Angelo Roncalli — from an earlier posting on “Tom Dooley”

Three common myths need to be demolished for American Roman Catholics if we are to become less dominated by pop-culture and historically inaccurate superficiality.

The first is the saccharine myth of “Good Pope John”. The historical Roncalli is different from the Roncalli who was hijacked by the media to remake the Catholic Church into its own image and likeness.

John was actually so traditional that he even restored some things which Pius XII had removed from the lengthy papal coronation ceremony.

The Latin text of the Synod of Rome of 1960 is enough to illustrate that he was no liberal-progressive in any sense which we understand those labels.

His personal Journal of a Soul (Image; New revisEd ed., 1999) shows us a devotional man, not an ideological reformer.

The apostolic constitution Veterum sapientiae (February 1962) regarding the promotion and use of Latin, signed on the high altar of St. Peter’s, was forgotten before the ink dried.

John’s priority for Vatican II was the revision of canon law.

More Recent documentation brought to light this accurate view of the historical Roncalli. A book by Marco Roncalli was published in Italian by Mondadori in 2006, entitled Giovanni XXIII ― Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Una vita nella storia (John XXIII ― Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli: A Life in History). Look for the real Roncalli there, not in the myth-perpetuating biography by Peter and Margaret Hebblethwaite (Doubleday, 1987; revised by Margaret for Continuum International, 2000).

If it is true that Good Pope John desired a new Pentecost, he certainly would have rejected the horrific Apocalypse which came instead.

Recognize anybody?

Recognize anybody?

Recognize anybody?














[Left to right: Brandon Vogt, Teresa Tomeo, Mark Hart, Mike Hernon, Peter Kreeft, Kimberly and Scott Hahn, Ted Sri, Ralph Martin, Jason Stellman, Patrick Madrid; missing -  Jeff Cavins and Mark Shea).]

The Piper and the Pig!

The piper and the pig.

The piper and the pig.


Helen Hull Hitchcock (1939–2014) May She Rest in Peace

HHH 2014


Long Live “The Ray of Hope” !

Long Live "The Ray of Hope"

Guess Who in Boston …

Father Van Hove in Boston


Father Benedict Groeschel CFR (1933–2014)

Father John Boyle, canon 277, and apostolic continence for all clerics

Fr. John Boyle takes a close look at the arguments put forth by Peters pere, and agrees: married deacons are not supposed to be having sex.


Smiles in Westphalia. 9 August 2014

Smiles in Westphalia

“Hang on to your hat, Papa Bergoglio!”

"Hang on to your hat" Papa Bergoglio!

“Hang on to your hat, Papa Bergoglio!”

Edward N. Peters, Hincmar, and clerical continence: the deep roots of Canon 277

September 26, 2013

A different kind of glimpse into the history of clerical continence

Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, was one of the most important ecclesiastical figures of the early Middle Ages. Among his surviving writings, Letter 22 analyzed a tangled marriage case. The great bishop makes therein a parenthetical but fascinating comment on a tradition that the Apostle John was called by Our Lord to follow Him on the very day that John was to have been married. While other medieval sources (e.g., Bl. Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend, c. 1260) refer to the story about Jesus calling St. John on his wedding day, it is Hincmar’s comment regarding clerical continence that catches the eye:

As historians relate, Our Lord, who came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, called John (at the time desiring to marry) not after his wedding was celebrated but from the very ceremony and thus before the coupling of the flesh. About the intended wife of John, beyond that the Lord called [John], not just before the union of flesh but even before the celebration of the wedding was complete, it is not recorded whether she remained in continence (as did the wife of blessed Peter, who persevered most continently) or whether, in accord with the old law as applied among the children of Israel, she perhaps decided to marry another.

George Joyce (English Jesuit, 1864-1943), noting the episode in his classic treatment of Christian Marriage (1933) at 55, takes for granted that: “Had [John’s] call come immediately after the wedding, [his wife] would have been bound to live her life in continence.”

Hincmar’s concern (and even less so, Joyce’s) is not, of course, whether the Apostle John was married; rather, both men use the story to underscore that, had John been married at the time of his being called to follow the Lord, he and his wife, like Peter and his wife, would have lived henceforth in a continent marriage.

More evidence, I suggest, that the roots of Canon 277 go very, very deep. + + +

Hincmar of Rheims (Carolingian prelate, 806-882), “Epistola XXII (Ad Rodulfum, etc.)”, PL 126: 132D to 153C, at 148A-B: “Unde et Dominus de nuptiis Joannem volentem nubere, ut tradunt historiae, non post celebratas nuptias, sed de nuptiis, et ante carnis copulationem, vocando retraxit, qui legem non solvere, sed adimplere venit. De cujus scilicet Joannis futura uxore, nisi eum Dominus, non solum ante carnis unionem, verum et ante nuptiarum percelebrationem, revocaret, sicut de beati Petri uxore, quae continentissime perseveravit, non legitur utrum in continentia manserit, an secundum legem veterem, ut semen in Israel relinqueret, alii forte nubere delegerit.”


His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke: “Viva Il nostro Leone! Viva!”


Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke                                        “The Ray of Hope”


Farewell to Father William F. Prospero, S.J. Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Milwaukee – September 12

Father Will Prospero




“The Blessed Cletus” — Viva Nigeria! Viva Chicago!


Funeral arrangements in Milwaukee for Father William F. Prospero, S.J. rip

Arrangements are as follows:
VISITATION          4:00 p.m., Thursday, September 11
                                 Church of the Gesu, 1145 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI
VIGIL SERVICE   6:30 p.m., Thursday, September 11
                                 Church of the Gesu
FUNERAL MASS 7:00 p.m., Thursday, September 11
                                 Church of the Gesu
BURIAL                  9:30 a.m., Friday, September 12
                                 Mt. Olivet Cemetery, 3801 W. Morgan Ave., Milwaukee, WI
Messages of condolence may be sent to one of the following:
St. Camillus Jesuit Community                     Anthony Prospero (brother)
10100 W. Bluemound Rd.                              558 Elm Spring Ave.
Wauwatosa, WI 53226                                   Wauwatosa, WI  53226
Caesar & Charlene Prospero (parents)        Greg Prospero (brother)
7738 Geralayne Dr.                                         W316 N870 Huckleberry Way N
Wauwatosa, WI  53213                                  Delafield, WI  53018
                                                                                    Mary Clare Dey (sister)
                                                                                    2050 Kudu Ct.
                                                                                    Wheaton, IL

Mr. Jacob and Mr. John at Alma College, 2014

Alma College, 2014

Alma College, 2014

Padre Pio and Cardinal Mindszenty

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Padre Pio Bilocated to a Communist Dungeon

Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli has published on the Vatican Insider site a serious testimony about Padre Pio’s bilocation to the Hungarian dungeon where Joszef Cardinal Mindszenty was imprisoned in the fifties.

The Hungarian anticommunist cardinal was a fierce adversary of the Vatican policy of detente toward Communist governments known as Ostpolitik.

Here is a summary of Tornielli’s article:

A new element has just been added to the collection of miraculous episodes that marked the life of Padre Pio. It is found in a recently published book presented on the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the new sanctuary of San Giovanni Rotondo where the Capuchin’s body is buried.

The testimony tells how Padre Pio bilocated to a jail cell in Budapest where József Cardinal Mindszenty, the Primate of Hungary, was incarcerated.

Bilocation is an extraordinary mystical phenomenon that causes a person to be in two places at the same time. Padre Pio had this rare gift. Eye witnesses in different places attested to his presence, described him, and even talked with him simultaneously.

The already-known Hungarian episode was immortalized in one of the mosaics in the crypt of the sanctuary dedicated to Padre Pio. However, the new testimony contains details never published before.

The book, Padre Pio: his Church and Places Between Devotion, History, and Art, was written by Stefano Campanella, director of Padre Pio Teleradio and author of countless essays about the saint.

It contains a report by Angelo Battisti, director of the House for the Relief of Suffering (the hospital founded by Padre Pio) and typist at the Vatican Secretariat of State. Battisti was one of the witnesses in the saint’s beatification process.

Cardinal Mindszenty during the iniquitous trial

that convicted him.

József Cardinal Mindszenty, Archbishop of Esztergom, Primate and Regent of Hungary, was imprisoned by the Communists in December 1948 and condemned to life imprisonment the next year. He was falsely accused of conspiring against the government and spent eight years in jail and under house arrest until he was freed during the popular insurrection of 1956.
He then took refuge at the United States trade delegation office in Budapest until 1973, when Paul VI imposed his resignation and departure from the archdiocese.

The bilocation which took Padre Pio all the way to the cardinal’s cell is said to have taken place during those years.

Here is how Battisti describes the miraculous scene:

“The Capuchin with the stigmata, while [remaining] in San Giovanni Rotondo, went to see the cardinal to bring bread and wine destined to become the body and blood of Christ, that is, the reality of the eighth day [Easter Sunday].

“In this case, the bilocation acquires further significance as an anticipation of the eighth day, i.e. the Resurrection, when the body is freed from the limits of space and time.

“Also symbolic is the inmate registration number printed on his pajamas: 1956, the year of the cardinal’s release.

“As is well known,” Battisti recounts, “Cardinal Mindszenty was arrested, put in jail and watched around the clock. Over time, his desire to celebrate holy Mass strongly increased.

“One morning, Padre Pio presented himself before him with everything he needed. The Cardinal celebrated his Mass and Padre Pio served [as acolyte]; then they spoke, and finally, Padre Pio disappeared with everything he had brought with him.

“A priest from Budapest told me confidentially about the episode, asking if I could get a confirmation from Padre Pio. I answered that if I were to ask something like that, Padre Pio would drive me out of the room hollering.”

Padre Pio

Padre Pio.

Padre Pio
But on a March evening in 1965, at the end of a conversation Battisti asked the stigmatized friar:

“Father, did Cardinal Mindszenty recognize Padre Pio?”

- After a first reaction of irritation, the saint of Gargano answered:

- “Well, we met and talked and so you think he would not have recognized me?”

He thus confirmed his bilocation to the cardinal’s cell, which supposedly happened a few years earlier.

“Then,” Battisti added, “he became sad and said, ‘The devil is ugly, but they had left him uglier than the devil,'” referring to the mistreatment the cardinal suffered.

Padre Pio concluded: “Remember to pray for this great confessor of the faith, who suffered so much for the Church.”

With many things to keep in mind, we posed for the camera. Kansas City, Missouri.

With many things to keep in mind, we posed for the camera.
With many things to keep in mind, we posed for the camera.

The Life and Career of Francois Annat, SJ: The Failure of His Antijansenism, May 1641—October 1668

click to open

9925215 dissertation


The Life and Career of François Annat, SJ:
The Failure of His Antijansenism,
May 1641—October 1668
Submitted to the Faculty of the
Department of Church History
School of Religious Studies
Of the Catholic University of America
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
All Rights Reserved
Brian Van Hove
Washington, D.C.


Thank you France! Thank you Bahrain!

Chaldean Patriarch:

aid preferable to visas for Iraqi

Christian Refugees


Catholic World News – August 07, 2014

The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church has thanked France and Bahrain for their willingness to offer visas to Christians who left Mosul after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forced them to choose between conversion to Islam and flight from the city.

Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako added, however, that it would be preferable for the nations to offer emergency aid to Iraqi Christians so that they could remain in Iraq. He emphasized that “at the same time, the patriarchate respects the personal decision of individuals” about whether to stay in Iraq or emigrate.


“Each time you pull a dandelion you are just one dandelion away from the dandelion you really wish to pull.” [Just ask Brother Theodore and Mr. Cory.]

"Each time you pull a dandelion you are just one dandelion away from the dandelion you really wish to pull."

“Each time you pull a dandelion you are just one dandelion away from the dandelion you really wish to pull.”

Happy 75th Wedding Anniversary to Edward and June Van Hove : 21 August 1939-2014


Edward W. Van Hove [20 October 1915--12 July 1994]

June F. Boswell Van Hove [12 June 1919--5 April 1994]

married in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, Wisconsin




Ruth Mardell Boswell (1913–2000) of Superior, Wisconsin

Ruth Mardell Boswell 1913--2000

Ruth Mardell Boswell

Superior Telegram
26 September 2014




Also Ruth M. Treado
Died in Minneapolis, Anoka County, Minnesota
September 29, 1913 – September 03, 2000
Age: 86


Father Samuel Weber, OSB

Congratulations on your 100th Wedding Anniversary in Superior, Wisconsin: Desiré A. Van Hove and Margaret M. Viaene (8 September 1914)

Van Hove001


One would never believe this is Michigan: Evan T. Byrne

Evan T. Byrne

Jay Dunlap in the New Oxford Review: “Why the Popes Failed to Act” []

Why the Popes Failed to Act

June 2014

By Jay Dunlap

Jay Dunlap served as communications director in North America for the Legion of Christ and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi, from 1998 to 2006 and as a communications consultant from 2006 to 2010. He is currently President of Madonna School & Workshop, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s outreach to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This April Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were canonized together. This moment of great rejoicing in the Church arose under a shadow, due in large part to two high-profile television documentaries that detail how the Church responded — or failed to respond — to the criminal actions of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ. A PBS Frontline investigation titled Secrets of the Vatican, and a documentary on Irish television titled The Legion, both dwell on the fact that three Popes — John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II — failed to take action when informed of Fr. Maciel’s sexual abuse, drug addiction, and misuse of funds.

There is a good explanation for why these three Popes did not move against Maciel. The explanation does not excuse inaction, nor does it abrogate responsibility at various levels of the Vatican for having enabled Maciel’s corruption and deception. But such an explanation answers the question raised about these three Popes: Why didn’t they act?

I served as communications director for the Legion of Christ in North America from 1998 to 2006. My responsibilities included media relations and helping the Legion in crisis management. Published reports of allegations against Fr. Maciel kept me and my colleagues busy for long stretches of time. And a central part of the Legion’s response, I am convinced, explains why the three Popes ignored the allegations: “The charges had already been thoroughly examined and found baseless.” Or so we were led to believe, and so we told others.

Though Maciel had been kicked out of two seminaries prior to starting what would become the Legion in 1941, the first record we have of allegations against him comes from 1954, when a Legionary seminarian named Federico Dominguez wrote a letter to the Holy See detailing Maciel’s sexual abuse, drug abuse, misuse of funds, and more. In 1956 the Holy See sent apostolic visitators to seek the truth. Five clerics conducted the investigation. One, a leader of the Discalced Carmelites named Anastasio Ballestrero, found the Legion in “juridical chaos” but otherwise “sound.” Another, a Belgian missionary to Chile, Polidoro van Vlierberghe, was won over by the young Legionaries and became a strong defender of Maciel.

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See also:

Original Christian Brother confers with French mother of the ordinand in San Francisco





“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” William Ross Wallace

“The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World” –

 a poem by

William Ross Wallace.

It praises motherhood as the preeminent force for change in the world.
The poem was first published in 1865 under the title

“What Rules the World”.

Secret Societies / New World Order: by Milton William Cooper

Three early secret societies that can be directly connected to a modern descendant are the cults of Roshaniya, Mithras and their counterpart, the Builders. They have many things in common with the Freemasons of today as well as with many other branches of the Illuminati. For instance, common to the Brotherhood are the symbolic rebirth into a new life without going through the portal of death during initiation; reference to the “Lion” and “the Grip of the Lion’s Paw” in the Master Mason’s degree; the three degrees, which is the same as the ancient Masonic rites before the many other degrees were added; the ladder of seven rungs; men only; and the “all-seeing eye.”

Of special interest is the powerful society in Afghanistan in ancient times called the Roshaniya–illuminated ones. There are actually references to this mystical cult going back through history to the House of Wisdom at Cairo. The major tenets of this cult were: the abolition of private property; the elimination of religion; the elimination of nation states; the belief that illumination emanated from the Supreme Being who desired a class of perfect men and women to carry out the organization and direction of the world; belief in a plan to reshape the social system of the world by first taking control of individual countries one by one, and the belief that after reaching the fourth degree one could communicate directly with the unknown supervisors who had imparted knowledge to initiates throughout the ages. Wise men will again recognize the Brotherhood.

The important fact to remember is that the leaders of both the right and the left are a small, hard core of men who have been and still are Illuminists or members of the Brotherhood. They may have been or may be members of the Christian or Jewish religions, but that is only to further their own ends. They give allegiance to no particular nation, although they have used nationalism to further their causes. Their only concern is to gain greater economic and political power. The ultimate objective of the leaders of both groups is identical. They are determined to win for themselves undisputed control of the wealth, natural resources, and manpower of the entire planet. They intend to turn the world into their conception of a totalitarian socialist state. In the process they will eliminate all Christians, Jews, and atheists. You have just learned one, but only one, of the great mysteries.

The Roshaniya also called themselves the Order. Initiates took an oath that absolved them of all allegiance except to the Order and stated, “I bind myself to perpetual silence and unshaken loyalty and submission to the Order….All humanity which cannot identify itself by our secret sign is our lawful prey.” The oath remains essentially the same to this day. The secret sign was to pass a hand over the forehead, palm inward; the countersign, to hold the ear with the fingers and support the elbow in the cupped other hand. Does that sound familiar? The Order is the Order of the Quest. The cult preached that there was a spirit state completely different from life as we know it. The spirit could continue to be powerful on earth through a member of the Order, but only if the spirit had been itself a member of the Order before its death. Thus members of the Order gained power from the spirits of the dead members.

The Roshaniya took in travelers as initiates and then sent them on their way to found new chapters of the Order. It is believed by some that the Assassins were a branch of the Roshaniya. Branches of the Roshaniya or “the illuminated ones” or the Illuminati existed and still exist everywhere. One of the rules was not to use the same name and never mention “the Illuminati.” That rule is still in effect today. I believe that it is the breaking of this rule that resulted in Adam Weishaupt’s downfall.

“The East Cantons” : German-speaking Belgium

German-speaking Belgium

Nearly 77,000 Belgian citizens are German-speakers.


“Wisconsin Bernbrock discourses to Michigan Transcendental”



Viva! Viva il nostro Leone!



The Hub of the Universe: 1826 Michigan Avenue!


Divine Mercy Sunday in Alma: Mr. Kaleb Lenneman (cantor) and Father Van Hove


Viva Westphalia…. !

Richard Cole’s “Catholic by Choice” 

One Man’s Amazing Journey Toward the Catholic Faith

Richard Cole was not much of a believer:  By his own admission, he didn’t pray, he didn’t worship.  He was in recovery following years of alcohol abuse.  Raised Methodist, he had fled the church of his youth to dabble in Zen, t’ai chi, New Age, witchcraft.

But then for his 49th birthday, his wife gave him the gift of silence:  a three-day stay at a Benedictine monastery, where he could read, study, write and simply “de-stress.”

Why Richard’s wife thought that would be a suitable gift for a nonbeliever, I don’t know.

And why it affected him so profoundly, initiating the life change that would propel him into the Catholic Church, I don’t know.  The Spirit moves where He will.

What I do know is that Richard’s book is a page-turner, a deeply personal recounting of his journey of faith.  Like the English poet Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven,” God pursued Richard Cole, gradually revealing Himself in the Church.  But the story’s not all love and roses:  Cole, compelled by an inner voice to study and pray and learn more and more, also had doubts and difficulties, strained relationships with his family, and challenges at work.  His honesty about these challenges makes one all the more joyous when he is finally received into the Church.

*     *     *     *      *

I’ve read plenty of conversion stories through the years:  Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home, Steve Ray’s Crossing the Tiber, Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth with its testimonies from eleven converts and its sequels, Surprised By Truth 2 and Surprised by Truth 3, with 25 more.  Those stories have usually focused on theological reasons for embracing Catholicism.

Catholic by Choice: Why I Embraced the Faith, Joined the Church, and Embarked on the Adventure of a Lifetime is  not like those other “conversion stories”.   The force which drew Cole to delve deeply into the Catholic faith, to study the Scriptures, to attend Mass as frequently as possible, was not its historicity or its plausibility or its veracity.  Richard Cole’s faith journey seemed driven by deep emotion.  Cole describes it as “an intense, painful and utterly dazzling two-year period during which I fell in love with God, became a Christian, and finally entered the Catholic Church.”  

Reading Catholic by Choice, I was struck by Cole’s breathless amazement at things cradle Catholics may take for granted.  Seeing anew through his convert’s eyes, I found myself stepping back and appreciating the Mass and the familiar devotions.  Here, for example, is Cole’s description of his first encounter with Eucharistic adoration.

One evening after Mass I was wandering around and I discovered something called a Chapel of Perpetual Adoration.  When I first walked in, the place seemed dark and creepy.  All my Protestant feelers were twitching.  The air was stale and sweet with an odd smell, either incense or cheap disinfectant.  Three or four people were seated in the little pews, some praying, some just sitting.  In the front, there was a silver cross with a disk in the middle, which I later learned was the Eucharistic Host.  A young woman wearing a scarf looked up at me, then returned to her reading.  An old air conditioner was working hard in the background, kicking on for a few minutes, then kicking off.

I looked around and discovered a sign-in log beside the door.  And then I understood what was going on.  People were praying in this chapel, in front of the consecrated Host, but doing this around the clock!  Day and night, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day!  I looked through the log.  Sure enough, there were names for every slot.  Venancio was signed up for 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Lucille checked in at 6:00 a.m. every day for an hour.  Maria at 7:00 a.m.  I was astonished and fascinated.  It was a window into a part of Catholic devotion that I’d heard about but never seen before.  I said to myself, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I stayed a few minutes longer, but I couldn’t breathe in there.  I needed fresh air.  At home I told Lauren what I’d seen.  Oh yeah, she knew all about Perpetual Adoration.  ”You’ll be there someday, taking a shift,” she said.

That night I kept thinking about the chapel.  All night long there would be someone there, praying, maybe just sitting, but keeping watch.  Like a power utility, it never closed, never shut down.  Each person stayed until the next person showed up.

The next time I visited San Jose, I went straight to the chapel.  Outside I read a little bit about adoration:  neighborhoods where this occurs have lower crime rates, etc. etc.

I opened the door.  The minute I stepped inside I was almost overwhelmed with the impulse to throw myself down on the carpet in front of the host.  Suddenly the whole idea of devotion to the Eucharist made all the sense in the world.  This chapel was holy.  On the wall I noticed a small, handwritten notice:  ”Do Not Lie on the Floor.”

May I suggest that you read Catholic by Choice for yourself?  Whether you are an interested observer of faith, wondering why Catholics do the things they do, or a life-long Catholic who could use a booster shot of enthusiasm, you’ll enjoy Richard Cole’s honest, highly relatable and often funny story of his adult conversion to Catholicism.


Easter Vigil in Alma: Billy, Father Van Hove, Rosemary and Sarah

After the Easter Vigil

Is Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio’s “Letter on Diaconal Continence” more than his personal opinion?

Scroll down to:

Two letters from the PCLT issued in 2011

do not resolve this question.

(Conclusion: Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio’s letters are no more than his personal opinion on the matter of diaconal continence.  All clerics are bound to continence whether married or celibate. [Canon 277])


Happy Easter Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ !

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ

Bishop of Oakland and Berkeley.

The Leonine Prayers—for the “Conversion of Russia” ?

To the Reader,

You may wish to bring information about the Leonine Prayers to the attention of your associates. People mistakenly refer to those prayers (and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel) as formerly “for the conversion of Russia” which is just not church history.
Austin Ruse gets it wrong! [maybe too much Regnum Christi and too little scholarship]:

See below.


The Leonine Prayers are a set of prayers that from 1884 to early 1965 were prescribed by the Popes for recitation after Low Mass. They are still sometimes used at celebrations today. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield has restored the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, as have younger pastors around North America.

These prayers did not form part of the Mass itself, but were prescribed for specific intentions. The original intention was the defense of the temporal sovereignty of the Holy See. After this problem was settled with the Lateran Treaty of 1929, Pope Pius XI ordered that the prayers should be said for the restoration to the people of Russia of tranquility and freedom to profess the Catholic faith. This gave rise to the unofficial and inaccurate use of the name “Prayers for the Conversion of Russia” for those prayers which were also known, less inaccurately and informally, as the “Prayers after Mass.”

The final form of the Leonine Prayers included three Ave Marias, a Salve Regina followed by a versicle and response, a prayer for the conversion of sinners and the liberty and exaltation of the Catholic Church, and a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. Pope Pius X permitted the addition of the invocation “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us,” repeated three times.

The Holy See’s 26 September 1964 Instruction Inter Oecumenici, which came into force on 7 March 1965, declared: “The Leonine Prayers are suppressed.” This removed the obligation and the prayers became optional then and remain so today.

Since then, the Leonine Prayers or parts of the set of them have been revived locally in some places.

Note:  The expression “for the conversion of Russia” if it is used at all might
better refer to Madame Blavatsky  [Елена Петровна Блаватская, 1831-1891] and others promoting Satanism in Western Europe.  Russia was seen by many as the launching zone for neo-occultism which became fashionable among some Western European elite.
Final Note:
In 1929 when the Leonine Prayers were mandated, Russia was mostly
churched. The people belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church which was
being persecuted, but to say they needed “to be converted” is wrong.
There were relatively few real Bolsheviks, but they had all the guns and
bullets and international support especially in the universities. Why not
pray, “For the Conversion of the Communists?” But the prayers were alleged
to be mandated for “For the Conversion of Russia.” Orthodox Christian Russia
did not need to be converted to Christianity in 1929 (in the same way as China or
Japan, let us say). This expression is a false popularization.
Read my posting above concerning what the prayer intention really was
according to Pope Pius XI.

Clerical Continence and the Restored Permanent Diaconate by Donald J. Keefe SJ

Clerical Continence and the Restored Permanent Diaconate

The results of the historical research of Alfons Cardinal Stickler into the apostolicity of the tradition of clerical celibacy and continence,[1] the corroboration of his conclusions by Frs. Christian Cochini and Roman Cholij, and the theological analysis of the intrinsic relation between the sacramental signs of marriage and of priestly orders proposed by Archbishop J. Francis Stafford of Denver at a recent Roman conference,[2] are all in practice controverted by the effective condonation of the noncontinent exercise of their orders by post-conciliar married deacons who having lived in ignorance of any obligation to abstain from conjugal relations after their ordination, have now have been absolved of any obligation to continence, and in fact, if widowed, may apply for dispensation from what has been a diriment impediment to remarriage and, if remarried, continue in the exercise of their orders.[3]

This anomalous departure from the ancient tradition of clerical continence appears to have its inception in the discussions of the restoration of the permanent diaconate during the second Vatican Council.[4]  However, it cannot be shown to have been authorized by the Council, whether tacitly or overtly, nor by Pope Paul VI in the documents by which he formally instituted the restored permanent diaconate and permitted the ordination to it of mature married men, nor by the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Further, it is not unlikely that the practical condonation of the use of marriage by such deacons has led to a comparable condonation of the use of marriage by converts from among Protestant clergy who have later been ordained in the Roman Catholic rite; it is evidennt enough the noncontinence of married deacons is no more anomalous than the noncontinence of married priests.

Therefore, the restoration of the permanent diaconate and the ordination of married men to the permanent diaconate in the wake of Vatican II requires a further examination for, if the effective condonation of clerical noncontinence in married deacons and married priests in the Roman rite is in fact legitimate, that legitimacy can rest upon no other grounds than the documents underlying the restoration of the permanent diaconate.  In what follows, we shall show that those documents provide no justification or warrant for diaconal noncontinence.

I.  The Documents of Vatican II: Lumen Gentium §29

The concluding sentence of Lumen Gentium §29 reads:

De consensu Romani Pontificis his Diaconatus viris maturioris aetatis etiam in matrimonio viventibus conferri poterit, necnon iuvenibus idoneis, pro quibus tamen, lex caelibatus firma remanere debet.[5]

It is as well to note at the outset that it is the significance of “lex caelibatus” which is in issue.  Granted that the canonical requirement of consecrated celibacy for those in major orders, (the “lex caelibatus”) is waived for married candidates (men “in matrimonio viventes”), and is retained for presumptively unmarried, because more youthful, candidates for the diaconate (“pro juvenibus idoneis”), the meaning of this waiver of the “lex caelibatus” granted the more mature candidates for the diaconate must be determined.  Specifically, does the waiver legitimate, for those candidates who are married, the continuance of conjugal relations with their wives after their ordination?

The language of Lumen Gentium itself cannot be said to do so.  The waiving of the “lex caelibatus” refers simply to dropping the juridical prohibition of married candidates for higher orders; the dropping of the requirement of nonmarriage for an older candidate says nothing about a removal of the obligation of clerical continence after his ordination, unless his continuing in conjugal relations be thought inseparable from his marriage.  Since continuing in conjugal intimacy is not thus integral to marriage, and that as a matter of canon law, such a reading of Lumen Gentium cannot be defended.[6]

Similarly, Austin Flannery’s translation of Lumen Gentium§29 offers no justification for diaconal noncontinence:

Should the Roman Pontiff think fit, it will be possible to confer this diaconal order even upon married men, provided they be of more mature age, and also on suitable young men, for whom, however, the law of celibacy must remain in force.  (387)[7]

Neither do the reports of the conciliar discussions and debates concerning the restoration of the permanent diaconate justify the equation of the waiver of celibacy with a waiver of clerical continence, although some evidence of a conciliar confusion of the obligation of consecrated celibacy with the obligation of continence, whereby the waiver of the one might be thought to be assimilated to the waiver of the other, begins to surface in them.[8]

Herbert Vorgrimler’s commentary on Lumen Gentium §29 relates the procedure decided upon in the third session for the restoration of the permanent diaconate; he affirms, as in line with the conciliar decision, that the “duty” of celibacy is not to apply to married deacons:

Only two points are laid down with regard to the way it (the restoration of the permanent diaconate) is to be done: the competent authority is the episcopal conference, with the consent of the Pope; the duty of celibacy is not to be imposed upon men of more mature age, although it remains for younger men.[9]

The phrase used by Vorgrimler, that of a “duty of celibacy,” is entirely misleading; §29 of Lumen Gentium speaks of a “law of celibacy,” not of a “duty.”  This is not mere quibbling: such a misreading reveals a certain lack of reflection upon the relation of major orders to consecrated celibacy on the one hand and to continence on the other.  In fact, it amounts to a confusion over the meaning, and therefore the interrelation, of celibacy and of continence, and of their respective relations to major orders.  In the first place, major orders are a diriment impediment to marriage; e.g., we read in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” that

Post ordinem receptum diaconi, grandiore etiam aetate promoti, ex tradita Ecclesiae disciplina ad ineundum matrimonium inhabiles sunt.[10]

As Paul VI here affirms, ordination to the diaconate makes subsequent marriage impossible: an unmarried deacon cannot marry, and a married deacon, upon the death of his wife, cannot remarry.  The language here is not disciplinary: it speaks of a simple sacramental incapacity, the sort that is termed a diriment impediment.  Canonists are accustomed to speak of major orders as a diriment impediment to marriage only when celibacy is formally embraced as a condition of ordination.  However, the inability of a married major cleric to remarry upon the death of his wife can only be due to precisely such an impediment: i.e., one which as inherent in his exercise of his orders simply nullifies any such attempted marriage.  It is of course true that this impediment is not absolute: a cleric may be laicized and, in consequence of such laicization, of such removal from the exercise of orders, he may be granted a papal dispensation from the law of celibacy.  Nonetheless, in the absence of such dispensation, the “lex caelibatus” binds even the laicized cleric, and simply precludes a subsequent marriage.

