Monthly Archives: March 2009

Alfons Maria Stickler on Celibacy — with reference to the monk-bishop Paphnutius []

Clerical Celibacy: Concept and Method

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler

From The Case for Clerical Celibacy

1. The first and most important prerequisite for a knowledge of the historical development of any institution is the proper understanding of the meaning of the concepts on which it is based. For ecclesiastical celibacy, we have a particularly clear and concise reference in the writings of one of the greatest of the Decretists–commentators on Gratian’s Decretum–who around 1140 collected and explained all the material concerning the juridical tradition of the first millennium of the Church. This Decretist is Huguccio of Pisa (d. 1210), who in his Summa on the Decretum, composed around 1190, began his treatment of celibacy with these words: “In hac Distinctione incipit (Gratianus) tractare specialiter de continentia clericorum, scilicet quam debent observare in non contrahendo martimonio et in noti utendo contracto.” [1]

A reading of this text clearly indicates a double obligation with respect to celibacy: not to marry and, if previously married, not to use the rights of marriage. In addition, it is clear that even in this period, namely, the end of the twelfth century, there were clerics in major orders who had been married prior to ordination. In fact we know from the Scriptures that the ordination of married men was a normal enough event. Saint Paul, in writing to his disciples Titus and Timothy, prescribed that such candidates could be married only once. [2] We know at least that Saint Peter was certainly married, since Peter said to his Master: “What about us? We left all we had to follow you.” To this, Christ responded (Saint Luke): “I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, wife, brothers, parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not be given repayment many times over in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.” [3]

Here we clearly already have the first obligation of clerical celibacy, namely, the commitment to continence in the use of marriage after ordination. The real meaning of celibacy, which today is in general almost totally forgotten but which in the first millennium and beyond was well known, consists in this: complete abstinence with respect to the procreation of children even within the context of marriage. In fact all the first laws written on celibacy speak of this prohibition, that is, of the further procreation of children, a point which will be convincingly documented in the second part of this study. This indicates that, despite the fact that many clerics were already married before their ordination, they were nevertheless held to this particular obligation before they could he ordained. In the beginning, the actual prohibition to marry remained somewhat in the background. It emerged only later when the Church imposed the prohibition against marriage on those celibates from whom virtually all the candidates for sacred orders were exclusively recruited.

To complete this initial understanding of celibacy, which from the very beginning was correctly termed ”continence”, we must immediately note that married candidates could approach sacred orders and renounce the use of marriage only with the consent of their wife. The reason for this lies in the fact that, on the basis of the sacrament that had already been received, the wife had an inalienable right to the use of the valid (and consummated) marriage, which in itself was indissoluble. We will consider the complex problems that resulted from this renunciation in the second part of this work.

2. The second prerequisite for a correct understanding of the origins and development of clerical celibacy–which, given what has just been described, should he called sexual ”continence”–concerns the research method to be applied to this question. This is of particular importance given the number of opinions about the origins and first developments of the obligation to continence. Frequently they are the result of a flawed methodology in both their analysis and their explanation of the problem.

In the first place, it is necessary to underline that every area of study has what in general might be termed its own proper object and methodology, which are strictly connected to one another. It is also true that for related areas of study there are common rules that must be observed and applied in actual research. Thus, for example, in historical research, one cannot disregard the rules that are fundamental for a preliminary analysis of the sources and which in turn establish their authenticity and integrity and thereby their intrinsic value. In other words, how credible they are and what probative value can be assigned to them. Only on this basis can one then correctly consider and evaluate the evidence and assertions contained in the particular documents. Thus a proper hermeneutic and a correct interpretation of the sources can only be established on this basis: by taking into account their authenticity, integrity, credibility and particular worth.

