Vatican 101: Your Guide to How the Vatican Works

+ List of the Vatican Dicasteries

What is “the Vatican” and how does it work? Most Catholics are partially ignorant about what “the Vatican” is and how it works. The Vatican City State is a sovereign nation, but it is also the collection of dicasteries that oversee legal cases, liturgy, money, abuse, doctrine, religious orders, appointment of bishops…basically all the newsworthy and controversial elements of Catholicism.

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Over the last couple years I’ve been able to spend time in Rome and even some time with priests, bishops, and cardinals working within the Vatican. What was once a knotted mystery has become more clear to me and I wanted to share a basic outline so that you can also better understand how the Vatican works:

Understanding the Roman Curia as Dicasteries:

“The Vatican” is literally the geographic location of Saint Peter’s burial at the foot of the “Vatican Hill” outside the ancient boundaries of the city of Rome (See my book The Eternal City for thorough details about the geography and tradition of Peter’s burial). But a more accurate term for what most people mean by “the Vatican” is the “Roman Curia,” which is a collection of “dicasteries” or departments working for and under the Pope.

The word dicastery comes from the Greek word δικαστήριον meaning “place of justice.”

The Church is not a nation, but to use an analogy, you might think of the heads of each “dicasteries” as the “cabinent” of the United States President. I know, I know. It breaks down. You don’t need to leave a comment to me about how the Pope is not like a President. I’m only making an analogy.

So the Pope appoints leaders or prefects (usually cardinals) to each of the dicasteries to aid His Holiness in the governance of the Church:

List of the Vatican Dicasteries:

Here are the Vatican dicasteries organized into their six various species:

  1. Secretariats:
    The Secretariat of State (most powerful dicastery – headed by Cardinal Secretary of State)
    The Secretariat for the Economy (created by Pope Francis to oversee financials)
    The Secretariat for Communications (Vatican Radio, Osservatore Romano, Vatican Press, etc.)
  2. Congregations:
    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (one might say this is the second most powerful dicastery, after the Secretary of State)
    The Congregation for the Eastern Churches
    The Congregation for Divine Worship (liturgy and sacraments)
    The Congregation for the Causes of Saints (the process of canonizing saints)
    The Congregation for Bishops (researches and selects bishops for dioceses)
    The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (formerly named Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith)
    The Congregation for the Clergy (priests, deacons, seminaries)
    The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (religious life)
    The Congregation for Catholic Education (Catholic universities, but not seminaries)
  3. Dicasteries
    The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life (created by Pope Francis)
    The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (created by Pope Francis)
  4. Legal Tribunals (operate like courts):
    The Apostolic Penitentiary (excommunications, dispensations, indulgences)
    The Tribunal of the Roman Rota (highest appellate tribunal; usually handles contested marriage annulments)
    The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (Supreme court seeing appealed cases from Roman Rota and conflicts between Congregations)
  5. Pontifical Councils
    The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (handles ecumenical relations with non-Catholic Christians, and notably Jewish relations)
    The Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts (interpreting canon law)
    The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (handles relations with non-Christian religions)
    The Pontifical Council for Culture
    The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (for re-evangelizing the West)
  6. Offices of the Holy See:
    The Apostolic Camera (the Papal Treasury)
    The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (modified by Pope Francis; see  Secretariat for the Economy above; oversees property of the Holy See)
    The Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See (oversees finances)

*Note: The tendency of Pope Francis has been to close and collapse “Pontifical Councils” into what he calls “Dicasteries.” Pope Francis has closed down four “Pontifical Councils” and erected two new “Dicasteries” listed above.

My opinion is that a reduction in the number of dicasteries is a positive reform of the Church.

Each dicastery works at the pleasure of the Holy Father. The Pope appoints all offices and he can close and open new dicasteries according to his pleasure.

