Pope Saint Callixtus I – Laxity, Contraception, Abortion in AD 217

What happens when you have canonized Catholic saints criticizing and resisting a canonic Catholic pope? That’s exactly what happened with Pope Saint Callixtus I, who died in AD 223.

Tertullian and Origen spoke against Pope Callixtus for his laxity. And Saint Hippolytus became the Catholic Church’s first antipope in resistance to Pope Callixtus who he saw as promoting and allowing: contraception, abortion, heresy, and easy-penance.

Why the conflict?

Before we get started I want to stress that all this happened 100 years before Constantine legalized Catholicism. Some wrongly assume that before Constantine the Church of Rome was a happy assembly of saints without church politics. Not quite. The Church of Rome has been plagued with conflict and controversy from the very beginning (as detailed in this book).

The document Philosophumena (attributed to Saint Hippolytus of Rome) recounts how Pope Callixtus had once been a Roman slave belonging to a Christian master named Carpophorus. Carpophorus placed his slave Callixtus (the future pope) in charge of funds that he had collected from other Christians for the care of orphans, widows, and the poor.

Callixtus the slave who lost all the money. He fled Rome but was discovered boarding a ship near Portus, the harbor city of Rome. Callixtus jumped overboard to avoid capture but was arrested nonetheless and taken back to his Christian master Carpophorus.

In an attempt to recover the money, Callixtus the slave physically assaulted Jews inside a Roman synagogue in attempt to either get a loan from the Jews or to collect debts from Jews. He was re-arrested. At this time, he was denounced as a Christian (probably by the Roman Jews) and sent as a prisoner to the mines of Sardinia.

Enter the Emperor Commodus. Commodus was the son of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. You likely remember him from the film Gladiator:

The Emperor Commodus had a “Christian” mistress named Marcia (you might be surprised to learn that Rome one hundred years later had a collection of so-called “Christian prostitutes” that were regulated by Constantine’s son). The “Christian mistress” Marcia was served by a eunuch named Hyacinth who was also an ordained presbyter. (100 years later, eunuchs were banned from ordination at the Council of Nicea).

Marcia and Hyacinth appealed to the Roman Emperor Commodus for the release of Christian prisoners from the mines of Sardinia. This imperial intervention effected the release of Callixtus and other Christians in the mines. Life in the mines was rough and they had suffered there as witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ. These Christians were honored by Christians back in Rome as quasi-martyrs.

Callixtus’s Rise to the Papacy:

  • Pope Victor I as Bishop of Rome honored Callixtus with a monthly pension from the Catholic Church, supposedly to honor him as a living confessor (one who suffered for Christ, but did not die).
  • Pope Zephyrinus (successor of Victor I) honored Callixtus in AD 199 by ordaining him as one of the prestigious “seven deacons of Rome,” and appointed him as guardian of the catacombs along the Appian Way. To this day, these catacombs are named after Callixtus as the “Catacombs of Saint Callixtus.” From his time until the time of Constantine, this catacomb became the ceremonial burial place for nine bishops of Rome. (Origen visited Rome during the reign of Pope Zephyrinus.)
  • Deacon Callixtus became the chief advisor of Pope Zephyrinus in Rome.
  • In AD 217, Pope Zephyrinus received the crown of martyrdom and the Deacon Callixtus was the obvious choice for Bishop of Rome.
  • Callixtus became Pope in AD 217 and established Santa Maria in Trastevere as his principle “cathedral” in Rome (this was before the Lateran basilica was given to the Church by Constantine and before the construction of the basilica at the Vatican).

Pope Callixtus as a “Lax Pope”:

Callixtus’s “pre-mining” life had been one of financial controversy, and yet he had proved himself faithful to Christ in the mines and worthy of respect and office in the Church of Rome. Perhaps it was his controversial past that lead to his position of laxity for the Church in Rome.

In AD 217 (the first year of his Pontificate), Pope Callixtus issued the “Decree of 217” which scandalized many, especially Tertullian who documents the episode. The Decree of 217 stated that penance and absolution would be enough to re-admit Christians to the Eucharist for the seven sins previously restricted. These seven sins were:

  1. murder
  2. idolatry
  3. fraud
  4. apostasy (publicly renouncing Jesus Christ)
  5. blasphemy
  6. adultery (sex with someone besides your spouse)
  7. fornication (sex outside marriage)
    (this list is found in Tertullian’s De Pudicitia*, Ch 19).

