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.

At Boston’s bombing scene: Catholic priests need not apply

 The City Gates

At Boston’s bombing scene: Catholic priests need not apply

By Phil Lawler (bio – articles – send a comment) | April 26, 2013 

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Graham tells me something that I hadn’t heard about Boston Marathon bombing. As dozens of victims were sprawled across Boylston Street, many of them in danger of death, Catholic priests came running to the scene—and were turned away.

Doctors and nurses were welcome at the bombing scene. Firefighters and police officers were welcome. But Catholic priests, who might have offered the solace of the sacraments, were not.

”Catholics need not apply.” That slogan was familiar in Boston years ago, before Irish and Italian immigrants took over control of the city. Now, after decades of decline in Catholic influence , the attitude has returned. One priest who was barred from Boylston Street remarked that in the past a priest was admitted anywhere. “That’s changed,” he said. “Priests are no longer considered to be emergency responders.”

Unless police officers in Boston are uniquely hostile to priests (a distinct possibility), the tide has turned very quickly on this question. On September 11, 2001, there were Catholic priests at the staging areas near the World Trade Center, giving absolution to firefighters before they rushed into the doomed building: mass-producing saints!

Unable to provide spiritual help to those whose lives were endangered, the priests in Boston retreated to a nearby church, were they “set up a table with water and oranges and bananas to serve people.” Doesn’t that nicely capture what a once-Catholic, now-secular culture expects from the Church? It’s not essential for priests to administer the sacraments; in fact it’s unwelcome. But if they could just stay out of the way, and give people something to eat, that would be fine.

Jennifer Graham captures the problem well:

But it is a poignant irony that Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who died on Boylston Street, was a Catholic who had received his first Communion just last year. As Martin lay dying, priests were only yards away, beyond the police tape, unable to reach him to administer last rites…

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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‘Spurious Vocation: The Problem and Suggestions for Solutions’ by Paul M. Quay, S.J. [1976]

‘Spurious Vocation: The Problem and Suggestions for Solutions’
Published in ‘Review for Religious,’ vol. 33 (1976): 1347-1391
At the writing of this article, Father Paul M. Quay, S.J. (1924-1994) was
associate professor in the Department of Physics and adjunct associate
professor of spirituality in the School of Divinity, St. Louis University,
221  North Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63103.

This article seeks, by means of principles discussed in an earlier article (Review for Religious, September 1974, p. 1062-99) entitled “God’s Call and Man’s Response” (hereafter GCMR) to find some practical ways to help those entangled in the problems generated by the various kinds of false vocation. No truly novel methods are possible, I think, for dealing with these problems. But a fresh view of them in the context of God’s own activity concerning them may make a more discriminating use of even the standard methods possible. The orientations indicated in the introduction to GCMR hold here also.

Part I of this article develops more or less descriptively the notions of “non-vocation,” “mistaken vocation,” and related categories. An extended treatment is given since, if these situations have often not been recognized for what they are,
that lack of recognition may result from insufficiently concrete and
experiential categories through which to grasp and understand them.

In Part II the complications introduced into all questions of God’s call and of
His will by the taking of vows are considered. Various practical situations are
dealt with. Particularly detailed attention is given to secularization (after
permanent vows) as a possible solution to vocational problems.

The last part considers in greater detail the social harm done to various religious
institutes by failure to face squarely these situations. Some suggestions are
offered on possible solutions and how these might be approached in practice. I
shall be concerned with concrete situations far more than with any purely
theological questions though, given the subject matter, these can never be
lacking. Even so and despite its length, this paper is still far too brief to
allow us to consider any topic exhaustively or even to mention many which are,
nonetheless, of considerable importance. The most notable omissions, perhaps,
are of discernment of spirits and of the ways to actually form a judgment as to
the presence or absence of a divine call. Nor is any attempt made to deal with
all problems growing from spurious vocation. For example, nothing has been said directly about the touchy but closely related topic of “temporary vocation.”

It is obviously impossible to include all the details pertinent to any particular
situation. Common sense and the standard procedures of the Church are presumed to be available except as otherwise indicated. All these matters, on the level of practice, require great delicacy of discernment, tact, and an unsentimental and faith­ful charity. In no way should what is suggested here be taken as a set of simple formulas capable of direct and immediate application.


The Case of Non-vocation

A. There are people whom, in fact, God has not called to any state of life but who
have, nonetheless, entered seriously upon some way of life as though they had
been called there. They vow themselves to God in this mode of life, yet God has
given them no invitation. This is the situation of “non­-vocation.” There are
three elements here: God has not called; the person attempts a particular way
of life; and this, under vow.i


Since not moved by God to any way of life, the person is acting, in this respect,
entirely on his own, independently of grace, perhaps contrary to it. The
motives can be various. In some cases, the person acts with a clear head and
knows well enough what is taking place; for example, a young woman enters the
convent to avoid an obnoxious marriage into which she is being forced by her
family; a young man enters the seminary because of the honor, financial
security, and gentleman-scholar’s life he thinks to obtain as a priest.

In other cases, the motives are obscure and deeply buried, arising from
psychological weaknesses or flaws, or from deeply embedded cultural factors.
Thus, a seminarian may be trying to escape from his mother or, conversely, he
may be seeking to win her love; or the intrinsic dignity of the priesthood may
be sought to compensate for deep humiliations suffered in childhood; or the
convent may seem the only mode of escape from an intolerable family situation
from which brothers and sisters have long since fled.

As an example of cultural factors, consider an attitude that is typical of
American Catholics. Not that we deny the grace of God. We admit our need of
light for our minds and strength for our wills to accomplish whatever it is we
want spiritually, but what we want is determined by ourselves. We do not easily
learn to listen so as to find out what God might be wanting of us. Rather, we
identify, according to temperament, what is reasonable, what is emotionally
satisfying, what others desire of us, and so forth, with the will or call of
God. Ultimately, it is we who decide what we are going to do in God’s service; it
is we who bear the responsibility of asking for the needed grace and for
cooperating properly with it when given and for carrying the whole enterprise
through to its conclusion. In the final analysis, it is God who responds to us,
not we to Him. It is we who are the initiators of good in our lives;
psychological mechanisms explain the bad; and, though we never say so, it is we
who receive the credit for making a success of our lives. The American cultural
ideal of the self-made man who takes the little he has and works with it, with
whatever aid he can get from outside, and strives and struggles perseveringly
until he has successfully done what he desired as his life’s work, is simply
transposed to the spiritual level.

It easily happens, then, that a young person can decide to become a priest or Religious without any least embarrassment at not having heard a call from God. Once he has decided, for whatever reasons, to live such a life, he sees nothing more required except to fill out his application papers and set to work.

The fact that God is not calling the people we have been speaking about does not
mean that He has no will in their regard. He very clearly wills their
repentance or maturation or the working through of their motivation in truth,
with professional aid where needed. That done, He will usually call them, in
what manner and in what directions we shall discuss later.

The Case of Mistaken Vocation

B. The situations, however, which are of primary interest to us here have a quite
different structure: God does indeed call and invite these people to some mode
of life; but they misinterpret His call and, as a result, vow themselves to Him
in a way of life other than that to which He is calling them. These are situations of “mistaken vocation.”ii

There are two broad classes of mistaken vocation which it is of considerable
practical importance to distinguish: the first, in which God’s call does not
have as its objective, directly at least, the choice of a’ specific way of life
at all, but is taken by the person called as if so directed, say, for example,
to the Dominicans; the second, in which God calls to one specific mode of life,
and His call is taken as if to some other specific mode.

No Call to a Specific Way of Life

A common example of the first of these classes results from erroneously
interpreting God’s invitation to an “interior life” as a call, say, to a
religious congregation; and many current vocational problems have no more
complex root than this confounding of a real call towards intimacy with the
Lord at an adult level with a call to some specific state of life.

Thus, ordinarily during adolescence, God begins to send His grace in a perceptible way to a youngster. The latter will already have become acutely conscious of growing up physically. With less reflex awareness he will have been growing also religiously. Religion is no longer just a question of delight in sacred
ceremonies or an attraction towards quiet reflection or a desire to do wondrous
things in strange lands like Father X the missionary. Rather, the adolescent is
becoming more aware of God’s commandments and their obligating power, is more conscious of an active with regard to social justice and “charity,” trying to
do in his life something of what adult Christians “ought to do,” to read some
of the things adult Catholics “ought to read.” But all this has remained
somewhat external.

Now begins an interiorization: he begins to savor the greatness of the Christian
heritage or the marvels of God’s works in nature or in history. There comes a certain sweetness in prayer, a realization of how good God is, a certain openness to Him, a sense of awe but not fright in His presence. God begins to make Himself known as personally present, as One who is interested in the young person for himself, not just as a warder-off of evil or a judge of his thoughts, as One who wants to be with him and with whom he deeply desires to remain. He comes to know, perhaps, the joy of being set truly free of his sins by Christ’s pure
love; and he may begin to know God personally, having certain relations with
Jesus and others with Jesus’ Father, now more manifestly his own.

However it takes place, it is something that, from God’s side, is much wanted, even if wholly ordinary, as He stirs the youngster up to desire the sort of
relationship which He would like to have with every Christian adult; for, the “interior life” is simply the inner life of any adult Christian.

The call to interiority is a sign of God’s initiating a more personal relationship
but implies the young person’s need to continue his overall growth. It is an
invitation to incorporate the spiritual more deliberately and consciously into
his life and personal development ‒ the success of which
incorporation is shown by its gradual inversion, so that the spiritual ceases
to be but an element in the young person’s maturation; and his further maturing
is caught up into and forgotten about in his ever developing relations of
knowledge, love, and service of God.

But greatly good as all this is, it need be no more than this. There need as yet be
no least indication of what state God may desire for him. Hence, these varied
graces of prayer or interiority should not be taken, simply as such, as signs
that God is calling this young person to any particular state in life. It is
essential that we allow the youngster to grow up in accord with this call to an
interior life, indeed, insist that he do so, and in no way allow that process
of maturation to be cut short or falsified, as it is only too likely to be if
taken as a “religious vocation.”

The common tendency to jump the gun in these cases seems to be correlative with our own lowering of ideals in the religious life ‒ thinking that any true signs of growth in prayer and closeness to God show an aptitude for the religious state,
or else with a great devaluing of the secular layman’s state, as if a personal
life in and for God was somehow a call away from a secular life. Either
attitude is destructive.

It may be well here to distinguish the situation we have just considered from
another with which it is easily confused: the case of premature response to a
vocation. In connection with non-vocation, we spoke of the person for whom God’s will is simply that he grow up. Clearly, God can will the same thing for a
person He has already called to some state of life. As seen in GCMR, p. 1072, a call by God to a particular state is temporally independent of this willing of maturity. He may call long before, while, or after the growth occurs which He wishes. Conversely, His will for growth is in no way mitigated or satisfied by even the most generous response to His call, whenever, at least, personal maturity is
necessary for implementing the call and reaching its objectives ‒ remember the
long interval of ripening and preparation needed to turn the newly called and
converted Saul into the Apostle Paul.

It is all too easy, then, to think that a call, truly heard, dispenses a youngster
from the pains and struggles of growing up that is required of him before he
enters upon the mode of life to which he is called. The good which God desires
for him can be short-circuited by attempting a mode of life for which, no
matter how truly called, he is not yet ready. For a person rightly to enter any
state of life, he must have matured in the varying manners and to those degrees
that are required by the threshold for that specific state (see GCMR, p. 1093). Otherwise, the life will be too much for him; his ability to live it will depend profoundly on the antecedent soundness of his further growth. It can be a serious error, then, to take the signs of a developing interior life as indications that the person is ready to engage himself actively in accord with his call. The failure to take seriously the threshold requirements of the different religious institutes ‒ or even to work out what these thresholds are in explicit detail ‒ has made this sort of error very common at present. 

Mistake in Identifying a Specific Call

2. The second broad class of mistaken vocations (in which an individual is truly called by God to a particular way of life but engages himself in some other, not by refusal of the call but by mistake in identifying it) is perhaps the more important practically. To a limited degree, it has long been recognized; hence, for
example, the provision in each diocese of a vicar for Religious who, among
other duties, is to assist those individuals who might need, for this reason,
to transfer from one Order or congregation to some other.iii

But most of these situations lay largely unrecognized until Vatican II turned its light not so much upon the problems as upon their sources and origins, thus moving towards their radical cures.iv The first such source we have discussed
already in some detail in GCMR, Section III: the loss of perception of the variety and specificity of the different ways of life, both lay potential candidates and by the religious institutes themselves. As there indicated, the Council set in motion the suitable means for remedying this evil.

A second source of mistakes lay in the neglect, since about the 1690s, of the power, depth, and beauty of secular, especially lay, spirituality, in the loss of the very notion, even, of a secular spirituality in any strong sense. Now, at least, it
is once more evident, as a result of the Council, that God calls people to
great intimacy with and outstanding service of Himself entirely within and as
part of a call to a secular layman’s life. The paradoxical effects of this
clarification we shall consider shortly.

A third source, the most deeply rooted perhaps, is a quasi-Lutheran attitude of mind which fails to take adequate account of natural religious growth and development, even when informed by grace. It is the mentality which is overly eager to treat young people as characteristically Christian in all aspects of their being, before they have had time to “recapitulate” the Old Testament. Hence, young Religious or, indeed, charismatically renewed laymen who are instructed and well versed in turning the other cheek before they have learned to experience the fiery anger of the prophets in the presence of social injustice. The principles for treating this disease are only implicit, it would seem, in Vatican II, evident chiefly in its sense of the dynamic nature of religious history and in the firmness of its stand against any supernaturalism which would bypass human growth and development, fallen or redeemed, or reduce the growth process to a
discontinuous transition from Law to Gospel.