In addition to these general methodological prerequisites, it is also necessary to apply, however, the specific method required in every particular field of research. Hence, a competent history of philosophy presupposes an adequate knowledge of philosophy; a history of theology, a knowledge of theology. Likewise, the history of medicine and mathematics requires a sufficient knowledge of these two sciences. Thus, for a history of law, a knowledge of law and of its particular and proper methodology is also clearly fundamental.

Given this, we need to be conscious of the fact that the history of celibacy implies, with respect to its content and development, an understanding of both the law of the Church and of Catholic theology. Therefore, in establishing a correct hermeneutic of the relevant historical evidence (documents and facts), serious consideration must be paid to the method proper to both canon law and theology. While at first sight these observations may appear somewhat abstract, I would like immediately to demonstrate their meaning and necessity by applying them to a concrete question relative to our study.

At the end of the last [19th] century, a well-known and somewhat heated discussion took place about the origins of clerical celibacy. Gustav Bickell, son of a lawyer and himself an orientalist, traced its origins to an apostolic rule by appealing above all to evidence from the East. Franz X. Funk, a well-known historian of the early Church, responded to Bickell claiming that this could not be affirmed since the first law on celibacy could be found only at the beginning of the fourth century. After a series of further exchanges in various articles on the question, Bickell made no reply, while Funk continued to publish his views without receiving any response from his adversary. He did receive, however, the significant agreement of other leading scholars, such as E. F. Vacandard and H. Leclercq. Their influence and authority in combination with their tendency to express their views in widely disseminated works helped to assure Funk’s theory an almost universal acceptance that endures even today.[4]

Taking into consideration what has been stated above concerning the need to follow clear methodological principles for this type of research, it must be pointed out that Funk, both in the development and presentation of his results, did not apply the general principles necessary for a critical study and appreciation of the sources. He accepted as one of his principal arguments against Bickell the spurious story of the monk-bishop Paphnutius of Egypt at the Council of Nicaea (325). This was surprising in such an eminent scholar, given the fact that even before Funk a critical appraisal of the sources had repeatedly concluded that this episode was false. This has also been confirmed by contemporary research, as will be seen when we return to the question in our discussion of the Council of Nicaea. Funk made a still greater error when he asserted that the official obligation to celibacy first began only with the appearance of a specific written law on the topic. The same mistake must also have been made by Vacandard, a historian of theology, and Leclercq, a historian of councils.

Every historian of law knows (as Hans Kelsen, one of the most authoritative legal theorists of this century, has clearly affirmed) that an identification between law in the general sense and norms (rules, statutes) is mistaken, ius et lex. Law (ius) is any obligatory legal norm, whether it be established orally or handed on by means of a custom or already expressed in writing. A norm (lex), on the other hand, is any regulation established in a written form and legitimately promulgated.

It is a particular characteristic of law, explained in every history on the topic, that the origin of every legal system consists in oral traditions and in the transmission of customary norms which only slowly receive a fixed written form. Thus it was only after centuries and for various sociological reasons that the Romans formulated in writing the law of the Twelve Tables. The German peoples only compiled their popular juridical system and customs in written form after many centuries of their actual existence. Up to that time, their law was unwritten and was handed on orally. No one would thereby affirm that, on this basis, their law (ius) was not obligatory and that its observance was left to the free will of the individual.

Like the legal system of any large community, that of the early Church consisted for the greater part in regulations and obligations which were handed on orally, particularly during the three centuries of persecution, which made it difficult to fix them in writing. On the other hand, the Church, to a greater degree than other new societies, had written elements of law from the very beginning. Evidence of this can be found in Scripture. Saint Paul in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians (2:15) wrote: “Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” Without doubt we are dealing here with obligatory regulations which had been given, as is said explicitly, not only in writing but also handed on orally. Anyone, therefore, who claims that only those norms are obligatory which have been written down fails to do justice to the cognitive method proper to the domain of legal history.

