Does the Mega-Diocese foster sexual scandals and bad priests? Yes

The 2002 Boston Scandal, the Cardinal McCarrick Scandal, and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report reveals that the bishops are at ground zero in this scandal.

  • Some bishops didn’t properly vet seminarians and admit perverts.
  • Some bishops ordained mental disturbed, predatory priests.
  • Some bishops covered the crimes of Judas priests.
  • Some bishops relocated the predatory Judas priests.
  • Some bishops made secret payouts to victims to keep them quiet.
  • Some bishops have been molesting and having homo-relations with seminarians and priests.

The laity are shocked that so-called Episcopoi (Greek word for “bishop” meaning “supervisor” or “overseer”) could do such horrible things and still show up smiling for photos after the post-confirmation ceremonies. How could this be?

Continue reading the article below or watch the video Youtube version here:

Three Reasons for Sexual Scandals:

  1. Denial of Christian Faith. These clerics are secretly atheists, agnostics, or Satanists who see the Church as a social justice network that pays well and provides a lifestyle of insurance, income, retirement and unquestioned access to compromised men and vulnerable children.
  2. Homosexuality. The 2004 John Jay Report publicized that 80% of priest abuse victims are male. The orientation of abuse was overwhelming homosexual According to James Martin and Larry Stammer, 15–58% of American Catholic priests are homosexual in orientation. Father Dariusz Oko of Poland has suggested that 50% of the bishops in the United States are homosexual.
  3. Evolution of the Mega-Diocese. Since 1900, the concept of the Catholic diocese has morphed into something that would not be recognized by Christians of the medieval period, and certainly not by the Church Fathers.

Today, I want to focus on the third. The problem of the Mega-Diocese: what it is, how it happened, and how it leads to clericalism and sexual abuse.

I am NOT stating that the Mega-Diocese is the root cause of sexual scandal or that eradicating it will fix everything! We need a a refocus on intrinsic evils, formation of true consciences, biblical literacy, removal of sexual active bishops/clergy, orthodox theological, Thomism, liturgical reverence, and heroic priests. But the Mega-Diocese is certainly infertile soil for these changes. Read on to discover the historic origin of this deformation and why it fosters abuse.

Picture above: a bishop gathered with his diocese.

What is a Mega-Diocese?

A Mega-Diocese is a diocese so enormous that a bishop cannot oversee it. Remember “bishop” in Greek is επίσκοπος (episcopos) which means “overseer.” Epi means “over” as in the word epidermis. Skopos means “see” as in the English words scope and telescope.

A Mega-Diocese is a diocese so enormous that a bishop cannot oversee it. Click To Tweet

We all desire lower Student/Teacher Ratios:

Parents eagerly search for schools with a low teacher/student ratio. Everyone in education knows that as you raise the teacher/student ratio, scores and academic performance go down. 12 students to 1 teacher proves to produce higher scores and better outcomes. 40 students to 1 teacher proves to produce lower scores and more drop outs.

But we currently have very high Disciple/Bishop Ratios:

What we have created over the last 150 years (since the loss of the Papal States, really) is an insanely high disciple/bishop ratio with regard to bishops. Bishops belong to the magisterium in union with the Pope. Magister is Latin for teacher. The bishop is the primary teacher. So we are discussing a student/teacher ratio here, as well. As the disciple/bishop ratio increases, what do we see? Lay people know their faith less (akin to lower scores), and they drop out at higher numbers (leave the church).

Currently here are the number of baptized in the top 4 USA archdioceses:

1  Los Angeles 4,174,304
2 New York 2,521,087
3 Chicago 2,442,000
4 Boston 2,077,487

How can a bishop manage this? He cannot. Not even Saint Paul could manage this? So how did we get here?

How did we get high Disciple/Bishop Ratios?

In the Patristic and Medieval Church, every wrinky-dink town had it’s own bishop. For evidence look at Italy:

  • Italy has 227 dioceses. 116,350 sq mi and population of 60,483,973 people
  • USA has 167 dioceses. 3,796,742 sq mi and population of 325,719,178 people

Here are 2 maps that I created for reference:

What we see here is that the Catholic Church from AD 100-1500 was appointing a bishop for almost every “town” in Italy since a bishop should be able to geographically access his flock.