Pope Callixtus also allowed:

  • not requiring public penance from heretics entering the Catholic Church.
  • clergy t0 marry before and after ordination.
  • noble women to contract Christian marriages with plebs and slaves (forbidden by Roman law).

The Christians at the time were divided on this lax approach to sinners.

  • Tertullian openly wrote and taught against the lax novelties of Pope Callixtus.
  • The Greek-speaking Roman priest Hippolytus was elected as a rival Bishop of Rome and became the Church’s first Anti-Pope.
  • Origen relates how when he was in Rome he heard the famous Hippolytus preach – showing that Origen was sympathetic with Hippolytus’ theology. It seems however that Origen greatly respected the Bishop of Rome and that he heard Hippolytus preach before Hippolytus presumed to become a rival Bishop in Rome. Nevertheless, Origen’s strictness would seem to make him more sympathetic with the ancient practice of making sacramental absolution rare.

In general, opponents of Pope Callixtus alleged that his policies would lead to a lower of morals among Christians, and this proved to the case with regard to contraception and abortion.

The Problem of Abortion and Contraception among Christians during the time of Pope Callixtus:

Hippolytus laments that Catholic women in Rome began to engage in contraception and abortion during the lax reign of Pope Callixtus:

Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round [their belly], so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church.

For Hippolytus, this rise in contraception and abortion among Roman Christian women was a sign that the laxity of Pope Callixtus was bearing evil fruit.

Five or six years later, Pope Callixtus received the crown of martyrdom in AD 222 or 223 and was enrolled in the number of the saints. His feast day is October 14.

Conclusion:

Do grace and mercy lead to laxity. It’s a common question: If God forgives me no matter what, why not just keep sinning? Why change my life at all?

This precise question is tackled by Saint Paul in his epistle to the Romans 6:

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried[a] therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

It was and will be a perennial question for Christians in every age. If a Christian can just “pray the prayer” (as Evangelicals say), just be baptized, just go to confession, or just get an indulgence, why live like a saint?

Problems also with Rigorism:

But there is an opposite error. If the forgiveness of sin is rigorous (as it was before AD 217), two results follow:

  1. First, is simply despair. If forgiveness if far off, why even try?
  2. There is a second result that I would like to suggest that I rarely see in Patristic studies. I believe that the popularity of Gnosticism and Gnostic sects the exploded in the 100s was partly due to the lack of access to sacramental absolution. Gnostics promised that there were secret ways (not depending on morality or absolution) that allowed access to God. If a Christian had fallen into apostasy, murder, or adultery and could not find forgiveness and communion within the Catholic Church, there would be extreme pressure to join a Gnostic cult where immediate salvation and access to God was assured.

All Catholics today (even the SSPX) would grant that Pope Callixtus made the correct move, by allowing for “easy” absolution of grave sins before the time of death. (Easy, by the way, still entailed periods of public penance.) Did this new laxity come with a price? Yes. Did Catholic women try to “get away” with contraception and abortion? Yes. Does that still happen today? Yes.

Is the solution to this form of laxity to make the conditions for sacramental absolution more strict? No. I don’t think so. People can and will take advantage of grace in every age. There is no way to prevent that. However, we must always be in a position to recognize the forgiveness and mercy of Christ who was ready to immediately forgive the repentant Peter, Thomas, Paul, et al.

Question: I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic of lax vs. rigorous absolution. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

When Parents Die: Vladimir Lenin vs St John Paul II

When Vladimir Lenin’s father died, he declared that God could not exist, and he became and atheist and Marxist.

When Karol Wojtyła’s mother died, his faith in Christ became deeper, and he became a priest, became Pope John Paul II, and was later canonized as a saint.

Both men had pious fathers and both men lost their parents.

However, Lenin became a tyrant and mass-murderer. John Paul II became an inspiration for the entire world and pointed people to return to faith in Christ.

What made the difference in their life choices?

Question: Please leave a comment to share your ideas or thoughts on this. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Fall of Satan described in Ezekiel 28

I previously explained how Saint Augustine described the Fall of Lucifer and the demons and related it to Genesis Chapter 1. See video below In this article, I’m asking the question: “Is the Fall of Satan described in Ezekiel 28?” Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, and Augustine interpret the passage as allegorically referring to Lucifer.

Below is the original video on the Fall of Lucifer. Scroll below it to learn more about Ezekiel 28.

