a beautiful image of the center of the human person: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: Do this; shun that. For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged.” For each human person, our conscience — the core of our being — can be a place where we are “alone with God Whose voice echoes in His depths” (16).

For most people of faith, such an image is appealing. But for some the thought of communicating this intimately with the Lord produces a feeling not of comfort but of terror. Such people are convinced that because of the presence of evil in their life, God must be displeased with them. As a result, any sin — any manifestation of weakness or imperfection, often the most minute and insignificant — becomes their primary preoccupation, and an intimate relationship with the Lord is impossible.

This type of affliction is often called a “tender conscience,” but a more accurate description of people who suffer in this way is that they are scrupulous. Every priest who has ever sat in the confessional is well aware of such people’s spiritual struggle. Indeed, all those in the helping professions — priests, ministers, spiritual directors, and assorted health professionals — have individuals come to them seeking relief from the torment of the “thoughts that will not go away.” The scrupulous conscience is not the place of comfort and sanctuary that the Fathers of the Vatican Council speak about. It is a place of anxiety, frustration, and the never-ending struggle to determine what is sinful and what is not.

For people who have never struggled with a scrupulous conscience, this description might come as a surprise. In common usage, the word scrupulous means strict, careful, or exact. For example, we might speak favorably about a lawyer who scrupulously prepares his case so that every detail is studied or an accountant who scrupulously reviews his client’s balance sheet. But in the formation of conscience, scrupulosity is an altogether different thing.

What Is Scrupulosity?

In Catholic moral teaching, scrupulosity defines the spiritual and psychological state of a person who erroneously believes he is guilty of mortal sin and is therefore seldom in a state of grace. A scrupulous person has difficulty making choices and decisions even though he desires above all else to please God and to follow God’s law. For a scrupulous person, it isn’t that he doesn’t “carefully attend to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church” (as the Catechism teaches), but that he becomes overwhelmed with the details and nuances that may be present in the decision.

An example of the “crooked thinking” of a scrupulous conscience may be helpful. All of us are aware of the need to abstain from all food and beverages for one hour before the reception of Communion at Mass. We are aware that this is one of the conditions the Church expects us to fulfill for the worthy reception of the sacrament. We are also aware that this is nowhere as demanding as the previous prescription for a three-hour fast — or the even older fast from midnight of the night before — that was once part of our spiritual practice. Most of us do not become preoccupied with the prescription because it is so easily followed.

This is not the case for a scrupulous person. One hour is sixty minutes fraught with the possibility of making a mistake. There is confusion over what constitutes breaking the fast. For example, does lipstick break the fast? Or say a piece of food is dislodged from your teeth, despite your best efforts at brushing and flossing, and you inadvertedly swallow it. Does this action break the fast? Or perhaps the celebrant is a little quicker today than normal and you are not sure you’ve fasted for the entire sixty-minute period. What to do? To receive Communion may well be to risk sacrilege, the deliberate and unworthy reception of the Body of Christ.

Imagine how a person might feel consumed in this way by the doubt, fear, and anxiety of scrupulosity. One author described the experience of scrupulosity as “a thousand frightening fantasies” and yet another author as the “doubting disease.” Despite a person’s best efforts, despite his absolute commitment to the moral teaching of the Church, and despite his desire to serve the Lord, he is unable to arrive at a point of peace, confident that he’s done as much as can reasonably be required.

Formation Of Conscience

The Vatican Council teaches that, “in forming their consciences the faithful must pay careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church” (Dignitatis Humanae 14). The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes up the theme: “Man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit” (1788). The informed conscience that emerges from this experience of formation can guide and lead a person on the path to the kingdom. Unfortunately, the Catechism does not specifically address the scrupulous person when it teaches about the duty to acquire a well-formed conscience.

That being the case and despite the obstacles, a scrupulous person may well be formed correctly and possess the knowledge of what is sinful and what may not be sinful. In fact, those who minister to the scrupulous find that they are often well versed in the moral law and the Commandments. What seems to be missing is the skill necessary to apply the moral law to the choices and the decisions that are a part of daily living.