Italy has 227 dioceses. USA has 167 dioceses. This is wrong for the USA and it's contrary to subsidiarity. Click To Tweet

After 1520, but especially after 1870, the Catholic Church slowed down its bishop appointments, and the Papacy began to settle for “mega-dioceses.” By the 1900s, this problem was everywhere in the United States and has become ridiculous since the death of Pope John Paul II.

In 1950, the bishop of Los Angeles served 832,375 lay Catholics. In 2016, the archbishop of Los Angeles was responsible for 4,392,000 lay Catholics.

How the Mega-Diocese Fails Christians:

The Mega-Diocese is based on the presumption that one man can shepherd a million people and oversee hundreds of priests (both are impossible). The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has 1,117 priests and 4,392,000 baptized laity. One bishop can not oversee 1000+ priests. One bishop cannot be shepherd for 4.3 million people. For reference, the entire population of England in AD 1086 was 3.6 million. Imagine if all of England in AD 1086 had only one bishop! Ridiculous.

The Mega-Diocese is based on the presumption that one man can shepherd a million people and oversee hundreds of priests (both are impossible). Click To Tweet

Enter the Legal Fiction of Auxiliary Bishops:

In order to “fix” this problem, the Popes began to appoint “Auxiliary Bishops.” According to Apostolic example, Patristic custom, and ancient Catholic Councils, a bishop must be a bishop of a geographic place. So you cannot have 3 bishops of the same geographic region. For Saint Ignatius of Antioch or Polycarp, multiple bishops in one place would be a schismatic and heretical act. There is only one geographic bishop for one geographic place. 

So the Popes (initially Pope Leo X) created a legal fiction called Auxiliary Bishops with titular sees. The Pope appoints the Auxiliary Bishop to a geographical diocese that no longer exists, and then sends that auxiliary bishop to work inside the diocese of another bishop. Incidentally, the Pope that first allowed this legal fiction was the infamous Medici Pope Leo X (the same Pope whom Martin Luther spoke out against in 1517). Previous popes had banned the custom of auxiliary bishops with fictional titular sees.

For example, Bishop Robert Barron (to choose the most well-known auxiliary bishop) is an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles. However, since every bishop must actually be a canonical bishop of his own geographical area, Bishop Barron is actually the titular bishop of “Macriana in Mauretania” – an ancient Berber town in Algeria.

On paper and in reality, this canonical appointment to Macriana in Mauretania is ridiculous. Bishop Barron has nothing to do with Macriana and we shouldn’t create the legal fiction of bishops over non-existing “sees.”

In the early Catholic Church, Bishop Barron would simply be bishop ordinary of his pastoral region of Santa Barbara. He would simply become Bishop of Santa Barbara – not Pretend Bishop of “Macriana in Mauretania” but really serving the people of Santa Barbara under the auspices of the geographical bishop of Los Angeles. What a mess.

I’m not blaming Bishop Barron or any auxiliary bishop for this situation. They are obeying the directives of canon law and the Pope and are in good faith with regard to their appointments. There are great men serving as auxiliary bishops throughout the world. But when we look at it from a systemic point of view, it reveals an ecclesiological problem that contradicts both the Council of Nicea and biblical and patristic theology about the local ecclesia.

How to fix the Mega-Diocese? Break it up with Subsidiarity

The Mega-Diocese is an offense against the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity – the doctrine that matters ought to be handled by the smallest and most proximate competent authority – not by a Cardinal Archbishop living 90 miles away who also has the direct canonical care of souls for 1 million people. It’s a mistake to ask a bishop to be responsible for 1 million people and 1,000 priests. It’s a crime against the laity, too. The Mega-Diocese is bad for everyone.

The Mega-Diocese is an offense against the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity - the principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest and most proximate competent authority - not by an archbishop living 90 miles away who… Click To Tweet

When we see a public school teacher with 50 students in a class, we know its bad for the teacher and bad for the students. Everyone loses. Same the episcopal-diocesan structure.

How do we fix the Mega-Diocese problem? Obviously, a diocese of over one million souls is too big and too spread out. We need to follow the custom of ancient popes and have many, many, many more dioceses and bishops appointed. We need ecclesial subsidiarity. If Italy has 227 dioceses and the USA has 167 dioceses, we have an apparent problem. Creating more Mega-Dioceses and more and more auxiliary bishops will yield more abuse inside a broken system.

How big should a diocese be? 

There were around 150-250,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Paris during the medieval era. It may seem extreme, but I don’t see the benefit of having a diocese any bigger than that. If a bishop had 100 priests and 100,000 people, it would be a manageable situation.