In Ezekiel 28, the prophet speaks against the King of Tyre, who was a historical person living in hostility to Yahweh and the people of Israel. However, the prophecy becomes quiet metaphysical and describes a personage beyond the historic King of Tyre. Tyre is the northern neighbor of historical Israel, see photo below:

Here’s the entire passage with my commentary in red (I generally use “Lucifer” to describe him as pre-fallen, non-sinful; and “Satan” to refer to him as fallen and sinful).

11 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me: 12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God:

“You were the signet of perfection, [Tertullian interprets “signet” or “seal” as meaning that Lucifer was created in the image of God with perfection – he had the highest created intellect and will]
full of wisdom
and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; [This is taking us beyond the historical king and back to the garden of Eden.]
every precious stone was your covering,
carnelian, topaz, and jasper, chrysolite, beryl, and onyx, sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald; and wrought in gold were your settings and your engravings. [The wearing of jewels was an honor of the High Priest of Israel. This language depicts Lucifer as originally a High Priest ministering before the presence of God.]
On the day that you were created they were prepared. [Lucifer was created in time and as good]

14 With an anointed guardian cherub I placed you; [Commentators debate this because the Seraph, not the Cherub, is the highest kind of angel. And yet here Lucifer the highest angel is called a second-tier “cherub.” It may be that angels like, priests “contain” the lower orders within them. For example, every priest is also a deacon and every bishop is also a priest and deacon, etc.]
you were on the holy mountain of God; [This reminds us that Eden is a mountain. It’s a high place like a temple or pyramid.]
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. [Eden or the Holy Moutain is fiery because of the love of God. “Seraph” means “burning one.”.]

15 You were blameless in your ways [This places Lucifer as sinless in the Garden of Eden. This points to Eden being something beyond a historical and geographical place on planet earth.]
from the day you were created, [Lucifer was created in time and as good]
till iniquity was found in you. [Here he falls in the sin of pride. He becomes Satan.]
16 In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, [Satan is profane and cast away from the Mountain that is Eden]
and the guardian cherub drove you out [this may refer to Saint Michael, see video]
from the midst of the stones of fire. [again the holy Eden/Mountain is on fire]
17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; [pride was his sin]
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground; [this seems to refer to Satan being cast to planet earth]
I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. [If we are still observing the fall of Satan, then “kings” here refers to the angelic hosts who witness God’s judgment against him.]
18 By the multitude of your iniquities,
in the unrighteousness of your trade
you profaned your sanctuaries; [His “sanctuaries” may refer to angels that were below him and in his charge – the third of angels that fell with him when God “separated the dark from the light”.]
so I brought forth fire from the midst of you;
it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes upon the earth [Satan is no longer beautiful but scorched and ashen]
in the sight of all who saw you.
19 All who know you among the peoples
are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
and shall be no more for ever.” [An eternal condemnation for Satan.]

As you move through the passage, it is difficult to see how it might apply to the historical King of Tyre. He did not live in Eden or on a burning Holy Mountain. He was not cast out by God and scorched with fire and made ugly. So how then would it apply to the King of Tyre?

It is likely that the King of Tyre is singled out as being Satan-like because of his historical association with Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. King Hiram of Tyre made an alliance with Solomon (Solomon was a Messianic “Son of David”, which I’ve discussed here and relating it to Saint Joseph). And King Hiram provided architects, worders, cedar, and gold for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Temple of Solomon was a mock up model of the Garden of Eden (Temple as Garden of Eden explained in my book The Crucified Rabbi) on the Temple Mount (Moriah).

King Solomon is a Christ-like figure and perhaps King Hiram is like a “high angel” figure. Hence, the King of Tyre’s dynasty turning against God is like Lucifer turning against God and His Messiah.

Regardless, the Ezekiel 28 is the locus classicus on the fall of Lucifer.

Applications for Christians Today:

  • Pride is the sin of Satan and the highest sin (v. 17). Let us pray for humility and meditate on the humility of Jesus Christ.
  • Satan’s fall is liturgical. It refers to priestly structures and sacred places. We cannot bend, break, or corrupt the liturgy of God because the liturgy presents God’s hierarchy and holiness for his creation.
  • It was Saint Michael (a much lower angel) that resisted Satan for the honor of God and His Logos. Let us have devotion and recourse to Saint Michael as a guardian given to us by Christ. It also signifies that personal agents in the lower orders of creation (lower laity or lower clergy) can and do have a place in God’s economy.
  • Christ and His Church have given us tools and defenses to protect us from Satan and his demons. these include:
    • 7 Sacraments
    • Holy water (uniting us to Christ as a sign of baptism)
    • Sacramentals (scapulars, St Benedict medals, blessed salt)
    • Devotion to Our Lady – Mary has replaced Satan as the highest creature in Heaven. Satan, we are told by exorcists, is especially ashamed of being c0-defeated and replaced by a “mere” human woman.
  • The best thing we can do is avoid sin through the grace of Jesus Christ. Every time we sin, even venially, we allow Satan to have a greater influence over our lives and our world.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us,

