Category Archives: Sacraments

The god of surprises vs. the Tradition on Feet Washing

Just today, the Congregation of Divine Worship, at the command of Pope Francis, has decreed that women must be included in the Mandatum, that is the washing of the feet for Holy Thursday, effective this year. Thus, the god of surprises has come to visit us just in time for Septuagesima and the beginning of Lent.

There are lot’s of things to say, but the most important thing is to treat it dispassionately and in union with the Tradition. Pope Francis has said that those who resist change are closed to the working of the spirit, who cling to the way things have always been done are closed to the message of the Gospel. In spite of the twisting of the sense of Scripture in that particular discussion (my basis for which is the original Italian of Francis’ words, not some media report), let’s give him that for the moment. He posits a dichotomy of those who only want to do things the way things were, vs. those who want to apply new things. Thus we don’t receive a teaching and a praxis conditioned by the tradition of signs and symbols that lead us to Christ, to the teaching of the Gospel and the very person of Christ, but rather to the whims of this or that age. What is new and hip and inclusive in our age will be outmoded in the next age.

Moreover, the opposition is not comprised of those who say we must do everything as it has always been done, but that there is a reason why things have been done this way. Thus, the onus is on the Pope to explain why something in the traditional signs and symbols is somehow insufficient to express the reality of the Gospel. The problem is, he prescinds from this, and simply characterizes the opposition as a stick in the mud. It is one thing if he were to show how the traditional signs and symbols were insufficient for some reason, this is possible and the Church is in fact always in need of renewal. But can he show the use of men alone is somehow opposed to the expression of the Gospel?

The practice of washing the feet of men is supposed to express the relationship of Christ with his Apostles, not merely with the Christian community. Still, for all that, there is ample testimony of the Fathers that could be applied also to the community of the faithful, including examples where women’s feet were washed by the Bishop, just not during the Maundy Thursday liturgy. But then again, that might be too much the way things have always been done. The teaching of the Fathers on the question is well summarized by Cornelius á Lapide, in his commentary on the relevant passage of the Gospel (John XIII:6-10), which will suffice for our purposes here: [NB: My translation. There is a very good translation of this available from Loretto, but I do not have it at hand]

“St. Bernard understands in this place as if it were a  sacrament, a symbol, a type, a figure, a mystical meaning as he explains a little after, on which we will say more soon.
Symbolicly, Origen and St. Jerome [epist. ad Damasus, de prima visione Isaiae] reckon that Christ washed the feet of the Apostles in order that he might prepare them to preach the Gospel, according to what is said: ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, and that preaches peace: of him that shows forth good!’ [Isaiah LII:7; Rom. X:15].
Secondly, S. Ambrose, [de iis qui initiantur mysteriis, cap. vi] reckons that Christ in baptism washes away actual sins by washing the head, but here by washing the feet, he washed the remnant of original sin, that is, the motion of concupiscence, for in this washing of the feet, it is effected to have fortified them so that they would resist concupiscence.
Thirdly, St. Augustine and St. Bernard [de Cœna Domini] say: “By such feet we tread over the earth, the love of the earth is signified, filth and defects, which, while on earth, that is while we live among earthly affairs, just as the dust or mud on our feet it behooves us to wash by tears and penance, especially before holy communion.
Fourthly, St. Cyprian [de Cœna Domini] and St. Gregory [lib. ix epist. 39]: “Of the feet, which are the lowest and last part of man, the washing means not only that we must scrutinize our exterior works, but that we must descend even to the lowest and most intimate hidden corners of our conscience, and purge them from every secret stain and wicked intention through contrition, tears and groans.
From this washing of the feet by Christ, the custom of Milan, and several other churches, sprung up that the Bishop would wash those who were going to be baptized, and thereafter the priests and clerics in the font, who stood straight for this purpose outside the Church; thereafter the Bishop kissed the feet of those he washed, and they placed the outer part of the foot over the head of the bishop. St. Ambrose relates and defends this custom [lib. III de Sacram. cap. 1] and says that it was begun by St. Peter and Christ, wherefore he marvels that it is not kept in the Roman Church. Moreover, the Council of Toledo [XVII, cap. iii] ratifies that the Bishops and priests should wash the feet of the faithful at the Lord’s supper after the example of Christ, and commands the use which had ceased for a while to be recalled.
St. Ambrose relates the mystical nature of this washing [lib. De initiandis, cap. VI] saying: “Peter was clean, but ought to wash the sole [of the foot] : for he had the sin of the first man by succession, when the serpent supplanted it and persuaded error; therefore his sole is washed so that hereditary sins would be abolished.” He alludes to those words of God to the serpent concerning man: “Thou shall lie in wait for his heal,” [Genes. III:15]. The same Ambrose [lib. III de Sacram., cap. 1] says: “Because Adam was supplanted by the devil, and the poison flowing into him and over his feet, therefore you wash the feet so that in that part, in which the serpent lies in wait, shall come upon a greater sanctification, in which afterward he cannot supplant you. Therefore you wash the feet, so that you wash the poison of the serpent. Moreover, it will effect humility, so that you will not blush in the mystery, that we will not disdain obedience.”
Another reason was more literal, because formerly those to be baptized approached with naked feet, that they would conduct themselves with humility. For that reason, this nakedness of the feet is called humility by St. Augustine [lib. de Symbolo ad Catech., cap. 1]; because they will wash the filth that has been contracted on the feet. This custom began to spread from the Church of Milan to others, as is clear from St. Augustine.”

Now, we could go on at length with many more testimonies to the same thing. What we can see is that the objections of some, that the priest will kiss a woman’s foot at the mandatum, was not a problem for St. Ambrose and the fathers of other churches where this custom spread to. Then again, the culture was not as over-sexualized as it is today where you have foot fetishes and other things of immoderate men. I don’t know if such a thought would occur to most priests, but it may to some laity. So if Francis wanted to overturn the custom prevailing in all Churches of only washing men’s feet, he could appeal to this example in the Fathers, that such washings were done from the Lord’s example for the community (men and women) who were to be baptized, and then he might have some ground to stand on in terms of uniting this symbol at the liturgy with the example of antiquity. But then his notion of mercy, trumpeted so much at the last synod in regard to public adulterers, could be exposed to attack by the same example. Again from á Lapide, on John XIII:10:

“Mark, here Christ alludes to those who wash themselves in a bath, who go out from it with their whole body being cleansed, but because they tread upon the earth with their naked feet, therefore they might say the feet, for that reason alone are washed afterward. Mark secondly, Christ speaks anagogically [that is, in regard to man’s final state] that by his custom they rise from corporal washing to a spiritual one, in other words, one who is washed is done so spiritually through baptism, in which I have washed you, O Apostles, or one who is washed through contrition and penance, here is wholly clean in soul, but still needs that he wash only his feet, that is the affects of the soul, again by reason of earthly things, in which they live, are stained by contagion and contract light filth that they must often purge through contrition, castigation of the body and like virtues (of which this my washing is a symbol), and especially before the Sacred Liturgy and reception of the Eucharist. Thus St. Augustine, Bede, and especially St. Bernard [serm. In Cœna Domini] say: “He who is washed, needs nothing but that he should wash the feet. He is washed, who does not have grave sins, whose head, that is intention, and hand, that is the operation and good life, is clean; but the feet, which are the affections of the soul, while we step in this dust, from the whole cannot be of the world, which at some time tread in vanity, lust or curiosity, it rather more behooves the soul that it should fall even now. For we all offend in many things. But no man scorns or slights. For it is impossible to be saved by those, it is impossible that I have washed except through Christ Jesus, and by Christ.”

Whereas, directly contradicting what Christ said, that he who divorces his wife and marries another (Matt. XIX) commits adultery, can that be said to be a light matter? Not a grave sin?