Other Departments in the Vatican

You also have other departments in the Vatican that are not technically dicasteries such as:

  • The Pontifical Swiss Guard
    • Approximately 130 soldiers that where colorful uniforms while protecting the Pope and providing border security for Vatican City.
    • Fun fact: the Swiss Guard makes use of the Glock 19 pistol and Heckler & Koch MP7 .
  • The Vatican Bank (Official Name is: Institute for the Works of Religion – I’ll do a future post on this.)
  • The Pontifical Commissions (3 of which fall under the CDF):
    • Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church (art, books, archives)
    • Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei
      • Oversees 1962 Extraordinary Form of Mass.
      • Answers to and is located within CDF.
    • Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology
    • Pontifical Biblical Commission (publishes articles on biblical studies; answers to CDF)
    • International Theological Commission (publishes theological articles; answers to CDF)
    • Pontifical Commission for Latin America (answers to Congregation for Bishops)
    • Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (instituted by Pope Francis in 2014; headed by Cardinal O’Malley of Boston)
  • Temporary or Interdicasterial Commissions (temporary commissions for tasks, such as producing a Catechism of the Catholic Church)

How to Be Better Educated about the Catholic Church:

  • As the Church faces new issues, new dicasteries are created and some are closed. There is nothing of divine right with the Roman Curia. The Pope can open and close dicasteries to help him govern the Church. Technically speaking, he could close all the offices.
  • It’s worth following the current issues in the Catholic Church and having an understanding of how these issues flow into and out of the “Vatican” through the various dicasteries.
  • It’s also worth printing out on a piece of paper the dicasteries of the Catholic Church.
    • Print them out and place them in your Bible so that you can pray for their leaders and for their work. It’s worth following which Cardinals head which dicasteries.

Here are the current leaders/prefects of some of the important dicasteries:

The Secretariat of State: Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin
The Secretariat for the Economy: Australian Cardinal George Pell
The Secretariat for Communications: Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller
The Congregation for the Eastern Churches: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri
The Congregation for Divine Worship: Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints: Italian Cardinal Angelo Amato
The Congregation for Bishops: Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples: Italian Cardinal Fernando Filoni
The Congregation for the Clergy: Italian Cardinal Beniamino Stella
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz
The Congregation for Catholic Education: Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi

The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life: American Cardinal Kevin Farrell
The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development: Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson

All the Cardinals that lead dicasteries are usually seen as papabile – unspoken candidates for the next papacy.

Holy Apostles, pray for the Cardinals.

Question: Do you have questions or comments about the Roman Curia? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Is Peter’s Historical Chair inside the Vatican?

In the Catholic calendar up until at least 1955, January 18 was the Feast of the Saint Peter’s Chair at Rome. The “chair” is an Old Testament sign of magisterial authority, as Christ Himself gave witness:

“Saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not. For they say, and do not.” (Matthew 23:2–3, D-R)

The commemoration of Peter’s chair in rome honors the preeminent magisterial authority of Saint Peter to whom was given the Keys of the Kingdom. Peter’s office as the Vicar of Christ recalls the promise of God to the “royal steward” or “vicar” in the royal household of the Davidic king. This prophecy promises that the king’s steward will “become a throne of honor”:
“And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father.” (Isaiah 22:22–23, D-R)
Saint Peter's Chair Taylor MarshallYet did Saint Peter as the first Vicar of Christ have his own physical cathedra (Greek: “chair”)?
There is a third century anti-Marcionite poem that seems to testify to this historicity of Peter’s cathedra:
Hac cathedra, Petrus qua sederat ipse, locatum
Maxima Roma Linum primum considere iussit.
– Adversus Marcionem (Patrologia Latina II, 1099)
The Latin translates:
“On this chair whereupon Peter himself sat
The great Rome placed Linus and commanded him to sit.”
Saint Linus is of course the successor of Saint Peter, that is the second pope of Rome. Is this cathedra, Petrus qua sederat ipse, a literally chair or is it merely a poetic allusion to Peter’s authority? I suppose that there is no way to know for sure, but Tertullian (cf. De præscriptione hæreticorum, 36) and others seem to suggest or assume that a true physical chair kept in Rome had been that of Saint Peter.
Regardless, the chair depicted above is the traditional “Chair of Saint Peter”. In Old Saint Peter’s, this chair was prominently placed in the baptistry and the Pope would sit on it in order to confer the sacrament of Confirmation. This chair and custom are confirmed to as early as AD 366.
Today, it is enshrined in the apse of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I don’t know whether carbon dating has been performed on it. If you’re aware of any studies or archeological investigations, please send them my way.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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How St Francis differed from Martin Luther or Catholic Reform vs. Protestant Reform

How did Saint Francis’ reformation of the Catholic Church (“Francis, rebuild my Church”) differ from Martin Luther’s “reformation”?

