Category Archives: Sin

Pope has NOT blessed gay unions – bless the sinner, not the relationship

“If I had to summarize the new magisterial document on blessings I would say the document is about blessings FOR a same-sex couple but not OF the same-sex couple. The UNION cannot be blessed, but the PEOPLE in the disordered union can be blessed (and the blessing is not an approval, but is a petition to live a holier life). Also, such blessings are not to give in any way an appearance of blessing the union itself. That is the document in a nutshell.”
– Michael Lofton, PhD (cand)

Michael Lofton is a graduate of Christendom College Graduate School of Theology, where he received his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (Cum Laude) in 2018. He is currently working on a doctorate in Theology with Pontifex University and is writing a dissertation on the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Michael is the founder of Reason & Theology, where he has interviewed many of the leading figures in modern theology. He has also appeared on EWTN, Catholic Answers, SiriusXM Radio, and Radio Maria and has contributed frequently to various newspapers and websites.

Responsum – 3/15/2021

Fiducia Supplicans – 12/18/2023

“5. This is also the understanding of marriage that is offered by the Gospel. For this reason, when it comes to blessings, the Church has the right and the duty to avoid any rite that might contradict this conviction or lead to confusion. Such is also the meaning of the Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (above), which states that the Church does not have the power to impart blessings on unions of persons of the same sex.”

“9. From a strictly liturgical point of view, a blessing requires that what is blessed be conformed to God’s will, as expressed in the teachings of the Church.”

“11. Basing itself on these considerations, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Explanatory Note to its 2021 Responsum recalls that when a blessing is invoked on certain human relationships by a special liturgical rite, it is necessary that what is blessed corresponds with God’s designs written in creation and fully revealed by Christ the Lord. For this reason, since the Church has always considered only those sexual relations that are lived out within marriage to be morally licit, the Church does not have the power to confer its liturgical blessing when that would somehow offer a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice. The Holy Father reiterated the substance of this Declaration in his Respuestas to the Dubia of two Cardinals.”

“20…One who asks for a blessing shows himself to be in need of God’s saving presence in his life…To seek a blessing in the Church is to acknowledge that the life of the Church springs from the womb of God’s mercy and helps us to move forward, to live better, and to respond to the Lord’s will.”

“21. …“when one asks for a blessing, one is expressing a petition for God’s assistance, a plea to live better, and confidence in a Father who can help us live better.”[12] This request should, in every way, be valued, accompanied, and received with gratitude. People who come spontaneously to ask for a blessing show by this request their sincere openness to transcendence, the confidence of their hearts that they do not trust in their own strength alone, their need for God, and their desire to break out of the narrow confines of this world, enclosed in its limitations.”

“31…a blessing that descends from God upon those who—recognizing themselves to be destitute and in need of his help—do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. These forms of blessing express a supplication that God may grant those aids that come from the impulses of his Spirit—what classical theology calls “actual grace”—so that human relationships may mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel, that they may be freed from their imperfections and frailties, and that they may express themselves in the ever-increasing dimension of the divine love.”

“32. Indeed, the grace of God works in the lives of those who do not claim to be righteous but who acknowledge themselves humbly as sinners, like everyone else. This grace can orient everything according to the mysterious and unpredictable designs of God. Therefore, with its untiring wisdom and motherly care, the Church welcomes all who approach God with humble hearts, accompanying them with those spiritual aids that enable everyone to understand and realize God’s will fully in their existence.[22]”

“34. The Church’s liturgy itself invites us to adopt this trusting attitude, even in the midst of our sins, lack of merits, weaknesses, and confusions, as witnessed by this beautiful Collect from the Roman Missal: “Almighty ever-living God, Who in the abundance of Your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat You, pour out Your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask” (Collect for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time). How often, through a pastor’s simple blessing, which does not claim to sanction or legitimize anything, can people experience the nearness of the Father, beyond all “merits” and “desires”?”

“38. For this reason, one should neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation. At the same time, one should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing. In a brief prayer preceding this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance—but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfill His will COMPLETELY (my emphasis).”

“39. In any case, precisely to avoid any form of confusion or scandal, when the prayer of blessing is requested by a couple in an irregular situation, even though it is expressed outside the rites prescribed by the liturgical books, this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding. The same applies when the blessing is requested by a same-sex couple.”

“40…there is no intention to legitimize anything, but rather to open one’s life to God, to ask for His help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness.”

“43…even when a person’s relationship with God is clouded by sin, he can always ask for a blessing…”

“44. Any blessing will be an opportunity for a renewed proclamation of the kerygma, an invitation to draw ever closer to the love of Christ…”

Cardinal Fernández: Same-sex blessing ‘does not validate or justify anything’

by Edgar Beltrán

-Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith

Church leaders have been in the grip of sharp debate this week, after the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith published on Monday Fiducia supplicans, a declaration which offered a framework for clerical blessings of same-sex couples, and others living in relationships outside of marriage.

Some bishops’ conferences and dioceses which had already given a green light to such blessings, in Belgium and Germany especially, saw in the document a validation of their approach to the issue, with some promising to defy the document by publishing guidelines for the liturgical blessings of same-sex couples — a step prohibited by the DDF’s declaration.

But some bishops’ conferences in Africa and Asia pushed back on the document, with some prohibiting the implementation of Fiducia supplicans in their territory. One cardinal challenged the doctrinal orthodoxy of the document, while the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said the text does not apply to his congregation.

Amid a challenging week for the Church, The Pillar contacted Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, with questions about the document, and the reactions it has generated.

Cardinal Fernandez, Fiducia supplicans says that it ‘remains firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage, not allowing any type of liturgical rite or blessing similar to a liturgical rite that can create confusion.’

It also states that the blessings it discusses ‘should not be fixed ritually by ecclesial authorities to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the sacrament of marriage,’ and that ‘these non-ritualized blessings never cease being simple gestures that provide an effective means of increasing trust in God on the part of the people who ask for them, careful that they should not become a liturgical or semi-liturgical act, similar to a sacrament.’

But various bishops’ conferences have approved rituals for blessings of couples in irregular situations.
Does that contradict the declaration?

The declaration is very clear in distinguishing the two forms of blessing: one with a liturgical-ritual format and the other proper to pastoral work — this is its specific contribution.

Some episcopates had advanced in ritualized forms of blessing irregular couples, and this is inadmissible. They should reformulate their proposal in that regard.

Fiducia supplicans says that: ‘In a brief prayer preceding this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance—but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfill his will completely.’

It adds that: ‘These forms of blessing express a supplication that God may grant those aids that come from the impulses of his Spirit—what classical theology calls ‘actual grace’—so that human relationships may mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel, that they may be freed from their imperfections and frailties, and that they may express themselves in the ever-increasing dimension of the divine love.’

Do those passages mean that the primary motivation for giving such a blessing has to be that the couple in an ‘irregular situation’ conform their lives to the moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church?

These kinds of blessings are simply simple pastoral channels that help to express people’s faith, even if those people are great sinners.

Therefore, by giving this blessing to two people who spontaneously come forward to request it, one can legitimately ask God to grant them health, peace, prosperity—the things that we all ask for and that a sinner can also ask for.

At the same time, since one can think that in the daily lives of these two persons, not everything is sin, one can therefore pray for them [to receive] a spirit of dialogue, patience, mutual help.

But the declaration also mentions a request for help from the Holy Spirit so that this relationship, which is often unknown to the priest, may be purified of everything that does not respond to the Gospel and the will of God, and may mature along the lines of God’s plan.

As I was saying, sometimes the priest, on a pilgrimage, does not know that couple, and sometimes they are two very close friends who share good things, sometimes they had sexual relations in the past and now what remains is a strong sense of belonging and mutual help. As a parish priest, I have often met such couples, who are sometimes exemplary.

Therefore, since it is not a question of the sacrament of confession(!), but of a simple blessing, it is still asked that this friendship be purified, matured and lived in fidelity to the Gospel. And even if there was some kind of sexual relationship, known or not, the blessing made in this way does not validate or justify anything.

Actually the same thing happens whenever individuals are blessed, because that individual who asks for a blessing — not absolution — may be a great sinner, but we do not deny a blessing to him.

But clearly we have to grow in the conviction that non-ritualized blessings are not a consecration of the person, they are not a justification of all his actions, they are not a ratification of the life he leads. No. No. I do not know at what point we have so exalted this simple pastoral gesture that we have equated it with the reception of the Eucharist. That is why we want to set so many conditions for blessing.

The statement says that ‘beyond the guidance’ it provides, ‘no further responses should be expected about possible ways to regulate details or practicalities regarding blessings of this type.’

Does that mean that there will not be any response, or reprimand, to episcopal conferences or dioceses which seek to regulate and ritualize these blessings — or to those which seek to prohibit them altogether?

No, it means that one should not expect a manual, a vademecum, or a guide for something so simple.

I know that in some dioceses, bishops in the past have established guidelines for these cases. For example, some have indicated to priests that when it is a matter of a couple well-known in the place or in cases where there could be some scandal, the blessing should be given in private, in an discreet place. But this declaration did not want to go into details or replace the local discernment of the bishops.

On the other hand, trying to interpret your question, we are currently discussing these issues with presidents of bishops’ conferences and with groups of bishops visiting the dicastery. Soon, a group of dicastery prefects will begin a journey of conversion and deepening with the German bishops and we will make all the necessary clarifications.

Moreover, I am planning a trip to Germany to have some conversations that I believe are important.

The declaration appeals to the ‘practical”’ and ‘prudent and fatherly’ discernment of priests to impart these blessings.

Does that approach diminish the authority of bishops to govern their diocese, as follows from the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council — especially its emphasis on the authority of diocesan bishops?

Are the bishops who have prohibited these blessings in their territories directly contradicting the declaration?

Each local bishop, by his own munus, has always had the function of discernment in loco, in that very concrete place that he knows more than others, because it is his flock.

We do not speak of the national [bishops’] conferences, and even less of the continental ones, because they cannot impose things to the bishops in their dioceses. Even if they can unify criteria, they cannot replace the unique place of the bishop incarnated in his local Church.

But we are in the Catholic Church, and there the Gospel shows us Peter.

Obviously, when there is a text signed by the pope, in order to interpret it broadly, the bishops must first study it in depth and without haste, and allow themselves to be enlightened and enriched by that text. Therefore, prudence and attention to local culture could admit different ways of application, but not a total denial of this step being asked of priests.

I well understand the concern of the bishops in some African or Asian countries, in places where being gay might put you in prison. It is an affront to human dignity that certainly distresses the bishops, and challenges them in their fatherhood. It is likely that the bishops do not want to expose homosexual persons to violence. They themselves refer to the “legislation” of their countries.

What is important is that these bishops’ conferences are not holding a doctrine different from that of the declaration signed by the pope, because it is the same doctrine as always, but rather they state the need for study and discernment, in order to act with pastoral prudence in this context.