This inhibition upon the marriage of major clerics is not mere Roman rigorism.  The reasons for it rest upon the meaning of ordination itself, and finally derive from the nuptial relation between Christ and the Church which is celebrated in the Eucharistic sacrifice.  A diriment impediment to marriage, an inability to marry, a sacramental incapacity, is inherent in the exercise in persona Christi of major orders.  However, this impediment is distinct from (a) celibacy, and (b) continence.

Celibacy denotes the unmarried status, the absence of the marital bond.[11]  Concretely, celibacy is thus merely a matter of fact: the absence of a marital bond.  However, “consecrated celibacy” denotes a specific commitment to the unmarried state, as alone consonant with ordination to a major Order, whether that be in prospect, or already received.[12]  Heretofore, in the Latin rite, consecrated celibacy has been canonically requisite to the reception of major orders.  The institution of the married permanent diaconate is by way of exception to this canonical and liturgical tradition.

The noncelibate state, on the contrary, denotes the presence of a marital bond, and the consequent incapacity to enter upon another marriage prior to the death of one’s spouse.  Prior to the approval of the admission of married men to the permanent diaconate by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium,noncelibate men, as has been seen, were barred by canon law from receiving major orders.  However, noncelibacy — which is to say, the existence of the marital bond — has never been understood to be a diriment impediment to such ordination.

Continence is deliberate abstention from sexual relations.  Its first reference is to abstention from marital relations; by extension and a fortiori, it denotes abstention from all extramarital sexual relations.  Abstention from marital relations may be temporary, in accordance with the Pauline counsel in I Cor 7:5, or it may be permanent, as required by the reception of major orders, a sacrament transcending but not annulling marriage.[13]  Cochini has shown such clerical continence to have been required of married men by an tradition which can only be of apostolic origin.[14]  Married men who, with the consent of their wives, were ordained as bishops, priests, or deacons, were thereafter held to continence: only in the Eastern Church has this obligation not been observed, and Cholij has shown the inadequacy of the supposed conciliar foundation of that rejection of clerical continence.  The Code of Canon Law continues to require the consent of the wife of the candidate for the permanent diaconate.

The canonical clerical celibacy proper to the Latin rite, which has been dropped for the “more mature” candidate for the restored permanent diaconate, is the unmarried status heretofore canonically requisite for ordination to any of the three major orders.

The sacramental character of Orders is thus analogous to the vinculum of sacramental marriage, in that ordination to a major Order simply renders the ordained man, whether married or unmarried, incapable of contracting marriage apart from laicization and papal dispensation.  Thus, such ordination bars the cleric arctius altari conjungi from attempting or entering into marriage, quite as an existing marriage bars one from entering into another marriage.

It is then evident that one cannot accurately speak of a “duty” of celibacy any more than one can speak accurately of a “duty” of marriage.  Quite as marriage connotes the obligation of fidelity, clerical (here, diaconal) celibacy connotes the duty or obligation of continence.  But as marriage is distinct from fidelity, so celibacy is distinct from continence.  As marriage is not the same as fidelity to marriage, neither is celibacy the same as the continence which, analogously, is fidelity to major orders.  However, such casual reference to celibacy as a “duty” precisely suggests or connotes this identity, and so induces the confusion between celibacy and continence which seems to have governed much of the discussion of the celibacy of the permanent diaconate at Vatican II.

To speak of clerical celibacy as a “duty” further implies that clerical celibacy is not a committed state, but is only a continuing moral responsibility which one might fail to meet, as one may fail to meet the duty of marital fidelity.  Such language further suggests what could not be affirmed, the merely “functional” status of clerical celibacy: that is, to speak of a duty of celibacy is to intimate that celibacy, with its connoted moral obligation of clerical continence, is not integral to major orders.

Therefore, while it is entirely proper to speak of a celibate major cleric’s duty of continence, it is quite misleading to speak of his celibacy as a “duty.”  Duties are positive moral — and therefore free — concomitants of a positive office, or munus, which arise out of that office.  Because they arise out of an office or munus such as orders, duties consist in continuing fidelity to that office, but they are not identified with the office, and should not be spoken of in such a fashion as to blur that fact.  Once ordained, an unmarried deacon, priest, or bishop is not free to be noncelibate, for a man exercising major orders simply cannot marry: such a cleric cannot be married apart from dispensation.  But he is certainly free to be continent, for otherwise continence would not be a matter of fidelity; therein lies the particular obligation, the “duty,” of the major cleric — here, the deacon.

Vorgrimler informs us that two points, viz., the authority competent to admit married men to the permanent diaconate, and the married (non-celibate) character of the permanent diaconate, were those most debated at the second and third sessions:

For the course of the voting, see the historical introduction to this commentary by G. Philips.  In view of the interventions and the results of the voting, the text was considerably revised by the Theological Commission (relatores: B. Kloppenburg, O.F.M., and P. Smulders, S.J.), and adopted into the draft of July 3, 1964 in a form which differs substantially from the present text only in two points.  One is concerned with the authority competent to admit married men to the diaconate.  Here the Theological Commission was ordered to insert the words De consensu Romani Pontificis.  The second point was whether young men who wished to be deacons were obliged to celibacy or not.  The council decided in favor of celibacy, but it should be noted that as many as 839 Fathers rejected celibacy in such cases.  The official relator, Bishop Jiménes L. Henriquez [sic], was not in favor of young married deacons.  (227; emphasis added)

In the first place, if Vorgrimler’s recital of a conciliar discussion of the “obligation” of celibacy is accurate ad litteram, this usage again reveals the acceptance of a certain suggestio falsi within the conciliar discussion, wherein “celibacy,” which in the technical language of canon law simply refers to the unmarried state, is discussed as though it were an obligation: viz., the word is used by the conciliar Fathers as though it were associated with “continence” in such wise that a noncelibate or married diaconate is one which is noncontinent, i.e., a diaconate which contemplates the continuing use of marriage by the married ordinatus.  If on the other hand, Fr. Vorgrimler may be thought to be reading his own confusion on this point into the conciliar discussion, it does not appear that that discussion contained anything which might have worked to correct such a mistake.  As we shall see, this confusion of celibacy with continence, and of noncelibacy with noncontinence, did in fact obtain among the bishops, and nothing in the record of the conciliar discussion of Lumen Gentium §29 evidences any recognition of the confusion, nor any clarification of it.[15]

Further on in his commentary on this passage, Vorgrimler has observed that

It is also noteworthy that the tasks of the deacon include liturgical functions, but that his role in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is one of the most outstanding features of the diaconate in the Eastern Churches, receives no mention.  (229)

Vorgrimler’s report of a lack of conciliar interest in the liturgical dimension of the diaconal office, particularly in the celebration of the Eucharist, is consistent with Michael Novak’s report.[16]  Gérard Philips’ historical survey,[17] cited by Vorgrimler supra, contains the following observations:

Here (relative to the priesthood) the whole assembly was perfectly unanimous.  But when the votes were taken on the diaconate, the difference of viewpoint emerged more strongly than ever.  In principle, the revival of the permanent diaconate was accepted by 1903 votes against 242.  But the next day, 29 September, the question came up as to whether the local authorities, with the approval of the Pope, could decide on the actual revival, and here almost a third of the voters expressed themselves in the negative.  (702 against 1523).  But the nub of the controversy was whether this form of diaconate could be entrusted to married men of mature age.  Here the two thirds majority was slightly larger, 1598 ayes against 629 noes.  The next clause was the only one which was rejected by the assembly.  The draft envisaged the possibility of young men who were not bound by the law of celibacy being ordained deacons.  Here a large majority of the Fathers flatly said no: 1364, against 839 ayes.  (130).

Philips’ account says nothing of the noncontinence of the married men ordained to the permanent diaconate: again, the same silence characterizes Novak’s fuller treatment of the conciliar debate.

A confusion of celibacy with continence, of marriage with noncontinence, and so a confusion of the institution of a noncelibate (married) diaconate with the formal permission for the diaconal use of marriage, is evident on both sides of the debate.  The only possible inference from Philips’ account is that the minority of bishops — 839 out of 2203 is no inconsiderable fraction —, who voted against holding even the younger and unmarried deacons to the “lex caelibatus,” could hardly have understood the universally noncelibate, viz., married, diaconate which they contemplated for the younger men nonetheless to oblige such men, once married, to abstention from the use of marriage.  There would not have been sufficient point to such a proposal to gain the support of eight hundred and thirty-nine bishops.  The minority bishops could only have had in view, and were understood by their conciliar adversaries to have in view, the establishment of a novel diaconate: one whose members, because they could marry after ordination, need not be continent after ordination.  But there is no conciliar clarification of the minority’s obvious identification of noncelibacy with noncontinence.  One can hardly avoid concluding that the majority of the conciliar Fathers shared this confusion with the minority.

The latent, or tacit — but in any case evident — confusion among the conciliar Fathers of clerical celibacy with clerical continence, and so of married clergy with clerical noncontinence, which this vote manifests, could not but have carried over into the conciliar approval of the ordination of married candidates for the diaconate, to whom the “lex caelibatus” would not apply.

For it does not appear that the conciliar Fathers ever considered a married diaconate to which the lex caelibatus would not apply, to be the mere tautology that it is.  For the conciliar bishops, the waiver of the lex caelibatus with respect to married deacons was quite uncritically understood to connote the legitimation of conjugal intercourse.  The vote on the waiver of celibacy for the younger deacons could only imply that more than a third of the bishops voting were in favor doing what had never been formally discussed: legitimating subsequent marriage or remarriage by a man in full exercise of major orders.

As Gérard Philips observes, “a large majority of the Fathers flatly said no” to the minority proposal of the dropping of the law of celibacy for the younger candidates for the diaconate.  We may be quite sure that in the minds of the minority, the noncelibacy which they would permit the younger candidates did not carry the implicit qualification that as married deacons they would live in continence.  Rather, for reasons which we shall later explore,[18] the minority view of the restored diaconate had so accepted a dissociation of celibacy from major orders, at least with respect to the diaconate, as to no longer consider ordination to the diaconate a diriment impediment to subsequent marriage.

Given this dissociation, they could hardly be concerned for the continence of married deacons.  But again, insofar as one may judge from the conciliar documents, as well as from the reports of those present, there was no significant discussion of this underlying point of view.  It would seem to have passed unchallenged by the majority, who simply held to the ancient tradition.  For there is no record of such a subtlety entering into the conciliar discussion.  In the view of the minority at least, the relaxation for diaconal candidates of the lex caelibatus was identically the relaxation of the traditional requirement not only of married continence for those in diaconal orders, but was also the dismissal of the tradition which had found in major orders a diriment impediment to marriage.

But what of the majority?  We can only conclude that they rejected what they understood the minority to approve: the admission to the diaconate of unmarried candidates, who subsequent to ordination might marry and enter into marital relations.

It is important to emphasize that an approval by the conciliar Fathers of the subsequent marriage of unmarried deacons would have for them to have flatly rejected the liturgical and doctrinal tradition of clerical celibacy which Stickler, Concini and Cholij have rightly judged to be apostolic in its origins — and more, to have done this without any conciliar discussion of so radical a step.

Yet further, that step — the conciliar approval of a view of diaconal orders in which ordination to the diaconate would not be a diriment impediment to marriage — would not only have amounted to a conciliar approval of the noncontinence of married clerics across the board; its dissociation of celibacy from major orders would have instituted a drastic alteration in the sacramental doctrine of Roman Catholicism, one extending to the Eucharist itself, which for reasons which cannot here be explored, would thereby have ceased to be the offering of the One Sacrifice.[19]

Therefore, the majority of the conciliar Fathers, whose views found expression in Lumen Gentium §29, were aware of the doctrinal significance of clerical celibacy, if inarticulately: for the majority, the celibacy required of the younger candidates to the diaconate connoted a continuing obligation to continence, and most certainly was associated with recognizing, in ordination to the diaconate, a diriment impediment to subsequent marriage.  The majority’s rejection of a noncelibate youthful diaconate, one whose members might later marry, is otherwise unintelligible.  This rejection of the minority approval of a noncelibate and noncontinent youthful diaconate cannot but have had consequences for what the majority understood the opening up of the diaconate to married men to entail, but these consequences seem never to have been explored at the Council.

Consequently it is manifestly important to clarify the terminology used in the conciliar approval of the restored permanent diaconate, and in the papal legislation implementing that restoration.  Specifically, it is necessary to avoid what the conciliar Fathers did not avoid, the confusion which would identify the “lex caelibatus” with the obligation to continence and, eo ipso, would identify relaxation of the “lex caelibatus” with a relaxation of the obligation of continence in those ordained to major orders.

We have seen that “celibacy” and “celibate” do not identify respectively with “continence” and “continent.”  A celibate priest or deacon is unmarried; he is expected to be continent, but a sinful noncontinence does not nullify his celibate state.  A noncelibate priest or deacon is one who is married; his noncelibacy does not imply or warrant his noncontinence, in law or in fact.

Thus the celibacy and the continence of those in major orders are in the same positive correlation which links marriage to fidelity in the married;[20] a married deacon or priest cannot be celibate — this is a matter of definition.  Nonetheless, he should be continent, for the reasons adduced by Cochini and Cholij, and resumed in Archbishop Stafford’s recent lecture.[21]  It is then evident that those men who are candidates for a liturgical office by which they will be arctius altari conjungi[22] are held to continence, and precisely by such ordination, whether they are celibate or married.  No other reading of Lumen Gentium §29 is internally coherent, nor could it be made consistent with the later papal legislation instituting the restored diaconate.

II The Papal Documents

Three years after the Council, Paul VI began to lay down the norms for the permanent diaconate: first in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,”[23], then in “Pontificalis Romani Recognitio,”[24] and finally in “Ad pascendum”[25].  Moreover, the Pope had earlier spoken to the same subject, if only briefly, in “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus.”[26]

“Sacerdotalis Caelibatus” is then the first in time of these documents; it bears only in passing upon the diaconate but, because “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” follows immediately upon it, what it has to say on that subject is of no little interest.  We quote §13 of “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus,” in full, and the final paragraph of §42:

§13         Porro hi contradictorum veluti concentus non solum perantiqua et grandia testimonia sive Pastorum Ecclesiae, sive magistrorum pietatis opprimere videtur, sed etiam viva in nostrisque oculis haerentia exempla, ab innumerabili cohorte edita sanctorum ac fidelium Dei administrorum, qui in re vera sacrum caelibatum demonstrant sibi causam itemque indicium eius fuisse doni, quo se totos laetissimosque Christi mysterio tradiderunt.  Quae utique egregia exempla, non minus nostris quam praeteritis temporibus posita, placate constanterque adhuc loquuntur.  Quapropter Nos, quibus praesentes res semper curae fuerunt, teneri non possumus, quin nec opinatam hanc mirificamque veritatem animadvertimus, qua docemur nunc etiam in Dei Ecclesia, ubicumque terrarum ea sancta tabernacula statuit, innumerabilem multitudinem sacrorum administrorum — subdiaconorum, diaconorum, presbyterorum, episcoporum — voluntarium Deoque sacratum caelibatum caste et integre servare.

§42         Ceteroqui Ecclesiae primores ab hac utenda potestate minime abstinere ex eo colligitur, quod recens Concilium Oecumenicum sapienter censuit, ut sacer nempe diaconatus ordo provectis etiam aetate viris, in matrimonio viventibus, posset conferri.  (emphasis added)

The italicized phrase is perhaps a term of art, although the 1983 Code of Canon Law avoids it; first appearing in Lumen Gentium §29, immediately afterwards in “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus,” and then in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” it imports a continuing condition or status which will not cease upon ordination: this can only be the marriage bond itself.  To interpret it otherwise, as warranting the continuing use of marriage by a married deacon is to rest the use of marriage by a deacon upon a highly debatable exegesis of a rather obscure canonical phrase, and to suppose that such a drastic departure from tradition could rest upon such a debatable exegesis.

Such a putative papal rejection of the tradition of diaconal continence would require more foundation than the documents instituting the permanent diaconate can provide.  This is particularly the case when, as here, the implication of a papal dismissal of the requirement of diaconal continence would have clear doctrinal import, as is shown to be the case by Cochini’s establishment of the apostolic origin of the tradition of clerical celibacy.

The third of these documents, the “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” is Pope Paul VI’s formal statement of the rules governing the restored permanent diaconate.  In it, a paragraph confirming the existing law relative to the diaconate, except insofar as specifically altered (“nisi aliter cautum fuerit”), prefaces the numeration of the new regulations; viz:

698         Principio igitur quae in Codice Juris Canonici de diaconorum juribus et officiis, sive omnium clericorum communibus, sive eorundem propriis, statuuntur, ea omnia, nisi aliter cautum fuerit, confirmamus et in eos etiam valere edicimus, qui stabiliter in diaconatu sunt mansuri.  Pro quibus praeterea haec alia, quae sequuntur, statuimus.

There follow thirty-five headings of regulations respecting the restored permanent diaconate; of these, the second, eleventh, sixteenth, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth bear upon the requirement, or not, of diaconal continence.

The second paragraph contains a clear if unattributed paraphrase of the final sentence of Lumen Gentium §29; it merely changes the order of phrases in that sentence.  However, even as altered, this text deals only with celibate and noncelibate candidates for the diaconate, and says nothing which could be read to authorize the noncontinence of married deacons.  The law of celibacy, imposed on unmarried candidates for the diaconate, obviously does not hold for married candidates: once more, “celibate” means “unmarried,” and it is simply as a matter of definition that married candidates are not celibate.

Here we place in sequence, for purposes of comparison, once again the final sentence of Lumen Gentium, §29, and the excerpt from “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” which depends upon it:

Lumen Gentium, §29: De consensu Romani Pontificis hi Diaconatus viris maturioris aetatis etiam in matrimonio viventibus conferri poterit, necnon iuvenibus idoneis, pro quibus tamen lex coelibatus firma remanere debet.[27]

699         “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” ¶2: In petenda ab Apostolica Sede approbatione exponendae sunt tum causae, quae novam huiusmodi disciplinam aliqua in regione constitutendam suadeant, tum rerum condiciones, quae veram boni eventus spem afferant; itemque describendus erit eiusdem disciplinae modus, utrum videlicet agatur de diaconatu conferendo iuvenibus idoneis, pro quibus … lex caelibatus firma remanere debet, an viris maturioris aetatis, etiam in matrimonio viventibus, an utrique candidatorum generi.  (original emphasis)

To repeat, the reference in the latter excerpt to Lumen Gentium §29 is by way of italicization, not citation, and so can be said to be implicit.  It can be read only as warranting or authorizing the ordination of deacons “in matrimonio viventibus,” which is to say, the ordination of married men to the diaconate.  Nothing whatever appears in that text to authorize the novelty of a continuing exercise by them of conjugal relations subsequent to their ordination.  It cannot be said to have been instituted by the Pope even tacitly, as by indirection.  It is therefore evident that the condition of such a drastic change in the diaconate, as restored by Vatican II and Paul VI, viz., the “nisi aliter cautum fuerit” set forth in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” at 698, quoted supra and again here, simply is not met:

698 Principio igitur quae in Codice Juris Canonici de diaconorum juribus et officiis, sive omnium clericorum communibus, sive eorundem propriis, statuuntur, ea omnia, nisi aliter cautum fuerit, confirmamus et in eos etiam valere edicimus, qui stabiliter in diaconatu sunt mansuri.  (emphasis added)

The eleventh paragraph of “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” requires the permission of the wife before the ordination of the married candidate to the permanent diaconate:

700         ¶11. Grandioris aetatis viri, sive caelibes sive etiam matrimonio conjuncti, ad diaconatum vocari possunt: hi vero ne admittantur, nisi constet non solum de uxoris consensu, sed de eiusdem etiam christiana morum probitate illisque dotibus, quae viri ministerium nec impediant nec dedecorent.  (emphasis added)

Once again, we here see celibacy contrasted not with noncontinence but with marriage, and the contrast evidently is understood as exhausting the possibilities.  This paragraph quite clearly restates the traditional requirement for permission from the wives of married ordinands who, by their husbands’ ordination and consequent continence, would find themselves comparably bound to continence: we shall see that the moral demands placed upon the wife by her husband’s ordination are sufficiently alluded to in the “nisi constet non solum de uxoris consensu, sed de eiusdem etiam christiana morum probitate illisque dotibus, quae viri ministerium nec impediant nec dedecorent.”

Paragraph sixteen is yet more difficult to account for, if one supposes the use of marriage by the married permanent deacon to be licit:

701         ¶16. Post ordinem receptum diaconi, grandiore etiam aetate promoti, ex tradita Ecclesiae disciplina ad ineundum matrimonium inhabiles sunt.

The phrase, “grandiore etiam aetate promoti,” can only refer to those candidates for the diaconate who are “viri(s) maturioris aetatis, etiam in matrimonio viventibus,” (“sive caelibes sive etiam matrimonio conjuncti”) i.e., the older candidates for the permanent diaconate, to whom the law of celibacy does not apply.  Here, we are informed that, whether married or not, once ordained the older deacons are incapable of marrying, or of marrying again.

It is impossible to understand why a second marriage should be excluded “ex tradita ecclesiae disciplina” if, contrary to that traditional discipline, conjugal intimacy in an existing marriage is acceptable.  The paragraph clearly refers back to the ancient tradition which found such a remarriage, with its implication of reinstituted conjugal intercourse by one in higher orders, entirely immoral and in fact impossible.  This interpretation, the sole possible one, of course invokes again the traditional law of continence for married deacons.

The twenty-fifth paragraph is as follows:

702         ¶25. Diaconi, utpote qui Christi et Ecclesiae mysteriis inserviant, a quovis pravitatis vitio se abstineant Deoque semper placere studeant, ad omne opus bonum pro hominum salute parati.9 (Cfr. 2 Tim 2,21)  Ob receptum ergo ordinem, longe aliis excellant oportet in vitae liturgicae actione, in studio precandi, in divino ministerio, in oboedientia, in caritate, in castitate.  (original emphasis)

First to be remarked of this paragraph is the Pope’s emphasis upon the traditional liturgical responsibility of the permanent deacon, a matter we have seen to have been largely ignored by Lumen Gentium §29.  Secondly, we note that the “castitas” to which the preceding quotation makes reference is the traditional equivalent of that “pudicitia” which from the earliest years had described the continence required of those ordained to the episcopacy, priesthood, and diaconate.[28]

The twenty-sixth paragraph of this papal document takes for granted the liceity of permanent deacons “in matrimonio viventium,” once again contrasting that state not with continence, but with celibacy.  A single diaconal spirituality is said to be incumbent upon both celibate deacons, and those who are married, viz., those “in matrimonio viventes:”

702-03   ¶26. Episcopalis Conferentiae erit efficaciores normas statuere ad spiritualem vitam alendam diaconorum, tam in caelibatu quam in matrimonio viventium.  Curant tamen locorum Ordinarii, ut omnes diaconi:

1)  assidue legendo attenteque secum meditando Dei verbo vacent;

2)  frequenter vel etiam cotidie, quantum fieri potest, Missae sacrificio actuosi intersint, SS. Eucharistiae sacramento reficiantur idemque pietatis causa invisant; (emphasis added)

Again, we note the stress which Pope Paul VI has placed upon the Eucharistic focus of the restored diaconate.  Here the Pope makes the first clear reference, whether in Lumen Gentium or in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” to the ordained deacon as “in matrimonio vivens.”  The only use of such language in Lumen Gentium or in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” related to married candidates for the diaconate.  If in fact “in matrimonio vivens” does imply ongoing conjugal relations, surely here was the place to have made it clear, for the contrast, constant heretofore, of celibacy with marriage, not with noncontinence or with the use of marriage, has excluded a reading of “in matrimonio viven(te)s” which would imply the liceity of marital intercourse after ordination to the diaconate.

The earlier paragraph (11) of the same document, in which we have read that the consent of the wife of the married candidate for the diaconate is prerequisite to his ordination, only confirms the equation of “in matrimonio viventes” with the reality of marriage bond itself:

700         ¶11. Grandioris aetatis viri, sive caelibes sive etiam matrimonio conjuncti, ad diaconatum vocari possunt: hi vero ne admittantur, nisi constet non solum de uxoris consensu, sed de eiusdem etiam christiana morum probitate illisque dotibus, quae viri ministerium nec empediant nec dedecorent.  (emphasis added.)

According to the tradition which Cochini and Stickler have cogently argued to be of apostolic origin, it was precisely the post-ordination use of marital relations by the married deacon which was described as an impediment to the diaconal ministry at the altar, and as indecent.  Consequently, the addition of this ad cautelam proviso must be read as meant to guard the consequently continent modality of life required for the admission of married candidates to diaconal orders: that they be continent thereafter, and this with the wife’s consent and with her foreseen moral support.

This interpretation is the simplest reading of the language of paragraph 26, “tam in caelibatu quam in matrimonio viventium.”  Once again, it is to be noted the paired opposites are presented as exhaustive; further, if “in caelibatu (viventes)” simply means “unmarried,” as opposed to “in matrimonio viventes” as the equivalent of “married,” nothing in this paragraph (26) can be shown to warrant a noncontinent married permanent diaconate.  If on the other hand “caelibatus” does not exhaust the alternatives to “in matrimonio vivens” this needs to be shown, whereas that it does not has only been assumed — unwarrantably — by those who suppose the married deacon to be permitted conjugal relations simply qua noncelibate.

It must be therefore be concluded that at this point in the documentation there has appeared no warrant for the novel understanding of the diaconate whereby the ordination of married men to the permanent diaconate would no longer oblige them to subsequent continence.  Because they are married, such deacons are by definition not celibate, but this says nothing as to their freedom to continue to engage in marital relations.  The relaxation of the “lex caelibatus” for the permanent diaconate does not in any manner imply the relaxation of the obligation of continence for those in major orders.  It is intended merely to open up candidacy for the permanent diaconate to a group of men formerly excluded from such orders by the fact of their married state, their noncelibacy.

It is further to be noted that conjoined to paragraph 26 supra is a subsection exhorting precisely the close association of the deacon with the Eucharistic sacrifice which has been — and remains — the liturgical ground for clerical continence.  In fact, whatever the silence of the Fathers at the Council on the point, “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” clearly assigns to the restored permanent diaconate the liturgical responsibilities within the Church’s Eucharistic worship which have been traditional to the diaconate as such:

701         ¶22.     Secundum memoratum Concilii Vaticani II Constitutionem, diaconi est, quatenus loci Ordinarius haec ipsa expedienda commiserit:

1)         inter actiones liturgicas episcopo et presbytero adesse in omnibus, quae rituales varii ordinis libri eidem attribuunt;

3)         Eucharistiam asservare, sibi ceterisque distribuere, eam in viaticum morientibus offere, atque eucharisticam benedictionem, quam dicunt, cum sacra pyxide populo impertire.

Further, the prefatory pages of “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” leave no doubt that the restored permanent diaconate is indeed the sacramental Order of the apostolic tradition, ordination to which confers a specific character, by which the deacon is ordered to the service of the altar.  This service of the altar had been further spelled out in earlier introductory paragraphs, among them following, which assign and confirm the traditional liturgical duties of the diaconate:

697-98   Sacrum diaconatus ordinem iam inde a prisca Apostolorum aetate catholica Ecclesia magno in honore habuit, quemadmodum ipse Gentium Doctor testatur, qui diaconos una cum episcopis nominatim salvere jubet1 (Cfr. Phil 1, 1) atque Timotheum docet, quaenam virtutes animique dotes ab iisdem sint expetendae, ut suo digni ministerio aestimentur.2 [Cfr. I Tim 3, 8-13.] (emphasis added)

Porro Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum II, perantiquam huiusmodi morem servans, honorificam diaconatus mentionem in Constitutione, a verbis Lumen Gentium incipienti, fecit ibique, cum de episcopis et presbyteris egisset, tertium quoque sacri ordinis gradum celebravit, eius dignitatem illustrando atque officia percensendo.  Verum hinc probe intellegens haec munera, ad vitam Ecclesiae summopere necessaria, in disciplina Ecclesiae latinae hodie vigenti in pluribus regionibus adimplere difficulter posse, hinc tantae rei commodius consulere exoptans, sapienter decrevit, ut diaconatus in futurum tamquam proprius ac permanens gradus hierarchiae restitui posset.3 (Cfr. n. 29; A.A.S. 57 [1965] p. 36.)

Quamvis enim nonnulla diaconorum munera laicis viris, in terris praesertim missionali opere excolendis, revera committi soleant, eos tamen juvat… qui ministerio vere diaconali fungantur…per impositionem manuum inde ab Apostolis traditam corroborari et altari arctius coniungi, ut ministerium suum per gratiam sacramentalem diaconatus efficacius expleant.4 (Cfr. Conc. Vat. II, Decr. Ad Gentes, n. 16; A.A.S. 58 [1966] p. 967)  Qua profecto ratione optimo quasi in lumine collocabitur propria huiusce Ordinis natura, qui non tamquam merus ad sacerdotium gradus est existimandus, sed indelebili suo charactere ac praecipua sua gratia insignis ita locupletatur, ut qui ad ipsum vocentur, ii mysteriis Christi et Ecclesiae stabiliter inservire possint.5  (Cfr. Conc. Vat. II, Const. Dogm. Lumen Gentium, n. 11: A.A.S. 57 [1965] p. 46.)

In 1972, norms for admission to the diaconate were promulgated in “Ad Pascendum;” these include:

6. The special consecration of celibacy observed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and its obligation for candidates to the priesthood and for unmarried candidates for the diaconate are indeed linked with the diaconate.  The public commitment to holy celibacy before God and the Church is to be celebrated in a particular rite, even by religious, and is to precede ordination to the diaconate.  Celibacy taken on in this way is a diriment impediment to entering marriage.

In accordance with the traditional discipline of the Church, a married deacon who has lost his wife cannot enter a new marriage.26

26Apostolic Letter Sacram Diaconatus Ordinem, n. 16: A.A.S. 59 (1967), p. 701.

“Ad pascendum,” A.A.S. 64 [1972] 534-540; tr. Documents, 439

The language bearing upon the continence expected of the ordained deacon, married or unmarried, remains indirect.  For example, the celibacy attaching to the office of the priesthood, and of the unmarried deacon, is said to be a diriment impediment to marriage.  We have earlier seen that the married deacon is unable to remarry (“Post ordinem receptum diaconi, grandiore etiam aetate promoti, ex tradita Ecclesiae disciplina ad ineundum matrimonium inhabiles sunt”).  If there was there no explicit mention of a diriment impediment, it is understandable enough, for it is ordination to the diaconate which is the ground of the impediment: the language quoted here is sufficiently explicit as to its reality.  In the end, the obligation of consecrated celibacy is of sacramental, not merely of juridical provenance: thus before affirming that diaconal orders constitute a diriment impediment to marriage, “Ad Pascendum” speaks not of an illiceity but of an incapacity in the deacon with respect to subsequent marriage.

That the requirement of diaconal continence is left intact by Vatican II and Pope Paul VI is yet further manifest in the spate of scriptural and patristic references in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” and again in “Ad Pascendum” — these references to Phil 1:1, to I Tim 3, to 2 Tim 2, to Ignatius Martyr, to Polycarp, to Irenaeus, to Justin Martyr, to Tertullian, to the Didascalia Apostolorum, to Hippolytus’ Traditio Apostolica, to Leo the Great — invite the application to the renewed permanent diaconate of all that had been understood by the patristic tradition to pertain to the diaconal office.