Nevertheless, picking up in the next paragraph with Lapide, we see the relationship of Christ with the Apostles:

“Therefore, Christ, in this washing of the feet of Peter and the Apostles cleanses sins, especially venial ones, because through that and only through His forgiveness does he goad their minds, and admonished them by making internal washing through contrition in their souls, through which venial sins are expiated.
For this reason, priests in the OT washed their feet and hands before the sacrifice, as I have already said. Likewise, many heathen did the same thing, as Brissonius recalls [lib. I De Formulis Roman., pag. 4]. Formerly the Jews did the same thing, as is clear from Mark VII:4, and they still do the same thing today.
Next, St. Augustine [epist. 108 ad Seleucianum] from “qui lotus est“, probably gathers that Peter and the Apostles were baptized before the Eucharist, then because no man has the capacity for the Eucharist unless he has been baptized, for after His death he baptized no man, it is certain that they were all either immediately or mediately baptized by Christ. Then, the “washing” would probably have been the washing done in baptism.”

Thus, the relationship expressed in the washing of the feet of the Apostles by Christ, is not just of a hierarchical relationship, though that is properly one aspect, but one of the intimate communion that his Apostles, as priests conformed to Christ’s very person, share with him in spite of their human nature. They are washed as preparation for becoming priests of the new and eternal covenant, of which baptism is necessary, that is being put to death to the world, and born anew in Christ Jesus. The mandatum, as preserved and passed down in the sacred liturgy of Maundy Thursday, is intended to preserve this identification of Bishops and Priests as other Christs, being cleansed from sin and made unto him, whereas the early Church (as seen in St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and the Bishops of other Churches, as Lapide mentions) also sought to incorporate the symbol of the Bishop conformed to Christ, the suffering servant who is nonetheless God, in the rite of baptism.

As a side note, Catholics should take note that the practice of blessing themselves with Holy Water when they come into Church derives from this ancient practice, which is why the modern practice in many modern churches of removing the holy water during Lent an replacing it with sand is all the more inexplicable.

Now, as I noted, Pope Francis could overturn this particular tradition in the mandatum under the desire to emulate the Baptism of the faithful, but if that were the case he should give very clear reasons as to why the old symbol were inefficient to this, or why the expression of the priesthood as perfectly conformed to Christ as servants no longer satisfies and should be expressive of who we are today. In fact, the very purpose of liturgical symbols is to remind men of changing fashions what the symbols represent and call them back to the gospel—both clergy and laity—not to correspond to changing fashions. What Pope Francis has done, is to destroy a symbol without any particular reasoning or purpose apart from what seems inclusive for today. And therein lies the very problem. A protestant friend of mine very aptly encapsulated the faulty reasoning of this initiative in the following satire:

“I hereby propose that a reasonably accurate modern equivalent of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet would be Jesus doing their dishes. Harder to fit into the Maundy Thursday service, though.”

Could it be that Pope Francis is the one doing things the way they have always been done—since 1965?

Celibacy, challenging the myths

 Originally published on the original Athanasius Contra Mundum, 10 October 2010.

Epigonius, Bishop of the Royal Region of Bullas, declares “With the rule concerning continence and chastity [which] was already discussed in a previous council, let the same be taught with more emphasis. Namely that there are the three ranks that by virtue of their consecration, are under the same obligation of chastity, i.e. the bishop, the priest, and the deacon, and let them be instructed to keep their purity.

Bishop Genethlius declares: As was previously said, it is fitting that the holy bishops and priests of God as well as the deacons, those who are in the service of the divine sacraments, observe perfect continence, so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God; what the apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also also keep. 1

-Council of Carthage

In the midst of the clerical abuse scandal, one finds increasingly the call for an end to clerical celibacy. According to those claiming that celibacy should be optional, they argue that it is unnatural to be celibate and the requirement is too hard and that’s why we have the problem. Or, that celibacy psychologically unbalances the priest, and that is why he cannot keep away from young boys or women.

Of course we know at a purely natural level, these arguments are false since the percentage of those who molest children are as high (though under-reported) in religions where the clergy are married, and double or triple in education, law, medicine and social work, places where people can get married and there is no requirement which could psychologically unbalance them with respect to marriage. Now in law there are things which would psychologically unbalance anyone, but that is for another day. Thus it is not the mere fact that priests are as a class unmarried.

That however only illuminates what is not the problem. It tells us nothing of its source or its solution. There is something which you will find in common with teachers, lawyers and doctors who molest children and priests, namely it is an unmortified body, or more particularly addiction to sexual sin. The people who commit heinous acts like this are not suffering from a lack of sex, but from too much involvement in it!

There is a false belief today, that once you are married you can have at it and it is perfectly fine. Of course it is true that once married acts ordered toward the procreation of children, which are conducted with due regard for the end (i.e. no heterosexual sodomy) are good, but the failure to commit adultery does not constitute the virtue of chastity. Chastity is rather an interior virtue that mortifies your interior desires and frees one from the attachment to sexual pleasure. It doesn’t mean it is bad, but it means you are not attached to it, as should be the case with other things. The reason for this should be understood by any man who gets married, the desires don’t stop for other women just because you are now lawfully able to engage with one. Neither do attractions, affections, or the potential to be caught in pornography and self abuse. This is because the concupiscible appetite (that part of us that desires food and sexual relations) continues to move the will in that direction, until we have brought that part of us into line by mortification and detachment. When one does not engage in any sexual activity that is called continence, not chastity. Even spouses are required to remain chaste. Chastity simply has a different meaning for them because of their state in life.

Due to the fall, our concupiscible appetites are out of control. As Chesterton said, after the fall we are like a man who jumps on a horse and runs in all directions. Concupiscence, the inclination of our body toward sin, dwells objectively in the body. Grace may remedy it over time, if we are faithful, but it is not automatic. This is the principle error of Mr. West’s Theology of the Body, it gives one the idea that grace will conquer nature through the act of license with one’s spouse and constantly focusing on sexuality, in reality it is the opposite, we conquer concupiscence in this area by focusing on this only when it is proper and suitable. It does not mean you must live a Josephite marriage, but that you must be detached from the goods of marriage. The secondary end of marriage in the old manuals and catechisms was called “The Remedy for concupiscence”, and this did not refer simply to being able to engage in relations, because by itself that does not solve the problem. Rather, it refers to the whole course of married life which serves to mortify the senses of the spouses and move them toward holiness. A man in a state of matrimony is just as capable, if not more so, of committing heinous and evil sins against the 6th and 9th commandment. Now that you are allowed to consider your spouse under this aspect, it becomes tempting to judge someone who is not your spouse by this aspect. If the man is disordered, then this becomes a real problem. That the majority of sex abusers in history have been male should also serve to tell us something.

Now if we look to the clergy abuse crisis, let us also apply this. They say that the priest who has been chaste will not struggle in this area, because he does not have material in his imagination to fuel the flames, that is the fomes peccati. If he fails in this regard, he is going to have problems. If he has already come in with disorders, such as homosexuality or pedophilia, he is going to tend toward disordered behavior even if it never manifests itself. Due to the breakdown in the piety of the faithful prior to Vatican II and the lowering of standards even before the Council, plenty of unhealthy men entered the seminary. They were unhealthy for more than one reason, it is not just the abusers, but those who married their housekeepers and asked to be returned to the lay state (as in the case of one particular ex-priest I knew). The problem that caused the clerical abuse scandal, as well as all the scandals in this regard within and outside the Church, is too much sex, rather than not enough.

Rather, celibacy and clerical chastity are the crowning virtues of a priest by which he is conformed in body as well as the mark of ordination to Jesus Christ, who was perfectly chaste in this life. This is why the western discipline is superior to that of the other Churches, it more perfectly conforms the priest to Jesus Christ than a man who is married but abstains for a period before the liturgy. It can also be looked at in this way, the priest of the old testament is a type of the priest in the New Testament, and the fulfillment of biblical types is superior to what is in the old. In the old testament, the priest would be selected in a certain year to offer sacrifice in the temple, and a year prior to that he had to live apart from his wife. This is so he will be set apart to take part in the things of God. If that is true in the old law, how much more so in the new where the priest offers sacrifice every day (though in some traditions every week), that he should be continually set apart? In the Early Church, while converts who were married were ordained, the general witness is that they had to leave their wives and make a vow of continence. (a more complete treatment of the subject than can be produced here can be seen in The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, by Cochini).

