"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Judge Not

NOVEMBER 28, 2012

by Pete Jermann

Behind these two words “judge not” (Matthew 7:1) stand the champions of moral relativism. Before the wall the relativists erect with these two words, Christians drop their weapons, seemingly defeated by a rampart they thought was meant for their own defense. The Gospels are the ultimate love story and from their midst not only do we find we are not to judge, but we are also to throw no stones and to turn the other cheek. In a world that increasingly dismisses Christian faith as outmoded, judgmental and even hateful we seem defenseless. We find ourselves asking for the gloried Excalibur and receive in its place a Nerf sword of plastic and foam.

But are we really left flailing the air with a toy sword? Many Christians have seemingly accepted this. They have accepted that loving your neighbor and not judging him leave the Christian with no other option than to pat him on the back and to assure him that he will be fine, that we can accept him just as he is. To do otherwise is to judge and only God can do that. This works. It is comfortable for both parties, calling neither to any particular effort, and it fits well within our modern concept of love as something that makes everyone feel good.

Yet the ultimate love story ends with the ignominious death of the ultimate lover, the one who turned the other cheek, the one who threw no stones and the one who could have judged but never did. It ends not with the whimper of the weak and the wielding of an ineffectual weapon but with the wind of the Holy Spirit turning history on its head and coloring the world with a new lightness and a new hope. This should indicate that if our love is too comfortable, maybe it isn’t love at all. If the love of Jesus led to his giving everything in the most discomfiting way imaginable, perhaps we need to reconsider our own love when it requires nothing of us. Perhaps the decision to not judge is no more abjectly passive than was Christ’s decision to accept the cross. Perhaps the call to not judge is actually a call to courageous action.

To begin to understand this we must see ourselves not as nags sent to wheedle, correct and cajole but as people with something to give, as Christ came to give. But we must first understand the gift and be sure it is in our hands to pass on. The word “gospel” means good news. The good news is that the gift we need to give is freely offered to us. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus himself describes the gift: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45) In other words, the gift is worth more than anything else we could possibly own. It is worth having at all costs and it is offered to all. If we fully understand the gift we will want it and, like the merchant, will give up all to have it. We will clean out our attics, our closets and our cellar because it is a gift so large it will fill our house completely.

Yet if we see the Gospels as a promise and a light in our own lives but as a club to wield over the lives of others, then we have underestimated and misunderstood the good news. We have not fully cleaned our house. We can only understand the gift when we understand that “God is love,” (1 John 4:8) and that love is a gift of self freely given as God gave himself in the life of Jesus. It is only in the giving that it truly becomes love. To understand the good news of the gospels is to see that we cannot hold it as our own. By its very nature this good news must be passed on. Its very nature compels us to invite all to its message, much as a bride and bridegroom, anxious to share their love for each other, will not be content until everyone has been invited to their wedding. It was this spirit with which the Apostles went forth after Pentecost, not to cram goodness down everyone’s throat, but to pass on the love that had become integral to their own lives. They preached not to look down on sinners but to fill the holes that sin left in people’s lives. They went forth bearing gifts, and they gave completely, offering their very lives, because they could not hold the light in their hand, call it their own, and still possess it.

The call of the Gospels is to love and to love completely. Jesus showed us that this love was to give and give completely, that love is in the gift offered not the threat delivered. The Kingdom of heaven is in that love. It is a Kingdom to be lived now and more completely beyond this life where all love is lived completely. To understand this love is to understand that sin is the absence of love. It is a void in our lives crying to be filled. To love is not to see evil and condemn it but to see ourselves and our neighbors as lepers, blind men and cripples in need of a cure. It is to understand that a God of love can no more love our disability than a mother could love the cancer her child carries. It is with this love that we must see both ourselves and our neighbors.

When we see this we will see that love allows no moral high ground. To love is not to see sin in others as an opportunity for self-righteous acclamation, but as a time for sadness, not because the sin deserves condemnation but because it blinds the sinner to the greater glories within his reach. It is the sadness of watching the sun rise to a new day with a friend who is blind. It is a sadness that cries, “Let me be you, and let you be me, so you can see what I can see.” It is a sadness that knows that such an offer is incomprehensible because sin has pre-empted the very idea of a rising sun. It is a sadness knowing a friend has accepted darkness for light, blindness for sight. It is a sadness that Jesus must have felt for Judas when he left the last supper to go about his business.

To love is not to condemn but to hope and to pray for a ray of light to penetrate the darkness. To love is to never condemn but to see the sinner as one who has condemned himself. To love is to help the sinner find his way out of his own condemnation, out of his own self imposed blindness. To love is to see that you cannot judge and must not judge because in doing so you would accept the condemnation sin imposes. Love can no more accept this than a loving mother can smother her child. But to understand this, is to see that love cannot accept the unlove, the sin that has blinded the beloved. To love and not judge are simply complements. To love and ignore sin are diametric opposites, because to ignore sin is to judge, to condemn and to give up hope on either yourself or your neighbor. This love does not allow.

To love is to see that we must perfect ourselves. Jesus does not conclude his adjuration to not judge with the suggestion that we walk away but with the command to “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) We are not told to walk away but to put our own house in order and then return to help our brother. To help others see we must first remove our own blindness. To not do so renders us inadequate to share a vision we cannot fully see or comprehend. It renders us incapable of loving completely. To not perfect ourselves is to offer our neighbor a candle when he needs the sun. It is only when we have freed ourselves from sin that we can see the slavery in which it held us. Only then will we see that the gift we offer is not a cudgel to beat out righteousness but a shovel to dig our neighbor out of the binding mire and a light to pierce the blinding gloom. We return to our neighbor as God’s abolitionists, not to castigate the slave and blame him for his slavery, but to free him.

“Judge not” is not a call to passivity. To “judge not” is to fully embrace our plea in the Fatima prayer in the rosary when we ask God to “lead all souls to heaven.” To “judge not” is a call to action, but an action that must start in our own lives. We must begin with an examination of our own faith. When we see our faith as something good for us but of no use to our neighbor, we have judged our neighbor as unworthy of what we have. We cannot love and not give the thing we consider most precious. If we have nothing precious to give, or if we consider the good news of the Gospels one of many competing and worthy tales spanning the different cultures of the world, then we actually believe in nothing more than a fairy tale that makes us feel good. We must see the “precious” in our faith. We must actively seek and maintain the light that is too precious to keep to ourselves.

When we truly find that light the need to shine it everywhere will be compelling. Anything less than its full exposure means we have passed judgment. When we tepidly proclaim the word of the Lord so as not to give offense, we judge our listeners to be beyond its benefit. When we mute the doctrinal teaching of the Church so as not to challenge, we judge people deserving of the sin that enslaves them. When we greet all with open arms after first hiding the silver freely given to us, we judge ourselves bankrupt with nothing to give. When we treat sin as anything less than a cancer on mankind, we have judged mankind unworthy of love. When we hunger for the bread of life and deny that hunger in others, we judge them as less than human, as less than made in the image of God.

To “judge not” offers a love that never gives up on your neighbor or yourself, because to give up would be to judge life as hopeless. “Judge not” seldom travels in company with good feelings, because truth lived or spoken will offend just as Christ, who did not judge, offended and was crucified. Yet, when we “judge not” we take no offense when we are mocked and maligned, because the very sickness of sin is to reject love, and it is the sickness we seek to cure. Love offers itself even when it finds itself judged, slapped and stoned, because love never judges sin as an affront but as an occasion for even greater love.

Only when we see our neighbor in the light of God’s love, as someone equally loved, will we see that “judge not” is not submission to moral relativism, nor is it a position of weakness, but an active call to perfection, to sharing the good news of the Gospels with all and to overcoming the desolation of sin with the assertion of a divine and unwavering love. When we fully embrace the love of “judge not” we will find ourselves wielding a sword far mightier than Excalibur.

The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

By Pete Jermann

Pete Jermann is a self-employed craftsman and homeschooling father.

Why do the souls in purgatory suffer so? An answer from St. John of the Cross

The New Theological Movement


The month of November is dedicated to the poor souls in purgatory. These holy souls are assured of their salvation and enjoy the possession of the three theological virtues, and yet they suffer greatly. Indeed, excepting only the pains of hell, there is no suffering which can compare with that which the souls endure in the purifying fires of purgatory.

The one consolation of purgatory would be the fact that it is only temporal and not eternal suffering which must be endured. Indeed, every soul in purgatory will eventually enjoy the beatitude of heaven. However, the souls which languish there are not consoled by this thought, for it seems to them that their purgation will go on forever. While they do truly possess the theological virtue of hope (and so are certain of their salvation), yet they are overcome by the thought that their current sufferings will go on forever and that God has abandoned them.

This is the teaching of the mystical doctor, St. John of the Cross. His experience of the dark night of the soul gave him light in this point.

Dark Night of the Soul, book II, chapter 7
Speaking of the sufferings which those who on earth suffer the dark night of the soul must endure in order that they be purged from every evil impulse and desire, St. John of the Cross compares this to the sufferings of purgatory. Indeed, the dark night of the soul is a veritable purgatory on earth, just as the unitive way is a quasi-heaven in the soul even while she remains upon earth.

“This is the reason why those who lie in purgatory suffer great misgivings as to whether they will ever go forth from it and whether their pains will ever be over. For, although they have the habit of the three theological virtues—faith, hope and charity—the present realization which they have of their afflictions and of their deprivation of God allows them not to enjoy the present blessing and consolation of these virtues.

“For, although they are able to realize that they have a great love for God, this is no consolation to them, since they cannot think that God loves them or that they are worthy that He should do so; rather, as they see that they are deprived of Him, and left in their own miseries, they think that there is that in themselves which provides a very good reason why they should with perfect justice be abhorred and cast out by God for ever.

“And thus although the soul in this purgation is conscious that it has a great love for God and would give a thousand lives for Him (which is the truth, for in these trials such souls love their God very earnestly), yet this is no relief to it, but rather brings it greater affliction. For it loves Him so much that it cares about naught beside; when, therefore, it sees itself to be so wretched that it cannot believe that God loves it, nor that there is or will ever be reason why He should do so, but rather that there is reason why it should be abhorred, not only by Him, but by all creatures for ever, it is grieved to see in itself reasons for deserving to be cast out by Him for Whom it has such great love and desire.”

How greatly do the poor souls need our prayers! They cannot help themselves and they know not how long they must yet suffer. As we come to the end of the month of November, we would do well to gain a plenary indulgence for their succor through visiting a cemetery and offering prayers in their behalf.

Eternal rest grant them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why I Lost Faith in the Pro-Choice Movement

by Jennifer Fulwiler Wednesday, October 31, 2012 4:46 AM

I was sitting on a bean bag in my dorm room when I got the call. It was a friend of mine -- let's call her "Sara" -- and she was sobbing so hard it took me a moment to know who it was.

Finally, she pulled herself together enough to speak. With a voice that sounded as weary as if she had aged 100 years since the last time we talked, she said, "I'm pregnant."

My heart sunk on her behalf. I was completely pro-choice and didn't find the idea of abortion to be troubling, but I knew that she was not comfortable with it. She had always said that she respected other women's rights to choose, but that she could never do that. Yet I also knew that she was not entirely thrilled with this guy she was dating, a young man named Rob. He was handsome and charismatic, but he had a serious drinking problem, and didn't treat her with the respect she deserved.

I listened while she explained through tears that it would ruin her life to have a child, especially with Rob. She had recently decided that she would break up with him soon, and even looked forward to doing so; the thought of having an inextricable, lifelong connection to him made her physically ill. Then there were the facts that parenting a child would derail her college career, and that she didn't even want to be a mother -- not to mention the fact that she was pretty sure her parents would disown her if she came home from school pregnant. "I knew this would be my worst nightmare. That's why I'm always so serious about contraception!" she said. But, despite her best efforts, something had gone wrong. Her contraception had failed.

I tried to turn the conversation in a constructive direction, employing the word that was supposedly so empowering to women of our generation. "Let's talk about your choices," I suggested.

"Choices?" She let out a hard, bitter laugh as she spat the word back at me. "I don't have any."

Sara went to an abortion facility and had the pregnancy "taken care of." We never spoke of it again. She became distant from me and many of her other friends in the months that followed, and we eventually lost touch.

I still think of Sara now and then, especially when I come across pieces like this one at Patheos that's making the rounds, in which Libby Anne writes of why she lost faith in the pro-life movement. Her story felt oddly familiar, as it reminds me a lot of my own. Though my conversion went the opposite direction, mine, like hers, hinged on the issues of contraception and personhood, and the question of what really liberates women. I've been thinking about it all ever since I read her post, and thought I would share my own story.

Who's afraid of information?

My first tipoff that something was wrong in the pro-choice movement was when I realized that there was a great fear of information. A year or two after Sara's situation, another friend found herself in a crisis pregnancy (also due to failed contraception), and was wrestling with the issue of abortion. She had asked me to find out how far her baby would have developed at this point, so I did some research online.

I found some images and descriptions of fetal development, and was amazed by how much I hadn't known. For all the time I'd spent talking about abortion rights, I'd never bothered to learn the details about what, exactly, happens within a woman's womb when she's pregnant, and no one had encouraged me to do so. I had never heard that fetuses have arms and legs and tastebuds at eight weeks gestation, or that they began practicing breathing at 11 weeks. I paused and thought about that for a long time. It didn't make me question my pro-choice stance, but for the first time I could understand how someone could be uncomfortable with abortion.