With the publication of Cochini’s research, anticipated by the work of Alfons Cardinal Stickler and confirmed by that of Roman Cholij, the burden of going forward with the evidence rests upon whoever would deny that the apostolic tradition of continence is integral to the apostolic and the patristic understanding of the diaconal Order, and consequently that the tradition is liturgical and therefore is doctrinal.  It is not at all a mere disciplinary usage, as Cochini and Cholij have shown.

As prelude to the list of “norms” set out in “Ad Pascendum,” Pope Paul VI recited his extensive consultation with “experts,” as well as with the episcopal conferences.  It is inconceivable that he would have ignored the scholarship of Fr. Stickler who, raised by Pope John Paul II to the archiepiscopate in 1983 and to the Cardinalate in 1985, had already at the time of the Council a stellar reputation as a Church historian, and who as we have seen had published a paper directly on the continence of the diaconate in 1964 and another in 1970, well prior to “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” and “Ad Pascendum.”  Cochini has written:

Fr. Stickler was an expert at the Second Vatican Council, which decided, as we recall, the restoration of the permanent diaconate in the Church.  His study, “The Continence of the Deacon, Especially during the First Millennium of the Church,” published in 1964, was written as part of studies aiming to bring to the Council Fathers elements of reflection borrowed from history.  The author points out that one must understand celibacy in the early Church not only as meaning a prohibition of marriage, but also in the sense of perfect continence for those who were already married.  The Western Church Tradition is studied in the light of the teachings of the councils, of the Fathers, and of the Roman pontiffs who always preserved (or restored) its essential features.  The author opines it is on the basis of motivations inherent in the very nature of the Order and of the sacred ministry that this uninterrupted tradition demands a perfect continence on the part of those who have been married before receiving sacred Orders.

Apostolic Origins, at 43.

The doctrinal point raised by Fr. Stickler — viz., that continence is integral to the diaconal service at the altar — seems never to have been expressly contested by the Fathers in the Council.  This impression is confirmed by the conciliar reportage, supposing it to be accurate, of Vorgrimler and Philips, supra, as well as that of Henri Fesquet.[29]  Similarly, Michael Novak’s fuller account of the debate over diaconal celibacy never touches on this point.  The only debate was over marriage versus celibacy for the diaconate; the continence which the tradition has required of married deacons simply did not arise as a topic of discussion.

In connection with this reportage, it is noteworthy that Stickler’s name, that of a peritus at the Council who had addressed this much-discussed subject expressly in the 1964 article cited by Cochini, supra, is not found in the index of Vorgrimler’s Commentary, in which the quotations supra from Vorgrimler and Philips appeared; neither is he mentioned in Fesquet’s book, nor in Novak’s, nor in the Actus Synodalia.  It can hardly be supposed, then, that his well-known position had been controverted by the conciliar Fathers: such a controversy could not have passed unnoticed, whereas we have both Vorgrimler and Philips as witnesses to its absence from the conciliar discussion.  We must conclude that Stickler’s point of view was never opposed at the Council, and more likely, that the question of whether or not the married permanent deacon was to be continent was not raised at all.  As has been seen, it does appear that a large minority of the conciliar Fathers took for granted the noncontinence of the married diaconate: otherwise, the minority approval of waiving celibacy also for the younger candidates for the diaconate is without point.

Cochini has shown that the continence of the diaconate was from the earliest records considered to be on the same level as that of the priest and the bishop, and that this requirement of continence in those serving the altar did and does not rest upon such early legislation as that promulgated by the Councils of Elvira (305) and of Carthage (390) (which, bye the bye, are cited neither by “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” nor by “Ad Pascendum”) but rests rather upon a liturgically-grounded apostolic tradition which links celibacy and marital continence to the intercessory Eucharistic role of the higher clergy, whose rank reflects the level of their direct responsibility for the celebration of the Mass.  Following I Tim 3:8-13, this continence was from the earliest times held consistent with the ordination of married men to the episcopate, the priesthood and the diaconate, who were held to strict continence thereafter.  Such ordination of married men was predicated upon the prior consent of the wives of the candidates, for of course ordination imposed continence upon them as well as upon their husbands, even to the point of forbidding the widows of deacons, as well as of priests and bishops, to remarry quite as it forbade widower bishops and priests to remarry; we have seen this requirement reaffirmed in §11 of “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” and also in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.  The ordination of younger, unmarried men to the diaconate required then as now a life-long commitment to celibacy and obviously to continence.

It is only with the Council in Trullo, at the end of the seventh century, that this discipline lapsed in the Eastern Churches; Cochini has detailed the circumstances of this deviation, and Cholij, a priest of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has seconded Cochini’s conclusion that it is indeed a deviation, as has also Henri Crouzel.[30]

In the light of Lumen Gentium’s omission, stressed by Vorgrimler, of any mention of participation in the celebration of the Eucharist as among the duties, liturgical and otherwise, of permanent deacons, it might have been asked whether the “permanent diaconate” envisaged by the Council had not suffered a sea change from that of which the apostolic tradition has demanded celibacy.  For an instance of such change exists: Cochini and Cholij both record a change in liturgical responsibility in the reverse direction, which affected the subdiaconate in the West from the fifth century onward to Vatican II.  From its primitive standing as an exterior service or ministry akin to that of an acolyte, lector or porter, the subdiaconate had by the fifth century became directly involved in the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery.  Thereupon it was recognized by the Pope as a major Order, and its candidates were committed to continence, despite the considerable inconveniences involved in the drastic demand this novelty placed upon married subdeacons.  The abolition of the subdiaconate as a major Order, and its consequent dissociation from celibacy by Pope Paul VI in “Ministeria Quaedam,” §4,[31] can only reflect a shifting of the liturgical responsibilities of the subdiaconate away from direct responsibility for the Eucharistic celebration.  In Rahner’s view, just such a shifting of responsibility, from liturgical to practical responsibilities, would appear to have long since overtaken the permanent diaconate at the time of its recommended reinstitution by Lumen Gentium and Ad Gentes Divinitus, and its actual institution by “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” and “Ad Pascendum.”

However, if only because the conciliar motives for that reinstitution of the permanent diaconate, as set forth in Lumen Gentium, §29 did not touch the diaconal exercise of a direct responsibility in the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, it is evident that no change in the liturgical responsibilities of the permanent diaconate was in contemplation at the Council.  What may have been assumed by many of the Fathers present there is another matter.

In any case, Paul VI, in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” explicitly reaffirmed the liturgical and particularly the Eucharistic responsibility, and the correlative Eucharistic spirituality, of the restored diaconate.  The Pope was equally insistent upon the traditional hierarchical rank of the permanent diaconate, and upon the indelible sacramental character which the ordination to it, by the imposition of hands, effects.

There can be no doubt that the Pope has restored the permanent diaconate in the sense of the traditional, sacramentally-conferred, hierarchical Order, an Order which he describes in the traditional language of “altari arctius conjungi.”[32]  It is this closeness to the altar, inseparable from their liturgical office, that Cochini has shown to be the basis for the ancient tradition requiring continence of deacons, as it is required of bishops and of priests.

Yet further: it must be kept in mind that the Nota Explicativa which Pope Paul VI added as an appendix to Lumen Gentium bars the reading into that document, by way of a supposedly latent implication, of any novel doctrinal affirmation:

the sacred synod declared as binding on the Church only those matters of faith and morals which it has expressly put forward as such.[33]

It is impossible to find in the documents of Vatican II any intent or indeed any intimation of an intent to teach a novel interpretation of the sacrament of orders; in fact, the conciliar intent to attach the renewal of the permanent diaconate to the biblical and patristic tradition is evident.

Thus, the post-conciliar proliferation of married and noncontinent deacons, in the face of an evident apostolic tradition denying the liceity of such a practice, demands a solution which can only be an explicit recognition of the binding character of the apostolic tradition of diaconal continence.  The pastoral problem has no other answer, for any alternative would undercut the nature of the diaconate itself, as arctius altari conjungi.  Further, the implications of the noncontinent married diaconate for the celibate priesthood cannot be ignored: if a noncontinent diaconate, “altari arctius conjungi,” is legitimate in the Latin Church, all that remains for the legitimation of a married and noncontinent priesthood and episcopacy is negotiation of the terms of the surrender of all sacramental realism.  In the final analysis, we are dealing with a matter which puts in issue the point upon which the Reformation turned, and which was resolved at Trent: the Mass as the celebration, or not, of the Eucharistic sacrifice.  If the apostolic doctrine on that point is to be upheld, so also that which is strictly conjoined to it, the celibacy of those who serve the altar upon which the One Sacrifice is offered and the One Flesh of the New Covenant instituted.

The contemporary fact of the married deacons — and perhaps of married priests as well — in full exercise at once of their marital intimacy and their orders is an obvious surd in Roman Catholic life and worship, for the coincidence of conjugal relations with responsibility for service arctius altari conjungi has been illicit since apostolic times for reasons going to the heart of the Church’s Eucharistic worship in truth.  Consequently, there is every reason to deny that the restoration of the permanent diaconate in any sense legitimates the noncontinence of deacons “in matrimonio viventes.”

The Fathers at Vatican II, and Paul VI in his implementation of Lumen Gentium, §29, were intent upon the restoration of the third hierarchical Order; it is evident from the opening paragraphs of “Pontificalis Romani Recognitio” that there was no intent to introduce a novelty:

Pontificalis Romani recognitio non tamen generali modo a Concilio Oecumenico Vaticano II praescribitur,1 sed etiam peculiaribus regitur normis, quibus eadem Sacra Synodus ritus Ordinationum, sive quoad caeremonias sive quoad textus2 dimutari iussit.  (original emphasis)

Sed ex Ordinationis ritibus illi imprimis considerandi sunt, quibus per Sacramentum Ordinis, vario gradu collatum, sacra Hierarchia constituitur: sic ministerium ecclesiasticum divinitus institutum diversis ordinibus exercetur ab illis qui iam ab antiquo Episcopi, Presbyteri, Diaconi vocantur.3  (original emphasis)

In recognitione autem ritus Ordinationum Sacrarum, praeter principia generalia, quibus integra instauratio Liturgiae, iuxta praescripta Concilii Vaticani II, regi debet, summopere attendendum est ad praeclaram illam doctrinam de natura et effectibus Sacramenti Ordinis, quae in Constitutione de Ecclesia ab eodem Conciliio pronuntiata est, nam textus et ritus ita ordinari oportet ut sancta, quae significant, clarius exprimant, eaque populus christianus, in quantum fieri potest, facile percipere atque plena, actuosa et communitatis propria celebratione participare possit.4  (original emphasis)

1Conc Vat. II, Const. de Sacra Liturgia, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 25: A.A.S. 56 (1964) p. 107.

2Ibid., n. 76: A.A.S. 56 (1964) p. 119.

3Conc. Vat. II, Const. dogm. de Ecclesia, Lumen gentium, n. 28: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 33-34.

4Conc Vat. II, Const. de Sacra Liturgia, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 21: A.A.S. 56 (1964) p. 106.

After reading language such as this, it is impossible to believe that the restoration of the permanent diaconate by the Council and the Pope contemplated making any alteration in the sacrament of orders.  Some at least of the conciliar Fathers must have been aware of the doctrinal weight of the traditional obligation of diaconal continence; Fr. Stickler’s articles would not have passed unnoticed.  While the Fathers agreed at the Council to permit a married permanent diaconate, and while there is reason to suppose that the commentators we have cited (Vorgrimler, Philips, Novak, Fesquet), and with them a minority of the Fathers, understood the phrase “in matrimonio viventibus” to connote or denote permission for the continuing use of marriage by married deacons, there is no indication in the records of the conciliar debates that the Fathers ever approved a noncontinent married diaconate.  In fact, the evidence is all to the contrary effect.  The reasons for the confusion at the Council over the meaning of diaconal celibacy are not apparent on the record.[34]

Married bishops, priests, and deacons are no novelty in the Church, but the use of marriage by men in major orders is precisely the novelty which Stickler understood it to be; we have seen Stickler repeat this conviction, which the research of Cochini and Cholij has since corroborated.

Finally, the theological development of the doctrine of “Pastores Dabo Vobis” presented by Archbishop Stafford’s lecture provides further reason for agreeing with Cochini’s affirmation of the patristic origin of the Latin tradition of clerical celibacy; it does appear that the sacramental signs themselves of marriage and of orders intimate the impropriety of noncontinence in anyone who is “altari arctius coniungi,” as we have seen the diaconal office described by Paul VI in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem.”

Vorgrimler has pointed to the large minority of bishops at the Council who voted to relieve even the unmarried deacon of any consequent obligation of celibacy.  We can hardly suppose so large a number of the world’s Catholic bishops to be intent upon dismissing an apostolic doctrine, and yet the perduring tradition of clerical continence can have no other ground — but this is precisely what does not appear to have been suspected by that minority of Fathers who voted against diaconal celibacy at the Council.  The minority of the Fathers — a sizable minority — quite clearly intended to dispense even the young unmarried deacons from both celibacy and from continence in marriage.  The only alternative to this conclusion is that the minority read “celibacy” strictly, to mean unmarried simply, so that the dropping of the requirement of celibacy for unmarried deacons meant permission for them to marry after ordination coupled with the obligation to live continently thereafter — but for the reasons which have been set out, that alternative appears to be excluded: in brief, it is pointless.

When the majority reaffirmed the requirement of celibacy traditional for unmarried deacons, and at the same time approved the ordination of married men to the diaconate — thus approved the ordination to the permanent diaconate of men who were not celibate — they did not thereby license the use of marriage by such deacons; had they done so, there would have been no possible basis for their firm refusal to drop the requirement of celibacy for younger candidates for the diaconate.

In sum, there is every reason to insist that the sacrament of orders remains as it has been, and that the current practice — one cannot speak of its canonical institution — of a noncontinent diaconate is an aberration which will not attain a permanent standing in the Church.

Donald J. Keefe, S.J.

(formerly) St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie

October, 1998


[ed. note: while this essay shows signs of being dated, the essential dogmatic elements remain the same]


[1] Alfons Stickler, “La continenza dei diaconi specialmente nel primo millenio della chiesa,” Salesianum 26 (1964) 275-302; “Tratti salienti nella storia del celibato,” Sacra Doctrina 15 (1970) 585-620; “Il celibato ecclesiatico” in L’Osservatore della Domenica, supplements to nos. 103, 109, and 115 of L’Osservatore Romano for May 6, 13, 20, 1979; “L’évolution de la discipline du célibat dans l’Église en Occident de la fin de l’âge patristique au Concile de Trente,” in Sacerdoce et célibat.

[2] Archbishop (now Cardinal) J. Francis Stafford, “The Eucharistic Foundation of Sacerdotal Celibacy,” Origins 23/12 (2 Sept., 1993) 211-216.  The then-Archbishop Stafford delivered this address at a conference on the priesthood, held under the auspices of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy on May 26-28, 1993, at the Gregorian University in Rome to mark the first anniversary of the papal encyclical, Pastores Dabo Vobis.  His essay relies upon Christian Cochini, S.J., Origines apostoliques du célibat sacerdotal.  Préface du Père A. Stickler; coll. Le Sycamore (Paris: Éditions Lethielleux; Namur: Culture et Vérité, 1981).  Page references hereafter to Fr. Cochini’s chef d’oeuvre will be to its English translation, The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy.  With a Preface by Father Alfons M. Stickler.  Translated by Nelly Marans (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990) [henceforth, Apostolic Origins].  This latter edition is furnished with an index, unfortunately lacking in the original.  See also Roman Cholij, Clerical Celibacy In East And West.  Foreword by Alfons Cardinal Stickler, S.D.B., Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church; Preface by Michael Napier of the Oratory (Leominster, Herfordshire: Fowler Wright Books, 1989) [henceforth, Clerical Celibacy].  At the time of his writing, Fr. Cholij, a priest of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, was secretary to the bishop of the Ukrainian-rite Catholics of London.  As Cardinal Stickler observes, Fr. Cholij’s book is a most valuable supplement to Fr. Cochini’s work, the more so in that although himself a member of a rite (Ukrainian) permitting the ordination of married men and their subsequent exercise of marital rights, Cholij agrees with Cochini that this concession rests upon a mistaken interpretation written by the Quinisext Council (In Trullo) into the Greek translation of the canons of the Council of Carthage.

Fr. Cochini’s book originated as a doctoral dissertation for the Institut Catholique (Paris), while Fr. Cholij’s study was written as a doctoral dissertation in canon law at the GregorianUniversity in Rome.  Cochini’s dissertation, defended before a board headed by Jean Cardinal Daniélou, S.J., was at the latter’s urging, with the approval of Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and under Fr. Alfons Stickler’s guidance, later expanded into the present work.  Its invaluable contribution to the theology of Orders seems to have been little  regarded in this country, although since its appearance in English translation it is being widely read.  Its distinguished author is now a missionary in Taiwan.

[3] During the summer of 1998, American ordinaries received two documents, written in close association by, respectively, the Congregation for the Clergy and the Congregation for Education.  The document from the Congregation for the Clergy was published in English as “Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons,” Origins 28/11 (Aug. 1998) 181-91.  In it we read:

For married candidates, to live love [sic] means offering themselves to their spouses in a reciprocal belonging, in a total, faithful and indissoluble union in the likeness of Christ’s love for his church, at the same time it means welcoming children, loving them, educating them and showing forth to the whole church and society the communion of the family (§68, 188a; emphasis added).

An English translation of the document issued by the Congregation for Education was published in the same number of Origins as “Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons,” ibid., 191-204; it contains the following passage:

In particular, the widowed deacon should be supported in living perfect perpetual continence.192  He should be helped to understand the profound ecclesial reasons which preclude his remarriage (cf. I Tim 3:12), in accordance with the constant discipline of the church in the East and West.193  (§62, at 200b; emphasis added).

192Cf. Canon 277.1.

193Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, III, 16; Ad Pascendum, VI; Canon 1087.  Provision is made for possible exceptions to this discipline in the June 6, 1997, circular letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship; and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Prot. No. 26397, 8.

The circular letter referenced in the footnote quoted supra (193) was published in English as “Deacons’ Remarriage: Laicizing Priests,” Origins 27/11 (Aug. 28, 1997), 169, 171-72, wherein we read:

1. The competence1 to treat of cases of dispensation from the obligations of sacred ordination and of vows in the above mentioned institutes, such dispensation being inseparably connected with dismissal from the clerical state, lies with this congregation. (at 169b; emphasis added)

1Cf. Secretary of State, Letter 230.139 (Feb. 8, 1989).

On the next page of the English tr. of the circular letter the following language appears:

6. As a consequence of the new disposition concerning the permanent diaconate and of the norms issued by the Holy See5 and by numerous episcopates regarding formation, lifestyle and ministerial activities entrusted to deacons, a difficulty that arises from the impediment preventing “married permanent deacons, widowed after ordination” from contracting a further marriage [sic].  Such a second marriage after ordination could in fact be attempted only under the pain of canonical nullity.6  (at 171a-b)

5Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 29; Paul VI, apostolic letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem (June 18, 1967): A.A.S. 59 (1967), pp. 697-704; apostolic constitution Pontificalis Romani Recognitio (June 18, 1968): A.A.S. 60 (1968), pp. 369-373; apostolic letter Ad Pascendum (Aug. 15, 1972): A.A.S. 64 (1972), pp. 534-550; Code of Canon Law, Canons 236, 276.2 and .3; 1035.1; 1037; 1042.,1; 1053.3; John Paul II, “Catechesis” from the Oct. 13, 1993, general audience address: Insegnamenti XVI, 2 (1993), pp. 1000-1004; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1554.

6Ad Pascendum, VI, and Canon 1087 in connection with Canon 1078.2.1.

7. For some time it has been evident that because of this prohibition grave difficulties have arisen for those who have been widowed after ordination but are desirous of remaining in the diaconal ministry.

8. With a view to establishing a new practice modifying the current norm, which requires three cumulative and simultaneous conditions which would constitute motivating exceptions for the granting of a dispensation from the prohibition of Canon 1087, this dicastery has requested and has obtained from the Holy Father that any one of the three following conditions taken singly are [sic] sufficient for a favorable consideration of the dispensation from this impediment, namely:

—The great and proven usefulness of the ministry of the deacon to the diocese to which he belongs.

—That he has children of such a tender age as to be in need of motherly care.

—That he has parents or parents-in-law who are elderly and in need of care (§8, at 171b).

And finally, at the end of the circular letter:

9. The Cardinal Secretary of State, in a letter (No. 4092.629) of Feb. 27, 1997, has communicated the approval given by the Holy Father on Feb. 10, 1997, to these above-mentioned new criteria regarding the dispensation from celibacy for priests under the age of 40; and in a letter of March 22, 1997 (No. 402.629) [sic], permission was given for the new conditions under which dispensation may be granted from the impediment to a second marriage on the part of the permanent deacons who have been widowed after ordination.  It was further established that this circular letter be sent to diocesan and religious ordinaries informing them of these new measures for future reference.

10. Diocesan and religious ordinaries are therefore kindly requested to give due attention to these instructions should they have occasion to forward petitions for dispensation to this congregation.

Vatican City, June 6, 1997

Archbishop Jorge Medina Estevez, Pro-Prefect

Archbishop Geraldo M. Agnelo, Secretary

The first passage quoted, (§68) excerpted from the document published by the Congregation for the Clergy, clearly knows nothing of, or ignores, the traditional requirement that married men in major orders be continent in their marriage after ordination: the propriety of sexual relations between married deacons and their wives is even insisted upon.  As will be shown, the liceity of this departure from tradition was never discussed during the Council by any of the bishops concerned for the married diaconate.  Further: it is evident that with their promulgation by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the new norms annul the diriment impediment to marriage constituted by prior ordination to major Orders.  The “diriment” character of that impediment has been summarily negated; the impediment of Orders has been treated as though it were of merely canonical provenance and standing, and its dispensability thereby taken for granted.  The “great and proven usefulness of the ministry of the deacon, etc.,” now trumps “the constant discipline of the church in the East and West” which has required that “such dispensation (be) inseparably connected with dismissal from the clerical state” — this inseparable connection of its dispensation with dismissal from the clerical state is that which makes the impediment of Orders to be a diriment impediment.  The constant tradition of the Church, East and West, has been denied doctrinal significance, and this without any discussion of the subject by the bishops at Vatican II or elsewhere, and in the entire absence of any competent theological inquiry into the matter other than that provided by Stickler, Cochini and Cholij, whose unanimity contradicts the assumptions of both Congregations and of the Secretary of State.

It is to be noted that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, while asserting that “this dicastery has requested and obtained from the Holy Father that any one of the three following conditions taken singly are sufficient for a favorable consideration of the dispensation from this impediment, etc.,” relies for this assertion of papal permission upon a document which on this point is at best ambiguous, for we have read in the circular letter that:

in a letter of March 22, 1997 (no. 402.629) permission was given for the new conditions under which dispensation may be granted from the impediment to a second marriage on the part of permanent deacons who have been widowed after ordination.

In the first place, the protocol number assigned this letter of March 22nd is the same as given the letter received the previous February 27th concerning the dispensation of laicized priests: both numbers may be in error, and one of them must be.  However that may be, in the footnote citing both of these letters from the Secretary of State we have read that:

The Cardinal Secretary of State, in a letter (No. 4092.629) of Feb. 27th, 1997, has communicated the approval given by the Holy Father on Feb. 10, 1997, to these above-mentioned new criteria regarding the dispensation from celibacy for priests under the age of 40; and in a letter of March 22nd, 1997 (No. 402.629) [sic], permission was given for the new conditions under which dispensation may be granted from the impediment to a second marriage on the part of the permanent deacons who have been widowed after ordination.

Here the Congregation clearly asserts, in the active voice, that the Cardinal Secretary of State has communicated to the Congregation for Divine Worship a papal permission to dispense, under certain circumstances, laicized priests under the age of forty from their canonical incapacity to marry.  In this direct statement there is nothing startling, for while the laicization of a priest does not imply such dispensation, and while its discretional grant by the Pope to priests who have been thus dismissed from the clerical state may be more or less rare, such a dispensation presents no novelty.  However, in the Congregation’s circular letter we find incongruously associated with this dispensation granted to laicized priests, another and entirely different situation.  For it is to be noted that the description in the Congregation’s ‘circular letter,” of the Secretary of State’s letter of March 22nd, couched in the passive voice, makes no mention of any papal approval of the dispensation which may be granted by the Secretary of State to widowed deacons from the canon law and the ancient tradition which have barred their remarriage.  Rather, in that same passive voice, we read that, in the March 22nd letter, “permission was given” to the Congreation for Divine worship to grant such dispensations: it does not say by whom permission was given.

Where, as here in the case of widowed deacons, a papal permission to dispense from a diriment impediment is not clearly asserted, as it was in the circular letter’s immediately prior discussion of the dispensation of laicized priests, that permission cannot be presumed, as the circular letter presumes it.

In the absence of a clearly and responsibly affirmed papal permission, who has the canonical authority to grant such a dispensation from a traditionally diriment impediment?  Within the ambiguous context of the Congregation’s ‘circular letter,’ which touches its jurisdiction, the question does not arise.  Viz., we read:

1. The competence1 to treat of cases of dispensation from the obligations of sacred ordination and of vows in the above mentioned institutes, such dispensation being inseparably connected with dismissal from the clerical state, lies with this congregation. (at 169b; emphasis added)

1Cf. Secretary of State, Letter 230.139 (Feb. 8, 1989).

The second clause of the quoted sentence is clearly a continuing limitation placed upon the authority of the Congregation for Divine Worship.  The limitation is stated in the present tense, as a fact in being at the time of the writing of the letter.  And in fact, nothing in the following paragraphs of the letter recite any expansion of this jurisdiction by the Pope, who alone can dispense from diriment impediments.  There is only the general statement by the Congregation in paragraph 8, which we have read supra, stating that:

8.   With a view to establishing a new practice modifying the current norm, which requires three cumulative and simultaneous conditions which would constitute motivating exceptions for the granting of a dispensation from the prohibition of Canon 1087, this dicastery has requested and has obtained from the Holy Father that any one of the three following conditions taken singly are [sic] sufficient for a favorable consideration of the dispensation from this impediment, namely:

—The great and proven usefulness of the ministry of the deacon to the diocese to which he belongs.

—That he has children of such a tender age as to be in need of motherly care.

—That he has parents or parents-in-law who are elderly and in need of care (at 171b).

This is curious: the “motivating exceptions” apply to all dispensations from “the prohibition of Canon 1087”, which applies to everyone in major orders, not merely to deacons: it reads:

Can. 1087 – Invalide matrimonium attentant qui in sacris ordinis sunt constituti.

Yet we have seen that the circular letter’s application of these exceptions to the dispensation of priests from “the prohibition of Canon 1087” requires their prior laicization, in such wise that these exceptions can have no bearing on their case.  Viz.: the first condition expressly concerns deacons who will remain in the exercise of their orders, while the second and third “conditions” for granting dispensations from Canon 1087 likewise can have no application to the previously unmarried and now laicized priest, unless it contemplates condoning the contumacious attempted marriage of the previously laicized priest under the age of forty who, unable for some reason to meet his responsibilities for his young children, or parents, or parents in-law, now seeks a dispensation from Canon 1087, which condonation can hardly be presumed.   Nonetheless, we have seen that the next paragraph of the circular letter expressly applies these new conditions to priests:

9. The Cardinal Secretary of State, in a letter (No. 4092.629) of Feb. 27, 1997, has communicated the approval given by the Holy Father on Feb. 10, 1997, to these above-mentioned new criteria regarding the dispensation from celibacy for priests under the age of 40; and in a letter of March 22, 1997 (No. 402.629) [sic], permission was given for the new conditions under which dispensation may be granted from the impediment to a second marriage on the part of the permanent deacons who have been widowed after ordination.

The clarification of this confusion must be left to canonists: it defeats common sense.

The puzzlement over the reality of an intimated papal approval of the new conditions which would permit the novel remarriage of widowed men in major orders without their prior laicization, which in fact underwrites the encouragement given them by the Congregation for Education and the Congregation for the Clergy to live in marital relations with their wives, might easily be resolved, were the subject letter of March 22nd letter from the Cardinal Secretary of State to the Congregation for Divine Worship available for public or even episcopal inspection.  However, such correspondence is not available in any published collection insofar as a reasonably diligent search can discover.  Thus, even were its protocol number accurately cited in the English tr. of the circular letter in Origins, it would be without value to anyone seeking that information.

One cannot but wonder why these two letters from the Secretary of State, disparate in time as well as in subject matter, were so closely associated by the circular letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship.  They were dealt with separately by the Secretary of State, and no reason appears for their being lumped together four or five months later by the Congregation for Divine Worship: we have seen the muddle which this close association has permitted and perhaps forced.  Further, such a clear departure, in the case of the widowed permanent deacon, from an ecclesial tradition whose authority is nonetheless cited in the first section of that circular letter, needs some rather more solemn form of communication than can be provided by a circular letter.

In this connection, it should not pass without remark that the title given this circular letter by the editor of Origins simply reverses the letter’s order of treatment of its subject matter, which deals first with the dispensation of laicized clergy, and only then with the dispensation of widowed permanent deacons.  This was hardly inadvertent: the editor recognized the relative unimportance of the former subject, and the high significance of the latter, and thus testifies further to the incongruity of their being bundled together in the circular letter.

Not only is the situation anomalous which results from the novel dispensation granted widowed permanent deacons from what has been the diriment impediment of Orders to marriage: it clearly invites a comparable nullification of the celibacy and continence required of the priesthood by a comparably ancient ecclesial tradition, and by the canon law.  This outcome might be thought acceptable on the ground that several Eastern Churches in union with Rome nonetheless permit the marriage of their priests prior to ordination.  They do not of course permit the re-marriage of their priests after ordination without having first dismissed them from the clerical state.  The Eastern practice since Trullo provides no grounds for the re-marriage of widowed permanent deacons.

Once the widowed deacon’s re-marriage is admitted as consistent with his continuing in the exercise of his orders — i.e., with remaining in his clerical state — not only is there undercut the continent fidelity traditionally essential to the spirituality of Orders; there is also invoked by this anomaly a Protestant interpretation of the Eucharist.

Given that the permanent deacon is in major Orders, and thereby arctius altari conjungi, his capacity to remarry while in the exercise of his Order implies either that the diaconal Order is no longer arctius altari conjungi, or that the Eucharist is no longer the offering of the One Sacrifice of the Second Adam for the Second Eve, for by this authorization of the remarriage of widowed deacons the nuptial symbolism of the sacrament of Orders has been dismissed without any discussion of that symbolism, or even any exhibition of interest in it, and this on the level of universally-distributed proclamations by two of the Vatican dicasteries.

The anomaly of diaconal remarriage may continue to be ignored, as it has been by documents issuing from three Vatican dicasteries and the from Vatican Secretary of State: it does not thereby cease to insert confusion into the sacrament of Orders, a confusion which touches the Church’s worship in truth.  Catholic sacramental worship is utterly dependent upon the truth, the authenticity of its sacramental signs, whose institution is of God, not man, but whose safeguard must be the Magisterium.

[4] Actus Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, Vol. III, periodus tertia, Pars I, Sessio Publica IV. Congregationis Generalis LXXX-LXXXII (Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1973) [hereafter, Actus Synodalia], 259-69, esp. 266ff.