How is it possible to know the objective truth yet be unable to apply it to daily life? Psychologists suggest that the key to understanding the scrupulous condition may lie in the childhood experiences of scrupulous individuals. Perhaps there was a rigid and repressive atmosphere in the home or too much of an emphasis on strict adherence to rules. Perhaps the parents were rigidly religious and overprotective. Negative attitudes expressed about God, morality, and sexuality — especially if these attitudes were communicated by authority figures — might also provide some sort of insight into how the condition was acquired.

Recent research suggests that scrupulosity may well be best described as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People who suffer from OCD experience obsessive thoughts that they cannot control about such things as aggressive acts, recurring thoughts involving obscene language, and constant focus on thoughts of germs and disease. Compulsive acts might include repeated dressing and undressing or the need to repeat certain words or phrases again and again. (Jack Nicholson gave a compelling portrayal of OCD behavior in the 1997 movie As Good As it Gets.) Continuing research into the possible connection between OCD and scrupulosity offers the potential for understanding the affliction that can only help future pastoral care.

From a religious viewpoint, the factor that seems most prevalent in the development of scrupulosity is a negative image of God. There is an exaggerated fear of all that is sacred manifested in any encounter with God or the Church. The sacraments — especially the Eucharist and confession — provide the most opportunity for anxiety. Prayer, both private and communal, often causes the anxiety and frustration identified with scrupulosity.

Regardless of how the scrupulous person got that way, the formation of his conscience, even with the best education and training, is a secondary concern — and may even be counterproductive — until the scrupulosity is identified and addressed. The moral freedom necessary to make sound decisions is absent. Since there is not present “ignorance of Christ and his gospel, enslavement to one’s passion, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy” (CCC 1791), perhaps the pastoral concern should not be to form a conscience but rather to help the person be freed from his scrupulosity — or if not freed, at least to experience some relief.

Scrupulous people hopefully realize that it is not because of a lack of effort on their part or because of a lack of commitment to Gods will that they suffer this affliction. Although the root cause of scrupulosity is not known, the person who suffers most certainly does not choose it. The fear and the anxiety that scrupulosity produces within the person as he strives to do the will of God are symptoms of the affliction and not an indication that the person is somehow displeasing to God. Because of their suffering, it is not too much of an assumption to believe that the Lord must be preparing a special place for the scrupulous.

The Traditional Pastoral Approach

In order to seek some relief or sense of assurance, scrupulous people often fall into a pattern of constant confession, spiritual direction, or professional counseling. Often the scrupulous person is seeing several people for counsel, each of whom is unaware of the others and is repeating advice and giving direction. More often than not the scrupulous person exhausts the people who are attempting to help. This leads to frustration in the helper and panic in the scrupulous person.

For this reason, a single, trained, patient, and informed confessor remains the best help and hope for the scrupulous person. This approach has as its source no less of an authority than St Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church, patron of moral theologians — and also a person who suffered from scrupulosity and who is known to have worn out the confessors of Naples in his search for relief. St Alphonsus teaches, “I tell you that you should implicitly trust in obedience your confessor. This advice is given by all of the doctors of the Church and the holy fathers as well. In short, obedience to your confessor is the safest remedy which Jesus Christ left us for quieting the doubts of conscience, and we should give thanks for it.”

Despite the recommendation of the saint, it is often difficult for a person with scrupulosity, even it he recognizes the wisdom of the advice, to enter into a relationship with a single confessor. It is challenging to find a priest confessor who is willing to commit to this kind of relationship, often because of a feeling of inadequacy. Even if a priest confessor can be found, the scrupulous person is often hesitant to commit to one person to direct his spiritual growth because of a fear that he may have chosen someone who is not well trained or who is perhaps too patient and kind.

Regardless of how the scrupulous person might feel, he must force himself to choose this remedy. Not coincidentally, ultimate relief from the affliction of scrupulosity lies in the choice to act against fear and doubt.

Although commitment to a single confessor is of primary importance, another help is available. Understood as supportive and supplementary to the work of the confessor and the grace of the Holy Spirit, membership in Scrupulous Anonymous (SA) is also recommended.