For Audio Podcast version of: “My True Opinion of Martin Luther” click here.

Essentially, Francis teaches us that we cannot fight heresy by creating new heresies. Francis always submitted to the Church, the popes, and the bishops.

Whenever “reformation” begins to the buck against the institutional Church, more heresy arises. For example, in many regards the Monophysite heresy (i.e. “Christ has one nature”) was an over-reaction to the Nestorian heresy (i.e. “Christ is two persons”). The Catholic Church has always sought to aim directly at the truth, and not merely at the destruction of error. Too often the refutation of error crosses over into further error.

Similarly, Luther and Calvin sought to displace misunderstandings about grace and merit (i.e. the faulty nominalism spawned by William of Ockham) by creating an alternate vision of grace and merit (which ironically embraced Ockham’s nominalism and repackaged it). Luther’s “solution” was in fact heretical. A quick fix is often faulty. Duct tape can “fix” almost anything – but it eventually gives way to other problems.

The annals of Church history are filled with Catholic Reformers: Paul, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Maximus, John Damascene, Pope Gregory VII, Francis, Dominic, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, et al. Each of these Catholic Reformers retained the unity of Christ’s Church, submitted to church leadership, and patiently brought about renewal. In many cases, each experienced active persecution from other Christians and even fell under the suspicion of heresy. However, their humility and silence eventually vindicated their cause as advocates for the evangelical truth of Christ’s doctrine.

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best examples of patience in the cause of reform. When St Francis went to Rome to seek recognition from the Pope, the Pope dismissed him impatiently and told him to go “lie down with the pigs.”

After a little while, Francis returned smeared with swine feces and stinking to high heaven. When the Pope objected, Francis answered, “I obeyed your words and merely did as you said. I lay down with the pigs.” Suddenly the Pope realized that this was a holy man who was willing to obey even in the face of humiliation. The Pope listened to Francis’ vision for renewal and the rest is history.

When rebuffed by the pope, Saint Francis could have appealed to Sacred Scripture, showing this his pattern of life was poor and lowly like that of Christ. He might even have contrasted his own “biblical life” against the extravagance of the Papal court. Francis may even have rightly rebuked the abbots, bishops, and cardinals for lacking evangelical witness. Instead, Francis followed the path of Christ. He allowed himself to be misunderstood and maligned, knowing that God would bring about his vindication…and God always does.

Contrast Saint Francis to Martin Luther. Luther did not visit Rome for confirmation of his cause, nor did he respect the structures of the Church. In fact, Cardinal Cajetan met privately with Luther and explained how Luther might modify his message so that Cajetan could have it approved by the Roman Curia. If Luther had moved more slowly and charitably, he may have become “Saint” Martin Luther.

Unfortunately, Luther was adamant and stiff-necked. He would not attempt compromise. If the Pope would not agree with him, then he would reject the papacy. Period. Luther would not tolerate any authority that failed to support him immediately and without question. Consequently, when the papal bull arrived, Luther burned it publicly and began to curse the pope as Antichrist.

Note the difference between Francis and Luther. The former moved slowly and humbly. The latter acted independently and rashly. Consequently, the history of Protestantism is marked by rash and hasty division – there are now 36,000 Protestant denominations.

As the Apostle James wrote: “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20). History shows that God does not use “hot-heads” to guide His Church into righteousness. God chooses those who are little, meek, and humble – for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

Herein lies the mystery of Catholic Reform.

Which is MORE Traditional: Mass ad orientem or versus populum?

And the Roman Ciborium in Roman Architecture

Ever since Cardinal Sarah’s ad orientem endorsement, and subsequent slap down by voices in the Holy See, there is debate on both sides favoring ad orientem celebration of the Holy Mass.