Further, in considering the correct method to arrive at an understanding of the theological foundations of clerical continence, one must give explicit consideration to the fact that alongside the disciplinary and hence juridical material, we are also dealing with a charism which is intimately connected with the Church and with Christ. This clearly implies that the theological foundations can be understood and analyzed only in the light of revelation and of theological reflection.

It is now known that medieval theology gave little independent study to subjects connected with the law and discipline. Rather, it made its own the discussions and the conclusions of the classic canonists, who were flourishing in this period, especially through the work of the glossators. The historians of medieval theology have explicitly identified this phenomenon, [5] and a glance at the works of the greatest of the medieval scholastics, Saint Thomas Aquinas, obviously confirms their findings. This is surely the principal reason why clerical celibacy or continence has not been satisfactorily studied by theology itself, that is, by following its own proper method based on revelation and its sources. True, this lacuna has already been partially filled, but a far more profound understanding of the theological foundations for our subject is urgently required. This all-too-justified demand will be accommodated in the final part of this work.


[1] [In this section (Gratian) begins specifically to treat the clerical celibacy, i.e.. which clerics are bound to observe in not contracting marriage and in not exercising the rights of marriage.] Dist. 27, dict. introd. ad v. quod autem. See Studia Gratiana, ed. by J. Forchicili and Alfons M. Stickler, vols. 1-3 (Bologna, 1953ff.)

[2] 1 Tim 3:2 and 3:12; Titus 1:6.

[3] Mt 19:27-30; Mk 10:20-21; Lk 18:28-30.

[4] Gustav Bickell, “Der Cölibat eine apostolische Anordnung”, in: Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 2 (1878): 26-64. Id., “Der Colibat dennoch eine apostolische Anordnung”, in: Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 3 (1879): 792-99. Franz Xaver Funk, “Der Cölibat keine apostolische Anordnung”, in: Tübinger theologische Quartalschrift 61 (1879): 208-47. Id., “Der Cölibat noch lange keine apostolische Anordnung”, in: Tübinger theologische Quartalschrift 62 (1880): 202- 21. Id., “Cölibat und Priesterehe im Christlichen Altertum”, in: Kirchengeschichtliche Abhandlungen und Untersuchungen 1 (1897) 121-55. Elphège-Florent Vacandard, “Les Origines du célibat ecclésiastique”, in: Études de critique et d’histoire religieuse, 1st ser. (Paris, 1905; 5th ed.: Paris, 1913), 71-120. Id., art. “Célibat”, in: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 2 (Paris, 1905): 2068-88. Henri Leclercq, “La Législation conciliaire relative au célibat ecclésiastique”, in the extended French edition of Conciliengeschichte, by Carl Josef v. Hefele, vol. 2, part 2 (Paris, 1908), appendix 6, 1321-48. Id., art. “Célibat”, in: Dictionnaire d’Archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 2 (Paris, 1908): 2802-32.

[5] Cf. Arthur Michael Landgraf, “Diritto canonico e teologia nel sec. XII”, in: Studia Gratiana 1:371-413.

Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler was a member of numerous international academic organizations. He was a consultor to many Congregations of the Roman Curia, was a member of the preparatory commission for the Second Vatican Council, a peritus to three of the Council Commissions, and a member of the commission for the preparation of the new Codex Iuris Canonici. He died at the age of 97 on 12 December 2007.

Legionary priest opines on “The Powers That Be” within the Legion []

Sunday, March 15, 2009

If the salt loses its taste…

Busy. Far too busy for my liking. It’s the bad busy, the task oriented, get this or that done, hamster wheel kind of busy. It’s the busy that comes with four inner-city parishes, too few resources and too many insoluble problems.

Just a little bit longer’, I keep telling myself…

Meanwhile, the PTB are gathering on Via Aurelia again for another damage control pow-wow. Normally, time is on their side and they know it. So policy in handling unpleasantries that have attracted the public eye usually favors the ‘let-it-languish, let-it-drag-on’ mode until the mass of detractors loses interest and the LC can continue with business as usual.