The biggest thing I noticed, however, was that pro-life sites had this information in abundance. The pro-lifers encouraged women to educate themselves about the details of pregnancy, suggested that they view ultrasounds to know what was happening within their bodies, and offered resources to educate women about all aspects of the female reproductive system.

On the pro-choice side, it was a totally different story.

I had started my research on websites for abortion providers and various feminist organizations, which I had assumed would equip women to make informed choices by providing them with full information. To my concern and surprise, I could not find one shred of information about fetal development on any websites associated with the pro-choice movement. When I read their literature about the details of abortion procedures, they were full of insulting euphemisms. Even when describing second trimester abortions, they would use eerily vague terms talking about "emptying the uterus" of its "contents." I felt like I had been transported back to Victorian England, where women weren't supposed to be told hard facts, even about their own bodies, because they might get all flustered.

Personhood: The other elephant in the room

Nowhere was the fear of information more obvious than on the issue of personhood. We had always gotten a good laugh out of anti-choicers and their love of zygotes, and would feel triumphant when we would point out the elephant in the room that they must not really value these lives as fully human since they didn't hold full funerals for, say, early miscarriages. But as my questions about the pro-choice worldview festered, I began to notice that we were tripping all over our own elephants.

We may have snickered at the idea of a three-day-old conceptus being completely human, but I began to notice a startling lack of interest in nailing down the question of when unborn life did become human. Folks within the pro-choice movement would scoff at the idea of a seven-week-old fetus being a person, and would nod in unquestioning agreement that a baby is fully human the day before her due date. So that must mean that there is some point at which we're no longer talking about a sub-human "fetus" and we're now talking about a fully human baby. Yet I could not get a single answer about when that might happen, not from individuals, not from official organizational statements. There was absolutely zero interest in the question of when we should start protecting unborn human life.

I'll never forgot the first time I read the documents to the Supreme Court case of Stenberg v. Carhart. Intelligent, educated people -- some of them leaders of our country -- coolly debated the most effective way to kill babies who were close to or beyond the age of viability. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote an amici brief in which they advocated for D&X, a procedure in which babies are delivered and then killed outside of the womb. Their reasoning?

D&X presents a variety of potential safety advantages over other abortion procedures used during the same gestational period. Compared to D&E's involving dismemberment, D&X involves less risk of uterine perforation or cervical laceration because it requires the physician to make fewer passes into the uterus with sharp instruments and reduces the presence of sharp fetal bone fragments that can injure the uterus and cervix.There is also considerable evidence that D&X reduces the risk of retained fetal tissue, a serious abortion complication that can cause maternal death, and that D&X reduces the incidence of a 'free floating' fetal head that can be difficult for a physician to grasp and remove and can thus cause maternal injury. [emphasis mine]

The ACOG had recently made statements condemning homebirth, in part because they were concerned about the health of babies. And yet here they were, coolly saying that it's better to kill babies outside of the womb because their decapitated heads can injure their mothers.

I was left speechless by the level of disconnect I was seeing -- not just among fringe extremists, but by the average pro-choice person. I had recently visited a friend's baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital, and I recalled that the baby in the incubator next to us was born the week before at 24 weeks gestation, and so was now 25 weeks old. This baby was the same age as the babies whose method of extermination was debated in Stenberg v. Carhart. If he were to be murdered in his incubator it would be a headline-generating tragedy. But if the same thing were to happen to him -- at the exact same age -- in which he was murdered as part of an induced delivery, it would be an ACOG-approved medical procedure.

I saw an almost pathological level of avoidance, in myself as well as in the larger pro-choice community, on this most critical issue of when a fetus becomes a person, and when abortion becomes infanticide. When pressed on this topic we would always dodge the issue, usually by responding with the utterly irrelevant answer that these procedures are rare compared to first trimester abortions. Even though many of us were personally horrified by the idea of such occurrences, some great pressure kept us from taking a clear look at this life-and-death issue, and calling a horror a horror when we beheld it.

What really takes away women's reproductive freedom?

What I was encountering was a level of internal inconsistency and intellectual dishonesty that bordered on insanity. I noticed it in myself, too: No matter how many red flags popped up in front of me, no matter how much data pointed in the direction of the humanity of unborn life, I couldn't bring myself to think of myself as anything other than pro-choice. Even though I was increasingly uncomfortable with the entire concept, something within me screamed that to not support abortion would be to support women being slaves to their biology.

This pressure built and built over months, and eventually years. And then, one day it clicked.

I was looking through a Time magazine article whose infograph cited data from the Guttmacher Institute about the most common reasons women have abortions. It immediately struck me that none of the factors on the list were conditions that we tell women to consider before engaging in sexual activity. Don't have the money to raise a child? Don't think your boyfriend would be a good father? Don't feel ready to be a mother? Women were never encouraged to consider these factors before they had sex; only before they had a baby.

The fundamental truth of the pro-choice movement, from which all of its tenets flow, is that sex does not have to have life-altering consequences. I suddenly saw that it was the struggle to uphold this "truth" that led to all the shady dealings, all the fear of information, all the mental gymnastics that I'd observed. For example:

--> If it is true that sex does not have to have life-altering consequences, then life within the womb cannot be human. Otherwise, when your contraception fails or you otherwise end up with an unplanned pregnancy, you just became a parent, and that truth was proven false.

--> If it is true that sex does not have to have life-altering consequences, then people should be able to engage in sexual activity as they see fit, without giving a second thought to parenthood. And if it true that it is morally acceptable for people to engage in sexual activity without giving a second thought to parenthood, then abortion must be okay. Contraception has abysmal actual use effectiveness rates, especially when taken over the long term. Combine that with the fact that the contraceptive mentality tells women to go ahead and engage in the act that creates babies, even if they feel certain that they're in no position to have a baby, and you see how women would feel trapped, and think that their only way out is through the doors of their local abortion mill.

Over the years I'd heard many pro-lifers say things along the lines of, "If you're engaging in the act that creates babies, you might create a baby; if you are absolutely certain that you're not ready to have a baby, avoid the act that creates babies." The pro-choice movement dismissed such statements, often sneeringly, as being overly simplistic and even oppressive. Yet is it not true? Now that I had taken a look under the hood of the pro-choice worldview, I came to see this as yet another example of pro-lifers respecting women enough to tell them hard truths that they may not want to hear, but need to hear. And far from blowing women off with pat answers, as I had always imagined pro-lifers did, when I took a closer look at that movement I found it to be quite realistic about the complexities of life, and surprisingly understanding that things don't always work out the way they're supposed to. I was interested to learn that there are more pregnancy assistance centers in the U.S. than there are abortion facilities, and that the Catholic Church, which is the largest pro-life organization in the world, is also the largest charitable organization in the world.

Once all of this set it, I thought of all my friends who had ended up sitting in the waiting rooms of abortion facilities, and mourned for them anew. In each case there was an unspoken but palpable question of, How could this have happened? These young women played by the rules. They tried to do the right thing. None of them slept around, none lived careless lives. They had dutifully used contraception, just like they were supposed to. They were told that this was the path to a life of freedom, and were dazed and traumatized when they found themselves without real choices, backed into a corner by their circumstances.

I believe that most people who are pro-choice hold that viewpoint because they want to help women. I was pro-choice out of loving concern for my sisters all over the world, and, on the surface, it seemed that this view was the most compassionate. But when I took a hard look behind the closed doors of the pro-choice movement, and demanded full information, and acknowledged the dignity of women of all ages (even those not yet born), and asked hard questions about what women's reproductive freedom really means, that is when I became pro-life.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jennifer-fulwiler/why-i-lost-faith-in-the-pro-choice-movement?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2012-10-31#ixzz2AssLFu73

Being A Hypocrite Places One’s Soul in Grave Danger

by: Fr. Daniel E. Doctor M. Div, M.A. , Michigan

Voting Against Your Moral Conscience And The Teachings Of The Church Endangers Your Eternal Salvation!

“You Already Aborted Her”

Mother Teresa of Calcutta in the 1980’s was contacted by Harvard University because they wanted her to give a commencement speech. She refused. The University contacted her again explaining to her that they would be willing to not only pay for her trip from India to the United States, but would also be willing to donate 1 million dollars to her favorite charity. She decided to take them up on their offer.

During the commencement, when it came time for her to deliver her speech; she approached the microphone and said, “Love God, Love Neighbor” – she then sat down to which the whole place erupted in applause and all those present took to their feet – this ovation last more than 3 minutes.

After she had spoken at Harvard, she was boarding a plane back to India, a woman reporter approached her with the question, “Mother Teresa, do you think there will ever be woman president in the United States?” Mother Teresa responded immediately and without missing a beat, “NO,” she said, “you already aborted her.” Very sober and strong words from a future saint about our American way of life.

St. Charles Borromeo-Defender Of The Faith

Today we also celebrate another saint who did not mix words – who is our Church’s patron – St. Charles Borromeo. Twice St. Charles was shot at by those who opposed him and the teachings of the Church – he so vigorously promoted and defended. St. Charles was a man of the people, even when he was working in Rome, helping two popes to promulgate the teachings and degrees of the Council of Trent -because St. Charles was the “Defender of the Faith” during the Counter Reformation -he desired to be in no other place but back in his Diocese of Milan, Italy. Now the reason why St. Charles wanted to be home in his own diocese may not be clear to all of us – but he saw it this way – too many in the Church were sowing error and confusion and some had began accusing priests, and the lay faithful of terrible untrue things. These actions by the newly formed protestant groups as well as by some Catholics were killing the faith in Milan and in some cases destroying it before it ever got a chance to be formed in individual Catholics. St. Charles wanted to be on the ground, in the local churches, with his people, and on several occasions approached the Holy Father pleading with him to let him go back home. When the Pope finally gave he permission to go back home, he found a church in confusion and disarray.

The first thing he did was to make visits to the churches in his diocese to make sure that they were practicing the true Catholic Faith – most of the time he was met with anger and resentment from the local clergy. Not satisfy in what he found he started to reform and reeducate the clergy as well as reorganizing the administration of the Diocese. When visiting these churches he found the laity not educated in the teachings of their Catholic faith, so he started the first CCD programs and what we would call Adult Faith Formation, to get his people up to speed so they could defend themselves from the protestant invasion. St. Charles realized that none of this would take shape unless the people and the clergy had a deeper, more personal relationship with their Lord, so St. Charles was the first to have 40 hours devotion – he not only started this at the cathedral but ordered all the churches of his diocese to do the same. The pope was so impressed that he ordered this 40 hour devotion to be promulgated throughout the Catholic world.

When we look at the wonderful example of their teaching, the courageous fortitude in the face of danger, and their devotion to Christ in Holy Eucharist – always promoting Eucharistic Adoration – that is found in St. Charles Borromeo and Blessed Mother Teresa – it is no wonder that they had such a dramatic effect on those who encountered them. They wanted nothing else then to bring others to love Christ and His Church.

Become Modern Day Saints

As most of you know – because I have been preaching on this for over a month now – we are entering into one of the most critical times in the history of the Catholics Church and as American Catholic voters. We should not be afraid, or fear failure, because this has continued to happen all throughout our Church’s history and our future does not look much different.

So what do we do? – Well, we take these saints at their word. We need to stop aborting our future, we need to become unconditionally pro-life, we need to start praying and adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament – because if there is going to be a change in our world then it has to start with us. We can’t wait for someone else, or some other saint to lead the way – we have to do that now – we can no longer wait for other Catholics, or the clergy to get with the Catholic Church and Her teachings about life and religious liberty – because they may not, or by the time they do wake up it will be to late. We, the faithful, the remnant of Jesus Christ, need to become the saints of the present time and that means we are not going to be popular.

“Catholic Voters Have A Serious Obligation To Uphold Moral Law”

Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American, and a Vatican official stated that we as “Catholic voters have a serious obligation to uphold the moral law” which means“Catholic voters must defend life and traditional marriage.” He continued, one “can never vote for someone who favors the right of choice of a woman to destroy a human life in her womb or the right to a procured abortion” as well as to attempt to redefine marriage. Bishop David Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay, WI even goes further and says; to vote for someone in favor of these positions “could put our own souls in jeopardy.” This is very serious stuff that can lead to very serious sin. We are living in very difficult times to be a moral person or a good Catholic but the fact remains if we fail to follow our Catholic faith in the way we vote we are endangering our souls. Why? Because when you stand here in Church you make your profession of faith – you say that you believe what the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church teaches to act differently, or to vote differently is to be a hypocrite and much worse a heretic.

St. Thomas More explained it this way – when you make such a profession you hold in your hands your own soul, like water pour into your hands, now say you act or vote in a hypocritical way – voting against your moral conscience and the teachings of the Catholic Church – you are opening your fingers and the water in your hands flows onto the floor – the only way to take back the immoral action is to able to collect all the water, that is your soul.

Christ Continually Condemns Hypocrites

Christ numerous times throughout the bible condemns those who act hypocritically. We, as modern day Catholics, will be treated no differently by our Lord and Judge. Even though it is extremely hard to follow what we profess as Catholics, we cannot act or vote in a way that is contrary to the scriptures or our profession of faith. If we do then we should already know that our future salvation is gone without sacramental confession and a life time of prayer and penance.