Dr Taylor Marshall

Catholic Audio: Your Guardian Angel is Not a Pet (Replay Link)

Your Guardian Angel has been with you since you were conceived in your mother’s womb. We should always revere these angelic beings and even ask their prayers. Today we discuss everything you need to know about your Guardian Angel and whether you’re allowed to name your Guardian angel. They are not our pets, they are our leaders. Click below to learn more about our spiritual status with these unseen guardians:

Click to Listen: “Should You Name Your Guardian Angel?”

If audio player does not show up in your email or browser, click here to listen.

Guardian Angels, pray for us,

Dr Taylor Marshall

When William Shakespeare died on the Feast of Saint George

Here’s a fun St George fact:

William Shakespeare died on the feast day of Saint George: April 23.It fits nicely with Shakespeare’s play Henry V which features the battle cry:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish author of Don Quixote (and solder at Battle of Lepanto) also died on April 23.

It’s also worth noting that the novel Dracula begins on April 23, the feast of Saint George, since Dracula a “slaying the dragon myth.” Dracula translates as “little dragon.”

On of the the readers of my Saint George historical novel Sword and Serpent also recently pointed out the center placement of Saint George on the Russian Coat of Arms up until 1917 (year of Our Lady of Fatima):

If you’d like to learn more about Saint George in history, please join our Sword and Serpent Discussion Group on Facebook by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

PS: Book 3 in the Sword and Serpent Trilogy comes out later this year.

Can you be a Christian and a Socialist? The Popes Say No

Popes have taught clearly that "Christian" and "Socialist" are mutually exclusive

Early this week, I posted “Catholic Condemnation of Socialism in 5 Papal Quotes (Pope Leo XIII Puts the Smack Down on Socialism)” and as expected, folks came out of the word work saying things like “Aha! But the Church doesn’t condemn Christian Socialism, but only condemns Marxist or atheistic Socialism.”

This isn’t true. Simply read Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum and you’ll discover that he condemns Socialism as an economic error contrary to natural law and social justice. But if that does not convince you, here are some quotes from subsequent Popes further laying the smack down on Socialism and even on so-called “Christian Socialism”:

Pius XI against “Christian Socialism”:

Here is a quote form Pope Pius XI on the 40th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum showing that “Catholic Socialism” or “Christian Socialism” is condemned by the Catholic Faith:

“Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true Socialist.” (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931. n. 120)

You cannot be “a good Catholic and a true Socialist.” It just doesn’t get any clearer than that! In that same encyclical, Pius XI also teaches:

“We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.” (Quadragesimo Anno, n. 117)

The important distinction made by Pope Pius XI is that even if Socialism is modified to “truth and justice on the points” of error, it “cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Socialism is inherently broken and motivated by covetousness. Socialism is, they say, the Gospel of Envy.

And one extra quote from Pius IX on Captitalism as not fundamenetally flawed as is Socialism:

“Capitalism itself is not to be condemned. And surely it is not vicious of its very nature, but it has been vitiated.”

Socialism is inherently flawed and condemned. Capitalism is not condemned. Capitalism is instrumentally neutral. It can be used for virtue or it can be used for vice (“vitiated”).

Pope John XXIII against “Moderate Socialism”:

And I’ve heard it said by some Catholics: “Yeah, but Leo XIII and Pius XI didn’t live to see later moderations of Socialism, so what they were condemning was an earlier form of Socialism.” In order to refute this objection, we have have Pope Saint John XXIII’s reiteration and approval of the previous papal condemnations of Socialism [the comments in red are my own]:

Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism [Catholics cannot even try to modify Socialism!]. The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being [Socialism is fundamentally materialistic and closed off to the spiritual]. Since, therefore, it proposes a form of social organization which aims solely at production; it places too severe a restraint on human liberty, at the same time flouting the true notion of social authority.”
(Pope John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961, n. 34)

Pope John XXIII teaches us that:

  • Pius XI was right on Socialism as being opposed to Christianity
  • Catholics may not subscribe “even to moderate Socialism”
  • Socialism is materialistic
  • Socialism restrains human liberty

Pope Paul VI on Socialism as Corrupt Ideology:

And Pope Paul VI also condemned Socialism in 1971 on the 80th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum against Socialism:

“Too often Christians attracted by Socialism tend to idealize it in terms which, apart from anything else, are very general: a will for justice, solidarity and equality. They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by the ideologies from which they originated.” (Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, May 14, 1971, n. 31)

Pope John Paul II as Reaffirming Leo XIII’s original condemnation of Socialism:

On the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of Socialism, Pope John Paul II issued the document Centesimus Annus reiterating the Catholic condemnation of Socialism:

It may seem surprising that Socialism appeared at the beginning of the Pope’s critique of solutions to the ‘question of the working class’ at a time when ‘socialism’ was not yet in the form of a strong and powerful State, with all the resources which that implies, as was later to happen. However, he correctly judged the danger posed to the masses by the attractive presentation of this simple and radical solution to the ‘question of the working class.’” (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, May 1, 1991, n. 12)

John Paul II lived under Socialism and understood its corruption of the working class. He perceived Leo XIII as a prophetic voice at the turn of the century.

The Popes of the 20th century explicitly teach that whether we modify Socialism in the shape of “Moderate Socialism,” or “Christian Socialism,” or “Theistic Socialism,” it still doesn’t fit into Catholic teaching. Socialism is not Christian and never will be Christian.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Liturgy does NOT mean Work of the People (Against Liturgical Pelagianism)

Examples of λειτουργία from the New Testament

It became quite stylish in the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s to teach that the Greek word for liturgy is λειτουργία (leitourgia) and that this word means “work of the people.” This led to the new idea that λειτουργία or “liturgy” is something that lay people should be leading and even performing within the context of worship.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people”? No.

Photo: Pope John XXIII Celebrating the Eastern Divine Liturgy

Liturgy certainly does not mean “work of the people,” and I’ll show you why from examples in Sacred Scripture. But before looking at Scripture, let’s look at the actual Greek word:

The Word “Liturgy” in Greek

λειτουργία, like so many words in Greek, is a composite. The first word half of the word derives form the Greek word “laos” meaning “people.” (There is also the variation of “leos” which is the Attic Greek version of the same word for “people.”) This word “laos” (or “leos” in Attic) is where we get laity and laypeople. It’s a generic word for a collection of people. The Greek name Menelaos means “withstanding the people” and the Greek name Nikolaos means “conquering the people.”

The second part of the word derives from the Greek word “ergon” meaning “work,” as in ergonomic, energy, and synergy.

When you smash the two Greek words together to describe something you get: leitourgia or λειτουργία.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people” or “work for the people”?

So the term contains the two Greek words for “people” and “work,” but how do we arrange it for its meaning? On one hand, it could be “work of the people,” meaning something the people work out together. On the other hand, it could be “work for the people,” meaning something done for the benefit of the people.

Option 1: Liturgy as “Work of the People”

The kumbaya (Elvis liturgy) crowd of the 1960s and 1970s insisted that it was former – something people work out when they come together. This led to the idea that lay people should lead prayers, read the lessons, prepare the altar, handle chalices, handle the Eucharist, distribute the Eucharist, bless people in the Communion line, and cleanse the vessels. After all, if liturgy means “work of the people,” then the people ought to be up there doing active work.

Option 2: Liturgy as “Work Done for the People”:

The historical, traditional, and received definition of liturgy or λειτουργία is that it is something done by one for the sake of the people. This may come as a crushing blow to the legions of Christians who were taught that liturgy was the “work of the people,” but it’s the plain truth. In Plato and other Greek authors, λειτουργία is something done by one for the sake of the people. Consequently, the Greek term is usually a priestly or political term depending on the context. And in the Bible, it is usually a priestly term, but we will examine one passage in Romans that is expressly political:

Let’s look at Sacred Scripture to settle the debate:

In the account of the birth of John the Baptist, we discover that his father Zacharias is an Aaronic priest of the tribe of Levi. As such, he serves in the Temple as a priest when it is the time of his allotment. [I explain elsewhere how this detail leads us to know that Christ as born in late December.] The passage explains that St Zacharias goes to the Temple to minister and the original Greek word is that he goes there to do liturgy:

And when his time of service (λειτουργίας) was ended, he went to his home. (Luke 1:23)

Did Zacharias gather a bunch of people to worship the Lord? No, the passage explains that his duty was to go into the Temple and offer incense to Yahweh. He did this to ceremoniously present the prayers of the people to God. It becomes obvious that his “liturgy” was something he did as a priest for the benefit of the people, not something he did as a priest with other people present.

