Monday, November 29, 2010

Padre Pio Film

Some lovely actual footage of St Pio. H/t to Father Tim.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

*Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

Thanks to Dustin Katona, youth worker at St Peter's Cathedral, for putting this on his Facebook page and allowing me to copy it here.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist on Oprah Winfrey tonight

I received the following information from the Sisters recently:

The Dominican Sisters of Mary will be featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show on Tuesday, November 23rd.

This is a new show that includes interviews with Mother Assumpta, Sr. Joseph Andrew, Sr. Mary Samuel, Sr. John Dominic and other Sisters; as well as on-site filming of the First and Final Profession Masses and this year’s Entrance Day, during which we welcomed 22 Aspirants.

The show will feature the experience of a Sister entering religious life and the meaning of religious profession as being ‘married’ to Christ.

You may recall that Oprah first reached out to our community on February 9th of this year due to an interest in the hidden aspects of religious life. Click here to watch an excerpt from that program.

The response from the first show was so positive that the Sisters were asked if we would be open to another opportunity to share our life. We have accepted this invitation in the hopes of reaching an audience we might not otherwise reach with the witness of our life and the Gospel. Please join us in praying that the show will be for the good of souls and the honor of God.

The show goes out from 5pm to 6pm ET.

The scheduling at TV6 gives the following fuller details of the show:

The Oprah Winfrey Show: The Mom Who Married a Killer Behind Bars & Other Astonishing Weddings (HD, New, TV-PG) Scheduled: the reasoning behind a mother marrying a convicted killer serving two life sentences; inside a group of nuns most sacred ceremony.

So, a bit of the sublime and bit of the ridiculous - all of life is there!

Monday, November 22, 2010

From the Consistory

Father Daniel Moll from the diocese of Marquette sent me this picture of him greeting Cardinal Burke after Saturday's consistory. Father Moll is in his first year of Licentiate Studies in Canon Law at the Santa Croce Pontifical University in Rome.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Did the Pope say it's okay to use condoms?

The BBC World Service - which is really the only news medium I get to listen to that I take seriously - has been leading on this story for twenty four hours. Which shows that whenever the word 'condom' is pronounced by the Pope, it gets headlines, and demonstrates yet another PR own-goal by the Vatican and its official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

I am grateful to a friend for emailing a link to the National Catholic Register that provides a useful analysis of what the Pope says in its full context, rather than the partial quotes by the BBC and L'Osservatore Romano.

The Pope's comments are made in a book entitled 'Light of the World' which will be published on Wednesday November 24th.

A few thoughts based on the NCR article. It is said that Pope Benedict writes:
It goes without saying that the Pope can have private opinions that are wrong.
I love our Holy Father dearly. I don't mind hearing his private opinions on economics, war, music..., but when he speaks on matters of faith and morals, particularly on such sensitive issues as the use of condoms, I'd rather not hear his private opinions that have the possibility of being wrong. He is always "Peter". I fear that these comments will leave the faithful confused - they have certainly led to confusion in the public media. Next week's Tablet will for sure hail the Pope as progressive and reasonable, and say that he is softening the Church's line on contraception, which is manifestly NOT the case.