SA has no meetings. It accomplishes its work through correspondence and the mutual prayer and support of its members. The primary vehicle for this correspondence is a monthly newsletter, Scrupulous Anonymous. Edited by a priest director, the newsletter is sent free to all who request it. During the more than thirty-five years that SA has been in existence, its members have demonstrated repeatedly that those who follow the direction of a single confessor and who use the monthly helps and encouragement that are provided in the newsletter can enjoy support and relief in their struggle. Often they are able to escape altogether the torment of scrupulosity.

The SA newsletter, suitable for both those who suffer from scrupulosity and their priest confessors, may be obtained by writing to SA, One Liguori Drive, Liguori, Missouri, 63057. Names and addresses, as well as all correspondence, are confidential.

A spiritual director is a good choice for all people who desire to progress in spiritual growth and development. But for the scrupulous person, such an individual is essential. Scrupulosity is a terrible spiritual affliction that makes it difficult for a person to believe in the mercy and forgiveness of a loving Father. Despite their best efforts and their commitment to moral teaching and the Commandments, scrupulous persons struggle daily on their spiritual journey. Working together with a trained and patient confessor, a scrupulous person can learn to act against his compulsion and slowly come to know the peace and confidence promised to those of good faith.”

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Blind obedience – inconsistent with virtue


“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.”I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you.” -Mt 21:28-31

-by Philip C. L. Gray, JCL

“Many people believe that true obedience is blind. That is, they believe if a person in authority makes a decision or gives a command, that decision or command should be followed without question simply because a person in authority gave it. Within the Catholic Church, many laity believe that whatever a priest or bishop says should be followed without question.

While there are limited circumstances and situations in which a person would be obligated to follow by trusting only in the source of the directive, authentic obedience is never blind. As a virtue related to justice, the exercise of obedience requires the use of prudence and knowledge of rights and obligations. Without such knowledge, a person risks acting in a manner inconsistent with virtue.

Human Act

The exercise of virtue is a human act. According to principles of Moral Theology, for an act to be considered “human” three elements must exist.

  • The person must have adequate knowledge of the situation, the options available, and the consequences of each option of acting.
  • Second, the person must be free to choose.
  • Finally, the person must intend to perform the act with its consequences; that is, he must actually exercise his knowledge and freedom within his choice of action.

While other outcomes often inevitably arise, the morality of the act and merit gained hinges on the intention, even if circumstances hinder the intended outcome from happening.

As a human act, all virtues require adequate knowledge, freedom, and intention. If one or more of these elements are missing, good effects may come about because of a particular action but virtue was not expressed.


A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good and avoid evil (Catechism, 1803). As a habit, a person must consistently practice a particular manner of acting before it becomes a virtue. However, virtues are more than just habits. Habits are related primarily to functions of the body, and frequently arise quickly due to feelings of pleasure or avoidance of pain. In contrast, virtues are habitual dispositions.

As a disposition, they primarily arise through the use of those qualities associated with our spiritual nature, namely free will, knowledge and intention. By right use of these qualities we develop virtues in our lives. As a disposition to do the good and avoid evil, a virtue runs contrary to our sinful nature.

To exercise virtue, we must have adequate knowledge of God’s law and the situation at hand, the freedom to choose a path, and the right intention to follow God’s law in our decision. With consistent use of our intellect and free will to choose the right course of acting, we become inclined to act a certain way that is good. We identify this inclination to act in accordance with the good is known as “virtue”. Through the practice of virtue, we overcome sin in our lives and tend toward God.

Following classical moral theology, John Paul II describes virtue as in terms of integration of the whole person. We all have certain urges and inclinations associated with our bodies and our passions. If we recklessly follow these urges, we may or may not do good things. But we can be certain not to develop virtue. Rather, we would live like higher forms of animal life that allow their urges to dictate their actions. If we integrate the urge with proper knowledge of God’s law, and make a choice in conformity with His law, then we use our whole being to act and develop an inclination of placing God above ourselves (Cf.: John Paul II, Love and Responsibility).