Let’s look at another example from Hebrews:

And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship (λειτουργίας). (Heb 9:22)

This is a description of how Moses consecrated the tabernacle and vessels for divine worship in the Old Testament. The tent/tabernacle and the vessels could only be handled and used by the Levites, as they administered them for the benefit of Israel. Once again we see that λειτουργία refers to what is done by a priestly class on behalf of the laity.

The Liturgy of Christ as for the people:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry (λειτουργίας) which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Heb 8:6)

The author describes Christ as a High Priest who now administers a better New Covenant through a better λειτουργία or Liturgy. Once again, this λειτουργία is something Christ is administering on our behalf for our salvation. Notably it is His presentation of His Body and Blood to the Father for our redemption – something that is presented in every Liturgy of the Mass.

Roman Emperor as Liturgizer:

And let’s not forget that Saint Paul calls the evil Emperor Nero a “liturgizer.” In Romans 13, Saint Paul explains how the Roman Emperor (at that time Nero) and all political rulers are “liturgizers””

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant (διάκονός or diakonos) of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers (λειτουργοὶ or leitourgoi) of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Saint Paul identifies the Emperor as διάκονός or deacon and as all rulers as λειτουργοὶ or liturgizers. Be mindful that this Emperor was Nero, and yet he receives sacerdotal titles from Paul.

In fact, the dalmatic (which is worn by deacons) is an imperial garment traditionally reserved for the Byzantine court. I cannot find the source at the moment, but I recall reading once that Constantine was allowed to read Scripture in liturgy while still unbaptized because he was considered to be a quasi-deacon by virtue of his status as Emperor. And the Emperor in Constantinople processed with the Patriarch and the clergy, often in a dalmatic.

Back to “liturgy” in Romans 13. It’s manifest that the Roman Emperor and other Roman rulers are accorded the title of λειτουργοὶ. They are not liturgists designing services. Nero isn’t leading the people in “Gather us in, the rich and the haughty.” Rather these Roman rulers are, according to Paul, appointed by God to administer justice for the people. 

Liturgy as Something Done for People

Liturgy, at least in the Old and New Testament is something priestly or political that is done for the sake of the people. It is communal only in that it is done for others.

A priest saying the Mass alone in a Russian hotel room is doing “work for the people” without anyone else gathered together with him.

Likewise, the Pope gathered at a Mass of 10,000 people is doing “work for the people,” but the people being present doesn’t make it “liturgy.” The liturgy is accomplished in persona Christi for the people. Just as Zacharias was able to do “liturgy” all alone with his thurible in the Temple.

When Christ died on the cross, He administered a new λειτουργία for the people of the world. It was a liturgical act in which nobody participated by dancing, performing, reading from a book, or carrying a vessel. The truly “active participation” was accomplished by the Mother of God, Saint Mary Magdalene, the other women, and by the Apostle John when they lifted up their hearts to the divine Crucified Rabbi on the cross. They painfully and silently received the bloody λειτουργία of Christ on their behalf.

The time has come for us to understand liturgy as sacerdotal and as something done by Christ for His people. Cardinal Sarah summed this up recently with these words:

Liturgy is about God and His work for His people. Whoever tells us that we must celebrate ourselves in the liturgy is undermining biblical liturgy. Liturgy as “work of the people” is liturgical Pelagianism – the heresy that says that man can naturally work for his salvation.

If you’d like to learn about Sacramental Theology and earn your Certificate in Catholic Theology along the way, please join us at the New Saint Thomas Institute. We have a 2 part video on the “Mystical Meanings of the Mass according to Thomas Aquinas” waiting for you:

Learn more about our online theology courses and earn up to 6 Certificates in Philosophy, Theology, and Church History at newsaintthomas.com, the largest global online Institute for theological studies.

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

Catholic Condemnation of Socialism in 5 Papal Quotes

Pope Leo XIII Puts the Smack Down on Socialism

Sometimes you hear Christians says, “We can be faithful Catholics and Socialists with regard to economics, because we aren’t atheists like Marx.”

Actually, that’s not true. The Pope’s have spoken explicitly and condemned “Socialism” on theconomic grounds and in terms of social justice.