Still don’t believe me, ask Moses:

The biblical Mega-Diocese of Moses in Exodus 18 and the advice of Jethro:

Moses was exhausted overseeing the 400,000 Israelites under his pastoral supervision. His father-in-law Jethro observed this and rebuked Moses while providing a solution to break up his “Mega-Diocese”:

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law (Jethro) saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone….21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

If Moses couldn’t handle it, so also the modern bishop cannot handle it. Moses followed the advice of Jethro. He appointed men to oversee “thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” He didn’t place men “over 10,000 or even 100,000.” That’s too much! In other words, Jethro tells Moses: “Lets practice pastoral subsidiarity.”

In other words, Jethro tells Moses: Lets practice pastoral subsidiarity. Click To Tweet

It’s comical that my own enormous state of Texas has – 15 dioceses! The disciple/bishopratio here is horrible. Moreover, bishops spend entire weekends driving out into the country for confirmations at their parishes hours away.

Just like parents with kids in the school district, we lay people should beg and ask for a better disciple/bishop ratios. Say no to more auxiliary bishops. That’s a cheap bandaid covering the wound. The Archdioceses of LA and NYC should be broken into the 5 dioceses. The reason it won’t happen now is money. But in a pastorally sensitive church, those Mega-Dioceses would be prudently divided into 5 geographic dioceses. Let an auxiliary bishop simply be a bishop of that deanery and call him “bishop ordinary.”

The Archdioceses of LA & NYC should be broken into the 5 dioceses. The reason it won't happen now is money. But in a pastorally sensitive church, those Mega-Dioceses should be divided into 5 dioceses. Let an auxiliary bishop… Click To Tweet

Until we break up the Mega-Dioceses, do not expect clerical sexual scandal to get better or heal. The Mega-Diocese is unaccountable, noisy, not policed, and unsupervised. The Mega-Diocese allows the predatory priest (and bishop) to wear camouflage. Meanwhile a bishop close to his people and even closer to his priests as “father to fathers” is both more accountable and a better supervisor as episcopos.

I’d love to hear more recommendations, objections, and thoughts, especially from laity and clergy existing within the Mega-Diocese structures. One thing that I didn’t cover is that Mega-Diocese usually have low native seminarian counts and low ordination counts. They statistically cannot produce vocations. If the bishop is the sacramental “father of fathers,” then he is the overworked “absent father figure” within a Mega-Diocese. Vocations are not conceived by absent fathers.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Pray for the Church ad Jesum per Mariam cum Petro,
Dr Taylor Marshall

If the bishop is the sacramental father of fathers, then he is the overworked absent father figure within a Mega-Diocese. Vocations are not conceived by absent fathers. Click To Tweet

PS: I would also add that bishops should be chosen from among the local presbytery or at least from near regional dioceses, and not “imported” from elsewhere. Moreover, bishops should not be moved all over the nation like bishop pieces on a chess board. A bishop should stay the bishop of one place for life…like marriage. St John Fisher, pray for us.

Video: Did Mary Die BEFORE she was Assumed into Heaven? Yes

Did Mary die and enter a tomb to later be resurrected and assumed into Heaven? Or did God immediately raise up her body into Heaven?

You might be surprised to learn that Catholic iconography, saints, Eastern liturgy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and even Pope Pius XII taught that she first died and then her body was assumed into Heaven. But her “death” was different. Let’s discover the distinction. Here’s a video I produced on the topic:

Click here to begin watching the video: Did Mary Die?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Our Immaculate Mother of the Christ, pray for us,
Dr Taylor Marshall

The Chalice of the Last Supper and Saint Laurence of Rome

A curious element of the Roman Canon is that it refers to the chalice as “this chalice”:

Simili modo postquam coenatum est, accipiens et hunc praeclarum Calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: item tibi gratias agens, benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes…

Which I translate as:

In similar way, after He had supped, taking also this precious chalice into His holy and venerable hands again giving thanks to Thee, He blessed it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: All of you, take and drink this…

There is a tradition that the chalice used in Rome was once the actual chalice used by our Lord Jesus Christ at the first Eucharist.

When the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered the beheading of Pope Sixtus II in Rome, the Pope’s deacon named Lawrence sold the gold chalices and precious items and gave the proceeds to the poor. However, there was one item that was preserved. According to legend it was the chalice used at the Last Supper by Christ and served as the personal chalice of Saint Peter who had brought it to Rome. This is why the Roman liturgy reads: “hunc praeclarum Calicem.” Laurence gave this special chalice to a Roman soldier who took it to Spain.