Here is the full text of Pope Benedict's remarks, provided at Catholic World Report: I have inserted my respectful questionings of our beloved Holy Father's private opinion.
On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism.Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, [I happen to know a couple of priests from Lesotho who told me that for a male to live beyond 35 is a miracle. The men go to South Africa to work in the mines, are unfaithful while away, and return home infected. These priests who minister to the bereaved families blame the widespread distribution of condoms for the spread of the AIDS virus as they encourage the men to take risks rather than being faithful to their wives.] the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. [More? In addition to distributing condoms? Or is the solution something quite different?] We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone [alone? So they can be admitted as part of the solution?] do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. [Again, more? In addition to condom use or instead of?] Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. [Ok, rather big interjection here. The Holy Father refers to an example of male prostitutes, presumably homosexual. The homosexual act is itself disordered. There is no discharge of semen into the vagina of a woman. There is no potential for conception. There is no prevention of conception. THIS IS NOT CONTRACEPTION. THERE IS NO 'SOFTENING' OF THE CHURCH'S TEACHING ON CONTRACEPTION. The use of a condom here is simply irrelevant from the sexual-moral point of view. If it prevents the transmission of the AIDS virus, so be it. But there is NO MODIFICATION OF THE (DISORDERED) END OF THIS "SEXUAL" ACT. I simply cannot make the link that Pope Benedict appears to make between condom use in this instance and a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot doe whatever one wants. Those involved continue to do that which is not allowed and whatever they want. The use of the condom can hardly be considered a virtuous act, thinking of the partner rather than of oneself. The male prostitute will be thinking primarily of his own health. It will therefore be selfishly motivated. The homosexual act remains intrinsically evil, although the evil effects are possibly mitigated. And possibly is a very important word here. Condoms have to be used properly and they have to be faultless. And the increasing frequency of sexual encounters that will result with the false sense of security that condom use provides increases the risk of infection and reinforces the bad habit or vice of disordered sexual acts. Condom use will provide little if any incentive to modify behaviour.] That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality. [And what does this mean? This must be spelt out. Namely: sex is intrinsically ordered towards the procreation of human life in the stable loving (ideally) relationship we call marriage between a man and a woman. Any other way or context of performing the sexual act is intrinsically unhuman.]

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, [agreed, it is not a moral solution] but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality. [Holy Father, since you allow me the freedom to do so, I respectfully disagree. I cannot see how the introduction of a condom into sodomic relations is in any way a first step in a movement toward a more human way of living sexuality. Such relations are absolutely not a human way of living sexuality. All condom use does is aim to prevent one of the evil consequences of such relations.]
The Catholic blogs and orthodox media will try to defend Pope Benedict's comments. But I think we now have a major problem on our hands. Already, on the BBC World Service news, a spokesman for a US-based dissident group has said how reasonable Pope Benedict is and how his group welcomes the Pope's more moderate views on contraception. It needs to be stated loud and clear that Pope Benedict IS NOT TALKING ABOUT CONTRACEPTION.

However, his comments will naturally lead to questions concerning the case of a married couple in which one of the spouses is infected with the AIDS virus. What then? What is the human expression of sexuality? Is it to use a condom? This is a very different case. The truly human expression of sexuality in this case is to abstain. This will need to be addressed.

And what about female prostitutes? Is there any trace of humanization in their sexual encounters? Is the use of condoms in their case a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants?

You can read an alternative analysis by the esteemed Janet E. Smith (who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and is serving a third term as a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family): What does the Holy Father really say about condoms in the new book? I acknowledge that Professor Smith is far more competent than I am to comment on this matter, but I find her argument unconvincing.

I take this opportunity of renewing my profound love for Pope Benedict. Long may he reign and be protected from his enemies.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ordinariate procedures announced - breakneck speed

This Bishops of England and Wales have today issued a statement about the establishment of an Ordinariate for anglicans wishing to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church using the provisions of Pope Benedict's Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

It is good news indeed that there is such a rapid response to the announcements by five anglican bishops that they are to resign their pastoral appointments within the Church of England and to begin the process of reception into the Catholic Church and possible ordination as priests. It is important that both the clergy and the faithful of these communities be assisted on their path to reception into the Catholic Church as expeditiously as possible. All this is to be carried out under the local diocesan bishops and the Ordinary of the Ordinariate whose name will be announced in January 2011.

Who might the Ordinary be? He will be appointed by the Holy Father (Anglicanorum coetibus Art. IV). He can be a priest or a bishop. Will Bishop Alan Hopes, who currently oversees the setting up of the Ordinariate, be appointed the first Ordinary?

See the full statement at the Archdiocese of Westminster website.