This last Thursday we celebrated the Solemnity of all the Saints, let us call upon them to help us, as individual Catholics, as individual American voters – to do the right thing, to do the moral thing, and vote as well as act like the Saints would – promoting and defending life, religious liberty, and the true happiness of every person conceived into our great nation. And let us remember the battle cry of our American forefathers; “Give us Liberty or give us death!!”

Click here to view Father’s writing on the ways liberal priests and theologians have lied to us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Young Women Flock to Catholic Order

As the progressive orders wither on the vine, it's the traditional orders experiencing a renewal; the future of the Church is bright albeit a smaller beam.

Vatican's New Head of Liturgical Architecture & Music

American Benedictine abbot is in charge of liturgical art

The U.S. born abbot Michael John Zielinski has been chosen as head of the new office for liturgical architecture and music in the Congregation for Divine Worship 



A Benedictine abbot has been chosen to lead the new office of the Congregation for Divine Worship called and give out guidelines for liturgical music and architecture, in an attempt to do away with ugly garage churches. Today, Benedict XVI appointed the American Olivetan abbot, Michael John Zielinski, as the new office manager in the dicastery led by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera.

His entry to the Congregation is strictly linked to the restructuring of the dicastery approved by the Secretariat of State last 3 September.

Zielinski was born in Lakewood, Ohio, in April 1953. He joined the Benedictine monastic Congregation of Saint Mary of Monte Oliveto after his novitiate at the abbey of San Miniato al Monte in Florence and made the perpetual monastic profession on 8 December 1975 in the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore (Siena). He studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical University of St. Anselmo in Rome and was ordained priest in 1977.

He studied monastic spirituality, Gregorian polyphonic and modern music, medieval and renaissance history and history of art. In 1991 he graduated from the University of Florence with a thesis on social psychology. He spent a number of years in the abbey of San Miniato al Monte in Florence where he was elected Prior and was also given the task of teaching novices. He was also an associate professor at the University of Siena. In 1999 he joined the monastic community of the Abbey of Santa Maria Pilastrello in Lendinara, in the diocese of Rovigo, northern Italy and in 2003 he was nominated secretary of the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation, Fr. Notker Wolf.

In December 2003 he was elected Abbot of the Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Pecos (United States). In 2007, Benedict XVI appointed him Vice President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and Vice President of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Architecture. When these two bodies of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology – led by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi - merged, he left his position in June.

The office he has been chosen to lead constitutes the main change to the structure of the dicastsery for divine worship which will deal specifically with art and music for the liturgy, giving guidelines to ensure the hymns sung at mass, as well as the structure of the new churches are adequate and correspond to the mystery which they are celebrating, according to the conciliar Constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium”.

From February, 2007...

For the Record - An abbot explains why "the Tridentine Mass is the missing link"

A solid interview with Dom Zielinski, OSB Oliv., Abbot of the Olivetan Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Pecos, New Mexico (Tip: Reader).

Q: Will the Pope restore the Tridentine Mass?

Abbot: The Tridentine Mass, the Mass of St. Pius V cannot be considered abolished by the so-called new mass of Paul VI. We must never forget that the Second Vatican Council was not a break from the past, but a renewal in continuity. That is why the question regarding the liturgy must be one of seeking the true sense of the Council and implementing it. Therefore, the question that needs to be asked is whether or not the Indult of Pope John Paul II and the creation of the Pontifical Commission of Ecclesia Dei, that gave permission to the Bishops to allow for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, was implemented in the spirit of justice and compassion.

Q: Well, was the Indult of John Paul II implemented in the spirit of justice and compassion?

Abbot: Unfortunately, some Bishops have not always granted the Indult. When this did happen, the conditions were often very difficult and almost impossible for its practical implementation. Therefore, if there is to be a motu proprio regarding a universal indult for the Old Mass, it means that the present one is not meeting the pastoral needs of the traditionalist world.

Q: But is the traditionalist world so important that the Holy Father should risk his pontificate by giving them a motu proprio?

Abbot: Jesus Christ, when talking about the Good Shepherd and the lost sheep, spoke about leaving the ninety-nine in order to seek out the one. We are talking about one percent. But we are also talking about the very vocation of the Good Shepherd. It is interesting to note that some Bishops speak about the Traditionalists as a “drop in the ocean.” As a matter of fact, the traditionalist world constitute a little over one percent of the Catholic Population. How Christ-like indeed it would be to offer a gesture of pastoral love in the form of a motu proprio!

Q: Would a motu proprio be for the intention of bringing the Lefebvrians back to Rome?

Abbot: The motu proprio would be a response of justice and compassion not only to the traditionalist world, but also to the Church as a whole. We must never think that a motu proprio would be written only for the Lefebvrians. As Archbishop A. M. Ranjith, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship stated very clearly, “The Tridentine Mass is a treasure for the entire People of God and not the private property of the Society of St. Pius X.” But I am most certain that those in the Society are praying and waiting with great hope for a motu proprio regarding a universal indult for the Old Mass.

Q: What is your relationship with the Lefebvrian world?

Abbot: I met Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior of the Society of St. Pius X, more than five years ago. During that time, I have come to know many other priests, and also monks and religious who are connected with the Society. I was invited to speak at the recent Congress of “Si, Si. No, No” in Paris. And there, I spoke about my experience of the Tridentine Mass as a recovery of the sacrificial nature of the Mass. The Traditional Rite has a very important role to play in the Church. It can enhance reverence and the sense of mystery and awe before God’s action.
I am honored by their friendship and also their trust. I have been able to listen and enter deeply into not only their preoccupations and fears, but also their immense love for the Church and for the Holy Father. Their words, articles and letters can seem to some to be very strong, and therefore, cause much distress; however, what they say about the liturgy and theology is not to be overlooked or dismissed. Until there is full unity and full mutual charity, one cannot be scandalized if there is some “verbal intemperance.”

Q: But some Bishops affirm that the Lefebvrians should recognize the legitimacy of the Pope.

Abbot: Unfortunately, even at high levels in the Church, there is not always full knowledge of the Society. The Society has always recognized the legitimate successor of St. Peter. There are traditionalist groups that do not recognize the last popes after Pius XII. These are called “empty throne” people. Visiting some of the Societies’ houses, I was amazed to see the photo of Benedict XVI and also to know that they pray daily for him and the Church.

Q: Do you think that a possible motu proprio would help the Lefebvrians return to Rome?

Abbot: I believe that a motu proprio would be a first step towards full communion. However, the simple restoration of the Old Mass is not only what the Society is looking for. They are asking very serious theological and liturgical questions that we must address. Otherwise, we reduce the whole question of Monsignor Fellay and the members of the Society to a question of choreography and not to substantial questions of faith. The motu proprio, therefore, is a beginning. But also, it is the possible beginning of a reform and renewal of the sacramental character of the liturgy; and therefore, the beginning of a liturgical movement that wants for the People of God a new awakening of the faith.

Q: Some Bishops, priests and theologians say that a motu proprio allowing broader use of the Tridentine Rite would “plunge us back into the liturgical life of another age.” What is your thought about this?

Abbot: Liturgical time is a sacred and holy time. I guess we could call it “timeless.” And the reason is that the Mass has to do with eternity and not with days, weeks, months or years.

Q: Is there need of a new liturgical reform?

Abbot: I believe that the Dogmatic Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was a response to a widely held conviction that the liturgy needed a reform. The Council Fathers were seeking to bring out the community aspects of the mass, as well as make it more effective in teaching the truths of the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, the theological necessity for a continuity in the underlying doctrine and structure of the celebration of the Mass in its preconciliar and post conciliar forms had undergone a rupture or break with Tradition. That is what we are dealing with today. The Second Vatican Council clearly called for some modest reforms in the liturgy, but it intended them to be organic and clearly in continuity with the past. The Old Rite becomes a living treasure of the Church and also should provide a standard of worship, of mystery, and of catechesis toward which the celebrations of the Novus Ordo must move. In other words, the Tridentine Mass is the missing link. And unless it be re-discovered in all its faithful truth and beauty, the Novus Ordo will not respond to the organic growth and change that has characterized the liturgy from its beginning. This is what should be prompting many of us to the founding of a new liturgical movement which will be able to give back to the liturgy its sacramental and supernatural character, and awaken in us a faithful understanding of the Catholic Liturgy.

Spirituality of St. Therese a key to new evangelization

Thursday, 25 October 2012 08:27

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

Caption: A statue of St. Therese of Lisieux at the National Shrine of St. Therese in Darien, Ill. Nancy Wiechec / CNS.

Five years ago, Jim Anderson knew little about St. Therese of Lisieux when he applied for a post directing a formation program based in her spirituality.

A priest-friend had recommended he go for an interview. Within about six weeks, Anderson and his family had moved from Ontario to Bruno, Sask. to join the brand-new St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission.

Today, Anderson is convinced the Institute’s nine-month program of intellectual and spiritual discipleship for young people who live in community and who practice the saint’s “little way” offers a key to new evangelization and the hopes Pope Benedict XVI’s has for the Year of Faith.

It did not take Anderson long to catch on to St. Therese’s spirituality, because, before moving to Bruno, he had become steeped in Catherine Doherty’s after living for 12 years near the Madonna House, the lay apostolate she founded in Combermere, Ont.

“If you know Catherine, you know St. Therese,” he said.

“The ‘little way’ [of St. Therese] gives us the way; the ‘little mandate’ [of Catherine Doherty’ gives us the how,” he said. “Catherine Doherty is just St. Therese with work-boots on.”

More than that, Doherty gives a contemporary and Canadian witness to St Therese’s little way, he said.

In the Year of Faith, the Holy Father is calling us to rediscover the content of our Catholic faith and to draw closer to Jesus by living it, Anderson said. Living that experience of faith makes our relationship with Jesus Christ increasingly firm, he said.

Jesus Christ came into the world to share the poverty of human experience, to be with the poor, Anderson said, referring to ideas in Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2000 letter on The New Evangelization: Building a Civilization of Love. Ratzinger wrote the deepest poverty is the lack of joy, and the lack of joy is precipitated by and in turn causes the inability to experience love,” Anderson said, adding his reading that letter was “an Emmaus moment” for him.

In order to experience love, real, deep self-sacrificing love, one must experience the cross, he said the man who would become Pope stressed.

Sometimes the way we perceive new evangelization is a way of serving the Church, Anderson said. “You have to be banging on a guitar or preaching the Bible to youth. What God wants is for us to follow Him, to engage in holiness, often in the humdrum way of life.”

This means pursuing holiness in the world, as a lay person working as a teacher, a doctor, a plumber, a nurse, or as a parent, he said.

The little way means being like a little child, a spiritual child fully dependent on God, Anderson said. Therese had a deep love for her father which carried over into her attitude toward God. “She recognized she is little; it’s not about doing little things.”

Imagine a two-year old child, he said. They are just becoming cognizant of their own being; they are entirely dependent on their parents. Anderson recalled his own three sons when they were two and the relationship of love, trust, surrender and openness they shared with him. “I could do no wrong and they would come to me for everything.”

“I was so captivated by them. “Whether it was their constantly failed attempts to show what they could do---in talking, drawing a cat—to me it was beautiful,” Anderson said. Even if the two-year old had been “recalcitrant all day,” at the end of the day he might crawl onto his lap and fall asleep on his shoulder, “and my heart would melt.”

The little way is about an unsophisticated, completely humble surrender to God in the moment, to do the duty of the moment, though “just of the simplicity of that is very difficult,” he said.

“We are always wanting to do more, to be out there, to do more ministry,” he said. “This is the trap of the elder brother desperately trying to earn the father’s love.”

The prodigal son had no way to earn the love, but the Father loves anyway. What we have to do is be receptive, he said.

Catherine Doherty said once that what you do matters, “but not much,” said Anderson. “She said ‘What you are matters tremendously.’”

Anderson reminds the young people in the program that St. Therese is their peer, not his. Entering a convent at 15, she died at age 24 of tuberculosis. While she lay sick she overheard her sisters saying, “What shall we say about Therese? She hasn’t done anything.” She left behind one book and some letters, said Anderson. Yet, she is a Doctor of the Church.

“She is your peer and don’t let anyone tell you cannot reach the heights of sanctity,” he said he tells them. “The Holy Spirit can teach us something through her life.”

The nine-month formation program provides a lived experience of the little way, in community. “To know the little way you have to walk the little way,” he said. “A pilgrimage is not arriving at the place; it’s the journeying to the place.”

In addition to the rigorous intellectual formation, living in community “provides us with opportunities to do very small things, very hidden things relying on the grace of God.” The fruit is deep peace, deep joy, and the capacity to love, he said.

In opening the Church to the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI summons us to an authentic faith and a renewed relationship with Jesus Christ, Anderson said. “This is a task every believer should make his own.”

When he read about Benedict’s words about the Year of Faith, Anderson said,” I was leaping inside my skin in excitement. This is what we do here.”

“What we study, while very important, is quite secondary to the lived experience of the faith,” he said. “In our way of life, what you do in chapel is no less or more than what you do in the classroom, or at the kitchen sink, or playing a game of pool.”