Obedience is a Virtue

As a virtue, obedience belongs to the Cardinal Virtue of Justice. “Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor….The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor” (Catechism, 1807). As understood by the Church, the exercise of Justice presupposes adequate knowledge of the rights of others. That’s what it means to give a person their due, we respect their rights. We cannot respect them if we do not know them. If we give them more or less than their due, we no longer act in justice.

The Church recognizes that those in authority have certain rights that their subjects must respect. The highest authority is God, and His Divine Law must be followed without question. All other rights, obligations, and laws remain subject to His Law. When faced with a conflict between obeying a higher and a lower law, we must obey the higher lest we sin. When we respect the rights of those in authority, we exercise obedience. Thus, obedience is the virtue associated with justice through which we give those in authority their rightful due, but their rightful due is never in violation of Divine Law.

Obedience and the Integration of the Person

To exercise the virtue of obedience, a person must properly integrate the three elements of a human act with a particular directive from one in authority. How does this work?

No human person has unlimited authority. Rather, all authority comes from God and must be exercised in a way that reflects His Divine Laws (Jn. 19:11). Thus, the first limit of authority is the limit of Divine Law. Whatever God has ordained must be followed, it cannot be changed. Not even a priest, bishop, or the Pope himself can change the directives of God.

Rather, the Magisterium is entrusted with the task of guarding the Deposit of Faith, not changing it (Cf.: 2 Tim. 1:14). This divine limit of authority operates in two ways. First, there exists Divine Laws that determine particular kinds of authority. Second, Divine Law sets the boundary of authority. It does this by establishing certain rights of individuals that cannot be denied by anyone. For example, parents have authority over their children by Divine Law, but parents cannot force an adult child to choose a particular vocation. Rather, the child has by Divine Law the freedom to choose its vocation, and no one can usurp that right.

One of the greatest rights enjoyed by all men that not even God violates is the right to freely choose. This freedom to choose presupposes knowledge of options and intention. Only when this freedom is allowed can true virtue develop. Only when a person freely chooses to act in conformity with a legitimate directive is obedience exercised.

Directives that violate Divine Law must be ignored, and in many circumstances we have an obligation to resist them actively. For this reason, men and women in China have an obligation to protect the lives of their unborn babies from forced abortion and resist the laws that mandate sterilization, contraceptives, and abortion.

The second limit of authority is the limit of Human Law. Human laws include ecclesiastical laws and secular laws. They have the primary goal of expressing God’s laws in concrete circumstances within a particular culture or society. To the extent human laws reflect Divine Law, they protect the Common Good and must be followed. To the extent they violate Divine Law and harm the Common Good, they must be ignored and possibly resisted. As in the case of forced sterilization and abortion in China, the laws mandating this are human laws that violate Divine Law rights and obligations. We must pray for all those in authority, even civil leaders, that their authority would be directed to the common good and the salvation of all (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

Frequently, human laws provide boundaries for the exercise of authority. These boundaries must be consistent with Divine Laws or they are not legitimate. If someone acts outside the legitimate bounds of their authority, they do not have to be obeyed. Remember, outside the boundaries of their legitimate authority, those in authority do not have power over us. Rather, they become our peers.

While a policeman has authority to pull someone over for speeding, he cannot force a person to buy a particular kind of car that won’t allow the person to speed. He can only suggest a kind of car to buy, and his suggestion can be taken by the person as the suggestion of a peer.

Thus, to develop the virtue of obedience, we must develop an adequate knowledge of Divine Laws and those Human Laws that regulate our lives. We have to know the limits of authority. If we do not know the limits of authority, we can be easily manipulated or used by lawful authority. If we freely follow a directive outside the bounds of legitimate authority, we are not acting in obedience (giving the authority its due). Rather, we are making a choice to agree over a course of action.

In a particular situation, we must have adequate knowledge of options and consequences. Lawful authority has an obligation to provide such information. If the authority does not provide it freely, the person has an obligation to seek it. Only with adequate knowledge can a person know what their rightful obligations are in a particular matter.