Many Patristic writers note that the one Apostle who was held in higher esteem than the others was John. Peter is higher than John because of his office, but John is held higher by his purity of life. The Fathers particularly saw a close relationship between Jesus and John based on his virginity:

St. Jerome declares:

“Yet John, one of the disciples who was said to be the youngest among the apostles, and whose faith in Christ started when he was a virgin, remained a virgin, and this is the reason that he was preferred by the Lord and leaned on Jesus’ breast.” (Adversus Jovinianum, PL23, 246b-c)

St. Augustine tells us:

“Among the commentators of the Holy word, several-and those were not men whose opinions we can hold in contempt-think that if Christ loved the Apostle John with a special love, it was because he had never been married and that from his earliest childhood he practiced the most delicate purity. There are no conclusive proofs in canonical Scripture; nevertheless, what seems to support such a feeling and demonstrate its aptness is that John was a figure of the heavenly life, during which no wedding would be celebrated.” (Tractatus in Evangelium Joannis, 124, 7

St. Paulinus of Nola

“Among his disciples he chose the youngest one so as to entrust his mother, as was fit to a virgin apostle.” (PL 61, 416a)

Proclus of Constantinople

The Apostle John received the principle and most eminent gift from God, virginity. And this is why the two sons of Zebedee were called ‘sons of thunder’. (PG 65, 730b, quoted in Patrology, study of the Greek Fathers)

Lastly, chastity is called by scholastic theologians the crown of all virtues, because without it you cannot attain to clarity in this life. Even the demons who tempt men to impurity are ashamed, because they remember how beautiful their natures were and themselves cannot stand the affront to them by tempting men to such low sins. Chastity orders the other virtues to a clarity devoid of carnal affections and it is easier to attain in one who is not married than one who is. This does not mean of course that everyone who is celibate is chaste, we have the obvious example of the 15th century, pre-Revolution France or of the last 40 years, and other periods where the lack of morals of the clergy are notable. One time St. Augustine appeared with St. Thomas, I believe it was to John of St. Thomas but I’m not sure (if someone who knows can enlighten me I’d appreciate it) to give a testimony to the importance of St. Thomas’ works, and he said that they were equal in glory except that in the splendour of virginity, St. Thomas was the greater.

In a certain sense, it is true that a certain aspect of celibacy is not a doctrine, that it is something that can be modified by the Church. This however does not mean that the Church ought to, or even can get rid of a discipline simply because the world or other elements think it should. St. Basil, witnesses for us that

Among the “doctrines” and the definitions kept in the Church, we have received some from the written teaching and we have obtained the other ones, secretly transmitted, from the apostolic Tradition. They all have the same validity with regard to piety as no one would doubt if he has any experience of ecclesiastical institutions; because if we attempt to do away with unwritten customs, by claiming that they have no great validity, we would unknowingly hurt the Gospel on its very essential points. (On the Holy Spirit)

Just because it can be changed doesn’t mean that it should, as Traditionalists well know. Who now are the agents of change? The world. Everyone in society thinks that the only ones who need to get married are priests. Yet, the stuck on stupid generation as I have termed it, will pass away and what then? As we see from the quotes from the Council of Carthage which head this post, the Early Church ordained married men but required of them perfect continence. It was a time when most who came to the faith were converts, or not all who came to the priesthood were unmarried and it was necessary for some years to ordain married men. Yet the early Church maintained celibacy. The Church has always insisted on it, as a means for chastity. Not the sole means of course, because by itself it is insufficient, but as the state in life combined with interior chastity in the soul to lead the priest to true clarity and true conformity with Jesus Christ. The end to the sex scandal is two things then, the double crown of charity and chastity. Chastity as has been said above, is necessary to attain to any vision in this life. Charity however, is among the faithful, and the priest who will love God above all the things in this world. Why among the faithful, that is the laity? Their prayers and mortification will lead to holy priests. There is a quote from St. John Eudes, though I’m still tracking down the source, which says “There is no surer sign that God is displeased with His people than to send them unholy priests.” Well, with the sacrilegious communions, rampant heresy, apostasy, moral failings and hypocrisy, is it no surprise? Or as the ancient maxim goes, we get the leaders we deserve. We need charity to offer to God fitting sacrifices for worthy priests. We need celibacy, to keep the priests separate from the things of this world so they can be holy priests. We do not need more priests, we need more holy priests especially in this time. Ending celibacy does not make one move toward that goal, in fact given our culture, it will move us further away from this goal. What is needed is for the Church to stay true to her age old traditions.

1: Epigonius episcopus Bullensium Regionum dixit: Cum praeterito concilio de continentia et castiate tractaretur, gradus isti treas qui constrictione quadam castitatis per consecrationem annexi sunt, episcopus inquam, presbyter et diaconus, tractatu pleniori, ut pudicitiam custodiant, doceantur.  Genethilius episcopus dixit: Ut superius dictum est, decet sacros antistes ac Dei sacerdotes nec non et levitas vel qui sacramentis divinis inserviunt, continentes esse in omnibus, quo possint simpliciter quod a Domino postulant impetrare, ut quod apostoli docuerunt et ipsa servavit antiquitas, nos quoque custodiamus.

What is the 2nd Confiteor?

The 2nd Confiteor

The 2nd Confiteor

In Traditional circles there is a lot of debate that swirls around the so-called “2nd confiteor”, which is said immediately after the priest receives communion in the missals preceding 1962. It was removed with the 2nd revising of the rubrics in 1961 (published in 1962), which became what we call today as the “1962 Missal”. There have been a lot of debates over whether it should be done since it is part of the “perennial tradition”, (which actually its not, but we’ll get to that), while others say it is not in the rubrics, so it shouldn’t be done.

Amongst Traditionalist groups, the SSPX has always maintained it, so far as I know. The FSSP actually has permission to use it, on the basis of using the earlier publication of rubrics in 1961, which in consequence would not allow them to use the second revision, which inserted St. Joseph into the Canon. Except for special permission which they possess. I’ve been told that the Institute of Christ the king uses both, but I’ve never been to their Masses and I don’t know their situation. Diocesan clergy who say the Traditional Mass, so far as I know, vary in terms of who does it and who doesn’t, but strictly on the level of permissions they can do the second confiteor, or they can use St. Joseph in the canon, but not both. On the level of tradition they should, and we shall see why.

Some argue that the second confiteor should be removed because it is redundant. We already said it after all, we’re sorry! Really! On the other hand, those who argue it should be said, say that it is used to remit any venial sins one might have committed during the Mass, as well as imperfections. This is true, but only to a point.

The reality is, that at most Masses throughout the year, prior to the time of St. Pius X, would not have had a second confiteor at all. The historic practice of the Latin church was always to administer communion outside of Mass. This means that after the priest received communion, the deacon and subdeacon would prepare the ablutions and move the missal and chalice veil, just as a server does at a private low Mass where he does not receive communion. This had a number of advantages. If you felt you were not in a state to receive communion, you could duck out with a number of other people, and you didn’t have the specter of the old ladies staring you down, wondering “What did you do!”, so there wasn’t a perceived “pressure” to receive. In terms of the smoothness of Mass itself there are some benefits. After Mass, the priest would come out in a surplice with a stole, and distribute Holy Communion from the tabernacle, beginning with the confiteor, misereatur, and indulgentiam, and then the Ecce Agnus Dei, then as normal. Thus, the rite the Church used for the reception of Communion outside of Mass included the confiteor, both as a testament to true devotion and sorrow for sins in the communicant, and to make reparation for their venial sins. On two days of the year, however, the communion rite took place during Mass, namely Maundy Thursday and Corpus Christi. On those days, communion would take place just as it does at solemn Masses today.

What St. Pius X directed, was for communion to take place during Mass as a definitive practice, and the older practice an exception to the rule. This brought into being the practices that Catholics are familiar with today, of the second confiteor, being sung by the deacon, or said by the server outside of Solemn Mass. The reason is, no one left Mass early, and if Communion took place during Mass on a regular basis, it would aid the people in exercising the practice of more frequent Communion.