Born into an Anglican family, Anderson became a Catholic in his late teens and served as a missionary for NET Ministries in the United States, before returning to Canada to study at Trent University in Peterborough for a while. Academics did not interest him that much, so he planned on becoming a carpenter. He decided to try at year at Franciscan University in Steubenville, however, where he became interested in theology. He went on to obtain both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree.

He married his wife Lisa after graduation and did parish work in the Pittsburgh area, before moving to the Combermere area, where he wrote a fantasy series called “Legacy of the Stone Harp” with Mark Seabank that now boasts two published novels, led retreats, worked in high school chaplaincy and in home-education tutoring, among other ventures, all while trying to live according to Doherty’s little mandate also called the Nazareth way. The position at the Institute draws on all his training and experience, he said.

Almost 75 young men and women have passed through the Institute in the past five years. Redeemer Pacific College, the Catholic College on the campus of Trinity Western University, offers transfer credits as the Institute’s courses are taught at the university level. The Institute is negotiating transfer credits with other universities and looking at adding an additional program year, he said. The Institute also runs nine-day inner healing workshops for adults that follow the traditionally Catholic process of purgation, illumination and unification in shedding obstacles to draw closer to Jesus Christ, he said.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Vatican II Renewal: Myth or Reality

Seattle Catholic

by Kenneth C. Jones

(The following article is reprinted with permission from The Latin Mass magazine.)

Most of us are familiar with St. Bonaventure's account of St. Francis in the church of San Damiano. St. Francis was praying before the crucifix in the decrepit old church when a voice said to him, "Francis, rebuild my house for, as you see, it is falling into ruins." He looked around and saw that San Damiano was in ruins and set about repairing it, selling his worldly possessions so he could buy stones to rebuild the church. It was only gradually that St. Francis realized his mission was not to restore a building with bricks and mortar but to renovate the Mystical Body of Christ.

About 800 years later, it is beyond question that our Holy Mother Church is again falling into ruins. And if St. Francis, who was after all a saint, was unable to recognize it initially in his day, it should be no surprise that many of today's Catholics fail to see how perilous is the state of the Church. We might hear that there's a vocations shortage, or notice that there aren't any nuns in the schools anymore, or observe that a lot of our Catholic friends are getting annulments and divorces, but we really don't see the complete picture of the Church in crisis. And if we don't see that, we won't be able to assist in the renovation.

That was my motivation in writing Index of Leading Catholic Indicators — to collect the evidence of the crisis in the Church in a clear, accessible format so that people will be able to understand and respond to the emergency before it is too late.

One interesting way to present the statistics is to examine some of the myths and realities of Vatican II. I see five major myths surrounding the Council:
  • The myth that the Church was in need of renewal at the time the Council was called.
  • The myth that Vatican II brought about a renewal.
  • The myth that the situation has improved in the last few years during the pontificate of John Paul II.
  • The myth that the Council taught any new infallible dogma and was not simply pastoral.
  • The myth that the Council did not cause the crisis in the Church — the post hoc ergo propter hoc objection.
1. The myth of the need for renewal.

What was the state of the Church in 1960? I wasn't there to experience it. I was born in 1964 as the Council was closing. The fact that I grew up after the Council I think was beneficial to me in writing the book, because sometimes personal anecdotes have a way of coloring our thinking and getting in the way of the facts. I can't tell you how many times I've heard comments like, "The Church was authoritarian and our pastor was a dictator," or "It was just pay, pray and obey," or "The nuns were mean and used to hit our knuckles with a ruler."

I have no personal stories about what it was like before the Council. But I do have facts. And the facts show that the Church was in the midst of an unprecedented period of growth in the several decades before the Council.

That conclusion is inescapable by looking at the figures in just a few representative areas. And forgive me for throwing a lot of numbers at you, but as a lawyer I feel a statistic-laden brief is necessary to establish my case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Priests: In 1920 there were 21,019 total priests in the United States. In 1930 there were 26,925, in 1940 there were 33,912, in 1945 there were 38,451, in 1950 there were 42,970, in 1955 there were 46,970, in 1960 there were 53,796. This is not the mark of a declining Church, but of a vigorous Church — in 1960 it had a record number of men who were its frontline soldiers, whose ranks had grown 15 percent in the five years between 1955 and 1960.

Seminarians: As one would expect, as the number of priests increased, so did the number of seminarians — and it continued to increase substantially up to the Council. In 1920 there were 8,944 seminarians, in 1930 there were 16,300, in 1940 there were 17,087, in 1945 there were 21,523, in 1950 there were 25,622, in 1955 there were 32,394, in 1960 there were 39,896.

Seminaries: The bishops and heads of religious orders found it extremely difficult to keep up with demand and had to build scores of new seminaries. In 1945 there were 53 diocesan seminaries, in 1950 there were 72, in 1955 there were 78, in 1960 there were 96. This was a huge increase in property plant and equipment to accommodate the young men who were storming the seminaries to be trained as priests. Religious seminaries experienced similar growth. There were 258 in 1945, 316 in 1950, 385 in 1955, and 429 in 1960. Remember that building a seminary is a tremendous investment — it is really a leap of faith by the chief executive officer, in this case the bishop or head of a religious order, that the organization is growing and will continue to grow in the future. The tremendous boom in seminary construction was a true testament that the Church was growing and, more importantly, perceived itself to be growing, in the period before the Council.

Priestless parishes: And as one would also expect, as the number of priests increased, the number of parishes without a resident priest was declining. In 1945 there were 839 parishes without a resident pastor, in 1950 there were 791, in 1955 there were 673, in 1960 there were 546.

Brothers: The number of religious brothers was also on the increase in the decades before the Council. In 1945 there were 6,594, in 1950 there were 7,377, in 1955 there were 8,752, in 1960 there were 10,473.

Sisters: The next book that is crying out to be written is a study of the destruction of the convents and women's religious orders since the Second Vatican Council. What a profound tragedy. And the wreckage has been so devastating, so thorough, that one can only wonder whether it had a diabolical aspect to it. But contrary to what some would have you believe, it wasn't like that before the Council. In 1945 there were 138,079 sisters, in 1950 there were 147,310, in 1955 there were 158,069, in 1960 there were 168,527.

Parochial schools: Dioceses and parishes predict the future by building more schools in order to educate young Catholics. In 1920 there were 5,852 parochial schools, in 1930 there were 7,225, in 1940 there were 7,597, in 1945 there were 7,493, in 1950 there were 7,914, in 1955 there were 8,843, in 1960 there were 9,897.

Parochial school students: Parents who send their children to parochial schools show that they value a Catholic education and trust the parish to educate their children in the faith. In 1920 there were 1.7 million parochial school students, 1930 there were 2.2 million, in 1940 there were 2.1 million, in 1945 there were 2 million, in 1950 there were 2.4 million, in 1955 there were 3.2 million, in 1960 there were 4.2 million.

Infant baptisms: There were 710,000 in 1945, 943,000 in 1950, 1.1 million in 1955, 1.3 million in 1960.

Adult baptisms: The number of adult baptisms is a true sign of the strength of any religious organization. And in the years before the Council the number of adult baptisms was skyrocketing: 38,232 in 1930, 73,677 in 1940, 84,908 in 1945, 119,173 in 1950, 137,310 in 1955, and 146,212 in 1960.

These hard facts show a growing, vibrant, militant Church at the time the Second Vatican Council opened. Attempts to portray it otherwise are revisionist history by those who want to justify or explain away the revolution in the Church since the Council.

I also must add that many people were infected by a sort of false optimism in calling the Council, by the idea that the world was starting anew in 1962 at its opening. People who cautioned that having an ecumenical council might not be beneficial for the Church were chided for being obstructionist. That point of view, I respectfully note, was shared by Pope John XXIII, who said in his opening speech to the Council: "We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand."

Well, as I say in the introduction to my book, forty years later the end of the world has not arrived. But we are now facing the disaster.

2. The myth of a post-Vatican II renewal.

Even some in the Vatican have recognized it. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "Certainly the results (of Vatican II) seem cruelly opposed to the expectations of everyone, beginning with those of Pope John XXIII and then of Pope Paul VI: expected was a new Catholic unity and instead we have been exposed to dissension which, to use the words of Pope Paul VI, seems to have gone from self-criticism to self-destruction. Expected was a new enthusiasm, and many wound up discouraged and bored.

"Expected was a great step forward, instead we find ourselves faced with a progressive process of decadence which has developed for the most part under the sign of a calling back to the Council, and has therefore contributed to discrediting it for many. The net result therefore seems negative. I am repeating here what I said ten years after the conclusion of the work: it is incontrovertible that this period has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church."

Since Cardinal Ratzinger made these remarks in 1984, the crisis in the Church has accelerated. In every area that is statistically verifiable — for example, the number of priests, seminarians, priestless parishes, nuns, Mass attendance, converts and annulments — the "process of decadence" is apparent.

Priests: After skyrocketing from about 27,000 in 1930 to 58,000 in 1965, the number of priests in the United States dropped to 45,000 in 2002. And remember that in all of these statistics, the per capita decline has been even worse, because the number of Catholics has continued to increase since 1965. In 1965 there were 12.l85 priests for every 10,000 Catholics, in 2002 there were 7.l0 — a decline of 46 percent. By 2020, there will be about 31,000 priests — and only 15,000 will be under the age of 70. Right now there are more priests age 80 to 84 than there are age 30 to 34.

Ordinations: In 1965 there were 1,575 ordinations to the priesthood, in 2002 there were 450, a decline of 350 percent. Taking into account ordinations, deaths and departures, in 1965 there was a net gain of 725 priests. In 1998, there was a net loss of 810.

Priestless parishes: About 3 percent of parishes, 549, were without a resident priest in 1965. In 2002 there were 2,928 priestless parishes, about 15 percent of U.S. parishes. By 2020, a quarter of all parishes, 4,656, will have no priest.

Seminarians: Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped from 49,000 to 4,700 — a 90 percent decrease. Without any students, seminaries across the country have been sold or shuttered. There were 596 seminaries in 1965, and only 200 in 2000.

Sisters: 180,000 sisters were the backbone of the Catholic education and health systems in 1965. In 2002, there were 75,000 sisters, with an average age of 68. By 2020, the number of sisters will drop to 40,000 — and of these, only 21,000 will be age 70 or under. In 1965, 104,000 sisters were teaching, while in 2002 there were only 8,200 teachers. From 1965 to 2002, per capita, the number of sisters fell from 39.43 per 10,000 to 11.56 — a decline of 71 percent.

Brothers: The number of professed brothers decreased from about 12,000 in 1965 to 5,700 in 2002, with a further drop to 3,100 predicted for 2020.

High Schools: Between 1965 and 2002 the number of diocesan high schools fell from 1,566 to 786. At the same time the number of students dropped from almost 700,000 to 386,000.

Parochial Grade Schools: There were 10,503 parochial grade schools in 1965 and 6,623 in 2002. The number of students went from 4.5 million to 1.9 million.

Sacramental life: In 1965 there were 1.3 million infant baptisms, in 2002 there were 1 million. (In 1965 there were 287 infant baptisms for every 10,000 Catholics, in 2002 there were 154 — a decline of 46 percent.) In 1965 there were 126,000 adult baptisms in 2002 there were 80,000. In 1965 there were 352,000 Catholic marriages, in 2002 there were 256,000. In 1968 there were 338 annulments, in 2002 there were 50,000.

Mass attendance: A 1958 Gallup poll reported that 74 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1958. A 1994 University of Notre Dame study found that the attendance rate was 26.6 percent. A more recent study by Fordham University professor James Lothian concluded that 65 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1965, while the rate dropped to 25 percent in 2000.

The decline in Mass attendance highlights another significant fact — fewer and fewer people who call themselves Catholic actually follow Church rules or accept Church doctrine. For example, a 1999 poll by the National Catholic Reporter shows that 77 percent believe a person can be a good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday, 65 percent believe good Catholics can divorce and remarry, and 53 percent believe Catholics can have abortions and remain in good standing. Only 10 percent of lay religion teachers accept Church teaching on artificial birth control, according to a 2000 University of Notre Dame poll. And a New York Times poll revealed that 70 percent of Catholics age 18-44 believe the Eucharist is merely a "symbolic reminder" of Jesus.

Religious orders: I'm not being chicken little here, but the religious orders will soon be virtually non-existent in the United States. For example, in 1965 there were 5,277 Jesuit priests and 3,559 seminarians; in 2000 there were 3,172 priests and 389 seminarians. There were 2,534 OFM Franciscan priests and 2,251 seminarians in 1965; in 2000 there were 1,492 priests and 60 seminarians. There were 2,434 Christian Brothers in 1965 and 912 seminarians; in 2000 there were 959 Brothers and 7 seminarians. There were 1,148 Redemptorist priests in 1965 and 1,128 seminarians; in 2000 there were 349 priests and 24 seminarians. Every major religious order in the United States mirrors these statistics.

If this is renewal, I don't want to be around when the decline sets in.

As Fr. Louis Bouyer said five years after the Council: "Unless we are blind, we must even state bluntly that what we see looks less like the hoped-for regeneration of Catholicism than its accelerated decomposition."