Finally, we may put together the various, purely subjective difficulties: hidden psychological needs, fears, and compulsions; immaturity; poor listening to God; only partial hearing of His call; mistaken notions of what a vocation is or how it might be discerned; false or unbalanced theological opinions which obscure the true nature of the call’s objective. The interaction of these subjective factors
with the more objective ones previously mentioned make for the concrete
situations we shall be concerned to deal with and help.

Further Distinction between Mistaken and Non-existent Vocation

3. Before going on, it is worth pondering further the distinction between mistaken and non-existent vocation. The great difference, of course, is the matter of fact (obvious in theory though often very difficult to ascertain in an actual case): in one case God is calling the person ‒ with all that that implies of grace and promise and fidelity (see GCMR, pp. l074, 1084, 1098); in the other case, He is not.

Sometimes a person balks here: how can one speak of a mistaken vocation if the individual has followed out his supposed vocation in good faith and in accord with God’s will, who has let this happen, if superiors have approved and all the levels of ecclesiastical authority have acted to validate it? I agree that under these
circumstances, the individual has done nothing morally wrong; still, he has
made a mistake because God was actually inviting him to something else. God’s
permitting him to go off in another direction implies no anger at the man nor rejection. God permits the mistake and, in some sense, makes it possible by cooperating with the man who makes it, even as He does with much greater evils.

But if a call truly comes from God, it is other than merely the person called and his circumstances. It is something with its source elsewhere than in creation, and
is independent, in its source, of the person called. In this sense it is objective
‒ I do not wish to say that anyone, including the person called, can examine or
scrutinize it directly in the way in which we can scrutinize some object, or
that others can see it independently of the mind and heart of the person
called. But it does take place, by God’s own intervention, in the real order of
this world. God calls a person to one thing rather than another; thus, mistakes
are possible about that to which the call is directed, as about its other

Further, in the great majority of cases of both non-vocation and of mistaken vocation there will be found a fair amount of self-deception. Obscure psychological fears and cravings can be as active in the one case as in the other, though differing in their thrust and intensity. In non-vocation, they generally constitute the entire motive force; in mistaken vocation, they remain subordinate to God’s grace ‒ they deflect or modify what faith, hope, and love have set in motion. Hence, the role of other factors in the latter case: partial hearing; erroneous theology; incomplete or incorrect facts.

Now, it is true that the mere existence of a mistake is valid evidence for there having been some fault in the will, some affective defect of impatience, over-confidence, carelessness or neglect. Hence, some psychological factors are always at work in interaction with the objective ones. Even if, for example, a young person is directly misinformed about some way of life ‒ say, lied to by one he has every reason to trust ‒ yet if he were listening perfectly, he would recognize the Lord’s call as disagreeing and requiring further investigation or else ‘that the call was unspecific, not as yet complete, in need of further efforts or lapse of time’ (see GCMR, p. 1081-2).

On the other hand, mistakes can easily occur in which this element of affective fault lies far below the level at which human assessment of innocence or guilt can operate. Thus, it proves little or nothing to the point, in a case where this type of
mistake as to vocation is suspected, that the person is much in love with
Christ, desires ardently to serve Him well, and gives himself generously to
meet whatever demands are made upon him. Nor, if a mistake is ascertained, is
there any reason to doubt the person’s good faith, early or late. He may, like
most of us, have some tendency under pressure to cheat a bit, to state things
less openly or directly than he might. But bad faith—no.

Perdurance of the Mistake

4. Some, at this point, object strenuously that, while the initial mistake can be made in good faith, it strains credulity past breaking to pretend that a person could be a Religious for eight or ten years or more and still not be aware of the mistake, not just concretely sensing something wrong; to think that his initial good faith has not long since turned to bad.

I admit that, when dealing with human weakness and sinfulness, no lower bounds can be set. Our capacity for malice and dishonesty is both radical and unlimited. Yet such experience as I have had, directly or vicariously, convinces me that often the mistake perdures for many years in good faith.

Consider a group of Sisters in the technical sense, a group of women who may or may not take simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and live in community, but who joined together primarily for the sake of a work ‒ they form an apostolic group, a “pia associatio” aimed at some work among God’s people or to draw others closer to the source of their salvation. And they are not about to be tied down by a lot of regulations on cloister, hours of common prayer, habits, perpetual adoration, and so forth. They have nothing against those things; but they are not for them, since they would interfere with their work, which has a dynamic of its own that cuts athwart a mode of life built on the contemplative style.

Suppose you get women in some numbers into a community of this sort who are called by God to be contemplatives and who would desire nothing better than to have six or eight hours a day at some form of prayer and the rest of the time to clean the chapel or be recollected in other silent occupation around the house. These women will be interiorly at odds with the rest of the group. Note that, by assumption, they are not neurotics; nor are they copping out on a lot of tough work; they are not people who got into this and found the wear and tear of the life too much. It is a question of a genuine mistake: here is a woman who was truly called by God to a contemplative life; somehow she got the idea that it was ‘to be found and nurtured in this congregation’; and because the foundress was holy and said some things about the need to pray and to stay close to the Lord if one is to be effective in the apostolate, she screens out much of the rest and sets to work at the cultivation of a contemplative way of life.

Now, just these contemplatively inclined women will be the most likely, with time, to be put in positions of authority ‒ much at ease with reflection, not enthusiastic for energetic activity outside the community, desirous of regular hours, and able to work smoothly and competently in relative quiet. But of course, as superiors, they will tend to stress those elements of the life which they
regard as essential, and never notice, till conflicts arise, how at odds with
the others they are. 

Mistakes in the Opposite Sense

5. Mistakes can occur in the opposite sense as well. There is excellent evidence and in large quantities that God has called many a young person to be a good layman, with a strong and healthy secular spirituality after the model of Vatican II, who mistakenly thought he was being called one way or another to the life of a priest or of a Religious. For such a person it was either the life of the Religious or priest, or the life of the spiritual slob. The great stirring of the Council’s efforts at declericalizing the Church, the strong winds of renewal, charismatic and otherwise, had not yet had their effect. 

Mistaken Vocations and Departures from Religious Life

The great number of these mistaken vocations goes a long way towards explaining the not inconsiderable paradox that a Council which took as its chief goal the spiritual renewal of every part of the Church should appear to have been a more potent agent for the dissolution of religious life than all its declared
enemies of the past. It is fewer than fifteen years since Pope John first spoke
of convoking a Council; fewer than ten years since the Council’s decree On the Suitable Renovation of the Religious Life ‒ periods of time short, even in our impatient days, for any sort of fundamental renewal of complex and world-spanning institutions. Yet already in 1965, numerous Religious were leaving their institutes in the name of the “spirit of Vatican II,” and the flood has not yet subsided.

Undoubtedly, some people, drained of spiritual strength by tepidity, left simply because it was now easy to do so. Others left, frustrated by ways of life, largely ossified, which their members seemed, in spite of the Council, unwilling or even unable to revivify in accord with the gospel. In greater numbers, people left under the influence of the many, currently popular, for the most part highly superficial theologies of religious life and ecclesiologies occasioned though not engendered by the Council, modes of thought which would render the religious life void of any fundamental significance to humanity at large or to the Church in

Undoubtedly, too, the Council’s careful noting of the elements of good contained in the cultures of our age, largely antithetical to a life of faith though these cultures are concretely, led the foolish to embrace their values en bloc and without distinction in a casual form of spiritual suicide now commonplace among would-be intellectuals. Largely concomitant with and partly caused by the Council, a social upheaval has occurred with regard to the clergy, though less important in the United States than in many other places. Once the social, intellectual, and political as well as spiritual leader of his people, the priest has now been “reduced” to his proper functions, a role dull and disappointing to many who saw him as the extension in space and time of an earthly and temporal messiah.

More basic, however, than these and similar grounds for departure and largely at the root of them, is the fact of mistaken vocation: great numbers largely at the root of them, is the fact of mistaken vocation: great numbers of Religious (and priests), perhaps even a majority, had been called elsewhere from the beginning and should never have been permitted to enter or to remain, despite their good
faith and generosity.

One of the major achievements of Vatican II was undoubtedly the magnificent vision it gave of the true role of the secular layman in the Church. It opened up the full dignity of his call, the spiritual depth of his mode of life, the spiritual
beauty of his familial relations, the power for Christ of his action in the world. More, it indicated uncompromisingly how many areas of the Church’s activity, long dominated in fact if not in principle by priests or Religious, rightly
belonged to the secular layman. In brief, it is the Church’s own greatest
manifesto against clericalism. Yet strangely, “clerics” (the quotation marks
indicate an extension of the word to include Religious of all types) seem more
intent today than at any time since the late Middle Ages at thrusting
themselves, for whatever reasons, into secular activity and positions of
temporal influence. Clericalism is more vigorous than it has been for

Now, suppose a young man or woman who has already spent several years in, say, a religious Order, drawn despite its strongly contemplative orientation by its equally salient apostolic effectiveness or manifest sense of Christian community. He picks up the documents of Vatican II, reads with ever growing interest of the restoration of the temporal order in Christ, of the secular’s call to perfection, and the like, and suddenly cries out in his inmost being, whether daring to admit it to
himself or not, “But that is what I have wanted all along! That’s my vocation!”
It is neither tepidity nor lack of generosity nor false theology that brings such
a reaction. The tragi-comedy of our day is that he is right.

Those elements in the life which run athwart his true vocation he tends to ignore as some sort of non-understandable, pious riddle or to reject as undue interference with his call to Christianize the secular. With all sincerity, following the call received, he works against such elements as antiquated, as contrary to Vatican II ‒ as indeed they would be in a secular layman’s context ‒ and, therefore, to be eliminated as soon as possible from the institute of which he is a member. To the extent that his efforts run aground, that the desired “reform” is frustrated, and that he experiences directly or vicariously the actuality of the secular life of the Church, he will be “tempted” to leave the Order.

Happy the man in his situation who is free to do so and does! Otherwise, apart from some special mercy of the Lord, there is only destruction ahead: his own, through increasing alienation and misunderstanding and conflict; or that of his institute, through spiritual hemorrhage, as through his influence and of those like him, it abandons one element after another of its spiritual inheritance and true spirit, “updating” in ironic contradiction to Vatican II’s insistence that it
is primarily in fidelity to its original and distinctive spirituality that its service to the Church lies.


The more difficult problems in practice arise when an error concerning vocation is complicated by the taking of vows. Hence, the present topic of how to help those whose vocation is not genuine divides naturally into considerations- touching the aid that one may bring to: (A.) those who have not yet taken permanent vows; (B.) those who are bound by permanent but not solemn vows; (C.) those with solemn vows. 

The Case of Those without Permanent Vows

The primary reason for including this group here at all is to have thereby a point of comparison and contrast to the remaining groups, and to develop a few useful
ideas free of the complications which the consideration of the vows would bring
in. Since even temporary vows are, at least in many institutes, meant to be seen as permanent from the point of view of the person who takes them, I explicitly omit any such aspects from this section, since they can be treated, mutatis mutandis, in section B. Thus, I am speaking here only of those as yet without vows or of those whose vows imply nothing more than that they are to be kept during a limited, relatively brief period.

The Case of Non-vocation

1. Consider first the case of non-vocation. In most instances, it is not hard to screen out such a person before entry. It should be a rarity that one ever reaches a novitiate or postulancy. If this is not the case, those who are doing the screening need better training or should be replaced. In any event, there will clearly be missing in all these people those positive indications of a true call which are essential before they can be allowed to bind themselves. That so many in fact have stayed on long years, been admitted to vows, and ordained, is something that will need further discussion in Part III.

The general approach here, despite the wide diversity of possible situations, is fairly clear and uniform. The director seeks to discover for himself the true situation, then to draw it as fully into the open and to as full clarity as is prudently possible with the young person concerned, and to assist him to repentance for whatever faults he may have committed in the process ‒ not, primarily, for particular ones but for such general sinful dispositions as, for example, willful blindness, to which he might half-knowingly have yielded. Then he should be sent away, with whatever follow-up advice or aid may seem suitable, to await, as he matures and works out his inner difficulties, his true call from God.

First Point of Special Difficulty

Two points of special difficulty are worth commenting on. The most common type of non-vocation does not involve deliberate choice ‒ certainly not fully ‒ but is based on psychological motivations well hidden from the person himself. Often, then, the person involved will lack the maturity or psychological freedom or insight to be able to easily face or understand his situation, as light is brought to bear upon it, all the more so if, as is ordinarily the case, he is well below the

As a general practical norm, I think that the sooner such a person is sent away, the better. Certainly, charity and sensitivity to the youngster’s needs and feelings are called for. Simply to turn him out, once one has clear knowledge of his case, without effort. at explanation, with flat or impersonal rejection, saying in effect,
“You’re not up to our standards. You flunk. Get out!” would be a serious failure in charity. But to keep him around until one has worked through with him the problem to the point where he can see and accept his situation may well be even worse. There is no guarantee of success, and he might be there forever. If he is below threshold, the life will work against his maturation or equilibration, not for it. Nor is it charity to let a youngster strike roots where he cannot stay, to make friends with those he will unwittingly injure, to spend what remains of his years of most rapid change, of easiest adaptability, of greatest physical and intellectual vigor in a false situation.