I cannot say more than this because I recognize that the reception of these documents requires time, and a serene and prolonged reflection.

One interpretation that has been given to the declaration is that the blessings would be imparted on persons and not on their union specifically. However, the document clearly speaks in its third part of blessing ‘couples.’

Does this imply that the ‘irregular’ union of these persons is being blessed?

It is necessary to distinguish well, and the declaration makes this distinction. Couples are blessed. The union is not blessed, for the reasons that the declaration repeatedly explains about the true meaning of Christian marriage and sexual relations.

For those who read the text serenely and without ideological prejudices, it is clear that there is no change in the doctrine on marriage and on the objective valuation of sexual acts outside the only [kind of] marriage which exists — male-female, exclusive, indissoluble, naturally open to the generation of new life).

But this does not prevent us from making a gesture of paternity and closeness, otherwise we can become judges who condemn from a pedestal — when we consecrated men have much that humiliates us as a Church, we have given serious scandal to the simple ones with our behavior.

Besides, we all have our personal faults, we are not fully coherent with the whole Gospel, and our lapidary judgments sometimes do not take into account that the same measure we use for others will be used with us. I, who want to go to Heaven and be very happy with God eternally, try not to forget this warning of Jesus Christ.

Love and truth,


-by John M. Grondelski

“When it comes to love, English is impoverished. It’s not that English-speakers don’t love but that our language is so limited. “I love God,” “I love my wife,” “I love chocolate ice cream” all use the same verb, but that word cannot mean the same thing in all three cases.

Sociologists speak of the Sapir-Whorf thesis. Put simply, it explains differences in language based on users’ need, which, reciprocally, shape or limit the speaker’s way of seeing reality. Like “love,” English has one word for that white powdery thing that falls from the sky: “snow.” Eskimo languages, by contrast, have many words for snow. English has to approximate them by multiplying adjectives. Muruaneq is “soft, deep snow,” which is different from ughugesnaq, “wet snow that is falling”—each of which will require different actions to get home. A quick but precise noun conceptualizes X and distinguishes it from Y, enabling rapid life decisions.

So why is English a one-word “love” language?

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves, which explains the four Greek words for “love.” They range from attraction (including physical attraction) to affection (emotional attraction) to friendship to benevolence.

I’m stressing the differences in “love” because it’s relevant to an image I want to discuss from another C.S. Lewis book, The Great Divorce. It has to do with “love” as eros and its deformation in lust.

The Great Divorce discusses the dead who come from a “city” on a bus trip to the outskirts of heaven. The identity of that “city” is fluid: for those who, on their heavenly peripheries day trip, are attracted to stay, it is purgatory. For those who choose to take the return bus, it’s hell.

Don’t be surprised that the return bus is usually full. One of the tragic consequences of the mystery of sin is that, having grown accustomed to it, we feel naked and insecure without its familiarity. It’s like that natty, worn out sweater with holes that should have been thrown out long ago but you still wear because “it feels good.”

I was particularly gripped by a scene in which an angel encounters a soul with a lizard on its neck. The soul is headed back to the bus. He’s a little put off by the angel’s presence because he knows that the reptile—which symbolizes lust—has not kept its promise. The lizard promised not to keep whispering dirty ideas into his ear, since the soul knows that “his stuff won’t do here,” but it “won’t stop.” So the soul is ready to take his inappropriate companion and go back to hell.

The angel proposes another way, albeit by steps.

“Would you like me to make him quiet?” The soul seems enthusiastic about the prospect.

“Then I will kill it.”

But, on approaching them, the soul already feels uncomfortable. “You’re burning me,” the soul bellows, “retreating.” When the angel asks whether the soul really wants the pest killed, the latter begins to temporize. “You didn’t say anything about killing him at first.” That’s so “drastic.” All the soul wanted was lust’s “silence,” not necessarily its separation. And he wanted its “silence” because, well, its overt visibility is “so damned embarrassing.”

The angel isn’t diverted. “May I kill it?” The soul parries: let’s talk “later.” Really, thank you, didn’t mean to be a bother. See you.

But the angel doesn’t give up. “There’s no time.” Now is the time (literally, since heaven is the eternal now).

The soul keeps multiplying excuses. “I shall be able to keep it in order now.” A “gradual process” is better than a nip in the bud. I’ll feel better about it tomorrow.

In the end, the soul admits its fear: in killing it, you’ll kill me. The angel assures the soul that’s not true. But “you’re hurting me now.” The angel is clear: “I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”

In the end, after further hemming and hawing, the soul finally musters himself enough to agree. As the angel’s hand approaches, lust grows louder, pleading, “You’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural!” At last, in the end, comes the soul’s decision: “Damn you and blast you! Go on . . . get it over. Do what you like. God help me. God help me.” (He will!)

The angel then plucks the lizard from the soul’s shoulder and fatally twists its neck. At the same time, the soul “gave a scream of agony such as I had never heard on earth.”

What then happens is amazing.

The soul begins to grow in stature, “not much smaller than the Angel.” His beauty emerges.

The lizard, too, changes. From an ugly reptile emerges a vigorous white stallion, which the soul approaches and nuzzles. Then the soul hops on its back and, together, both ride off to the mountains—the heights—of heaven.

Human beings are sensory creatures. The world comes to us through our senses, including touch (which includes sex). Eros is that love which most directly affects the senses. It is powerful. It gives us “lust” for life and love. It drives us forward.

In itself, eros is very good. It’s when its power is directed in the wrong ways that the powerful stallion becomes the creepy lizard hanging on our necks.

St. Augustine was an erotic man. His misdirected eros led to many sins and wasted years. But when his lizard was killed, he became a saint whose spiritual vigor outdid many.

Catholicism does not ask we deny the senses. It does ask that we put them in the service of the good. The failure to control them leads to lust; their discipline supports love. “Love” and “lust” are not cousins. They are just two four letter words.

Our sensual world confuses them. One example: think of the wreckage pornography brings to so many lives, damage that seems irreparable. And think of its ubiquity, along with the sexualization (“pornification”) of our world.

Now, imagine what great saints would arise if that eros were channeled into true love instead of lust. If we stopped making excuses and snuggling in our sins. If, by God’s grace, we cast off the lizard and mounted the white stallion.

Our Lady, Queen of Purity, pray for us!”

Love, His will be done!

Indulgences 2 – The original viral post

-a bronze statue of Martin Luther in Hanover, Germany.

-by Katherine Arcemont, The Washington Post
October 31, 2017

“It was the original viral post.

On Oct. 31, 1517, an obscure German professor of theology named Martin Luther launched an attack on the Roman Catholic Church by nailing his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church — a story that has been repeated for hundreds of years. Luther’s act of rebellion led to the Protestant Reformation, which is being marked by millions of Christians around the world Tuesday on its 500th anniversary.

But did that dramatic moment — Luther defiantly hammering his critique to the church door — really happen?

The story was first told by Philipp Melanchthon, a fellow professor at the University of Wittenberg, a close friend of Luther’s and a leader of the Reformation, after Luther’s death in 1546. And the church door did serve as a public bulletin board of sorts.

But Melanchthon was not in Wittenberg on the day he supposedly witnessed the nailing. He didn’t join the university faculty until 1518. And Luther, a prolific writer who published 30 pamphlets in three years and later translated the Bible into German, never recounted the story.

In 1961, Erwin Iserloh, a Catholic Luther researcher, argued that there was no evidence that Luther actually nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door. Indeed, at the 1617 celebration of the Reformation, Luther was depicted as writing the 95 Theses on the church door with a quill.

Iserloh’s assertion set off a debate among Luther historians that remains unresolved.

A decade ago, Martin Treu, who works for the Luther Memorials Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt, discovered a handwritten note by Luther’s secretary, Georg Rörer, made in a revised copy of the New Testament before Luther’s death. It reads: “On the evening before All Saints’ Day in the year of our Lord 1517, theses about letters of indulgence were nailed to the doors of the Wittenberg churches by Doctor Martin Luther.”

While Rörer was also not an eyewitness, Treu noted, “he was one of Luther’s closest staff.” Treu’s conclusion: 95 Theses may have been nailed to several church doors in Wittenberg, not just at Castle Church.

What’s not in dispute: Luther mailed his attack on the Catholic sale of indulgences to the archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, Albert of Brandenburg, on Oct. 31, 1517. The indulgences were meant to assure their buyer that their sins would be forgiven — a form of corruption in Luther’s eyes.

“Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” quickly spread across Europe and reached Pope Leo X sometime in 1518. After a series of disputes, Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church on Jan. 3, 1521.

The theologian became a celebrity, and with his celebrity came a following and a new religion: Lutheranism. And the founding symbol of the Protestant Reformation remains the door of Castle Church, now inscribed in bronze with Luther’s 95 Theses.”

-bronze doors of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany now cast in bronze containing Luther’s 95 theses.

-by Joseph Heschmeyer, a former lawyer and seminarian, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses against papal indulgences, or the atonement of sins through monetary payment, on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany.” That line from a piece by David B. Morris posted by the Library of Congress on its website (“Martin Luther as Priest, Heretic, and Outlaw”) summarizes the popular view of how the Reformation began. But it’s rife with errors.

To start with the most trivial, the popular image of Luther nailing his theses to the church door is almost certainly a Protestant fiction. Joan Acocella, in a piece for the New Yorker (“How Martin Luther Changed the World,” Oct. 30, 2017), points out that modern scholars

“…differ on many points, but something that most of them agree on is that the hammering episode, so satisfying symbolically—loud, metallic, violent—never occurred. Not only were there no eyewitnesses; Luther himself, ordinarily an enthusiastic self-dramatizer, was vague on what had happened. He remembered drawing up a list of ninety-five theses around the date in question, but, as for what he did with it, all he was sure of was that he sent it to the local archbishop.”

Acocella also points out that the theses were not “a set of non-negotiable demands about how the Church should reform itself in accordance with Brother Martin’s standards,” but rather “like all ‘theses’ in those days, they were points to be thrashed out in public disputations, in the manner of the ecclesiastical scholars of the twelfth century.”

In terms of more serious errors, what was at the heart of the 95 Theses? According to Morris, Luther was protesting “papal indulgences, or the atonement of sins through monetary payment.” Wrong. Luther not only defended papal indulgences, the only anathema in the entirety of the 95 Theses was his Thesis #71: “Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.” In other words, the people that Martin Luther condemned weren’t Catholics but (modern) Protestants. 

Nor are indulgences “the atonement of sins through monetary payment.” Not only do indulgences not bring about our atonement, “an indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven” (Pope Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, norm. 1). Our atonement is won not by monetary payment but by Jesus on Calvary. As St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Christ’s Passion was not only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race” (Summa Theologica III:48:2).