[5]A.A.S. 57 [1965] 36.

[6]Codex Juris Canonici, C. 277 distinguishes clearly between celibacy and continence:

§1. Clerici obligatione tenentur servandi perfectam perpetuamque propter Regnum coelorum continentiam, ideoque ad caelibatem adstringuntur, quod est peculiare Dei donum, quo quidem sacri ministri indiviso corde Christo facilius adhaerere possunt atque Dei hominumque servitio liberius sese dedicare valent.

§2. Debita cum prudentia clerici se gerant cum personis, quarum frequentatio ipsorum obligationem ad continentiam servandam in discrimen vocare aut in fidelium scandalum vertere possit.

The distinction between continence and celibacy is again recognized in C. 599:

Evangelicum castitatis consilium propter Regnum coelorum assumptum, quod signum est mundi futuri et fons uberioris fecunditatis in indiviso corde, obligationem secumfert continentiae perfectae in caelibatu.

The most recent examination of the historical articulation of this apostolic tradition, with an overview and criticism of previous studies of clerical celibacy, is provided by Christian Cochini’s study, cited in note 2, supra.  In the foreword of Roman Cholij’s comparable work, Clerical Celibacy In East And West, also cited in note 2, supra, Cardinal Stickler has written that:

These two studies surpass, therefore, all the preceding ones which are often one-sided and even historically wrong, and will constitute in the future the new, scientifically certain basis for every safe statement in this delicate field with all its different and even opposed subjective meanings and objective difficulties.

[7]Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, [henceforth, Documents] at 387.

[8]The official summaries of the Conciliar discussion of diaconal celibacy may be found in Francisco Hellín, Concilii Vaticani II Synopsis in ordinem redigens schemata cum relationibus necnon Patrum orationes atque animadversiones 2. Constitutio Dogmatica de Ecclesia Lumen Gentium; ser. Studi sul Concilio Vaticano II (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1995), 310-315; see also “Relationes circa Caput III”, 2066-2067; 2077-2080.

[9]This may be found in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II [henceforth, Commentary] at 22-30.

[10]“Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” §16 (A.A.S. 59 [1967] 697-704) at 701.

[11]Stickler has drawn attention to the more inclusive understanding of celibacy in the early Church; see note 1, supra, and Cochini, Apostolic Origins, at 43.

[12]“Ad pascendum,” A.A.S. 64 (1972) 534-540; tr. Documents, at 439:

6. The special consecration of celibacy observed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and its obligation for candidates to the priesthood and for unmarried candidates for the diaconate are indeed linked with the diaconate.  The public commitment to holy celibacy before God and the Church is to be celebrated in a particular rite, even by religious, and is to precede ordination to the diaconate.  Celibacy taken on in this way is a diriment impediment to entering marriage.

In accordance with the traditional discipline of the Church, a married deacon who has lost his wife cannot enter a new marriage.26

26Apostolic Letter Sacram Diaconatus Ordinem, n. 16: A.A.S. 59 (1967), p. 701.

[13]Archbishop Stafford developed this point in the lecture cited in note 2, supra.

[14]The review article, “The Apostolic Origins of Clerical Continence: A Critical Appraisal of a New Book,” Theological Studies 41 (1982) 693-705, which Fr. Roger Balducelli, O.S.F.S., directed to the French original of Cochini’s study, applies an Enlightenment notion of historicity to Cochini’s conclusion of the apostolic origins of clerical celibacy, and on that rather fragile if commonplace foundation dismisses Cochini’s findings.  This is to proceed rather by an ideologically-driven fiat than by a serious examination of Cochini’s argument.  The Enlightenment’s rationalization of history is really not the last word on the subject.

[15]I am indebted to a conversation with Edward N. Peters, J.D., J.C.D., Diocesan Director for Canonical Affairs for the Diocese of San Diego, for a clarifying insight into the failure of the conciliar Fathers to distinguish between celibacy and continence during their discussion of the renewal of the permanent diaconate.  Their inadvertent melding of celibacy with continence may well underlie the post-conciliar divagation from the ancient apostolic tradition of diaconal continence.

[16]Michael Novak, The OpenChurch: Vatican II, Act II (New York: Macmillan, 1962, 1963, 1964), 121-27; see also Ralph M. Wiltgen, S.V.D., The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber: The Unknown Council (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1967), 96-100.

[17]Gérard Philips, “History of the Constitution,” Commentary, 105-137.

[18]See note 33, infra.

[19]The point is developed in Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter’s “Do This in Memory of Me”: A Pastoral Letter on the Sacrament of Priestly Orders (Toronto: The Mission Press, 8 December, 1983); see also the comparable pastoral letter of Archbishop J. Francis Stafford, “In the Person of Christ, The Head of the Body: The Mystery of the Priestly Vocation,” Origins 18 (1988) 349-360, together with the address cited in note 2, supra.

[20]At bottom, as Cardinal Stafford has pointed out, this is the relation between the ex opere operato effect of the sacrament (the res et sacramentum) — which is the diaconal, priestly or episcopal character in the ordained, and is the matrimonial vinculum in the married — to the ex opere operantis effect, (the res sacramenti) of the sacramental sign — which in the ordained is celibacy, in the married is fidelity, and in each is the free fulfillment, the spirituality, of the respective sacramental sign — whether of Orders or of Matrimony.

[21]Cf. note 1, supra.

[22]“Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” A.A.S. 59 [1967] 697-704, at 698.

[23]A.A.S. 59 (1967) 697-704.

[24]A.A.S. 60 (1968) 369-373.

[25]A.A.S. 64 (1972) 534-540; (Documents, 433-441).

[26]A.A.S. 59 (1967) 657, 697; §§ 13 and 42.

[27]See note 4, supra.

[28]Cochini, op. cit., 236 (quoting Ambrose, De officiis III (PL 104b-5a), 247-48, and citing Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, the so-called Canons of Hippolytus, Epiphanius of Constantia, and Jerome; et passim.

[29]Henri Fesquet, The Drama of Vatican II: The Ecumenical Council, June 1962 – December, 1965; tr. Bernard Murchland; American Intro. by Michael Novak (New York: Random House, 1967).

[30]Henri Crouzel, “Une nouvelle étude sur les origines du célibat ecclésiastique,” Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 73 (1982) 293-97.  Cochini’s and Cholij’s works are cited in note 2, supra, et passim.

[31]A.A.S. 64 (15 August, 1972) 529-534; Documents 427-32.

[32]See note 22, supra.

[33]Documents, 423.

[34]The reasons given by the bishops and their theologians at the Council for their advocacy of a noncelibate permanent diaconate sometimes simply assumed without discussion that diaconal celibacy is without intrinsic relation to the diaconate.  This view appears in a highly pertinent document provided me by the late Fr. William J. O’Rourke, S.T.D., then pastor of St. Steven’s Church, Quinebaugh, CT.  Entitled “Formal Request to Restore the Diaconate as a Permanent Order Presented to the Fathers of Vatican Council II in 1962 by the Original Deacon Circle, Munich, West Germany,” it has more recently been translated and published by Patrick McCaslin and Michael Lawler as Appendix 2 of Sacrament of Service (Mahway, NY: Paulist Press, 1986).  Its signatories stressed that

The diaconate, to which, according to St. Paul (cf. I Tim 3:12) the earliest Church councils and the custom of the Eastern Churches up to the present day, married men are admitted, had in the early Church its own specific nature: the basic fundamental was always the liturgical office, while the exercise of the other essential offices, namely the works of charity and the ministry of the word, varied in importance according to the needs of particular places and times. (at 146)

Further on, to the same effect:

The tasks of the restored diaconate would all have their source and center in the intimate connection of the deacon’s office with the Holy Eucharist.  (at 146)

But the signatories and their theological advisor[s] evidently had no intimation of any causal link between that “intimate connection” and the tradition of diaconal celibacy, for they continue:

What of the question of celibacy?  The celibacy of the priest plays an impressive part in witnessing to the reality of supernatural goods, especially in our day, when so much emphasis is placed on the goods of this world.  This celibacy would also apply to deacons under the new plan, when they were members of religious orders.  On the other hand, the Church is also stressing more and more today the witnessing power of the sacrament of matrimony as a sign of Christ’s union with his Church and as a means of sanctification in the world.  As the diaconate of its nature does not require celibacy, it seems that there are rich potentialities for holiness in the married life for those who would also belong to the hierarchy of the Church as deacons.  (at 148-49)

Obviously, this highly pragmatic rationale for a married diaconate can apply to the priesthood as well as to the diaconate.  Further, we see here the confusion of noncelibacy with noncontinence in the allusion to the “rich potentialities for holiness in the married life.”  It would strain the intention of the authors considerably to read into such language that transcendence of matrimony by major orders and the consequent obligation of the ordained to live in continence, which the apostolic and patristic tradition affirms.

The pragmatic mentality we have noted in the “Original Deacon Circle” surfaces again in the near-ultimatum presented the conciliar Fathers by Bishop McHugh of Panama: “Aut diaconatus instauretur uxoratus, aut non instauretur.”  For Bishop McHugh, as for most of the bishops favoring the married diaconate, the justification for its renewal was pastoral and practical.  The married diaconate was perceived as a means of bringing a more or less influential class of laity into closer association with the mission of the Church.  Even Cardinal Spellman, although he had opposed the restoration of the permanent diaconate, had also treated the question of its restoration pragmatically, as a merely disciplinary matter, and Cardinal Döpfner of Munich, who rejected Cardinal Spellman’s objections to the restoration, evinced no interest in exploring the doctrinal content of the traditional requirement of celibacy in the diaconate, although he defended the sacramentality of the diaconate as a matter of doctrine.

Cardinal Döpfner was a major spokesman for the restoration of the permanent married diaconate; his argument, here as elsewhere, was clearly reliant upon the views of his famous peritus, Karl Rahner, whose viewpoint on the question is set out in “The Theology of the Restoration of the Diaconate,” Theological Investigations V, 269-314 (a translation of his contribution, “Die Theologie der Eneuerung des Diakonates,” to a massive collection of articles which he co-edited with Herbert Vorgrimler, Diaconia in Christo; ser. Quaestiones Disputatae 15/16 (Herder: Freiburg im Breisgau, 1962); see pp. 285-324).  In this essay, Rahner displays a highly nominalist theology of diaconal ordination and diaconal orders.  We find him simply reversing the order of sacramental causality, reasoning as though the sacramental sign were indefinitely plastic, continually informed by concrete facticity of the empirical situation, and not by the liturgical intentionality intrinsic to every sacramental sign and therefore intrinsic to the sacramental character received at ordination, the res et sacramentum which is the effect ex opere operato of the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church by the risen Christ.

E.g., we are told that

If one bears the distinction of office and of the rite of the transmission of office clearly in mind — and if one is quite clear in one’s mind about the fact that in the very nature of things a rite of the transmission of office can “demand” celibacy only if the office to be transmitted demands it — then it will be easy to answer the question with which we are now concerned.  For the Church shows by her practice that she does not see any very close and necessary connection between the office of deacon and celibacy.  For this office exists and is transmitted in the Church without celibacy being demanded.  For, those men and office-bearers in the Church in whose case the desirability of a sacramental transmission of office is indicated here are de facto for the most part married men, and neither the official Church nor people in the Church have ever maintained or felt any incompatibility or inconvenience in the co-existence of this office in recent centuries or at the present time.

Throughout this widely-published article, Rahner expressly presupposes that the service rendered by the participation of married laymen in the Church’s mission is the concrete exercise of a factual if anonymous diaconate which, as anonymous, can only have arisen and been transmitted nonsacramentally: we have seen him speak nonchalantly of deacons as

those men and office-bearers in the Church in whose case the desirability of a sacramental transmission of office is indicated here.  (emphasis added)

For Rahner, clearly enough, the meaning of the diaconal office is controlled by the pragmatics of its quite anonymous exercise.  This entirely gratuitous presupposition controls his analysis.  In view of the presupposed “de facto” situation, ordination to the diaconate, as he argues, must now conform to what that “diaconate” already is, by virtue of its supposedly de facto ongoing transmission and exercise by married laymen.  Every significant question is begged.

Rahner’s reasoning discounts a priori the sacramental efficacy ex opere operato of ordination to the diaconate, and reduces the Church’s liturgical worship to that level of historical anonymity which will support the article’s major premise of an anonymously transmitted diaconate already in existence as a matter of hard fact: i.e., pragmatically.  There is no reason for limiting his rational to the diaconate.

Consequently, for Rahner, the sacramental sign of diaconal orders is intrinsically empty, devoid of any intrinsic intelligibility and so without any intrinsic sacramental efficacy, for that intelligibility, and therefore that efficacy, according to Rahner’s postulate, have already been supplied ab extra, pragmatically and “anonymously” by the de facto historical situation.

To accept this rationale is to accept ordination sola fide; the diaconal Order can have nothing to do with the sacramental realism which specifies Catholicism, nor can any of those office-bearers in the Church in whose case the “desirability of a sacramental transmission of office is indicated”.

We need not here repeat nor enlarge upon the sharp criticism already made of Rahner’s sacramental theology: for a celebrated instance of that criticism, see William A. Van Roo, S.J., “Reflections on Karl Rahner’s “Kirche und Sakramente”,” Gregorianum 44 (1963) 465-500.  The same sacramental nominalism as Rahner then endorsed now serves such organizations as CORPUS with respect to their dismissal of any need for priestly celibacy, and such organizations as the Women’s Ordination Conference with respect to their dismissal of any need for priestly masculinity, or indeed for the priesthood as defined by the Council of Trent.

Summarily, those theologians and bishops favoring the restoration of the permanent diaconate as noncelibate generally understood celibacy to be a merely disciplinary usage, advantageous under past circumstances but without intrinsic significance for the diaconate, and a matter therefore dispensable for practical purposes.  The dropping of this supposedly extrinsic disciplinary requirement was dealt with by them simply as the quite acceptable and necessary price to be paid for supposedly pastoral ends — which were recited at length by some dozen contributors to the last section of the Diaconia in Christo.  It is fairly evident that when celibacy is understood to be merely a disciplinary matter, its waiver is eo ipso the waiver of continence in the married deacon: any other view must derive from something more than an extrinsic disciplinary usage.

The conciliar Fathers’ unconcern for the doctrinal weight of the ancient tradition of diaconal celibacy, and for any doctrinal import which the restoration of the permanent diaconate as noncontinent might have, was not uncommon.  While those favoring the restoration often stressed also the doctrinal character of the close association of the diaconate with the priesthood and the episcopacy, this association contributed little to the discussion.  The novel association of the restored diaconate with marriage and the exercise of marital intercourse by married deacons was much more in view, however uncritically, as the language, already cited, of the “Formal Request” of the Original Deacon Circle reveals:

the Church is also stressing more and more today the witnessing power of the sacrament of matrimony as a sign of Christ’s union with his Church and as a means of sanctification in the world.

From the perspective afforded by the passage of more than thirty years, it may be said that the hopes placed in such a “diaconate” as Rahner, the authors contributing to the final section of Diaconia in Christo, and “The Original Deacon Circle” envisaged, have not been fulfilled, whether in the First World or in the Third.  An anonymous diaconate is finally imperceptible, which is to say, fictive.  An anonymous diaconate cannot but vanish from history, for it has no sacramental objectivity, no character given ex opere operato by the efficacious sacramental sign that is ordination to the diaconal service of the altar, and can only be imperceptible to, and thus without impact upon, the secularity of the world.  If the restoration of the permanent diaconate is to be efficacious in those dioceses which elect it, such restoration can be realized only by a return to the Catholic tradition, and to a fuller appreciation of the sacramental, liturgical, and apostolic specificity of the diaconate than was in evidence among those discussing its renewal at Vatican II, or has been in evidence since.

Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 44/3, Autumn 2012, 43-45, Letters to the Editor




Many thanks to you and to Barton T. Geger, SJ., for the Summer 2012 number of STUDIES, The First First Companions. We have waited so patiently for this topic to be addressed with such detail.

William V. Bangert gives us scarcely three sentences about the “first first” companions, and Barton T. Geger gives us thirty-eight pages, for which he deserves praise. Let us hope the next contribution to this fascinating, under- researched theme will be four hundred pages in length in any language.

One concern. There may be just a whiff of it, and it may not be conscious, but Father Geger seems to accommodate himself to the Protestant-dominated historiography of the Reformation. Reformation history has nowadays become decidedly critical of the Protestant truth claims of Saint Ignatius’s day and beyond. Perhaps Geger is needlessly casual when he mentions two precise symbols of “Catholic corruption” — the Old Orders and the Inquisitions. There are implications for these symbols.

We read on page 5: “… widespread among the faithful at this time was hope of a grass-roots reform movement in the Church, one untainted by associations with canonical religious life, which suffered from a reputation for laxity and decline.” Again on pages 2 and 5, he writes that some Illuminati were sentenced to burning at the stake, or that Ignatius himself might burn at the stake (p. 19). These assertions if taken without explanation may serve to mask the complex architecture of penalties possible in a Roman legal system. Due to Roman law, it was a lot harder to get burnt at the stake than we may think. Calvinists in Geneva had no moderating Roman law and did more heretic burning and witch burning than the Catholics did in Spain.

The Roman Church in England and in Spain did not need a deep reform as alleged by traditional Protestant propaganda. In regard to Germany, Hubert Jedin wrote that the Catholics were winning the debates on the subject of the Bible by the 1530s. No sane person could charge that the Bible was chained for the purpose of keeping it from the people.

Indeed it is difficult in the English speaking world to get beyond the Protestant position concerning Catholic corruption in faith and morals in the sixteenth century. This viewpoint dominated our current legacy for a very long period of time — for example, misrepresenting the history of the inquisitions and the Old Orders, what Geger refers to as “canonical religious life.” In his Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (2009), Eamon Duffy exposes the “myth” of the corruption of the Old Orders.

Likewise, secular historians with no particular religious allegiance have emerged to reconsider the inquisitions seriously beginning in 1965 with Edward Peters’s Inquisition and continuing with Helen Rawlings and other inquisition specialists, including Henry Kamen.

I highlighted this inquisition scholarship a bit while reviewing God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy (posted on Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight as “Hysterical Anti-Catholic History” [February 23, 2012]; posted on Homiletic and Pastoral Review, March 7, 2012); also in my The Inquisitions of History. The Mythology and the Reality (posted on Ignatius Insight, April 29, 2008; revised abridged version posted on Roma Locuta Est, January 13, 2012).

We are digging out from under the rubble of Protestant-driven biases about the virtues of the Reformation, especially in the English-speaking world, where those old biases are so popularized. Brad S. Gregory in The Unintended Reformation (2012) rejects any positive view of the Reform. Younger than Christopher Dawson, who decades ago tried to dispel the misleading appellation “the dark ages” in favor of an enriched understanding of the Catholic formation of Europe, Gregory has significantly helped our thinking since the appearance of his book earlier this year.

Now Eamon Duffy has just published “The Story of the Reformation Needs Reforming,” which is definitely worth our earnest study and attention at http:/ / 9350681 / The-story-of-the -Reformation-needs-reforming.html.

An aggressive annihilation of the medieval religious synthesis brought us to our present desperate straits, as Charles Taylor put forth in his Secular Age (2007). Let us assimilate newer findings to correct the record for Catholic truth claims, notably for the era of our Holy Founder.

In a Fallen World there will be ecclesiastical corruption, but how is it to be measured?

Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan


I wish to note two errors in my essay “The First First Companions.” On page 25, I asserted that Simon Rodrigues (d. 1579) outlived all the other companions, when in fact the last survivor was Nicolás Bobadilla (d. 1590). And on page 5, note 16, the citation should read “Auto 75.”

Brian Van Hove, SJ., has written a thoughtful response, in which he suggests that references to Ignatius’s peril at the hands of the Inquisition were perhaps a bit overdone; the result of my having played unwittingly into a long-standing distortion of Protestant historiography.

I am not especially well read on the history of the Inquisition, and so I take in good stead–and consider quite plausible–the possibility that Father Van Hove is correct about the historical bias. I leave that to the experts.

Did I increase the drama by making Ignatius sound closer to the stake than he really was? To be sure, it is difficult to know just how close he came. The fact that he was investigated eight times by the Inquisition, that public knowledge of those investigations preceded him from Spain to Paris to Italy, and that some of his followers fled during the Roman crisis, are all suggestive. But most notable is “Autobiography,” no. 59, in which Ignatius and Figueroa warn each other about the possibility of being burned at the stake. Figueroa was Vicar General in Alcalá for the Archbishop of Toledo, and repeatedly assisted in the investigations of Ignatius. So the very fact that Ignatius would say something like that to Figueroa was meant to imply that the times were dangerous, and no one was safe. Curiously enough, despite Ignatius’s own problems with the inquisitors, he continued to value their work, and he even brought lapsed Catholics to them to be reconciled to the Church. Hence, I doubt that he was being casual when he related the exchange with Figueroa in the “Autobiography,” a text which (it is always important to remember) was written for the edification of future Jesuits. Ignatius wished to communicate that he had been in real danger.

Barton Geger, S.J.
Regis University
Denver, Colo.

Re-read Martin Mosebach’s “The Heresy of Formlessness”

The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy
by Martin Mosebach
translated from the German by Graham Harrison
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006
Pp. 210, no index; paperback $16.95
ISBN 978-1-58617-127-8
ISBN 1-58617-127-5
LCCN 2005938824
Review-Essay by Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan
Posted on Ignatius Insight 21 May 2008

Martin Mosebach writes to convince the reader of the spiritual superiority of the classical rite, the Mass of the missal of 1962. With the talent of an artist and a dedication to Jesus Christ, he tells the story.

The church is torn by a civil war over liturgy. Some hold that the reform did not cut deep enough, that yet more radical adaptation and accommodation are needed. Others think the reform can be reformed, and in this camp we include the pope and the policy of Ignatius Press. There are those who believe that only the old rites, restored fully and integrally, provide the solution to the crisis. And of course a large number of Catholics are apathetic and accept the present situation uncritically (and unthinkingly).

Mosebach chooses the path of restoration, and he does so with quality, intelligence and sophistication. He is a thoughtful religious man of a type hardly found any longer inEurope. His meditation on Mary, chapter eight, is enough to prove that. His essay “Revelation through Veiling in the Old Roman Catholic Liturgy” (pp. 161-173) is a work of religious art.

Louis XIV was crowned in 1654. It was said nobody at court in theRheimscathedral understood the rare liturgy for the coronation of a king. The masters of ceremonies just followed the prescriptions set down from time immemorial. They assigned seven archdeacons to stand here, and seven archpriests to stand there, and so on. The choreography was perfect, and no ingredient was left out of the complicated recipe. The music was excellent. The new king was anointed. Everybody knew he was crowned, and everybody had a sense of the sublimity of the occasion. Even so, later proponents of liturgical reform would criticize such a liturgy on the basis that only a few technician-clerics engaged in any kind of “active participation”.

Mosebach rejects such an analysis as a caricature. Without mentioning it by name, he would insist that this particular liturgy carried the soul aloft, despite any alleged lack of rational grip on the archaic rite. Prayer and rationality are two wings of a bird, two distinct modes of understanding. Only when the holy is concealed is it revealed. A “see-through glass chalice” is a contradiction in terms.

The author makes no reference to Catherine Pickstock, but in After Writing (1998) Pickstock lamented that owing toTrent, and especially to the historical work and interpretation of Josef Jungmann (1889-1975), the Tridentine liturgy became highly rationalized, and this rationalism broke with the medievalMass. Her explanation was complex, but she was not a believing Catholic, and Jungmann definitely was. Jungmann accepted transubstantiation and sacramental realism, whereas it is unknown what Pickstock really believed. While Mosebach disagrees with the post-Reformation Jesuits who introduced dominating vernacular hymns into the liturgy in Catholic Germany (pp. 42-43), he is not inclined toward Pickstock’s philosophical evaluation of the rite so mildly revised afterTrent. As an orthodox, believing Catholic, he is not her ally. Let traditionalists on this side of the ocean know that.

Mosebach opposes the idea that the missal ofTrentwas a break with medieval ritual and symbology. If he follows any contemporary writer on the subject, it is Klaus Gamber (1919-1989) who decades ago exposed the faulty archaeology and weak liturgical history upon which the reform was built. (p. 32) It is the missal of 1969 which is the product of pure rationalism, not the missal of 1962 which the author prefers to call “The Mass of St. Gregory the Great”.

The First Liturgical Movement (1860-1960) called for clarity and simplicity in the rites. In that precise historical setting this was something good and needed, so the argument went. Such a call was not then doctrinal in nature. On the contrary, the movement hoped that doctrine would become better understood through uncluttered liturgy when the ancient beauty of the church could be seen for what it was. Scraping off the accretions was claimed to help the ship sail faster.

A pity the dream of the older generation of scholars, especially Jungmann and a host of Benedictines inEuropeandNorth America, was incrementally hijacked by a dedicated cadre during and after Vatican II. Can anyone say that transubstantiation was understood by the average member of the church in 1980 better than in 1950? Paul VI had to issue an encyclical defending it! (“Mysterium Fidei”, 1965).

Mosebach’s list of German-speaking culprits in this saga of liturgical reform differs from our list, but for us here inNorth Americawe count McManus, Dieckmann, Funk, Mitchell, Empereur, Hovda and Huck among the best known “modern liturgy” and “celebrational style” practitioners. The historic break between Rembert Weakland and Richard Schuler shows that at least a few, like Schuler of St. Agnes inMinneapolis, offered resistance in the worst decades since the council. Like Michael Davies in the English-speaking world, Mosebach blames the dark side of the reform on Pope Paul VI (pp. 24, 91, 115); unlike Davies, Mosebach does not focus on the role of Annibale Bugnini. The author is obviously critical of the German episcopal conference. (p. 63) These and other bishops went well beyond the reform introduced by Paul VI. (p. 172)

Thus, we can now speak of “going back” to the reform of Paul VI! The real reform of the reform may just be the original reform intended by the council and the pope.

In Europe, both Louis Bouyer and Hubert Jedin in 1968 and 1969 publicly objected to the reform process directed by Annibale Bugnini, but they were ignored. (Bugnini did not leave Rome until 1975—it should be remembered by us readers that Frederick R. McManus wrote the lines found on the dust jacket for the English translation of Bugnini’s personal account of his role in the reform.)

Privately, Jungmann denounced the altar “versus populum” (or “coram populo”) as an aberration. Later, under his own name Gamber took the same position.

In 2003 Lauren Pristas analyzed the Latin of the revised Mass (and since then of other revised rites). While not using the expression herself, she concluded that it consists of “junk Latin”. (“Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal [1970]” in The Thomist 67 [2003]: 157-195). An exception is Eucharistic Prayer IV which was composed in a much finer Latin. Here Mosebach rejoins that what matters is that such texts are “received”, not “composed”.

A surprising number of motivated reformers promoted a conscious, deliberate rupture with our liturgical past. They quietly ignored the principle of organic development, though this principle was an official one. A stubborn, misguided and iconoclastic anti-traditionalism created an unnecessary catastrophe. Contempt for the old rites was mood-driven and self-conscious.

In chapter four Mosebach gives a vivid example of exactly how the iconoclasm unfolded in 1968 in Neuenheim nearHeidelberg. The cameo-like story is familiar to all of us who lived through that time. It was the same inIowaorOntario. Mosebach shows his knowledge of art history in order to explain the deeper philosophy behind iconoclasm. The destruction of the interior of the parish church at Neuenheim is heartbreaking.

The Benedictine monastery of Fontgombault in France is the living ideal of liturgical spirituality for the author. He does not mention that a very high percentage of the monks are Americans, and probably he does not know that the monastery happily celebrated the Novus Ordo Missae in Latin until the abbot imposed the old rite on the monastic community in the 1980s. The abbot made the point that it was the rite of his ancestors who died in the French Revolution. Many say that the abbot was influential in gaining the indults associated with the Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, though Mosebach himself does not say this. He idealizes the monastery’s every detail, which will cause some readers to be suspicious. No place can be “that” perfect, and one is reminded of the axiom “the only perfect liturgy is in heaven”. But the affairs of Fontgombault are the exception.

Nearly everywhere, the Mass today fails to unite Latin Rite Catholics, even juridically. Liturgical law is rejected, ignored or paid mere lip service by the modernizers (whom Mosebach calls “late Catholic Puritans”―p. 135) who always know more than the Church. Some years ago, reformers replaced the older formalism and legalism with the formlessness decried by Mosebach in his book’s title. Formlessness is the enemy. (For an articulate discussion of what he means by the contemporary rebellion against “form”, see pp. 104-106; 147). A denial of beauty produces formlessness. Formlessness is a heresy when it refuses certain revealed truths. They are mediated by material, concrete signs and symbols which are in themselves beautiful. In a word, Mosebach is preaching sacramentalism. Loss of form means loss of content! (p. 206)

On the other side, most of the antiquarianism Martin Mosebach so well understands is lost on contemporary Catholics, as it was said to have been lost on the French court in 1654. People know too little of their own church history and they have already for too long been deprived of their liturgical tradition. Those who still go to Mass in the industrialized West are minimally catechized. Perhaps it was always this way, everywhere. The elite with Mosebach’s level of erudition could be stuffed into a telephone booth, as a professional liturgiologist once expressed it.

But Mosebach rejects that line of thinking. He tells from his own experience how today simple South German women instinctively, without instruction, wash the purificators after an old rite Mass. Seemingly for him, things would naturally fall back into place when the old rite is restored universally. (pp. 28-29) However, he is pessimistic that this will happen soon. (p. 73)

In our culture wars―broader than the narrower Catholic liturgical crisis―a few voices have been raised to promote and defend beauty. Beginning with Dostoevsky, renewed by Solzhenitsyn, and expressed by Gregory Wolfe, the tradition is formulated in the phrase, “beauty will save the world”. (Gregory Wolfe, “Beauty Will Save the World” in The Intercollegiate Review 27:1 [Fall 1991]: 27-31). Using different vocabulary, Mosebach subscribes to this cry. His chapter six is named “Liturgy is Art”. “Christ desired to make his sacrifice ever-present, and so he poured it into the shape of liturgical art.” (p. 111) The liturgy is like a finished sculpture―all it needs is unveiling.

But practically, what to do? Pastors need a strategy. Mosebach argues that the liturgy itself is the strategy. Of itself it will bring light and salvation. The liturgy “is not a human artifact but something given, something revealed.” (p. 71)

So what went wrong with the reform? We know that after the Second Vatican Council the church lacked pastoral liturgists. Nobody knew what to do, and nobody knew how to implement the norms found in the revised books. The mood of the times was unstable and anti-institutional. Liturgy became highly politicized. What filled the vacuum left by an older certitude was confusion, fashion, whim, ephemeral enthusiasm, and then a surprising agenda to abolish the sacrificial nature of the Mass.A prominent theologian said in this reviewer’s hearing: “I am no longer able even to pronounce the word ‘sacrifice’.” Thus a “protestant-fellowship-meal” resulted from too much talk about banquets. What ensued was a doctrinal battle. Just a bit earlier, this state of affairs was unthinkable.

Horror and devastation remain. Ugliness and confusion reign. With the symbolic language interrupted and its sweet speech broken off, the mystery is reduced to wordiness and meaningless motion and chatter. Aroma therapy is more exciting to some than the holiness of the Mass.