This time, who knows?

This time the sweet, sickening smell of decay is so strong, the shock that has struck the foundation so catastrophic, the cracks and leaks are so visible… they just may have to take serious action. Or it may be imposed by the Holy See.

Whatever the final outcome, the PTB should know something, because it will ultimately decide whether anything can be salvaged of our congregation at this point or not. It is simple enough, it is certainly evident enough… but I get the feeling you might not have noticed yet, so here goes:

No one believes you.

No one believes a word you say, a sentence you write or a promise you make.

No one believes either, that the present leadership of the LC can reform or save the congregation because you are (we are!) what we will always be: hijos fieles del P.Maciel…

What will ultimately make the LC crumble, what has caused the insufferable state of inner tension and foreboding in her rank and file is, quite frankly, the lack of credibility of its leadership.

The seeds of duplicity, deceit, distrust and intrigue were sown from the congregation’s beginnings. The Founder led a double life all the while submitting us – his willing, enthusiastic followers – to a regimen of poverty, chastity, obedience and uncritical submission of conscience. The idea that the LC is God’s work and must be ‘defended’ at all cost and by any means was his only moral compass. Popes, cardinals, bishops and Vatican officials could be fooled and manipulated as long as it benefited the LC. Its own members are kept on a need-to-know basis, always suspect, always scrutinized for those telltale signs of ‘lack of integration’…

The leadership of the Legion has inherited from Fr. Maciel the mentality and modus operandi that makes them fundamentally untrustworthy. Only now, there is no private vow to hide behind and the discontent is growing.

The tragic comedy of the past few months, with superiors running around telling and not telling, promising transparency but only deepening the murkiness that engulfs the LC, has made their lack of credibility evident to even the most gullible among us. I rank highly on that scale.

And now, no one believes you.

It doesn’t mean that there aren’t LCs who have other motives for toeing the line or flying beneath the radar and making their peace with a system they’ve figured out how to survive in (and some quite nicely).

It doesn’t mean that the LC will run out of yes-men who unctuously cater to authority and offer the same safe old cliches and pre-approved commentaries as they nervously munch their Maria cookies at merienda-cena

It means that they do not believe you.
And if they don’t believe you, they certainly don’t trust you.

This should not be overlooked or underestimated as you meet in Rome these next few days. Your lack of credibility – not Fr. Maciel’s past sins – will eventually buckle and break the Legion.

Please, PTB, do the right thing.

Friday, January 30, 2009

requiem for a dream

One year ago today the Founder of the Legion of Christ, our Founder – Nuestro Padre – passed away. Instead of recalling with pride and nostalgia my thirty year participation in the foundation in privileged close company of the Founder, I find myself nearly disconsolate. Outrage, grief, a deep unutterable feeling of betrayal and deception have been growing in my soul for nearly six months as bits and pieces of the truth have painfully been made known to me.

Up until very recently I defended Fr. Maciel in public and private, knowing that the very essence of my identity as a Legionary priest depended on it. Now there is nothing to defend. It has all collapsed, and with it, a lifetime of enthusiastic commitment and high idealism.

I sit here humbled and heartsick with one earnest plea for the present leadership of the Legion: please, do the right thing. For the love of God and in honor of the hundreds of men, like yourselves, that have given their lives to the Congregation, bearing the burden of a fidelity that our Founder demanded of us but was unable himself to deliver: do what is right.

Put the truth first. You owe it to us all. Tell us the whole story, tell us what our options are now and set about the reform of the Legion.

The Legion must go forward, purged of the toxins released into its bloodstream by years of machiavellian duplicity, and recreate itself solely on the merits of its works.

No more spin, no more platitudes, no more intimidation to keep the Legion’s men from thinking, questioning, seeking the truth. Step aside if need be and allow others – with clear motives and fresh eyes – to save all that is good in the Congregation and dissipate once and for all the inner culture of deceit and control. A canonical visitation conducted in rigorous transparency might yet save the Legion of Christ.