So, if the popular theory of Luther’s protest is almost entirely wrong, what’s the truth of it? Luther’s argument was multipronged (there’s a reason there were 95 theses) and a mix of good and bad. Part of his dispute was over the nature and extent of indulgences: where the pope derived the power to grant indulgences and the kinds of penalties that could be remitted through an indulgence.

Luther, who still believed in purgatory at that point, argued that the “power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish” (Thesis 25). Luther’s views here are idiosyncratic, and neither Protestants (who quickly gave up on indulgences and purgatory) nor Catholics have attempted seriously to defend them.

More significant was Luther’s critique not of indulgences as such but of the sale of indulgences. He rejected the teachings of indulgence preachers (Johann Tetzel, O.P. and others) who “say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory,” countering that “it is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone” (Theses 27-28).

Luther was largely correct on this point. After all, while indulgences don’t bring about our atonement (as Luther well knew), they are a spiritual good. And the sale of spiritual goods is anathema to Christianity, the sin of simony, named after the unhappy Simon Magus: 

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:18-20).

There’s a long history in the Church both of simony popping up and of the Church condemning it. The second canon of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) ordered that “if any bishop performs an ordination for money and puts the unsaleable grace on sale,” he was upon conviction to “lose his personal rank,” while the ordained lost “the dignity or responsibility” he had attempted to purchase. A cleric found to have served as a go-between was likewise “demoted from his personal rank,” or, in the case of laymen and monks, anathematized.

So Luther stood in a long (and holy) tradition of rejecting simony, and the Council of Trent vindicated him on this point. The Council, desiring that “the abuses which have crept therein, and by occasion of which this honorable name of indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, be amended and corrected,” explicitly outlawed “all evil gains” for the obtaining of indulgences (“Decree on Indulgences”).

But that still leaves a question: how did these abuses happen in the first place? How hard is it to simply not sell spiritual goods? Well, a bit harder than it seems. One way of answering would be to trace the precise history: canon 2 of the Council of Clermont (1095 AD) decreed that “whoever for devotion alone, and not for the purpose of gaining honor or money, heads for Jerusalem to liberate the Church of God, that expedition is to be imputed to him [as satisfaction] for all penance.” That makes sense: what’s more worthy of an indulgence than risking your life to defend the Church?

Later Crusades expanded beyond the careful nuance of the Council of Clermont, offering indulgences through what became known as “vow redemption.” In short, those unable (due to age or illness) to go on crusade were given the opportunity to receive an indulgence by paying for someone else to go. And again, the expansion makes a sort of sense: it seems unfair to deprive someone of an indulgence when they were ready and willing but physically unable to go on crusade. 

But this expansion was controversial in its day. In the thirteenth century, Thomas of Cantimpré, O.P., complained that indulgences were being acquired for relatively trivial amounts, amounting to as little as one percent of a person’s moveable wealth (Christoph T. Maier, Preaching the Crusades, 155-56). And it was only a short step from this point to the Church in Luther’s day, when preachers such as Tetzel made indulgences sound like purchasable get-out-of-purgatory-free tickets.

But tracing the history of the sale of indulgences is incomplete if we don’t also recognize the spiritual tightrope walked by the medieval Church and by all of us today. All Christians (whether they believe in indulgences or not) need to grapple with two core Christian ideas: first, that God really does reward generosity; and second, that it’s impossible to bribe God and evil to try. How we understand (and even “balance”) these two ideas makes a world of difference, since they sit in what seems like an uneasy, even paradoxical, relationship with one another.

This paradox is captured in the thirty-fifth chapter of the book of Sirach. In verses 10-11, the goodness of giving back to God is proclaimed: “Give to the Most High as He has given, and as generously as your hand has found. For the Lord is the One Who repays, and He will repay you sevenfold.” But in the next verse, there’s immediately a warning against transactional spirituality: “Do not offer Him a bribe, for He will not accept it; and do not trust to an unrighteous sacrifice; for the Lord is the judge, and with Him is no partiality.” In other words, give generously to God, Who will reward your generosity, but don’t think that you bribe Him or buy heaven.

While those verses from Sirach aren’t in Protestant Bibles, the underlying ideas are. St. Paul reminds the Corinthians to give generously since “God loves a cheerful giver” and “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6-7). He continues:

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God (2 Cor. 9:10-12).

St. Paul hints at the fact that God may give us rewards in this life, saying that “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). But God’s generosity is no less true in terms of heavenly rewards. As Jesus says to the rich young man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21).

Tobit 12:8-9 (also not in Protestant Bibles) says that “prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold. For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin.”

Jesus describes this as a sort of spiritual fortune-building: “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33-34). And “give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38).

The idea that giving generously ensures spiritual riches in heaven isn’t some medieval corruption of the gospel: the Bible actually teaches it. And yet we have, alongside this message, warnings such as Sirach 35:12 and Acts 8:18-20 telling us not to try to buy the spiritual gifts of God.

The easy—and hard—answer is to love God for His own sake and before all else. Those rewards aren’t bad: it’s good that God blesses generous givers, and that He answers prayers, and that He considers our meager almsgiving seriously. But the spiritual life was never about the rewards and must never become about the rewards. The gifts God gives are to draw us to Him and to reveal something about His generous and loving nature, not to replace Him. After all, God wants to give us not merely some reward but Himself.

Jesus is happy to multiply loaves to feed the hungry crowds. But He’s also quick to warn them not to follow Him for that reason. A day after the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14), Jesus rebuked His followers, saying, “you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (v. 26). It’s easy for us to judge His hungry followers, just as it’s easy to judge the medieval Christians giving money to try to get indulgences for their loved ones. But before we do that, it’s worth asking: are we so different today?”

Love & truth,

The dubia

Left to right: German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, and Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun.

Listening to the Vatican, internal Catholic Church communication, is an art, requiring much experience and sensitivity to foreign languages and cultures. It is not an easy do.  I am the poorest and most ignorant example of one who tries.  However, here are some of the best sources I have come across in trying to understand.  I hope they prove useful to you as well.  The Vatican is a master of language.  I do not believe there is another human counterpart. It is about nuance, not soundbite.  Listen carefully, pray, let the Holy Spirit speak to you, have compassion and pray for all parties involved, sinners are we all.  It is incumbent upon the Catholic to constantly inform and educate their consciences, the highest authority in the Church and for the person.  Imagine the pressure and gravest of responsibilities to govern and helm the barque of Peter with the responsibility for ~1.8 billion souls with the mission to reunify and/or evangelize ~8 billion, and to show the compassion and love of Jesus Christ as well as the truth of His teachings for the last two thousand years.  Listening to soundbites and headlines is equivalent to ignorance, only more sinful.  Human beings, human politics, God help us!  He will.

October 2, 2023 . 7:39 AM

“A group of five cardinals asked Pope Francis this summer to answer five “dubia,” or doubts, related to the synod on synodality.

The request was made public on the eve of the long-awaited gathering in Rome, which Vatican watchers say could lead to far-reaching changes in the Church.

The five dubia, presented Aug. 21 to the pope and the Vatican’s doctrine czar, posed questions about doctrinal development, same-sex blessings, the status of the synod on synodality, women priests, and the conditions for sacramental absolution.

An initial draft of the five questions — signed by the German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, the U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, the Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, and Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen — was presented July 10 to Pope Francis and Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, the then prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The pope reportedly replied the next day with an extensive letter in Spanish. But according to the Italian Catholic journalist Sandro Magister, the cardinals believed that it did not answer their questions.

“Although signed by Francis, the letter displayed the writing style of his trusted theologian, the Argentine Victor Manuel Fernández, who would soon take on the new role of prefect of the dicastery for the doctrine of the faith,” Magister wrote in an Oct. 2 post on his Settimo Cielo blog.

The five cardinals then sought to reformulate the questions so that they could only be answered “yes” or “no.”

Pope Francis has not responded to the rephrased dubia more than 40 days after they were submitted, Magister said.

But in an Oct. 1 report, Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper quoted Fernández, who formally took up the role of doctrinal prefect in September, as saying that the cardinals “obviously always have doubts, it’s a constant, you have to respect their passions though, everyone has their passion.”

Fernández, who received the cardinal’s red hat Sept. 30, reportedly added: “The pope has the freedom to respond or not, to consider whether to close a question or discuss it as will also be done at the synod, freely.”

In an Oct. 2 “Notification to Christ’s Faithful,” the five cardinals said they had decided to publish their questions ahead of the Oct. 4-29 synod on synodality so that Catholics “may not be subject to confusion, error, and discouragement but rather may pray for the universal Church and, in particular, the Roman Pontiff, that the Gospel may be taught ever more clearly and followed ever more faithfully.”

The cardinals’ first question asked whether it was possible “for the Church today to teach doctrines contrary to those she has previously taught in matters of faith and morals, whether by the Pope ‘ex cathedra’, or in the definitions of an Ecumenical Council, or in the ordinary universal magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world”.

The second said: “Is it possible that in some circumstances a pastor could bless unions between homosexual persons, thus suggesting that homosexual behavior as such would not be contrary to God’s law and the person’s journey toward God?”

This was followed by a related question asking: “Does the teaching upheld by the universal ordinary magisterium, that every sexual act outside of marriage, and in particular homosexual acts, constitutes an objectively grave sin against God’s law, regardless of the circumstances in which it takes place and the intention with which it is carried out, continue to be valid?”

The third question was: “Will the Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome, and which includes only a chosen representation of pastors and faithful, exercise, in the doctrinal or pastoral matters on which it will be called to express itself, the Supreme Authority of the Church, which belongs exclusively to the Roman Pontiff and, ‘una cum capite suo’ [‘together with its head’], to the College of Bishops.”

The fourth asked: “Could the Church in the future have the faculty to confer priestly ordination on women, thus contradicting that the exclusive reservation of this sacrament to baptized males belongs to the very substance of the Sacrament of Orders, which the Church cannot change?”

The fifth and final question said: “Can a penitent who, while admitting a sin, refuses to make, in any way, the intention not to commit it again, validly receive sacramental absolution?”

The five dubia echo a set of five questions presented to Pope Francis in 2016 regarding the interpretation of Amoris laetitia, his apostolic exhortation on love in the family, which received no response.

The 2016 dubia were presented by two of the five cardinals who signed the 2023 request for clarification — Cardinal Brandmüller and Cardinal Burke — as well as the Italian Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, who died in 2017, and the German Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who died the same year.

The Vatican released the pope’s eight-page response in Spanish to the initial dubia following their publication Oct. 2. An English translation of the reply was published on Cardinal Burke’s official website.

In the translation posted by the U.S. cardinal, Pope Francis said that the time of the synod on synodality, which is due to end in October 2024, was a period in which questions were being asked about the Church’s structure and mission.

“With great sincerity, I tell you that it is not very good to be afraid of these question marks and questions,” the pope wrote. “The Lord Jesus, who promised Peter and his successors indefectible assistance in the task of caring for the holy people of God, will help us, also thanks to this synod, to keep ourselves always more in constant dialogue with the men and women of our time and in total fidelity to the Holy Gospel.”