My goal here is show that both ad orientem AND versus populum are part of the ancient Roman Rite – and to show how the ciborium/baldacchino is a determining factor in the architecture governing each. Before we get started, let’s define vocab and issue a clarification to the liturgical police on each extreme:

Defining Terms of the Debate

ad orientem: Latin for “to the East.” For those new to the debate, ad orientem refers to the priest celebrating Mass on the same side of the altar as the people. People wrongfully call this “priest with his back to the people.”

versus populum: Latin for “toward the people.” This refers to the priest celebrating Mass on the opposite side of altar so that he is facing the people in the nave.

ad Deum: People wrongfully use ad Deum (Latin for “toward God”) as a synonym for ad orientem. I dislike this usage because it’s confusing and it presumes that versus populum is not ad Deum or “toward God.” When Pope Boniface VIII celebrated Holy Mass in AD 1300 at Old Saint Peter’s Basilica versus populum, he was celebrating Mass ad Deum (to God). It’s blasphemous to say otherwise. A valid Mass is always ad Deum no matter where the priest stands.

ciborium: Usually this refers to the precious vessel that holds the hosts during Mass. It can also roofed baldacchino that stands over the altar.

Showing My Liturgical Preference Cards Up Front

When writing about liturgy, everyone wants to size you up and classify you: Is he trad, is he liberal, is he reform-of-the-reform, whatever. So here is my perspective. I prefer the EF Latin Mass and I’m a member of a FSSP parish. But I attend the so-called Novus Ordo for daily Mass – and I usually attend the Novus Ordo when I travel. I have attended the Novus Ordo in Saint Peter’s Rome. I’ve attended the EF Latin Mass in Saint Peter’s in Rome. I received Jesus Christ and for this I’m grateful.

I can serve the EF. I’m good at Latin and I understand most of it in the Mass. I can listen to the Epistle and Gospel in Latin and understand it.

I love ad orientem. I find priests smiling over the altar as distracting. Personally, I find the priest facing with the congregation more Christocentric. For me, the elevation is more dramatic and devltional ad orientem. Silent canon makes more sense ad orientem, in my opinion. All pluses from my point of view.

Conclusion: I like the Latin Mass, but I never make a stink of it. I’m not exclusivist.

Talking Latin Mass Will Always Get You Judged…

I almost hate writing about anything Latin Mass because it gets me labeled by both extremes in the Church. So let me just issue a clarification:

For liturgical progressives who want to judge me: I don’t believe that attending the EF Latin Mass is a statement or that it means that one is “rad trad” or hates his local bishop or the Pope. Far from it. I love the Ordinary Form of the Mass. I attend it daily. I love my local bishop and pray for him daily. I love the Holy Father and pray for him daily and was even honored to shake his hand recently when he kissed my baby. I know that these hostile elements can exist in the “trad movement” but I’m not into that. So if you want to lump me in with the “mean Latin Mass haters,” you’re wrong.

For Traddies who want to judge me: I don’t think that Latin EF Mass and ad orientem is divinely mandated liturgy, nor do I think it’s always the best. If you think for saying this, I’m a Freemason, heretic, idolator, New World Order-ist, Novus Ordo-ist, Neo-Catholic – you’re incorrect and I’ll ignore your comments.

Both Versus Populum and Ad Orientem in the Roman Tradition

I just got back from Rome. If you’ve been there, you know already that the major churches in Rome have always had the priest facing the people over the altar (photos at the end of the post):

  • St Peter’s
  • St Paul’s outside the Walls
  • St John Lateran
  • St Mary Major
  • St Clement’s
  • St Maria in Trastavere

Why? Because versus populum was part of the ancient Roman tradition. Where there was space and a big budget (as in these important Roman churches), they worked it versus populum. However, this elegant arrangement usually requires the presence of a ciborium (a stone canopy or baldacchino) over the altar.

trastevere

Where there isn’t space to do it right (that is, no ciborium over altar), they worked ad orientem with dignity.

Those that study the issue know that it has to do with whether a Roman ciborium/baldacchino can be built over the altar. Generally speaking, if there is a ciborium, it’s versus populum. If not, there’s ad orientem.