Professor James Hitchcock echoed Fr. Bouyer's thoughts in 1972: "There are many curiosities in the history of the Church in the post-conciliar years, and not the least is the fact that so few progressives have noticed the extent to which the reactionaries' predictions prior to the Council have been proven correct and that their own expectations have been contradicted. They continue to treat the conservatives as ignorant, prejudiced, and out of touch with reality. Yet the progressives' hope for "renewal" now seems largely chimeric, a grandiose expectation, an attractive theory, but one which failed of achievement. In the heady days of the Council it was common to hear predictions that the conciliar reforms would lead to a massive resurgence of the flagging Catholic spirit. Laymen would be stirred from their apathy and alienation and would join enthusiastically in apostolic projects. Liturgy and theology, having been brought to life and made relevant, would be constant sources of inspiration to the faithful. The religious orders, reformed to bring them into line with modernity, would find themselves overwhelmed with candidates who were generous and enthusiastic. The Church would find the number of converts increasing dramatically as it cast off its moribund visage and indeed would come to be respected and influential in worldly circles as it had not been for centuries. In virtually every case the precise opposite of these predictions has come to pass. ... In terms of the all pervading spiritual revival which was expected to take place, renewal has obviously been a failure ... Little in the Church seems entirely healthy or promising; everything seems vaguely sick and vaguely hollow."

3. The myth that the situation has improved recently.

Another myth that is popular among certain Catholics is that things have gotten better in the last decade or so, coinciding primarily with the pontificate of John Paul II. Actually the statistics don't bear this out — in fact, the rate of decline has accelerated in some cases. Look at the number of priests. In 1975, three years before JPII was elected, there were 58,909 priests. In 1980, two years after his election, there were 58,621, a one percent decrease from five years previously. But the pace of the decline has picked up since then — 57,317 in 1985, 53,111 in 1990, 49,947 in 1995, 45,713 in 2000, 44,874 predicted for 2005, 37,624 in 2010, and 30,992 in 2020.

Seminarians: 17,802 in 1975, 13,226 in 1980, 11,028 in 1985, 6,233 in 1990, 5,083 in 1995, 4,719 in 2002.

Sisters: 135,225 in 1975, 126,517 in 1980, 115,386 in 1985, 103,269 in 1990, 92,107 in 1995, 75,500 in 2002.

And, as Michael Davies has noted, the Pope himself has repeatedly remarked that we are experiencing a new springtime since the Second Vatican Council. In his sermon for Pentecost 2001, the pope celebrated the 38th anniversary of John XXIII's death: "The Second Vatican Council, announced, convoked, and opened by Pope John XXIII, was conscious of this vocation of the Church. One can well say that the Holy Spirit was the protagonist of the Council from the moment the Pope convoked it, declaring that he had welcomed as coming from above an interior voice that imposed itself upon his spirit. This 'gentle breeze' became a 'violent wind' and the conciliar event took the form of a new Pentecost. 'It is, indeed, in the doctrine and spirit of Pentecost,' affirmed Pope John, 'that the great event which is an ecumenical council draws its substance and its life.'"

On March 5, 2000, The Catholic Times of London reported the Pope said that the little seed planted by Pope John XXIII has become "a tree which has spread its majestic and mighty branches over the vineyard of the Lord." He adds that: "It has given us many fruits in these 35 years of life, and it will give us many more in the years to come."

Now it is not being disloyal to point out, respectfully, that the facts do not support that conclusion. This is not a matter of judging the Holy Father, or contradicting Church teaching. Either there are many fruits of the Council, or there are not. The facts speak for themselves.

4. The myth that the Council taught any new dogmas infallibly.

I have to submit that one of the greatest obstacles to facing the reality of the disaster after Vatican II — and to working toward reversing the decline — is that many think erroneously that you can't criticize the Council or its aftermath because it imposed infallible dogma. Again, as Michael Davies says, a council can do so, but this Council, as acknowledged by popes and bishops, did not. Another obstacle is a misunderstanding of the nature of infallibility — some people don't understand that the protection provided by the Holy Spirit is a negative protection — that a Council together with the pope will not teach error in matters of faith and morals that it proposes for acceptance by the universal Church. This is not a guaranty that the calling of a Council is divinely inspired or that every word of every line contained in the documents is inspired or even beneficial.

As Cardinal Ratzinger said in 1988: "The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest."

5. The myth of the post hoc objection.

The final myth I want to discuss is the idea that the crisis we now face was not caused by the Council or the changes imposed in its name. These people would object to Mel Gibson's recent statement inTime magazine, when he was asked about the effects of Vatican II on the Church: "Look at the main fruits; dwindling numbers and pedophilia."

I have a several responses to the post hoc objection, which comes mainly from conservative Catholics.

First, the correlation in time between the holding of the Council and the subsequent decline is just so startling it's beyond reason to deny the link. I won't go through the numbers again, but in every area the numbers flipped almost immediately with the Council — numbers that were on a steep increase immediately before began a precipitous slide.

Second, the most serious declines came in exactly those areas that were most affected by the changes — for example, reform of seminaries and convents led to an immediate decline in vocations; the de-emphasis of the distinction between priest and laity was followed by a dearth of priests; the change of the Mass resulted in plummeting Mass attendance; and the emphasis on ecumenism brought about a decline in conversions and missionary activity. The list is endless.

Third, I think the burden is on those who make the post hoc argument to offer a better reason. If the changes made after Vatican II did not cause the crisis, what did? They offer no other reason.

In response to the post hoc objection, I submit another Latin slogan — res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.

What Is to Be Done?

I myself get frustrated when speakers tell me how bad things are but then don't tell me how to make them better. If you feel the same way, I hope I don't add to your frustration, because I don't have a step-by-step program for renewal. But I do have a few thoughts to share on how we might start.

The first is pray. I used to think that advice was to some degree a prescription for doing nothing. But the older I get and the more I understand my faith, the more I conclude that prayer is really the only effective response to the crisis. Remember Christ's words to Martha and Mary. A deep prayer life with regular, scheduled prayer and the reception of the sacraments is our only way out of the crisis. As Cardinal Ratzinger said, we don't need more reformers, we need more saints.

That being said, the one piece of advice I can give is — do something. And don't be afraid to be confrontational. The more I observe and experience the behavior of our shepherds, the more I've come to believe that they will make no concession unless they are forced to. They will act in the area of true reform as they acted in connection with the priest sex abuse crisis — they will ignore it until they are exposed. I have to agree with Pat Buchanan, who advocates what he calls the politics of conflict. He put it well in his autobiography, Right from the Beginning. In one chapter he discussed a possible run for the Republican nomination in 1988 against Jack Kemp:

"Jack and I have different styles. A positive, outgoing, upbeat, ebullient, optimistic man of the Congress, Jack's rhetoric is sprinkled with phrases like 'my distinguished colleague,' and 'my good friend.' While his convictions are conservative, his mindset is congressional. To me, the times require that we not only boldly enunciate our agenda for America, but expose and attack, with all the political weapons in our armory." ... Buchanan related a story about Vince Lombardi, who said: "'Football is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport; dancing is a contact sport.' Better than most, Jack Kemp knows that about football; but that is how I feel about politics."

That doesn't mean we have to be rude, obnoxious or boorish. It means we have to know our principles and be willing and able to defend them, and to bring the battle to our enemies. Too often we are on the defensive. We have 2,000 years of tradition behind us, we have nothing to apologize for.

We also should take seriously the affirmation in the documents of Vatican II that the laity have a real role in the Church. One of my guides in this is Cardinal Newman. Newman wrote a history of the Arian heresy in which he emphasized the role of the laity in leading the Church through that crisis. He said:

"It is not a little remarkable that though, historically speaking, the fourth century is the age of doctors, illustrated as it is by the Saints Athanasius, Hilary, the two Gregories, Basil, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine ... nevertheless in that very day the Divine tradition committed to the infallible Church was proclaimed and maintained far more by the faithful than by the Episcopate.

"Here of course I must explain: in saying this then, undoubtedly I am not denying that the great body of the Bishops were in their internal belief orthodox; nor that there were numbers of clergy who stood by the laity and acted as their centres and guides; nor that the laity actually received their faith, in the first instance, from the Bishops and clergy; nor that some portions of the laity were ignorant, and other portions were at length corrupted by the Arian teachers, who got possession of the sees, and ordained an heretical clergy: but I mean still, that in that time of immense confusion the divine dogma of our Lord's divinity was proclaimed, enforced, maintained, and (humanly speaking) preserved, far more by the Ecclesia docta than by the Ecclesia docens; that the body of the Episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism; that at one time the pope, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at other times general councils, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth; while, on the other hand, it was the Christian people, who, under Providence, were the ecclesiastical strength of Athanasius, Hilary, Eusebius of Vercellae, and other great solitary confessors, who would have failed without them."

My final piece of advice is: Let's turn back the clock. And don't tell me it can't be done, because it can. In fact, people do it all the time. Remember in 1985 when Coca Cola was the dominant producer of soda in the world? Company experts got the great idea of introducing New Coke and doing away with old Coke. How did people react — the statistics are undeniable. Sales of Coca Cola plummeted, the numbers proved that it was a failure. And what did the company do? It turned back the clock. It pulled New Coke from the market, and brought back Coke Classic, the real thing.

Chesterton had an apt comment in his book, What's Wrong With The World: "The need here is a need of complete freedom for restoration as well as revolution. ... There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, 'You can't put the clock back.' The simple and obvious answer is 'You can.' ... There is another proverb, 'As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it'; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable, please God I will make it again. We could restore the Heptarchy or the stage coaches if we chose. It might take some time to do, and it might be very inadvisable to do it; but certainly it is not impossible as bringing back last Friday is impossible. This is, as I say, the first freedom that I claim: the freedom to restore."

I say it's time we discard New Catholicism, as we discarded New Coke. It's time to bring back Catholicism Classic, the real thing.


Kenneth C. Jones, author of the Index of Leading Catholic Indicators, is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Washington University School of Law. He is a publisher of a legal newspaper and lives with his wife and seven children in St. Louis.

A Timeline of Catholic Church history 1 - 500 A.D.