The problem today then, is not the second confiteor, far too much attention goes to that subject, it is people receiving communion who do not first go to confession, even in Traditionalist circles. We have, largely, the opposite problem that St. Pius X tried to address, which was Jansenism, we have instead, the problem of a false concept of mercy, by which men imagine God will forgive them, and they’re good people, so why not receive communion. While St. Pius X’s goals were laudable, at the same time, they were for a different culture. Today we have the scandalous problem of sacrilegious communions. Thus, what should be considered, is whether or not to move communion once again outside of Mass, combined with increasing confessions and preaching Missions, or conferences, or whatever you like on good preparation for the reception of Holy Communion. This would seem a more fitting discussion on rubrical fights over whether the second confiteor should or should not be said.

Update: I had to correct the earlier article after being advised by a priest in the know that the FSSP actually does have permission to do both, where formerly I had written they do not.

Dissecting the Instrumentum Laboris for the October 2014 Synod

Bishops participate in a musical number on stage before Pope Francis arrives for mass in an all-night vigil for those attending World Youth Day, in Rio de JaneiroThe Instrumentum Laboris, or working document (in Latin literally, the device of the work) was issued last month, and it foretells essentially more of the same.

The Document is riddled with programs, programs, and more programs! More this and more that! Change! Yet the only things useful for a constructive discussion on how to meet the challenges to the Family in the modern world are not surprisingly absent from the working document.

There is, as in most documents since the Council, a good deal of wishy-washy niceties, but not a lot of real content. We must bear in mind, however, that it is a document compiling the reactions of various Episcopal conferences to the issues raised as problems. It is not designed to lay down a clear teaching or instruction. What it should be doing, if it were to be effective, is to lay out the directions all discussions will go toward in order to attain a more practical solution. Instead, it just puts together what everyone is saying and says yeah, this is what’s going on, and this is what our top-guys say will fix it. That of course is what the Bishops’ conferences have said, which themselves utilized committees of talking heads to look at the problems, who themselves talked to committees of “experts” to explain the problem.

As always, not everything expressed here is bad, but is put together with a lot of things that are, and then looks to make a unity out of it, like good Hegelian dialectic which draws together the synthesis from placing together the Thesis, and the Antithesis, and boom! We have the solution.

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t work in the same way. Let’s have a look at some key passages.

The People of God’s knowledge of conciliar and post-conciliar documents on the Magisterium of the family seems to be rather wanting, though a certain knowledge of them is clearly evident in those working in the field of theology. The documents, however, do not seem to have taken a foothold in the faithful’s mentality. Some responses clearly state that the faithful have no knowledge of these documents, while others mention that they are viewed, especially by lay people with no prior preparation, as rather “exclusive” or “limited to a few” and require some effort to take them up and study them. Oftentimes, people without due preparation find difficulty reading these documents. Nevertheless, the responses see a need to show the essential character of the truth affirmed in these documents.(Instrumentum Laboris [hereafter IS], #11)

One might reckon, the difficulty in reading the documents is they are simply not clear! They introduce with tons of flowery language, they say some poorly worded propositions, often using traditional theological terms to mean something totally different, and leave one bewildered as to what is actually being taught. That is not the only problem here. The real problem is that not everyone can be a Theologian, and not everyone should. Not merely before the Council, but even in the preceding generations of thousands of years, the faithful did not by and large know the bulk of Church teachings, and they could scarcely name an encyclical. Yet, they did not have a crisis in the family as we do today. In past generations people knew what was right and wrong, even if they acted contrary to it, they still knew it was wrong. It didn’t take a pastoral program or a new encyclical for people to know in the 18th century that abortion was wrong, or that contraceptive potions and techniques, such as they were, are contrary to the Church. Why is this a problem when most Catholics are more educated in general than they were in the 18th century? The answer is you had a culture and society that itself embodied Catholic values, even Protestant societies, and had the support needed for families to survive. You do not have that today.

Moreover, there is a difference between religion and theology. Every Catholic needs to have an understanding of religion to get to heaven, but not every Catholic needs to understand theology. Religio is a Latin word, it comes from the same word as legio, as in Roman Legion. It actually means the “yoke”, like the yoke that tied oxen together. Soldiers in the legion were “yoked” by the bond of discipline, legionary laws, far more harsh than the laws of civil society, and the structure of obedience. In Latin, the prefix re- either means again, back, or it strengthens the meaning of the word. In the case of religio, it strengthens the meaning of the word. Thus religio refers to the common bond of teachings, practices and laws that every Catholic is under, high or low, great and small, clerical or Lay. By contrast, Theology, which comes from the Greek Θεός (Theos=God) and λογία (logia=saying), although some dogmatic theologians, notably Tanquery, traces the root to λόγος (logos= word), means more or less the Study of God. It is the study of revealed truths, and the truths which follow from them logically and are connected with them (i.e. the secondary object of infallibility, whereas revealed truths are the primary object). This is a fully developed science, employing a scientific language that is carried out (until recently) with precision. It has a wide breadth of subjects, disciplines, and areas of study. Theology also includes detailed study of the documents of the magisterium, the truths they contain and the consequences that affect other disciplines. Documents of the magisterium in the field of religion, on the other hand, only pertain to those issues which the faithful need to be aware of. Thus, theology informs and confirms religion, as the Church has always held, in as much as the work of theologians becomes the basis for future decisions of the Extraordinary Magisterium and the Ordinary Magisterium. The constructing and informing of their consciences takes place in the overall formation of Christian life, as we shall develop more fully.

Some episcopal conferences argue that the reason for much resistance to the Church’s teaching on moral issues related to the family is a want of an authentic Christian experience, namely, an encounter with Christ on a personal and communal level, for which no doctrinal presentation, no matter how accurate, can substitute. In this regard, some responses point to the insufficiency of pastoral activity which is concerned only with dispensing the sacraments without a truly engaging Christian experience. Moreover, a vast majority of responses highlight the growing conflict between the values on marriage and the family as proposed by the Church and the globally diversified social and cultural situations. The responses are also in agreement on the underlying reasons for the difficulty in accepting Church teaching, namely, the pervasive and invasive new technologies; the influence of the mass media; the hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; the growing secularism; the prevalence of ideas that lead to an excessive, selfish liberalization of morals; the fragility of interpersonal relationships; a culture which rejects making permanent choices, because it is conditioned by uncertainty and transiency, a veritable “liquid society” and one with a “throw away” mentality and one seeking “immediate gratification”; and, finally, values reinforced by the so-called “culture of waste” and a “culture of the moment,” as frequently noted by Pope Francis. (IS #15)

Now, on the one hand, the faults of secular society do contribute to less religiosity, on the other we cannot lay all the fault at secular society. The strange thing here, is that the Vatican for 50 years has praised these same “secular societies” as a source of new riches, as a wonderful fruit of the French Revolution, as a realization of Vatican II, as… need I go on? And now they are complaining of the direction it is going! They can’t have it both ways. They want the modern conception of separation of Church and State, they want the secularized society, then it complains when a secularized society does what it is naturally going to do!

There is another fundamental disconnect here. Look at my emphasis. What are the Sacraments, except a direct personal encounter with Jesus Christ and his grace, preeminently in the Eucharist? What are the sacraments? Certificates? Status symbols? The person who wrote this point seems to think so. What kind of personal encounter can you have with Christ that is more powerful than the frequent exercise of the Sacraments? Is Penance not an encounter with Jesus Christ, where the priest in Christ’s very person and power forgives your sins, provided you have true contrition? Is not receiving his very body and blood an encounter? People need words to encounter them? The sacraments, and living the life of faith, exercising the virtue of faith with true charity, are connected. Moreover, so is the liturgy. Is the Liturgy a place where people have a true encounter with Christ? Or is it a place where people have a silly ceremony with absurd hymns, poor symbols and bad ritual to celebrate themselves? For most Catholics it is clearly the latter, in spite of the number of times that there have been “documents to end all abuses”, the “abuses” continue to exist. The reason of course is that the new liturgy is a man centered liturgy. There is in this whole document almost no mention of liturgy, which is a telling factor. Liturgical reform is nowhere on the radar of the Francis pontificate, let alone for the Bishops. The only reform for them is eliminating the Traditional Mass and restoring the primacy of the 1970’s liturgy, which is dying, and they can’t understand why. Hence the attack on the FI’s.