Unbelievers or secular art historians, who happen to visit our churches, remark about the vulgarity and banality. Those from other liturgical traditions which have not degraded as completely, scoff at the debris of what once was the Roman Rite. The “New Mass” is unhesitatingly thought to be something absolutely distinct from the old, even if, in some instances, the new rite is celebrated with concern for aesthetic detail and perfection. Those instances may be found more inEurope, of course, than inNorth Americawhere a greater tolerance for philistinism is acceptable.

Everyone knows from the 1950s that the old rite was usually celebrated in a perfunctory, mechanical manner. (pp. 38-39) Mosebach adds that at least it had potential, whereas the new rite is so deeply flawed that it has no similar potential. One cannot “invent new forms” and expect them to succeed. This is not exactly what happened with the Missal of Paul VI, but it is very close. Those favoring the “reform of the reform” are well advised to make the new rite look as much as possible like the old rite, or face extinction. The lefebvrists think they are the true church, and that the “novus ordo” church will eventually disappear. The Western Rite Orthodox use the most archaic rites possible.

Mosebach’s insights are precious and serious, but he gives no blueprint about how to educate our people in beauty. Yes, one of the first acts of the new pope after his election was to restore Latin to St. Peter’s Basilica in 2005. But his efforts, including the ideas in his books from the 1990s, have not trickled down to parishes in California or Michigan (or Bavaria) where the “new rite” is carelessly and sloppily performed.

In fact, Ratzinger’s books on the liturgy were received with outright hostility in places where, of course, nobody ever expected him to become pope. They shuddered in their boots on the day of his election as it was no secret he would be “the liturgy pope”. In 1992, writing in the preface to the French edition of a book by Klaus Gamber, Ratzinger took the position Mosebach takes in judging the missal of 1969― “a liturgy that had grown organically had been pushed aside in favor of a fabricated liturgy”. (p. 192)

In a short time, the situation in most parishes may become desperately irreformable, so total is the rupture with the heritage of the old rite(s). The “sit down” masses among aging, graying Religious illustrate the finality of this rupture and the abject failure of the official reform. Mosebach says, “A detailed study would be required to show why, for the Catholic Church, an attack on her rites has almost fatal consequences―but space forbids.” (p. 192)

Mosebach’s criticism of the reform employs an underlying philosophy of liturgy. He rejects the very concept of liturgical reform. (p .34) “We are constantly being astounded by the reform introduced by Jesus Christ―the only reform that deserves this name.” (p. 70) We do not shape the liturgy. Rather, the liturgy shapes us. This may be easily understood by his reference to Pavel Florensky, the Russian priest executed by the Communists in 1937.

Eastern churches shun the temporal and locate their worship in eternity. The Divine Liturgy is not made by human hands, and neither hierarchs nor scholars may tinker with it―goes their thinking and that of Mosebach― “academic answers are completely useless in questions of liturgy”. (p. 30; 35) Sacred Tradition formed the Liturgy, and only the Holy Spirit can change it, not bureaucrats inRome, much less diocesan dim-lights. Mosebach is suspicious of bogus scholarship which has been used to promote an agenda. The Eastern Church provides a model of failure when the reforming Patriarch Nikon (1605-1681) was responsible for the Old Ritualist schism in Russia.

The Orthodox Church is rooted in Christian Platonism. The Orthodox Liturgy is described as an ontology, something true in itself, seen in this imperfect world imperfectly, but faithfully representing and accessing our goal in the Heavenly Liturgy. Mosebach favors something like this view for the Roman Liturgy―“We can say that, like Jesus, it is ‘begotten, not created’.” (p. 35) Or again, “Since Holy Mass had no author, since a precise date could be allotted to practically none of its parts―as to when it originated and when it was finally and universally incorporated into the Mass―… it was something eternal, not made by human hands.” (p. 35) In the chapter on the physical structure of the liturgical books themselves, there is a touching passage explaining the celebrant’s submission to the traditional order of prayer as something not made by him, as something given or received. (pp. 200-201) The Book of Seven Seals is the missal, the church’s revealed worship! (p. 209)

In our church few have written from this point of view, not even Klaus Gamber who was no friend of the official reform. Mosebach appeals to him for aid to build his case. The Roman Rite, and liturgy in the West more generally, have traditionally been regulated by pontifical legislation, not one-sided organic evolution. Attila Miklósházy wrote about the “theological foundations” for liturgical renewal and this assumed both the orthodoxy and the need for prayer reform.

We all knew the role of conciliar and pontifical legislation when a post-Tridentine pope suppressed local liturgies inEurope. Very few survived the reform of Pius V—the Mozarabic and Ambrosian Rites are still living, but barely. The old Celtic liturgies vanished. The Old Sarum Usage disappeared from the life of the church. It is known only to scholarly specialists.

If a liturgy is an “ontology”, no pope could abolish it. But rites were indeed suppressed by ecclesiastical authority. Mosebach minimizes this history, though he claims to have done his homework. (pp. 25; 32). He knows about the “two-track” history of parts of the old Mass, and this shows a higher degree of historical knowledge than most amateurs. (pp. 42; 52)

He does not mention that the missal of 1962 already shows sign of pontifical reform because, for the first time in the history of the Roman Missal, the rubrics were minutely codified and systematized. This codification by the Congregation of Rites undoubtedly was an effect of the First Liturgical Movement and Pius XII’s “Mediator Dei”.

Yet, Mosebach presents an airtight case for restoration. Once you enter through his door, it will shut behind you, and you are inside his liturgical world. He writes this meditation for the young, for priests and seminarians of the next generation seeking relief from the conflict of our vexing civil war. He writes for those who find the liturgy a difficult burden. He writes for the whole church, though he is forced to say the prospects for a liturgical Christianity are poor. (p. 72)

Our hunger and thirst for beauty will never leave us. There is hope for the future because of the way we are made. We are made for beauty. Superficiality and ugliness are a choice, not an inevitability. Some of Mosebach’s deepest insights, what might be called his spirituality, must be part of that future in the church. Perhaps there is more reason to hope than Mosebach is willing to admit. Only “perhaps”.

In the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 22, we read that the book of the law was lost in the rubble of the temple. When later it was found, it was presented to King Josiah who rent his garments out of grief.

If Mosebach is correct, something analogous to this exaltation can happen when our youth discover the enduring Mass which is “ever old and ever new”. “I take up the old Missal as if I had found it on some deserted beach. I open it and enter into its rich and ordered life, full of meaning. Here is the standard.” (p. 49)

On Saturday, 7 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter, “Summorum Pontificum”, on the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962. Martin Mosebach might reply that this is only the beginning.

Posted on Ignatius Insight 21 May 2008

The Xinjiang Procedure: Published in The Weekly Standard (

Where have all the Uighurs gone?

The Xinjiang Procedure:  Beijing’s ‘New Frontier’ is ground zero for the organ harvesting of political prisoners.

Ethan Gutmann
December 5, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 12

To figure out what is taking place today in a closed society such as northwest China, sometimes you have to go back a decade, sometimes more.

One clue might be found on a hilltop near southern Guangzhou, on a partly cloudy autumn day in 1991. A small medical team and a young doctor starting a practice in internal medicine had driven up from SunYat-sen Medical University in a van modified for surgery. Pulling in on bulldozed earth, they found a small fleet of similar vehicles—clean, white,with smoked glass windows and prominent red crosses on the side. The policehad ordered the medical team to stay inside for their safety. Indeed, the view from the side window of lines of ditches—some filled in, others freshly dug—suggested that the hilltop had served as a killing ground for years.

Thirty-six scheduled executions would translate into 72 kidneys and corneas divided among the regional hospitals. Every van contained surgeons who could work fast: 15-30 minutes to extract. Drive back to the hospital. Transplant within six hours. Nothing fancy or experimental; execution would probably ruin the heart.

With the acceleration of Chinese medical expertise over the last decade, organs once considered scraps no longer went to waste. It wasn’t public knowledge exactly, but Chinese medical schools taught that many otherwise wicked criminals volunteered their organs as a final penance.

Right after the first shots the van door was thrust openand two men with white surgical coats thrown over their uniforms carried a body in, the head and feet still twitching slightly. The young doctor noted that the wound was on the right side of the chest as he had expected. When body #3 was laid down, he went to work.

Male, 40-ish, Han Chinese. While the other retail organs in the van were slated for the profitable foreigner market, the doctor had seen the paperwork indicating this kidney was tissue-matched for transplant into a 50-year-old Chinese man. Without the transplant,that man would die. With it, the same man would rise miraculously from his hospital bed and go on to have a normal life for 25 years or so. By 2016,  given all the anti-tissue-rejection drug advances in China, they could theoretically replace the liver, lungs, or heart—maybe buy that man another 10 to 15 years.

Body #3 had no special characteristics save an angry purple line on the neck. The doctor recognized the forensics. Sometimes the police would twist a wire around a prisoner’s throat to prevent him from speakingup in court. The doctor thought it through methodically. Maybe the police didn’t want this prisoner to talk because he had been a deranged killer, a thug, or mentally unstable. After all, the Chinese penal system was a daily sausage grinder, executing hard core criminals on a massive scale. Yes, the young doctor knew the harvesting was wrong. Whatever crime had been committed, it would be nice if the prisoner’s body were allowed to rest forever. Yet was his surgical task that different from an obstetrician’s? Harvesting was rebirth, harvesting was life, as revolutionary an advance as antibiotics or steroids. Or maybe, he thought, they didn’t want this man to talk because he was a political prisoner.

Nineteen years later, in a secure European location, thedoctor laid out the puzzle. He asked that I keep his identity a secret.Chinese medical authorities admit that the lion’s share of transplantorgans originate with executions, but no mainland Chinese doctors, evenin exile, will normally speak of performing such surgery. To do so wouldremind international medical authorities of an issue they would ratheravoid—not China’s soaring execution rate or the exploitation of criminalorgans, but rather the systematic elimination of China’s religious andpolitical prisoners. Yet even if this doctor feared consequences to his family and his career, he did not fear embarrassing China, for he was born into an indigenous minority group, the Uighurs.

Every Uighur witness I approached over the course of two years—police, medical, and security personnel scattered across two continents—related compartmentalized fragments of information to me, often through halting translation. They acknowledged the risk to their careers, their families, and, in several cases, their lives. Their testimony reveals not just aprocedure evolving to meet the lucrative medical demand for living organs, but the genesis of a wider atrocity.

Behind closed doors, the Uighurs call their vast region in China’s northwest corner (bordering on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan,Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia) East Turkestan. The Uighurs are ethnically Turkic, not East Asian. They are Muslims with a smattering of Christians, and their language is more readily understood in Tashkent than in Beijing. By contrast, Beijing’s name for the so-called Autonomous Region, Xinjiang, literally translates as “new frontier.” When Mao invaded in 1949, Han Chinese constituted only 7 percent of the regional population. Following the flood of Communist party administrators, soldiers, shopkeepers, and construction corps, Han Chinese now constitute the majority. The party calculates that Xinjiang will be its top oil and natural gas productioncenter by the end of this century.

To protect this investment, Beijing traditionally depicted all Uighur nationalists—violent rebels and non-violent activists alike—as CIA proxies. Shortly after 9/11, that conspiracy theory was tossed downthe memory hole. Suddenly China was, and always has been, at war with alQaeda-led Uighur terrorists. No matter how transparently opportunisticthe switch, the American intelligence community saw an opening for Chinesecooperation in the war on terror, and signaled their acquiescence by allowingChinese state security personnel into Guantánamo to interrogate Uighurdetainees.

While it is difficult to know the strength of the claimsof the detainees’ actual connections to al Qaeda, the basic facts arethese: During the 1990s, when the Chinese drove the Uighur rebel trainingcamps from neighboring countries such as Kazakhstan and Pakistan, someUighurs fled to Afghanistan where a portion became Taliban soldiers. Andyet, if the Chinese government claims that the Uighurs constitute theirown Islamic fundamentalist problem, the fact is that I’ve never met aUighur woman who won’t shake hands or a man who won’t have a drink withme. Nor does my Jewish-sounding name appear to make anyone flinch. In oneof those vino veritas sessions, I asked a local Uighur leader if he wasable to get any sort of assistance from groups such as the Islamic HumanRights Commission (where, as I found during a brief visit to their Londonoffices, veiled women flinch from an extended male hand, drinks are forbidden,and my Jewish surname is a very big deal indeed). “Useless!” he snorted,returning to the vodka bottle.

So if Washington’s goal is to promote a reformed China, then taking Beijing’s word for who is a terrorist is to play into the party’s hands.

Xinjiang has long served as the party’s illicit laboratory: from the atmospheric nuclear testing in Lop Nur in the mid-sixties (resulting in a significant rise in cancers in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital) to the more recent creation in the Tarim Desert of what could well be the world’slargest labor camp, estimated to hold 50,000 Uighurs, hardcore criminals, and practitioners of Falun Gong. And when it comes to the first organ harvesting of political prisoners, Xinjiang was ground zero.

In 1989, not long after Nijat Abdureyimu turned 20, he graduated from Xinjiang Police School and was assigned to a special police force, Regiment No. 1 of the Urumqi Public Security Bureau. As one of the first Uighurs in a Chinese unit that specialized in “social security”—essentially squelching threats to the party—Nijat was employed as the good cop in Uighur interrogations, particularly the high-profile cases. I first met Nijat—thin, depressed, and watchful—in a crowded refugee camp on the outskirts of Rome.

Nijat explained to me that he was well aware that his Chinese colleagues kept him under constant surveillance. But Nijat presented the image they liked: the little brother with the guileless smile. By 1994 he had penetrated all of the government’s secret bastions: the detention center, its interrogation rooms, and the killing grounds. Along the way, he had witnessed his fair share of torture, executions, even a rape. So his curiosity was in the nature of professional interest when he questioned one of the Chinese cops who came back from an execution shaking his head. According to his colleague, it had been a normal procedure—the unwanted bodies kicked into a trench, the useful corpses hoisted into the harvesting vans, but then he heard something coming from a van, like a man screaming.

“Like someone was still alive?” Nijat remembers asking.“What kind of screams?”

“Like from hell.”

Nijat shrugged. The regiment had more than enough sloppiness to go around.

A few months later, three death row prisoners were being transported from detention to execution. Nijat had become friendly withone in particular, a very young man. As Nijat walked alongside, the young man turned to Nijat with eyes like saucers: “Why did you inject me?”

Nijat hadn’t injected him; the medical director had. But the director and some legal officials were watching the exchange, so Nijatlied smoothly: “It’s so you won’t feel much pain when they shoot you.”

The young man smiled faintly, and Nijat, sensing that hewould never quite forget that look, waited until the execution was over to ask the medical director: “Why did you inject him?”

“Nijat, if you can transfer to some other section, then go as soon as possible.”

“What do you mean? Doctor, exactly what kind of medicine did you inject him with?”

“Nijat, do you have any beliefs?”

“Yes. Do you?”

“It was an anti-coagulant, Nijat. And maybe we are all going to hell.”

I first met Enver Tohti—a soft-spoken, husky, Buddha of a man—through the informal Uighur network of London. I confess that my first impression was that he was just another emigré living in public housing.But Enver had a secret.

His story began on a Tuesday in June 1995, when he wasa general surgeon in an Urumqi hospital. Enver recalled an unusual conversationwith his immediate superior, the chief surgeon: “Enver, we are going todo something exciting. Have you ever done an operation in the field?”

“Not really. What do you want me to do?”

“Get a mobile team together and request an ambulance.Have everyone out front at nine tomorrow.”

On a cloudless Wednesday morning, Enver led two assistantsand an anaesthesiologist into an ambulance and followed the chief surgeon’scar out of Urumqi going west. The ambulance had a picnic atmosphere untilthey realized they were entering the Western Mountain police district,which specialized in executing political dissidents. On a dirt road bya steep hill the chief surgeon pulled off, and came back to talk to Enver:“When you hear a gunshot, drive around the hill.”

“Can you tell us why we are here?”

“Enver, if you don’t want to know, don’t ask.”

“I want to know.”

“No. You don’t want to know.”

The chief surgeon gave him a quick, hard look as he returnedto the car. Enver saw that beyond the hill there appeared to be some sortof armed police facility. People were milling about—civilians. Enver half-satiricallysuggested to the team that perhaps they were family members waiting tocollect the body and pay for the bullet, and the team responded with increasinglysick jokes to break the tension. Then they heard a gunshot, possibly avolley, and drove around to the execution field.

Focusing on not making any sudden moves as he followedthe chief surgeon’s car, Enver never really did get a good look. He brieflyregistered that there were 10, maybe 20 bodies lying at the base of thehill, but the armed police saw the ambulance and waved him over.

“This one. It’s this one.”

Sprawled on the blood-soaked ground was a man, around 30,dressed in navy blue overalls. All convicts were shaved, but this one hadlong hair.

“That’s him. We’ll operate on him.”

“Why are we operating?” Enver protested, feeling forthe artery in the man’s neck. “Come on. This man is dead.”

Enver stiffened and corrected himself. “No. He’s notdead.”

“Operate then. Remove the liver and the kidneys. Now!Quick! Be quick!”

Following the chief surgeon’s directive, the team loadedthe body into the ambulance. Enver felt himself going numb: Just cut theclothes off. Just strap the limbs to the table. Just open the body. Hekept making attempts to follow normal procedure—sterilize, minimal exposure,sketch the cut. Enver glanced questioningly at the chief surgeon. “Noanaesthesia,” said the chief surgeon. “No life support.”

The anaesthesiologist just stood there, arms folded—likesome sort of ignorant peasant, Enver thought. Enver barked at him. “Whydon’t you do something?”

“What exactly should I do, Enver? He’s already unconscious.If you cut, he’s not going to respond.”

But there was a response. As Enver’s scalpel went in,the man’s chest heaved spasmodically and then curled back again. Enver,a little frantic now, turned to the chief surgeon. “How far in shouldI cut?”

“You cut as wide and deep as possible. We are workingagainst time.”

Enver worked fast, not bothering with clamps, cutting withhis right hand, moving muscle and soft tissue aside with his left, slowingdown only to make sure he excised the kidneys and liver cleanly. Even asEnver stitched the man back up—not internally, there was no point to thatanymore, just so the body might look presentable—he sensed the man wasstill alive. I am a killer, Enver screamed inwardly. He did not dare tolook at the face again, just as he imagined a killer would avoid lookingat his victim.

The team drove back to Urumqi in silence.

On Thursday, the chief surgeon confronted Enver: “So.Yesterday. Did anything happen? Yesterday was a usual, normal day. Yes?”

Enver said yes, and it took years for him to understandthat live organs had lower rejection rates in the new host, or that thebullet to the chest had—other than that first sickening lurch—acted likesome sort of magical anaesthesia. He had done what he could; he had stitchedthe body back neatly for the family. And 15 years would elapse before Enverrevealed what had happened that Wednesday.

As for Nijat, it wasn’t until 1996 that he put it together.

It happened just about midnight, well after the cell blocklights were turned off. Nijat found himself hanging out in the detentioncompound’s administrative office with the medical director. Followinga pause in the conversation, the director, in an odd voice, asked Nijatif he thought the place was haunted.

“Maybe it feels a little weird at night,” Nijat answered.“Why do you think that?”

“Because too many people have been killed here. And forall the wrong reasons.”

Nijat finally understood. The anticoagulant. The expensive“execution meals” for the regiment following a trip to the killing ground.The plainclothes agents in the cells who persuaded the prisoners to signstatements donating their organs to the state. And now the medical directorwas confirming it all: Those statements were real. They just didn’t takeaccount of the fact that the prisoners would still be alive when they werecut up.

“Nijat, we really are going to hell.”

Nijat nodded, pulled on his beer, and didn’t bother tosmile.

On February 2, 1997, Bahtiyar Shemshidin began wonderingwhether he was a policeman in name only. Two years before, the ChinesePublic Security Bureau of the Western city of Ghulja recruited Bahtiyarfor the drug enforcement division. It was a natural fit because Bahtiyarwas tall, good-looking, and exuded effortless Uighur authority. Bahtiyarwould ultimately make his way to Canada and freedom, but he had no troublerecalling his initial idealism; back then, Bahtiyar did not see himselfas a Chinese collaborator but as an emergency responder.

For several years, heroin addiction had been creeping throughthe neighborhoods of Ghulja, striking down young Uighurs like a medievalplague. Yet inside the force, Bahtiyar quickly grasped that the Chineseheroin cartel was quietly protected, if not encouraged, by the authorities.Even his recruitment was a bait-and-switch. Instead of sending him afterdrug dealers, his Chinese superiors ordered him to investigate the Meshrep—atraditional Muslim get-together promoting clean living, sports, and Uighurmusic and dance. If the Meshrep had flowered like a traditional herbalremedy against the opiate invader, the Chinese authorities read it as adisguised attack on the Chinese state.

In early January 1997, on the eve of Ramadan, the entireGhulja police force—Uighurs and Chinese alike—were suddenly ordered tosurrender their guns “for inspection.” Now, almost a month later, theweapons were being released. But Bahtiyar’s gun was held back. Bahtiyarwent to the Chinese bureaucrat who controlled supplies and asked afterit. “Your gun has a problem,” Bahtiyar was told.

“When will you fix the problem?”

The bureaucrat shrugged, glanced at his list, and lookedup at Bahtiyar with an unblinking stare that said: It is time for you togo. By the end of the day, Bahtiyar got it: Every Chinese officer had agun. Every Uighur officer’s gun had a problem.

Three days later, Bahtiyar understood why. On February5, approximately 1,000 Uighurs gathered in the center of Ghulja. The daybefore, the Chinese authorities arrested (and, it was claimed, severelyabused) six women, all Muslim teachers, all participants in the Meshrep.The young men came without their winter coats to show they were unarmed,but, planned or unplanned, the Chinese police fired on the demonstrators.

Casualty counts of what is known as the Ghulja incidentremain shaky. Bahtiyar recalls internal police estimates of 400 dead, buthe didn’t see it; all Uighur policemen had been sent to the local jail“to interrogate prisoners” and were locked in the compound throughoutthe crisis. However, Bahtiyar did see Uighurs herded into the compoundand thrown naked onto the snow—some bleeding, others with internal injuries.Ghulja’s main Uighur clinic was effectively shut down when a squad ofChinese special police arrested 10 of the doctors and destroyed the clinic’sambulance. As the arrests mounted by late April, the jail became hopelesslyovercrowded, and Uighur political prisoners were selected for daily executions.On April 24, Bahtiyar’s colleagues witnessed the killing of eight politicalprisoners; what struck them was the presence of doctors in “special vansfor harvesting organs.”

In Europe I spoke with a nurse who worked in a major Ghuljahospital following the incident. Nervously requesting that I provide nopersonal details, she told me that the hospitals were forbidden to treatUighur protesters. A doctor who bandaged an arm received a 15-year sentence,while another got 20 years, and hospital staff were told, “If you treatsomeone, you will get the same result.” The separation between the Uighurand Chinese medical personnel deepened: Chinese doctors would stockpileprescriptions rather than allow Uighur medical staff a key to the pharmacy,while Uighur patients were receiving 50 percent of their usual doses. Ifa Uighur couple had a second child, even if the birth was legally sanctioned,Chinese maternity doctors, she observed, administered an injection (describedas an antibiotic) to the infant. The nurse could not recall a single instanceof the same injection given to a Chinese baby. Within three days the infantwould turn blue and die. Chinese staffers offered a rote explanation toUighur mothers: Your baby was too weak, your baby could not handle thedrug.

Shortly after the Ghulja incident, a young Uighur protester’sbody returned home from a military hospital. Perhaps the fact that theabdomen was stitched up was just evidence of an autopsy, but it sparkedanother round of riots. After that, the corpses were wrapped, buried atgunpoint, and Chinese soldiers patrolled the cemeteries (one is not farfrom the current Urumqi airport). By June, the nurse was pulled into anew case: A young Uighur protester had been arrested and beaten severely.His family paid for his release, only to discover that their son had kidneydamage. The family was told to visit a Chinese military hospital in Urumqiwhere the hospital staff laid it out: One kidney, 30,000 RMB (roughly $4,700).The kidney will be healthy, they were assured, because the transplant wasto come from a 21-year-old Uighur male—the same profile as their son.The nurse learned that the “donor” was, in fact, a protester.

In the early autumn of 1997, fresh out of a blood-worktour in rural Xinjiang, a young Uighur doctor—let’s call him Murat—waspursuing a promising medical career in a large Urumqi hospital. Two yearslater he was planning his escape to Europe, where I met him some yearsafter.

One day Murat’s instructor quietly informed him that fiveChinese government officials—big guys, party members—had checked intothe hospital with organ problems. Now he had a job for Murat: “Go to theUrumqi prison. The political wing, not the criminal side. Take blood samples.Small ones. Just to map out the different blood types. That’s all youhave to do.”

“What about tissue matching?”

“Don’t worry about any of that, Murat. We’ll handlethat later. Just map out the blood types.”

Clutching the authorization, and accompanied by an assistantfrom the hospital, Murat, slight and bookish, found himself facing approximately15 prisoners, mostly tough-guy Uighurs in their late twenties. As the firstprisoner sat down and saw the needle, the pleading began.

“You are a Uighur like me. Why are you going to hurt me?”

“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just taking blood.”

At the word “blood,” everything collapsed. The men howledand stampeded, the guards screaming and shoving them back into line. Theprisoner shrieked that he was innocent. The Chinese guards grabbed hisneck and squeezed it hard.

“It’s just for your health,” Murat said evenly, suddenlyaware the hospital functionary was probably watching to make sure thatMurat wasn’t too sympathetic. “It’s just for your health,” Murat saidagain and again as he drew blood.

When Murat returned to the hospital, he asked the instructor,“Were all those prisoners sentenced to death?”

“That’s right, Murat, that’s right. Yes. Just don’task any more questions. They are bad people—enemies of the country.”

But Murat kept asking questions, and over time, he learnedthe drill. Once they found a matching blood type, they would move to tissuematching. Then the political prisoner would get a bullet to the right sideof the chest. Murat’s instructor would visit the execution site to matchup blood samples. The officials would get their organs, rise from theirbeds, and check out.

Six months later, around the first anniversary of Ghulja,five new officials checked in. The instructor told Murat to go back tothe political wing for fresh blood. This time, Murat was told that harvestingpolitical prisoners was normal. A growing export. High volume. The militaryhospitals are leading the way.

By early 1999, Murat stopped hearing about harvesting politicalprisoners. Perhaps it was over, he thought.

Yet the Xinjiang procedure spread. By the end of 1999,the Uighur crackdown would be eclipsed by Chinese security’s largest-scaleaction since Mao: the elimination of Falun Gong. By my estimate up to threemillion Falun Gong practitioners would pass through the Chinese correctionssystem. Approximately 65,000 would be harvested, hearts still beating,before the 2008 Olympics. An unspecified, significantly smaller, numberof House Christians and Tibetans likely met the same fate.

By Holocaust standards these are piddling numbers, so let’sbe clear: China is not the land of the final solution. But it is the landof the expedient solution. Some will point to recent statements from theChinese medical establishment admitting the obvious—China’s medical environmentis not fully ethical—and see progress. Foreign investors suspect thateventually the Chinese might someday—or perhaps have already—abandon organ harvesting in favor of the much more lucrative pharmaceutical and clinical testing industries. The problem with these soothing narratives is that reports, some as recent as one year ago, suggest that the Chinese have not abandoned the Xinjiang procedure.

In July 2009, Urumqi exploded in bloody street riots between Uighurs and Han Chinese. The authorities massed troops in the regional capital, kicked out the Western journalists, shut down the Internet, and, over the next six months, quietly, mostly at night, rounded up Uighur males by the thousands. According to information leaked by Uighurs held in captivity, some prisoners were given physical examinations aimed solely at assessing the health of their retail organs. The signals may be faint, but they are consistent, and the conclusion is inescapable: China, a state rapidly approaching superpower status, has not just committed human rights abuses—that’s old news—but has, for over a decade, perverted the most trusted area of human expertise into performing what is, in the legal parlance of human rights, targeted elimination of a specific group.

Yet Nijat sits in refugee limbo in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, waiting for a country to offer him asylum. He confessed to me. He confessed to others. But in a world eager not to offend China, no state wants his confession. Enver made his way to an obscure seminar hosted by the House of Commons on Chinese human rights. When the MPs opened the floor to questions, Enver found himself standing up and speaking, for the first time, of killing a man. I took notes, but no British MP or their staffers could be bothered to take Enver’s number.

The implications are clear enough. Nothing but self-determination for the Uighurs can suffice. The Uighurs, numbering 13 million, are few, but they are also desperate. They may fight. War may come. On that day, as diplomats across the globe call for dialogue with Beijing, may every nation look to its origins and its conscience. For my part, if my Jewish-sounding name tells me anything, it is this: The dead may never be fully avenged, but no people can accept being fatally exploited forever.

Ethan Gutmann, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wishes to thank Jaya Gibson for research assistance and the Peder Wallenberg family for research support.

Copyright 2010 Weekly Standard LLC.

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Diarmaid MacCulloch — Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Viking Adult; first American edition (18 March 2010)
pp. 1147 including Notes, Further Reading and Index
ISBN-10: 0670021261;  ISBN-13: 978-0670021260

Review-commentary by Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan

According to Catholic tradition, faith is a gift. The author’s cultural background is Low-Church or Evangelical Anglicanism. But this is a heritage and not a theological virtue.

Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church in the Theology Faculty, St Cross College, Oxford. Professor MacCulloch proclaims himself a skeptic although he writes with the zeal of an apostate. His is a paradoxical mixture of both skepticism and appreciation of religion, especially Christianity. At times he reveals classical Greek tastes which are benevolently pre-Christian, though he has been shaped by the Enlightenment. His erudition permits him to indulge freely in refined, urbane scoffing. And his erudition is considerable.

Why is this important? Because all writing emerges out of a tradition;[1] no author can be fully original. Perhaps he could have written a shorter work had he not considered the subject a formidable one. In over a thousand pages he writes about Christianity not as a Christopher Dawson (d. 1970) or a Paul Johnson or a Hubert Jedin (d. 1980) or a James Hitchcock[2] who ‒ each of them from within the subject ‒ wrote the history of Christianity and the Church. Nor are these religious historians ever quoted. Anglican (especially Owen and Henry Chadwick) and various, often liberal Christian historians including Richard P. McBrien and Hans Küng do appear among the Further Reading selections beginning on page 1098.[3] John W. O’Malley, Eamon Duffy and John McManners are a few of his more favored historians.

He says that Edward Gibbon, who wrote a celebrated Enlightenment-era history in seven volumes,[4] “had a fine eye for the absurdities and tragedies that result from the profession of religion.”[5] The author does not conceal his preference for secularism. One can say that MacCulloch is a thoughtful post-Enlightenment writer who knows more about Christianity than most Christians, including the clergy. Yet another reason for us to posit that faith is a gift, although we must observe that some without this gift at times strenuously defend the Church and the Christian tradition.[6]

An ironic result of the author’s evenly-applied skepticism is his occasional fairness to Catholic positions. For example, he dropped some Reformation biases for which his ancestors would have fought. What is more, in his 2004 work The Reformation, he argues that there were multiple reformations which came from both Protestants and Catholics. MacCulloch is primarily a Reformation scholar, and surely he enjoys being perceived as a revisionist in his field.