To the objection that he will feel rejected if he cannot understand the reasons, I would point out that so the Lord treats all of us often. Life is not such that we will always know why this or that dream or desire is shattered or unfulfilled. If one makes clear that being sent away is not a rejection of him personally, not a matter of ill-will or of disinterest in him, the dismissal will help him, even if
painfully, to learn to face an admittedly not wholly comprehensible real and
introduce him to the unsentimental vigor that most humans today badly need.

Less commonly, the difficulty in understanding why his director should think he has no vocation comes from cultural factors as a result of which the young person does not realize that a divine call and, indeed, to this precise institute, is essential before entry. Though there may be some fairly crass ignorance present, he does not ordinarily need the attention of a psychiatrist. His difficulty can
sometimes be met by bringing him to see, as fully as he can, his own current
interior dispositions and then, in a further and separate step, the dispositions called for by the way of life he has chosen to enter. This is worth doing, as a matter of course, with all entrants, but it should be done as early as possible; otherwise the youngsters will have picked up the “right answers” by rote. Both sets of responses should be kept for future reference in written or taped form.

In either of the above situations, the person is likely to profit from further counseling ‒ spiritual direction is not usually his need as yet. But let him obtain it elsewhere or, if need be, in this same community but as a visitor from outside. The sooner the separation, the better.

Second Point of Difficulty

A second point of difficulty occurs with a person who has deliberately put himself in a life to which he knows he has no call. Here the director’s problem will be rather of discovery than of clarification. More common than the quasi-operatic situations mentioned earlier, are those of people who know (or think) that they have an insurmountable impediment (habit of masturbation; homosexual inclinations; insane parent) and yet, for reasons of economic security or psychological pressures, insist upon entering fraudulently, keeping their “impediment” secret and often doing nothing effective to remove or find out more about it in the years that follow.vii

Despite even a very consistent lying and covering up of such a situation, a competent director will quickly spot, if not the precise difficulty, at least clear indications that something is seriously wrong. The hardest case of this sort to detect (where the impediment is purely imaginary and based on the youngster’s having picked up false information) will still, as a situation of perpetual deception and opacity, show its signs before long. Further, as with the other sort of case, positive signs will be lacking, at least in any clarity and specificity. Again,
sending the person away need not wait on a complete untying of the knot; and
charity would urge it as soon as possible since true repentance is more likely
when he is perforce out from under the pressure to maintain his false stance.

Cases of Mistaken Vocation

2. Turning now to cases of mistaken vocation, if there is question merely of a mistake­ ‒ the threshold has been reached for his present way of life, but he is not where God invited him and invites him still ‒ then it is a matter of bringing his current situation as fully as possible into focus and sending him with encouragement on his way. Even if he is still below threshold for that life to which he is truly called, he can learn from his experience as he waits, aiding himself as he grows by his new-won clarity concerning God’s desires for him.

On the other hand, whatever the type of mistake, if the person falls substantially below the threshold of the particular institute in which he finds himself, much attention should be devoted to assisting his further spiritual and natural development. Since, by supposition, he is well below threshold, most such assistance can be offered effectively only after he has ceased trying to live the Religious life. Yet the institute can always do something for him, after his departure, ranging from prayer for his continued growth in the Lord, if he belonged to a strictly cloistered community which has no means of secular contact, to ongoing education, friendship, and spiritual direction with the more active Orders or congregations.

If, indeed, the young person being sent away has been called to this mode of life from which he is being dismissed, then all such means should be used. Even so, some care is needed that his growth be unimpeded. He should see that God is calling him and be made aware of the risks of falling away from his first response. Yet he should know, too, that he is free; that God, who did not desire this premature entrance, does want him to take that risk and to grow to adulthood (or to the threshold) before attempting to engage himself permanently. Obviously, too, he should be helped to understand why he made the mistake he did about entering, in order to learn from it to avoid others. And he should know that the doors of this institute remain open to him at any time, once he is ready.

The great evil, to avoid at all costs, is the desire to keep him in the institute, to say, “He can grow as well here as elsewhere.” There would be truth in this only if he had entered at the level of the threshold, which is not the case here by supposition. And the further the person is from the threshold, the greater the sin in permitting him or her to remain and the more serious the obligation on others to rectify the situation at the earliest moment possible.

If he was not called to this mode of life, however, he should know that he is leaving for good and know why. If indeed he mistook the call to adult intimacy with a call to religion, it is conceivable that when God does finally call him to a way of life it will be to this one. But it would be a mistake psychologically either to concede the possibility or to advert to it. The doors should be firmly shut behind him. He could as easily be called to an administrative position with General Motors. Any hidden desires on our own part to have him return, while they could in principle proceed from a grace-inspired hope, based on human assessment that he would serve God well with us and aid our institute should God call him here, seem far more likely, save in a great saint, to spring from some tainted source. Why not merely desire that our institute be as well or better served by whomever God does call, and devote our prayers and our longing to that? Otherwise, at best, we would seem to be sighing after mere possibles or to be mistaking this young person, only a symbol of what we rightly desire, for the

Evidently, if he has received a call, but elsewhere, the doors of the institute should not merely be closed but also locked behind him. Here, even more than in the other cases, help and aid should be given, in the measure of the institute’s ability, to help him clarify his situation as fully as compatible with his age and
disposition, before he leaves and after, his situation being more complex,
requiring both growth and a proper response to a true call somewhere else.

Cases of Those with Permanent Vows

B. As soon as one turns to situations the same in all respects as those just considered save for the intervention of permanent vows, one notes that the taking of vows effects a curious decoupling of questions concerning vocation (whether or whither God has called this person) from those concerning the possible modes of practical remedy. By the taking of permanent vows, by the making of permanent promises to God, invitation becomes mostly a thing of the past; God’s direct will is now in the forefront. The flexibility which inheres in a situation of invitation and response is replaced by the solidity and permanence of a covenant.

This recalls again that central and difficult problem of which I made mention at the very end of the previous article (GCMR, p. 1099): if God has not called this person to this state; if, in fact, He does not want him in it at all; if, even, it was a sin of presumption, say, or of cowardice for this person to take vows under these
circumstances, then how can such vows be valid?

Long before we have solved to general satisfaction that thorny and intricate theoretical problem, it has to be dealt with in practice, in people’s lives. The tradition of the Church, however, whether spelled with capital T or small t, stands strongly on the side of a presumption in favor of validity, a presumption, obviously, which may be overturned by the facts of a particular case. The same presumption also seems in far deeper accord than its opposite with the psychological data presently available. When people are honest, they know pretty well how freely they have acted and how fully they have engaged themselves. Hence, whenever conclusive evidence to the contrary is lacking, evidence, that is, of real unfreedom at the time of vows, whether arising from external coercion or inner psychological compulsion, it seems pastorally wiser to assume that such vows were valid.viii

Given, then, a Religious in permanent vows with no vocation or with a mistaken vocation whose vows seem, after due investigation, to have been freely, if wrongly taken, what can we do to assist him?

Evidently, one must be careful to work always from God’s present
call, if any, and present will for him. In many cases, through God’s continuing
goodness, people in these situations have in fact eventually received calls
from Him to the states in which they had earlier vowed themselves. Often, such
a call will have been accepted quietly, without enthusiasm, perhaps, but with a
high degree of free adherence. All kinds of painful problems, especially
emotional kinks and hang-ups of various kinds, may remain from the earlier
period. These can lead to a remarkable humility in the person’s life. So
attractive is this that we can be misled at times into being but slack and half­hearted in our efforts to avoid spurious vocations. When so tempted, let us recall that to seek to force God’s power to do what with His ordinary grace and the powers He gives us by nature we can well do, and should do, ourselves is tempting God.

Possible Solutions When the Person Is at Threshold

1.  This frequent gift of vocation in later years points to a key element in many of these problems, too often neglected or passed over lightly at present. According to a well ­nigh universal patristic tradition, God will call to the religious life anyone who perseveringly and with faith asks Him to. Since the diversity of religious lives was hardly visible in those days, I think that this doctrine can legitimately be extended to obtaining a call to any particular mode of religious life, especially when vows have already been taken therein. The basic argument, crudely put, was that, Christ having invited all His followers to the life of the counsels by public and external call, then, if the internal call was missing, it was
nonetheless available and could be had by prayer. The essential insight of this
reasoning, if updated somewhat, applies with even greater force to the
situations here considered. For those who, whatever their mistakes, are at
threshold level or higher in the institute of their vows, this offers an
effective solution. Repenting of whatever there may have been of fault in their
earlier choices, they accept lucidly and quietly in the Lord their present
condition and vigorously labor by persistent prayer, their own but also that of
their confreres and of members of other institutes, especially contemplatives,
to obtain the blessing of a true call to the way of life in which they have bound themselves. Sooner or later, that prayer will be heard.

Another alternative is sometimes possible where the person is free to transfer to “his own” group, to the place where God is calling him. This is the case spoken of earlier on as being one form of (rectification of) mistaken vocation long publicly
acknowledged by the Church. Thus, though the practical difficulties may be
great, in principle any Religious can move to any other Order or congregation
that will have him.

If, then, a person has mistakenly entered one religious institute rather than another, and if his motivation is now pure and he stands at roughly the threshold level of the institute to which he is transferring, then the problem will be solved by acceptance of God’s continuing call. According to the Code of Canon Law, even solemn vows can be “extinguished” as a result of such a transfer even if to an institute of only simple vows.

The Church has shown, as mentioned earlier, considerable reluctance in practice with regard to such transfers. The reasons are not hard to see. Firstly, there have always existed emotionally unstable people for whom a transfer seems, whenever a problem arises within their own communities or lives, the obvious and only solution. Further, it would be a grave abuse to let a person so move as to extinguish his solemn vows in the manner mentioned in order then to get his newly taken simple vows dispensed. The genuine diversity of types of religious life has, moreover, often been overlooked, especially among those thinking in the categories of the Code, who can regard the change as spiritually non-significant, hence not properly allowable, because the differences may not be as obvious, say, as between the Jesuits and the Trappists. Finally, there is the fact that no such
switch is trivial, even among those of a single religious tradition, for example,
from a more active Benedictine community to a more contemplative one, or vice-versa. There can be enough practical and emotional problems in such a change to make it a statistically poor bet, at least for an older religious. Hence, transfer
should be attempted only after full clarity as to God’s call has been reached.

In many cases of interest today, of course, the person is not free to follow what was his call, for example, if that was a call to marriage and he is now in permanent vows of religion.

Cases When the Person Is Below Threshold

2. If a Religious, on the other hand, is appreciably below the threshold of the state in which he is vowed, the problem becomes much more difficult. People who have spent many years in a way of life to which not only were they not called but to which no call to them has ever come (or, perhaps, come but been refused), whose threshold moreover was for a long time, possibly is even now, over their heads, are almost certainly going to need some highly competent psychiatric help. This should be taken for granted, although how and when to utilize it in each case requires some prudent pondering.

The following alternatives seem available: (a) to help the person transfer to another religious institute, one whose threshold is at approximately his level; (b) to let him remain where he is, but brought to clarity and a special status in that
institute; (c) to have the institute “secularize” him, that is, send him away
with complete dispensations from all obligations save those directly connected
with the priesthood, should such exist.ix

The Case of Transferring to Another Institute

(a.)  An example of what is envisaged here: a Jesuit priest in whom no perception of a call has ever been observed but who has long manifested by his inability to grow how far below the threshold of this life he is, transfers to the Trappists. This alternative has in our day nearly fallen from sight.x This is too bad, for it has much to recommend it. Evidently, it requires a certain minimum of cooperation on the part of the troubled Religious; but this cooperation is frequently not terribly hard to obtain, at least at a certain point in the person’s situation as it develops ‒ few people really like to go back on their word to God; most are willing to make some efforts, even if feeble ones, to extricate themselves from such a situation if they have suitable help and support in the process. The element of support is of particular importance in the sort of case we are here
considering. This alternative is particularly effective for those who, though
below threshold, are still fairly normal men or women, not yet badly damaged
psycholog­ically, people with whom a clear and direct discussion of their
problems and aspirations is possible, whatever the weakness of their flesh.

It should not be forgotten, in this context, that a Religious priest may relatively easily transfer to the diocesan clergy. Whether any of his vows will or ought to be
dispensed in such case is another matter; often not. Yet a much closer
approximation to secular life is thereby made possible, which can in certain
cases be of considerable assistance. However, some care is needed here, for the
diocesan priest’s threshold is often fairly high in a diocese in which he must
deal with people constantly concerning their spiritual lives and which cannot
afford to let a man withdraw into scholarly reflection and writing, say, or
into chiefly external social action.

It is important to take into account whatever history of call there may be for this Religious. Clearly, transfer would be an inept remedy for premature response. Transfer should also help a person, where possible, to move more in the direction of his most recent call, if any, than in some other. Great skill and prudence are called for in the proper balancing of all the factors. The healthier the person is psychologically, the more likely it is that the call can have the greater influence; if no recent calling has occurred, then it is largely the threshold relation which should govern action, This latter will always be the case in situations of continuing non-vocation. Because of the neurotic or pathological
aspects usually involved in these cases when inveterate, any seeking of God’s
concrete will through retreats and the like may prove extraordinarily difficult
if not truly impossible. Generally, skilled psychiatric help will be called for.