“However, although it does not always seem prudent to me to respond to the questions addressed directly to me (because it would be impossible to answer them all), in this case I think it is suitable to do so because of the closeness of the synod.”

The response addressed the five July dubia one by one, beginning with the first question, “about the claim that we should reinterpret Divine Revelation according to the cultural and anthropological changes in vogue.”

The pope offered an eight-part reply, which began: “The answer depends on the meaning you give to the word ‘reinterpret.’ If you mean ‘interpret better,’ the expression is valid.”

It continued, citing the Vatican II document Dei Verbum: “In this sense, the Second Vatican Council stated that it is necessary that the work of the exegetes — I would add of theologians — ‘may help the Church to form a firmer judgment.’”

In response to the second question, on “the claim that the widespread practice of the blessing of same-sex unions would be in accord with Revelation and the Magisterium,” the pope wrote: “The Church has a very clear conception of marriage: an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children. She calls ‘marriage’ only such a union.”

He went on: “This is why the Church avoids any kind of rite or sacramental that could contradict this conviction and imply that something which is not marriage is recognized as marriage.”

“In dealing with persons, however, we must not lose the pastoral charity that must permeate all our decisions and attitudes. The defense of the objective truth is not the only expression of this charity which is also made of kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot make ourselves into judges who only deny, reject, exclude.”

“Pastoral prudence must therefore properly discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more people, that do not convey a misconception of marriage. Because, when a blessing is requested, it is a request for help from God, a plea to be able to live better, a trust in a Father who can help us to live better.”

Concluding his answer with reference to his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, the pope said: “Decisions that may be part of pastoral prudence in certain circumstances need not be transformed into a norm. In other words, it is not appropriate for a diocese, a conference of bishops, or any other ecclesial structure to authorize constantly and officially procedures or rules for every type of affair, since everything that ‘is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule’ since this ‘would … lead to an intolerable casuistry.’”

“Canon law should not and cannot cover everything, nor can conferences of bishops pretend to do so with their various documents and protocols, because the life of the Church runs through many channels besides the normative ones.”

Responding the third question, about whether synodality is a “constitutive element of the Church,” the pope wrote: “As you well recognize that the supreme and full authority of the Church is exercised either by the pope in virtue of his office or by the college of bishops together with its head, the Roman pontiff … nevertheless, with these dubia, you yourselves manifest your need to participate, to give freely your opinion and to collaborate, and thus claim some form of ‘synodality’ in the exercise of my ministry.”

He went on: “The Church is a ‘mystery of missionary communion,’ but this communion is not only affective or ethereal, but necessarily implies real participation: that not only the hierarchy, but all the People of God, in different ways and at different levels, can make their voices heard and feel part of the Church’s journey. In this sense we can indeed say that synodality, as a style and dynamism, is an essential dimension of the life of the Church.”

But he said this was this quite different from trying “to sacralize or impose a particular synodal methodology that one group likes, to make it the norm and the obligatory channel for all.”

Replying to the fourth question, about a belief among pastors and theologians that priestly ordination can be conferred on women as the Church’s theology has changed, the pope stressed that “when St. John Paul II taught that the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women must be affirmed ‘in a definitive manner,’ he was in no way denigrating women and giving a supreme power to men.”

Referring to Pope John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Francis added: “On the other hand, to be rigorous, we should recognize that a clear and authoritative doctrine on the exact nature of a ‘definitive statement’ has not yet been fully developed. It is not a dogmatic definition and yet it must be complied with by all. No one can publicly contradict it and nevertheless it can be the object of study, as in the case of the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.”

In answer to the fifth question, about whether repentance is a necessary condition for sacramental absolution, Pope Francis wrote: “Repentance is necessary for the validity of sacramental absolution and implies the intention not to sin. But there is no mathematics here, and once again I must remind you that the confessional is not a customs house.”

“We are not masters, but humble stewards of the sacraments that nourish the faithful, for these gifts of the Lord, rather than relics to be guarded, are aids of the Holy Spirit for the life of persons.”

“There are many ways of expressing repentance. Often, in people with a very wounded self-esteem, to declare themselves guilty is a cruel torture, but the very fact of approaching confession is a symbolic expression of repentance and of the search of divine help.”

October 3, 2023 . 3:51 AM

Pope Francis, the Church learned Monday, answered the dubia.

Not — to be clear — the questions posed to him after the 2016 publication of Amoris laetitia — questions so long unanswered that “answer the dubia” has become a meme in some Catholic circles.

But the pope answered this summer another set of dubia — questions asked and answered back in July, pertaining to the synod on synodality, and released Monday in a kind of piecemeal fashion, with two sets of questions asked by five cardinals first reported by Italian journalist Sandro Magister, and then the Vatican taking the unusual step of releasing the pope’s answers to the first set of questions.

When he did so, the pope set off international headlines — and a great deal of controversy — regarding the prospect that he might permit the liturgical blessing of same-sex couples.

Of course, it’s a matter of debate whether Francis actually said something to merit that speculation. But on this issue, it’s worth looking beyond what Francis has said, to what he has done, and what he has chosen not to do.

There is a lot contained in the pope’s dubia responsa, with the answers to five questions spread across eight pages in the original Spanish. And while much of what the pontiff said he has said before, there will be debate over several topics addressed in the text — and debate over the dubia themselves, and what exactly the cardinals meant to accomplish by asking the pontiff questions and then, unsatisfied with his answers, rephrasing the questions and asking them again.

But the biggest headline to emerge from the story is the notion — repeated in both the Catholic and secular press — that Pope Francis has approved the prospect of “blessing” same-sex couples, signaled “openness” on the subject, or, as one newspaper put it, “softened” the Church’s “ban” on the practice.

The story came from language in the pope’s July 11 letter, published by the Vatican. In response to a question about whether it is possible for the Church to consider same-sex unions as “possible goods,” the pope wrote several paragraphs which emphasized that there are relationships — presumably same-sex relationships among them — which are “not morally acceptable.”

The pope added that “the Church avoids any kind of rite or sacramental that could contradict” its doctrine regarding marriage, or “give the impression that something that is not marriage is recognized.”

Still, Pope Francis also allowed for the possibility that some kind of blessing could be conferred on one or more Catholics in “not-marriage” unions.

“Pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage. Because when a blessing is requested, one is expressing a request for help from God, a plea to be able to live better, a trust in a Father who can help us to live better.”

In short, the pope seemed to say, when people in an irregular union — perhaps a same-sex union — come to the parish for a blessing, it is worth discerning what they’re really asking for, and whether there is some way the Church can respond to that, even while avoiding the appearance of a nuptial blessing.

That idea got framed as a “softening” or an “openness” to the blessing of same-sex unions, and controversy erupted on Monday, across media outlets, among the commentariat, and across social media.

To some, the pope’s language is not entirely different from what the DDF said on the subject in 2021.

But some Catholics say the devil is in the differences — and that some small differences should be taken very seriously.

In 2021, the DDF, with Francis’ approval, clarified that it is not possible for the Church to bless same-sex unions, because God “does not and cannot bless sin.”

That clarification — which also came in response to a dubium — was widely seen as a surprisingly conservative move in the Francis papacy, hailed by many orthodox Catholics, and maligned by Catholics hoping that Francis would usher in change to the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality.

But while it prohibited liturgical blessings of same-sex couples, the DDF statement also affirmed that the prohibition on nuptial blessings did not preclude the possibility of “blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching.”

Some observers note that while the 2021 statement spoke about “individuals,” the 2023 responsa spoke about “one or more persons.”

And while the 2021 statement “declare[d] illicit any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge [same-sex] unions as such,” the 2023 statement made no such proviso.

Still, some argue that Francis didn’t rescind the 2021 statement — which was published with his explicit approval — and that the 2023 statement, and its seemingly limitless possibilities, are actually curtailed by the DDF statement — that the 2023 text should be read in light of the earlier statement on the subject, which could be understood as a kind of limiting principle.

But for some Catholics, Francis seemed to be broadening the scope of possible blessing well beyond the 2021 statement, allowing for the possibility that self-identified gay couples might receive together a kind of blessing that would, in some ways, resemble marriage — despite the pope’s explicit prohibitions of that possibility.

One observer called such a possibility “nuclear,” and others have pointed out that Francis risks an actual schism — or at least a concerted pushback from bishops around the world — if he adopts even a semi-official “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on the prospect of liturgical blessings for same-sex couples.

Except, by appearances, the pope already has — at least tacitly.

Of course, only time will tell what the pontiff means about same-sex blessings in principle — his July 11 answer can be read in more than one way, and, indeed, it has been.

But in practice, it’s worth noting that Belgian bishops published last year a text allowing for a ritual blessing of same-sex couples, and the pontiff has — to date — not yet intervened.

Even while the pope’s 2023 responsa said explicitly that episcopal conferences should not produce such ritual texts, the pope has not intervened to stop the Belgian bishops from publishing one, stepped in after a German bishop said last month that he would not penally sanction priests who offer liturgical blessings to gay couples, or addressed a kind of protest-blessing performed by priests for gay couples in the cathedral plaza in Cologne.

That might be the point on which everyone can agree — that regardless of whether the pope’s July 11 letter was permissive or restrictive on same-sex blessings in principle, the pontiff himself has already been at least passively permissive on the subject in practice, without any public response to the European dioceses where the practice is quickly becoming enshrined as a matter of course.

While Catholics argue over whether Francis made his policy of toleration explicit in the July letter, it might not actually matter much.

Despite the scandal of official tolerance, or published ritual texts, at the diocesan and episcopal conference level, Francis seems content to work behind the scenes on episcopal discipline — if he is working at all — with no public statement on the decisions in Belgium and Germany.

In fact, few serious observers in the Church have expected that any clarity will come on orthopraxy regarding same-sex liturgical blessings until after a future conclave — Pope Francis does not seem inclined to address the pragmatic realities of bishops who are ignoring Vatican directives on the subject.

After the dubia — and the responsa heard round the world — most Catholics will be looking to the synod on synodality, to see whether Pope Francis will signal again more openness to the prospect of liturgical blessings for same-sex couples.

The pope likely won’t. And while he might be asked about it on his next airplane trip, and he might offer more reflections, it’s not likely they’ll be concrete. It’s most likely that when he speaks about the subject, the pope will continue to focus on welcome, and pastoral discernment, without elaborating on the clear limits that might give definition to his reflections, but making some reference to the 2021 statement when pressed.

In short, his future reflections are most likely to be vague enough to be subject to broad interpretations.

It is not clear that the decisions of Belgian bishops, and the clergy in Germany, reflect what the pope actually thinks about the issue of liturgical blessings for same-sex couples. But the pontiff is more than a theologian — he is the governor of the universal Church. And some Catholics will be looking closely in the months to come at the parishes of Flanders, and the cathedral square in Cologne.