Here is a photo of it paired with a painting from 1560 by Juan de Juanes that incorporated it:

And painted by Juan de Juanes:

If this tradition is valid, then this is the chalice of the Son of God and also the chalice of Saint Peter used by Peter and all popes up till the martyred Pope Sixtus II. The mystery of faith.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Pope Zachary (d. 752) in 7 Points

Pope Zachary is one of the top 10 Popes of the early medieval periods. Let’s take a look at some high points in his pontificate:

  1. Pope Zachary appointed Saint Boniface (Apostle of Germany) in AD 742 as Papal Legate to the German dioceses.
  2. Pope Zachary condemned the practice of worshipping angels in AD 745.
  3. He is the Pope known for deposing the Merovingian King of the Franks, Childeric III and then granting the crown to Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne. Saint Boniface crowned Pepin King of the Franks at Soissons in 752.
  4. Pope Zachary accused the court of Constantinople, along with its Patriarch, and its Emperor Constantine V of heresy. They promoted iconoclasm: the destruction of images of Christ and the saints and banned their production. (Here’s my podcast on iconoclasm in its Byzantine context.)
  5. Pope Zachary built the original church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (“over Minerva”) over an ancient temple to Minerva near the Pantheon. This church would later become a setting for the Dominican Order. It’s (revised) interior is stunning.
  6. Pope Zachary forbade the selling of slaves to Muslims in the city of Rome.
  7. But here is why I really like Pope Zachary: While restoring the Lateran Palace, he relocated the relic of the skull of Saint George to the church of San Giorgio al Velabro (a church I visit annually in Rome).

Here’s a photo of me in San Giorgio al Velabro kneeling by the altar that holds the skull of Saint George.

It looks empty now but a cleric in the church told me that the skull is still in there. Just not visible (if I understood his Italian).

If you’d like to read my bestselling historical fictional account of Saint George’s life, please check out my novel: Sword and Serpent at amazon.com.

Are Catholic Canonizations of Saints Infallible? Yes

On the interwebs you sometimes bump into a few Catholics that assert that canonizations are not infallible or are reversible. They will cite saints who are allegedly un-sainted (eg. St George, St Christopher, St Philomena – I explain why they are NOT un-sainted in this podcast) or they will object to canonized saints that they don’t like (eg, St John XIII or St Josemaria).

Canonizations are Infallible. Here’s why:

Concerning the Potential Problem of “Damned Saints”:

When a person is damned, he hates and curses God forever in Hell. That’s what damnation is. It’s a decision to reject God and His love. The damned person lacks all charity toward God. As Thomas Aquinas, would say, he belongs to the Kingdom of Satan. He is officially anti-Christ.

If the Church mistakingly were to canonize a damned man, then that means monks and nuns would be praying the Liturgy of the Hours and commemorating a man who currently curses God – and doing so annually in the liturgical cycle. Moreover, this would entail that priests are celebrating Masses in honor of a man who is literally diabolical. Even more so, churches, chapels, and cathedrals would be erected and consecrated in honor a man who hates God. No doubt, the devil would love all of this. So canonizations are infallible.

Concerning the Potential Problem of “Make-Believe Saints”

The same goes saints who are claimed to not have existed. If someone were to say that St George or St Christopher were make-believe people, then you have the Liturgy of Hours and Holy Mass celebrated to what amount to cartoon characters. It would be like celebrating Mass in honor of Luke Skywalker. It’s a mockery of true religion.

[Shameless plug: Check out my #1 Bestselling Historical Novel Sword and Serpent for a plausible biography of Saint George (and the “Dragon”) along with Saint Christopher by clicking here.]

We can grant that the legends and hagiography about certain saints are exaggerated or embellished, but we cannot say that the Church formally venerates imaginary people, celebrated Mass in honor of imaginary people, or that there are Churches dedicated to imaginary people.

If so, the devil would love all of this. So canonizations are infallible. It’s also worth noting that when a Pope canonizes a saint he invokes his authority as Vicar of Christ and successor to Saints Peter and Paul in a way similar to declaring dogmas infallible.

I recently wrote a history of the process of canonizations. You can read it here: “How Saints are Canonized: from Local to Papal Canonizations over Time.”

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.

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

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

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.