I am amazed and grateful to God that so much good has and continues to be done by a religious order that has venerated and nourished its spirit from a Founder now discovered to be the antithesis of the very spirituality and discipline he imparted to us while so brazenly and artfully occulting his other life from us.

So please, do not pretend that this is not devastating to all of us. Do not act like nothing has happened and that nothing should change. Have the basic decency to come clean with your own men and trust them enough to help you take the Legion to where it must go from here. Full disclosure is the only option. You’ve tried everything else, now, finally now, give truth a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised by the strength, resiliency and commitment of us all.

May God continue to guide us, in spite of ourselves.

Pope Benedict on the Lefebvrists and especially “hatred” in this controversy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Papal Letter about the Lifting of the SSPX Excommunications –

the Letter Itself by Gregor Kollmorgen

Here, now, is the full text of the Pope’s letter regarding the lifting of the SSPX excommunications itself, which has already been published in the most prestigious and reliable German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in an NLM translation:

Dear brethren in the Episcopal ministry!

The lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988 without a mandate of the Holy See has led, both within and outside the Catholic Church, for a variety of reasons, to a discussion of such vehemence as we had not experienced for a long time. Many bishops felt at a loss before an event which came unexpectedly and could barely be integrated positively among the questions and tasks of the Church of today. Although many pastors and faithful were willing in principle to value positively the Pope’s desire for reconciliation, against this was the question of the appropriateness of such a gesture, given the real urgency of a believing life in our time. Several groups, however, accused the Pope openly of wanting to return behind the Council. An avalanche of protests was set into motion, the bitterness of which made injuries visible which transcended the moment. Therefore I feel pressed to address to you, dear brethren, a clarifying word, which is meant to help to understand the intentions which have guided me and the competent organs of the Holy See in this step. I hope in this way to contribute to peace in the Church. One mishap for me unforeseeable, was the fact that the Williamson case has superimposed itself on the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy towards the four bishops ordained validly but not legitimately, suddenly appeared as something entirely different: as a disavowal of the reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and therefore as the revocation of what in this area the Council had clarified for the way for the Church. The invitation to reconciliation with an ecclesial group separating itself had thus become the opposite: an apparent way back behind all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews which had been made since the Council and which to make and further had been from the outset a goal of my theological work. The fact that this superposition of two opposing processes has occurred and has disturbed for a moment the peace between Christians and Jews as well as the peace in the Church I can only deeply regret. I hear that closely following the news available on the internet would have made it possible to obtain knowledge of the problem in time. I learn from this that we at the Holy See have to pay more careful attention to this news source in the future. It has saddened me that even Catholics who could actually have known better have thought it necessary to strike at me with a hostility ready to jump. Even more therefore I thank the Jewish friends who have helped to quickly clear away the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust, which – as in the time of Pope John Paul II – also during the entire time of my pontificate had existed and God be praised continues to exist. Another mishap which I sincerely regret, is that the scope and limits of the measure of 21 January 2009 have not been set out clearly enough at the time of the publication of the procedure. The excommunication affects persons, not institutions. Episcopal consecration without papal mandate means the danger of a schism, because it calls into question the unity of the Bishops’ College with the Pope. The Church must, therefore, react with the harshest punishment, excommunication, and that is to call back the persons thus punished to repentance and into unity. 20 years after the ordinations this goal has unfortunately still not been achieved. The withdrawal of the excommunication serves the same purpose as the punishment itself: once more to invite the four bishops to return. This gesture was possible after the affected had expressed their fundamental recognition of the pope and his pastoral authority, albeit with reservations as far as obedience to his magisterial authority and that of the Council is concerned. This brings me back to the distinction between person and institution. The releasing of the excommunication was a measure in the field of ecclesial discipline: the persons were freed of the burden of conscience of the heaviest ecclesial censure. From this disciplinary level one has to distinguish the doctrinal area. That the Fraternity of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical position in the Church is not based ultimately on disciplinary grounds but on doctrinal ones. As long as the Fraternity does not possess a canonical position in the Church, its officials do not exercise legitimate offices in the Church. One has therefore to distinguish between disciplinary level affecting the persons as persons, and the level of doctrine, at which office and institution are concerned. To say it once again: As long as the doctrinal issues are not resolved, the Fraternity has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers, even if they are free from ecclesiastical censure, do not exercise in a legitimate way any ministry in the Church. Given this situation, I intend to connect the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, which since 1988 is responsible for those communities and individuals who, coming from the Fraternity of Pius X or similar groups, want to return into full communion with