There, the question will be not what the pope chooses to say, but what he chooses to do — if anything.”

Love and truth,

We are not sufficient unto ourselves to love

-by Corrado Giaquinto, “Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” c. 1765, oil on canvas, 171 cm (67.3 in); width: 123 cm (48.4 in), private collection, please click on the image for greater detail

“O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!” -traditional added at the end of McCormick family grace

-by Dr Kody Cooper

“What is June for? The sixth month’s name derives from the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and goddess of marriage and fertility. June was a time for the seeds of new life: sowing crops, weddings, and the beginning of fruitful marriages. In short, June has long been associated with love. And indeed, in the late modern West, we are presented with two rival visions of love to celebrate in June, each with its own sexual ethic and account of the virtues: Pride, which contends “love is love,” and Humility, which proclaims “God is love.”

The denomination of June as a season of “pride” can be traced back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969, which followed upon a police raid of a gay bar. The following June, gay-rights activists organized a commemorative march and demonstration in New York City, and activists adopted the moniker “Gay Pride.” The man who takes credit for coining the term explained his reasoning: “The poison was shame, and the antidote is pride.”

Hence, Pride Month was born of a desire to combat shame within the gay community. This desire can be understood in light of the Christian sexual ethic that had informed American mores to a degree but had already been rejected by many American elites.

In the traditional Christian view, temperance is a cardinal virtue, and shamefacedness is an essential component of it. Temperance considers the pleasures of touch, particularly the pleasures of the table and the bed. The temperate person exercises moderation in these pleasures, avoiding both excess and deficiency. Integral to temperance is shamefacedness, a kind of fear, which is an aversion of desire away from some evil. Shamefacedness is the fear or recoiling from some action that is disgraceful.

The part of temperance that deals with sex is called “chastity,” and it is the virtue by which reason governs sexual desire. The traditional Christian understanding of sexual desire is teleological. It is a gift from God imbued with intrinsic meaning and purpose: to join man and woman in the special bond of marital friendship and that is typically generative of new life. In short, sex was understood to be unitive and procreative such that in the marital act, lovers fully gave of themselves to become “one flesh,” a unity that imaged Trinitarian Love. Chastity therefore meant checking desires for sex that strayed outside of this order, and the chaste person exercised virtue when he recoiled at—was ashamed of—such actions. On this view, heterosexual and non-heterosexual persons alike were required to govern their desires by the virtue of chastity.

While the intellectual and social seeds of the sexual revolution had long been germinating, the 1960s saw the Christian understanding of sex overthrown. In 1964, most American states had laws on the books that restricted access to contraception, for contraception thwarted the teleological purpose of sex. But in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court struck down anti-contraception laws as violative of the Constitution, upending the classical Christian natural law logic that such laws presupposed. With the recently invented technology of the birth control pill now widely available, no longer was it presumed that sex was essentially tethered to procreation. Rather, sex became a form of recreation for the expressive self. And this, quite logically, led the gay community to wonder: Why should expressive individualism and recreation be restricted to married heterosexuals?

The promoters of Pride worked out socially and morally what was already implicit in the new legal order. The law is a tutor, and it taught that sex was no longer essentially unitive, procreative, and marital. Why then should homosexual sex be considered shameful? Of course, residual shamefacedness about gay sex remained ingrained in the mores of many Americans. But such attitudes, increasingly cut off from the Christian understanding of the meaning of sex—and the vibrant institutions that embody and sustain that vision—were readily redescribed as “poison.” The antidote was to call for a new virtue: “pride.” Pride functioned as a new sort of fortitude: the habit by which members of the gay community would individually and collectively come out of the closet with confident self-assurance and claim their equal rights in a transformed social order. The older shamefaced attitudes that had been parts of temperance would now increasingly appear as vices: the ignorant prejudice or animus of bigots.

Pride’s popular slogan “love is love” is thus a fitting shorthand for its sexual ethic. Because sex is not inherently a one flesh union of husband and wife, but rather an avenue for self-expression and recreation, no one form of romantic love has any moral superiority over any other. They are all equally “love” and therefore should be treated with absolute moral, social, and legal equality.

The contrasting vision of Christian Humility is “God is Love.” It is antithetical to love as conceived by expressive individualism because Love Itself calls the beloved not to self-expression, but to humble obedience—that is, to make a gift of oneself as an abode for Him to reign in our hearts (John 14:23-24). The Church proclaims this message to the world in the month of June in a special way that is deeply intertwined with the story of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the beloved disciple of Christ’s Sacred Heart.

Born on July 22, 1647 in France, Margaret Mary was still very young when she consecrated herself to God: “O my God, I consecrate to Thee my purity, and I make Thee a vow of perpetual chastity.” In offering up her sexuality as a gift to God, she was given the lifelong gift of chastity and an accompanying “horror” of “anything against purity”—and provided an example of holiness particularly relevant to all whose vocation is not to marriage.

Her Divine Suitor eventually directed her to join the Visitandines. Already extremely advanced in the spiritual life—she had had several visions of Our Lady and Our Lord—obedience was an ongoing drama. Our Lord asked of her various prayers, sacrifices, and penances, but they sometimes conflicted with the commands of her superiors. When the saint beseeched Christ for help, he replied to her that she should do nothing of what he had commanded her without her superiors’ consent: “I love obedience, and without it no one can please Me.”

Humble obedience and the sacrifice of the desires of the self are thematic in St. Margaret Mary’s life. She struggled interiorly to heed Christ’s commands and acknowledged her weakness and inability to do what He asked without His aid. She had entered the convent on one condition: that she could never be forced to eat cheese, to which she was extremely averse. When her Sovereign Master asked her to eat cheese at a meal, she resisted for three days, until in answer to her prayer the Lord said: “There must be no reserve in Love.” She ate the cheese, and recalled that “I never in my life felt so great a repugnance to anything.” Indeed, to conform her more perfectly to himself, Christ identified all that was most opposed to her predilections, and increasingly required her to act contrary to them.

This and many other sufferings conformed her to the crucified Christ and were the essential preconditions to the revelation of His Sacred Heart, which involved such ecstatic spiritual delights that she could not describe them. Christ revealed His Heart to be as a mighty furnace, a throne of flames shining like the sun, encircled by a crown of thorns with the Cross seated upon it. The saint was asked to honor His Sacred Heart with a feast day that would fall in June, in order to manifest to mankind anew His infinite love for them. This would ultimately be fulfilled two hundred years after St. Margaret Mary’s death, when Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to a Solemnity in 1889.

Christ’s Sacred Heart—as both His literal heart of flesh and the self-sacrificial gift of himself for the world that it symbolizes—burns with a love of charity by which he has a just claim on our hearts, on the obedience of our wills. Its radiant brilliance reminds us that God’s love radically extends to all persons, regardless of any predilections they might have that do not conform to His will. It is only through our free choice to nail the desires of the self upon the Cross that His Sacred Heart is permitted to be enthroned in each of our own.

While the contrasts of Humility’s vision with Pride’s are apparent, we should note that, for many, the celebration of Pride Month can be well intentioned. The desire to show compassion, as well as to be acknowledged, recognized, and affirmed, are healthy in their root because they stem from the fundamental human desire to be loved and cared for. Pride’s vision of love is fundamentally flawed, but not because persons who do not identify as heterosexual are of any lesser dignity. From the traditional Christian perspective, it is flawed in as much as it was built upon a rejection of the moral order that God established and the refusal of humble obedience to and reliance upon the One who sacrificed Himself to help us fulfill it. Pride’s vision of love must end in disappointment. For by His Sacred Heart, Jesus loves each of us infinitely more than any creature could, including ourselves. It is humbling to admit that we are not sufficient unto ourselves to love. But our Divine Lover promises a joy beyond anything worldly love promises, if only we will offer ourselves as gifts to Him, and allow Him to transform us into the beautiful creatures we were created to be.”

For the love of God and willing the good of others,

The dark side of the rainbow

Whatever happened to sin?

-by Dr Matthew Petrusek

“The month of June is Pride Month. You may have noticed. For thirty days, corporations, universities, local businesses, community organizations, and government institutions take a break from their perennial praise of the LGBTQ+ movement to demonstrate (especially to those surveilling online) that they are really, really—really—committed to the cause. Although the symbol of Pride has struggled to keep up with the exponential growth of qualifying identities, celebrants communicate their fidelity in the form of rainbow-saturated company logos, sidewalk displays, oversize billboards, and even Pride-themed onesiespick-up trucks, and ice-cream.

But what, precisely, is being celebrated? There are numerous bumper-sticker responses: “love is love,” “acceptance,” “being who you are,” and even, incongruously given the corresponding statistics, “joy.” But how does any of this relate to pride—pride in what exactly? Examining the assumptions and implications of the Pride movement leads to some unsettling conclusions.

Before digging deeper, it’s important to separate Pride ideology—a system of thought that seeks to advance specific cultural and political goals—from individuals who do not fit traditional sexual and gender categories. It’s likely you know someone, are related to someone, or maybe even a parent to someone who’s in this group. You likely love them very much and they may, indeed, be exceptionally lovable. You certainly don’t want to hurt them, and, in fact, that may be the reason you’ve hesitated to say anything about their professed identity. Setting aside the scurrilous knee-jerk accusations of “hatred” and “phobia” that inevitably accompany any skepticism, or even, ironically, curiosity about the meaning of the Pride movement, the search for clarity should recognize that addressing the topic honestly may cause real, even if unintended, pain to good people. And so it goes without saying, to draw on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, that truth must never be separated from charity.

But who I am to say anything about the “truth” of Pride? Though this question is usually taken as a blow in defense of the movement (Who are you to judge?), it, in fact, opens the first line of critique: What separates Pride from traditional hetero-centric morality? In other words, what makes Pride ideology true, or at least truer, than competing worldviews in such a way that its advocates are not merely imposing their values on society because they have the power to do so?

It’s important to keep in mind that there are only two possible responses to the question of moral truth: either (a) it doesn’t exist (thus all truth is relative), or (b) it does exist, meaning that there are moral principles that are universally, objectively true. Pride ideology often finds itself in the first category, moral relativism, under the declarations, “This is my truth” or “This is our truth.” Those may sound like objective truth claims on the surface; however, if there is no “the truth” lying beneath “my/our truth,” then there is no way to distinguish it from an expression of emotive preference. If this is the case, then the whole Pride movement would be based on an irrational (or at least a-rational) imposition of will on those who disagree with it—which, in turn, would render it analogous, in both method and substance, to how tyrants and bullies operate (“Obey and celebrate me because I say so”).

To escape this assessment, the Pride movement must make the case that they are advocating for something that everyone ought to believe not because they are saying it but because it is, in fact, true. In this case, those who disagree with Pride ideology would be wrong to do so because they would be holding false beliefs. What might those truth claims look like and what implications would they have? Let’s return to some of the bumper-stickers.