There is a Roman way of doing versus populum and Pope Benedict pointed that out: screens and/or baldacchino, candles on the altar (causing visual disruption), and especially a crucifix in the middle. The silent canon especially balances out versus populum and the attention on the priest.

My personal preference would be that everything should be ad orientem – unless you can install a ciborium/baldacchino over the altar – ideally with a sunken confessio for relics under the altar. If not, it should be ad orientem.

The problem, in my unimportant layman’s point of view, is that parishes in the 1950s-1980s plunged into versus populum altars without understanding the ancient Roman requisites for such people-facing altars. So now we have a churches where the altar lacks dignity and is often dwarfed by “the presiders chair” and the ambo. The ciborium canopy magnified the dignity of the altar within the versus populum context. We need to rediscover this feature of Roman liturgy and architecture. We need to start building a ciborium canopy over the altar.

Photos of Examples of Versus Populum with Proper Ciborium

Here are photos of the churches above showing how the ancient Roman versus populum worked with the ciborium canopy or baldacchino:

Here’s Pope Pius XII celebrating versus populum…but under the baldacchino with candle and crucifix “obstruction.”

saint peter's versus

Here’s the Pope’s cathedral Saint John Lateran. Note the amazing baldacchino which contains the skulls of Saint Paul and Saint Peter behind the gold grating above the altar:

st john lateran versus

Here’s my favorite church Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome. Historic versus populum, but with a baldacchino. This church is so God-honoring. Beauty. Truth. Goodness. I try to attend Sunday Mass here (Ordinary Form) whenever I can:

trastevere

And here’s San Clemente in Rome. Small church with versus populum with a modest baldacchino:

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I could also include Saint Mary Major and Saint Paul’s outside the Walls. The point is, if you’re going to do versus populum, you need a baldacchino/ciborium over the altar. If not, ad orientem tends to be the “traditional” way to construct a church.

Comments

Question: I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Do you have a preference? How is your parish set up? Do you like it or not? How could we improve our altars using the Roman churches as models? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

History of Catholic Cardinals: Their Power and Number

The Roman Development of the Office of Cardinal

Having just returned from teaching Roman Church History in Rome, I’ve been reviewing the history of Roman cardinals. Here’s a brief timeline:

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  • 6th century – In Rome the first cardinals were the seven deacons of the seven regions of the city. The deacons, not the presbyters, had immediate access to the Pope of Rome. This is why deacons in Rome were granted the privilege of wearing a more dignified vestment (the dalmatic) than that of the priest (the chasuble).
  • 8th century – The term “cardinal” is attached to the senior priest (pastor) in each of the titular churches of Rome. For the significance of titulus in relation to the churches in Rome, see my book The Eternal City where I relate how the Latin term titulus was used to denote licensed altars in the city of Rome based on the Old Latin (pre-Vulgate) translation of the Old Testament.
  • By decree of the Lateran Council of 769, only a cardinal priest or deacon was eligible to become pope. This is no longer the case. Any Catholic male may be elected as Pope. Laity could not participate in the election. Armed men could not be present for papal elections.
  • 9th century – Pope Stephen V (816-17) decreed that all 7 cardinal bishops were bound to sing Mass on rotation at the high altar at St. Peter’s Basilica, one every Sunday. He also mentions the distinction of cardinal bishops, cardinal priests, and cardinal deacons.
  • 11th century – In 1059, during the pontificate of Nicholas II, cardinal bishops were given the right to elect the pope under the Papal Bull In nomine Domini. Emperors could not nominate candidates or veto a winner. Emperors could still “confirm” the election. Election must take place in Rome. Pope is pope from moment of election and consent and not from coronation or enthronement.
  • 12th century – At the Third Lateran Council in 1179 the right to the whole body of cardinals – bishops, priests and deacons – to elect the pope was re-established for the first time in over 100 years.
    Also, a 2/3 majority was required for a valid election.
  • 13th century – In 1244, cardinals were granted the privilege of wearing the red hat by Pope Innocent IV.