Socialism was condemned explicitly by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum.

I’ve included 5 quotes to help you understand how socialism is situated and condemned by Catholic theology. All the text in red is my commentary:

4. To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich [this has often been the strategy – to employ “covet thy neighbors goods” as a lever for social revolution], are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer [the Pope says the working man is the first to suffer in Socialism – and history proves His Holiness correct]. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, [it is “distorted” to ask the State to ‘transfer private property to the community”] and create utter confusion in the community.

The second quote emphasizes how the wage-earner is abused by Socialism:

5. Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner [wage-earners are abused], since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages [a person has right of liberty to use his wages as he sees fit], and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life [the wager earner has the right to seek to better his condition].

The third quote from Rerum Novarum condemns the Socialist principle that children belong to the State and not the father – and Pope Leo XIII quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas to validate his point:

14. “The child belongs to the father,” and is, as it were, the continuation of the father’s personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born. And for the very reason that “the child belongs to the father” it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents.”(4) The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice [it’s against social justice to replace parental supervision with State supervision], and destroy the structure of the home [hmmm…as socialism takes root, is it not historically evident that the domestic structure crumbles?].

The fourth quote regards the just due to labor:

15. And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord [This happened in Russia and Cuba. When social change is depended on covetousness of one class against another, hatred and murder follow]; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry [Yep, why work hard when you get paid the same for the chump doing nothing? It’s entirely unjust!]; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation [Socialist communities always lead to the poverty of all – not to a stable middle class]Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected [Did you get that? “utterly rejected”], since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind [it’s directly against natural law and social justice], and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property [Private property, not shared property, IS THE FIRST AND FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE to alleviate poverty]. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found.

The fifth and final quote for today comes from paragraph 17 and shows how Socialists “strive against nature”:

17. It must be first of all recognized that the condition of things inherent in human affairs must be borne with, for it is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level. Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain [Socialists strive against nature!]. There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition [we have different aptitudes, assets, and liabilities]. Such unequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity for business and the playing of many parts; and each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition [handicaps do not prevent humans from the dignity of work and production]. As regards bodily labor, even had man never fallen from the state of innocence, he would not have remained wholly idle [work is not evil – it’s part of the pre-sin vocation for humans]; but that which would then have been his free choice and his delight became afterwards compulsory, and the painful expiation for his disobedience. “Cursed be the earth in thy work; in thy labor thou shalt eat of it all the days of thy life.”

So what can we summarize about the condemnation of Socialism from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum:

  1. Socialism promotes envy between classes. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.”
  2. The transfer of private property to community property is against nature and justice.
  3. Socialism hurts the working man first and foremost.
  4. A person has the right to improve his social condition through labor. His social condition should not be taken away from him.
  5. Socialism perceives children as belonging to the State chiefly, and thus the State has a prior right over the father of the child with regard to guardianship, education, and labor. This the Pope condemns.
  6. Socialism must be “utterly rejected.”
  7. Socialism leads to “condition of misery and degradation.”
  8. The Pope recognizes that not every human has equal aptitude in this life for wage-earning.
  9. Labor is good and not evil. Socialism wrongly presumes that work is always an exploitation of one class serving another class.
  10. It is evident in these quotes, but especially elsewhere, that those who have acquired private property should share their goods with those who are in need. This is the call to almsgiving that Proverbs and Christ repeatedly exhort us to practice.

Please share this post with others so that they can see that Socialism per se is condemned by Catholic social teaching.

Godspeed,

Dr Taylor Marshall

When was the process of Beatification invented?

Last week we explored the development of the process for canonizing Catholic saints – by with the Church on earth recognizes if someone is certainly in Heaven or not.

Roughly the contemporary process looks like this:

Servant of God → Venerable → Blessed → Saint

This week, a reader named Fr. Paul D’Souza, OCD writes a question about the history of the process of Beatification:

Dear Dr. Taylor,

Just yesterday we were discussing whether or not there was a process of canonization and beatification in earlier centuries.

We were especially concerned with Blessed Dionysius and Redemptus who were martyred in 1638. Can you kindly find out for us when they were declared venerable? and other details of the PROCESS leading to their beatification in 1900 by Leo XIII. I am a Carmelite from Goa where we had a monastery in the 17th century from where these two went to their martyrdom in Sumatra.