At the same time he writes about Christianity with an irreverence toward religion ‒ any religion ‒ because religion is a problem, not a truth. In fact, religion is not only untrue; it can’t be true. And just as he gives a concession to the Catholics with one hand ‒ as when Catholic Bible translators got it right with the term supersubstantial [89] and dismissed the prejudicial concept of the Catholic “Dark Ages” [77] ‒ he usually takes something away with the other hand. For example, he says of Michael Burleigh’s Earthly Powers: “An absorbing survey of European religion, perhaps a little kind to Roman Catholicism, at least by omission.” [1110]

He is uneasy about the inconsistencies and incoherencies of the church’s development and the formation of its doctrinal orthodoxy. In this matter he is close to a similar uneasiness by his Christian ancestors. Compare Rabbi Daniel E. Polish who says of Judaism: “This is a subject which has been discussed exhaustively in Buber’s Two Types of Faith. Jewish religious understanding seems, as a result, to be much more comfortable with ambiguities, and even internal inconsistencies, than the more creedally rigorous Christian tradition.”[7]

The formation of Catholicism is reduced to mere chance. Catholic Christianity might have been different except for accidents. Here Dr. MacCulloch differs from John Henry Newman’s An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.[8] For MacCulloch no religious “truth” is true. All one has is the debris of an unpredictable and unstable historical process.

The author goes so far as to assert: “I live with the puzzle of wondering how something so apparently crazy can be so captivating to millions of other members of my species.” [11] Indeed.

With that, Rowan Williams, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, then says in his personal review: “This book is a landmark in its field, astonishing in its range, compulsively readable, full of insight even for the most jaded professional and of illumination for the interested general reader. It will have few, if any, rivals in the English language. The story is told with unobtrusive stylishness as well as clarity.”[9]

Rowan Williams does include a short list of defects in the work. He mentions that:

“Inevitably there are a few slips in detail. Bishops’ mitres are not borrowed from Roman official costume, but are medieval adaptations of a form of papal headwear; the black death was not referred to by that name until a few centuries later. And there are, equally inevitably, some gaps. I missed, in a very good overview of Ivan the Terrible’s reign, any mention of Metropolitan Philip of Moscow, murdered for his attacks on the tsar’s atrocities and a good example of the fact that eastern Christians were not always as supine as is sometimes claimed in relation to secular authority. If Rembrandt is, as has been said, the greatest Protestant commentator on the Bible, we might have expected more of a nod in his direction. And, most puzzling, Dante does not merit a discussion. In one of the rare passages where there is a hint of textbook cliché, MacCulloch contrasts the ‘self-sufficient divine being’ of Augustine and Aquinas with the personal God of St Francis. Apart from the fact that Aquinas would have seen every page he wrote as seeking to hold the philosophical and the relational or personal together, Dante’s Paradiso sets out what it was like, imaginatively and spiritually, to sense these dimensions of faith as essentially one.”

… and then Williams concludes: “But these are small flaws in a triumphantly executed achievement.”[10]

One flaw not noted by Williams is the thin treatment of Jansenism, the most important “heresy” in Catholic ecclesiastical history between the Council of Trent and the French Revolution [707, 797-799, 801]. MacCulloch does not cite Bruno Neveu, Lucien Ceyssens, Jacques Gres-Gayer, Brian E. Strayer, Jean Mesnard, Jean Orcibal, Jean-Robert Armogathe or René Tavenaux, to name just some prominent scholars of Jansenism and the French seventeenth century. It remains unclear if MacCulloch understands this contentious movement in light of the Ceyssens and post-Ceyssens industry.

In a book as lengthy as this one under review, the author-historian may, until he is caught, get away with sentences and claims which lack enough context or which go unverified. On page 386 we read: “… a Greek visiting Spain was offended when he heard St. James of Compostela referred to as a ‘knight of Christ’… ” MacCulloch cites for this reference Christopher Tyerman’s God’s War: A New History of the Crusades.[11] Still, would this Greek have objected to Psalm 24, “Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle”?

Christian prayer, rooted in Jewish prayer, is fraught with military combat terminology. Would our Greek be so offended by the long tradition of Judaism and Christianity? Is it more the iconography or the abstract concepts of combat and warfare used by the religious tradition? No matter Tyerman’s source, does avoiding terminology such as this really represent the Christian East, and is it wise for a semi-popular work to rely upon and quote from something also semi-popular? It is widely held that before the First Crusade the cult of St. George was more prevalent in the Byzantine East than in the West. The Greeks apparently did not object to this soldier-saint. The Hellespont or Dardanelles was called “The Arm of St. George”. 

Since the Enlightenment, certain themes have been developed and deliberately emphasized to discredit Christianity, and one of them is the Galileo affair. MacCulloch devotes only two brief pages to Galileo and his Copernican science. [684, 776] He writes: “Although many Protestants might rage against Copernicans, they did not take action against them as the Roman Inquisition had done in the Galileo case; moreover his treatment did seem all of a piece with the efforts of Europe’s various Inquisitions to ban so much of the creative literature of the previous centuries through their Indexes.”[12] Elsewhere, MacCulloch has written about Galileo.[13]

MacCulloch becomes less fair and more one-sided when he presents these complex questions with an unwarranted oversimplification which approaches the Black Legend theory of Inquisitions. His handling of the Inquisitions would profit from balance and contextualization. The works of Henry Kamen, Geoffrey Parker, and Jocelyn N. Hillgarth are not cited, although happily Edward M. Peters is. Though Galileo and the Inquisitions have been the object of new research in recent years, MacCulloch does not give the reader enough of this history as we lately understand it. His editorial choices are perplexing.

Let us proceed to a topic even more prized by the post-Enlightenment contemporary mind. Nowhere in the index does MacCulloch give us the word “holocaust” or “Shoah,” nor does the word appear under another heading such as “Jews” or “anti-Semitism.” Curiously, the word “holocaust” is used of the 1915-1916 slaughter of the Armenians by the Turks [921] and the great loss of Irish troops at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 [928].

The view of the Holocaust during World War II is superficial and misleading. For example, on page 946 we read about the Pope and the Jews; “the Pope only once nerved himself to make a public statement about their [the Jews’] plight, in his Christmas radio broadcast in 1942.” The statement fails to mention that in the preceding August, fifteen hundred Catholic priests and Religious men and women of Jewish heritage, including Edith Stein, were sent to Auschwitz in reprisal for the Dutch Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter condemning the Nazi racial laws.[14] The Pope would have endangered many more lives than the Dutch bishops had he been more explicit that Christmas. The point should be clarified for the non-specialist reader. Research into this question and matters related to the administration and policies of Pius XII by Robert Graham, Pierre Blet, Victor Conzemius, Ludwig Volk, Konrad Repgen, Joseph Bottum, and Eric Silver should be employed. Though on page 1110 he calls the book “a wide sweep of a central topic,” MacCulloch relies narrowly upon Priests, Prelates and People: A History of European Catholicism, 1750 to the Present by Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett.[15]

What Anglican Archbishop Williams hyperbolically calls a “triumphantly executed achievement” may fall short. If Diarmaid MacCulloch’s guiding tradition with its consequent editorial choices was less pronounced, the reader would need no caution. But unless Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years is supplemented or revised, it is needlessly biased or incomplete at least on specific issues so dear to the Enlightenment and its heirs the Marxists and Nihilists. This book is so exciting in university circles because the readership in such settings agrees with the negative assessment of the Enlightenment in matters of religion, especially Christianity.

An edited version of this appears in

Homiletic and Pastoral Review, vol. 111, no. 4 (January 2011): 75-77.

[1] Thus Handel’s Messiah never mentions Mary because George Frederick Handel was a Lutheran. See MacCulloch, Christianity, 789 and 1077, note 40. Music historians say the Colonna family commissioned Handel’s “Salve Regina” first performed in July 1707 in the Church of Santa Maria in Montesanto.

[2] Hitchcock’s forthcoming History of the Catholic Church may appear in 2011.

[3] Thomas S. Bokenkotter’s A Concise History of the Catholic Church, often used by liberal professors in American seminaries, is not listed for Further Reading, nor is John Laux’s Church History: A Complete History of the Catholic Church to the Present Day for High School, College and Adult Reading (TAN Books and Publishers, 2009).

[4] The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788).

[5] MacCulloch, Christianity, 1101.

[6] See the statements of Bernard-Henri Lévy: “French atheist denounces ‘attack’ on Church, Pope” (30 September 2010);;

[7] Amen: Faith and the Possibility of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Trialogue, Respondent to the Annual Fall Laurence J. McGinley Lecture; Inaugural Lecture by Patrick J. Ryan SJ, Fordham University, 18 November 2009, 29.

[8] (1845; 1878). See MacCulloch, Christianity, Notes 58 and 59, pages 1081-1082. Notice the words “sardonic,” “intellectual gymnastics,” and “sneers.” Is this urbane scoffing….?

[10] Ibid.

[11] Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (28 February 2009).

[12] MacCulloch, Christianity, 776. The Index of Forbidden Books, affiliated with the Inquisitions, remains a treasured subject of Enlightenment anti-religious writing.

[13] Ibid., 1069, note 44.

[14] Ralph McInerny who wrote the Foreword to Edith Stein and Companions, On the Way to Auschwitz, by Paul Hamans, adds: “ In this remarkable book… Hamans has undertaken the onerous task of compiling biographies, often accompanied by photographs, of many of the religious and laity who were rounded up from their various convents and monasteries and homes on the same day as Saint Edith Stein, August 2, 1942; most of them were taken to the Amersfoort concentration camp and from there put on trains to Auschwitz, where the majority, soon after their arrival at the camp, were gassed and buried in a common grave between August 9 and September 30, 1942. They were all Catholic Jews, and their arrest was in retaliation for the letter of the Catholic bishops of the Netherlands that was read from the pulpits of all churches on July 26, 1942.
Over the past few years, in striking contrast to contemporary acknowledgments and the magnificent book of Jewish theologian and historian Pinchas Lapide, many authors have accused the Church of silence during the Nazi persecution of the Jews. None of the counterevidence to this shameful thesis has had any effect on the critics. The experience of Jews in the Netherlands, particularly Catholic Jews, is eloquent witness of what could result from public condemnation of the Nazis. The victims whose stories are included in this book were told that they were rounded up in direct retaliation of the condemnation of the Nazi ‘final solution’ by the Dutch bishops.”  See

[15] I.B.Tauris (26 September 2003).

Diogenes on Maciel [Catholic Culture Commentary: Off the Record: "The Legion of Christ and its founder"]

The Legion of Christ and its founder

Posted Feb. 17, 2009 8:47 AM || by Diogenes

Commentary: Off the Record: “The Legion of Christ & its founder”

What do we know about the misbehavior of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, deceased founder of the Legion of Christ? In strict terms: nothing. In part this is the fault of the Holy See, whose 2006 communiqué did not specify the wrongs in response to which it “invited” Maciel to “a reserved life of prayer and penance.” In part it is the fault of the Legion of Christ, which issues assertions about Maciel while withholding the evidence on which the assertions are grounded. In place of publicly verifiable data — such as checkable documents and signed testimony — we have coy and ambiguous declarations based on informal confidential investigations. This is not knowledge. In early February the Legion’s spokesman Fr. Paolo Scarafoni announced that Maciel had sired an illegitimate daughter, now in her twenties. The CNS story reports, “Asked how the Legionaries came to know about her, Father Scarafoni said, ‘Frankly, I cannot say and it is not opportune to discuss this further, also because there are people involved’ who deserve privacy.” This is a transparent falsehood. Scarafoni was in reality communicating “Frankly, I cannot be frank about this matter.” Tactical mendacity of this kind is beloved of Roman churchmen (think of the Jesuit General’s claim that there is no conflict between the Society and the Holy See); it is not intended to be credible, but it serves as a kind of No Trespassing sign, warning outsiders that further inquiry along a given line will not be tolerated. Granted, however, that we don’t and can’t know whether Maciel’s paternity is better founded than any other claim the Legion has made about him, the remarks that follow will assume that this minimal admission is true. Maciel deserves to be reviled by the Legionaries of Christ. By “deserves” I mean his revilement is a debt of justice owed all Catholics by the Legion. This is not on account of Maciel’s sin of sexual weakness, nor even on account of the sin of denying his sexual weakness. The fact of the matter is that Maciel was publicly accused of specific sexual crimes, and that out of moral cowardice he enlisted honorable men and women to mortgage their own reputations in defense of his lie. The lie was the lie of Maciel’s personal sanctity, which Maciel knew to be a myth, and which the fact of his bastard child (putting aside the more squalid accusations) proves that he knew. To the villainy of sacrificing the reputations of others, Maciel added the grotesque and blasphemous claim that the Holy See’s sanctions were an answer to his own prayer to share more deeply in the passion of Christ, as an innocent victim made to bear the burden of false judgment in reparation for the sins of mankind. The Legion cannot share Catholic reverence for the Passion and fail to repudiate Maciel’s cynicism in portraying himself as the Suffering Servant. Yet the LC leadership persists in allotting Maciel a role of (somewhat tarnished) honor: praising with faint damns, and suggesting that his spiritual patrimony remains valuable in spite of his personal life. This won’t work. Many of the greatest saints were repentant sinners. Yet not only did Maciel (as far as is known) go to his death without repenting, but he used wholesome Christian spirituality as a tool in the deception of others. Think of the Soviet mole Kim Philby: while he worked in the UK’s SIS and Foreign Office, his articulate patriotism may have inspired those he duped to a deeper love of country. Yet once he was unmasked as a spy, and after his patriotism was revealed as a contrived distraction from his real treachery, even those who were moved to genuine loyalty by his speeches would not continue to feed on them. And note: Philby’s patriotic words would provoke the most shame and disgust precisely in the persons who found those words truest. Or consider a woman whose husband ingeniously hid his infidelities from her for many years. Once she realized she had been deceived, the gifts he brought back from his business trips would be understood to have been instruments in that deception. Far from cherishing the jewelry he gave her, she’d feel that the diamonds now mocked the affection and fidelity they symbolized. By the same token, Maciel’s addresses will be spiritually kosher — he was after all a highly successful deceiver. But those addresses dishonor the very truths they expound, and it’s impossible that they can cause anything but distress and confusion in those who attempt to nourish themselves on them. To repeat: the fact that he was a flawed priest is not the reason for repudiating Maciel. The Mexican priest-protagonist of Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory was enfeebled by lust and alcoholism and despised by those he served; yet, because of his concern for souls, he kept himself in the arena of danger and died a martyr. Maciel presents Greene’s image flipped on its head: he was a Mexican priest with an internationally cultivated reputation for sanctity. He lived surrounded and cosseted by admirers, and yet in reality he held divine retribution so lightly that he went to his deathbed without undeceiving those he’d taken in, leaving behind him shattered consciences and wobbly faith. When I speak of the Legion’s duty of revilement, I do not mean they should issue so many pages of rhetorical denunciation of Maciel’s sexual iniquities. What is required is an unambiguous admission that Maciel deceitfully made use of holy things and holy words in order to dupe honest and pious persons into taking false positions — sometimes slandering others in the process — in order to reinforce the legend of his own sanctity. Since Maciel’s treachery was sacrilegious in its means and in its effect, he should posthumously be repudiated as a model of priesthood and of Christian life. What is said above is predicated on the minimalist assumption that Maciel’s siring of a bastard daughter is the only canonical lapse that can held against him. Yet he stood accused of sins much more serious, including the sin of absolutio complicis — i.e., of sacramentally absolving one’s own partner in sexual wrongdoing. The Legion’s leadership professes improbably comprehensive ignorance of Maciel’s misdeeds, but even if they are in fact in the dark about Maciel’s guilt in this area, they surely must understand that abuse of the sacrament of confession moves the debate over Maciel’s priesthood onto an entirely different level than a failure in sexual continence. True, we don’t expect Newsweek or NPR to focus on the gravity of abusing a sacrament, because for them sacraments are simply ceremonies. But we would expect orthodox Catholic priests to grasp the importance of the charge. Knowing what they now claim to know about Maciel’s sexual delinquency, can the Legion confidently dismiss the accusation of abuse of the confessional? And if they can’t dismiss it out of hand, how can they fail to address it, even obliquely, in their statements? How can they keep up the public patter of his “flawed priesthood” without the certainty — the certainty — that there are not souls out there that need concrete sacramental help, souls whose access to the sacraments Maciel may have blocked by his villainy? The Legion leadership’s piecemeal public disclosure broadens rather than narrows the general speculation about the extent of Maciel’s crimes. Today and for the foreseeable future they’re in the “half of the lies they tell about me aren’t true” position. They have only themselves to blame. Whereas St. Augustine said, “God does not need my lie,” the Legion’s officialdom appears to base its strategy of teaspoon by teaspoon revelations on the contrary conviction: “God needs our falsehood, and yours as well.” Yet what are we to make of the Legionaries who aren’t superiors and who remain under a vow of obedience to those who are? Are they complicit in the actions of their superiors simply by remaining bound by their vows? If Maciel has real victims whose urgent spiritual needs are being ignored or dismissed by the leadership, can the Legionaries who would wish to address those needs act on their own to do so? If not, what is the course an honorable man would take, and how might the Holy See make it possible for him to act in conformity with a well-formed conscience while remaining a religious in good standing? Many persons of good will associated with the Legion and Regnum Christi have called for prayers for Maciel’s victims. This is entirely proper. But if you were a victim of Maciel, and had been denounced as a slanderer for accusing him, and that denunciation had never been unsaid, would you feel spiritually buoyed by the promise of prayers offered on your behalf?

Commentary: Off the Record: “The Legion of Christ & its founder”

“Blood Drenched Altars: The Mexican Affair, 1934-1936″ [from Faith and Reason]

Blood-Drenched Altars

Baltimore’s Archbishop Michael Joseph Curley,

Oklahoma’s Bishop Francis Clement Kelley

and the Mexican Affair: 1934-1936

Brian Van Hove, S.J.

Today we are accustomed to believe that the Catholic Church in Mexico is on
relatively good terms with the government, especially after 1992 when the Holy See
concluded diplomatic relations which at long last permitted the Holy Roman Catholic
Apostolic Church to register and assume legal existence. On May 24, 1993, the murder
of the cardinal-archbishop of Guadalajara, Juan Jesús Posadas, was not generally
suspicioned to have been instigated by the government, as might have been the case
sixty years ago. Without opposition Pope John Paul II personally visited Mexico as
recently as last August before going to Denver for World Youth Day. It would have
been unthinkable during the reign of “Papa Ratti,” Pope Pius XI.

Thus the persecution which the Church in Mexico endured, especially during the
first forty years of this century, might well be reviewed in order to see how the change
between then and now has taken place.

Two of the most intense years of suffering for the Church were between 1934
and 1936 when Archbishop Michael Joseph Curley of Baltimore, Maryland spoke out in
defense of the repressed. Since 1921 when he succeeded James Cardinal Gibbons, Irish-
born “Iron Mike” Curley never kept his thoughts secret. They were printed in the
official diocesan newspaper, still in existence today, by his alter ego, Mr. Vincent de
Paul Fitzpatrick, managing editor of <The Baltimore Catholic Review> (BCR). In that
period, moreover, the Baltimore archdiocese included the District of Columbia.

The capital city itself, Washington, became a separate archdiocese in 1939, equal
to Baltimore. Only after Curley died in 1947 did the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.,
along with five counties in southern Maryland, receive its first resident archbishop.
Curley was the archbishop of two archdioceses, in other words. This meant that the
<Review> surely would not escape notice by the political establishment in Washington.
And if anybody was “anti-establishment,” it was Curley. Unlike Cardinal Mundelein,
an ardent Roosevelt supporter, Curley had no use for either mainstream America or for
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s <New Deal>. He dismissed liberalism in every form.

Furthermore, more than any other of Baltimore’s archbishops, Curley’s private
and official papers were preserved.1 In addition to the original issues of the <Review>
itself, collected in the library of the Catholic University of America, this documentation
is now found in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (AAB), and they have
been consulted specifically for this essay. One entire uncatalogued carton is marked
“Mexico (Unclassified).” Unfortunately, Catholic University of America Professor
Christopher J. Kauffman informs us that the archives on Mexico maintained by the
American bishops remain closed for the present.

Curley’s friend, Bishop Francis Clement Kelley, second bishop of Oklahoma City
and Tulsa, Oklahoma, would be perhaps the only other American bishop to work with
him in an energetic and forceful manner on this issue. After John Lancaster Spalding
who died in 1916, Kelley was surely the most intellectually sophisticated bishop since
the nation’s very first was ordained in England in 1790. At one point he nearly became
rector of the Catholic University, and he was the author of seventeen books. No one of
less reputation than the anti-Roosevelt secularist and “Sage of Baltimore,” H. L.
Mencken, was an admirer of his writing style. Although Oklahoma was remote _ very
remote, with a sparse (under 3%) Catholic population _ Kelley and Curley maintained a
lively correspondence and worked tirelessly together on the Mexican question.

The revolution which brought the National or “Institutional” Revolutionary
Party (PRI) to power in the United States of Mexico occurred in stages. But the
Constitution which would regulate the relations between church and state was
finalized in 1917. It is hard to say what “revolution” really meant in the long run _ it
certainly didn’t mean democracy for Mexico _ but it was a type of social upheaval
accompanied by ideological rhetoric which rejected the order of the past. One might
allude to the Constitution of 1857, or the revolutionary events of 1910 and thereafter.
But the Constitution of 1917 is the most fitting point of departure for us presently since
the authorities claimed it as the legal basis for the renewed attacks on the Catholic
Church after some intermittent periods of relative calm.2

A book by the British Catholic writer Evelyn Waugh nicely captured the spirit of
the times with the title: <Mexico: Robbery Under Law.> The Jesuit editor of <America>,
Wilfrid Parsons, aptly entitled his 1936 book on the subject <Mexican Martyrdom>.

In 1926 there was a rebellion of Mexican Catholics against the regime which had
been kept in power by military means and the will of the ruling National
Revolutionary Party. The Party, an amalgam of Masons, Socialists, Communists, and
greedy opportunists, had interpreted the anti-clerical laws arbitrarily and severely.
This led to the killing of priests and the confiscation of churches, schools, religious
houses of all kinds, and other properties. The Catholics who fought against the
government were called “Cristeros,” and today Jean Meyer, a French historian, is
researching this phenomenon from his base in Mexico City. The Cristeros had few
means of their own, and only got their weapons after overcoming the enemy and
taking theirs. They represented the overwhelmingly Catholic majority of the country’s
population, but they only took to arms out of desperation. At one time the Cristeros
were said to have thirty thousand men loyal to their cause. The record shows they were
never defeated.

An exiled Mexican Catholic lawyer, Octavio Elizonde, wrote in a letter dated
January 21, 1935, that he had completed a Memorandum for Curley which was a
detailed report concerning the events since 1929. He also asked for an interview that
week. Subsequently, in a letter to Mr. Vincent Fitzpatrick, Curley confirmed that the
twelve-page text “is about the best thing I have seen on the recent situation since 1929.
The analysis it gives of the so-called peace made in that year is exceptionally fine.”3

Elizonde states that between 1926 and 1929 an armed struggle was carried on in
behalf of the Catholic cause by the rebels known as Cristeros. This army was poised to
deliver the final blow when the Mexican hierarchy, at the wish of the Holy See,
requested them to disarm and to accept the offer of the Mexican government under
President Plutarco Calles to establish a <modus vivendi> in regard to the religious
question. Out of duty and obedience the Cristeros laid down their arms and thereupon,
in the words of the <BCR>:

The first things (sic) Calles did after peace had been made was to shoot down 500
Cristero leaders. The six years of the entente Cordiale between Calles and the Church
have been the six bloodiest years in the history of Mexico.4

Actually, Elizonde puts the figure at 400, but perhaps the exact number will never be
known. Calles was responsible for the killing. Plutarco Elías Calles, President of Mexico
from 1924 to 1928, was depicted in the <BCR> the way Nicolai Ceausescu was in the
popular press of 1989. When Calles left office in 1928 he controlled the government
from behind the scenes, and he dominated the life of the country until 1934 when his
rival Lázaro Cárdenas won out. How did Calles control the whole country for so long?
Very simple _ by owning the army. Cárdenas prevented him from making a final
comeback in 1936. No one has ever been able to explain adequately Calles’ extreme and
irrational hatred for the Church. Perhaps it was a combination of greed and Jacobin
ideology. In any case, Cárdenas also hated the Church, but his fanaticism was more
pragmatic and times had changed by the mid-30s.

The <BCR> described the 1929 revenge upon the Catholic “freedom fighters”
more fully by setting the figure at 500 leaders and 5,000 ordinary men who were shot,
often in their homes in front of their families. Their property was then seized, leaving
the survivors destitute. Elizonde clearly says that the obedience of the Mexican
Catholics to the request of the Holy See was a disaster for the Church, and ended only
in betrayal. The American Jesuit Wilfrid Parsons, on the other hand, claims Archbishop
Pascual Díaz, SJ, of Mexico City, disagreed with those of Elizonde’s persuasion, and
thought the decision to seek a military solution was mistaken in the first place.5
Furthermore, Father John Burke’s biographer, John B. Sheerin, adds:

Almost the entire Mexican hierarchy gathered in Mexico City on November 26th (1926)
at the home of Bishop Pascual Díaz, the Jesuit who acted as secretary of the episcopal
committee but was suspected of being a pliant ecclesiastical opportunist. The hierarchy
met with lay leaders to discuss the Liga’s plans for revolution. Díaz told the lay leaders
that the bishops had examined the plans but could not give their approval to use of
arms. Priests could serve the rebel forces but could not join the fighting. Although in
sympathy with the rebels and unwilling to condemn their armed rebellion, the bishops
did not sanction armed revolt. As the prelates had not actually forbidden the Liga to
join the Cristeros in their fight, the Liga leaders felt that Díaz had given his quasi-
blessing to the rebellion and they set to work organizing the rebellion more eagerly.
Díaz had given his quasi-blessing to the rebellion and they set to work organizing the
rebellion more eagerly. Díaz himself was arrested for allegedly directing Cristero
military activities but was exiled rather than jailed. Deported, he journeyed to New
York. At the administrative committee meeting on April 26, 1927, Burke informed the
committee that Díaz had made clear to him that the Mexican hierarchy did not want the
NCWC to countenance in any way the promotion of armed resistance in Mexico.6

Undoubtedly the <BCR> was merely reflecting the Elizonde Memorandum. In that
document, he had said:

And notwithstanding the fact that an immense majority of all the Catholics of action
who had been struggling for a long time and with all lawful means against the tyrants
of the Mexican people, felt a deep rooted doubt as to the success of an agreement
arrived at under such circumstances and on such bases, we accepted, sincerely, and in
all discipline, through our love for the Church and respect for His Holiness Pope Pius
XI, the situation created by the so-called agreements and made ourselves ready to
struggle within the terms of the “modus vivendi” to reconquer our lost liberties; not
without a feeling, on the part of the great mass of the people, of profound
discouragement and frustration upon the abrupt ending thus brought to the heroic and
bloody movement of defense carried on during the years 1926 to 1929 (<AAB,
Memorandum>, p. 2).7

Curley advised his editor to correct the English, given above in the original, since it was
done by a Mexican whose stylistic skills in American English were limited.

The <BCR> of August 23, 1935 printed the following figures for its American
readers. Between 1926 and 1934 at least 40 priests were killed. Miguel Augustín Pro, SJ,
had been summarily shot on November 23, 1927. Pro was later to be beatified in 1988.
There were 2,500 priests in hiding, many of them in the Federal District, the State of San
Luis Potosí (where the local governor received priests and nuns, despite federal laws)
or in exile. The Apostolic Delegate and Archbishop of Morelia, himself a Mexican, and
five additional bishops had been exiled. Twelve bishops were impeded from their
dioceses, and four were arrested but later released. In 1934 there were 334 priests
licensed to practice their ministry by the government for fifteen million people,
whereas in 1926 there were 3,000 serving the people.8

As early as the year of rebellion itself, 1926, the U.S. Catholic hierarchy issued a
Bishops’ Pastoral on the Mexican Situation: <A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic
Episcopate of the United States on the Religious Situation in Mexico.> It claimed not to
be an appeal for political intervention of any kind or for action of any sort.9

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 contains various articles regulating church
property, church schools, and the quotas of priests or other clergy which would be
allowed and duly licensed. It did not specify any one religion to be restricted, but made
the laws applicable to all religions. In Mexico, the number of Protestants or Jews or
those of other religions was quite small at the time. Therefore it was no secret that the
Catholic Church was the true target for this federal legislation. Between 90% and 95%
of the population was Catholic, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was one of
the most popular in the world.

In 1935 the <BCR> mentioned that a law in one of the Mexican states forbade the
registration, to obtain a license for practice of the ministry, of priests who were
celibate.10 This is one example of the restrictions, but it typifies the anti-Catholic nature
of some of the legal provisions even when the Catholic Church was never mentioned by
name. We are all familiar with the cowardly Whiskey Priest who lived in concubinage
and dereliction as portrayed in Graham Greene’s <The Power and the Glory.>

A small sign of hope in 1935 was the annulment by President Lázaro Cárdenas
of the decree censoring foreign religious mail coming into Mexico _ which had to that
point included, of course, the <BCR>.11

In that same year, Archbishop Curley had considered setting up a Bureau for
Mexican Affairs in Baltimore. On January 4, 1935, he wrote to the exiled Apostolic
Delegate to Mexico, Archbishop Leopoldo Ruiz y Flores. The Delegate since 1932 had
been living across the border in San Antonio, Texas:

It is very largely a matter of money, and just how we are going to get the money I do
not see for the moment. Other Dioceses may not be as interested in Mexican affairs as is
this, and it is a difficult thing at this time, on account of financial conditions, to get
them interested.12

Curley is referring, of course, to the total collapse of the economy which created the
dire conditions of The Great Depression. The lack of funds for special projects such as
aid to the Church in Mexico was obviously acute. Even the state of the <BCR> as it has
survived up to the present moment suggests they were using the least expensive paper
available. There is still some reason to believe other bishops besides Kelley were
sympathetic, although unable, to help.

On April 2, 1935, Kelley wrote to Curley:

It was mighty kind of you to send one hundred dollars. I can do a lot with that. In fact I
have enough now to cover the whole Senate and part of the House. I have written to
John Burke asking him if he will take care of the distribution in Washington.13

The matter being discussed by this letter is the financing and distributing of copies of
<Blood-Drenched Altars> for the members of Congress who were deliberating over the
Borah Resolution whose point was to condemn religious persecution in Mexico. The
book had been published under Bishop Kelley’s name, and hastily researched for him
by Eber Cole Byam:

This volume of more than 500 pages, which made no pretense at being a detached
treatise, defies an adequate summary. Its mass of facts, contentions, and scholarly
references were bound together by a single proposition, supported by two cosmic
themes running through the book. Kelley’s objective was to present to a pluralistic
America the idea that religious oppression was beyond narrow sectarian interest. The
persecution in Mexico was a tragedy that should concern all men and women, whether
or not they were sympathetic to or affiliated with the Catholic church.14

It has endured the test of time, was praised in 1950 after Kelley’s death by Frank
Tannenbaum, sympathetic historian of the revolution, and was even recently
republished. To prove it was taken seriously, we have evidence that it was reviewed by
the Mexican government’s Department of Publicity of the Ministry of Foreign
Relations.15 The name given was deliberate:

Kelley’s choice of title, <Blood-Drenched Altars>, referred to the savage pre-Christian
rites of human sacrifice which greeted the conquistadors and padres. Yet in this
primitive environment these pioneers had built cathedrals, universities, hospitals,
schools, libraries _ relics of a noble civilization which preceded in antiquity and rivaled
in splendor the institutions that evolved in North America. The revolution in Mexico,
Kelley went on, had thus targeted its attack on the two pillars of this way of life, first
driving Spain back to Europe and, a century later, threatening to crush the church.16

Bishop Francis Clement Kelley would certainly not have followed the fashion, so
common lately, of denouncing Columbus for bringing Spanish civilization to the New
World. The human sacrifice represented by the Aztec “blood-drenched altars” was, to
him, even comparable to the slaughter of the Catholics at the hands of the Mexican
government between 1926 and 1936, except the altars were Catholic, not Aztec.