For an act of obedience to take place, the person must be free to choose the act demanded by authority. If the person is not free, he is being forced, and obedience is not an option. Obedience is always free, and freedom presupposes adequate knowledge.

Finally, a person must intend to obey or he does not obey. By intention, the person freely chooses the required act with adequate knowledge. This intention to fulfill an obligation to authority is critical, or obedience does not occur. It is not necessary for a person to agree with a directive, but only intend to follow it after having sufficient knowledge and freedom to choose. While other intentions may also direct the act at the same time (intention to satisfy an urge), there must be an intention to obey for obedience to be exercised.

Blind Obedience

There are some people who trust lawful authority to direct them without fail. When faced with a directive, they neither seek to know options and consequences nor deliberate their choices. They simply trust that lawful authority will stay within the bounds of its power. This attitude is not true obedience nor is it virtuous.

Because of the freedom we share in Christ, we have an obligation to know the legitimate boundaries of lawful authority in our lives. We have an obligation to know the Divine Laws and what our obligations to God are. Only with knowledge of Divine Laws and the legitimate boundaries of lawful authority can we obey. Without such knowledge, we fall prey to manipulation, coercion, or simply conformity to peers.

Likewise, lawful authority has an obligation to prove their position and to remain within the lawful bounds of their power. If one in authority does not do this, he violates the natural rights of his subjects. To paraphrase a Principle of Law identified by Pope Boniface VIII, one with authority must prove his authority.  He cannot simply claim it. Generally speaking, in the Church such proof usually comes from legitimate appointment or election. We are not bound to obey someone who cannot prove his authority.

Only when lawful authority stays within the bounds of its power do we have to obey. However, such obedience is not blind. Rather, the person who obeys recognizes that the directive given is within the bounds of the authority held, knows that it is not contrary to higher obligations, and freely chooses to follow it for the sake of giving authority its due. Moreover, when options are available, the person must be free to choose between options.”


Mercy, or no?

God's mercy jesus-on-cross

I have thought about this post a lot. I have gone back and forth. From the one end of MYOGDB, to “What is the role of the Church in persistent, allow me the term, please, public “mortal sin”, as defined by the Church, especially of employees?”

What makes this question particularly difficult, and the below articles particularly difficult to swallow, is the evidentiary double standard for the “boys’ club” of the ordained?

My father hated unfairness; my mother, too. It was foundational of their characters. Joyfully, I seem to have inherited this intolerance. See, not all intolerance is necessarily bad?

I don’t know about you, but the two stories below seem to me to smack of unfairness? At least, of the lack of mercy? I don’t discount a sudden jolt can awaken sensibilities, but it seems mercy, patience, empathy, (not my strong or intuitive suits, grant you) albeit not validation, would be better? WWJD? The mercy of the Lord, not only His justice, is, too, a flowing river. It has been for me.

Did they interrupt Mass?  Did they wear an offensive t-shirt in Church?  Did they hand out offensive flyers in Church contrary to the Catholic faith?  Did they encourage others wrongly in Church?  If not, mercy.  Please read:

In my search for my vocation, during college, I contacted the Legionaries of Christ.  (I TALK TO EVERYBODY!!!)  Two somber looking clerics, in full collar, what else, immediately appeared in Charlottesville, took me to dinner, and wanted me to leave college immediately.  In a big argument, where my mother cried, which always angered my father the most of anything, my father threatened to cut off tuition if I did.  I didn’t. I visited their seminary in CT.  One of the seminarians said they only get sick once in a while from the donated, unused food where they got their groceries.  🙁

-by Elizabeth Duffy, May 30, 2012

“There’s a retired priest in our town who travels to the different parishes when a pastor is off duty. I was sitting in a pew, wrestling a three-year-old before Mass one day, when I saw this particular priest in the sacristy putting on his vestments. My stomach lurched because I knew then that Mass would take a very long time. He always gives a rambling 45-minute homily. He also cries, every. single. time. he reads the Gospel.

It wasn’t too late to drive three miles over to the other parish in town. I’d only be a few minutes late getting there. But I felt this guilty sensation: what if scads of people escaped to other parishes every time I showed myself in Church?