Further commentary:
Damian Thompson
Fr Ray Blake
De Cura Animarum
EF pastor emeritus

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Congratulations to Prince William and Kate Middleton

It's always an historic occasion when a future king marries, so I wish His Highness and his fiancee every blessing as they prepare for what will hopefully be lifelong, happy and fruitful marriage.

BBC reports it here with an interview with the couple.

I'm afraid I find the familiarity of the interviewer almost disrespectful. Is it acceptable to call an heir to the throne by his first name? What about 'Your Highness' or, at least, 'Prince William'? One thing I notice here in the US is the extensive use of titles as a mark of respect.

Baghdad Massacre - more reports from Iraq

Further to my previous.

AlJazeera reports on the funeral:

Letter from Iraqi friends of mine in England:

Dear Fr John;

I had not bothered to comment this time because I do not see the point however in answer to your question the pictures are true and I would I may like to give you a description of the attack as described by one of the survivors;

At about 5 pm Baghdad time a car exploded outside the Baghdad Stock Exchange (which was by then closed for the day) and the few security guards nearby including the two guarding the Church were drawn towards that explosion at the same time from the opposite side of that building a group of men (8 or 9) moved very quickly towards our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church. That Church has a most impressive Arch (I have enclosed a picture of the outside of the Church) and they shot the 4 guards then quickly made their way into the Church while Holy Mass was being celebrated by 2 young priests and some Deacons as well as about 150 parishioners (young and old, men and women).

I need to say that at the moment of the car explosion outside one of the priests from the Altar asked the people to pray for peace and security for Iraq. A couple of minutes later that poor priest was murdered in a hail of bullets. The terrorist as they entered the Church, throw a number of hand grenades and fired towards the people sitting by the main entrance and killed them all, they then very quickly fired at the Altar killing one of the priests (the one who asked people to pray for peace and security).

At that early stage people were in a state of shock, some were running, others were screaming but most were sitting not knowing what was taking place. The second young priest rushed down from the Altar trying to calm the situation and was trying to speak to the savages but they killed him before he had even finished his sentence.

The 3rd older priest who was in the house next to the Church by now knew something terrible was taking place so he made his way into the Church from the side door and asked parishioners nearby to follow him into the house and away from the Church. However he was shot by the door (he is in a terrible conditions being treated in France along with other seriously wounded survivors from the attack including one Muslim security guard who tried in vain to defend the Church) and the few people who had ran into the corridor were trapped and the terrorist simply throw more hand grenades into that corridor and closed the door behind them killing and wounding everyone in that area (about 12 people were in there).

The terrorists were by now going from one pew to the next killing some people and wounding others. It was random, vicious and senseless violence. They were killing men, women, young and old. The youngest victim was a 4 months old baby boy (I have enclosed his picture for a proof if any was needed of their heartless actions).
The terrorist all the while were shouting God is great and the witness described their eyes as being filled with pure hatred and anger. The terrorists did not try and conceal their faces and apart from one of them the rest were not from Iraq. It is understood that one was from Syria, another from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt and the others did not sound like Arabs {(maybe from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Chechnya) not sure of the actual nationality but they were not Iraqis apart from one} they did not speak with Iraqi dialect but Classical Arabic and believe you me no one in the Arab world speaks with a classical dialect unless they are reading the news on TV or Radio.

The terrorists were in the Church from about 5 pm until 11 pm when their weapons ran out and they began to blow themselves up. They Iraqi Security forces were all the while standing outside paralysed with fear and confusion but by about 10 pm the security forces attacked the Church with huge fire power and no one knows how many innocent people they killed when they stormed the Church but by then most of the terrorist were already dead and they had run out of weapons to use.

At about 1 am the army was sure that all of the terrorist were dead and that they had rescued any of the people who were still alive inside the Church.