This “lived experience with Christ” is presented as a sort of dualism, as if this is something that happens independent of a man’s existence in Church and society. Proper doctrinal formation is a means, beautiful liturgy which hastens the senses to God is a means, Catholic society and families are a means, the will of the individual aided by grace and utilizing these means effects it. This document seems to think another army of pastoral lay workers will somehow bring this about!

We’ll close today with the following issue of Natural Law:

In light of what the Church has maintained over the centuries, an examination of the relation of the Gospel of the Family to the experience common to every person can now consider the many problems highlighted in the responses concerning the question of the natural law. In a vast majority of responses and observations, the concept of natural law today turns out to be, in different cultural contexts, highly problematic, if not completely incomprehensible. The expression is understood in a variety of ways, or simply not understood at all. Many bishops’ conferences, in many different places, say that, although the spousal aspect of the relationship between man and woman might be generally accepted as an experiential reality, this idea is not interpreted according to a universally given law. Very few responses and observations demonstrated an adequate, popular understanding of the natural law. (IS #21)

A lot of people have decried this section, and for good reason, nevertheless I think the working document is actually getting at something that is quite true and important, they are just drawing the wrong conclusions. Now, Natural Law in the Catholic Tradition is largely Aristotelian and Thomistic in its conception. In fact, St. Thomas says on this subject:

Sicut supra dictum est, ad legem naturae pertinent ea ad quae homo naturaliter inclinatur; inter quae homini proprium est ut inclinetur ad agendum secundum rationem. Ad rationem autem pertinet ex communibus ad propria procedere, ut patet ex I Physic. Aliter tamen circa hoc se habet ratio speculativa, et aliter ratio practica. Quia enim ratio speculativa praecipue negotiatur circa necessaria, quae impossibile est aliter se habere, absque aliquo defectu invenitur veritas in conclusionibus propriis, sicut et in principiis communibus. Sed ratio practica negotiatur circa contingentia, in quibus sunt operationes humanae, et ideo, etsi in communibus sit aliqua necessitas, quanto magis ad propria descenditur, tanto magis invenitur defectus. Sic igitur in speculativis est eadem veritas apud omnes tam in principiis quam in conclusionibus, licet veritas non apud omnes cognoscatur in conclusionibus, sed solum in principiis, quae dicuntur communes conceptiones. In operativis autem non est eadem veritas vel rectitudo practica apud omnes quantum ad propria, sed solum quantum ad communia, et apud illos apud quos est eadem rectitudo in propriis, non est aequaliter omnibus nota. Sic igitur patet quod, quantum ad communia principia rationis sive speculativae sive practicae, est eadem veritas seu rectitudo apud omnes, et aequaliter nota. (I-II, Q 94 A4, resp.)

As stated above (2,3), those things pertain to the natural law which a man is inclined naturally: and among these what is proper for man that he might be inclined to act according to reason. Now it pertains to reason to proceed from the common to the proper, as stated in Phys. i. The speculative reason, however, is considered one way in this matter, and the practical reason another. For, since the speculative reason is busied chiefly with the necessary things, which cannot be otherwise than they are, its proper conclusions, like the universal principles, contain the truth without fail. The practical reason, on the other hand, is busied with contingent matters, about which human actions are concerned: and consequently, although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects. Accordingly then in speculative matters truth is the same in all men, both as to principles and as to conclusions: although the truth is not known to all as regards the conclusions, but only as regards the principles which are called common notions. But in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles: and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all. It is therefore evident that, as regards the general principles whether of speculative or of practical reason, truth or rectitude is the same for all, and is equally known by all.

What this means, is that while the natural law is written on our hearts, or, as St. Thomas says in a different question of the same article, “The rational creature’s participation with the eternal law”, it is the same always and everywhere, but how it is applied and deduced in individual matters will differ according to culture. For example almost all cultures have the sense that pre-marital sex and adultery are wrong, but how that is realized differed for many classical cultures. The principle is still true, but men can act contrary to their reason; additionally the passions move people to act contrary to reason.

Now, all references to the natural law, even by John Paul II, who was not a Thomist, refer to the Aristotelian-Thomistic Tradition in Natural Law. Now, the modern western world, on the other hand, works on a mostly empiricist view of natural law. What this means is that what is natural is not based on utility, or reason, but what we objectively feel about it. So, people go out for wine and cheese tastings. The object, it would appear, is the delight in company and the pleasure gained from drinking good wine and eating good cheese. I could just as well satisfy my belly with bread and water, but I don’t get pleasure. Therefore food is not about nourishment but pleasure. Likewise with sex, it is pleasurable, but children don’t actually result all the time, and can be prevented, therefore sex is about pleasure rather than procreation. Add to this the evolutionary frame work, the idea that we have “evolved” beyond an instinct for self preservation, therefore we have evolved sex to be about the individuals. In such a framework, what could be against nature in same-sex coitus, since it is about pleasure with respect to the individuals?

Obviously such reasoning is fallacious, because food is pleasurable, or sex is pleasurable, it doesn’t follow that its only end is pleasure. Yet this is a problem of first principles with respect to natural law. Modern society is based on the Empiricist viewpoint, modified by evolutionary philosophy, whereas the Catholic explication of teachings with reference to Natural Law are based on the Thomistic. The Instrumentum Laboris correctly identifies at least some element of this, when it says:

The responses and observations also show that the adjective “natural” often is understood by people as meaning “spontaneous” or “what comes naturally.” Today, people tend to place a high value on personal feelings and emotions, aspects which appear “genuine” and “fundamental” and, therefore, to be followed “simply according to one’s nature.” The underlying anthropological concepts, on the one hand, look to an autonomy in human freedom which is not necessarily tied to an objective order in the nature of things, and, on the other hand, every human being’s aspiration to happiness, which is simply understood as the realization of personal desires. Consequently, the natural law is perceived as an outdated legacy. (IS #22)

Therefore the solution would be to engage the modern dialectic as concerns Natural Law, right? Not according to this document. The reason is the modern Vatican has completely surrendered the fight on false ideologies like Evolution, and even at times the very notion of man which is its consequent, and therefore can’t, without contradicting 50 years of mis-steps, attempt to engage that fight. Instead it proposes another surrender, which, as noted in my last post, I first saw on Rorate Caeli:

The language traditionally used in explaining the term “natural law” should be improved so that the values of the Gospel can be communicated to people today in a more intelligible manner. In particular, the vast majority of responses and an even greater part of the observations request that more emphasis be placed on the role of the Word of God as a privileged instrument in the conception of married life and the family, and recommend greater reference to the Bible, its language and narratives. In this regard, respondents propose bringing the issue to public discussion and developing the idea of biblical inspiration and the “order in creation,” which could permit a re-reading of the concept of the natural law in a more meaningful manner in today’s world. (IS #30)

It is one thing to use Divine Revelation (e.g. Scripture) to assist with and illuminate the concept of natural law, however, the problem is that natural law as such is something discernible to reason, that does not need the aid of divine revelation. What this statement says, if one reads between the lines, is to eviscerate the concept and tradition of Natural Law, and reduce everything to Scripture, which the modernists have worked so hard to neuter by rendering it all allegorical, and thus to be interpreted in any way possible. Thus the closing statement of that paragraph. Re-read therefore, means surrender.

We will have more on this document to come in the future.

Garrigou Lagrange, O.P, on the argument of for all vs. for many

This is redundant now, given the change in the Novus Ordo liturgy from “for all” to “for many”, nevertheless it is good to have for archival purposes.