Bridge picture


Building Bridges
Healing Division

20s*c. 29 AD Our Lord's Resurrection. The First Pentecost. St. Peter preaches in Jerusalem and converts three thousand people, creating the first Christian community.
30s*c. 35 Saul of Tarsus has an apparition of Jesus Christ and is converted to Christianity.
*c. 39 St. Peter baptizes Cornelius. This event marks the beginning of the missionizing to the Gentiles.
40s*42 The first persecution of Christians in Jerusalem under Herod Agrippa. Many Christians escape to Antioch, establishing its first community.
*44 Martyrdom of St. James the Great, brother of the Apostle John. He is the first apostle to die for the faith. He was sentenced by Herod Agrippa in 44 AD. Today he is honored at the shrine of Santiago Compostela.
50s*c. 51 The Council of Jerusalem. It rules that Gentile converts do not have to observe the Moasaic Law.
60s*62 Martyrdom of St James the Less, Bishop of Jerusalem. He is stoned to death.
*64 First persecution of the Christians by Nero, who blames them for setting a fire that burned much of Rome. Christianity soon after becomes a capital crime.
*66 Jews revolt against Roman authority. The Christians, remembering the prophecies of Christ, leave Jerusalem, led by their bishop, St. Simeon. A civil war ensues. Nero sends Vespasian and Titus to put down the insurrection.
*67 Martyrdom of St. Peter. Tradition states that he was crucified upside down. St. Linus succeeds him as pope (-76).
*69 Fall of Jerusalem. The Temple is destroyed. Tacitus records that 600 000 Jews were slaughtered during the siege; Josephus said it was a million.
70s*76 Pope St. Cletus (Anacletus) reigns(-88).
80s*c. 88 The reign of Pope St. Clement I (-97). During his pontificate, he issues a letter to the Corinthians, urging them to submit themselves to lawful religious authority. He writes "Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry."
90s*95 Persecution of Christians in Rome under Domitian.
*97 Pope St. Evaristus accedes to the Chair of Peter (-105).
100s*c. 100 Death of John, the last apostle. The period of Public Revelation comes to an end.
*c.100 Birth of St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165), Church Father. He wrote two Apologies of the Faith, and A Dialogue with Trypho, the Jew. In his writings, he bears witness to a number of Catholic doctrines. In one famous passage, he describes the Order of the Mass.
*c. 105 Death of Pope St. Evaristus. Pope St. Alexander I replaces him (-115).
*c.107-117 Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch, apostolic Father and bishop. He was a disciple of St. John, along with St. Polycarp. Theodoret, the Church historian says he was consecrated bishop by St. Peter, who was at first bishop of Antioch before going to Rome. Ignatius was martyred in Rome under Emperor Trajan's rule. It was during the journey to Rome that he wrote his famous letters that contain invaluble information about the early Church. He was the first to use the term "Catholic" to describe the Church.
110s*111 Pliny the Younger, govenor of Bithynia, writes in a letter to the Emperor Trajan that to his surprise, the Christians are not guilty of any of the vices they are rumoured to engage in. He executes Christians who would not apostatize.
*c. 115 Pope St. Sixtus I begins his reign (-125).
*117 Persecution of Christians under Hadrian (-138).
120s*125 Pope St. Telesphorus begins his reign (-136).
130s*c.130 Birth of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Church Father and bishop. He had heard St. Polycarp in Smyrna. He wrote a famous treatise, Against Heresies, refuting Gnosticism, and intervened in favour of the Quartodecimians when they were excommunicated by Pope Victor I for not observing Easter according the Roman Calendar (i.e. the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring equinox).
*135 Emperor Hadrian excludes Jews from Jerusalem.
*136 Pope St. Hyginus accedes to the see of Peter (-140).
140s*140 Election of Pope St. Pius I (-155).
*144 Marcion of Pontus is excommunicated for heresy (Marcionism): he believed that the God of the Old Testament is a different God than that of the new, and that he is a vengeful God; he denied the inspiration of the Old Testament. Marcionites established a parallel church that survived for several centuries.
150s*155 Death of Pope St. Pius I. St. Anicetus becomes Pope (-166).
*c. 156 Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, disciple of St. John the apostle. First recorded instance of devotion to a martyr and the devotion to relics in the Martyrdom of Polycarp.
160s*c. 160 Birth of Tertullian, Church Father. Tertullian apostatized to the Montanist sect and in his later years rejected the Catholic Church. However, in his earlier years, c. 200 AD, he justified Catholic belief against heretics by appealing to the apostolic origin of the Church, whereas the heretics and their heresies were subsequent to it.
*165 Death of St. Justin Martry (b. 100), Church Father.
*166 St. Soter becomes Pope. (-175).
170s*172 Montanus launches his Montanist movement, based on his private revelations. He claimed that there was an age of the Father (the Old Testament), the Age of the Son (the New Testament) and the age of the Holy Spirit, which he would inaugurate and which would announce the end of the world. It denied the divine nature of the Church and preached a very rigorous morality.
*175 St. Eleutherius succeeds as pope (-189).
*c.176-177 Athenagoras writes Embassy for the Christians, aka Apology, a work addressed to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus that shows the reasonableness of the Christian faith and the absurdity of the charges made against Christians. It also defended the notion of the Trinity.
*177 St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against All Heresies, a work of apologetics refuting Gnosticism, which claimed salvation through an esoteric knowledge. Irenaeus argues that this belief counters that universal tradition handed down from the apostles, and that the bishops are the successors of the apostles who have the authority to transmit Revelation. To make his point, he lists the succession of popes beginning with Peter.
180s*185 Birth of Origen, controversial Church Father. His writings were, in many ways, productive for the orthodox faith. However, a number of his ideas were problematic or downright heretical. Among them: his excessive allegorism in Scriptural interpretation, his subordinationist tendencies, his belief in eternal creation and final salvation of all souls. His writings sparked complex doctrinal controversies. In spite of the problems, he had many admirers among orthodox Fathers.
*189 Pope Victor I takes over the See of Peter. (-199)
*189 Pope Victor I excommunicates the Quartodecimians. The Quartodecimians of Asia Minor reckoned the date of Easter according to the Jewish Passover, as 14 Nisan, regardless of whether or not it fell on a Sunday, contrary to the majority of the faithful in various parts of the Empire. Pope Victor ordered Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus to call a synod and have the bishops of Proconsular Asia submit to the Roman practice. The bishop called the synod, but the assembly refused to submit, citing that the apostles John and Philip followed the same custom. The pope then excommunicated the bishops and their followers. St. Irenaues protested this action as too harsh, but did not say the pope had overstepped his authority. This is the first record of an episcopal council in the post-apostolic age.
190s*190 Pope Victor I excommunicates Theodotus for his denial that Jesus is God. The latter gathered together a band of followers, whose teachings would eventually influenced Paul of Samosata, the true originator of Arianism.
*199 Pope St. Zephyrinus accedes to the See of Peter (-217). Pope Zephyrinus was not inclined to philosophical speculation and would not either endorse or condemn St. Hippolytus' attacks against the Monarchian heresy. This made the pope's faith appear suspect.
200s*c. 200 Death of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Church Father and bishop.
*c. 200 Monarchianism makes its appearance. In contrast to Arianism, Monarchians affirm Jesus is God, but in order to safeguard the unity of God, they essentially deny the distinction between the Son and the Father. St. Hippolytus was an ardent opponent of this heresy.
*202 Emperor Septimius Severus persecutes Christians with the aim of establishing one common religion in the Empire.
*c.208 The first record of prayers for the dead in the writings of the Church Fathers. Tertullian writes that a good widow prays for her dead husband's soul in On Monogamy.
210s*c.213 Birth of St. Gregory of Neocaesarea, (d. c. 270) aka the Wonderworker, aka Thaumaturgus. He defended the Unity and the Trinity of God in his writings.
*217 Death of Pope St. Zephyrinus. Pope St. Callistus I succeeds him (-222). Callistus was a former slave who was in charge of his master's bank. He lost a lot of money to bad debts, some of the debtors being Jews. When he attempted to recover the money, some Jews denounced him as a Christian and he was sent to the mines of Sardinia, but survived to return to Rome in 190 AD. During Pope Zephyrinus' reign, he was a power behind the throne, making his faith appear suspect to the future anti-pope St. Hippolytus.
*217 Election of anti-pope St. Hippolytus, Church Father, the first anti-pope in Church history, and the only one venerated as a saint. He considered Pope St. Callistus I to be a Monarchian heretic, and he continued his claim to the Chair of Peter through to the reign of Pope St. Pontian. He reconciled with the Church before being martyred in the mines of Sardinia in 235.
220s*220 Pope St. Callistus I excommunicates Sabellius, a priest who taught that the Son of God did not exist before the Incarnation, and that God exists in three "modes" but not in three persons, therefore the Son and the Father suffered at the passion. This heresy, Sabellianism, would become prevalent in the fourth century.
*222 St. Urban I becomes Pope (-230).
*222 Alexander Severus becomes emperor (-235). He lifted many harsh laws against the Christians, and essentially gave them the right to exist as a religion. They now had the right to own property and assemble for worship. He had a personal devotion to Jesus Christ, but he honoured him as one among many gods.
230s*230 Death of Tertullian, Church Father who later joined the Montanists, a heretical sect. His writings are invaluable for the historical testimony they provide.
*230 St. Pontian succeeds St. Urban I as pope (-235). In 235, the Emperor Maximian launched a persecution against the heads of the Church. Pontian was banished to the mines of Sardinia. In order to make possible the election of a new pope, he resigned.
*235 Pope St. Anterus reigns for forty days (-236).
*236 Election of Pope St. Fabian (-250). Eusebius relates in his history of the Church that when it came time to elect a new pope, the assembly put forward several names of prominent people, but a dove rested on Fabian's head, whom no one had considered for the office. The assembly took it as a sign of divine favour and selected him as the new pope.
250s*250-251 The Decian Persecution. The Emperor Decius requires all citizens in every town and village of the Empire to perform acts of worship to the gods of the State. People suspected of Christianity are brought before a commission and required to sacrifice. Refusal meant a long prison stay and subjection to torture so that the accused would apostatize. Failing that, they are put to death. Many Christians apostatize or obtain certificates stating that they had sacrificed. This systematic persecution produces numerous martyrs.
*250 Martyrdom of Pope St. Fabian in the Decian persecution. He was not given the opportunity to apostatize but was swifty executed for his faith.
*c. 250 The devotion to martyrs, once a more private practice, becomes widespread after the Decian persection due to the great numbers of martyrs it produced.
*c. 250 Birth of St. Anthony of Egypt (d. 355) considered to be the founder of monasticism. Approximately 5000 disciples of both sexes had gathered around him in the Nitrian desert (Egypt), despite his opposition. We know of him through a biography of St. Athanasius.
*251 Council of Cartage under St. Cyprian allows those who lapsed during the persecution to be readmitted after a period of penance.
*251 Pope St. Cornelius succeeds Pope St. Fabian (-253).
*251 Novatian becomes the second anti-pope in Church history (-258). He strongly disagrees with Pope Cornelius' stance allowing those who apostatized during the Decian persecution to return to the fold after a suitable penance. He insisted on permanent excommunication for them. This period is known as the Novatian Schism. The Novatian church will continue to exist up to the eighth century, but will be absorbed by the Catholic Church.
*c. 251 St. Cyprian writes his famous treaty, On the Unity of the Church. He argues that the Church was founded on Peter, and that the local bishop was the head of the local Church. In practice, however, he contradicted himself by asserting that the pope could not make him accept Christians baptized by heretics.
*c. 253 Death of Origen, Church Father. He probably died from the tortured he suffered under the Decian persecution.
* 253 Election of Pope St. Lucius I (-254).
*254 St. Stephen I is elected Pope (-257). He is the first pope known to have invoked Matt. 16:18 as evidence for the authority of the Chair of Peter.
*256 Pope St. Stephen I upholds the baptisms administered by heretics.
*257 The Emperor Valerian launches a persecution against Christians (-259). The clergy is summoned to sacrifice to the pagan gods. If they refused, the church property they legally held in the church's name was to be confiscated and they were to be exiled (a year later, the penalty would be immediate execution). All faithful Christians who met in religious assemblies were punishable by death.
*257 St. Sixtus II becomes Pope (-258). He was arrested very shortly after his election and beheaded for his faith.
*258 Martyrdom of St. Cyprian of Carthage. He defended the readmission to the Church of those who apostatized during persecution, but rejected the idea that baptism by heretics and schismatics is valid. In his writings, he defended the primacy of Peter as the source of unity in the Church. He remained the foremost Latin writer until Jerome. At his execution, his followers placed cloths and handkerchiefs near his place of execution in order to catch his blood and thereby have a relic of him.
*259 Peace of Gallenius. Emperor Gallenius succeeds to the throne, ends the persecution of Christians and legally recognizes their existence. Church property is restored. This peace lasts for forty years. Churches are built, bishops gain social prestige and Christians acquire more social status. Christians serve the regimes of various emperors. Christianity still remains a target for hostility.
*259 Pope St. Dionysius begins his pontificate (-268).
260s*c. 260 Birth of Eusebius of Caesarea, Church Father, bishop and "Father of Church history." his Church history is an important source of information about the Early Church. He also wrote the Life of Constantine.
*261 A period of relative peace begins for the Church (-303).
*c. 265 Three councils held at this time in Antioch condemn Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, for his heretical teachings on the relationship of God the Father and God the Son. He maintained that Jesus the man was distinct from the Logos and became the Son of God through adoption because of his merits, and that God is only One Person. His teachings were a pre-cursor to the Arianist heresies of the fourth century and beyond.
*269 Pope St. Felix I fills the See of Peter (-274).
270s*c.270-275 Death of St. Gregory of Neocaesarea (b. c.213) , aka the Wonderworker, aka Thaumaturgus, Church Father and bishop.
*c. 272 Crucifixion of Mani by Bahram, king of Persia. Mani founded the Manichaean religion, which centred on the battle between the good god and the evil god. He had travelled widely, going as far as India, and drew from many philosophies and religions-- including Buddhism. He also claimed to be the Paraclete. His religious ideas would persist throughout the Middle Ages, and were adopted by the Cathari and the Bogomils.