One army officer described the scene as follows; “I entered the Church and can hear loud screams of women and children but I could not see them because of the intense smoke, I then slipped and noticed that I slipped in a pool of blood just then I was hit by the most awful smell, it was a smell that I had become familiar with but it was nevertheless awful it was the terrible stench of death. I saw body parts, limbs and many bodies piled up at the entrance. The people there looked like they had been dead for sometime as their bodies had become quite stiff when we tried to move them”.

By the end about 60 people were dead including 2 priests and another 70 were wounded. Very few people were unhurt physically but all of the survivors were damaged psychologically.

There are many hear breaking stories that emerged but I will mention just a few;
The terrorists as they attacked one pew they killed a family that consisted of a Baby boy (4 months old), his mum, his dad and his grand dad.

The terrorists then asked one women hostage to call a local TV station {(Al-Baghdadia) which has since been banned from broadcasting from Iraq, it still beams its pictures from Cairo, however to be honest the station is not involved in any way in the attack as far as we know however the government decided it had to be shut down anyway} she (hostage) read a prepared statement which basically said that unless their (terrorists)demands were met they would blow the Church up in 48 hours and kill all the people inside, that was a lie since they were killing the people already and in large numbers.

The terrorists attacked one pew that had two young sisters, their brother his wife and their 3 year old nephew. The sister in law died instantly however the rest of that family somehow survived that said the child naturally was beside himself with greave for his mother and kept asking her to wake up. A minute later the terrorists returned to that pew and shot the brother in the shoulder and arm so his 3 year old son started screaming and crying telling them enough (KAFEE, KAFEE, KAFEE, Iraqi Arabic for Enough) however for some unknown reason they did not hurt the two women but towards the end of the siege the terrorists returned and shot the brother in the head (so if he was not already dead he was now) and as they were about to shoot him again his three year old son stood up and he took a bullet for his dad however he was shot in the leg and survived. The aunty said the worst thing about it is that throughout this awful situation my sister and I were so terrified we did nothing not even comfort our nephew and this is so difficult to bear on top of our horrendous loss.

Since that attack more Christians have been attacked in Baghdad and despite that our plight does not even warrant a mention in any of the news on the BBC, ITV, Sky or CBS and also CNN. A few days later they all carried short reports and talked about the difficult situation for Iraqi Christians. Our lives our worthless now so the world does nothing because they do not even know we are dying for our faith.

Images from the Church of Our Lady of Salvation:

This received from another priest friend:

We can only weep, pray and hope!
Sr Emmanuel +

Father (Père) Wassim Sabih (Waseem Sabeeh Al-kas Butros)  27 years old
Father (Père) Thaer (Thaer Saad-alla Abdal) 32 years old

were killed during the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church by islamics terrorists during Mass Sunday evening, in Bagdad, October 31, 2010.
Father Rafael Alkotaily was injured during the attack and he is now undergoing a number of surgeries
at Ibn Al-Nafis hospital in Baghdad. 
More than 63 were killed. Another 120 were wounded. Hundreds of dependents are now helpless
Father Thaer
Father Wassim
For the past seven years, the Iraqi Christians have been targeted by waves of attacks on their churches, monasteries, homes, businesses and in persons. A Bishop and Several Priests were killed and even slaughtered in cold blood. Since the events of 2003 more than half the Iraqi Christians fled the country, thousands have been killed, and more than 60 churches, monasteries were bombed.

In less than a week after terrorists’ attacked Iraqi Christians during a Sunday mass in the heart of Baghdad – an incident that killed more than 50 people and injured dozens others, al-Qaeda has threatened to stage more similar attacks on Christians.

In a warning, an al-Qaeda affiliated group, Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), claimed that their attacks were legitimate and that the time had come for Iraqi Christians to face the doors of destruction.