De Eucharistia



  1. 3- Whether this is the fitting form of the consecration of the wine “This is the chalice of my blood, etc.”

State of the question: It is asked whether these words alone: “this is the chalice of my blood,” without other words adjoined are of the substance of this very form. So reckoned Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, and Peter of Tarentasia.

St. Thomas however with many others responds: the following words as well are of the substance of the form, as pertaining to it’s integrity, up to, exclusively, “As many times as you do these things…”

The reason is that the last words are determinations of the predicate, namely, the blood of Christ, that is, “they pertain to the integrity of the same locution,” and in the same rite and manner are brought forth, while the priest holds the chalice in his hands.

For so is designated the power of the blood poured forth, by saying “This is the chalice of my blood, of the new and eternal testament: the mystery of faith, which for you and for many will be shed unto the remission of sins.”

That is the pouring out of the blood of Christ: 1. to attain eternal life; so is said “of the new and eternal testament”; 2. for the justice of grace which is through faith, so is said the mystery of faith ; 3. for the remission of sins.

With regards to the accidental variations in diverse orthodox liturgies, cf. Corbelet, Histoire du Sacrement de l’Eucharistie,t. I, p. 263 sq.

Question: With regards to the body of this very article, as Cajetan notes (in article 1um of this very question) there is a difficulty, namely, Whether St. Thomas wished to say that these words alone “This is the chalice of my blood,” do not suffice for validity?

It is disputed also amongst Thomists, for in the body of the article, St. Thomas says indeed, rejecting the prior opinion, that the following words are of the substance of the form; but a little later he says, they pertain to the integrity (but integrity is distinguished from essence).[1] And in article 1 in the body and to the 4th he says simply: “These words ‘This is the chalice of my blood,” are the form of the sacrament.”

According to Billuart and many others, more probably, only the words, this is the chalice of my blood, or this is my blood, suffice for validity.

It is proved in the first place from the Fathers especially St. Justin, Apolog. 2,[i] and Damascene bk. 4, Concerning the Orthodox Faith, c. 14,[ii] who say that the consecration is brought about in these words: this is my body and this is my blood.

Likewise the author Concerning the Lords Supper in St. Cyprian, and Innocent III in bk. 4 de Missa, c. 6.

Secondly, it is proved from the liturgies of the Greeks. The Greeks preserve the essential form, for they validly consecrate, as all confess. But they do not mention the words: of the new and eternal testament, etc.

Thirdly, it is proved by theological reason: Those words alone are essential which signify the real presence of the blood of Christ. But the aforesaid words independently from those following signify this real presence, no less than “this is my body,” in dependently from the following, that is handed over for you. Therefore the last words of the consecration of the wine are not for it’s essence, but for it’s integrity.

Gonet responds: this would suffice indeed for the Eucharist as sacrament but not as sacrifice, in which the pouring out of blood ought to be signified. But this does not seem certain, for from the very fact that the second consecration produces, by the power of the words the presence of the blood only, so that the body of Christ is not there save concomitantly, the sacramental pouring out of blood is already expressed, because the mass is sacramental and unbloody sacrifice.

Lastly, St. Thomas himself, in our question, a. 1 c. et ad 4 says, “if the priest would mention only the aforesaid words (this is my body and this is my blood, with the intention of confecting the sacrament, this sacrament would be accomplished.”

Indeed, in our article 3, St. Thomas says “through the first words ‘this is the chalice of my blood’ the very conversion into blood is signified. But through the words following, the power of the blood poured out in the passion is designated.” Therefore through the last words the very conversion is not signified, which was already effected by the prior words which signify it.

Moreover, as we have noted, a little while before, St. Thomas said: these words following pertain to the integrity of the form, and he generally distinguishes the integrity of a thing from its essence; e.g. the foot and hand pertain to the integrity of man, not to his essence.

Therefore probably St. Thomas would not deny, especially if he would have considered the liturgies of the Greeks, the position which is now considered more probable. Nevertheless, he holds that the subsequent words are not merely accidental, but pertain to the integrity of the formula.

Objection: St. Pius V commanded that the dissertation in which Cajetan said, “Even if the intention of St. Thomas would be contrary, it does not matter” to be taken out of the Commetaries on the Summa of St. Thomas.

It is responded: The Supreme Pontiff commanded this dissertation to be expunged not as false in this part, but because Cajetan, did not speak reverently enough concerning St. Thomas. Cf. other things concerning this affair in Billuart in the same place.

Against the 8th: Why is for you and for many said? For you, namely the Jews, and for many others, namely for the gentiles.

It signifies likewise: “for you eating, and for the many for whom it is offered.”

For the many, also signifies, for all sufficiently, as is explained in the treatise concerning the one God, where there is treated concerning the universal salvific will, c.f. 1a q. 19, a. 6 ad 1,[2] c.f. 1 Tim. 11:5: “Christ gave himself a ransom for all.” That is, for all sufficiently, for many efficaciously as St. Thomas explains in the Commentary on the Epistle to Timothy in the same place. Likewise St. Paul 2. Cor. 5:15, “Christdied for all;” Romans 5:18 “As by the sin of one it is all men unto condemnation, so also through the justice of one is is to all men unto justification of life.”

Against the 9th, It is said that the words “mystery of faith” are had from the oral tradition of the Lord, but it is not necessary that Christ himself pronounced these words.

[1] It is indeed true that some integral part is necessary, as the head and the trunk of one’s body in man.

[2] We treated of this at length in the book the One God, Paris, Desclee, 1938, p. 415-434.

Sacreligious Communion: The death of civilization


The Victory of Eucharistic Truth over heresy. -Peter Paul Rubens

Originally published 3 June 2010

I have been told, that several years ago there was a Catholic conference in which a member of the Heritage foundation gave a talk and said the problem with Catholicism today is the Mass. According to most figures, 95% of Catholics contracept (I’m not sure what the margin of error is, but regardless we all know it is pretty high), yet the same people receive communion every Sunday. Whatever one makes of those figures, it is not far wrong to reckon a majority of people are in a state of mortal sin yet receive communion. For a society this has disastrous results.

During the Synod of the Eucharist in 2005, (not that a whole lot has changed) then prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Arinze made the same observation:

“The problem we have discussed is that many people don’t go to Mass, and those that come don’t understand — they go to Communion but not to confession, as if they were immaculate.” (source)

Arinze as we know is not a fan of the Traditional Mass. Yet he sees the problem very clearly, and apparently he was not the only one. It is also not the first time the Church has dealt with this problem. To reflect we should look at certain witnesses on the need to be in a state of Grace when receiving Holy Communion.

St. Paul dealt with this question in his time. Writing to the Corinthians, he said:

ἕκαστος γὰρ τὸ ἴδιον δεῖπνον προλαμβάνει ἐν τῷ φαγεῖν, καὶ ὃς μὲν πεινᾷ, ὃς δὲ μεθύει. μὴ γὰρ οἰκίας οὐκ ἔχετε εἰς τὸ ἐσθίειν καὶ πίνειν; τῆς ἐκκλησίας τοῦ θεοῦ καταφρονεῖτε, καὶ καταισχύνετε τοὺς μὴ ἔχοντας; τί εἴπω ὑμῖν; ἐπαινέσω ὑμᾶς; ἐν τούτῳ οὐκ ἐπαινῶ. Ἐγὼ γὰρ παρέλαβον ἀπὸ τοῦ κυρίου, καὶ παρέδωκα ὑμῖν, ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῇ νυκτὶ παρεδίδετο ἔλαβεν ἄρτον καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ εἶπεν, Τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν: τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. ὡσαύτως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι, λέγων, Τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἵματι: τοῦτο ποιεῖτε, ὁσάκις ἐὰν πίνητε, εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. ὁσάκις γὰρ ἐὰν ἐσθίητε τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον καὶ τὸ ποτήριον πίνητε, τὸν θάνατον τοῦ κυρίου καταγγέλλετε, ἄχρις οὗ ἔλθῃ. Ὥστε ὃς ἂν ἐσθίῃ τὸν ἄρτον πίνῃ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦ κυρίου ἀναξίως, ἔνοχος ἔσται τοῦ σώματος καὶ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου.