“Love is Love”

It’s not clear what this statement means, but it seems to imply at least two things: (1) All individuals’ internal sexual attractions should be considered equally morally valid (if not praiseworthy), no matter who or what the object of desire is (if the movement were only advocating for non-sexual relationships then it would not find opposition, certainly not from traditional morality); (2) All individuals ought to be able to act on those internal attractions whenever and however they desire, provided there is mutual consent and no subjectively defined “harm” occurs—indeed, such sexual expression is to be encouraged and feted.

Are these two statements about love true? That’s a complex question, but let’s assume that Pride ideology affirms them as such. If that’s the case, however, then, given the variety of human beings’ empirically observed (which is not to say natural) sexual proclivities and behaviors, these conclusions necessarily follow: (1) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to engage in hetero- and homosexual relationships with immediate biological family members; (2) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to express their desires to have sexual relationships with children (now rebranded as “Minor Attracted Persons”), even if they are not currently free to act on those desires legally; and (3) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to have sexual relationships with non-human animals, provided they don’t violate anti-cruelty laws. These are the implications of believing “love is love” is true, even if we don’t see them represented on parade floats yet.

“Be who you are”

Drawing on the meaning of “love is love,” this claim implies that individuals’ subjective feelings morally authorize them to (attempt to) appear on “the outside” what they experience themselves to be on “the inside.” This tenet of Pride lies at the heart of transgenderism and, in general, being “queer,” which includes a justification (and celebration) of surgically slicing off healthy breast and genital tissue and forcing women to compete against men in sporting events. However, if it’s true that individuals should be celebrated for making their outside look like their inside—and everyone else must accommodate their wishes—then Pride must also affirm that we praise trans-abled individuals for snipping their healthy spinal cords, trans-species individuals (also known as “Furries”) for demanding societal respect for non-ironically donning animal costumes in public, and even trans-age individuals for dictating that they be cared for like infants, including while in prison. (It is crucial to note that once age, like biological sex, becomes subjective, the moral prohibition against practicing pedophilia dissolves). All this, too, follows from the ideology’s internal logic.


Though this word sounds especially innocuous, Pride ideology transforms its meaning into “Shut up and don’t ask questions, bigot.” To “accept” is not to tolerate; it is to recognize as normal. “Acceptance” thus mainstreams the movement’s definitions of the nature of the human body, the purpose of human sexuality, and the rights of individuals to do as they please according to the dictates of Pride’s principles. At the same time, and consequently, it both stigmatizes what was once considered normal as “abnormal” and marks anyone who critically questions the new normal as a bigot (for only a bigot would be against “acceptance”). In other words, “acceptance” is both the shield and weapon of Pride: it protects the movement from scrutiny by tarring all objections, a priori, as prejudiced.

Holding tight to the distinction between ideologies and individuals, it’s important to highlight that there are some people who, though they fall outside traditional gender and sexual typologies for various reasons (though most likely not genetic ones), are resisting elements of the Pride movement. (One such group is called “Gays against Groomers.”) Yet Pride ideology still remains dominant in the US and most of the West, despite the fact that, according to its own assertions, it is either (a) a subjective, relativistic morality that imposes itself on the Pride-nonconforming by the brute force of its cultural and political power, or (b) a putatively universal morality that, based on the logic of its own principles, permits and encourages incest, bodily mutilation (including of children), pedophiliac attraction (if not practice), bestiality, and the silencing of dissent.

In short, a candid assessment of Pride reveals it to be either dictatorially arbitrary or fiendishly depraved. There is no amount of kaleidoscopic fanfare, corporate-sponsored enthusiasm, or coercively moralizing legislation that can wish this conclusion away. To embrace the Rainbow!™ necessarily entails embracing its shadow. Pretending otherwise, fantasizing that we can dethrone heterosexuality and reality-based biology as natural and normative without letting the full panoply of Pandora’s Box of perversion out into the world, is, itself, to be bigoted—against reason and the evidence of our own eyes. ”

For the love of God and willing the good of others,

Preaching against sin

-by Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

“We used to laugh at a famous story about President Calvin Coolidge, a man of few words. After returning from Sunday services, his wife asks him about the preacher’s sermon. “Sin,” Silent Cal replies. His wife pleads, “What did he say about it?” “He was against it.”

Alas, modern culture no longer allows us to oppose sin, except for those politically correct transgressions such as being “judgmental” and emitting too much carbon into the atmosphere. But do priests and others have a choice to remain faithful to Jesus?

There is an interesting correlation between our culture—including Catholic parishes—and our recognition of sin. It was easier to talk about the wages of evil in a stable culture imbued with Christianity. As secularism crowds out the influence of Christianity on culture, some Church authorities—in response to the hypersensitivities of many Catholics—place too many restrictions on preaching sin and conversion from the pulpit. Whiplash changes in the culture often challenge the prudence of thoughtful Catholic preachers.

A century ago, Church authorities, including moralists and seminary professors, were reticent in speaking—even reading—about sexual sin. The four-volume Moral and Pastoral Theology manual by Professor Henry Davis, S.J. (first edition, May 1935) illustrates pastoral prudence in questions of human sexuality. In an otherwise easy read (in English) on the natural law and the Ten Commandments, Davis writes the chapter dealing with various types of sexual sin in Latin. The readers must be priests or mature seminarians trained in the mother tongue of the Church for their preparation as confessors. But a good confessor, though he always avoids impure speech, must understand—and occasionally carefully discuss—lascivious behavior.

As the sexual revolution of the 1960s transformed popular culture, orthodox Catholic moralists relaxed the prudential censorship and discussed the details of many sexual sins to confront pervasive errors. Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” formed the foundation of John Paul II institutes on marriage and the family in Washington, D.C., and Rome. The institutes taught and wrote freely, providing the clergy and laity alike a firm foundation on the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

Dissident moralists went farther. Human Sexuality, published by Anthony Kosnik in 1977 under the auspices of the Catholic Theological Society of America, justified sexual debauchery ranging from contraception and masturbation to sodomy and even bestiality. Today, senior prelates and friends of the pope openly speak about the likelihood of segments of the hierarchy approving “gay unions” soon. Several German bishops, including high-ranking ones, have declared their support of overhauling Catholic moral teaching to approve unions based on sodomy.

At the same time, many orthodox priests feel pressure to dodge these topics. They often avoid the issues not only from the pulpit, but also in church bulletins. Indeed, the culture and senior Catholic churchmen place us at a disadvantage. Irish bishop Ray Browne’s recent public apology for the sermons of Fr. Seán Sheehy on mortal sin is baffling, incomprehensible. Cross-dressed and occasionally mutilated males (so-called “transgender females”) conduct drag-show displays for children. As senior Catholic prelates call for gay unions, old-fashioned pastoral decorum prevents orthodox priests from asking obvious questions in the same public forums. (Here is an example of a forbidden question, with apologies to Latinists: An commercium ani vel fellatio vetatur post unionem gay agnitam vel ante tantum? Our moral manuals need an update.)

It is important to remember that the protection of the innocent must be a prime objective of every priest. Such conversations from the pulpit do risk violating Catholic prudence, especially with children present. Fr. John Hardon, S.J., refers in his Catholic Dictionary to the “latency period”: “The term mainly applies to the years between five and twelve, when children do not unless abnormally and unwisely aroused, react to sexual stimulation. The Church advises parents to cultivate this period for teaching children the principles of faith and training them in the moral habits they will need as the foundation of their adult Christian life.” So care is certainly called for and recklessness to be avoided.

Jesus is prudent but doesn’t mince words: “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). St. Paul provides a similar perspective: “The men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error” (Rom. 1:27). He adds, “For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of” (Eph. 5:12). And he divorces Catholics from those who shamelessly promote willful debauchery: “But now I have written to you, not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a server of idols, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one, not so much as to eat” (1 Cor. 5:11).

Hence, the venues of preaching against sin determine the propriety of the language of Catholic morality. One size doesn’t fit all. What a moral textbook, theological article, scholarly monograph, episcopal encyclical, or even a popular internet piece permits may not be suitable from the pulpit. But carefully using Scripture as a rhetorical template accomplishes much.

So it seems that warnings against contraception, fornication, adultery, mutilation, and the gay agenda are well within the prudential rhetoric of Jesus in the Gospel and Paul in his letters. We need not expand the vocabulary to include the intimate details of sexual behavior. Indeed, for the most part, penitents in confession need not go beyond confessing such acts. The priest does not need to know—nor should he inquire about—the details.

But it is a great disservice and a violation of the Gospel for a priest to neglect the condemnation of sin, especially mortal sins that lead to the fires of hell. It’s always best to measure our rhetoric by the words of Jesus and the New Testament letters. Calvin Coolidge’s example of direct simplicity helps, too.”

Love & truth,

Mortal sin

A sin is considered to be “mortal” when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God’s saving grace. Deprived of that grace by their own free will and the free will choice to not repent of it ultimately in sacramental confession, a person places themselves outside of God’s salvation, since God is all grace and cannot stand any imperfection of that grace in His presence. In literal fact, the person choosing to deny themselves God’s saving grace becomes unrecognizable to God and therefore cast into perdition outside of God’s grace.

-by Joseph Heschmeyer, a former lawyer and seminarian, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“Everyone knows—or almost everyone does—that there are morally good actions and morally evil actions. But when is an action not only wrong, but sinful? And particularly mortally sinful? After all, as St. John says, “all wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal” just as “there is sin which is mortal” (1 John 5:16,17). A mortal sin is one that “destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death” (CCC 1874). That’s what makes it “mortal,” or deadly: it cuts us off from God forever, unless it is “redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness” (CCC 1861).

Thanks be to God, not every evil action is mortally sinful. So how do we know which is which? Just as there are three ingredients in evaluating a moral action (the object, intention, and circumstances), so there are three ingredients in a mortal sin: (1) “grave matter,” (2) “full knowledge,” and (3) “deliberate consent.” And the Catechism is clear that all “three conditions must together be met” (1857).

If all three are met, it’s mortally sinful. Otherwise, “one commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent” (CCC 1862). That’s still a problem, since venial sin “weakens charity” and “impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good,” and “deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin,” but venial sin does not (of itself) “deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness” (CCC 1863).

What does “grave matter” mean? It means that the sin is serious. But how do we evaluate the seriousness of a sin? The Catechism is explicit about the grave nature of particular sins, including sacrilege (2120), blasphemy (2148), perjury (2152), deliberately avoiding Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation (2181), murder (2268), hatred of neighbor “when one deliberately desires him grave harm” (2303), prostitution (2355), sexual relations outside marriage (2390), and adulation that “makes one an accomplice in another’s vices or grave sins” (2480). St. Paul likewise gives lists in Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 of sins whose practitioners will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” But none of these lists is exhaustive.