Cardinals in Post-Tridentine Era

  • The chief clergy of any diocese were often called cardinals. However, the use of the title “cardianl” was reserved for the cardinals of Rome in 1567 by Pope Saint Pius V.
  • In 1517, Pope Leo X added 31 additional cardinals, bringing the total to a staggering 65 cadinals!
  • Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) capped the number of cardinals to 70, comprising of:
    • 6 cardinal bishops,
    • 50 cardinal priests,
    • 14 cardinal deacons.
    • This was modeled on the Sandhedrin pattern of Moses and the Old Testament – seventy elders to assist in judging Israel.
  • During the pontificate of Pope Saint John XXIII, the limit exceeded 70.
  • 1965 Pope Paul VI also increased the number of cardinal bishops by giving that rank to patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
  • In 1970, Pope Paul VI raised the number of cardinal electors at a cap of 120 cardinal electors while at the same time fixing the maximum age for cardinal electors at the age of 80 years. Hence, for the first time in history, elderly cardinals could no longer vote.
  • Of the 117 cardinals under the age of 80 at the time of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, 115 participated in the conclave of March 2013 that elected his successor. The two who did not participate were Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja (for health reasons) and Keith O’Brien (following allegations of sexual misconduct).
  • As of 9 July 2016, there are a total of 212 cardinals, of whom 113 are cardinal electors under the age 80.

Pray for our current Holy Father Francis of Rome, and pray for our Cardinals who have been chosen by God to elect the next Holy Father.

And I just can’t resist, here’s the video from a week ago of Pope Francis kissing my baby: Click here to watch.

Video: Pope Francis Kissed My Baby Margaret Today in Rome!

This morning, the Vicar of Christ and Successor of Saint Peter took our baby daughter Margaret Grace Carol Marshall (“Carol” for Karol Wojtyła aka Saint John Paul II  – she was born on Saint John Paul II’s feast day).

In the video below you’ll see how Pope Francis stops the Popemobile when he looks and sees my wife Joy holding our baby Margaret. Next he motions for our baby Margaret to be brought up to him in the Popemobile. He kisses her, blesses her, and then laughs. You can then see me (Taylor) shake hands with the Holy Father. At the end you can see Joy’s ecstatic mother’s smile after the Vicar of Christ on earth has just kissed her baby girl.

Here’s the video (click here to being watching it):

Please pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis that God might reward him for his kindness and generosity to our baby and our family.

Also, my son Becket had his First Communion in Saint Peter’s Basilica about an hour before this happened with the Pope. It’s a red letter day!!!

Godspeed,
Taylor

Free Catholic Webinar Class: Catholic Rome and Papacy 101

You’re invited to this week’s NSTI Catholic Webinar class on Rome and the Early Papacy 101.

This webinar is a “mini-version” of the class that I teach to Catholic Seminarians in Rome. This class is complimentary; however, space is limited and you must reserve your spot before Wednesday. You can register (reserve your spot) by clicking here.

Early Papacy 101 Class with Dr Marshall

YOU WILL DISCOVER INFO ABOUT:

  • The Old Testament and Rome
  • Tradition of Peter in Rome
  • Popes after Peter in Rome
  • Importance of St Clement of Rome
  • The Power of the Bishop of Rome in 2nd Century
  • EVERYONE THAT ATTENDS WILL RECEIVE a pdf Handout on these Catholic topics.

This webinar is a “mini-version” of the class that I teach to Catholic Seminarians in Rome. Space is limited and you must reserve your spot before Wednesday. You can register (reserve your spot) by clicking here.

Register here button

PHOTO: Margaret’s Latin Baptism

Thanks for praying for Margaret. She was born on Oct 22 (St John Paul II) and baptized on Oct 31 (Vigil of All Saints)!

Saint John Paul II issued a document asking parents to baptize infants quickly “within weeks of birth.” Learn more about Saint John Paul II on not delaying baptism by clicking here.