 Remaining in the Same Institute

(b.) This approach is often the only one that can be used. When directors and
superiors have for long years failed to take effective action in the type of
case we are considering, very often the person never does receive a call to the
life he is bound to, never does reach threshold, but instead decays and
crumbles spiritually and psychologically. Eventually, of course, age, perhaps
also illness, will make any solution through transfer or secularization
impossible, if even a semblance of charity and justice is to be preserved ‒ this
semblance seems all that is truly desired by some in authority. But, given some
change at higher levels and some effective desire to help these people at last,
can anything be done?

A whole program of action will be called for, usually long, always difficult,
hence often neglected. Since I suspect that harried superiors may, on occasion,
be too close to what seems a totally intractable situation to be able to figure
out how they might proceed, perhaps it will help to sketch out some basic lines
of approach. The goals of the program, while simple, should be clear to whoever
is responsible for its implementation. Perhaps the chief thing to note is that
the goal is composite. The Religious in question is to be helped so far as
possible, but the good, especially the long-range good, of the religious community must also be effectively guarded. Grave reasons of justice and charity may indeed require that these people stay. They may have to live in a community or house of the institute (though this should not be presumed without
investigation) and be provided for, sharing with the others the externals of
the life. But they cannot be allowed, as often happens, to subvert the inner
life of the community, to sap its vigor, to determine what matters shall or
shall not be discussed in public, or to take any part in its governance. Generically, then, the program of action must aim at truth, at repentance, and at public adjustment. Though I distinguish these three elements here, they are not always separable in the concrete.

It is helpful, in the long, often frustrating, difficult effort towards truth, to
keep the goal in mind: that this person come to that truth of his situation
which is the incredible and divine release from an insupportable burden of
tangled and matted falsehoods and half-truths. At last, he knows where he
stands! He is, perhaps for the first time in his life, facing in some fullness
the reality of himself, of his life, and of God, with defenses down. The
darkness is gone. What he does about his situation at this point does not
matter half so much as his recognition of it. Only now does serious and
persevering prayer for a vocation become a real possibility. This would be the
best solution.

But to bring such a Religious to face, in the Lord, the real truth of his situation
is not easy. Often, in fact, this point is not reached. Even with the best of
good will and competence, a superior or director may find here an obstacle that
cannot be budged. Either from psychological constraints or from his own
freedom, the person may not be able or willing to see or to accept the truth.
The power of God’s grace, however, which can draw us to desire a repentance we
did not wish and to seek the light when we preferred darkness, should not be
forgotten. Thus, the community as a whole, not just the individuals dealing
with the troubled person, is bound to much prayer and penance to obtain for him such grace. This aspect of public adjustment will also be, I think, a key
element in safeguarding the community from this person’s bad influence.

But if the effort to bring the person to full truth is not in the Lord, the result
is too likely to be genuine despair, even suicide. It is in this connection
that the best available psychiatric counseling is to be sought, if not always
for immediate treatment, at least for advice on how to proceed. Under the
circumstances supposed, it will evidently be extremely painful for the person. But much here depends on the manner.

From ignorance or embarrassment or “to get the thing over with,” or as a hidden mode of punishing those who have inconvenienced us, or who knows why, we can be terribly brutal about such matters; and brutality can make people come apart at the seams or withdraw beyond any further possibility of help. Even in far less delicate situations, to come at people head on is more likely to generate panic before such an undisguised display of hostility, especially if sudden and
unexpected, than to do good. It is quite insufficient that what has to be done
here be done with love; a very manifest love is essential, so manifest to the
troubled person, that is, that he cannot doubt it. Such love implies among
other things, a great respect for the person’s own freedom and his own “time.”
This is one great advantage of a good retreat, if the person is still
psychologically capable of making one and you can find a sufficiently skilled
director. For the Lord takes His time with them and brings things up in the
order of what He knows to be their true importance or in which alone they can be handled by this individual ‒ a knowledge, I think, He very rarely shares with
anyone. A superior may well be unable himself to carry through personally
discussions that can lead to truth but may have to handle the matter only via
an emissary, due to his poor relations with the person or inability to make sufficiently manifest his love for him.

The inner moral connection with “metanoia,” that change of heart which is true
repentance, is evident. Lucidity will be gained only insofar as there is an
openness to repentance. To suggest repentance today for anyone but one’s self
is to incur every sort of denunciation for being judgmental, for harshness, for
uncharity. Yet the New Testament, no less than the Old, makes it the foundation
of its message, the condition for perceiving and entering the kingdom, the
reason for the redemption and the mode of apprehending in faith its limits. It
is not without reason that the Council says: “The Church, always, in need of
purification, continually seeks after repentance and renewal” (Lumen gentium,
#8/3). There is no renewal except in virtue of and growing from profound
repentance and genuine penitence. Thus, the effort toward truth should be
accompanied by a quiet and gentle but still genuine call to repentance, a
continual reminder of God’s love for sinners of whatever kind and whatever the “monsters” in the dark chambers of their subconscious.

This call to repentance, however, is not the same as a call to live henceforward a
life of penance. Though penance is in place for all men always, one must keep
in mind that what culpability there is for situations of this sort often rests
rather on perhaps long dead superiors, novice masters, and others than on the
man who must live out the “penance.” In any case, whether he has much to do
penance for personally or little, when it comes to the painful and difficult
aspects of the life he must still live, I think a greater emphasis should be
placed on his sharing the sufferings of Christ for the Church’s good. A
knowledge of Carthusian spirituality with its admirable blending of these two aspects is very helpful: Stat crux dum volvitur orbis terrarum.

The third aim is that of public adjustment. The ill effects on the community of the individuals of whom we are speaking should not be underestimated. Psychological and spiritual decay are highly contagious on close contact and over a long time, but the contagion is not always easily perceptible. Such people,
surprisingly often, set a tone for a whole community by their carpings and
complaints, their slanders and not always petty calumnies. Cutting short such
evil talk by command or punishment is ineffective: it cannot touch most
instances; the person is often not fully responsible; and others in the
community will resist the superior’s action, not understanding its motivation.
Hence, while the details of his conscience obviously remain the person’s own
secret, his status as one who does not belong in heart or by call to the
community must be made known within the community.

Sometimes this is quite automatic, as when the community sets up a fund for him, so that he has a suitable income, and has him live elsewhere, not isolated but yet not taking any direct part in the life of the community, especially in what touches its religious spirit. Others times, the members of the community must be
informed privately that was not called here but is for good reasons remaining
among us. Obviously, if true clarity and conversion have been obtained, this
public adjustment will offer no problem to the Religious in question, and
probably little of it will then be needed. During the search for clarity, the
matter is obviously more delicate.xi Regular prayers and Masses for
this intention should be prescribed for all. Whatever the methods used, there
is an urgent need today to cut through the ever more exaggerated “right to
privacy.” Most rules contain some indication that the Religious gives up his
right to good name and reputation wherever considerations of his spiritual good
make it advisable. In any case, by entering a community, one agrees to whatever
shall prove necessary for the community’s good where this is not incompatible
with one’s own deepest and truest good.

A final note here. Suppose that the situation is clearly one of premature
response to a call to the very way of life in which the person lives. By
supposition, the situation has dragged on, the person still below threshold and
decaying, till secularization is no longer possible. The first two elements of
the above program will still be in place. But for the public adjustment, the
image I find most useful is of a clearing of a space in a woods ‒ make a space
around the person so that he can live with a certain freedom from the normal
restraints of the life and allow him to pause a bit, to catch his breath.
Meantime, help him see what his situation is and why it is as it is, supplying
all along encouragement in great doses (never out of place, I think) and give
him the room to maneuver as well as possible until he finds the strength to
move in the normal framework. What is essential is that the institute take its
responsibility to provide special attention to this person and see that
whatever spiritual and psychological assistance is necessary is in fact given.

Solution by Secularization

(c.) Recall that we are still speaking of the means of helping a Religious who has
taken permanent but not solemn vows in an institute to which he has not been
called and whose threshold lies substantially beyond his present psychological
and spiritual capabilities.xii The third alternative, then, is to
secularize this Religious, in the neutral sense of this word noted above. Quite
apart from grave crime, scandal, and the like, secularization seems to me the
instrument of choice in these situations. It is clear, I think, that reten­tion
of the sort discussed in (b) just above is merely making the best one can of a
bad situation, not an independently desirable alternative.xiii Since, unlike either transfer or retention on modified status, secularization involves, in itself, a complete dispensation from valid vows and a return to secular life and since, further, a suitable transfer would not only honor vows freely taken but meet, at least in part, the problem of the threshold and protect the institute mistakenly entered, a legitimate question can be raised as to why secularization should usually be preferred to transfer.

I should judge that secularization is to be preferred to transfer in direct
proportion to: (1) the degree of doubt that may exist as to the validity of the
person’s permanent vows; (2) the degree of psychological handicap or to be
expected in any carrying through on a permanent commitment; (3) the lack of
visibility of a call to any religious state; (4) the certainty of the problem’s
being one of premature response.

As to (1): The more probable it is that the vows are null, the less reason there
is for holding a person to them or to some quasi ­equivalent, since an alternative is possible.

As to (2): The greater the psychological warpings, actual or sure to arise, the
less likely it seems that the transfer can be effective ‒ the person falls
increasingly below any threshold. Further, as mentioned earlier, transfer calls
for an ability to discuss the situation with some degree of emotional
equilibrium or, at least, of intellectual clarity and for a true collaboration
Such clarity and collaboration are not easily obtainable in the cases being
considered. Dispense the person from his vows and he will more quickly respond
to psychological therapy, no longer held in a false position, free to wrestle
directly with his real problems, without having to master those coming from
living under what, for him, is a heavy but largely meaningless superstructure.

As to (3): This is deliberately stated negatively. The lack of positive evidence
of a call to any form of religious life militates also against the life lived in the institute of contemplated transfer. To have positive indications of a call to a secular life would, of course, increase the desirability of a “transfer” thither, that is, secularization.

As to (4): The question here is really whether secularization, at least for an
extended period, is preferable to retention. So far as I can judge, it is always better to send away the premature entrant who is still below threshold
unless incapacity, age, or ill health make it impossible for the person to make
his way at all anywhere else. This is not simply for the good of the community,
though that should be paramount. For such a person to remain in the religious
life is to be threatened, at best, with interior disintegration.

The common argument runs, of course: “It is clear that this person was called here. He does seem somewhat immature. But with just a little more good will and grace and hard work, he ought to be able to make the grade. Indeed, he “ought to”; but it is just that additional “little more” that he is incapable of giving. If given adequate psychological counseling (and spiritual direction, as needed), anyone in the situation we are speaking of will mature and “unkink” faster and more healthily outside the Religious state or seminary than in it. First set him free. Then help him all you want to grow further. Secularization is crucial for the youngster’s growth to a point where he can indeed accept the vocation that is his. The sooner he is sent away, the sooner he can return in full vigor. The Religious is not free to leave; but the institute is free to set him free, in a manner analogous to the parents’ right to nullify vows of their children when still minors.

Basic Reason for Preferring Secularization

But the most basic reason for preferring secularization to transfer or retention is
that every one of these cases results from a mistake made by the institute,
through its legitimate representatives, for which the institute is now fully
responsible before God, whether the original mistake was culpable or not. For,
the person who entered, whether without a call or mistaken as to the nature of
his call, was, save in cases of deception, rightly entrusting to the institute
definitive judgment as to his call and suitability for its mode of life.

More basically, old heads do not grow on young shoulders, The youngster who comes is responsible indeed for telling the truth as best he knows how about his inner life and history and also for having investigated carefully the natures of the
institutes of interest to him, Yet it is impossible for him to gauge precisely the threshold of a community or to know just how he stands in relation to that
threshold.  And, after all, “No man is a prudent judge in his own cause.” What judgment can any young person make, on his own, concerning the requirements for living properly an unknown mode of life? His responsibility is to respond to the movements of God’s grace as best he can. It is the task of interviewers, novice masters and other spiritual guides, and superiors to make the decisions as to the genuinity of his call and suitability for the life.

It is to them that the Church has entrusted the final say on accepting or sending
away the candidate, on admitting to vows or not, and the like. If, then,
culpably or not, these men make the wrong decision, all the more is it their
grave responsibility to rectify their error to whatever extent this is still
possible. Ultimately, then, the institute is responsible for the situation; it
bears the primary responsibility for rectifying it; and this rectification
should be as radical and as complete as possible, due account always being
taken of the present call and will of God, not simply seeking to return to the state
of things before the person’s first entrance or taking of vows.

But, apart from simple non-vocation, more is involved than mere mistake. In cases of mistaken vocation of the second kind (see above, I, B, 2), God has Himself called this person elsewhere. If He is still calling him, then, though He does not wish the vowed individual to back off from his mistaken commitment, yet there seems no good reason to think that He does not wish the institute to set
the person free to follow His call to him. Once the institute realizes the
situation, it is resisting God if it does not do all it can to bring about full

In cases of mistaken vocation of the first kind, though no such opposition to God’s call occurs, at least directly, yet the institute runs serious risk of blocking
or gravely hindering the psychological and spiritual maturation process which
God wills for this individual ‒ to say nothing of his hearing a true call when
it comes ‒ for the sake of a good whose chances of success are at best difficult to estimate, even were there better grounds for confidence than the institute’s antecedent series of errors. It is well to remember, too, whatever the type of mistaken or non-vocation, that a human life and destiny are at stake in each case. For an institute knowingly to let its own mistake continue uncorrected, to let a person spend his best days floundering in a mode of life not chosen for him by God and which he is unable to live well, while he wants to serve God well, is a serious crime of degradation of and contempt for the person. And, after all, if
secularization has traditionally been possible, it is that God, and the Church
acting in His name, wants this possibility to be open; we have no right to close it off except for conclusive reasons.