More broadly, the Catechism says that “grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments” (1858), pointing to Jesus’ words to the rich young man. When the man asks him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus answers, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother’” (Mark 10:17,19). Jesus’ clear implication seems to be that those who do commit adultery, steal, etc. shall not inherit eternal life.

Even here, there are two important caveats. On the one hand, not every violation of the Ten Commandments is a mortal sin. For instance, the person who steals a dollar is not necessarily damned. On the other hand, not every mortal sin is a direct and obvious violation of the Ten Commandments. St. Thomas Aquinas considers this objection directly in considering the sin of gluttony: “Every mortal sin is contrary to a precept of the Decalogue: and this, apparently, does not apply to gluttony.” Aquinas argues that gluttony is an indirect violation of the Third Commandment (keeping the Sabbath holy) by turning us away from holiness. That’s a strange answer, but he explains: “Mortal sins are not all directly opposed to the precepts of the Decalogue [Ten Commandments], but only those which contain injustice: because the precepts of the Decalogue pertain specially to justice and its parts.” In other words, the Ten Commandments lay out “the first principles” of the moral law; they’re not an exhaustive list of every serious sin. The right question is this: is this the kind of behavior that places something else above God or turns me away from God? If so, it’s grave matter.

In considering whether or not a sin is mortal, circumstances matter. For instance, the Catechism points out that “one must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger” (1858). Likewise, stealing from the excess wealth of a millionaire is less evil than stealing the food of a starving man. Taking the example of lying, the Catechism explains how to determine the gravity of a sin: “The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity” (2484).”

Love & His mercy,

Sin makes you stupid

Stupidity or foolishness is a product of sin (Proverbs 24:9). In fact, the Bible associates foolishness with transgression ((Psalms 107:17; Proverbs 13:15; 17:18, 19 ), and with sins such as:

  • atheism – Psalm 13:1
  • blasphemy – Psalm 74:18
  • contention – Proverbs 18:6
  • hypocrisy – Luke 11:39–40
  • materialism – Luke 12:16–21
  • mischievousness – Proverbs 10:23
  • slander – Proverbs 10:18
  • wastefulness – Proverbs 21:20.

So, yes, the Bible says that sin makes you foolish. It explicitly says, “Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities” (Psalm 107:17). Even the common sin of “Extortion turns a wise person into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) Further, in Psalm 74:18 we see that enemies of God (sinners who mock and revile His name) are called “foolish people.” See also Psalm 74:22–23.

When Aaron and Miriam incurred God’s wrath for murmuring against Moses, Aaron pleaded with Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.” (Numbers 12:11) Sin obviously makes one to be foolish. Moses describes the Israelites who sinned during their wilderness journey thus:

They are corrupt and not His children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay the LORD, you foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you? (Deuteronomy 32:5–6)

The sinful behavior of King Saul made him to do foolish things. When he partially obeyed God’s command regarding the destruction of the Amalekites, Samuel said pointedly to him, “You have done a foolish thing” (1 Samuel 13:13). Moreover, Saul himself admitted after chasing the innocent David down to the Desert of Ziph with his three thousand select Israelite troops, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.” (1 Samuel 26:21, emphasis added)

Many examples abound in Scripture which prove clearly that sin can make you stupid. Remember David’s first son Amnon. When he wanted to rape his half sister Tamar, she cried out to restrain him but he didn’t listen: “What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” (2 Samuel 13:13)

Even their father David confessed after he had arrogantly counted the fighting men in Israel, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (2 Samuel 24:10, emphasis added). Ever since David committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband (2 Samuel 11–12), sin started to make him and his children to do foolish things.

-by Pat Flynn

“The traditional thought is that sin not only makes us weak, but stupid. Sin blunts conscience progressively over time—that is, diminishes our grasp of moral reality, impairing our ability to reason to proper moral conclusions. Consequently, sin can (and often does) lead to greater sin, along with the failure to realize not just that we are sinning, but also how awful our sinning has become.

So many of us sinners (myself included) have consciously lived through this experience. We do, at first, feel the pangs of conscience when rejecting the right course of action. We fail to choose what we know is the right thing to do; we make, as Boethius called it, a moral miscalculation, because we engage in voluntary ignorance. Should I drive even though I’ve been drinking? gives way to the need to get home quickly.

At first, we feel bad about it. We know, intuitively, that we are violating the objective moral rule. But if we keep at it, our conscience dulls. The evil becomes more comfortable, opening us up to exploring and enacting further, and often far graver, sins. We become gutsy.

This is true not just of individuals, but of society. Just as an individual, through sinning, becomes prone to further sinning and increasingly incapable of acknowledging that he is sinning—in many cases even defending his evil action as good—society can suffer the same effect. Society’s moral conscience dulls as well, leading to increasingly horrific evils and the collective rationalization of such evils as good. Do we need examples from history on this? Slavery, abortion, genocide . . . the list continues.

Here’s a more recent one. People are surprised not just that children are being hypersexualized (groomed—a perfectly appropriate word), but also that society itself doesn’t outright reject this practice. In fact, society often supports it or is indifferent to it. But why should this surprise us? Our culture, after all, has been so morally impaired for so long, especially concerning sexual ethics—so why should we expect everyone to suddenly awaken to the abject horrors foisted upon children, from putting them onto stripper poles to mutilating their genitals and injecting them with puberty-blocking hormones? I suggest that, like the individual sinner, our collective moral conscience is gravely impaired, so it should be expected that such moral atrocities occur, unencumbered by any societal roadblocks.

Thus, when one sees some abject moral evil, he finds it accompanied by obnoxious comments like, “Shame some people just aren’t capable of having an open mind.”

As if having an open mind were always inherently a good thing! (“Don’t have such an open mind your brains fall out!” -G.K. Chesterton) On the contrary, having a closed mind is often undoubtedly the best approach—including when it comes to having sexual relations with young girls as a 47-year-old man, or drinking Clorox, or mass murder, or whatever other insane notion there is to propose. The slogan of keeping an open mind in this context is just the result of somebody whose conscience is thoroughly corrupted, who cannot see the evil for what it so obviously is. You might as well say it’s a shame that someone isn’t so open-minded as to think two plus two might actually equal five. What should really be said is that it’s shame some people are not more closed-minded.

A sinful excess of open-mindedness is the predictable consequence of a life lived in sin, especially sexual sin, individually and collectively. And it’s hard to fight this problem with reason, as there is little to no reasoning to be employed against people defending abject depravity. We must have some common ground for an argument to be fruitful, but if someone’s moral faculty is so impaired that he no longer shares the same ethical framework as you, how can you make any moral progress?

As Ed Feser writes, “repeatedly taking sexual pleasure in activity that is directly contrary to nature’s ends dulls the intellect’s perception of nature, to the point that the very idea that some things are contrary to the natural order loses its hold upon the mind. The intellect thereby loses its grip on moral reality.”

Here Dr. Feser is drawing from the deposit of St. Thomas’s wisdom, where Thomas discusses the Daughters of Lust, or how someone, through repeated sexual sin especially, can suffer “blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, rashness, self-love, hatred of God.” Aquinas tells us that the more unrestrainedly bent our lower powers (or concupiscible appetites) are upon their object, the more easily distorted our higher powers—namely, reason and will—become. In other words, an unhealthy obsession with sex makes it hard to think straight. I mean, duh. Reason has almost completely checked out, except to make excuses for vile behavior.

What is the way out of this mess? God’s grace, surely. But also setting better examples and living the Christian ethic fully—especially the Christian sexual ethic—to attract those non-religious folks who are still, thankfully, repulsed by the increasing deceptive darkness that just is the logical extension of the Sexual Revolution—from the constant promotion of pornography and masturbatory practices to contraception and seeing others as mere instruments of self-pleasure to redefining marriage to feign the illusion that two people of the same sex can actually be married, and so on.

There are still many people who are seriously repulsed by what is being foisted upon children. Where will they be able to find shelter and help? Let it be the Church. By wanting to escape the darkness and make sense of this growing perversity and its origins, they may be brought fully to the light of Christ.”

Love & truth,

Quotes when tempted

mortification = mors (death) + facere (to make)

“A sculptor who wishes to carve a figure out of a block uses his chisel, first cutting away great chunks of marble, then smaller pieces, until he finally reaches a point where only a brush of hand is needed to reveal the figure. In the same way, the soul has to undergo tremendous mortifications at first, and then more refined detachments, until finally its Divine image is revealed. Because mortification is recognized as a practice of death, there is fittingly inscribed on the tomb of Duns Scotus, Bis Mortus; Semel Sepultus (twice died, but buried only once). When we die to something, something comes alive within us. If we die to self, charity comes alive; if we die to pride, service comes alive; if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive; if we die to anger, love comes alive.”
—Fulton J. Sheen, p. 219, Peace of Soul

“Where there is no obedience there is no virtue, where there is no virtue there is no good, where there is no good there is no love, where there is no love, there is no God, and where there is no God there is no Paradise.”
–Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

St Thomas Aquinas, OP, reminds us that, “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire, and to know what he ought to do.” Everyone is called to work toward their salvation (Phil 2:12), which is ultimately union with God. Those who take this call seriously must embark upon a journey inward to the deepest recesses of their soul. In the adventure and wonder of that journey, we work out the details of our union with our Beloved. We cling to what we need to believe, remain firm in what we truly desire, and are guided by what we know we have to do.

“Cowardice asks the question is it safe? Expediency asks the question is it politic? Vanity asks the question is it popular. But conscience asks the question is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”
—Martin Luther King Jr

“For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18)

“Expect temptation to your last breath.”
-Saint Anthony the Great

“Only saints can save the world. And only our own sins can stop us from being saints.”
-Peter Kreeft

“Satan always tempts the pure – the others are already his.”
-Archbishop Fulton Sheen

“We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”
-Saint Teresa of Ávila

“Only those who do not fight are never wounded.”
-Saint John Chrysostom

“The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.”
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

“Mary, I give you my heart. Always keep it yours. Jesus, Mary, always be my friends. I beg you, let me die rather than be so unfortunate as to commit a single sin.”
-Saint Dominic Savio

“Evil can only win if you let evil in.”