Father Paul

Father Paul, bishops had the power of beatifying deceased Christians within their own diocese until July 6 1634, when Pope Urban VIII reserved the power of beatifying to the Pope alone (Cœlestis Jerusalem).

Being declared “Venerable” essentially means: “This person is approved as heroic in virtue, so now we are just waiting for one miracle to move on to beatification.”

I’m not sure about Blessed Dionysius (Denis) and Blessed Redemptus (shared feast day Nov 29) who were martyred in 1638. If you don’t count Saint Bede, the earliest example of being called “Venerable” goes back to 1673 (35 years after their martyrdom). We certainly have popes declaring “Venerables” in the 1700s. So it is unclear to me whether these two Blesseds were formally declared “Venerable” prior to their beatification in 1900. I suspect that they were since Venerable came to mean “accepted into the process of canonization” and each martyr was already well along that process by 1900.

Godspeed,

Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: Notably, all priests of the Carthusian Order use the title “Venerable” rather than “Reverend.”

How Saints are Canonized? From Local to Papal Canonizations over time

Episcopal Canonization (began in 300s)

Local bishops would recognize martyrs or deceased confessors (saints who were not martyred) within their diocese by confirming the cultus of the person and often by doing so by erected an altar over their grave or by placing their remains/relics within an altar.

Metropolitan Canonizations (began in 400s)

By the time of Saint Augustine (d. 430), the process required the further ratification of the metropolitan archbishop of the province to which the saint belonged. (A province is a collection of dioceses within a Roman province headed by a metropolitan archbishop.)

The last Metropolitan canonization of a saint occurred in AD 1153 with the canonization of Saint Walter of Pontoise by the Archbishop of Rouen. After this, Popes in Rome reserved the right to canonize saints.

Papal Canonization (began in AD 993)

As the Church gained more political power, Catholic royalty would press bishops to canonize their kinfolk and ancestors so as to prop up their political standing as being holy and beneficent. It better establishes your crown if dad or granddad is a venerated saint.

Popes as Bishops of Rome had canonized Roman saints. But AD 993 marks the first papal canonization outside Roman territory with that of Saint Udalric, Bishop of Augsburg (and belonging to the family of the  Ottonian dynasty) by Pope John XV.

Pope Alexander III decreed in 1170 that the canonization of saints was reserved to the Pope alone after investigation.

Pope Benedict XIV (1740 – 1758) established the procedure for papal canonizations. Since 1983, under John Paul II, the process looks like this:

  1. Servant of God – person submitted by local bishop to Rome for consideration
  2. Venerable – Rome formally recognizes the heroic virtue of the person. The person is not said to be in Heaven, does not receive a feast day, and churches or shrines cannot be dedicated to this person. However, prayer cards can be printed and distributed.
  3. Blessed – This is the papal approval for a local diocesan cult. One confirmed miracle through the post-mortem intercession of the person is required.Beatification confirms officially that it is “worthy of belief” that the Venerable is in Heaven and saved. A feast day is assigned to the Blessed but it is restricted to the home diocese of the Blessed and not to the universal Church.
  4. Saint – This is the papal approval for a universal cultus of the person. A total of two miracles are required (one more after the beatification miracle). The feast day is universal and parish churches, cathedrals and shrines may be named after the saint. Canonization confirms that the person certainly enjoys the Beatific Vision of Heaven.

Equipollent (Papal) Canonization (began in late 1500s)

Beginning in the late 1500s, Popes also recognized an form of papal canonization known as “equipollent canonization.” Equipollent means “equal in power.” These canonization do not require a formal process of canonization or miracles. Rather, equipollent canonizations recognize an already large, ancient and thriving cultus to a deceased and miraculous Christian person. Here are the conditions:

  1. existence of an ancient cultus of the person
  2. a constant attestation to the virtues or martyrdom of the person
  3. uninterrupted fame as a worker of miracles

Examples include these equipollent saints:

  • Bruno
  • Raymond Nonnatus (literally “not born”)
  • Stephen of Hungary
  • Margaret of Scotland
  • Wenceslaus of Bohemia
  • Peter Damian
  • Boniface
  • Cyril and Methodius
  • Ephrem the Syrian
  • Albert the Great
  • John of Ávila
  • Hildegard of Bingen
  • Gregory of Narek

There has been increase in equipollent canonizations: 18 or so in the last 100 years. My guess is that this will reduce over time as most canonized saints are more recent and will likely go through the now established papal canonization process.

All Saint, pray for us,

Taylor Marshall, PhD