*272 Emperor Aurelian rules that the bishop of a city is whomever the bishops of Italy and Rome acknowledge as such. The ruling deprived the deposed Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, of all church property--including churches. This way the secular arm made it possible for Rome to effectively depose bishops.
*275 Pope St. Eutychian succeeds Pope St. Felix I.(-283).
280s*283 Pope St. Caius is elected head of the Church (-296).
*285 Partition of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western halves. Diocletian rules the Eastern half, Maximian, the Western.
290s*293 Diocletian forms the Tetrarchy. In order to improve the transition of power upon the death of an emperor, Diocletian created a system of co-rulers. Thus, the Emperors are Augusti, their heirs apparent are Caesars. Diocletian chooses Galerius as Caesar; Maximian chooses Constantius I Chlorus. The Tetrarchy system would eventually fail in its goal of assuring smooth transitions of power.
*296 Election of Pope St. Marcellinus I (-304).
*c. 297 Birth of St. Athanasius (d. 373), Doctor of the Church. Archbishop of Alexandria. He was a staunch defender of the Divinity of Jesus Christ against Arianism, and was exiled sevral times for his orthodoxy.
300s*c. 300 Christianity introduced in Armenia.
*Constantine re-unites both halves of the Empire, becomes sole emperor.
*302 Growing intolerance of Christians leads to the army and the imperial service being closed to professed Christians.
*303 Persecution of Christians by Diocletian through a series of edicts.All people were to worship state gods. Churches were to be destroyed, Christian books were to be burned. The first act of the persecution was to burn down the cathedral at Nicomedia.
*304 Christians faithful to the their religion are now subject to the death penalty. The government commits massacres to terrify the faithful.
*304 Death of Pope St. Marcellinus I.
*305 Emperors Diocletian and Maximian resign. Galerius, viciously anti-Christian, succedes as emperor in the East. The new emperor in the West, Constantius Chlorus, ceases the persecution in his domains.
*c. 305 The Council of Elvira, Spain approves the first canon imposing clerical celibacy.
*306 Constanine becomes the emperor in the West and continues the policy of toleration towards Christians.
*306 Galerius orders all his subjects to make pagan sacrifices.
*306 Birth of St. Ephraem the Syrian (d. 373), Doctor of the Church. Known as the Harp of the Holy Spirit. Author of the Nisibene Hymns, some of which are Marian.
*308 Election of Pope St. Marcellus I (-309). His stance against apostates who demanded immediate re-entry into the Church raised a commotion and led to the Emperor Maxentius exiling him. He died soone after leaving Rome.
*309 Reign of Pope St. Eusebius.
310s*310 Sapor II becomes king of the Persian Empire (-381). Until the third century, the Church grew in Persia without persecution. However, with the accession of the Sassinid Dynasty (227 AD) the Church became suspect and was eventually persecuted. Under Sapor II, Christians are subject to a persecution worse than any undertaken by the Roman Emperors. It was considered the religion of the Roman Empire, with whom the Persian were constantly at war.
*311 An edict of toleration is emitted in the names of Galerius, Constantine and Licinius. The emperors come to realize that persecution produced non-believers in either the gods of the state or in the Christian God. Emperor Maximinus of Daza only follows the policy for six months, then continues the persecution in the East.
*31l Pope St. Militiades begins his reign (-314).
*311 The Beginning of the Donatist Schism. Donatus, Primate of Numidia, will not recognize the election of Cecilian as Bishop of Carthage. Cecillian's consecrator is Felix of Aptonga, a man who had allegedly apostatized under Maximian's persecution (303-305). To the Donatists, apostasy and other serious sins destroys a priest's spiritual powers. The priest's powers are therefore dependent on his personal holiness. Donatus holds a council which illegally elects a pretendant to the see. Although he lives in Carthage, Donatus has no jurisdiction there.
*312 Martyrdom of Lucian of Antioch during the persecution of Maximinus of Daza. He taught that the Word (logos) was a creature. He taught Arius, the heresiarch, and his teaching was at the origin of the Arian heresy. He is also known for having rejected allegorical interpretations and was strongly literal in his biblical interpreations. He reconciled with the Church.
*312 Constantine defeats the Emperor Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge. The night before the battle, Constantine has a vision of a cross in the sky and the words "In this sign you shall conquer." After the victory, Constantine orders that the cross be put on the soldiers' shields and standards. Once Constantine enters Rome, he offers the Lateran Palace to the Pope as a residence.
*313 Edict of Milan. Toleration of Christians in the Western Roman Empire. All people, not only Christians, have freedom of religion so long as they render honour to "the divinity." Emperor Constantine returns Church property. In the Eastern Empire, Maximinus continues to persecute Christians until he grants them toleration in a last-ditch effort to gain their favour and keep alive his struggle against his enemy Licinius.
*313 Constantine intervenes on the Donatist schism and recognizes the election of Cecillian of Carthage, the orthodox candidate. The churches held by Donatists are handed over to Catholics.
*313 The Lateran palace makes its first appearance in Catholic history as it is the scence of an appeal of the Donatists in the matter of Cecillian's election as Bishop of Carthage. Emperor Constantine chose the bishops to sit on the tribunal, but the pope presided over it. It rules in favour of Cecillian.
*314 St. Sylvester I is elected Pope (-335)
*c.314 Constantine agrees to hear a new appeal by the Donatists in the case of Cecillian's Episcopal election. This time the appeal is brought to a secular court. The Donatists maintained that Felix of Aptonga could not have validly ordained Cecillian because he had apostatized during a persecution. The police books of the persecution were produced, and there was no evidence Felix had ever been arrested. It was also shown that the Donatists had attempted to forge the certificate proving his guilt. Constantine sends this evidence to the Council of Arles, where the Fathers note that the Donatists are "crazy fanatics, a danger to Christianity." They rule in favour of Cecillian.
*315 Birth of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 387), Doctor of the Church. He fought Arianism in the East.
*315 Birth of St. Hilary of Poitiers (d. 368), Doctor of the Church.
*316 Constantine hears another appeal of the Donatists in the matter of the election of Cecillian of Carthage. He rules in favour of Cecillian. He rules that the churches held by the Donatists were to be handed over to the Catholics, and that the Donatists were forbidden to meet.
*c. 318 Beginnings of the Arianist controversy. Arius taught: that the Father and the Son were not of the same substance, and therefore the latter was inferior; and that the Word (Logos) is a creature and that the Holy Spirit is a creature of the Logos.
320s*320 St. Pachomius founds the first two monasteries-- on for each sex in Tabennisi.
*321 The Donatists appeal to Constantine for toleration. He grants it, in spite of his contempt for the sect.
*323 Licinius, Emperor of the East launches a persecution against Christians.
*323 Constantine and Licinius do battle at Chrysopolis. Licinius dies six months later. Constantine has no rival and is the sole ruler of the Empire. Constantine preserves freedom of religion but his attitude towards paganism becomes contemptuous. Paganism and Christianity enjoy equal status before the law.
*325 The Council of Nicea. Presided by Emperor Constantine and Hosius of Cordoba. Pope St. Sylvester I sends papal legates, being too old to make the journery from Rome. Many of the bishops in attendance had been physically injured in the persecutions of previous decades. The Council defines trinitarian belief in God. The Father and God the Son are declared of the same substance against the teachings of Arius. Emperor Constantine considers heresy to be a form of rebellion, and banishes Arian bishops to Illyria.
*325 Building of Church of Natitvity, Bethlehem.
*326 Constantine recognizes the Novatian Church, the parallel Church established under the Novatian schism in the preceding century. It would die out a century later in Rome, but would survive until at least the seventh century in the East.
*329 Birth of St. Basil the Great (d. 379), Doctor of the Church and father of Eastern monasticism. He was the first to draw up a rule of life and he developed the concept of the novitiate.
*c. 329 Birth of St. Gregory of Nanzianzus (d. 389), Doctor of the Church, one of the traditional four Greek Doctors.
330s*330 Building of first St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It was torn down in 1506 and re-built.
*330 Birth of St. Gregory Nanzianzus (d. 390), Doctor of the Church. One of the Cappadocian Fathers.
*331 Seat of the Roman Empire moved to Constantinople (formerly Byzantium).
*331 Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, an Arian, schemes to have a local synod depose the orthodox bishop Eustathius of Antioch. Constantine recognizes the authority of the synod and expels Eustathius. His successor, Paulinus of Tyre dies a few months later, and, for the first time in history, a secular ruler interferes in the choice of a bishop. Constantine recommends the Arian Euphronios, who was elected.
*335 By this time Eusebius of Nicomedia succeeds in convincing the emperor of his orthodoxy by proposing at the Council of Jerusalem an ambiguous formula of faith to which both Arians and Catholics can adhere.
*336 Reign of Pope St. Mark.
*336 Death of Arius, heresiarch, creator of the Arian herersy. Right before his death, the Emperor Constantine's sister, Constantia, requested on her deathbed that Arius be recalled from his place of banishment and exonerated. The Emperor paid heed to her request. He ordered the bishop of Alexandria to give Arius Communion, but the latter died right before he was to receive. The populace views it a sign of divine condemnation.
*336 The earliest record of the celebration of Christmas in Rome. The East kept the Feast of Epiphany, January 6th.
*337 Death of Constantine. He was baptized on his deathbed by bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, an ally of Arius. The Empire is ruled by his three sons, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans.
*337 Election of Pope St. Julius I (-352).
*338 Election of St. Julius I (-352).
340s*c. 340-350 The Arian bishop Ulfilas makes a corrupt translation of the Bible into the Gothic language and converts the Goths. From then on, barbarian tribes that converted to Christianity were Arian, until the conversion of the Franks in the 6th century.
*340 Birth of St. Ambrose of Milan, one of the four traditional Latin Doctors of the Church. He baptized St. Augustine. He fought the Arian heresy in the West and promoted consecrated virginity.
*341 Emperors Constants and Constantius II abolish and prohibit pagan sacrifices. Pagan sentiment becomes very anti-Christian.
*341 Death of Eusebius of Nicomedia, bishop of Constantinople. He schemed to depose Catholic bishops throughout the empire and replace them with Arians. He made Arians appear orthodox through ambiguous formulas of faith.
*c. 343 Birth of St. Jerome (d. 420), one of the four traditional Doctors of the Latin Church. He translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek texts into Latin and produced the first authoritative translation, the Vulgate. At that time, Latin was still a vernacular language. He also wrote a treaty against Helvidius, upholding the Virgin Birth.
*347 Birth of St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Constantinople. He is the foremost Greek Doctor of the Church, known especially for his homilies on Scripture. He alienated the court at Constaninople with his preaching against the vanities of the rich. The conspiracy of his enemies resulted in his exile. The pope and many Western bishops supported him but could not obtain justice for him.
*347 Emperor Constans ends the toleration of Donatists in Numidia. The period of Donatist dominance in Africa had been one of license, including riots and massacres. He exiles the Donatist bishops and hands their churches to Catholics.
350s*350 Assassination of Emperor Constans. Constantius II, an Arian, becomes sole Emperor. Arians attempt to link St. Athanasius with Constans' assassin.
*353 Emperor Constantius II prohibits idol worship under penalty of death. The Western Empire is majoritarily Pagan.
*352 Reign of Pope Liberius (-366), the first pope who is not considered a saint. He would not be pressured by Constantius to condemn St. Athanasius.
*354 Birth of St. Augustine of Hippo (d. 430), Doctor of the Church. One of the four traditional Doctors of the Latin Church. One of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church. Among his most famous works: ConfessionsCity of GodOn the Trinity.
*354 Constantius II ignores his own law and confirms the rights and privileges of the city of Rome, including their share of state subsidies.
*c. 355 Constantius II kidnaps Pope Liberius to pressure him to condemn St. Athanasius, and thereby approve the Arian creed. The pope refuses and is banished to Baerea in Thrace. Constantius attempts to replace Liberius with Felix, but the laypeople of Rome would not hear of it.
*357 Constantius II is persuaded to allow Pope Liberius to return to Rome. There is some dispute as to whether his return was prompted by his signing a semi-Arian formula that would have satisfied Constantius, or by the Roman faithful, who drove out Felix, the anti-pope. Much appears to be uncertain about this situation.
360s*c. 360 Scrolls begin to be replaced by books.
*361 Emperor Julian "the Apostate" becomes Roman Emperor (-363). He was brought up in Arian Christianity in his early childhood, but was tutored by Pagans in his adolescence. Upon his accession to the throne, he attempts revive Paganism, and in his contempt the Christian Faith, he tries to re-build the Temple in Jerusalem, but fails.
*362 Emperor Julian recalls the exiled Donatist bishops.
*363 Emperor Julian "the Apostate" dies before getting a chance to launch a systematic persecution against the Christians, although mobs that riot and kill them go unpunished.
*363 Jovinian, a Catholic, becomes Emperor. He restores toleration for all religions.He reigns only for nine months.
*364 Valentinian, a Catholic, now rules the Western empire (-375). He takes the property of State-run temples, but instead of handing it over to the Church, as Constantius II did, he puts the imperial treasury in charge of it.
*364 The Arian Valens becomes Emperor of the Eastern Empire (-378). He seeks to Arianize his Christian subjects and makes life difficult for Catholics.
*366 Reign of Pope St. Damasus I (-384). He is most famous for compelling St. Jerome to undertake a faithful translation of the Scriptures, the version known as the Vulgate. St. Damasus condemned Apollinarianism and Macedonianism. He approved the canons of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381).
*c. 368 Death of St. Hilary of Poitiers (b. 315), Doctor of the Church and bishop. He was exiled for his orthodox faith by the Emperor Constantius, but eventually was able to return to Poitiers. He attempted to reconcile the Semi-Arians and the orthodox faithful.
370s*370 Valens, Emperor of the East, orders the bishops of his realm to conform to an Arian formula on pain of of deposition and exile. Many refuse. Their churches are handed over to Arian appointees. Other dioceses organize resistance, and in some cases massacres ensue.
*373 Death of St. Athanasius (b. 297), Doctor of the Church, Bishop of Alexandria.
*373 Death of St. Ephraim of Nisibis, Church Father. Gratian, Emperor of the Western Empire (-383). He abolishes the office of Pontifex Maximus, the head of the Pagan religion, which, by default, was held by the Roman Emperor, even if he was Christian (although he did not necessarily exercise the office). Under the influence of Ambrosius, Gratian prohibited Pagan worship at Rome; refused to wear the insignia of the pontifex maximus as unbefitting a Christian; removed the Altar of Victory from the Senate House at Rome, despite protests of the pagan members of the Senate, and confiscated its revenues; forbade legacies of real property to the Vestals; and abolished other privileges belonging to them and to the pontiffs. Nevertheless he was still deified after his death. Gratian also published an edict that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the Nicene faith). The move was mainly thrust at the various beliefs that had arisen out of Arianism, but smaller dissident sects, such as the Macedonians, were also prohibited.