the Pope, in the future with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This shall make it clear that the problems now being treated are essentially doctrinal in nature, especially those concerning the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the postconciliar Magisterium of the Popes. The collegial organs through which the Congregation works on the questions arising (especially the regular assembly of the Cardinals on Wednesday and the General Assembly every one or two years) guarantee the involvement of the prefects of various Roman congregations and of the worldwide episcopate in the decisions to be made. One cannot freeze the magisterial authority of the Church in 1962 and – this must be quite clear to the Fraternity. But to some of those who show off as great defenders of the Council it must also be recalled to memory that Vatican II contains within itself the whole doctrinal history of the Church. Who wants to be obedient to it [sc. the Council] must accept the faith of the centuries and must not cut the roots of which the tree lives. I hope, dear brethren, that with this both the positive meaning as well as the limit of the measure of 21 January 2009 is clarified. But now the question remains: Was this necessary? Was this really a priority? Are there not much more important things? Of course, there are more important and urgent things. I think that I have made clear the priorities of the pontificate in my speeches at the beginning of it. What I said then remains my guideline unchangedly. The first priority for the successor of Peter, the Lord has unequivocally fixed in the Room of the Last Supper: “You, however, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22, 32). Peter himself rephrased this priority in his first letter: “Be ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.” (1 Peter 3, 15). In our time, in which the faith in large parts of the world threatens to go out like a flame which can no longer find food, the first priority is to make God present in this world and to open to men the access to God. Not to just any god, but to the God who spoke on Mount Sinai, that God whose face we recognize in the love unto the end (John 13, 1)- in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. The real problem of our historic hour is that God is disappearing from the horizon of men and that with the extinguishing of the light coming from God disorientation befalls mankind, the destructive effects of which we are seeing ever more. To lead men to God, to the God speaking in the Bible, is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and the successor of Peter in this time. From it then it follows on its own that we have to be concerned for the unity of believers. For their strife, their internal dissent, calls their talking about God into question. Therefore, the effort for the common witness of faith of the Christians – for ecumenism -is included in the highest priority. Then there is also the necessity that all who believe in God seeking peace with each other, trying to become closer to each other, in order to walk, in the different-ness of their image of God, yet together towards the source of light – inter-religious dialogue. Those who proclaim God as love unto the end, must give the witness of love: devoted to the suffering in love, fending off hatred and enmity – the social dimension of the Christian Faith, of which I have spoken in the encyclical “Deus caritas est”. If then the struggle for Faith, hope and love in the world is the true priority for the Church in this hour (and in different forms always), then still the small and medium-sized reconciliations also belong to it. That the quiet gesture of a hand stretched out has become a great noise and thus the opposite of reconciliation, we have to take note of. But now I have to wonder: Was and is it really wrong, also in this case, to go to meet the brother, who “hath any thing against thee” and to try for reconciliation (cf. Mt 5, 23f)? Does not civil society, too, have to try to prevent radicalizations, to bind their possible supporters – if possible – back into the major creative forces of social life to avoid isolation and all its consequences? Can it be entirely wrong to strive for the lessening of tensions and constrictions and to give room to the positive which can be found and integrated into the whole? I myself, in the years after 1988, have experienced how by the return of communities previously separating themselves from Rome the interior climate there has changed, how the return to the great, wide and common Church overcame onesidedness and lessened tensions, so that now they have become positive forces for the whole. Can a community leave us totally indifferent in which there are 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university institutes, 117 brothers, 164 sisters? Should we really calmly leave them to drift away from the Church? I am thinking, for example, of the 491 priests. The plaited fabric of their motivations we cannot know. But I think that they would not have made their decision for the priesthood, if next to some askew or sick elements there hot not been there the love of Christ and the will to proclaim Him and with Him the living God. Should we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical marginal group, from the search for reconciliation and unity? What will then be? Certainly, we have long and have again on this occasion heard many dissonances from representatives of this community – pride and a patronizing know-it-all attitude, fixation into onesidedness etc. For the love of truth I must add that I have also received a series of moving testimonials of gratitude, in which was made perceptible an opening of hearts. But should the great Church not also be able to be magnanimous [in German its a play on words: “great Church – great of heart”] in the knowledge of the long wind she has; in the knowledge of the promise which she has been given? Should we not, like good educators, also be able not to hear some bad things and strive to calmly lead out of the narrowness? And must we not admit that also from ecclesial circles there have come dissonances? Sometimes one has the impression that our society needs at least one group for which there need not be any tolerance; which one can unperturbedly set upon with hatred. And who dared to touch them – in this case the Pope – lost himself the right to tolerance and was allowed without fear and restraint to be treated with hatred, too.

