"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)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

By Their Rotten Fruit We Can Know Them

If you were the devil how would you spend your time? Who would you work on? I would target the clergy because if you get one of them you're likely to get many of their flock. Satan tempted Jesus so he has no problem going after a priest. I believe clergy are under constant attack and sadly some of them fall.

There are three types of Catholics today: those who believe we're in a major crisis caused by the changes since the last council, those who believe the crisis is because we haven't made enough changes, and those who wonder what the other two are talking about ('What crisis?'). Pope St. Pius X saw this crisis coming and labelled it Modernism. He even made the newly ordained take an oath against it. Sixty years later that oath was removed for some reason.

Fr. Richard Heilman references the first major crisis in describing the current one. I don't know how Arius came to the conclusion Jesus wasn't divine, but he managed to convince eighty percent of the clergy into thinking likewise. Judas was the first clerical traitor; Luther perhaps the most effective. Since we've always had them it's unlikely the Church is without clerical traitors today.

No one is born a traitor to the Church. At some point they turn, succumbing to the temptations of the Enemy.

Dr. Bella Dodd was once a great enemy of the Church; Archbishop Sheen helped get her back. If her testimony is to be believed then while a communist, she helped get eleven hundred fellow communists into the seminary with the purpose of undermining the faith. Why would she lie about that? If true then it's likely some of those clergymen were at Vatican II in positions of authority and/or influence.

Vatican II was the first ecumenical council called for no specific reason in particular. It was to be a pastoral council to create a new language to relate to the modern world. It wasn't in defence of heresy like Nicea was to Arianism or Trent was to Luther. It should have focused on the heresy of Modernism but perhaps that will be tackled by Vatican III. Two years of consultations prior to the council created an agenda that was scrapped on the first day primarily by a small group from the Rhineland. Their first target was the liturgy.

A good priest once told me Vatican II was necessary but occurred at the worse possible time. Europe was still recovering from the horrors of fascism (including a subconscious guilt of anti-semitism) North America was engulfed by materialism, Communism was at its peak, and the Sexual Revolution was just around the corner. The liturgy which had grown slowly and organically since the Passion had been bottled up for four centuries. It's reported that Pope Paul VI would later say a window was opened to let in some fresh air but the smoke of Satan blew in instead.

Another good priest once told me we are to judge events by their fruit. How then are we to judge Vatican II - a pastoral council with ambiguous documents? Pope Benedict XVI said we misinterpreted the documents; the intended fruit is yet to ripen.

I've been told when all the changes were made the laity didn't challenge them because Catholics were to pray, pay, and obey. They didn't have the Internet back then so when the altar rails were ripped out in the 'spirit of Vatican II' who could have known otherwise? That's not the case today, so when your new pastor decides to start a yoga class you should object. If he seems fixated on unCatholic change you should oppose him.

As a church it's time to have a family chat. We need to be honest, thorough, and loving. We need to look at the state of the Church today and agree we're in a major crisis. We need to accept that most of the changes made in the 'spirit of Vatican II' are rotten. We need to look at each other (clergy and laity) and increase our faith, hope, and charity through fraternal correction. It's no longer acceptable to pretend everything's ok, that everyone's nice, that the Church is exempt from treachery.

Most of us were poorly catechized, That's the past. The future will be determined by what we do today. We have all the tools necessary to catechize ourselves and those around us. You can order the Baltimore Catechism from Amazon and study it in a small group of family members or fellow parishioners. You can subscribe to Church Militant and learn the faith from the computer you're reading this blog on. You have a duty to inform yourself.

Since the Church draws her power from the liturgy we also need to acknowledge its role in our faith formation. The old expression rings true: Lex Orandi Lex Credendi Lex Vivendi (As we worship so we believe and live). Yes the Ordinary Form is valid and can be offered reverently. However, to appreciate its richness requires a solid formation built by proper catechesis. How many pewsitters today know the Mass is the bloodless re-presentation of Calvary? How many think it's a happy community event designed to make us feel good about ourselves and each other? If the liturgy is being abused it's possible other abuses are occurring.

Of course it's preferable to attend one's local parish but if your spiritual needs are not being met then the prudent thing to do is go parish shopping. If the pastor never talks about sin, salvation, or the devil, then you need to leave. If the homily is always a version of "God loves you; Love one another" then leave. The church may be full on Sunday but if the confessional is empty the afternoon before then chances are many souls are perishing.

For those without the means of transportation to another parish or live in a small town then not making your Sunday Obligation isn't an option. You need to speak to your pastor, then maybe the bishop, and as a last resort write a letter to Rome. You suffer through bad liturgy and sappy homilies, offering it up, thinking of our Crucified Lord, but you don't condone error. We all have a responsibility to help as many souls get back to Heaven, including those entrusted with keeping us out of Hell.