Consider, in contrast, St. Paul’s, “To peace has God called us.” Given as the ground for dissolving a valid though merely natural marriage, should the same reason not have some weight, at least, for this other dissolution? Admittedly, the natural marriage is not a covenant in the sense that Christian marriage is nor analogous to the religious vows. But I am not here arguing from that analogy; rather, the question is of the reasons for which the Church, through the religious
institute and its officials, is to exercise its already conceded power to
dissolve. The question of peace is important precisely because the person has
given up all freedom to alter his condition himself save by an internal growth
which his condition makes, if not impossible, so difficult that it can rarely
be conceived as a healthy and, therefore, truly peaceful process (“peace” here
being not a leisurely, lackadaisi­cal attitude but the vigorous tranquility of a dynamic setting in order).

Inhibiting Fear of Making a Mistake

The factor that most inhibits serious consideration of secularization in the minds
of superiors and spiritual directors is, I think, the definite risk of sending away someone who is truly capable of honoring his vows and profiting thereby, even if he is less than generous at the moment. Such risks are real. Yet the principle indicated above in the discussion of premature response, (II, B, 2, (c), (4)) can be extended to all these cases: in case of doubt, send the person away with full dispensation. A fortiori does this hold if the person has much contact with those outside the community or is likely to play a governing or advisory or other influential role, for example, teacher of theology, within the community.

For suppose the institute does mistakenly secularize a person whom God has truly called to that way of life and who is able, if he wishes, to live it well. This
person can always come back later and ask for reconsideration, once his own
dispositions are better or he has better evidence of being at threshold. Or he
may be able to apply to some similar institute, if there is one. But in any
event, there is nothing to prevent him from living a good, even a saintly
Christian life, serving God and his neighbor within the Church as a not-so­-secular priest or layman. On the other hand, if God has not called him and he is still well below threshold, then, if he is retained, he will be headed towards real
disaster, for himself, at least, and for the many others whom he misdirects,
scandalizes, or whose spirit he pulls down persistently. Neither aged nor ill,
his troubled spirit will breed nothing but trouble around it ‒ unnecessarily.
Obviously, God in His mercy may prevent such evil and even draw good from the situation; but to bank on that when the proper action lies at hand is the sin of tempting God; and to judge from the present situation in the Church, very often God does not intervene.

Hence, there is no parity, no balance between the two possible mistakes. A mistake of “severity” merely prevents a greater good; a mistake of “laxity” brings about an ever­ widening propagation of spiritual harm. Just as vocation, at the first entrance and during novitiate, if it is doubtful, should be regarded by the institute as nonexistent, so here. If there is a real doubt as to whether a person should be secularized, this is a certain argument that he should be; and the more
apostolic the group and the higher their threshold, the more important is it for all that the doubt be resolved in favor of secularization.

The Holy See has repeatedly made explicit, in regard to ordination, that a grave
obligation exists not to propose a man for ordination unless and until there is
clear and positive evidence of full suitability. If, then, there are positive
grounds for doubt, the case is certain: charity requires refusal of ordination
for as long as the doubt exists. But the living of many forms of Religious life
calls for at least equal grace and qualifications. It then, dismissal is
possible, the presumption should always be: If there is genuine doubt,

At times, however, one senses an attitude of horror towards secularization as if
it were a sort of spiritual euthanasia or, if not that, to be at least in total
contradiction to our Lord’s injunction to let wheat and cockle grow together
until the harvest. Well, for the person himself to break his covenant may be a
sort of spiritual suicide, though always open to repentance. But in what way
does the institute’s dissolving of an inappropriate bond deprive the individual
of any means of salvation? Its whole purpose is to make that salvation more
secure, to make his growth less trammeled. Secularization is not analogous even
to excommunication ‒ which is not intended as uprooting but as chastising
leading to repentance ‒ nor is laicization, however regrettable either may be.

One occasionally runs into the cruder error that secularization involves a sort of elitism. “By what right,” people will say, “may ‘we’ kick ‘them’ out as being less worthy and less suitable?” Such a question misses the entire point. There is no “kicking out” in question; there is no “we” or “they.” The whole effort is to acknowledge the demands of charity, often of justice, to help those in a false position to be set free, internally and externally, to serve God in greater closeness to what He desires for them.

Who Is to Initiate Secularization?

A further question concerning secularization of major practical importance is:
who is to initiate the secularization proceedings? Though I realize that my
position here is in opposition to much current practice, I would hold that the
person who ought to be secularized is not the one to initiate, even formally,
the process as such.

Firstly, the duty to initiate the correction rests primarily upon those responsible for making the authoritative mistakes that began the problem. The obligation to
initiate secularization would seem to reside where the sole power to secularize
and where the sole competence to decide the use of that power reside.

Secondly, it is precisely the young Religious’ immaturity or his lack of fundamental ability to live this life which make it necessary to send him away. These same qualities make it next to impossible for him to face squarely on his own and to deal responsibly with so difficult and psychologically distressing a matter, especially when those set over him have several times judged in the opposite sense. Nor, did he so face it, would he have the competence rightly to judge of it. Thus, for example, the real problem will often be completely different than he experiences it; for example, many think a problem of masturbation to be
basically one of impurity, whereas it is more likely to be one rather of self-pity, social isolation, or frustration.

Thirdly, by supposition his vows are valid and permanent or, if not so in God’s eyes, at least appear so to the individual at the most basic level of his self. For him, then, to ask for dispensation is itself to renege on his vows, at least in any
institute, for example, the religious Orders, in which the vows are meant to
engage God’s fidelity, as we have already discussed in GCMR, pages 1098-9. For, such permanent vows of religion are neither mutable promises to do this always or never to do that nor even abiding promises of the same, but are covenants in which not only God’s fidelity but that exigence for our own fidelity which constitutes that essential element of our being which we call our “honor” are both deliberately engaged. If the person is convinced that he did so pledge his honor, if there is even a solid probability that he is subconsciously so convinced, the institute has no right in either charity or justice to make him act in violation of that conviction. To use coercion or even persuasion to lead another to violate what he sees as his covenant with God is, I should think, a sin of scandalizing little ones, excused, perhaps, only by the unreflectiveness of our times and a wide­spread but abusive practice to the contrary.

It is sometimes pleaded, as an extenuating factor for such insistence by
authority, that requiring such requests for secularization from the individual
before any process is begun is a purely external and juridical formality and,
so, cannot stain a conscience. Yet, formality or not, if it is indeed a necessary first step, a condition without which nothing else will happen, it is hard to see how the troubled Religious can escape the realization that, but for his request, the covenant would stand. His conscience will be wounded, for he has interiorly ratified an action which does not merely indicate the problems he is facing and ask for a solution but which starts the precise process of abrogation of the covenant-relation as the desired solution and which involves his official statement of that desire and intent.

To urge this sort of taking of the initiative on one who has, as in so many of
these cases, an “overly developed” or “overly active” conscience which sees sin
everywhere, who may be in religion just because of fear of what God might do to
him otherwise, is to run the risk of making him sense, deep down and
ineradicably, that he has gone back on his word ‒ a far worse thing, for a man
at least, than any amount of unchastity or disobedience or squandering of the
community’s money. He has lost not merely his virtue but his honor, and that in
the deepest sense. He has been unfaithful at precisely the point where the
maximum of fidelity was required of him. It is the “mere formality” of asking
for a breaking and rupturing of the covenant, not simply a sinning against it.
That is a very dangerous thing to ask anyone to do, no matter how clear it may
be that God does not want the relationship to continue but that he should be
set free and leave.

To plead “conventional language,” analogous to that in which the child tells the
traveling salesman, “My mother isn’t home now,” or a corresponding kind of
mental reservation would seem to push such contrivances from their already
somewhat dubious Christian status into real abuse. For a chief ostensible
reason for requiring such formal petitions is precisely to stand in courts of law,
to prevent the person secularized from bringing civil suits for damages against
the institute by showing, in his own hand, that he initiated the process of
secularization. Now, no court will accept such a document if it is only to be
seen as pure formality, as “conventional language,” as concealing a mental
reservation. It seems much closer to forcing Socrates once again ‘and in more
serious matter to be his own executioner, for the sake of the convenience or
the squeamishness of some in authority, a practice on the part of authority of
which Christian moralists have consistently taken a rather dim view.

On the other hand, can there be any real difficulty in getting a lawyer to set up documentation to meet the same eventuality more honestly? A rough example: “I accept fully your decision in this matter, whatever it be. If you decide on whatever grounds to secularize me, I accept the secularization if not, I accept transfer or retention under what conditions seem best to you and your advisors.” This is, also, less likely to be broken in court by evidence brought in to show coercion and unfair persuasion, precisely because it states the truth, clearly saying what the situation was. Perhaps the commonest, if not the strongest argument urged against the approach suggested here is that one must wait to let the person make his own decision, that to send him away when he has not yet asked for dispensation of his own free will is to cut short his chances of ever making an adult choice.

The chief error there, of course, is thinking that any decision to leave or to stay
could be the individual’s own. His vows bind him never to decide to leave. Any
decision on his part to stay is personally redundant and, with respect to the
institute, not his to make.

The argument is psychologically fallacious as well. For one thing, the person is very likely to be aware, at least dimly or subconsciously, of these restrictions on
his freedom of choice. To inveigle him into a decision against his conscience,
whether well-formed or ill, is hardly a good way to assist his adult decision-making. The very fact that the institute let him take vows and stay this long with such poor results grounds little confidence that it is competent to judge the matter or that it offers very helpful surroundings for growth. Sometimes, too, it is the superior, not the subject, who has to learn to accept the responsibility for making decisions that affect other people’s lives.

Finally, it is God who created the world in its natural order and in the structures of its activity. That is the framework in which people will spontaneously grow
most easily in their natural powers and capacities, if by His grace and the
cooperation of the institute they can do so without sin or harm to even a false
or exaggerated conscience. But we have no right to presume that, above the
ordinary manner of nature, they will grow while in that religious state for
which they have not the grace which alone can make it possible for them.

How to Initiate Secularization

If, then, the individual is not to be permitted to ask for dispensation and free
departure, how can the process get started? In response, it seems to me that
the individual is obligated and, indeed, seriously obligated to make known his
situation to his spiritual director and superiors. If he has failed to do so
before or if those to whom he has spoken have done nothing helpful, there is
still time, and the obligation is no less great as the failure becomes more
dangerous. To put it negatively, I see no problem whatever in the person’s “taking the initiative,” if by that is meant merely that he manifest to those who bear responsibility for his spiritual welfare just how bad his situation is. There
is no reneging on vows in a simple declaration of truth.

It too often happens that the first real manifestation is made only at a time of
crisis ‒ for, this is one of the marks of gross immaturity, that a person does
not open up to those charged with his welfare but keeps everything stored up
inside himself lest “they use it against me” or think badly of him, or else
opens the matter up only with those he knows will see things just as he does.
The first effort, then, will have to be to get to know the person, past as well
as present, as fully as possible while also seeking to bring him to true indifference in the matter (for a mere declaration of willingness to honor his vows does not settle the matter) and to a genuine interior freedom. If genuine, he will be in contact with the full reality of his situation including all the commitments and engagements he has made. Ultimately he can say, in full truth, “So far as I can see, this is not the life for me. God does not seem to have called me to it, nor is there any sign He is so calling me now. There are many indications that He was not pleased with my entering and staying and taking vows. If it were my decision, I’d leave. But it is not in my hands. I took my vows in freedom ‒ imperfect but adequate. I’m quite willing to honor my commitment and stay forever, if that is really God’s will for me as manifested through the decision of you, my superiors; though if the decision is, ‘Stay,’ I may well feel obligated to seek to have the whole matter reviewed by higher superiors.”

It is, then, up to the institute itself to look at his evidence, to check into his past history, to have him examined psychologically and spiritually by others than those he has been dealing with all along, especially if there is any least doubt about their motivation, competence, or judgment concerning this particular person. Certainly, the institute may not simply take a person on his own terms since, as a result of emotional upsets and constraints, he can easily have the picture all distorted and involuntarily misrepresented. He may be quite capable of living the life if he really wants to. This is not rare, for example, in a sudden, sharp crisis, provoked by the piling up, all at one time, of grave difficulties; yet given adequate help, he can recover his balance and live the life well. If so, he
should be told to remain and have the matter carefully explained to him. This
is crucial; the knowledge of the necessity of making a go of it, knowing that
there is no other way out, is probably the strongest motivation for making a go
of it, as is very often quite obvious in marriage.

It is necessary, through other sources than the Religious himself, to ascertain
what has really happened in the past and whether he is truly incapable or
simply not willing to live the life. This judgment as to capability to live at
or rise to the threshold is a place where sound psychiatry and clinical
psychology can make a distinctive contribution. At the least, they can offer
sound advice and some otherwise not easily obtainable evidence.xv If
no convincing evidence turns up of a call by God, early or late, to this life,
nor moral certitude of the possibility of making something good out of it, and
if there is substantial evidence to the contrary, then the person should be
sent away as soon as possible.

Other Remarks on Procedure

A few other fairly obvious remarks as to procedure:

(i) The institute has always an obligation to step in and begin a full
investigation as soon as it is evident that someone is in difficulty, even if
he has said nothing about it to anyone.