For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. (I Cor. XI:21-27)

What does St. Paul mean? The issue at hand was primarily what liturgical scholars call the “Agape” meal, which was the conducting of liturgical rites in the context of a meal such as men normally eat. Due to the fact that eating and drinking was involved, and some became drunk, men were approaching the sacrament unworthily. There is also the question of time and place, which St. Paul addresses when he says “μὴ γὰρ οἰκίας οὐκ ἔχετε εἰς τὸ ἐσθίειν καὶ πίνειν”, Do you not have houses in which you should be eating and drinking? Thus St. Paul is more or less condemning a liturgical abuse which was introduced by the Church of Corinth. The Corinthians are not respecting time and place, and they have departed from the Tradition. How do we see this? St. Paul says, as the Vulgate renders it: accepi a Domino quod et tradidi vobis, what I received from the Lord I have handed down (tradere) to you. The Greek uses the same word, παρέδωκα, which comes from παραδίδωμι, which like tradere refers to handing something over in order that it might be guarded, or taken care of. Thus when St. Paul instituted the Mass in Corinth, he gave them clearly what he received (accepi) yet they did not follow it, and committed sacrilege. Due to this some of them have died (I Cor. XI:30). Why did they die? St. John Chrysostom tells us:

Here he no longer brings his examples from others as he did in the case of the idol-sacrifices, relating the ancient histories and the chastisements in the wilderness, but from the Corinthians themselves; which also made the discourse apt to strike them more keenly. For whereas he was saying, he eats judgment to himself, and, he is guilty; that he might not seem to speak mere words, he points to deeds also and calls themselves to witness; a kind of thing which comes home to men more than threatening, by showing that the threat has issued in some real fact. He was not however content with these things alone, but from these he also introduced and confirmed the argument concerning hell-fire, terrifying them in both ways; and solving an inquiry which is handled everywhere. I mean, since many question one with another, whence arise the untimely deaths, whence the long diseases of men; he tells them that these unexpected events are many of them conditional upon certain sins. What then? They who are in continual health, say you, and come to a green old age, do they not sin? Nay, who dared say this? How then, say you, do they not suffer punishment? Because there they shall suffer a severer one. But we, if we would, neither here nor there need suffer it. (Homily 28 on 1 Corinthians)

In Homily 27, Chrysostom actually compares the one who receives communion unworthily to the Jews who slew Our Lord on the Cross with malice:

Why so? Because he poured it out, and makes the thing appear a slaughter and no longer a sacrifice. Much therefore as they who then pierced Him, pierced Him not that they might drink but that they might shed His blood: so likewise does he that comes for it unworthily and reaps no profit thereby. Do you see how fearful he makes his discourse, and inveighs against them very exceedingly, signifying that if they are thus to drink, they partake unworthily of the elements ? (source)

St. Thomas asks the question, Would the sinner (i.e. one in mortal sin) sin when receiving Christ’s body sacramentally?

In hoc sacramento, sicut in aliis, id quod est sacramentum est signum eius quod est res sacramenti. Duplex autem est res huius sacramenti, sicut supra dictum est, una quidem quae est significata et contenta, scilicet ipse Christus; alia autem est significata et non contenta, scilicet corpus Christi mysticum, quod est societas sanctorum. Quicumque ergo hoc sacramentum sumit, ex hoc ipso significat se esse Christo unitum et membris eius incorporatum. Quod quidem fit per fidem formatam, quam nullus habet cum peccato mortali. Et ideo manifestum est quod quicumque cum peccato mortali hoc sacramentum sumit, falsitatem in hoc sacramento committit. Et ideo incurrit sacrilegium, tanquam sacramenti violator. Et propter hoc mortaliter peccat.

In this sacrament, as in the others, that which is a sacrament is a sign of that which is the matter of the sacrament. There is however a double reality of this sacrament, as has been said above, there is a certain one which is signified and contained, namely, Christ Himself; yet the other is signified and not contained, to be sure the mystical body of Christ, which is the fellowship of the saints. Whoever therefore receives this [sacrament], he signifies himself to be one with Christ and incorporated with his members. This is done by living faith, which no one has when in mortal sin. And therefore it is manifest that whosoever receives this sacrament while in mortal sin, commits falsity in this sacrament. Therefore he incurs [the crime] of sacrilege, because he is a violator of the sacrament as it were and on this account he sins mortally. (III:qLXXX, a4)

St. Thomas also treats an objection which is quite relevant to our modern context, does someone who is ignorant of his sin, commit a sin when receiving communion? St. Thomas says yes:

Ad quintum dicendum quod hoc quod non habet aliquis conscientiam sui peccati, potest contingere dupliciter. Uno modo, per culpam suam, vel quia per ignorantiam iuris, quae non excusat, reputat non esse peccatum quod est peccatum, puta si aliquis fornicator reputaret simplicem fornicationem non esse peccatum mortale; vel quia negligens est in examinatione sui ipsius, contra id quod apostolus dicit, I Cor. XI, probet autem seipsum homo, et sic de pane illo edat et de calice bibat. Et sic nihilominus peccat peccator sumens corpus Christi, licet non habeat conscientiam peccati, quia ipsa ignorantia est ei peccatum.
Alio modo potest contingere sine culpa ipsius, puta, cum doluit de peccato, sed non est sufficienter contritus. Et in tali casu non peccat sumendo corpus Christi, quia homo per certitudinem scire non potest utrum sit vere contritus. Sufficit tamen si in se signa contritionis inveniat, puta ut doleat de praeteritis et proponat cavere de futuris. Si vero ignorat hoc quod fecit esse actum peccati propter ignorantiam facti, quae excusat, puta si accessit ad non suam quam credebat esse suam, non est ex hoc dicendus peccator. Similiter etiam, si totaliter est peccatum oblitus, sufficit ad eius deletionem generalis contritio, ut infra dicetur. Unde iam non est dicendus peccator.

To the fifth: The fact of a man being unconscious of his sin is able to come about in two ways. In the first manner, through his fault, whether because through ignorance of the law, for which ignorance does not excuse him, he reckons something not to be sinful which is a sin, say if one guilty of fornication were to deem simple fornication not to be a mortal sin; or because he neglects to examine his conscience, which is opposed to what the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 11:28): “Let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice.” So nevertheless the sinner sins receiving Christ’s body, although he is not conscious of sin, because the very ignorance is a sin on his part.

In another case, it may happen without his own fault, say, when he has had grief over his sin, but is not sufficiently contrite: and in such a case he does not sin [by] taking the body of Christ, for a man cannot know with certitude whether he is truly contrite. It suffices, however, if he find in himself the marks of contrition, say, if he “grieves over past sins,” and “propose to avoid them in the future”. Yet if he be ignorant that what he did was a sinful act, through ignorance of the fact, which excuses, for instance, if a man approach a woman whom he believed to be his wife whereas she was not, he is not to be called a sinner on that account; in the same way if he has utterly forgotten his sin, general contrition suffices for blotting it out, as will be said hereafter hence he is no longer to be called a sinner. (Ibid, reply to obj. 5)Thus we see a two-fold issue: receiving communion without right belief (perceiving the body and blood of our Lord in the sacrament), and being worthy of the sacrament. In this, ignorance is not enough to excuse one, because it is a question of the moral law which we should know. Moreover who in the modern context, both with media exposure and the access to technology can not know that contraception is a sin? Let alone the many other things for which Catholics are guilty yet go to communion weekly, some even daily! We speak not of complicated issues of bio-ethics, rather of the pill and prophylactics.