*376 Birth of St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), Doctor of the Church. Opposed Nestorianism.
*377 A synod in Rome condemns the teachings of Apollinaris of Laodicea. Apollinarism posited that Christ had a human body and a human sensitive soul, but his rational mind was taken over by the Logos or the Divine nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. It was also condemned at the first Council of Constantinople, 381.
*379 Theodosius, a devout Catholic, becomes the Eastern Roman Emperor (-395). For the first time in half a century, the State would favour Catholicism over Arianism. Theodosius is the first emperor to legislate against heresy. The churches of heretics are to be confiscated and handed over to the Catholic Church. Heretical gatherings are forbidden and heretics cannot make wills or inherit. He also legislates against apostasy from Christianity to Paganism.
*379 Death of St. Basil the Great (b. 329), Doctor of the Church.
380s*c. 381 Emperor Theodosius makes Christianity the de facto official religion of the Empire by forbidding the worship of the ancient Gods.
*381 The First Council of Constantinople. Presided by Pope Damasus and Emperor Theodosius I. It proclaimed the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
*382 By this time, the pagan priesthood in the Western Empire no longer enjoys any of its former privileges, and the State has confiscated temple property, making their legacies void.
*383 Roman legions begin to leave Britain. British Christians gradually disconnected from Rome until St. Augustine of Canterbury re-introduces the faith in 590.
*384 Pope St. Siricius begins his reign (-399).
*c. 385 Priscillian becomes the first heretic ever sentenced to death under a Christian prince. He was executed for witchcraft, which was a capital offense, but in reality, he made enemies because of his Manichaean doctrines. Many in the Church protest this action. St. Martin of Tours objects to the interference of a lay court in an ecclesiastical matter. Pope Siricius denounces Bishop Ithacus of Treves for being the leader of the campaign against Priscillian.
*c. 386 Death of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Church Father, brother of St. Basil the Great. Before he became a monk, he was married. His wife either died or became a nun.
*c. 386 Death of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. He is famous for a quotation demonstrating the antiquity of the practice of Commuion in the hand: "Do not come with thy palms stretched flat nor with fingers separated. But making thy left hand a seat for thy right, and hollowing thy palm, receive the Body of Christ, responding Amen."
*386 St. Ambrose refuses to hand over a church to the Arian sect when ordered to do so by the Emperor. In a sermon he says a famous phrase " The emperor is within the Church, and not above the Church." He says of the Arians: " it has been the crime of the Arians, the crime which stamps them as the worst of all heretics, that "they were willing to surrender to Caesar the right to rule the Church." The Emperor backs down.
*388 Christians attack and burn down a synagogue in Callinicum at the instigation of the Bishop. St. Ambrose persuades Emperor Theodosius to not force the local bishop to pay for its restoration. In a letter to the Emperor, he makes many arguments, but principal among them is that re-building the synagogue would amount to being disloyal to the Faith, and that the law is unfairly applied, seeing as Jews burned a number of churches during the reign of Julian the Apostate, and no one was punished. The Emperor ignores the letter. But when he attends Mass presided by St. Ambrose, the bishop refuses to offer the sacrifice until the Emperor revokes his edict.
*c. 389 Death of St. Gregory of Nanzianzus, Doctor of the Church.
390s*390 St. Ambrose threatens Theodosius with excommunication for massacring 7000 people in Thessalonica as punishment for the murder of an imperial official. Theodosius does public penance.
*391 Emperor Theodosius closes all pagan temples in his realm.
*392 Upon the death of Western Emperor Valentinian II, Theodosius becomes the sole ruler of the whole Roman Empire. He forbids all pagan household rites and idols, but does not compel any of his Pagan subjects to become Christian. Paganism will continue to exist, mainly in the backwaters, for the next three centuries.
*c. 392 Death of Apollinaris of Laodicea, heresiarch. In his early years, he was respected for his classical and Scriptural knowledge, on the same level as St. Athanasius, St. Basil and St. Jerome. However, he taught that Christ's reason was taken over by the Logos. Apollnaris did not reconcile with the Church.
*c. 393 Birth of Theodoret of Cyrus, Church Father, bishop and historian. He opposed St. Cyril of Alexandria in the Nestorian controversy, but he eventually submitted to the Council of Ephesus on the matter.
*397 Death of St. Ambrose of Milan (b. 340), Doctor of the Church.
*399 Election of Pope St. Anastasius (-401). A man of great holiness, he was friends with St. Augustine and St. Jerome. He condemned Origenism.
*397 Death of St. Martin of Tours. He was the first saint honoured for his asceticism, not for martyrdom, and whose prayers were invoked in liturgy. He is considered the founder of monasticism in the West. He was also the first to attempt to convert the pagan countryside of Gaul.
400s*401 Reign of Pope Innocent I (-417).
*405 St. Jerome completes his translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew.
*405 Emperor Honorius declares Donatists to be heretics and that they should be rooted out.
*407 Death of St. John Chrysostom (b. 347) Church Doctor and Bishop of Constantinople. He died from exposure to the elements during his forced march to Pontus, his place of exile.
410s*410 The Sack of Rome by the Visigoths, led by Alaric. This event is the inspiration for St. Augustine of Hippo's monumental work, The City of God.
*410 The Donatists are granted toleration by Emperor Honorius.
*c. 411 Beginning of the Pelagian controversy in Northern Africa. Pelagius, an unordained monk, denied the theory of Original Sin, stating that death was a physical necessity, not a result of Original Sin, and that Adam's fault was transmitted through bad example. He denied the necessity of grace to perform good acts, and affirmed it was possible to lead a life completely free of sin. St. Augustine refuted these beliefs at length.
*411 286 Catholic Bishops and 279 Donatist Bishops meet at a conference in Carthage to discuss reunion. It was presided by an Imperial official. He rules that the Donatists have to submit to the Catholic Church. An imperial edict the following January, 412, confirms this decision and threatens banishment for all who disobey.
*415 After the Jews massacred a group of Chrisitans, St. Cyril of Alexandria organizes a mob to drive out the Jews from Alexandria, as the Prefect of the city, Orestes, sided with the Jews and had condemned a guilty Christian for disturbing the peace.
*417 Election of Pope St. Zosimus (-418).
*418 Election of Pope St. Boniface I (-422).
*418 The Council of Carthage condemns Pelagianism. Emperor Honorius banishes all Pelagians from the cities of Italy. Eighteen bishops, led by Julian of Eclanum, must leave their sees for refusing to sign an orthodox creed, not because it was anti-Pelagian, but because it was based on St. Augustine's ideas.
*419 The Council of Africa produces the first Code of Canon Law in Church history: the Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Africanae. It forbade appeals overseas in disciplinary matters, including to Rome.
420s*c. 420 The Semi-Pelagian controversy erupts. Many Pelagians accepted the condemnation of their beliefs at the Council of Carthage (418). In light of that, a more moderate form of Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, arose. It stated that the act of will preceded the grace of salvation. The main proponents of this belief were the monks of Marseilles, including Vincent of Lerins and its main opponents were St. Augustine and his disciple Prosper of Aquitaine. It was condemned at the Second Council of Orange, 529.
*422 Pope St. Celestine I begins his pontificate (-432). During his reign, Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, professed the heresy of the two-person nature of Christ, known as Nestorianism.
*c. 422 A mob of Christians in Alexandria murder Hypatia, a renowned female pagan philosopher. They tore her to shreds using sharp roof tiling, then burnt her remains. Damascius attributes the murder to St. Cyril of Alexandria's envy of her reputation; he is, however, a Christian-hater. The Church historian Socrates does not mention any motive on Cyril's part, but says that it did bring disgrace on the Church of Alexandria.More about the incident here
*426 The Council of Africa formally requests the pope that he not be so ready to hear appeals settled in their jurisdiction or lift excommunications that they have imposed. Rome makes no reply.
*427 Nestorius, heresiarch, is appointed Bishop of Constantinople.
*428 Nestorius campaigns and obtains a new law against heresy. His friend, the monk Anastasius, in attempt to promte Nestorius' theology, preaches that the title "Mother of God" should only be used with the greatest of care, if at all. This creates a tumult. Nestorius excommunicates those who object to this novel theology. They appeal to the Emperor.
*429 Vandals invade North Africa led by Genseric. They were Arian and very anti-Catholic. Catholic churches are burnt, Catholic meetings are prohibited, and Catholic clergy are exiled and replaced by Arian clergy.
430s*430 Death of St. Augustine (b. 354), Church Doctor and bishop.
*431 Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, presided by St. Cyril of Alexandria in the name of Pope Celestine I. It condemns Nestorianism, the belief that Christ is two persons and declared Mary is the Mother of God (theotokos). It also condemned Pelagianism.
*432 Pope St. Celestine I sends St. Patrick to evangelize Ireland.
*432 Pope St. Sixtus III begins his pontificate (-440).
*c.434 Death of St. Vincent of Lerins, Church Father and Abbot, famous for upholding the universal opinion of the Fathers as the Rule of Faith in disputed matters.
*436 Promulgation of the Theodosian Code, isseud by Theodosius II. It was a systematic presentation of laws in existence. Observance of Sunday, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost enforced.
440s*440 Election of Pope St. Leo I "The Great" (-461), Doctor of the Church. He vigourously fought many heresies: Manichaenism, Priscillianism, Euctychianism, Monophytism and Nestorianism. He is famous for his encounter with Attilia the Hun, whom he persuaded not to pillage Rome. He also obtained a promise from Genseric, leader of the Vandals, that they would not injure the inhabitants of Rome when they sacked it in 455.
*444 Death of St. Cyril of Alexandria (b. 376), Doctor of the Church. He fought the teachings of Nestorius, proclaiming Christ had two natures in one person, and that Mary was thereby the God-bearer (Theotokos) the Mother of God. Unfortunately, he used the phrase " one incarnate nature of God the Word" to express his orthodox belief. This phrase led to misunderstandings, to the extent that Monophysites claimed he was on their side.
*c. 447 Death of Sozomen, Church Father and historian. He continued the Church history begun by Eusebius in the previous century.
*449 The "Robber Council" of Ephesus. Eutyches, a monk from Constantinople, had been condemned by his bishop, Flavian, for teaching that Christ only had a divine nature. He made an appeal to the emperor to hold a Council, which has been dubbed the "Robber Council" of Ephesus. Pope St. Leo I had written a famous letter for the occasion, the Tome of Leo, in which he explained the Catholic Faith on the subject of the two natures of Christ. His letter is ignored at the Council. Eutyches' condemnation is made void, while Flavian is deposed and sentenced to prison for his orthodox faith.
450s*451 The ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, presided by the Emperor Marcian and the legates of Pope St. Leo I. Over five hundred bishops attend. They approve the Tome of St. Leo as an orthodox statement of faith. It affirms that there is a hypostasis in Christ, a union of the Divine and the Human natures in one person. Bishop Dioscoros of Alexandria is condemned for having protected Eutyches the heretic. The Council also denounces the intervention of the Emperor in religious affairs.
*454 At the death of the exiled Monophysite bishop Dioscoros of Alexandria, they elect a successor, Timothy, nicknamed "the Cat" to replace the Catholic bishop who had already been installed. Imperial troops are sent in to restore order and Timothy the Cat is exiled along with other Monophysite bishops.
460s*461 Beginning of reign of Pope St. Hilarus (-468).
*461 Death of St. Patrick, apostle to the Irish.
*468 St. Simplicius becomes Pope (-483).
470s*477 Death of Genseric, King of the Vandals and persecutor of Catholics. His successor, Hunseric, seeks to eliminate Catholicism entirely from Northern Africa. He assembles 466 Catholic bishops and gives them four months to apostatize to Arianism, or else the traditional imperial decrees against heresy would be applied to them. Many trades are closed off to the common people unless they can produce a certificate of Arian conformity.
480s*480 Birth of St. Benedict of Nursia (d. 543), founder of Western monasticism and originator of the Benedictine Rule.
*483 St. Felix III is elected Pope (-492).
*484 Beginning of Acacian Schism. Pope Felix III excommunicates Patriarch Acacia of Constantinople for signing the Henoticon, a vague document, which contained no heretical statement, but did not condemn Monophytism. It was intended by the Emperor Zeno to be a compromise formula of faith to please both Catholics and Monophysites.
490s*491 The Armenian Church secedes from the Church of Rome and Constantinople.
*492-496 Pope Gelasius I. He was also a staunch defender of the papal office during the Acacian Schism.
*494 Some persecuted bishops of North Africa are recalled from exile.
*496 Pope Anastasius II begins his reign (-498).
*496 Clovis, king of the Franks, converts to Catholicism. When his troops appear to be losing against the Alemanni at Strasbourg, he invokes the God of his Catholic wife Clotilda to give him victory. He is baptized by St. Remi, and brings the Franks to the Catholic fold, the first barbarian people to adopt Catholicism.
*498 Election of Pope St. Symmachus (-514).
*499 The Synod of Rome issues decree on papal elections. It banned discussions on the election of a future pope during a reigning pope's lifetime. It was an attempt to conspire to make an election truly democratic, and not make the reigning pope choose his successor.

Editorial note on the Timeline

The primary purpose of the Timeline is to be a quick reference to important dates for Catholic apologists. It also gives a general overview of the history of the Church to the Catholic who might like an idea of what occurred in the past, but has little inclination to read in-depth. The Timeline contains dates concerned with secular history that are pertinent to the Catholic apologist, as well as quirky Catholic history bits for the trivia buff. I've attempted to include as many important events as possible, both good and bad, and to include facts commonly raised in Catholic apologetic discussions. In some cases, I have attempted to debunk common myths. It would be beyond the scope of this work to count every historical objection and accusation made regarding Catholicism.
  1. Bernard Grun, Timetables of history.
  2. The online Catholic Encyclopedia-- numerous articles.
  3. Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
  4. Our Sunday Visitor Online Almanac.
  5. Philip Hughes, A history of the Church to the Eve of the Reformation.
  6. J.M. Roberts, The Penguin History of the World.