(ii) Since secularization is not, at least of itself, punitive, the person should
depart without shame or dishonor. Indeed, since it is his good that is being
sought, he should go, so far as possible, with true consolation from the Lord
and such counsel, prayers, and other aid from the institute as seems called
for, and with every ground for abiding affection and charity towards those with
whom he spent so many years of his life.

(iii) The machinery for this sort of release from vows is not always, so I am told,
well set up to accord with the basic principle which is to govern its use. This
principle, stated rather generally, would be that the more demanding and difficult the threshold, especially as to the supernatural endowments of the entrants, and the higher the specificity of the institute, the greater the freedom and the initiative of the institute to secularize should be. For, given human
ignorance and weakness, mistakes will occur, the more easily and the graver in
their consequences as the spiritual requisites are higher at the start, when
the person is necessarily less well known, and the more profoundly doctrinal
and directly spiritual the institute’s mode of apostolic engagement.

There is a certain “non­-reciprocity” here, by which the individual, ordinarily, is bound to remain with the institute but the institute is not bound to keep him. It is clearly the individual’s good that is most helped by such non-­reciprocity. For
thus he is enabled to commit himself to God in this way of life as soon as
positive grounds exist, sufficient for moral certitude, of his call and fitness; yet he can still be set free, without sin on his own part, if some mistake has been made or, even, if his own laxness renders him unsuited for continuance in the life. What is strange today is to see this same non-reciprocity being demanded also for sacramental marriage at the very time that it is under attack among Religious, even in its chief proponent, the Society of Jesus. For this was one of the most original and significant insights of Ignatius Loyola, a far greater advance, in my judgment, than merely extending the time for and intensifying the preparation for vows: that the Society of Jesus, with the very high threshold it has, should also, given suitable cause, have the power of sending away (and dispensing from non­-solemn vows) on the Order’s own initiative any of its members at any time in their lives.xvi Manifestly, greater reason and more solid proof were required as the person had been longer in the life and more intimately attached to it by successively more stringent bonds, whether these be vows or not (Ignatius lists some six degrees of closeness of incorporation).xvii

In any case, the precise structures at law will perforce vary from one institute
to another. Institutes of high threshold should see to it that proportionate
power of dismissal rest with them. Even if no such structures are obtainable,
they have still the right to approach the Holy See to ask for each such desired
secularization. And a healthy climate and understanding of such cases will lead
Rome to respond more favorably.

If someone comes wanting to be dispensed, charity requires working with him as
long as may prove possible until he no longer wants it, that is, until he is
willing to abide as completely as he can with the decision finality to be
reached by the competent authorities, having made as many manifestations as may be needed to higher superiors, other spiritual guides, psychiatrists, and so
forth. But as soon as he is thus willing, all efforts should be undertaken to
have superiors dispense him and send him away unless clear evidence turns up of his real suitability. At all times, the person has to be helped to get to or
remain in a position where he is consciously honoring his word.

I know of one person to whom no one was able to break through. In no way could he be brought even to consider indifference. He was going to be secularized and laicized, and that was that. No matter what one talked about with him ‒ work, personal affairs, spiritual matters, or whatever ‒ after three or four minutes he would break it off and say, “I don’t want to discuss all this; I want to be laicized; I’m going to get married,” though in fact he had no woman in mind. In such a case, all you can do is to go ahead and fill out the papers from Rome. There is no way to prevent a person from demanding dispensation; ultimately; the matter is up to him. One can and ought to support his secularization, when asked by the competent authorities, for, clearly, he will do far more harm than good to the Church and those around him if he remains. Yet even so, it should be settled, in my judgment, as far as possible on the grounds, “You can’t resign; you’re fired.” Even if he has taken the initiative, we should seek to take it back from him, in hopes, however distant, that he can reach somehow that middle ground of balance and of openness to God’s will from which alone a solid growth can take place.

Admittedly, much current practice works against taking one’s obligations toward God this seriously. All concerned should do whatever they can to remedy abuse in this domain and to convince those able to determine policy that it is an abuse,
however well motivated. In the meantime, we can work with each person in such a way that it is clear to him, whatever letters and forms he must write or fill
out, that it is we, in the name of the institute, who are taking the real
initiative, wherever this is possible.

Cases of Those with Solemn Vows

C. In this section we consider what help can be given to those bound by solemn
vows in a religious Order. Much of what has been said already, with fairly
obvious modifications, can be applied here. The chief difference, of course, is
that the Order has no power to dispense from solemn vows even when it is able
to send the Religious away definitively.

Since the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1918, it is true, the Church has ceased to recognize any totally indissoluble vows of religion. Thus, either the
ancient tradition of religious life as a marriage to Christ is denied or every
kind of Christian marriage is rendered dissoluble by the Church. The effort to
make the latter alternative prevail is the better publicized at present, but
the former has, in practice at least, been widely accepted in recent years, not
without a good bit of genuine scandal of the ordinary faithful.

My own surmise is that the Code’s provisions here were adopted without any deliberate intent to abolish the religious Orders as forms of Christian life. The failure to realize that this had in principle been done by the radical nature of the changes introduced by the Code was due to preoccupation with the urgent practical problems of the immediate postwar period, of the Depression, and of World War II, coupled with the lack of any visible practical consequences until the recent flood of departures began. There are now at least rumors circulating that this unsatisfactory situation is soon to be rectified. It is said most commonly that the reform will entrust to each institute the detailed specification of the
nature of its vows and also of whatever authority of dispensation the Church
may exercise over them, so that, in the case of the Orders, the Holy See would
never intervene to dispense from vows, and solemn vows would be fully indissoluble once again.

In the light of all this and of the call of Vatican II to return to the spirit and
original objectives of the founders of religious Orders ‒ all of whom, I
believe, saw strictly indissoluble vows as fundamental to their institute ‒ I
shall treat the problems of Religious with solemn vows without further
consideration of the possibility of dispensation by the Holy See, a matter in
any case best left to those who alone have power in such affairs. The only
situation that seems really to call for special comment here is that of a Religious
in solemn vows, called originally to some kind of secular life, and who is
living just that sort of life, spiritually speaking, in his Order.xviii Superiors complain that there is nothing they can do in such a case, nothing at least that will not stir up a hornet’s nest, hopelessly dividing the community. He is not living the life properly, but he is not committing any crimes and may indeed be outstanding in the secular virtues. Suffice it to say here ‒ I will return to other aspects in Part III ‒ that what can be done, and ought to be done, is very straightforward: require, in virtue of his vow of obedience wherever necessary, that he live as a Religious of that Order should and abandon his secular mode. This will fairly quickly bring about a clarification of just what his situation is; as always, such clarity and lucidity are the central and crucial elements in any manner of helping. For those neurotic people who cannot hear of anything involving pain and difficulty without interpreting it as punishment or entrapment, it is important to make clear, by actions even more than by words, that there is no such intent in this process.

Once a suitable clarity has been reached, two lines of approach are available. The
person may seek a closer approximation to the type of secular life to which he
was called, whether by transfer to the diocesan clergy, if he is a priest, or to some other institute (preferably, in my opinion, without “extinction” of the solemnity, that is, indissolubility, of his vows) or, less desirably, by living outside the communities of his own Order, as I believe Erasmus did. This could,
depending on circumstances, go as far as complete secularization though without
dispensation from vows. Professional canonists would have to work out the
details of transferring, for example, the right to command under obedience to
the local bishop, and so forth. The chief difficulty with these approaches is that rarely can they take sensitive and full account of the extent of the commitment by vow to the way of life itself, which as in marriage implies a particular partner and not just a set of vows hovering in the abstract waiting for any suitable place to alight. Hence, the odor of legalism too often detected here and the risk of a real infidelity hidden beneath the legal dressings. On the other hand, by any of these, the Order is well protected from loss of spirit.

But, I believe, far and away a better solution is to use the light and clarity
gained to help the Religious to repentance for whatever his contribution to the
bad situation may have been, to live the life in fidelity and suffering ‒ as so
many must do in unfortunate marriages ­and to pray perseveringly for a true
call to this way of life, so that they are able not merely to honor the basic
commitments of their vows, which God’s ordinary grace makes possible always,
but also to enter into the spirit of their institute and to achieve, by their
very difficulties, a greater openness for divine union.


So far, we have considered the effects of spurious vocation upon the individual
affected and the obligations resting upon the representatives of his institute
to assist him. We are now in a position to examine the social effects of spurious
vocations upon the institute itself, wherever these unfortunate situations are
not assiduously and continually straightened out.

Polarizations When There Is Basic Unity

An obvious place to start is with the polarizations, tensions, and conflicts
evident in many congregations and orders at present. Dissension, however, is
not attributable, of itself, to problems of vocation, but can arise from a
number of quite different factors. It can come, as has happened more than once
in history, from laxity on the part of some and strictness on the part of
others, even if most are truly called, at threshold, and so forth, as in some
of the early Franciscan struggles or in the Carmelites at the time of John of
the Cross.

Conflicts are also generated, even among saints, by divergent views on practical matters. Recall Paul and Barnabas quarreling about John Mark, or Paul and Peter at odds over table-fellowship. Perhaps a mode of this is found today in the not uncommon case of “renewal blues”: between those who declare, some sadly, some with joy, “This is no longer the group that I entered.” The remark is usually
true enough in that the organization has changed quite drastically in
externals. Whether its inner spirit has changed is a further question. Thus,
without necessity of genuine vocational difference, there can be real conflict,
some thinking that what the group used to be is what it ought to be, others
thinking that only if it is no longer what it used to be can it become what it
was meant to be.

There is also a sort of genuine and solid vocational diversity within any institute.
For God, having created each person with different talents and temperament,
calls each, within the framework of the one, basic vocation, to different
activity and insight for the building up of this “organ” of the Body of Christ.
The resultant interrelated functionings and complementary contributions may be marked in the very structure of the institute, as with “grades” in the Society
of Jesus, or only concretely in people’s different capabilities and ministries.
This diversity gives rise to tension and, given our perduring ignorance and
sinfulness, even sharp conflict at times. The very fact that one person sees
certain things far more clearly than others see them burdens the seer with, at
best, slowly communicable knowledge. The man­-of-action, in turn, wonders about the “sluggishness” or “indecision” of the others. And so on.

In all such types of dispute, a search for consensus through community meetings, group dynamics, Better World Retreats, workshops, and the like can be of great profit; and the use of some such means is essential if unity is to be
preserved. But there is a unity to preserve; there is a foundation in reality for solid agreement at the level of the dispute, since there is complete
agreement at the more basic level of vocation, a full sharing of the same call
from the Lord.

When Basic Unity Is Lacking

It is just this basic unity of call and of objective that is missing in institutes
which have been careless about false vocations Though the members are all one
at the level of the faith (though even this is, too often, not true), they have no ground for community of life at any further spiritual level though, of course, the natural grounds for friendship and communal life may flourish for a time. Conflicts in this context trace to basic divergences in vocation and represent genuine discord. These conflicts need not involve any particular laxity on the part of either group (see I.B.4 above). People trying to live as one are in fact being called by God to two or more quite disparate ways of life, necessarily interfering with some others’ full following of God’s call by seeking to follow their own. At least one group will be substantially out of harmony with the institute, though often without explicit advertence to that fact.

The commoner situation, of course, is what is politely called that is, a general
mixture: people called to the institute, of all degrees of tepidity and fervor;
those there in response to a mistake as to their true call; and an often
sizable number who have never had a call to anything except, perhaps, to
Christian adulthood.

Lack of Basic Unity and Presence of Mistaken Vocations

In situations colored chiefly by cases of mistaken vocation in the strong sense,
discord is the most obvious characteristic. Orders and congregations are being
torn apart by conflicts among those unwilling or unable to face their diversity
honestly. Whatever the members of the community are called to, to this institute
or elsewhere, the force of their life, their fullest and most developed
response of love and service to God through self engagement, is somehow at
stake. This is extremely threatening, to all parties, probably, to some extent
though more so to those who are in the wrong place. Genuine discussion, which
really touches the question of basic unity, tends to exacerbate the antagonisms
and reactions of defense as it becomes clear that some do not find the center of their life where others do, or not in recognizably the same manner, although they had given themselves as companions to one another on that basis.

Hence, those who are out of place will (as indicated for particular cases in Part I
above) be laboring vigorously to have the institute “renewed” and “modernized,”
by which they mean, in fact, changed into that mode of life to which God has
called them. They will, or at least should, be strenuously resisted by those whom God called to the original form of the institute. These may be as vigorous
as the others in working for certain restructurings and up-datings, to remedy
abuses and brush off the accidental accretions of “temporary” changes, long
since become permanent, but, “inconsistently” and confusingly for the others,
they will not budge on what they see as essential but which are as abusive and
outdated as any others in the minds of those mistakenly present.

Because a certain spontaneous separation of those not called there occurs over the years and because younger Religious who are truly called will ordinarily lack
that depth of knowledge of their institute which would enable them to understand the interactions between the legal structures and the spiritual vitality
of individuals or to grasp the functioning of elements of the life which seem to the uninformed eye wholly superfluous if not harmful, the discord can easily
take on the aspect of a conflict between young and old.