I stayed.  (Ed: we all have our favorites, and less so.)

During the Gospel, as ordained, Father cried when Jesus said, “One of you will betray me,” and Judas dipped his morsel in the cup with Jesus. For some reason, on this day, the tears touched me. It was sad that Judas would betray Jesus, and that Jesus knew it, and Judas knew it, but that no one would stop it. It was sad that Judas would condemn his own soul as a result.

During the homily, Father let us know that it was the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He thanked us for celebrating with him. He recalled his baptism. He recalled his time in the seminary, and how during a homiletics course, his professor chastised him for using the term, “we sinners” in a homily, saying, “Never, ever, admit from the pulpit that you are a sinner.”

“My teacher was a very good and holy man who did much good for the Church,” said the retired priest, “but that is the one lesson I learned in seminary with which I have never agreed. Just as the Gospel points out today, good and evil have always existed side by side in every man, but Christ.”

In the wake of Father Thomas Williams’ revelation that he fathered a child during his priesthood, there have been a few blog posts going around that insist, it is okay to feel outrage about this situation. It’s not uncharitable to discuss the scandal, and we have a right to our feelings of anger about it.

To which I say, thank you for the permission to feel outrage. But not only do I not need another charismatic leader telling me how to function, the feeling of outrage at other people’s sins seems too easy to be the right response.

I recognize that many of these posts come from people who have had ties in the past to Regnum Christi or the Legion, and so they are used to being told that they should not discuss the failings they see in others.

I have to admit that the sense of charity offered to others, assuming the best of people, even though it contributed to a culture of silence, is something I miss from my Regnum Christi days.

At the time, it bothered me that I couldn’t go into the dorms with another co-worker and complain about the Consecrated lady whose heavy footfall in the hallway always meant that she was coming to ask: “Can you do me a favor?” She had so many favors to ask, and I just wanted to point it out to someone—”Have you noticed she always asks for favors, and they’re always totally easy things she could do for herself? Isn’t that annoying?”

I could not wait to point out that the emperor had no clothes. She acted holy but she wasn’t. I could recognize it, and all that was left for me to do was to say it out loud to someone, so we could feel mutual annoyance, and experience a bond. Keeping my feelings to myself was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

In the internet age, there are many, many watchdogs waiting to point out that the emperor has no clothes. It’s good, I suppose, that people, especially priests, aren’t getting away with tough sins. And it’s definitely good that they no longer get away with crimes—but what surprises me about all this information is that it doesn’t feel as good to dwell on it as I thought it would feel.

I want to feel outrage. My gut instinct says OUTRAGE! But, there’s a still small voice that says, Lord, protect me from the kind of thinking that says, I would never do that. I would never be unfaithful to my vocation. I would never deceive people who believed in me. I would never maintain the office of speaking for the faith when my private life was such a mess. What a Judas-y thing to do.

The problem with thinking that way is that A) it’s not accurate, and B) it distracts me from the outrage I should feel for my own failings. In different circumstances, with a different psychology, I have been unfaithful. I have been deceptive.

Do I feel outrage about the time I hid the receipt for an online purchase until the evidence was on my doorstep? Am I outraged about my pride? About trying to control people? About not praying? About my out-of-control anger? About giving less than I can to the poor? About being uncharitable in my thoughts toward good and faithful priests who happen to test my patience?

Good and evil do exist side by side in every man, so even if the circumstances of my life prohibit me from committing the exact sin that Father Thomas, or even Maciel committed—sins of public duplicity, of taking advantage of people’s trust and good intention, of abuse—it is equally outrageous that I betray my own vocation in the ways that are particular to my own life.

Saint Paul says that if we must boast, we should boast of our own weakness, not of our astute ability to identify other people’s sins. We could spend our whole lives cataloguing their sins, and never run out of things with which to be outraged (they use NFP selfishly; they have disordered sexual desires . . .). It’s exhausting to think about.