The ISI’s warning has been published on the militant websites in which he warned that his group would soon extirpate and disperse Christians from Iraq.“All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the muhajideen wherever they can reach them,” the statement said. “We will open upon them the doors of destruction and rivers of blood,” it added.
Yahweh, how countless are my enemies, how countless those who rise up against me,
how countless those who say of me, 'No salvation for him from his God!'Pause
But you, Yahweh, the shield at my side, my glory, you hold my head high.
I cry out to Yahweh; he answers from his holy mountain.Pause
As for me, if I lie down and sleep, I shall awake, for Yahweh sustains me.
I have no fear of people in their thousands upon thousands, who range themselves against me wherever I turn.
Arise, Yahweh, rescue me, my God! You strike all my foes across the face, you break the teeth of the wicked.
In Yahweh is salvation, on your people, your blessing! (Psalms chapter 3)
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying,
"How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.
(Revelation 6 /9-11)
Our Lady of Salvation Church: First Mass after the attack:

Some further videos sent to me by my Iraqi friend. I have no idea what is being said, but the state of shock is clearly visible, particularly in one of the young women who were among the very few who were not hurt but they lost their brother and his 3 year old son was wounded in the leg.

Pray for peace in Iraq, and that our Christian brothers and sisters will not be deserted by the 'Christian' west in their hour of need.

Archbishop Dolan elected as President of USCCB

Diane at Te Deum Laudamus has already posted on this new. The New York Times says:
It is the first time since the 1960s that a sitting vice president was on the ballot for conference president and lost. The outcome is the latest sign that the American bishops — divided over how best to uphold Roman Catholic orthodoxy — favor a more aggressive approach.

Dolan's election appears to be being interpreted as indicating that the Bishops favour a confident (= "aggressive" in NY Times-speak) and clear presentation of the Catholic faith on key social and moral issues.

Read more at Te Deum which will be updated

Detroit Archbishop Vigneron interviewed about abuse by priests

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Baghdad Massacre - Victims flown to Rome's Gemelli Hospital; US Bishops say US has "moral obligation" to aid Iraq.

At the request of Pope Benedict XVI's Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone, 26 injured survivors of the Oct. 31st massacre of Catholics at the Syrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation have been flown to Rome's Gemelli Hospital. This must surely be a comforting gesture from the Vatican of solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters.

More from Zenit.

Zenit also reports:

Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter last week to the U.S. president, in which he referenced the Oct. 31 attack on Baghdad's Syriac Catholic Cathedral, which left 58 dead and 75 wounded, as well as other violent outbreaks in the city. The letter earned the support today of the entire bishops' conference, who are meeting this week for their fall assembly.

He described the incidents as "grim evidence of the savage violence and lack of security that has plagued the Iraqi people [...] for over seven years." He also addressed reports that the attack on the cathedral "may have been more extensive and the failures of security more egregious than originally thought."

I think the British Government also shares this moral obligation. The US and Britain were the principal proponents of the invasion of Iraq. It is a mess (not wishing to enter into any discussion as to whether or not the invasion was justified). We need to guarantee security.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Permanent Deacons are obliged by the law of continence [Updated]

When I visited Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit last week I met up with Doctor Edward Peters, the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair Professor of Canon Law at the Seminary and author of the blog In the Light of the Law (pictured above) and Mr Tim Ferguson, Administrative Director of the Detroit Metropolitan Tribunal and lecturer in Canon Law at the Seminary. Over dinner I discovered that Dr Peters and I had both been thinking about the same matter: whether deacons (permanent) should be living in continence.

It had become my firm conviction through reading such studies as The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by Father Christian Cochini SJ that the apostolic tradition and that of the early Church was firmly in favour of this position. Indeed, Cochini's work shows that it was customary in some places that if a man in minor orders took a wife he was not promoted to higher orders. If a married man in major orders fathered children, he was either dismissed from the order received, or allowed to retain the order but not to exercise it. It was a cause of scandal in the early Church for it to become known that a man in major orders was enjoying conjugal rights with his wife. A more careful re-reading of Cochini's work would enable me to produce further examples of the upholding of this tradition.

Peters has published on this matter, and his research is described in an article entitled Canonical Considerations on Diaconal Continence in the Canadian Canon Law Journal Studia Canonica 39 (2005) pp. 147-180.