-Emmalyn Elsen

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.”
-St. Leo the Great

“Let the enemy rage at the gate; let him knock, pound, scream, howl; let him do his worst. We know for certain that he cannot enter our soul except by the door of our consent.”
-Saint Francis de Sales

“The devil is like a rabid dog tied to a chain; beyond the length of the chain he cannot seize anyone. And you: keep at a distance. If you approach too near, you let yourself be caught. Remember that the devil has only one door by which to enter the soul: the will.”
-Saint Padre Pio

“If only we could see the joy of our guardian angel when he sees us fighting our temptations!”
-Saint John Vianney

“Must you continue to be your own cross?”
-Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

“One of our sure guides along the path of life is that we do not know when earthly life will come to an end. How important that our repentance for past and present transgressions be a daily practice.”
-Rev. Thomas J. Donaghy

“He who seeks not the Cross of Christ seeks not the glory of Christ.”
–St. John of the Cross

“He did not say: You will not be troubled – you will not be tempted – you will not be distressed. But He did say: “You will not be overcome”.”
-Saint Julian of Norwich

“We follow a guy who was hated, mocked, tortured, imprisoned, and killed… Should we expect anything less? Sin starts and ends with you.
-Jack Trembath

“This is the great work of a man; always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.”
-St. Anthony the Great

“If you are going to worship a guy who was crucified, don’t expect life to be pop and Skittles.”
Mark Shea

“You can’t do God’s work without suffering.”
Blessed Mother Teresa

“For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18)

“Expect temptation to your last breath.”
-Saint Anthony the Great

“The Devil never runs upon a man to seize him with his claws until he sees him on the ground, already having fallen by his own will.”
-St. Thomas More

“This is the great work of a man; always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.”
-St. Anthony the Great

“Only saints can save the world. And only our own sins can stop us from being saints.”
-Peter Kreeft

“Satan always tempts the pure – the others are already his.”
-Archbishop Fulton Sheen

“‘Tis one thing to be tempted, another thing to fall.”
William Shakespeare

“Hence instead of allowing ourselves to become discouraged and fainthearted under trials which may seem to overwhelm us, let us act in the same way as we do when our bodies are sick, consult a good doctor—a good spiritual director—and applying the remedies he advises, patiently await the effects that it pleases God to give. Everything is meant for our good, and such trials ought to be counted as special graces from God. Whether or not they are sent as a punishment for our sins, they come from Him and we should thank Him for them, placing ourselves entirely in His hands. If we bear them with patience we shall receive greater grace than if we were filled with a sense of fervent devotion.”
—Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure, Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence

“A sculptor who wishes to carve a figure out of a block uses his chisel, first cutting away great chunks of marble, then smaller pieces, until he finally reaches a point where only a brush of hand is needed to reveal the figure. In the same way, the soul has to undergo tremendous mortifications at first, and then more refined detachments, until finally its Divine image is revealed. Because mortification is recognized as a practice of death, there is fittingly inscribed on the tomb of Duns Scotus, Bis Mortus; Semel Sepultus (twice died, but buried only once). When we die to something, something comes alive within us. If we die to self, charity comes alive; if we die to pride, service comes alive; if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive; if we die to anger, love comes alive.”
—Fulton J. Sheen, Peace of Soul

“Where there is no obedience there is no virtue, where there is no virtue there is no good, where there is no good there is no love, where there is no love, there is no God, and where there is no God there is no Paradise.”
–Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

“When I see that the burden is beyond my strength, I do not consider or analyze it or probe into it, but I run like a child to the Heart of Jesus and say only one word to Him: ‘You can do all things.’”
—St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary

mortification = mors (death) + facere (to make)

“Above all, it is necessary to ask of God every morning the gift of perseverance, and to beg of the Blessed Virgin to obtain it for you, and particularly in the time of temptation, by invoking the name of Jesus and Mary as long as the temptation lasts. Happy the man who will continue to act in this manner, and shall be found so doing when Jesus Christ shall come to judge him. ‘Blessed is that servant, whom, when his Lord shall come, he shall find so doing’ (Matt. 24:46).”
—St. Alphonsus De Liguori, Sermons

“I never found anyone so religious and devout as not to have sometimes a subtraction of grace, or feel a diminution of fervor. No saint was ever so highly rapt and illuminated as not to be tempted sooner or later. For he is not worthy of the high contemplation of God who has not, for God’s sake, been exercised with some tribulation. For temptation going before is usually a sign of ensuing consolation. For heavenly comfort is promised to such as have been proved by temptation. To him that overcometh, saith our Lord, I will give to eat of the tree of life.”
—Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ

“The Devil didn’t deal out temptations to Our Lord only. He brings these evil schemes of his to bear on each of Jesus’ servants—and not just on the mountain or in the wilderness or when we’re by ourselves. No, he comes after us in the city as well, in the marketplaces, in courts of justice. He tempts us by means of others, even our own relatives. So what must we do? We must disbelieve him altogether, and close our ears against him, and hate his flattery. And when he tries to tempt us further by offering us even more, then we should shun him all the more. . . We aren’t as intent on gaining our own salvation as he is intent on achieving our ruin. So we must shun him, not with words only, but also with works; not in mind only, but also in deed. We must do none of the things that he approves, for in that way will we do all those things that God approves. Yes, for the Devil also makes many promises, not so that he may give them to us, but so that he may take away from us. He promises plunder, so that he may deprive us of the kingdom of God and of righteousness. He sets out treasures in the earth as snares and traps, so that he may deprive us both of these and of the treasures in heaven. He would have us be rich in this life, so that we may not be rich in the next.”
—St. John Chrysostom

“Now there’s no one who approaches God with a true and upright heart who isn’t tested by hardships and temptations. So in all these temptations see to it that even if you feel them, you don’t consent to them. Instead, bear them patiently and calmly with humility and long suffering.”
—St. Albert the Great

“Be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in this world by God for the salvation of the soul. So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently.”
–St. Francis of Assisi

“There is nothing to be dreaded in human ills except sin—not poverty, or disease, or insult, or ill treatment, or dishonor, or death, which people call the worst of evils. To those who love spiritual wisdom, these things are only the names of disasters, names that have no substance. No, the true disaster is to offend God, to do anything that displeases Him.”
—St. John Chrysostom

“As the pilot of a vessel is tried in the storm; as the wrestler is tried in the ring, the soldier in the battle, and the hero in adversity: so is the Christian tried in temptation.”
–St. Basil the Great

“When an evil thought is presented to the mind, we must immediately endeavor to turn our thoughts to God, or to something which is indifferent. But the first rule is, instantly to invoke the names of Jesus and Mary and to continue to invoke them until the temptation ceases. He who trusts in himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things.”
–St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Temptation to a certain sin, to any sin whatsoever, might last throughout our whole life, yet it can never make us displeasing to God’s Majesty provided we do not take pleasure in it and give consent to it. You must have great courage in the midst of temptation. Never think yourself overcome as long as they are displeasing to you, keeping clearly in mind the difference between feeling temptation and consenting to it.”
—St. Francis de Sales, Fulfillment of All Desire

“With regard to evil thoughts, there may be a twofold delusion. God-fearing souls who have little or no gift of discernment, and are inclined to scruples, think that every wicked thought that enters their mind is a sin. This is a mistake, for it is not the wicked thoughts in themselves that are sins, but the yielding or consenting to them. The wickedness of mortal sin consists in the perverse will that deliberately yields to sin with a complete knowledge of its wickedness with full consent. And therefore St. Augustine teaches that when the consent of the will is absent, there is no sin. However much we may be tormented by temptations, the rebellion of the senses, or the inordinate motions of the inferior part of the soul, as long as there is no consent, there is no sin. For the comfort of such anxious souls, let me suggest a good rule of conduct that is taught by all masters in the spiritual life. If a person who fears God and hates sin doubts whether or not he has consented to an evil thought or not, he is not bound to confess it, because it is morally certain that he has not given consent. For had he actually committed a mortal sin, he would have no doubt about it, as mortal sin is such a monster in the eyes of one who fears God that its entrance into the heart could not take place without its being known. Others, on the contrary, whose conscience is lax and not well-informed, think that evil thoughts and desires, though consented to, are not sins provided they are not followed by sinful actions. This error is worse than the one mentioned above. What we may not do, we may not desire. Therefore an evil thought or desire to which we consent comprises in itself all the wickedness of an evil deed.”
—St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Thus sin renders the soul miserable, weak and torpid, inconstant in doing good, cowardly in resisting temptation, slothful in the observance of God’s commandments. It deprives her of true liberty and of that sovereignty which she should never resign; it makes her a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil; it subjects her to a harder and more wretched servitude than that of the unhappy Israelites in Egypt or Babylon. Sin so dulls and stupefies the spiritual senses of man that he is deaf to God’s voice and inspirations; blind to the dreadful calamities which threaten him; insensible to the sweet odor of virtue and the example of the saints; incapable of tasting how sweet the Lord is, or feeling the touch of His benign hand in the benefits which should be a constant incitement to his greater love. Moreover, sin destroys the peace and joy of a good conscience, takes away the soul’s fervor, and leaves her an object abominable in the eyes of God and His saints. The grace of justification delivers us from all these miseries. For God, in His infinite mercy, is not content with effacing our sins and restoring us to His favor; He delivers us from the evils sin has brought upon us, and renews the interior man in his former strength and beauty. Thus He heals our wounds, breaks our bonds, moderates the violence of our passions, restores with true liberty the supernatural beauty of the soul, reestablishes us in the peace and joy of a good conscience, reanimates our interior senses, inspires us with ardor for good and a salutary hatred of sin, makes us strong and constant in resisting evil, and thus enriches us with an abundance of good works. In fine, He so perfectly renews the inner man with all his faculties that the Apostle calls those who are thus justified new men and new creatures.”
—Venerable Louis Of Grenada

“Many try to fly away from temptations only to fall more deeply into them; for you cannot win a battle by mere flight. It is only by patience and humility that you will be strengthened against the enemy. Those who shun them outwardly and do not pull them out by the roots will make no progress; for temptations will soon return to harass them and they will be in a worse state. It is only gradually—with patience and endurance and with God’s grace—that you will overcome temptations sooner than by your own efforts and anxieties . . . Gold is tried by fire and the upright person by temptation. Often we do not know what we can do until temptation shows us what we are . . . This is how temptation is: first we have a thought, followed by strong imaginings, then the pleasure and evil emotions, and finally consent. This is how the enemy gains full admittance, because he was not resisted at the outset. The slower we are to resist, the weaker we daily become and the stronger the enemy is against us.”
—Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ

“Above all, it is necessary to ask of God every morning the gift of perseverance, and to beg of the Blessed Virgin to obtain it for you, and particularly in the time of temptation, by invoking the name of Jesus and Mary as long as the temptation lasts. Happy the man who will continue to act in this manner, and shall be found so doing when Jesus Christ shall come to judge him. ‘Blessed is that servant, whom, when his Lord shall come, he shall find so doing’ (Matt. 24:46).”
—St. Alphonsus De Liguori, Sermons of St Alphonsus Liguori

“St. Augustine says, that to prevent the sheep from seeking assistance by her cries, the wolf seizes her by the neck, and thus securely carries her away and devours her. The Devil acts in a similar manner with the sheep of Jesus Christ. After having induced them to yield to sin, he seizes them by the throat, that they may not confess their guilt; and thus he securely brings them to Hell. For those who have sinned grievously, there is no means of salvation but the confession of their sins.”
— St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 138, Sermons of St Alphonsus Liguori

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: “’He will command his angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike your foot against a stone.’” -Mt 4:5-6