Here’s the “House of Marshall” after the Baptism (thanks to Paul Hunker for this photo):

Baptism of Margaret Marshall

L-R Marshall Family: Mary Claire, Elizabeth, Rose, Joy and Baby Margaret, Becket, Jude, Blaise, Taylor, Gabriel. Priest: Father Tom Longua

Margaret is officially a little saint – filled with the Holy Trinity and sanctifying grace. And check out this photo of Margaret 2 days after birth with this shadow of a cross on her forehead. Pretty cool. I don’t how this happened but it’s a good reminder that the baptized are marked with the sign of the cross:

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Thanks for praying for Margaret! She’s daddy’s little pearl.

If you’re a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, be sure to check out class on Baptism, Infants, and Thomas Aquinas on Limbo:

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And here’s a Youtube video Blaise’s baptism according to the 1962 Rite:

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Will Pope Allow Divorce and Remarriage for the Sake of Conscience?

Regarding the Conscience Kasperites™

The 2015 Roman Synod on the Family has come to a close and I’ve had a chance to review the document. As I stated back in July, the strategy of revisionist Kasperites (named after their proponent Cardinal Walter Kasper) in the Catholic Church will be to maintain official doctrine, but to change pastoral practice in the name of “mercy” so that the doctrine becomes de facto disregarded. We saw this play out during the Synod:

Cardinal Walter Kasper (age 82)

Cardinal Walter Kasper (age 82)

Thanks be to God, that the bishops at the Synod voted against the “Kasper Proposal.” If you need to catch up on what’s going down, you might read Father Z’s article on the Final Report Paragraphs 84-85. All the meat in this debate is found in those paragraphs.

UPDATED:

In 1993 Cardinal Kapser signed a pastoral letter which requested that divorced and civilly remarried German Catholics be able to receive the Eucharist under pastoral review. Then Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope Saint John Paul II strongly disapproved. So this has been in the works for over 22 years!

At Synod of Bishops in 2014, Cardinal Kasper told reporters that since African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries have a “taboo” against homosexuality, “they should not tell us too much what we have to do.” When the quote become public, Kasper denied having made the comment. The reporter Edward Pentin later produced a recording of the conversation, which verified that the Cardinal had made such a statement.

What is “Conscience” and How It Matters in This Debate

The “Conscience Kasperites”™ will use the slogan “conscience is inviolable” to license laymen, priests, and bishops (and popes?) to allow Catholics to openly disagree with Catholic teaching. Recently, Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago seems to serve as the American Apostle of “Conscience Kasperites”.

Archbishop Blase Cupich, age 66

Archbishop Blase Cupich, age 66

Archbishop Blase Cupich (pronounced SOO-Pitch) of Chicago (papal delegate to the Roman Synod on the Family) has said that civilly divorced and remarried Catholics should “come to a decision in good conscience” and that the Church should “help them move forward and to respect that.”

Thankfully, the Catholic Church didn’t allow King Henry VIII to “come to a decision in good conscience” and “respect that” with regard to his marriage(s). King Henry VIII, according to his own testimony, was 100% convinced that his union with Catherine of Aragon was not only null but contrary to God’s will. But the Catholic Church didn’t “help him move forward and respect that.” Schism followed but the Catholic Church stood firm for the teaching of Christ. It was the pastoral thing to do.

The Church and her bishops (and laity) don’t have magic goggles that allow them to inspect as to whether a person is living according to his or her conscience. Kasper and Cupich don’t know if a couple are living in accord with their conscience. This is why we Catholics have objective rules and tangible sacraments. Canon law and infallible magisterial teaching are the instruments of pastoral direction.

Father Z also spoke of the new doctrinal need for Catholics to get deep into the orthodox teaching on “conscience,” because the doctrine of conscience being advocated by the”Conscience Kasperites”™ is not the doctrine found in Saint John Paul II, nor in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Conscience is “con+scientia = “with knowledge”

Conscience is a word formed by two Latin words: con/cum (with) and scientia (knowledge). It is the judgment of reason by which we knowledgeably jude our moral actions. Here is what the Catechism says about conscience [with my comments in red]:

1796 Conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act. [conscience judges certain concrete acts – not tendencies or lifestyles]

1797 For the man who has committed evil, the verdict of his conscience remains a pledge of conversion and of hope. [conscience is a pledge toward conversion]

1798 A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. [conscience must be well-formed] It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. Everyone must avail himself of the means to form his conscience.