Peters begins his study considering the first paragraph of Canon 277 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law which states:
§1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.

This canon states the obligation to perfect and perpetual continence binding upon all clerics (bishops, priests, deacons). Peters comments:
Clerical celibacy is, however, presented in the law as a secondary good that, while valued in its own right as "a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity" is nevertheless ordered to the protection and support of a more fundamental good, namely, that of "perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."
The second paragraph of the canon goes on to say:
§2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.

Note, again, the reference to continence rather than to celibacy. The reason why the canon does not say that clerics should avoid contact with persons whose company can endanger their obligation to celibacy is that, as we know and shall see, there are clerics who are not bound by the obligation to celibacy.

The third paragraph states:
§3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.

Clearly this paragraph does not grant to diocesan bishops the authority to dispense from the obligation to continence but rather to establish particular norms that might secure the observance of this obligation in the light of local circumstances and to judge whether or not the obligation to continence has been violated.

Exceptions to the Law for Permanent Deacons

The Code of Canon Law exempts permanent deacons from the observance of certain obligations binding upon all other clerics.
Can. 288 The prescripts of cann. 284, [the obligation to wear ecclesiastical garb], 285, §§3 [the prohibition from assuming public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power] and 4 [the prohibition from assuming and/or accepting certain financial obligations], 286 [the prohibition from conducting business or trade personally or through others], and 287, §2 [the prohibition from having an active part in political parties and in governing labor unions unless] do not bind permanent deacons unless particular law establishes otherwise.
Notable by its absence from the above list is any exemption from the norm binding all clerics to perfect and perpetual continence.

Those to be ordained as permanent deacons are also not bound by the impediment of marriage by virtue of Canon 1042 n.1:
The following are simply impeded from receiving orders:
1/ a man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconate.

The obligation to celibacy of unmarried candidates for the permanent diaconate is guaranteed in Canon 1037:
An unmarried candidate for the permanent diaconate and a candidate for the presbyterate are not to be admitted to the order of diaconate unless they have assumed the obligation of celibacy in the prescribed rite publicly before God and the Church or have made perpetual vows in a religious institute.

We recall, again, that the reason for assuming the obligation to celibacy is to ensure the observance of the higher good of perfect and perpetual continence.

Other requirements for the advancement of a man to the permanent diaconate

It is only in the context of an obligation to perfect and perpetual continence that the following Canon makes sense:

Can.  1031 §2. A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married is not to be admitted to the diaconate until after completing at least the twenty-fifth year of age; one who is married, not until after completing at least the thirty-fifth year of age and with the consent of his wife.
Why the difference in age for an unmarried candidate and a married candidate? In studying the previously cited work by Cochini and others, it become clear to the reader that while it was not uncommon for the apostolic and post-apostolic Church to admit married men to Holy Orders, the obligation to continence was placed upon them and considered reasonable since they were older men whose child-begetting days were over. This makes sense of the older age requirement for married candidates for the diaconate. The younger age for unmarried candidates ensures that the candidate is mature enough to make a decision that binds him to continence (and, therefore, celibacy) for the rest of his life

But why the requirement that the consent of the wife of the married candidate be secured? It could be argued that the wife would have a right to ensure that her husband's ordination to the diaconate and the ministry that would be entrusted to him would not have any negative impact on their family life. If the wife was opposed to her husband's ordination, it makes sense that he should not be ordained. Peters does not hold this and does not think a third-party ever has the right to withhold consent for another to receive a sacrament. So he would not even raise it as plausible option... There is there a more fundamental reason why her consent is required?

If the future deacon were to become bound by the obligation to observe perfect and perpetual continence, this would involve the renunciation by the wife of her marital rights. It would be unjust for her to be deprived of these rights by her husband's ordination, but she could willingly renounce these rights for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

Again, Cochini and others state this as being the case in the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.