Curley’s chosen investigator and historian of the Mexican persecution was
Georgetown University’s Father Michael Kenny, SJ, who surely agreed with Curley
when the following translation of a smuggled Mexican document appeared in the
<BCR>, July 3, 1936:

As many, if not most, of the evils we now endure have been caused directly or
indirectly by United States influence, and there is undoubtedly a debt of restitution, an
obligation to repair the resultant evils of oppression and suppression of liberties that a
tyrant minority inflicts, and can only inflict by the favor of our all-powerful North
American neighbor. We submit that the neighborhood of our countries and the evils
that we are suffering, materially as well as morally, largely through United States
influence, imposes on the honest people of the United States the duty of aiding us in
averting impending disaster.17

Curley was forever frustrated that he and the Church could not affect the Roosevelt
Administration to do more for the sufferings of Mexican Catholics, even in such a
simple thing as the recall of an ambassador who was perceived as inimical to this
cause, or at best, a bungler in the effort to help. That frustration was spoken of by
Bishop Francis Clement Kelley in a letter to Curley:

I do not understand the President. I had heard that he made a promise. Surely he had
enough visits from ecclesiastical dignitaries to understand the situation. I am afraid that
some of those who went to see him, by avoiding the subject of Mexico, gave him the
idea that we are divided about it.18

If Kelley didn’t understand the president, we may assume Cardinal Mundelein did.
Historian David J. O’Brien says:

Mundelein soon became the President’s closest friend in the hierarchy. In 1935, when
Catholics were incensed by Roosevelt’s Mexican policy, the Cardinal heaped praise on
him in ceremonies at Notre Dame.19

The incident over the recall of the American ambassador deserves special note. It
was the result of the clash between the suppression of Catholic education in Mexico,
even after the <modus vivendi> of 1929, and the introduction of “Socialist” education in
its place.

Promises made in 1929 were never honored by the government of Mexico.
Perhaps this is because the arrangement rested on a “gentlemen’s agreement” no more
solid than oral assurances between President Emilio Portes Gil (described by the
<BCR> as a <callista>)20 and the American Ambassador Dwight Whitney Morrow. The
<BCR> never considered any of them gentlemen, either. In the “modus vivendi” the
Catholics were supposed to be respected. They were to be allowed to use every
democratic means to effect a constitutional change: the “vote, written and spoken
propaganda, appeals before judicial authorities, petitions to Congress, etc.”21 Elizonde
maintains that the Church was lied to, and the American ambassador had economic
interests and the American business community to please above all else. The struggle
which finished the alleged truce was the educational issue when the government strove
to impose a complete monopoly and install a “socialistic” program.

Elizonde in the Memorandum is shocked and at a loss when he says there is no
explanation for the absence of any protocols on the question of education in the 1929

Bishop Kelley had written in <Blood-Drenched Altars>:

The new Constitution prohibited any minister of religion from teaching in a school,
public or private. Article 3 prohibited religious corporations or ministers of any
religious creed from establishing or directing primary schools. Article 130 went further
and ordered the confiscation of any school erected for the purpose of teaching religion.
It provided likewise that in all primary-school matters the curriculum, teachers, etc., be
under the direction of the Federal government. Not only were clergymen forbidden to
teach, but they were even forbidden to maintain any institution of scientific research.
Nevertheless Article 3 begins with the words “Instruction is free.”22

It was the school issue which strained the consciences of Mexican Catholics
when the “atheistic brainwashing” of the revolutionary curriculum was applied to their
children. This schooling had been invested with the content of an alien ideology,
contrary to the faith of Mexican Catholics. The January 24, 1936 edition of the <BCR>
stated that the Mexican Hierarchy in a formal pastoral letter had condemned the
socialistic education curriculum explicitly. Parents were not permitted to send their
children to these state schools under pain of mortal sin, and no Catholic was permitted
to teach in them. They had to give up their jobs if this was necessary. No Catholic was
permitted to be a socialist under any condition. Socialism here, according to the <BCR>,
was just communism using the name “socialism.”23

On one occasion President Lázaro Cárdenas, who had succeeded Calles, tried to
defend socialist education. Sacrilegiously speaking from the Catholic church pulpit in
Ciudad González, he is reported to have said:

It is untrue that Socialistic education may lead to the dissolution of the home; and it is
also untrue that it perverts children and separates them from their parents. Socialist
education prepares the child so that, when he becomes a man, he may comply with his
obligations of solidarity in a spirit of fraternity for his class companions.24

He went on to challenge the <men> to support the revolutionary process, and basically
said religion should be left to <women>. They, the women, if they had these religious
sentiments could believe in Catholic things if they wished, and the revolutionary
government would promise not to infringe upon their rights. This is somewhat
contradictory because part of the National Revolutionary Party’s rhetoric was in favor
of a version of the class-struggle theory which included women as a special part of the
proletariat. He insulted the local priest and said he must be careful to obey the laws set
by the government.25 One can only imagine how Curley took such an attack on the
priesthood and on simple Mexican peons. He was thinking, no doubt, that the federal
president’s words in Ciudad González were aimed at the eight archdioceses, twenty-
two dioceses, and one vicariate apostolic of all Mexico. And it was no secret that the
revolutionary school system was inculcating atheism. Its program of “sex-education”
was crude and laughable in today’s terms. And it was certainly offensive to Mexican
standards of decency. One might also add that the whole persecution was crude
because it only served to enrage the vast multitudes of the population.

If Elizonde repudiated the role of American Ambassador Morrow in the “modus
vivendi” of 1929, Curley did the same for Ambassador Josephus Daniels who
represented the American Government in these years of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first
term. Daniels, precisely at the time of the educational conflict mentioned above, gave a
short talk in the American embassy in Mexico City, July, 1934, which praised the
Mexican government’s efforts in the educational field.

Daniels quoted President Calles favorably, and the key line was: “We must enter
and take possession of the mind of childhood, the mind of youth.”26 The <BCR>
headline read “Josephus Daniels Offends 330,000,000 Catholics.”27 Curley was furious,
as were many others, even though Daniels maintained his words were innocent and
had been taken out of context by the Catholic press in the United States and by Mexican
Catholics themselves. It does seem that the <BCR> was making this into an artificial
“cause célèbre.”

An exiled Mexican priest writing in the <BCR> quoted Governor Arnulfo Pérez
of the State of Tabasco who approved of the following song in the school curriculum:

God did not create mankind; the latter created God.
There is no God except in petrified hearts and books.
The priests are like bartenders who exploit mankind.28

We might look at the comparison with Baltimore. At this same time Curley’s
archdiocesan newspaper carried numerous articles on the situation of Catholic
education in Baltimore. New schools were opening and old ones were praised for their
efforts. Girls and boys were photographed at wholesome social and athletic functions,
and there was much interest in youth generally. Curley’s friend Bishop Kelley was
chairman of the Bishops’ Committee of the Boy Scouts of America.29

Mr. Vincent de Paul Fitzpatrick in 1929 had written the <Life of Archbishop
Curley: Champion of Catholic Education.> The contrast with the situation in Mexico
was sharp.

Ambassador Josephus Daniels, a Protestant, was a native of Raleigh, North
Carolina. On April 29, 1935, he paid a visit lasting an hour with the Catholic Bishop of
Raleigh, William J. Hafey. Hafey immediately wrote to Curley. A number of points
were considered, but it was Hafey’s judgment that Daniels was worried and that he,
Hafey, had done his part to encourage him to resign “and ultimately he might also
decide that Raleigh, little town that it is, might be preferable to Mexico City.”30 But the
urgency of Hafey’s letter was due to Daniels. The ambassador was asking him to serve
as an intermediary in requesting an appointment with Curley within ten days. Curley
loaned the letter to a Jesuit friend and wrote “Please return” at the top. He also wrote in
the upper right-hand corner: “I feel I should not see Mr. Daniels.”31

The <BCR,> a weekly, had an inflammatory tenor and tone in referring to
Daniels that would surely be unacceptable by today’s standards of journalism. It was so
harsh and severe as to make the expression “flayed alive” seem the only one of
sufficient strength to describe what they were doing to poor Ambassador Daniels. The
paper often used the device of “open questions” rhetorically and sarcastically directed
to Mr. Daniels. Hafey in his letter also adds his visit with Daniels was concluded thus:
“He departed with a copy of the <Baltimore Catholic Review> under his arm and is
probably now thinking up the answers to the questions contained therein.”32

Thomas W. Spalding summarizes all of this:

After a brief respite, the persecution in Mexico was resumed. In 1934 Curley was
roused to action again when the ambassador to Mexico, Josephus Daniels, injudiciously
praised the remark of a Mexican leader to the effect that it was the aim of his
government “to take possession of the mind of children.” Curley had the <Catholic
Review> address a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt calling for Daniel’s
resignation. <The Review> asked the president to read its “exposé of the bestial,
pederastic and sodomistic campaign of socialistic education which has gone on in
alliance with the other methods of warfare against God, Religion and Common
Decency in Mexico.”33

Daniels never did resign, though he issued a bland statement defending the idea
of religious freedom. Roosevelt issued a similar statement. Eventually the Borah
Resolution fizzled. None of this pleased Curley or the Knights of Columbus whose
Supreme Knight, Martin H. Carmody, had warmly praised Curley on many occasions,
especially after the thundering speech the archbishop had made in Washington, March
25, 1935. More than the bishops, the Knights took a strong stand on the Mexican
persecution and the need for the United States to do something to help.

The year 1936 saw a good many changes. Father John J. Burke, CSP, secretary of
the NCWC, died October 29. Father Wilfrid Parsons, SJ was replaced as editor-in-chief
of <America.> Archbishop Pascual Díaz y Barreto, SJ, thirty-sixth Archbishop of
Mexico City and a full-blooded Indian, and Archbishop Francisco Orozco y Jiménez of
Guadalajara who at one time had dressed as a peon and hid out in the mountains, both
died that year. Mexican Catholics swarmed to their funerals in unprecedented
numbers. The idealistic President Lázaro Cárdenas _ who seems really to have believed
in the socialist-revolutionary rhetoric of the Party _ began to soften on <the
interpretation and implementation> of the anti-religious sections of the Constitution of
1917. A relaxation was gradually introduced, though sometimes it was two steps
forward and then one backward.

Since there always had been a two-tiered mechanism of enforcement, one federal
and the other exercised by the governors of the states, Cárdenas could sometimes hide
behind an explanation of interference on the part of local authorities against his
intentions in the matter of church closings and the like. This approach worked
especially well when the federal administration had to explain things to the foreign
press. Cárdenas may have been more sensitive to foreign opinions than we are aware

Persecution continued in Mexico, but also relaxation in many areas began to be
reported more and more. The <BCR> reflected these developments, although it usually
urged caution in welcoming good news as true. We must not forget that Curley, and
thus his newspaper, was the destination of <samizdat> documentation and it also had a
correspondent stationed in Mexico City. Even so, priests returned, were given licenses,
and churches re-opened. It was uneven and contradictory. Mexico is not a country
which always handles its affairs in an entirely tidy manner, although the Mexican
propaganda machine did seem to have an effect on quieting the fears of the secular
press in the United States. There had been international embarrassment in the anti-
religious campaigns, and the Cárdenas government was anxious for it to be explained
away. President Cárdenas also may have wished to prevent Roosevelt from being
further embarrassed by enraged American Catholics such as Curley and Kelley.
Diplomats of the period might have worked quietly for a level of understanding that
was not known even to Curley who had so many special sources of information. The
pages of the <BCR>, by 1935-1936, tended to focus on Germany and Spain more than
on Mexico. Especially the atrocities of the Reds in Spain attracted the attention of the
Catholic world, and Curley was naturally annoyed at the <Baltimore Sun> for siding in
with the Loyalists who were murdering so many priests. Curley always like a good
fight, we are not with difficulty able to conclude.

Since the Mexican Church had been dispossessed of so much property and
resources, there was not much they could do to repay the kindness of the American
bishops. What arrived _ and it was the express wish of Archbishop Pascual Díaz before
his death _ was an illuminated, parchment spiritual bouquet from Mexican Catholics
who had prayed for the Americans. The subheading in the <BCR> of January 15, 1937
read “Prelates Send on their Behalf Spiritual Bouquet to American Hierarchy.”34
Besides a scrapper, Curley was deep down ever the sentimental Irishman, and we may
assume he appreciated the spiritual bouquet more than silver or gold.

To this day the problem with the National Revolutionary Party in Mexico has
never been fully resolved. The old Constitution of 1917 is still valid, though it is
enforced in a mild way and parts may soon be changed. Bribes were always more
forceful than principles in neutralizing its worst elements anyway. Mexican Catholic
shrines bring in tourist dollars, and who would wish to spoil such a good thing as that?
The Party has never completely given up its monopoly on power or its rhetoric or its
control of the army. But their situation is eroding. Recent state elections have given
some posts to the opposition, however, and the PRI’s tactics of fraud are less and less
acceptable in a world more conscious of human rights.

The Church never fully recovered either from the savagery of “El Turco” (Calles)
or from the renewed persecution in the first years of the Roosevelt Administration. The
swift advance of the U.S.-based Fundamentalists and Protestant sects in later decades
showed how much Catholicism had been weakened, especially with the destruction of
Catholic schools. A dechristianization had occurred gradually through the long years of ideological contest and suffering. But following the relaxation of 1936 and thereafter came Cárdenas’s chosen successor in 1940, President Manuel Avila Camacho. He was president until
1946 and was described as “a believing Roman Catholic.”35

With the outbreak of World War II, little attention was possible for anyone in the
United States to give to the problems of Mexico. After tensions eased in 1940, Curley
and Kelley must have felt they had done their best for God. Kelley died in Oklahoma
City on February 1, 1948 and Curley died in Baltimore on May 16, 1947.


1 In 1929 Fitzpatrick wrote the only partial biography we have of Curley. It was
entitled <Life of Archbishop Curley: Champion of Catholic Education.> Father Michael
J. Roach of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD is preparing the full
biography of Curley, but it has not yet appeared. Therefore no complete account of
Curley’s Mexican “crusade” exists outside some remarks by Thomas W. Spalding in his
ecclesiastical history of the archdiocese, <The Premier See: A History of the
Archdiocese of Baltimore>, 1789-1989 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,

2 From the point of view of ecclesiastical history, a summary of the early phases of the
revolution and the oppression which resulted are found in the chapter “Mexico’s
`Guardian Angel’,” in James P. Gaffey, <Francis Clement Kelley and the American
Catholic Dream>, vol. II (Bensenville, IL: The Heritage Foundation, 1980), pp. 3-57.

3 Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (hereafter AAB), Mexico (Unclassified),
Elizonde to Curley (Memorandum) (copy) and letter (copy), January 21, 1935; also
Curley to Fitzpatrick (copy), February 6, 1935.

4 <The Baltimore Catholic Review> (hereafter BCR), April 19, 1935, p. 1, col. 1 ff.

5 See Wilfrid Parsons, SJ, <Mexican Martyrdom> (New York: The Macmillan
Company, 1936), p. 100.

6 John B. Sheerin, <Never Look Back: The Career and Concerns of John J. Burke> (New
York: The Paulist Press, 1975), pp. 114-115.

7 AAB, Curley to Fitzpatrick (copy), February 6, 1935.

8 <BCR>, August 23, 1935, p. 3, col. 1.

9 AAB, ibid., <Bishops’ Pastoral on the Mexican Situation: 1926 Pastoral Letter of the
Catholic Episcopate of the United States on the Religious Situation in Mexico.> Official
edition published by the Committee of the American Episcopate, NCWC. See Part II,

10 <BCR>, April 9, 1935, p. 2, col. 2.

11 Ibid., July 5, 1935, p. 1, col. 6.

12 AAB, ibid., Curley to Ruiz y Flores (copy), January 4, 1935, p. 1. Ruiz y Flores was
deported in October 1932 by order of the Mexican congress. His successor, Archbishop
Girolamo Prigione, Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, is the one who registered the Church
with the government after the accords of 1992.

13 AAB, ibid., Kelley to Curley (copy), April 2, 1935, p. 1. John Burke, CSP was the first
General Secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, established in 1919, just
after the First World War. He held that post until his death in 1936. The NCWC was the
predecessor to the current NCCB/USCC, established after the Second Vatican Council.
The establishment of the NCWC as the consolidated voice of Catholicism in the land is
given in “The National Bishops’ Conference: An Analysis of Its Origins,” in Elizabeth
McKeown, <Modern Catholicism,> 1900-1965, ed. Edward R. Kantowicz (New York:
Garland Publishing Co., 1988), pp. 38-56.

14 Gaffey, ibid., p. 87.

15 <BCR,> September 13, p. 6, col. 1, editorial. The Mexican government was sending
propaganda into the United States free of charge. The headline read: “Will Mr. Farley
Tell Why?” He was Roosevelt’s Postmaster General. Among other points made are the
following: “The Mexican government is now, in its propaganda sheets, reviewing books
on Mexico, including Bishop Francis C. Kelley’s <Blood-Drenched Altars>. It is also
advertising books on Mexico for sale.”

16 Gaffey, ibid., Vol. I, p. 88.

17 <BCR>, July 3, 1936, p. 1, col. 4, and p. 6, col. 1.

18 AAB, ibid., Kelley to Curley (copy), April 2, 1935, p. 1.

19 David J. O’Brien, <American Catholics and Social Reform: The New Deal Years>
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 55.

20 <BCR>, April 19, 1935, p. 1, col. 1 ff.

21 AAB, Elizonde to Curley (Memorandum) (copy), p. 1.

22 Francis Clement Kelley, <Blood-Drenched Altars> (Milwaukee: The Bruce
Publishing Company, 1935), p. 261.

23 <BCR>, January 24, 1936, p. 3, col. 1.

24 Ibid., April 9, 1936, p. 1, col. 7.

25 Ibid., cols. 6-7.

26 Ibid., September 14, 1934, p. 6.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid., September 21, 1934, p. 1, col. 1, and p. 6, col. 6.

29 AAB, K-244, Kelley to Curley (copy), November 10, 1934. Letterhead.

30 Ibid., Hafey to Curley (copy), April 29, 1935.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

33 Spalding, ibid., p. 350.

34 <BCR>, January 15, 1937, p. 9, col. 1.

35 Christopher J. Kauffman, <Faith and Fraternalism: The History of the Knights of
Columbus>, 1882-1982 (New York: Harper and Row, 1982), p. 314.

Father Brian W. Van Hove, S.J., is the rector of the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, and is also a spiritual director for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

This article was taken from the Summer 1994 issue of “Faith & Reason”.

Subscriptions available from Christendom Press, 2101 Shenandoah Shores Road, Ft. Royal, VA 22630, 703-636-2900, Fax 703-636-1655. Published quarterly.

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Cardinal James Francis Stafford to CUA: “Quia amore langueo – Because I am sick for love”

Cardinal’s Address to Catholic University of America

November 13, 2008

Cardinal James Francis Stafford

Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal-Priest of S. Pietro in Montorio

Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: “Being True with Body and Soul”[1]

For 51 years of priestly ministry I have been attentive to res sacra in temporalibus in American culture, i.e., “to the elements of the sacred in the temporal life of man” or, in a more Heideggerian idiom, “to man as the sacred element in temporal things.” In 1958 John Courtney Murray, S. J. was my guide. With further guidance from the Church over the years, I have learned that the nucleus of this principle, enunciated by Pope Leo XIII, maintains that the sacred element in secular life, especially our use of language, escapes the undivided control of the supreme power of the State. The secular life of man is not completely secular, nor totally encompassed within the State as the highest social organism, and subject ultimately only to the political power. The sacred word within man in secular life transcends the control of the supreme power of the State. A person’s public life is not encompassed within the State as the highest social organism, and not subject ultimately only to the political power.

President Thomas Jefferson’s celebrated 1802 letter to the committee of the Danbury Baptist Association asserting “a wall of separation between Church and State” formally denied the reality of res sacra in temporalibus. He introduced a latent and powerful virus which would eventually be used to diminish and then to wound mortally a theology of discourse in the public arena. It has led to the increasingly secularized states of the American union and their active hostility towards the Catholic Church. Some of these governments are threatening Roman Catholic adoption agencies because of their refusal to select same-sex couples as potential adoptive parents. They are forcing Catholic hospitals to accept medical procedures which are contrary to the dignity of the human person. They are insisting on hiring practices which will destroy the Catholic identity of health and social services under Catholic Church auspices. They have not refrained from coercing the individual conscience. Here the federal and state governments are enshrining the primacy of secular laws over against religious principles. These decisions are the legal and moral progeny of Jefferson’s insistence on debarring personal faith from the public forum. And this is only a beginning. Their seeds can be found in the 1787 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom sponsored and promoted by Jefferson. His self-proclaimed Epicureanism and crypto-utilitarianism furnish the hermeneutical keys for interpreting the opening paragraph of his 1776 Declaration of Independence.

This evening. I will cover the following areas: 1) the narrow, calculative, mathematical mind and its manipulation of the humanum and, more specifically, of human sexuality since 1968; 2) the response of the Church’s magisterium in the encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae and teachings of later Popes; 3) other Catholic philosophical and theological responses to what John Rawls calls the “embedding module”, namely the increasingly disenchanted world in which we work and pray.

Furthermore, since this month, November, is the time in which the liturgy of the Church reflects on the final things – heaven, hell, purgatory and death, I will be attempting to strengthen the Catholic faithful, as St. John did in the Book of the Apocalypse, against the ever increasing pretensions of the state making itself absolute. For the next several weeks the Book of the Apocalypse will be read at daily Mass. The theme of that final book of the Bible is that the Battle of the Logos has always already been won on Calvary. In the immense conflicts associated with the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the overarching task of the Church is to make manifest for the faithful the apocalyptic victory of the Lamb in our historical time. The Church, the bearer of revelation, insists that the mysterious beginning and earthly end of every member of the human race is illumined by the light of the divine Logos. [“Every human being] comes from the source of light that irradiates him”.[2] Finally, I will be using the word “apocalyptic” in the Christian sense of “expressing the fundamental law of post-Christian world history: the more Christ’s kingdom is manifested as the light of the world……the more it will meet determined opposition.”[3]

1) The apparent triumph of what has been described as “the manipulable arrangement of the scientific-technological world and of the social order proper to this world” [4] over the past several generations.

1968 was the year in which Pope Paul VI issued, Humanae Vitae (HV); it was the long-delayed and long-awaited encyclical letter on transmitting human life. It met with immediate and unprecedented opposition. American theologians were its choral directors. The encyclical arrived in Washington, D. C. in late July 1968. It had to contend with the chaos of assassinations, overseas wars, the conflicts surrounding the Democratic/Republican national conventions, indiscriminate killings, university strikes and riots, growing use of barbiturates, and ubiquitous insurrections within the cities. It was preceded by a one year An Aquarian Exposition, the for- profit, rock-music event staged on a Woodstock dairy farm in New York State. Since then, the chaos has become chronic, more insidious because partially hidden. If 1968 was the year of the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt”, 2008 is the year of America’s exhaustion.

In the intervening 40 years the United States has been thrown upon unlit roads. There have been few, if any, “clearings” (Heidegger’s Lichtung). In 1973 alone the U. S. Supreme Courts’ pro-abortion decision was imposed upon the nation. Its scrupulous meanness has had catastrophic effects upon the identity, unity, and integrity of the American republic. It has undermined respect for human life. We have been horrified and uncomprehending witnesses for over two generations to America’s decline from “a mansion to a dirty house in a gutted world”[5]. Yet honesty compels me to admit that this decision against human life is in historical continuity with the pragmatism on the part of the Fathers of the 1787 Constitutional Convention for the recognition of Black slavery and, following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, in continuity with the same meanness toward Native Americans on the part of the politicians, entrepreneurs and settlers. The 1803 event was a meanness enshrined shortly in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. The 1973 Court’s alteration has even more radically transformed the way we think about others, especially the least among us. Its inexcusable evasions about the dignity of human life, and their prolongation to the present, have condemned those of us who oppose it to disillusionment and bitter isolation. Both Republican and Democratic partisans have abused rhetoric on this issue. The President-elect is a skillful rhetorician. Civic life has been invaded with an anti-humanism so toxic that it is proving mortal to the body politic.

Nothing has been left untouched by the court’s lethal wand. Social engineering and the price-systems have infected all Americans with a pervasive, technological mind-set. Economics, administration, sexuality, language and, above all, human life are being manipulated by complex strategies of power. “Politics in turn becomes an arena for contention among rival techniques.”[6] Obama’s campaign raised over $600 million, a record, and McCain’s over $300 million. An uncritical, unspoken “metaphysics of presence” dominates American life, both private and public. This new way of thinking has led to the creation of a worldwide colossus, America’s military. It is generally acknowledged that nothing in the nation’s economic, social, or political institutions approaches its influence. Freedom itself has been reduced to power.

Part II of Humanae Vitae, called “Doctrinal Principles”, ends with a description by Pope Paul VI of the “Serious Consequences of the Use of Artificial Methods of Birth Control”. His apocalyptic vision has been prophetic of the epoch we have entered. After 40 years of widespread contraceptive practice, the consequences appear now as the Horsemen of the Apocalypse ravaging what St. Paul described as the “ten logiken latreian hymon – “the humanly proper worship” (Rom 12: 1) of the baptized. The demonic four are the following: marital infidelity; disrespect for woman, governmental despotism in the regulation of births, and the human body manipulated and destroyed as a technological artifact. The four horseman have been responsible for the calamitous meltdown in Western demographics and in real development. Sexual aberration has become a way of life for many. These four shades are insinuating their deathworks upon whole nations and cultures. The Middle East is an obvious example.

Mary Eberstadt in a recent article entitled,“The Vindication of Humanae Vitae”, commented on the prophetic vision of Paul VI, “Contraceptive sex…….is the fundamental social fact of our time.” She continues, “In the years since Humanae Vitae’s appearance, numerous distinguished Catholic thinkers have argued, using a variety of evidence, that each of these predictions [of Pope Paul VI] has been borne out by the social facts.” Human life has been conceded to the arbitrary will of the state.

Governments are dissolving religious and philosophical values and remaking them into the distortions of a dominant, cybernetic model. Franz Kafka’s 1915novella, Metamorphosis, is not far off the prophetic mark. The good has been drained of ontological content; it has become “a mere cipher, a monadic carrier of information, a unit of cybernetic science”[7]. The British government has recently set as a national goal the manufacture of human life by technology. Its reductive anthropology allows the unprecedented to happen: the radical manipulation of the substance of the biological heritage of the human race. It has allocated £40 million of public monies for stem cell research. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair envisions Britain to be leader of the world in cloning human embryos for research. Potential benefits, he claims, will be huge. Furthermore, a consortium of leading British bankers and scientists have launched a £100 million fund to finance stem cell research. Plans are being made for a national stem cell research institute, costing £16 million. In 2005, the British Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced that the Government would spend more than £1 billion on biotechnology by 2008. ‘We want to send a signal to scientists that Britain is open for business in some of the most controversial areas,’ she said. It is not simply a coincidence that economics and technology dominate. Bankers, financial investors, and MBA executives are mentioned consistently with the scientific midwives of this cultural monstrosity, the nub of which is the forgetting of the question of God.[8]

In the United States President – elect Barack Obama and the Vice-President-elect Joseph Biden, a Catholic, campaigned on a severe anti-life platform. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, analyzed America’s descent since 1968-1973 into deathworks by summarizing Obama’s vision. George’s analysis appeared in the journal, Public Discourse. “[Obama] has co-sponsored a bill…..that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning.”[9]

The assumption under girding the positions of Barack Obama, Joseph Biden, and Tony Blair results from a technological mind-set. Such technologically-driven men eventually may assert that human nature, until recently acknowledged to be a unitary composite of two polarities, body and soul, must not only be changed by technology, but, if necessary, be suppressed. It has proven to be the next logical step after the decision to control and manipulate technologically the origins of human life.

But ‘phusis – nature’, has been essential in Western metaphysics for describing the truth of beings. Martin Heidegger writing about the radical reduction of the goals of medicine to what is technologically possible, and its relation to human phusis, asserted that, in the past even until very recent times, “techne can only cooperate with phusis, can more or less expedite the cure; but as techne it can never replace phusis and itself become the arche of health itself. This could happen only if life as such were to become a ‘technically’ producible artifact. However, at that very moment there would also no longer be such a thing as health, any more than there would be birth and death. Sometimes it seems as if modern humanity is rushing headlong toward this goal of producing itself technologically. If humanity achieves this, it will have exploded itself, i.e., its essence qua subjectivity, into thin air, into a region where the absolutely meaningless is valued as the one and only ‘meaning’ and where preserving this value appears as the human ‘domination’ of the globe. ‘Subjectivity’ is not overcome in this way but merely ‘tranquilized’ in the ‘eternal progress’ of a Chinese – like ‘constancy’. This is the most extreme nonessence in relation to phusis-ousia”[10]

A similar technological mind-set has contributed to the recent economic turmoil. Hedge funds were heavily invested in the technology bubble. The October 21, 2008 issue of The Financial Times read, “Blame it on Harvard: Is the MBA culture responsible for the financial crisis?” Technology and operations represent a major component of the MBA imagination at work at Harvard. The news story described the 100th anniversary celebration of the pre-eminent Harvard Business School. “You would have to have a heart of stone not to be amused by this piquant accident of timing. Here, at the spiritual home of the Masters of the universe, distinguished graduates could only look on as that same universe threatened to collapse.”

2) The response of the Church’s magisterium. The issues now facing us are all entwined within the above-developed linguistic and actual deathworks[11] informing Rawl’s “embedding module”. The response of the Church’s magisterium has been based on the ancient Catholic imagination recaptured happily by Pope John Paul II in his now famous phrase,”the nuptial meaning of the human body created as male and female.” The response includes “being true with the body and the soul.” The title of my talk has been taken from Francois Mauriac. He struggled for many years to overcome the unbending austerity and narrow rigidity resulting from the theological pessimism of the Jansenism of his childhood. In 1931 he overcame this heritage. Thereafter life became a creative drama that engages the fullness of the person by being true with body and soul. Mauriac’s “clearing” was where he discovered the dramatic convergence of form and content. The wholeness of two polarities is manifested within the unity of body and soul in the human person. David L. Schindler in a recent paper on human sexuality summarized his first principle supporting the differentiated unity of body and soul: “The Soul as it were lends its spiritual meaning to the body as body, even as the body then, simultaneously, contributes to what now becomes in man, a distinct kind of spirit: a spirit whose nature it is to be embodied”.[12]

The Church’s response to the technological/scientific hegemony just described has not involved any condemnation of technology or of science as such. Rather is based on her recognition of the present spiritual climate for what it is: A New Ice Age. The great American poet and convert to Catholicism, Wallace Stevens, coined the image. “‘America was always North ……. ‘ where God was in hiding.”[13]. We must turn south and even return to our origins, the desert. How? By recovering the structure of truth in its relation to goodness and beauty. Only a linguistic imagination that is analogical – and ultimately liturgical and sacramental – is capable of such rediscovery. In her devastating critique of the deconstructionism of Jacques Derrida, Catharine Pickstock has recaptured the apostrophic voice of Catholicism’s high desert origins, the responsorials first heard in the Sinaitic and Judean wildernesses. The poiesis of the Catholic imagination finds itself in the title of Pickstock’s book, After Writing: the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy.