Dear brethren, in the days in which it came into my mind to write this letter, it so happened that in the seminary of Rome I had to interpret and comment the passage of Gal 5, 13-15. I was surprised at how directly it speaks of the present of this hour: “Do not make liberty an occasion to the flesh, but by charity of the spirit serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if you bite and devour one another; take heed you be not consumed one of another.” I was always inclined to regard this sentence as one of the rhetorical hyperbole which occasionally there are with St. Paul. In some respects it may be so. But unfortunately, the “biting and devouring” is there in the Church even today as an expression of a poorly understood freedom. Is it surprising that we are not better than the Galatians? That we at least are threatened by the same temptations? That we have always to learn anew the right use of freedom? And that we have always to learn anew the first priority: love? On the day on which I had to speak about this in the seminary, in Rome the feast of the Madonna della Fiducia – our Lady of Trust – was celebrated. Indeed – Mary teaches us trust. She leads us to the Son, in Whom we all may trust. He will guide us – even in turbulent times. So at the end I would like to thank from my heart all the many bishops who have given me in this time moving signs of trust and affection, but above all the gift of their prayers. This thank I extend to all the faithful who have shown me during this time their unchanged fidelity to the successor of St. Peter. The Lord preserve us all and lead us on the path of peace. This is a wish that spontaneously rises from my heart, especially now at the beginning of Lent, a liturgical time particularly propitious to inner purification, and which invites us all to look with new hope towards the radiant goal of Easter.

With a special Apostolic Blessing,

I remain Yours in the Lord

Benedictus Pp. XVI

From the Vatican, on 10 March 2009

Baylor professor Francis J. Beckwith rebukes campus newspaper for mocking Church on indulgences []

Baylor professor rebukes campus newspaper for mocking Church on indulgences

March 04, 2009

A Baylor University philosophy professor has scolded the editors of the school’s newspaper, The Lariat, for an editorial ridiculing Catholic teaching on indulgences. The Lariat editorial– based on the inaccurate impression that the Church had recently revived a teaching that had previously been defunct, show poor timing, poor taste, questionable source, bad history, and bad theological reasoning, argued Francis Beckwith. Beckwith, a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, announced last year that he was returning to his boyhood Catholic faith.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

* Editorial replete with errors (Letter to the Editor)

* Editorial: Indulgences are outdated practice Lariat