1799 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law [this is the part of the CCC that “Conscience Kasperites”™ reject] or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1800 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.

1801 Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt. [“Conscience Kasperites”™ also dismiss this truth that having a bad conscience does NOT necessarily remove moral guilt]

1802 The Word of God is a light for our path [the Word of God, the Bible is our path – so a pastor or bishop should read the word of God to us in each of these moral dilemmas so that we can make a right and true judgment]. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. This is how moral conscience is formed.

What’s the take home here? A conscience is well formed “with knowledge” based on the Word of God, prayer, and truth faith.

It is literally impossible for a Catholic to read the appropriate passages in Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and conclude in their conscience:

  • committing a homosexual act today is morally good.
  • today I can vote to fund abortion with tax-payer funds and not be guilty of grave sin.
  • if I’m still in a sacramental marriage “till death do us part,” I can have sex tonight with someone besides my living spouse.
  • to masturbate at this moment is morally permissible.
  • I can exploit my workers and not pay them because my conscience doesn’t bother me. It must not be a sin.
  • I am aware that the Catholic Church calls contraception an “intrinsic evil,” but my conscience tells me it’s a good thing for my marriage and well-being.

Please hold fast to the authentic Catholic teaching of Saint John Paul II. The conscience is “man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary.” Yet sanctuaries must be designed, decorated, and maintained.

Ignorance does mitigate guilt and can exclude it altogether. But pastorally, a shepherd (bishop or pastor) should feed his flock with the truth, and work to form their consciences with knowledge. 

Hard truth: If a parish is full of people with “badly formed consciences,” then what’s the proper pastoral response?

If my children grow up thinking that lying is okay or stealing little pieces of candy from the pharmacy is “no big deal” – then that’s my bad as a parent. I failed them as a father if they say, “When Dad saw us stealing candy at Walmart, he simply said: ‘Follow your conscience on the matter.'” But if they steal candy and know, “My father taught me not to do this, but I’m going to do it any way,” then I did my job and that’s their guilt.

Reverend and Spiritual Fathers, do your spiritual children know right from wrong? If you’ve been Pastor for 10 years and 90% of your congregation honestly thinks contraception is morally permissible, then you’ve failed them as a spiritual father. The deserve to be taught the Catholic truth in a careful, patient, and loving way. Caritas in veritate.

If a layman says, “Yes, Father, I understand that the Church teaches that [fill in the blank] is an intrinsic evil and/or disordered but for me in my conscience it’s good…so I’m going to keep doing it anyway, and I’ll keep coming to Holy Communion,” then that pastor should pray and work so as to correct the erroneous conscience. He cannot say “I’m glad that you’ve come to a decision in good conscience…and I want to help you move forward and I respect that.”

That’s not how father’s speak with children that they love.

What Can You Do – 3 Step Program?

Step 1: Read the section in the Catechism on Conscience in full. It will take you less than 2 minutes to read. Here it is: This is your homework (CCC 1776-1802).

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the way that Conscience Kasperites™ are using the word “conscience” to promote relativism. Relativists say, “What’s right for me may not be right for you.” Conscience Kasperites™ also affirm this teaching but they attempt to Christianize it by appealing to malformed consciences: “What’s right for your conscience may not line up with Church teaching, and that’s okay.”

Step 3: Pray and be joyful. Don’t be stressed out over this. The theological enemies of the Catholic Church always fade away. The truth of God abides forever. They will lose this battle. Their disagreement will only create a great movement of truth against it.

Question: Have you met Conscience Kasperites™? Are you ready? Do you think “conscience” is being abused? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Who was the Second Pope: Intro to Saint Linus

And his thoughts on chapel veils...

We all know that Saint Peter was the first Pope, but who took up the reins after the Emperor Nero crucified Peter upside down below the Vatican Hill?

Tradition identifies Saint Linus as Pope #2. In today’s video, I give you a short intro into this sainted pope and martyr – who shares a feast day with Padre Pio:

If you don’t see the video in your email or rss, please click here to watch it.

If you’re interested in going on a pilgrimage to Rome with me in 2016, please click here for details.

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