There are other considerations to take into account when we speak of sacrilegious communions. St. Paul says that some of the Corinthians had died. There is a story of King Lothaire, the son of Charlemagne, who was the duke of Lorraine. He had become attracted to a woman in his court, and put away his wife in order to take up with this younger woman. He was ordered by the Pope to cease or face an excommunication, and he made thousands of false promises of what he would do. Again, he asked to be absolved in Rome and to receive Holy Communion from the Pope. The Pope found that nothing had changed and he had no real intention of putting her off. Then he celebrated Mass for the King and his nobles. When communion was given, the King went to the altar and the Pope said to him in a distinct voice “O king, if you are truly resolved to quit this woman and take back your lawful wife, then receive this Holy Sacrament unto life everlasting; but if you are not sincerely resolved, then do not dare to profane the sacred Body of Jesus Christ and eat your own damnation.” Lothaire turned pale and trembled, but he had already made a sacrilegious Confession, and now he sealed his doom by adding a sacrilegious Communion. The King and his court left Rome. They arrived in Lucca (not far away) and were attacked with a fever, could not speak and their nails, hair and skin fell off, whereas the members of his court who did not join him in Communion were spared.
St. Cyprian of Carthage tells of a certain young woman who, after an unworthy Communion, was instantly possessed by the devil. She became quite furious and in her rage bit her tongue to pieces and endeavored to kill herself. At last she died in horrible agony.
The lives of the saints are full of examples of those who profaned the sacrament suffering consequences. There is but one more thing, a great quote from St. John Eudes, that “the presence of wayward clergy is the surest sign of God’s displeasure with his people.”

Forgetting all the illness, murders, crimes, drugs, accidents and rapes in our society, the base abuse of women and so many other things, consider alone the destruction of our children’s lives by molestation and rape. Not only of priests, as it has often been pointed out, there are more molesters by percentage among teachers, doctors and social workers than among priests. Nevertheless that the priest, one who is called apart in a way that the former are not would do these evils merits the indignation even of those who think most of these evils are okay. Sacrilegious communions by those living in sin and receiving communion (even Traditionalists, don’t think they are exempt!), are the cause par excellence of the sex abuse crisis. Yes the Bishops let them in, then hid them. Yes those who held sway under the last Pope protected them. Yes more could have been done. Those are not the reasons God allowed these evils, they are simply the material considerations. God allowed these evils because His people have gravely offended Him, in a way as direct as blasphemy.

You get the leaders you deserve, and the bad lives of Catholic faithful, before and after the Council, have brought the crisis we deal with today. Not only do Catholics not pray enough, they are not Holy enough. Heretofore, I have considered only those who live in mortal sin but receive communion weekly, and in some instances daily. There is however one more way in which the remaining 5% fail to please God, though it does not offend Him as the other 95% (give or take) do. It is in the failure to offer rightly the priesthood of the laity.

Part of this is due to the fact that the traditional teaching of the laity’s sacerdotal character has been obscured and falsely attributed to the participation in the liturgy (doing the readings, distributing communion and things of that sort). The Church first allowed lay participation in the liturgy when she let young boys serve Mass, and that was the only way (except for in mission territories or the US a layman was given permission to be the subdeacon for a Solemn Mass, observing the same rules as clerics who were not ordained to that order) until Vatican II when they came to be doing almost everything. The Church has the authority to allow lay participation in the right no matter how distasteful, untraditional or theologically ridiculous, yet none of that constitutes the “priesthood of the laity”. All of those things constitute the laity mimicking the functions and behavior of the ordained, with or without approval. Even teaching a 1st communion class, since the Potestas docendi of the Church finds its expression at the local level in the Bishop and the priests and clergy in union with him, this is also properly a role of the priest though lay people can conduct it well.

No, the priesthood of the laity involves the interior actions of the faithful both in Mass and in their daily life. The priestly sacrifice can only be done by a priest no matter how many laymen you stick on an altar. I sometimes joke with my priest that I’ll say Mass for him when he’s gone, and it is a good joke but if I got up in all his vestments and performed every action with absolute perfection and precision, no amount of wishing will accomplish the Sacrifice of Mass. NONE.

St. Thomas teaches in the Summa that
Laicus iustus unitus est Christo unione spirituali per fidem et caritatem, non autem per sacramentalem potestatem. Et ideo habet spirituale sacerdotium ad offerendum spirituales hostias, de quibus dicitur in Psalmo, sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus, et Rom. XII, exhibeatis corpora vestra hostiam viventem. Unde et I Petri II dicitur, sacerdotium sanctum offerre spirituales hostias.

“A devout layman is united with Christ by spiritual union through faith and charity, not however by sacramental power. Therefore he has a spiritual priesthood for offering spiritual offerings, of which it is said (Psalm 1:19): “A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit”; and (Romans 12:1): “Show within your bodies a living sacrifice.” Wherefore, it is also said (1 Peter 2:5): “A holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices.” (III; Q. LXXXII; a1 response to the second objection)

So while absolutely distinct, it is absolutely valid. It is not to be confused with the “priesthood of believers” one finds in Protestant doctrines, which deny any ministerial role to the priest something that is totally contrary to all Catholic teaching. It is also not to be confused as in the liberal mindset with a participation in the ordained priesthood. It is a participation in Christ’s priesthood through Baptism.

The Fathers teach that Baptism is actually a being put to death in our old nature, and rising with Christ in a new nature, a New creation in Christ (II Cor. V:17). This is why baptisteries descend, and when you look in many baptismal fonts they have a deep well, which is supposed to represent a grave. You are put to death and rise again. Now we are enabled to do spiritual works by virtue of Sanctifying grace. Thus we offer sacrifice, but it is the sacrifice of our selves. Baptism conforms us to the death of Christ, with a foretaste of the resurrected life (sanctifying grace in the soul). Now there are three parts of a sacrifice, offering, slaying the victim, and consummation. In order to offer ourselves, either at Mass or in life, we need to make a real offering to God, and then slay the victim which means dying to ourselves, and then the consummation which is charity, love of God. Dying to ourselves means rooting out our vices, it means purging ourselves of venial sin. Most people who fit that category of orthodox Catholics trying to lead a good life and stay out of mortal sin mostly simply do not offer themselves correctly, nor die to themselves. This blocks the grace flowing from the Mass, that is from the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary and blocks the merit we can attain in offering. So those who could be making up for the failings around them are also not doing what they could. Hence our Lord said in the Gospels “Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

In all of these ways the Mass is exactly our problem. What however are we to do about it? The first step as always are for those of us to whom Jesus has given the gift of faith (and remember it is a gift He gave us, it is not because we are so smart to see it. Without God we would be tambourine smacking baptists) to be holy and offer ourselves fully with the sacrifice of Christ. The second thing is more practical, what can be done about the sacrilege at Mass?

Most people do not realize that in the Roman Rite communion was rarely given during Mass. After Mass the priest would come out with a ciborium and preform the communion rite. This had a certain utility since those not worthy could easily leave without the social stigma attached to not going to communion. Then in the 20th century St. Pius X changed it so the normative posture is to receive communion during Mass after the clergy. This was done for many reasons, and it was a good change at that time given the circumstances. People needed more grace to fight the onslaught of militant atheism, which caused the most destructive conflicts in human history. Today however, it might be right to reconsider, given the situation in the culture, and the fact that most people simply don’t take the sacrament seriously, to remove it until after Mass (since most people cut out to go shopping after communion anyway, this will cut the numbers receiving communion). This is not something that need be done wholesale but could be done on an ad hoc basis, combined with greater preaching on Eucharistic devotion.

The last thing, is we need another St. Peter Julian Emyard, and we need Eucharistic fraternities such as what existed in those days. You see perpetual adoration, which is good, but there are not enough of those laity who pray and offer up sacrifices and fasts for the spread of Eucharistic devotion. Without more of that all the preaching, catechesis, synods, and papal exhortations in the world will not move modern Catholics out of their sin and into God. Some people simply need someone to merit the gift of faith for them by prayer, fasting and good works. Traditionalists should not imagine that they are immune either, since many a priest who offers the Traditional Mass will tell stories of people who come to the Traditional Mass and are just as worldly as anyone else. Without an end to the sacrilegious communions made by modern Catholics, our society will come to an end. Period. Events in the world should already be telling us, that even if it is not the end times, it is certainly the end times for Western Culture.