But is the age of thirty five still a rather young age? The Code of Canon Law gives episcopal conferences authority in this matter as follows:
§3. The conference of bishops is free to establish norms which require an older age for the presbyterate and the permanent diaconate.
And this is what Peters argues should be done, suggesting (in another article for Chicago Studies) a minimum age of fifty for married candidates for the permanent diaconate.

Peters concludes his overview of the 1983 Code on the matter of clerical continence and celibacy as follows:

In sum, the 1983 Code expressly imposes two obligations on Western clerics, one of continence, and one of celibacy, with continence being canonically regarded as more fundamental (c. 277, §1). Only in regard to the less fundamental of these two obligations, clerical celibacy, is there any relaxation in canonical discipline, though that only insofar as it affects married men seeking ordination to the permanent diaconate (cc. 1037 and 1042). At no point, though, despite expressely exempting permanent deacons from a variety of clerical obligations (c. 288) does the 1983 Code relax the expressly stated and more esteemed obligation of continence for all clerics.
Professor Peters also surveys Canonical Tradition concerning the obligation of clerical continence and observers that under the 1917 Code of Canon Law the violation of the obligation of observing chastity was a sin of sacrilege:
1917 Can. 132 §1. Clerics constituted in major orders are prohibited from marriage and are bound by the obligation of observing chastity, so that those sinning against this are sacrilegious...
To live chastely it is clear that an unmarried man must live in continence. There was therefore no need to be more specific under the 1917 Code. Peters also refers to authors who commented on the 1917 Code, all of whom supported the obligation to continence even for those married men who might have been admitted to Holy Orders. He writes:
Ayrinhac writes: "A married man may not lawfully receive major Orders as long as his wife lives. (Can. 987.) should he receive them with a dispensation from the Holy See he would contract the same obligation to chastity as other clerics..." No commentator on the 1917 Code holds licit the use of marriage by men in major orders.
The fact that the 1917 Code designated offenders against chastity/continence as sacrilegious indicates that this matter was considered to relate to divine law. Indeed, in the revision process leading up to the promulgation of the 1983 Code, this point was admitted but not included in the new Can. 277 §1 as it was deemed to pertain to moral theology rather than Canon Law.

When Pope Paul VI ordered the restoration of the diaconate, he expressly confirmed the law as contained in the 1917 Code:
We want to confirm all that is said in the [1917] Code of Canon Law about the rights and duties of deacons, either those rights and duties which they have in common with all clerics or those proper to themselves, except where We here state otherwise, and We decree that these rules are to apply to those who are to be permanent deacons as well. (Sacrum diaconatus ordinem, 1967)
Peters concludes that when Paul VI restored the permanent diaconate in the Latin Church, he did so retaining the 1917 Code's obligation of continence as binding even on married deacons.

Professor Peters gives many examples of where conciliar and post-conciliar documents hold in the highest esteem the observation of perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven (e.g. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, no. 16, Lumen Gentium, no. 42). In no promulgated Council document was there any suggestion that the obligation of clerical continence, clearly required under the then-operative 1917 Code of Canon Law, was to be relaxed.

In the process of drafting the 1983 Code, says Peters,
... each of the first three drafts of the canonical articulations of the clerical obligations of continence and celibacy contained an express exemption for married deacons in regards to both obligations, but this exemption was completely dropped from the final promulgated version of the law.

What about those married deacons who have been ordained without being expressly asked to commit themselves to continence and whose wives had not consented to a life of continence? It would be unjust to require them, now, to take on an obligation they were not aware of at the time of their ordination. Future candidates, however, could be required to explicitly make this commitment, or at least be reminded of the obligation which is there in the law, and the consent of their wives should include a consent to a life of continence after the ordination of her husband.

Perhaps it is appropriate to finish this blog post with Professor Peters' Concluding Remarks from the cited article in Studia Canonica:
The conclusion suggested by this article is that a major, long-standing, and unquestioned canonical obligation of clerics in the Western Church - namely, complete sexual continence for married men in major orders - has, with almost no conscious advertence, been forgotten in the span of hardly a generation. A limited range of responses to such a dramatic event seems feasible.