This tendency to divide along other lines than of vocation, even though vocation is the issue, is more extensive than indicated by this one example. Wherever there are large-sized groups in fundamental disaccord within an institute, especially where there are many of no vocation, who will be profoundly threatened by the whole matter, tensions mount in all directions as the discordant groups pull apart. But such tensions produce “jagged” splits, which do not follow the natural lines of cleavage generated by God’s action. Instead, the real issue gets all mixed up with very human passions and psychological disturbances, hardly a situation in which any sort of discernment, even just a using of one’s head, is possible. Thus, such splits occur and yet the problems are unresolved, since each fragment still contains people of different vocational status. Separation is obviously the answer; yet this sort of separation is not, but
only one that is carefully and voluntarily planned for and chosen.

Lack of Basic Unity and the Presence of Non-vocations

But mistaken vocations of this sort are not the only problem, socially speaking,
nor even the most dangerous, jarring and startling though the strife they stir
up may be. If uncomplicated by other problems, they can be relatively easily
resolved, even as in the case of an individual. But the usual situation is the “pluralistic” one, where every sort of mistake and immaturity and inadequacy to threshold have been, even if with the greatest reluctance, allowed or tolerated.

As may be inferred from what has already been said about the harm done to those straitened people themselves, the overall social effect is one of decay of the institute, of degeneration and frittering disintegration ‒ a far piece from the glories of renewal. Two closely related phenomena seem to form the central element in this decline: the lowering and distortion of the threshold; the loss of specificity of the spirituality of the institute.xix

Lowering and Distortion of the Threshold

A good part of the process of decay is fairly obvious just on the grounds of the
psychological threshold. If those who are moving along in the institute are
immature or psychologically damaged, whether called or not, but more so if not,
then one begins to find people of all ages in those communities who have
interiorly buckled under the effort required and have regressed to some earlier
level of maturity or who, while steadily growing at last, have not yet come
near to catching up with the calendar.

The sad consequence of this is that these people eventually wind up in positions of considerable influence as superiors, spiritual directors, professors of
theology, and the like, partly by accident, partly because the institute is short of manpower, often by their own efforts. Too insecure to allow God to do with them what He pleases in terms of call, so they will not wait for His action as to their works or positions or “careers.” Thus, even some major superiors are not only not at what Eriksen calls the integrative level ‒ they have not yet arrived at “generativity,” that level at which, being able to love others, whether loved in return or not, people are psychologically ready and mature enough to accept responsibility for the lives of others and, like St. Paul, can rebuke and even punish, as charity may require, though loving more, in this way, they are loved the less by those they love.

So one finds the person in authority who acts “by the book,” an evenhanded
treatment of all uniformly and without concern or even thought for individual
differences and differing spiritual needs. More commonly these days, one sees
those in authority (often exactly the same people) who are engagingly
permissive and “individually concerned” so long as, again, a direct and
genuinely personal confrontation with others is avoided. Under either sort of
regime, subjects who are immature will be encouraged by the circumstance to
remain so. Long years after high school, then, one finds Religious still
struggling with elementary “identity” or “intimacy.” And often these are the
spiritual fathers and retreat directors of those coming up, hoping to learn how
to deal with their own problems from what they discover in those they would
claim to guide. The blind lead the blind, and the ditches are still not filled.

Further, those who enter, even though truly called, still have many facets of that call which they can only learn by living it under wise direction. Instead,
inexperienced in the spiritual life, the young Religious will hear, from the
first, divergent interpretations and understandings of the life. Their concrete
picture of the life will be composed only partly of what their founder and the
Church put there; the rest is filled in with their own attitudes and half­-conscious
assumptions. Aware of the many opinions and attitudes within their group, they
will come to regard unity in spirituality as unimportant, losing, before they know of its existence, the basis of spiritual community, save at the generic level of the total Christian community. Those without a call will patch together what they can that seems helpful but are little likely to find what will help them out of their bad situation.

Perhaps the commonest source of difficulty in practice is that one admits those who are well below threshold or retains those who retrogress below it in hopes of
nursing them along. The effect of this is simply to lower and distort the
threshold. But the threshold is merely the institute itself seen from the
perspective of its dynamics of formation for those who enter (see the detailed
discussion of this in GCMR, pp. 1093-4). To lower or distort the threshold is to downgrade or distort the inner spirit of the institute.

It is not possible, of course, to limit the downgrading of a communal life to its
effects on the single individual by himself. To the extent that it is truly
communal, it is necessarily downgraded for many. The tone and the typical
activity of each stage of formation, of each style of apostolate, is shifted a bit in this one direction. Also, precedents are set. Others are admitted no worse than this one… and, often, no better.

Loss of An Institute’s Specificity

Specificity suffers, of course, from any lowering of the threshold, but it suffers more, perhaps, from the presence of those who still have no call and so are
necessarily restless, always open to something else. The lower the degree of
specificity of what was a highly specific mode of life and spirituality, drawn
into existence by the power of our Lord through His Spirit, the more vocations
are being lost in a very profound sense: calls from God of this specific type are no longer being heard in the Church or, if heard, have no institutional locus, “no place to go.” The institute sinks into the quicksand of its own irresponsibility ‒ even if it has thousands of members, its particular charism and function in the Church is being allowed to disappear. But an organ of the Church that is no longer serving the Body is Within a short step of beginning to damage the Body by letting its own sickness infect others, its own disquiet show itself through that aberrant doctrine and behavior which do not reflect new insight but only the inner discomforts of those who can thus ease to some extent their misery.

What then? If there are true differences as to vocation within a single institute,
some of its members being called by God in one direction, some in others, some
suffering the lack of any call or frustrated by a threshold too for them, then any real effort at consensus, any real laboring to bring everyone to basic
agreement ‒ save as to the fact and nature of their basic incompatibility ‒ seems
gravely sinful, not perhaps in subjective conscience but objectively. It is a
direct refusal to accept what God’s grace is calling people to; it attempts to
form a unity that is flatly contrary to His will, seeking to make all go in one
direction where He is clearly asking them to go in several. To insist upon or
attempt to force consensus in such situations is a type of coercion which,
insofar as it is “successful,” can only be destructive. To work at this sort of
contrived consensus is merely to skin over the sores, letting them fester all
the more deeply. Refusing the one truth we are called upon to see, we render
phony all other efforts at healing. Such consensus-seeking blocks out God’s
light by suppressing the truth and refuses God’s love because He desires to
heal our wounds, even if by surgery. Totally different is the common effort to
work through the other kinds of conflict, where all parties work on the basis
of genuinely common ground to become what they desire and are desired by God to be. (Here, too, of course, malice and freely chosen ignorance can enter in. If
they do, they must be faced and regarded as such; but often we can help one
another out of such ill will through appeals to that which is best in each, his
love of Christ in accord with our common call.)

Thus, the fact of false vocation strongly affects the means that can be used for
renewal. Those means that help towards manifestation of a fundamental, already
existing consensus are highly desirable, even essential, where all have been
similarly called. But in an institute where God is calling people to more than
one way of life or where many have no call at all, the first, undertaking must
be to resolve that discordance by separation, division, or splitting,
individually or collectively. Sad to say, in many groups today, the drive for
consensus is being vigorously furthered precisely to avoid having to look at
and delve into such threatening questions. Yet such divisions not only help the
individuals involved, but are a great good for the Church, permitting new
growths and modifications which can meet new needs without loss of function in
older and still necessary organs. Franciscans (black and brown) and Capuchins,
Calced and Discalced Carmelites, Cistercians and Trappists, and in our own days
the Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus and the hermits of the Sahara, the
Sisters of Loretto and the Missionaries of Charity all attest and bear witness
to ‘the vivifying power of God’s grace when allowed to lead individuals or
groups away from their life together in response to His call.

As already remarked, if there are appreciable numbers of spurious vocations in an institute, any division which comes just because people finally explode tears apart both people and institutions and does next to nothing to meet the vocational problem itself due to the jaggedness of the tear. But divisions can also be planned and carefully worked for. The precise manner of preparing for separation in accord with the calls God has given (or not given) depends on the actual situation. Still, a few remarks can be made which have a certain generality of application.

Remarks on Planning for Separation

The fundamental aims are the same here, I think, as when helping individuals: calm lucidity, genuine repentance, public adjustment. But how bring these about in a whole institute?

Getting It into the Open

There is much debate whether these things should be brought up in public, even when abstractly considered. Could it help, for example, to bring up in a community meeting the possibility that a fair number of the people there do not belong there? I incline to those who would say yes to this, but only with the proviso that the discussion of these problems could be kept at the level of theory
only. Even so, it could terrify some; perhaps, in some degree, all. But, at
least, it gets the matter out of the darkness, out where it can be looked at
and talked about, where assumptions and presuppositions can be debated. When
later the topic becomes more concrete, people will not be taken Wholly by
surprise. They can even begin to work their way through it a bit on their own.
It is no longer untouchable, unmention­able.

It will be a sort of dying, but of the sort, I think, that Jesus urged upon us.
But, like any death, it is going to stir our denials of all, then fierce anger,
bargaining, and great depression, and then, at last, serene acceptance of the
truth. As with death, there is no point in arguing the matter, once it becomes
concrete. Then one can only help the person to live through the situation and
support him in his struggling.

Others argue no, it is too bruising, too damaging. If it is brought out into the open it just stimulates the building of enormous walls of resistance and immures
people behind stronger defenses than ever.

One trouble with this latter argument is that it is never supplemented by effective proposals as to how else to deal with the problem; for it must be dealt with. Further, it must be worked through individually with each person so far as the central portion of the struggle is concerned. But if the problem is worked on
solely with individuals and not socially and publicly addressed, then there
seems no conceivable way around the problem that every director runs into again and again: the community as a whole is unprepared for what needs to be done, they fail to understand it, they resist it as soon as one or two have begun to
face it, and build up very active defenses, forcing everything to a halt. It is
hard to see how they could do otherwise. For they have no effective concepts or
thought structures, or else very inadequate ones, for trying to deal with such
serious and painful problems. Public discussion has the virtue of helping those
who are not psychologically impaired to the categories in which to begin to
make sense of their own and others’ problems.

High-level and Individual-level Discussion

I should guess that, to obtain lucidity, the problem must first be officially and
publicly admitted at the highest levels of government of the institute. Some
sort of public discussion of the situation and of apparently useful
possibilities of approach would be carried out at that same level, and expert
help brought in for suggestions. But then the problem would be remanded somehow to the local level, whatever further work may continue at the higher, so that individuals can be helped, by whatever social means seem suitable in the light of the high­1evel discussions as well as by the standard ways of helping individuals.

I do not think that this individual-level effort might ever be skipped or treated
negligently, however much has to be handled at other levels. For, ultimately,
the whole problem is just that of many individuals who are presently elsewhere
than God would have them. Especially for those of no vocation or those whose
only call was to Christian adulthood, the prospects of separation and division
will be terribly threatening; only much individual charity and support is going
to make it tolerable and, finally, fruitful for their lives.

I should think, too, that some sort of overall statement of the possibilities
should be made very early, so that even the most threatened can see that there
will be no ejection of some by others, that none will be unprovided for.
Especially must the old and sick be taken care of; neither materially nor
spiritually can they be neglected or deserted, whether during preparation for
the separation or afterwards. In most cases, even so, the process is likely to
be very hard for them.

But in my judgment this should not prevent the question of vocation from being
raised. So long as the person is compos mentis, it seems essential for his growth and peace of soul to face the truth of his situation ‒ it is not something, after all, with which he is wholly unacquainted. Only so will he be able to deal with it and come to solid, practical judgments. The social effort is to enable each person to live with his own and others’ situations, in peace and repentance, and to serve God in the best way still open for him in the days that remain for his earthly service of his Lord. To refuse this duty of charity is like refusing to discuss the need of the last sacraments with a dying person. It is small charity to let a person
go to his grave and to his God all muddled up and perhaps in bad faith, still
not facing the truth of what lies at the center of his life if, on prudent judgment, it is still possible to help him at all.

Working Together Toward the Separation

Obviously, the atmosphere should be one wholly free of recrimination. If any of our analysis is correct, there is more than enough to repent of on all hands; no
one is in a position to throw the stone. Official acceptance by the institute
of the basic responsibility for its mistakes would be a good first step to
clear the air. All must come to see that it is a bad situation and seek to
change it together. The moment the question of separation is raised,
unfortunately, hackles rise: “Who are they to decide who is a good Trappistine,
a good Vincentian, a good BVM?” But that is clearly a false question. The real
question is, “How can we work together to help all of us live according to our
real calls or situations before God, without obscuring things by pretending?”
If the truth is what we have assumed it to be here, those without vocation
will, with assistance, see it as well as anyone else, unless they are
psychologically too ill to function. Then they must be told, while continuing
to be helped. But, under no conditions should there be set up some group whose
task would be, all armed with criteria and standards, to eliminate and expel
those who do not fit their norms.

The Matter of Timing

What of timing? The public broaching of the subject, I think, should occur as soon as can be arranged. But that done, with the clear intimation to all that things are seriously underway, then my own surmise would be that the less of a prescribed timetable there is, the better. When individuals or groups are ready to separate, the common good would suggest that this not be permitted till it is fairly clear that the others, at least of those who will be directly affected by the division in question, are also adequately prepared for it. On the other hand, long delays and dilly-dallying can hardly be allowed without making the situation worse for everyone. As soon as it is clear that all can swim or that there are lifeguards enough to care for those who cannot as yet, then the best way into the cold water is to jump.