When I consider my own weakness, the truth is that I don’t feel outrage about my sin. If I’m able to silence the justifying reasons why I behaved the way I did for long enough to make a good confession, underneath I feel sadness and disappointment at my own Judas-y behavior, followed by tearful relief at God’s mercy.

Poor Jesus gives his life for all of humanity, but can’t even find twelve good men to eat at his table for his last meal. Judas betrays him. Peter denies him, and thousands of years in the future, priests continue to behave badly, and people keep ignoring their own sins, saying, Thank God I am not like them.

I no longer think that charity entails pretending that other people’s faults don’t exist, but it does seem to involve extending the same gentleness to others that I extend to myself.

I don’t think that what Father Thomas did is excusable, but it is forgivable, and when I imagine that God has already forgiven him, which is most likely the case, maintaining any kind of personal outrage becomes too much labor. Rather, tears seem more appropriate.

It’s no wonder the old priest in my town cries at the Word of God. Maybe tears are the only thing that make sense in response to the tragedy of human failing, and Christ’s outrageous mercy.”

Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner, a hypocrite, a denier of You.

“The measure with which you measure, shall be measured unto you!”  -Mt 7:1


Sin, Temptation & Grace



“One of the most painful ordeals that God-fearing and virtuous souls are made to undergo is that of being tried by temptations. Temptations meet them at every turn and assail them from within and from without.

There is scarcely a day on which they do not experience the full truth of the words penned by St. Paul: “I do not the good that I will [i. e., that I desire to do]; but the evil which I hate, that I do. . . . To will [to do good] is present with me; but to accomplish that which is good I find not. For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do. . . . I am delighted with the law of God according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin that is in my members.” [Rom 7:15, 18-19, 22-23]

From this passage we can see that temptations assail the saint as well as the sinner. No man is exempt from their molestation. They follow us all through life like our very shadow, and they will not cease to trouble us until we have closed our eyes to this world in the hour of death.

Now, the mere fact of being tempted is in itself a heavy cross to those who are resolved to love God to the utmost capacity of their soul and are determined to keep themselves free from the stain of sin.  Sometimes they are assailed only at intervals for a short time; then again for long periods and almost continuously; sometimes only with moderate violence; at other times so vehemently and insistently that they seem to be driven to the verge of defeat and surrender. And this cross, heavy as it is in itself, is made still more so by the fact that often, when the conflict is over, they find it impossible to decide whether they have come out of it victorious and are still in the state of grace, or have gone down in defeat, rendered themselves guilty of sin and thus lost the love and friendship of God.

Not only this: two other factors often contribute to increase their disquietude and unhappiness. First, it may happen that because of a lack of proper instruction, they consider it actually sinful to be tempted; [Ed:  it’s NOT!] and second, they may consider the feelings and sensations that certain temptations, especially those of an impure nature, produce in the body as evidence and proof of willful and deliberate consent to these temptations.

From this it can easily be seen that temptations may become the source of an agonizing martyrdom to those who are poorly instructed in the subject.

And what is often the final outcome of this mistaken idea of the nature of temptations? Nothing less than this: it may lead to failure in the spiritual life. Mistaking their temptations for actual sins, and finding that in spite of their strongest resolutions they cannot keep from being tempted, many lose courage and say, “What is the use of trying any longer? I cannot keep from committing sin, do what I will; I might as well give up.” Thus, lack of proper knowledge induces a fatal discouragement and makes them relax their efforts to avoid sin. In the end, they yield easily to temptations and possibly contract the habit of sin, which may prove fatal to their eternal salvation.

Ignorance of the true nature of temptation paralyzes many a soul and exposes it to the imminent danger of eternal punishment, even though it had been destined to do great things for God and reach a high degree of eternal glory in Heaven. These considerations have prompted the writing of this treatise. It is intended to serve as a guide especially for souls who are tried by the fiery ordeal of temptations, and to point out how these can be turned into the means of greater love of God, increase of grace and merit here and endless glory hereafter.”

-Remler, CM, Rev. Francis J. (1874-1962), (2013-12-10). How to Resist Temptation (Kindle Locations 22-50). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

I believe in grace.