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (27), Pope Benedict XVI echoes what is partially anticipated by Pickstock, “The Eucharist, as the sacrament of charity, has a particular relationship with the love of man and woman united in marriage. A deeper understanding of this relationship is needed at the present time. Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: ‘The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.’ Moreover, ‘the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist.’ The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the Eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32)”. In Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II called for the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage within the Eucharistic sacrifice to demonstrate the living connection between the two Sacraments. He thereby made more visible “the rich analogy between the una caro of the Eucharist and the una caro of the spouses through which their gift to one another becomes a particular form of participation in the Body ’given’ and the blood ‘poured out’ of Christ that becomes for the Christian family the inexhaustible font of its identity (with) itsmissionary and apostolic dynamism.” [14] Here we sense the flavor of Karl Barth’s analogia fidei in explaining the origins and meaning of linguistics.

What are the philosophical/theological foundations for such assertions? What are the meta-anthropological presuppositions for this vision of linguistics, of reality? Two elements should be highlighted: the biblical image of God and the biblical image of man. In his first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI proposes that the Bible presents us with new image of God – his Trinitarian self-oblation, the self-surrender characteristic of immanent Trinity – and with a new image of man, of which the most sublime sign is the Eucharist. “The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God’s presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing his body and blood” (13). The Eucharist builds up man and woman from within in the image of the Triune God and man learns the complexity of love: St. Augustine’s insight is helpful here: “Capit ut capitur. One grasps in being grasped.”[15] Preeminently in marriage, the Eucharist draws with the cords of love each spouse in the depths of their interiority toward a mutual, total, integrally human, and fruitful self-oblation.[16] The total giving of the Word in the Eucharist is the mirroring of the real language of the human body as created as male and female.

In his Wednesday audiences during the early 1980s Pope John Paul II called spouses to a deeper understanding of the theology of the body. When he described the prophets’ of the Old Testament use of marriage as an analogy of God’s relation to man, the Pope expressed the astonishing insight about the specific “prophetism of the body”[17]. In interpreting this prophetic language, he indicated, one must “reread” the language of the body for “it is the body itself which ‘speaks’; it speaks by means of its masculinity and femininity, it speaks in the mysterious language of the personal, it speaks ultimately -and this happens frequently – both in the language of fidelity, that is of love, and also in the language of conjugal infidelity, that is of ‘adultery’”.[18] A correct rereading must be done “in truth”. The human body speaks “a ‘language’ of which it is not the author. “Its author is man, who as male and female, husband and wife, correctly rereads the significance of this ‘language’. He rereads therefore the spousal significance of the body as integrally inscribed in the structure of the masculinity or femininity of the personal subject.” In other words, the human body as created by God as masculine/feminine is the Ursprache, the primordial utterancefrom the beginning. The “nuptial meaning” of the human body originally was the Adamic language.

All of these texts from John Paul II and Benedict XVI refer to the inner dynamic of the relationship between the two spouses. The subject of moral acts is each person, a dual unity of body and soul, a psychosomatic whole. Anything that smacks of a body-soul dualism is firmly rejected. One cannot attempt to free the soul from the body. When a human being seeks the truth and the good, his body is not an afterthought or an accident or a ‘tomb’ for the soul. The language of the human body, rightly reread, is a language by which “the likeness with God shows that the essence and existence of man are constitutively related to God in the most profound manner. This is a relationship that exists in itself, it is therefore not something that comes afterwards and is not added from the outside.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [CSDC] 109). In the words of the International Theological Commission, “Human bodiliness participates in the imago Dei.”[19] They echo the ancient teaching of St. Irenaeus, “”the flesh ….was formed according to the image of God.”[20]

As Archbishop of Denver, in 1996 I addressed a Pastoral Letter to the people of northern Colorado on the historical importance of a culture formed by the medieval Anglo-Saxon Sarum Rite and by the even more ancient Gregorian Sacramentary. Peoples in such a culture intuitively interpreted reality through the covenantal and bridal relationship of God and creation and of Christ and the Church. Consequently, they would find absolutely inapprehensible the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality activity as a valid moral option. Such activities are a direct assault not only upon the Sacrament of marriage but also upon the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

In light of all of the above realities, I cannot accept the judgement of Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, who in attempting to prevent the passing on of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, morally justifies the prophylactic use of condoms in a marriage in which one of the spouses is so infected. He summarizes his argument, “The immediate (or proximate) object of one’s choice in such a case is to engage in marital intercourse” and not “to ejaculate into a condom”. I agree with the conclusion of Bishop Anthony Fisher (and many, many other moral theologians) that Rhoneimer’s arguments are not only unconvincing but philosophically untenable and contrary to the Catholic theological and canonical tradition. Bishop Fisher writes about his agreement with the conclusions of [Janet ?] Smith, “Not only is condomized intercourse not a reproductive type of act, it can also be argued that it is not apt for uniting a couple ‘as one flesh’. In the first place the condom places a barrier to complete physical union: while this looks like ordinary sexual intercourse the couple fail, in fact, to touch in the most intimate way; arguably, they do not become ‘one flesh’.”[21]

Rhonheimer dismisses a meta-anthropological objection as a “psychological and perhaps aesthetic” concern, not a moral one. His body/soul dualistic rupture is enunciated with the repulsion he expresses over integral human copulation, “[I find it] intuitively repulsive to make the consummation of marriage dependent upon factual insemination of the woman’s vagina”. Should the wholeness of marriage in its consummation be considered repulsive? The human spirit finds its inner completion only as something honestly externalized, since the human spirit in this life is always already embodied. The body is the externalization of the spirit. The highest expression of human love is embodied in the total self-giving and self-oblation of a couple as “one flesh”.

What renders such repulsion intuitive? A meditation of the “one flesh” found Genesis two? But God described that unity as “very good” in Genesis one. A repulsive intuition before the image of man and woman integrally united as ‘one flesh’ is not only at odds with the biblical revelation but also with the Church’s reflection on that revelation. Pope John Paul II insists on the need for “a correct rereading in truth……of the spousal significance of the body as integrally inscribed in the structure of the masculinity and femininity of the personal subject[22].”

3) Other Catholic philosophical and theological responses to the “embedding module” of John Rawls. I cannot speak highly enough of the reflections on these issues and others by those engaged in the Communio project. According to von Balthasar, Communio’s conversations with the American secularized culture is the project of the Church in the United States. It calls for “the greatest possible radiance in the world by virtue of the closest following of Christ”.[23] Over the decades I have followed and benefitted enormously from reading your quarterly journal. I owe a special indebtedness of gratitude to David L. Schindler, a theologian, and his son, David C. Schindler, a metaphysician and theorist of knowledge. Their clearings have included signs marked “Where we are going!” and “Where we have come from”. I have already cited their works earlier. In these concluding remarks they appear again because they give light for one’s gaze on the mystery of “Being true with Body and Soul”.

David C. Schindler writes that “drama is the structure of being”[24]. From that splendid insight it is reasonable to conclude that the conjugal act itself is a drama that reveals who each individual is and who each is to become. Its principle revelation is not who the individual always was. The meaning of the sacramental act – the summit of the sacrament of marriage in facto esse, is revealed only in the activity of the two spouses. The marital act in its wholeness is a fundamental interpretation or unfolding of the sacrament of marriage.

Each spouse is an actor of truth. Truth has its terminus ad quem, not in the mind of the knower, but rather in a tertium quid, a Gestalt, a structure resulting from the encounter between the appearance of the depths on one hand and the transportation of the seer into the depths on the other. Truth is profoundly relational. It involves the tension of various parts of the whole, the movement from horizontal appearance to the vertical depths. David L. Schindler describes it in this fashion: “The body, always-already informed by soul and spirit and actualized by esse, exhibits an order of love: the body bears within it, already in its creaturely nature as body, the sign of the human being’s constitutive relation to God and to others in God, the sign thus, of a communion of persons and the promise of the gift itself.”[25]

As I mentioned earlier, one of the contested areas of pastoral life today is the predicament of a married couple one of whom has a mortally threatening disease which may be transmitted through the conjugal act. The confusion over this matter is becoming increasingly serious from a pastoral point of view. Fr. Martin Rhoneimer’s position undermines the anthropological teaching of Pope John Paul II and undercuts a coherent Catholic response to the crisis affecting human sexuality.

In concluding, I have underscored that the present crisis is ontological/epistemological and linguistic. At its foundations it is a crisis of signs, which means a crisis that is analogical, liturgical, sacramental. It was a constant theme implicit, sometimes explicit, in the discussions at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome on the biblical word of God. The participants asked how does religious language refer to reality? The modern response since the Enlightenment has been an “inside-out” approach to epistemological foundations, not an “outside-in”. The Catholic religious education establishment in the USA after the II Vatican Council adopted a similarly subjective-experiential methodology based on an “inside-out” epistemology. Widespread religious skepticism was the outcome. Nothing is recognized as definitive and “meaning itself is forever postponed.” [26] A movement toward “a dictatorship of relativism” is the diagnosis which Pope Benedict XVI has given to this phenomenon.

To counter this nihilism, the discovery of the “Gestalt” character of language, of the word, was pioneered by Hans Urs von Balthasar and brilliantly advanced by many, especially by David C. Schindler in his recent book, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Dramatic Structure of Truth: A Philosophical Investigation.

The following conclusions may be drawn from the foregoing. First, we must assert the rootedness of language, including the language of the human body, in ontology. A solidly unabashed metaphysics of being, founded on the real distinction between essence and existence, is essential for any recovery of truth and its objective structure. Postmodernists have rejected the tradition of western metaphysics, the concept of being since Socrates, and the real distinction between essence and existence. Metaphysics of this type is fundamental to any discussion of truth and its nature. Using Plato’s Phaedrus Catharine Pickstock has offered a devastating critique of Jacques Derrida’s theory of Supplementation by writing. She insists that his account “is tantamount to a metaphysics of presence”[27].

Secondly, Catholic scholars must explore the nuptial language founded upon the biblical text and upon the Catholic tradition and enriched by the teaching of John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI affirmed its substance recently, “The Eucharist, as the sacrament of charity, has a particular relationship with the love of man and woman united in marriage. A deeper understanding of this relationship is needed at the present time. Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: ‘The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.’ Moreover, the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist.”[28]

Thirdly, an exploration of the relationship between the nuptial meaning of the human body and the Eucharist, as the triform Body of Christ, should be made. Its development by de Lubac and Pickstock would be advanced if accompanied by an awareness of the critical role of the Gregorian Sacramentary and the Sarum Rite had upon the West and especially upon Anglo-Saxon culture. That culture was informed with the perception of the nuptial character of reality. The high medieval poem, In a Valley of this Restless Mind illustrates this. The anonymous English Catholic poet had the same spousal vision of life as that of the modern French Catholic novelist Mauriac when he described the human as “being true with body and soul”.[29] I wish to contrast his cultural vision with that of the dominant political and cultural classes today.

Before doing so, some contextual background of my criticism is important. In early 2003 as our country was preparing to go to war in Iraq, I spoke out against the war and on two occasions condemned the policies of the Bush administration for contributing to the lessening of respect for the dignity of the human person by the use of torture. In the same spirit today as a pastor of souls I do not hesitate again to flag some serious abuses against the natural and divine laws. Our own cultural ambience is not dissimilar from the period of the 1920’s when European intellectuals were moving ahead with an understanding of something “new”. Graham Ward’s description of that period highlights elements which characterize the vision of today’s President – elect, the Vice-President – elect, and the legislators elected to assist them in implementing their vision. Graham wrote, “Briefly modernism’s programme was to ‘make it new’. It courted the unconventional and nonconformist in a conscious effort to overthrow the traditional perspective and stock expectations. Its dynamism was aggressive, disruptive and even apocalyptic. Hostility to the………War fed its anger against the status quo and its desire for a creativity that would be transcultural, transclass and transfrontier.”[30]

On November 4, 2008 a cultural earthquake hit America. Senator Barack Obama and Senator Joseph Biden were elected President and Vice President of the United States together with a significant majority of their Party in the federal Congress supporting their deadly vision of human life. Americans were unanimous in their joy over the significance of the election of a Black President. However, if Obama, Biden and the new Congress are determined to implement the anti-life agenda which they spelled out before the election, I foresee the next several years as being among the most divisive in our nation’s history. If their proposals should be initiated and enacted, it would be impossible for the American bishops to repeat in the future what their predecessors described the United States in 1884 as “this home of freedom.”[31]

While reflecting about the profoundly negative impact of Obama’s vision on the humanum (and also of Biden’s), I recalled how current are the reflections of Mauriac upon his contemporary, an influential European author. Even though Mauriac disagreed with him on almost every point, he acknowledged his great intelligence and personal attraction. “But under all that grace and charm there was a tautness of will, a clenched jaw, a state of constant alertness to detect and resist any external influence which might threaten his independence. A state of alertness? That is putting it mildly: beneath each word he wrote, he was carrying on sapping operations against the enemy city where a daily fight was going on.”[32]

Similar characteristics were evident in Senator Obama’s talk before Planned Parenthood supporters on July 17, 2007 – tautness of will, a clenched jaw, etc. – where he asserted, “We are not only going to win this election but also we are going to transform this nation………The first thing I will do as President is to sign The Freedom of Choice Act……..I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law………..On this issue I will not yield..” During a town meeting in March 2008 in Johnstown, Pa., he spoke with equal determination on the necessity of universal sex education for preteens and teens, “I don’t want my daughters punished with a baby.” The President – elect did not qualify in any way the methods his single daughters might employ in the event they needed to avoid being “punished with a baby”, that is, giving birth to his grandchild. Obama’s vision is modernist and rooted in the Enlightenment. The content and rhetoric of Obama and Biden have elements similar to those described earlier: aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.[33]

Catholics weep over Barack Obama’s words. We weep over the violence concealed behind his rhetoric and that of Joseph Biden and what appears to be that of the majority of the incoming Congress. What should we do with our hot, angry tears of betrayal?

First, our tears are agonistic. Secondly, we must acknowledge that the model for our tears is ancient. Over the next few years, Gethsemane will not be a marginal garden to us. A model, I suggest, is medieval. With an anonymous author, our restless minds search in a dark valley during this exhausting year. With him as our guide, we find a bleeding man on a hill sitting under a tree “in huge sorrow”. It is Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church and of mankind.

Thirdly, we listen to the words of Christ as narrated by our mediaeval ancestor. Jesus pointing to his gloved hands says that these gloves were given him when he sought his Bride. They are not white but red, embroidered with blood. He says that his spouse brought them and they will not come off. Fourthly, we focus our attention on the constantly repeated refrain of the Bridegroom and the reason for his “huge sorrow”, “Quia amore langueo – Because I am sick for love”. And finally, we find that before this vision of the wounded young man, our frustration and tears become one with his “huge sorrow”and we make his love for the unfaithful Bride whom he seeks and never fails, our own. I will close with a citation of this spousal model. It serves as a measure of what we need to recapture for the whole Church in 2008:

Upon this hil Y fond a tree,

Undir the tree a man sittynge,

From heed to foot woundid was he,

His herte blood Y sigh bledinge:

A semeli man to ben a king, (handsome enough to be a king)

A graciouse face to loken unto;

I askide whi he had peynynge, (suffering)

He seide, “Quia amore langueo. (Because I am sick for love).

I am Truelove that fals was nevere.

My sistyr, Mannis Soule, Y loved hir thus.

Bicause we wolde in no wise discevere, (because in no way would we part company)

I lefte my kyngdom glorious.

I purveide for hir a paleis precious; (prepared, a palace)

Sche fleyth; Y folowe. Y soughte hir so,

I suffride this peyne piteuous,

Quia amore langueo.

In the autumn of 2008 we must begin anew with that sentiment of our medieval brother. Quia amore langueo. With Jesus we are sick because of love toward those with whom we are so tragically and unavoidably at variance. The reader has now become one with the narrator who is addressed in line one as “Dear Soul”. As Humanae Vitae with the whole Catholic tradition teaches, we are to “be true with body and soul”.

James Francis Cardinal Stafford

    [1]Francois Mauriac, cited by David C. Schindler, op. cit. 311, 324.
    [2]Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodrama: Theological Dramatic Theory, IV: The Action, ( San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 126.
    [3]Ibid. 21.
    [4]Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, Revised an expanded edition, ed. By David Farrell Krell, (Cornwall: Routledge, 2004), 435.
    [5]Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, (New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 1991), 158. Abridged and cited by Helen Vendler, Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985), 34.
    [6]Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, translated from the French by John Wilkinson, (New York: Vintage Books, 1964), vii.
    [7] David Farrell Krell, ed. Basic Writings: Martin Heidegger, (Cornwall: Routledge, 2004), 428.
    [8]George Steiner, Real Presences, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989), 230.
    [9]October 15, 2008
    [10]Martin Heidegger, Pathmarks, ed. by William McNeill, (Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1998), 197.
    [11]Philip Rief, My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority,
    (Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2006).
    [12]David L. Schindler, Persons, Body, and Biology: The Anthropological Challenge of Homosexuality, unpublished paper, 2008, 3.
    [13]Alan Filreis, cited by Charles M. Murphy, Wallace Stevens: A Spiritual Journey in a Secular Age, (New York, Paulist Press, 1997), 72.
    [14]Giancarlo Grandis, in Sacramentum Caritatis: Studi e commenti sull’Esortazione Apostolica postsinodale di Benedetto XVI, ed. by R. Nardin-G- Tangorra, (Rome, Lateran University Press, 2008), 277.
    [15]St. Augustine.
    [16]Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter, Humanae Vitae, 1968, 9.
    [17]Pope John Paul II, The Theology of Marriage and Celibacy, (Boston, Daughters of St. Paul, 1986), 309.
    [18]Ibid. 311.
    [19]International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship, Human Persons Created in the Image of God, (2004), 31. (cited by David L. Schindler. Ibid., 3).
    [20]Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, V, 6, 1.
    [21]Anthony Fisher, Cooperation, Condoms and HIV, unpublished paper, 2008, 15-16.
    [22]Pope John Paul II, Ibid. 318.
    [23]Hans Urs von Balthasar, My Work in Retrospect, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), trans. by Cornelia Capol, 58.
    [24]David C. Schindler, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Dramatic Structure of Truth: A Philosophical Investigation, (United States of America: Fordham University Press, 2004), 19.
    [25]David L. Schindler, Ibid. 8.
    [26]Michael Drolet, The Postmodern Reader: Foundational Texts, (London, Routledge, 2004), 23.
    [27]Catherine Pickstock, After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy, (Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1998), 20.
    [28]Pope Benedict XVI, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, 2007, § 27.
    [29]Francois Mauriac, cited by David C. Schindler, op. cit. 311, 324.
    [30]GrahamWard, Barth, Derrida and the Language of Theology, (Cambridge: Cambridge University House, 1998), 7-8.
    [31]“Pastor Letter Issued by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore”, 1884, found in Pastoral Letters of the United States Catholic Bishops, Volume I:1792-1940, (Washington, United States Catholic Conference, 1983), 216.
    [32]Francois Mauriac, “The Death of Andre Gide”, taken from Gide, a Collection of Critical Essays, (Prentice Hall, 1970).
    [33]“My use of the word “apocalyptic” would be emphatically biblical, rooted in the understanding of the Book of the Apocalypse.

To Trace All Souls Day [from Ignatius Insight, 2 November 2011]

To Trace All Souls Day | Fr. Brian Van Hove, S.J. | Ignatius Insight | November 1, 2008 and November 2, 2011

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As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once said so well, one major difference between Protestants and Catholics is that Catholics pray for the dead:

“My view is that if Purgatory did not exist, we should have to invent it.” Why?

“Because few things are as immediate, as human and as widespread—at all times and in all cultures—as prayer for one”s own departed dear ones.” Calvin, the Reformer of Geneva, had a woman whipped because she was discovered praying at the grave of herson and hence was guilty, according to Calvin, of superstition”. “In theory, the Reformation refuses to accept Purgatory, and consequently it also rejects prayer for the departed. In fact German Lutherans at least have returned to it in practice and have found considerable theological justification for it. Praying for one’s departed loved ones is a far too immediate urge to be suppressed; it is a most beautiful manifestation of solidarity, love and assistance, reaching beyond the barrier of death. The happiness or unhappiness of a person dear to me, who has now crossed to the other shore, depends in part on whether I remember or forget him; he does not stop needing my love.” [1]

Catholics are not the only ones who pray for the dead. The custom is also a Jewish one, and Catholics traditionally drew upon the following text from the Jewish Scriptures, in addition to some New Testament passages, to justify their belief:

Then Judas assembled his army and went to the city of Adulam. As the seventh day was coming on, they purified themselves according to the custom, and they kept the sabbath there. On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchres of their fathers. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honourably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin. [2]

Besides the Jews, many ancient peoples also prayed for the deceased. Some societies, such as that of ancient Egypt, were actually “funereal” and built around the practice. [3] The urge to do so is deep in the human spirit which rebels against the concept of annihilation after death. Although there is some evidence for a Christian liturgical feast akin to our All Souls Day as early as the fourth century, the Church was slow to introduce such a festival because of the persistence, in Europe, of more ancient pagan rituals for the dead. In fact, the Protestant reaction to praying for the dead may be based more on these survivals and a deformed piety from pre-Christian times than on the true Catholic doctrine as expressed by either the Western or the Eastern Church. The doctrine of purgatory, rightly understood as praying for the dead, should never give offense to anyone who professes faith in Christ.

When we discuss the Feast of All Souls, we look at a liturgical commemoration which pre-dated doctrinal formulation itself, since the Church often clarifies only that which is being undermined or threatened. The first clear documentation for this celebration comes from Isidore of Seville (d. 636; the last of the great Western Church Fathers) whose monastic rule includes a liturgy for all the dead on the day after Pentecost. [4] St. Odilo (962-1049 AD) was the abbot of Cluny in France who set the date for the liturgical commemoration of the departed faithful on November 2.

Before that, other dates had been seen around the Christian world, and the Armenians still use Easter Monday for this purpose. He issued a decree that all the monasteries of the congregation of Cluny were annually to keep this feast. On November 1 the bell was to be tolled and afterward the Office of the Dead was to be recited in common, and on the next day all the priests would celebrate Mass for the repose of the souls in purgatory. The observance of the Benedictines of Cluny was soon adopted by other Benedictines and by the Carthusians who were reformed Benedictines. Pope Sylvester in 1003 AD approved and recommended the practice. Eventually the parish clergy introduced this liturgical observance, and from the eleventh to the fourteenth century it spread in France, Germany, England, and Spain.

Finally, in the fourteenth century, Rome placed the day of the commemoration of all the faithful departed in the official books of the Western or Latin Church. November 2 was chosen in order that the memory of all the holy spirits, both of the saints in heaven and of the souls in purgatory, should be celebrated in two successive days. In this way the Catholic belief in the Communion of Saints would be expressed. Since for centuries the Feast of All the Saints had already been celebrated on November first, the memory of the departed souls in purgatory was placed on the following day. All Saints Day goes back to the fourth century, but was finally fixed on November 1 by Pope Gregory IV in 835 AD. The two feasts bind the saints-to-be with the almost-saints and the already-saints before the resurrection from the dead.

Incidentally, the practice of priests celebrating three Masses on this day is of somewhat recent origin, and dates back only to ca. 1500 AD with the Dominicans of Valencia. Pope Benedict XIV extended it to the whole of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America in 1748 AD. Pope Benedict XV in 1915 AD granted the “three Masses privilege” to the universal Church. [5]

On All Souls Day, can we pray for those in limbo? The notion of limbo is not ancient in the Church, and was a theological extrapolation to provide explanation for cases not included in the heaven-purgatory-hell triad. Cardinal Ratzinger was in favor of its being set aside, and it does not appear as a thesis to be taught in the new Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. [6]

The doctrine of Purgatory, upon which the liturgy of All Souls rests, is formulated in canons promulgated by the Councils of Florence (1439 AD) and Trent (1545-1563 AD). The truth of the doctrine existed before its clarification, of course, and only historical necessities motivated both Florence and Trent to pronounce when they did. Acceptance of this doctrine still remains a required belief of Catholic faith.

What about “indulgences”? Indulgences from the treasury of grace in the Church are applied to the departed on All Souls Day, as well as on other days, according to the norms of ecclesiastical law. The faithful make use of their intercessory role in prayer to ask the Lord”s mercy upon those who have died. Essentially, the practice urges the faithful to take responsibility. This is the opinion of Michael Morrissey:

Against the common juridical and commercial view, the teaching essentially attempts to induce the faithful to show responsibility toward the dead and the communion of saints. Since the Church has taught that death is not the end of life, then neither is it the end of our relationship with loved ones who have died, who along with the saints make up the Body of Christ in the “Church Triumphant.”

The diminishing theological interest in indulgences today is due to an increased emphasis on the sacraments, the prayer life of Catholics, and an active engagement in the world as constitutive of the spiritual life. More soberly, perhaps, it is due to an individualistic attitude endemic in modern culture that makes it harder to feel responsibility for, let alone solidarity with, dead relatives and friends. [7]

As with everything Christian, then, All Souls Day has to do with the mystery of charity, that divine love overcomes everything, even death. Bonds of love uniting us creatures, living and dead, and the Lord who is resurrected, are celebrated both on All Saints Day and on All Souls Day each year.

All who have been baptized into Christ and have chosen him will continue to live in Him. The grave does not impede progress toward a closer union with Him. It is only this degree of closeness to Him which we consider when we celebrate All Saints one day, and All Souls the next. Purgatory is a great blessing because it shows those who love God how they failed in love, and heals their ensuing shame. Most of us have neither fulfilled the commandments nor failed to fulfill them. Our very mediocrity shames us. Purgatory fills in the void. We learn finally what to fulfill all of them means. Most of us neither hate nor fail completely in love. Purgatory teaches us what radical love means, when God remakes our failure to love in this world into the perfection of love in the next.

As the sacraments on earth provide us with a process of transformation into Christ, so Purgatory continues that process until the likeness to Him is completed. It is all grace. Actively praying for the dead is that “holy mitzvah” or act of charity on our part which hastens that process. The Church encourages it and does it with special consciousness and in unison on All Souls Day, even though it is always and everywhere salutary to pray for the dead.


[1] See Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, with Vittorio Messori (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985) 146-147. Michael P. Morrissey says on the point: “The Protestant Reformers rejected the doctrine of purgatory, based on the teaching that salvation is by faith through grace alone, unaffected by intercessory prayers for the dead.” See his “Afterlife” in The Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, ed. Michael Downey (Collegeville: Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press, 1993) 28.

[2] Maccabees 12:38-46. From The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Catholic Edition. (London: The Catholic Truth Society, 1966) 988-989. Neil J. McEleney, CSP, adds: “These verses contain clear reference to belief in the resurrection of the just…a belief which the author attributes to Judas …although Judas may have wanted simply to ward off punishment from the living, lest they be found guilty by association with the fallen sinners…. The author believes that those who died piously will rise again…and who can die more piously than in a battle for God”s law? …Thus, he says, Judas prayed that these men might be delivered from their sin, for which God was angry with them a little while…. The author, then, does not share the view expressed in 1 Enoch 22:12-13 that sinned- against sinners are kept in a division of Sheol from which they do not rise, although they are free of the suffering inflicted on other sinners. Instead, he sees Judas”s action as evidence that those who die piously can be delivered from unexpiated sins that impede their attainment of a joyful resurrection. This doctrine, thus vaguely formulated, contains the essence of what would become (with further precisions) the Christian theologian’s teaching on purgatory.” See The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, SS, etal., art. 26, “1-2 Maccabees” (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1990) 446. Gehinnom in Jewish writings is more appropriately understood as a purgatory than a final destination of damnation.

[3] Spanish-speaking Catholics today popularly refer to All Souls Day as “El Día de los Muertos”, a relic of the past when the pre- Christian Indians had a “Day of the Dead”; liturgically, the day is referred to as “El Día de las Animas”. Germans call their Sunday of the Dead “Totensonntag”. The French Jesuit missionaries in New France in the seventeenth century easily explained All Souls Day by comparing it to the the local Indian “Day of the Dead”. The Jesuit Relations are replete with examples of how conscious were the people of their duties toward their dead. Ancestor worship was also well known in China and elsewhere in Asia, and missionaries there in times gone by perhaps had it easier explaining All Souls Day to them, and Christianizing the concept, than they would have to us in the Western world as the twentieth century draws to a close.

[4] See Michael Witczak, “The Feast of All Souls”, in The Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, ed. Peter Fink, SJ, (Collegeville: Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press, 1990) 42.

[5] “Three Masses were formerly allowed to be celebrated by each priest, but one intention was stipulated for all the Poor Souls and another for the Pope”s intention. This permission was granted by Benedict XV during the World War of 1914-1918 because of the great slaughter of that war, and because, since the time of the Reformation and the confiscation of church property, obligations for anniversary Masses which had come as gifts and legacies were almost impossible to continue in the intended manner. Some canonists believe Canon 905 of the New Code has abolished this practice. However, the Sacramentary, printed prior to the Code, provides three separate Masses for this date.” See Jovian P. Lang, OFM, Dictionary of the Liturgy (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1989) 21. Also see Francis X. Weiser, The Holyday Book (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1956) 121-136.

[6] Ratzinger stated: “Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally—and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as Prefect of the Congregation—I would abandon it since it was only a theological hypothesis. It formed part of a secondary thesis in support of a truth which is absolutely of first significance for faith, namely, the importance of baptism. To put it in the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). One should not hesitate to give up the idea of “limbo” if need be (and it is worth noting that the very theologians who proposed “limbo” also said that parents could spare the child limbo by desiring its baptism and through prayer); but the concern behind it must not be surrendered. Baptism has never been a side issue for faith; it is not now, nor will it ever be.” See Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report, 147-148.

[7] Morrissey, “Afterlife” in The Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, 28-29.

This article was originally published, in a slightly different form, as “To Trace All Souls Day,” in The Catholic Answer, vol. 8, no. 5 (November/December 1994): 8-11.

Related Articles and Book Excerpts:

On November: All Souls and the “Permanent Things” | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Death, Where Is Thy Sting? | Adrienne von Speyr
Purgatory: Service Shop for Heaven | Reverend Anthony Zimmerman
The Question of Hope | Peter Kreeft
The Next Life Is a Lot Longer Than This One | Mary Beth Bonacci
My Imaginary Funeral Homily | Mary Beth Bonacci
Do All Catholics Go Straight to Heaven? | Mary Beth Bonacci
Be Nice To Me. I’m Dying. | Mary Beth Bonacci
Are God’s Ways Fair? | Ralph Martin
• The Question of Suffering, the Response of the Cross | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The Cross and The Holocaust | Regis Martin
From Defeat to Victory: On the Question of Evil | Alice von Hildebrand

Father Brian Van Hove, S.J., is the chaplain to the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan.

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