Prayer for a Christian Separation

None of the above efforts, nor any others, can be fruitful unless done in the Lord,
in His manner, for His love, according to His will. If acting in such fashion
can be so hard in easier circumstances, all the more will we have to call upon
His grace in today’s tangles of difficulties. Hence, the principal “method” of
working for a truly Christian separation must always remain that of prayer,
especially the whole Church’s prayer in the Mass and penance. Since our
problems are social, so should be much of our penance and prayer; and we should ask our friends for their Masses and prayers, often much better than our own.

With His grace, then, we will be able to subject our personal opinions to His truth. By close union with Him we can avoid discouragement, even if it seems that He would indeed have our institute dissolve like salt in water (see GCMR, p. 1095). Easy though it is ‒ as some of the above pages may indicate ‒ to slide into grimness if one attends more to the evils present than to the greatness of God’s love, yet if we stand close to Him upon the cross, He will show us the cure for that too: how to love one another in His own truth. If we surrender ourselves to Him, His Spirit will lead us and we will have nothing to fear in any separations He asks of us.

Let us pray, then, and offer ourselves with Him daily at Mass that whatever
separation is needed come about with His peace and quiet charity, with no more
drama than when brothers and sisters leave home for college, jobs, and
marriage, loving each other as always, even when not much taken with their
in-laws. lf it seems wholly natural and right to us that diversity of vocation
should separate the members of a family and lead them in different directions,
we should he neither shocked nor surprised that we, who have been so close to
one another till now in our institute should, by God’s call, correcting our
mistakes, have yet to walk such different roads and move so far apart in space
and mode of life, though remaining close in affection. If God brings forth good
for those who love Him even out of our sins, to which His response was Christ,
He will not be less concerned to draw good from the mistakes we have made in
our efforts to serve Him.


i  Only vowed engagements are considered since only these offer a serious problem practically. If the person has not committed himself by vow, he is not, ordinarily, obligated to continue the way of life chosen. Whenever his situation is clarified, he may simply leave and start to live as God wills for him at the time.

ii  The above elements constitute a definition of “mistaken vocation” as we shall be using the term. As we shall see before long, there are other types of mistakes that can be made with regard to vocation which are not included in “mistaken vocation,” for example, “premature response.”

iii  The proverbial difficulty of effecting such a transfer is not without its reasons which we will consider shortly.

iv The pain and harm resulting from these problems were, of course, evident; but the categories for dealing with them and making them visible and theologically graspable had been too badly melted down over the centuries and blunted to be of use.

v  In much current discussion, questions of vocation become insoluble since the call is seen as if with only two components: the sincerity and good faith of the individual and the (permissive) will of God.

vi  It will be taken for granted here and in all that follows that suitable psychological counseling, or psychiatric help when needed, will be begun as so0n as possible. Such psychological assistance, however, should never be permitted to delay dismissal, still less to avoid it.

vii Such duplicity can also render vows invalid so that much of what is said here will apply no matter how far along they have gone, save for the complications of the priesthood. Obviously, a canonist should be consulted to know what sort of evidence is needed for action in the external forum and what sort of steps to take. Usually there will also be rather serious psychological problems which call for psychiatric care.

viii One must, of course, have expended considerable effort to gather and assess all the available evidence. This pastoral assumption is only meant to avoid theological disputation and resultant inaction; ii cannot be used to avoid the hard labor of discovering the facts. The aid of skilled directors, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists is needed. The spiritual notes, if available, of the Religious
himself should be sought and his memory jogged, as also the memories of his
classmates, friends, directors, and superiors, for recollections from that
period-assuming that he gives whatever permissions may be needed. Nor should
his intervening history be neglected. A certain deliberateness in the process need not ordinarily be hurtful if the time is spent in continually recalling the man to his fundamental self.

ix “Dismissal” seems the only word we have in English for such a separation which does not necessarily imply, in common language at least, a personal antipathy, rejection, or punitive element which any technical term such as
“secularization” seems automatically to inject. Unfortunately, “dismissal,”
when used with regard to those whose vows are permanent, is taken by many to
imply full canonical trials with antecedent warnings, records of
incorrigibility, and the like, What has happened, I believe, is that the
canonical “dimissio”‒ better translated in this context by “expulsion”‒ was
replaced by its English cognate, this being, thus, so restricted as to make of it a purely technical term, leaving us no generic, common-language word at all.
Rather than risk confusing things further, I shall conform to such usage in this article–but under protest, with the insistence that “secularize,” at least, be taken as purely factual and emotionally neutral.

x  There was a time when it was a common method. It was, seemingly, the preferred method of St. Francis Xavier who permitted return of Jesuits to secular states only because this other possibility was not generally open to them in the scattered Christian settlements of Asia.

xi Care must be taken to prevent the busybodies and the gossips from doing harm; some orders under obedience to these people and some salutary punishments (themselves public) could go far to dampen in that line.

xii The judgment that someone is not at threshold should not be based simply on the statements of the person himself, but requires the sort of probative evidence needed for moral certitude, Pressed hard enough by circumstances, most Religious might seem, for a time, unable to live the life. I will discuss this in more detail later.

xiii Retention as a positive solution (cf. II, B. l) depends on the person’s being more or less at the threshold of his institute.

xiv If the person will not be sent away, then indeed he should be allowed to present his case: if need be, to use the canonical form of trial; to have the psychologists and the psychiatrists brought in; and the like.

xv Of course, any number of attitudes which militate directly against all that interests us in this area flourish among present-day psychologists, men for whom, often, freedom is meaningless, where a celibate life is automatically seen as harmful to anyone, where a vow of obedience is necessarily stultifying of maturity and growth. But if one can a psychologist who properly respects and takes account practically of the value and role of human liberty, he should be consulted in all these cases.

xvi Today, the Code requires a canonical trial for those bound by solemn vows in the Society of Jesus; and some form of trial is, I believe, required, outside the Society, for all with final vows. The canonical trial is needed primarily to protect people against overly severe or arbitrary action, to safeguard the Religious trying to live the rule in a lax community or, on occasion, to silence others of the
community who resent and oppose the move to dismiss. The trial has also a
coercive aspect as the only way an institute can force secularization upon the

xvii Canonical trials are out of place ordinarily in our present context. But a canonical requirement as to ascertaining the facts of a case by some sort of panel would seem advantageous so long as it is composed of people competent in the spirituality of that institute, especially as to its threshold, and in clinical psychology or psychiatry. One man, also, should be charged with assembling evidence concerning the person’s previous history.

xviii It is the interior quality of his activity and choices that is in question here. All
sorts of reasons, excellent from an order’s spiritual viewpoint, can call, in
particular circumstances, for an externally “secular” life style.

xix Just as all kinds of dissension arise which are only distantly, if at all, related to
problems of call, so, even more, are there factors of decay and decline of an
institute which are not provoked by vocational problems. Likewise, all modes of
long-standing dissension or of untreated decay, whatever their source, will
seriously damage the institute by generating, among other things, serious
problems for both the personal and the communal (or authoritative) discernment of God’s call. Space precludes treating these interesting topics here.

In German:


Two by Paul M. Quay, SJ on “Vocation” from ‘Review for Religious’ (1974)

Paul M. Quay, SJ

God’s Call and Man’s Resonse: Structures for the Analysis of True and False Vocations ……………………………………………………………………………….33 (1974) 1062


Spurious Vocation: The Problem and Suggestions for Solutions …………33 (1974) 1347

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).

“It Won’t Go Away!” : Response to Denver Opponents of Canon 277

“One of my dear departed mentors said that we have wonderful doctrine transmitted at times by flawed documents. Although he was speaking then about his work on the doctrine of the angels as promulgated by the Fourth Lateran Council, I think we can say the same thing about other aspects of Sacred Tradition in our aggressively secularized environment. Too often, what used to be an instinct of grace is now reduced to legalism, whereupon its impoverished laws are not enforced. We have something like this situation with Levitical continence versus apostolic continence for those in Holy Orders. It used to be obvious — now it is outrageous to say — that a man must be of one wife, and that wife is the Church. The Russian Orthodox theologian Aleksey Stepanovich Khomyakov (Алексей Степанович Хомяков, 1804-1860) claimed that the Roman Church was guilty of “extrinsic” imposition of authority whereas the Eastern Churches relied on the “intrinsic” hold of the authority of Sacred Tradition as binding on believers. In other words, it seems that if some mid-level bureaucrat of the Roman Curia today declared that there are no longer three persons in the trinity, but rather four, Latin Catholics would, I fear, adopt en masse the novel doctrine. Here, documents from the Congregation of the Clergy, “Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons,” and from the Congregation for Education, “Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons,” which pivot upon the interdicasterial letter (No. 4092.629) of February 27, 1997, written by the Cardinal Secretary of State, precisely as dicasterial, can have no doctrinal significance. They remind me of the words of my mentor in discussing the texts of Lateran Four. The upshot is that Sacred Tradition can’t and won’t go away any more than the Holy Spirit who formed that Tradition will go away. It will continue to be a very large elephant standing in a very small ecclesiastical living room.”
Rev. Brian Van Hove, S.J.
[* = apostolic continence]

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”.

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“The Mystery Hidden for Ages in God” by Paul M. Quay, S.J.


posted on AmazonThe Mystery Hidden for Ages in God (American University Studies Series VII, Theology and Religion)
by Paul M. Quay

Biblical Stages in the Christian Life
November 24, 2008

Father Paul Quay died in Chicago at Loyola University on October 10, 1994. He was 70 years old. Although his formal academic doctorate was in Theoretical Physics, his secondary area of interest was theology. He wrote on both morals and spirituality. When he died, he held the position of Research Professor of Philosophy at the same university. His mother preceded him in death by five months. This posthumous book of 438 pages was first conceived as a project in 1964 through conversation with Winoc De Broucker, SJ, and then again in 1969 as a result of further investigation at Fourvière (Lyons) with Henri de Lubac, SJ. The book is really the exploration of the thought of de Lubac, and was distilled into its present form after being presented first as a university course, then as symposium lectures, then as essays. The book is therefore the result of thirty years of meditation upon the theme of “Recapitulation”, that is, how the individual Christian goes through “biblical stages” of gradual transformation into the likeness of Christ. Father Quay’s concern is practical and concrete through the vehicle of his massive and refined erudition. Some of the motivation to ponder these things came from Prof. Alfred Shatkin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology–convinced atheist who forced Quay to answer hard questions about why Catholics or Christians in general might at times be no better or worse than atheists. Why is there this phenomenon of “baptized pagans”? The book deserves a wider appreciation. Hopefully it will find a translation into other European languages in the near future. There are three major parts: I. Adam and Christ: Original Sin; II. Recapitulation in Christ; III. The Church, the New Israel. The goal of the Christian life is maturity, and maturity in Christ is charity or love, as St. Ignatius says in the Contemplation on Love. Sacrificial love is not sentimentality. So how do we make progress in the Lord, and how do we go beyond “infancy” to “adulthood”? Father Quay explains in great detail the steps that are inherent in Sacred Scripture’s presentation of spiritual development. The hermeneutical difficulties experienced by various generations of Christian thinkers and writers are outlined for us in a clear and direct style. The author is painstakingly precise. His definition of “the spiritual sense of Scripture” is particularly well-defined and exact. It seems that, for the West, a disaster began with the detachment of learning from faith in divine revelation. Faith and reason were separated by a divorce, although very gradually and often not intentionally. We have arrived at the end of the present millennium with no faith at all, either in God or in man. The substitutes have all been found wanting, if not murderous. Father Quay explains the progressive spiritual decline of the West between the Renaissance and our own time. And Catholics need not boast–they have lost the spiritual sense of Scripture just as Protestants have. What we have here is the loss of the Christian sense of dependence upon God and his revelation. The literal sense alone constricts the source itself and prevents us from really understanding what is intended by the Bible, especially the Old Testament. It has become a body of texts for mere technicians, not a vision of history and the explanation of human existence itself. Quay calls this “Marcion’s Revenge: the Disappearance of the Old Testament” (Chapter 20, pp. 396-422). Moreover, since the Enlightenment even the literal sense of Scripture has been under attack by the savants, referred to by Paul Johnson as “intellectuals”. As he says on page 414, “Now, the damage done by an academic approach to the faith through the growth of Western university culture seems to have come in large measure from the late scholasticism that increasingly ignored or misunderstood the spiritual senses of the Bible.” Our contemporary fascination with cultural analysis is the symptom, not the cause, of a prior phenomenon in the loss of the transcendent. Love of God has been replaced with self-preoccupation. Incidentally, Quay is clear that St. Thomas Aquinas is not to be classified among the rationalists. Thomas had not lost or bypassed the spiritual sense of Scripture (pp. 414-415). After some comments on Christianity outside the West, and its future in those places, the book ends with some reflections on the future more generally, and an epilogue. He says, “It is essential, however, to remember that recapitulation is a sharing in the inner life of Jesus.” (p. 421) Evil in the world is only overcome by love, and that love is ultimately seen in the Trinity. We grow in Christ by suffering and learning to love as He loves us already. While it sounds so trite, what Father Quay has done for us is clarify the steps along the way, especially to show how the alternatives have produced the present state of affairs in our Western world. This book is about structures. It is about the structure of charity, the structures of growth, and the structure of the Christian life. It is about the structure of the human person, that is, of ourselves, how we are structurally in sin, and how we can achieve by God’s grace a transformation that makes us like Christ. While we take for granted the “what” in our thoughts about the Christian life, what Father Quay does is demonstrate that the “how” is both coherent and imperative today. Sacred Scripture is more relevant than ever, but only if it is fully grasped in all its senses.

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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