If such a development truly reflects the mind of the Church, then it seems incumbent on the proper ecclesiastical authority to enunciate the reasons behind such a major change in discipline, lest the example of what otherwise might seem like an amnesic development of practice be established and accepted. In other words, there is need to demonstrate why the law must be accommodated to the practice, lest law fall into disrepute. As a variation of this, if a distinction in the clerical obligation of continence exists, however hidden, between deacons and priests, that distincition should be clearly articulated, lest a practice that might be tolerated for those in a lower level of Holy Orders be inappropriately applied to those in a higher. If, however, a change in the traditional Western discipline of clerical continence for those in major orders was not intended and therefore, at best, the current situation of non-continence among married permanent deacons is markedly anomalous, then that fact should be admitted and forthrightly addressed. In this last case, one wherein a practice must be brought into conformity with law, the example of King Josiah upon rediscovering the forgotten Law (2 Kings 22-23) might be instructive.

See also

Returning to my own personal reflections, I consider the observation of continence as an integral part of the life of the ordained. Their ministry within the sanctuary requires this, as Cochini and others amply demonstrate. The Church would be much strengthened and the diaconate greatly renewed if candidates were reminded of this obligation and required to observe it.

Anecdotally, I realised how deeply this is engrained upon my own appreciation of the tradition on this matter at a wedding reception I attended not so long ago. The bride and groom were given rather superfluous lessons in passionate kissing (as if they hadn't done so already). At intervals during the reception, different couples were invited to demonstrate the skill of passionate kissing and the bride and groom were then expected to imitate the experienced couples with even greater passion. Whilst I found the whole thing a little unnecessary to say the least, I found myself rather put off at seeing the permanent deacons (there were a number of them) and their wives joining in the 'lessons.' Something inside me was saying: "Guys, you are ordained ministers. Somehow this doesn't seem appropriate behaviour." I don't think I was being prudish.

Dr Peters' son Thomas (American Papist) has referred to this post in his article on
Dr Peters' Studia Canonica article can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pope Benedict: improving the celebration of the Word of God, during and outside Mass

Pope Benedict has issued a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation entitled Verbum Domini - Word of the Lord.

Among other things the Holy Father referred to the need for a sense of recollection and inner repose:
Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. [...] Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence.

He deals also with the question of music. This is very important because music can promote recollection and inner repose, or it can destroy it. Some of the words, melodies, arrangements and instruments used at Mass do precisely that: just when one needs some peace a responsorial psalm arrangement that shatters that peace, or a communion reflection that is a total distraction during that most sublime moment intrudes upon the sacred rites being celebrated.

Pope Benedict says:

As part of the enhancement of the word of God in the liturgy, attention should also be paid to the use of song at the times called for by the particular rite. Preference should be given to songs which are of clear biblical inspiration and which express, through the harmony of music and words, the beauty of God’s word. We would do well to make the most of those songs handed down to us by the Church’s tradition which respect this criterion. I think in particular of the importance of Gregorian chant.

Good Holy Father! He wouldn't be Benedict if he did not find an opportunity to promote Gregorian chant. How sublime these settings are at precisely those points when the Word of God can enhance that spirit of recollection and inner repose: the entrance antiphon which prepares the heart and mind, the responsorial psalm (or Gradual) to assist us in our response to the first reading, the Alleluia that prepares our hearts to hear Christ in the Gospel, the Offertory Antiphon that accompanies the offering of the bread and wine and of our own selves, the Communion Antiphon that is peacefully rising to God.

All these are so far superior to the inane songs that are sung at most of our Masses.

In my recent visit to Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, I was most impressed by the simplicity and sobriety of the liturgy. The Masses I attended were in English, but the antiphons were sung in a gregorian style manner, and the psalm in a chant like tone. There was the perfect balance of silence and song, with every opportunity for recollection and inner repose.

Acknowledgement to Zenit.


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