The Church has survived every crisis and as its Founded told us the gates of Hell will not prevail. The good news is the generation that made all the rotten changes is dying and going to their Judgement. Pray for them and know that your own fate is yet to be determined. What will you say to our Lord at your Judgement when He asks, "What did you do with the Gift of Knowledge I gave you?".

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

National catholic Reporter & Its Priestly Readers

It should not take anyone long to realize the National catholic Reporter has an agenda. With even a basic level understanding of the Catholic faith it is obvious this publication promotes a disobedient, dissenting, and sometimes heretical perspective. It shows no interest in the salvation of souls preferring to advance left wing political philosophies and Protestant principles.

From its Mission as linked to above:

"The National Catholic Reporter is the only significant alternative Catholic voice that provides avenues for expression of diverse perspectives, promoting tolerance and respect for differing ideas."
Allow me to translate: "alternative" = dissenting

"diverse" = heretical

"tolerance" = consent of the sinful

"respect" = flattery of the sinful

Our Mission:
NCR connects Catholics to church, faith and the common good with independent news, analysis and spiritual reflection.

Allow me to correct: Notice how they don't capitalize the 'c' in "church". That's because they are probably not referring to the Catholic Church, but indeed a 'new church' or the Protestant belief in some invisible church all followers of Christ belong to.

Our Vision:
We see a church alive with the Spirit, its members working around the world to embody and spread the message of the Gospels while relying on NCR as a trusted provider of information and a source of inspiration.

Translation: Once again, the word 'church' is lower case while 'Spirit' is correctly in upper case. The Gospel message is their privately interpreted one, not necessarily the one of the Magisterium.

Having developed through the inspiration of the Second Vatican Council, our spirit is independent, our management lay, our vision ecumenical.
Correction: Vatican II's spirit is not 'independent' especially in the sense the NcR is trying to fool people into believing. Nor did the Council suggest we do away with clerical management. If the NcR's vision was truly ecumenical they'd be trying to bring people into the Church, not break away from it.

Four years after it launched in Kansas City, Missouri, Bishop Charles Helmsing (their Ordinary) asked them to stop using the word 'Catholic'.

"The Catholic Reporter, formerly the official newspaper of the Kansas City - St. Joseph, was begun by my predecessor under a policy of editorial freedom. That policy of editorial freedom [I] endorsed on my appointment as bishop of Kansas City - St. Joseph. When theNational Catholic Reporter was launched, that original policy of editorial freedom was announced as basic to the new publication.
At all times it was presumed that the policy of editorial freedom was none other than that legitimate liberty declared and defended by the Second Vatican Council in its Declaration on Religious Liberty, further defined in the conciliar Decree on Communications, and, likewise, defended in the Constitution on the Church in the Modern WorldIt could not imply that pseudo-freedom from man's obligations to his Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier in vogue under the standard of the 19th century liberalism. It could not imply, as a conciliar declaration on religious liberty clearly states, freedom in the moral order. As Cardinal Koenig pointed out in his recent address to editors, there is a legitimate freedom of opinion to be exercised by the Catholic press so long as it is absolutely loyal to the Church's teachings. If an editor is to merit the name "Catholic," he must remember "to think with the Church."

As long as the Catholic editor carries the name Catholic, he can never forget that he is a teacher of Christ's revelation. What he writes necessarily touches on faith -- that gift of the Holy Spirit which "we carry in earthen vessels" and by which we accept Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, and His revelation.

The Catholic editor must manifest a reverence which must shine through in his attitude and in his every expression. The Gospel is clear on the destructive effects of ridicule, for example, in recounting of the taunts hurled at Simon Peter: "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth," and their effects on him who, once converted, was to confirm his brethren.

As the editors of the National Catholic Reporter know, I have tried as their pastor, responsible for their eternal welfare, and that of those whom they influence, to guide them on a responsible course in harmony with Catholic teachings. When private conferences were of no avail, as is well known, I had to issue a public reprimand for their policy of crusading against the Church's teachings on the transmission of human life, and against the Gospel values of sacred virginity and dedicated celibacy as taught by the Church.

NOW, AS a last resort, I am forced as bishop to issue a condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter for its disregard and denial of the most sacred values of our Catholic faith. Within recent months the National Catholic Reporter has expressed itself in belittling the basic truths expressed in the Creed of Pope Paul VI; it has made itself a platform for the airing of heretical views on the Church and its divinely constituted structure, as taught by the First and Second Vatican Councils. Vehemently to be reprobated was the airing in recent editions of an attack on the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the virgin birth of Christ, by one of its contributors.

Finally, it has given lengthy space to a blasphemous and heretical attack on the Vicar of Christ. It is difficult to see how well instructed writers who deliberately deny and ridicule dogmas of our Catholic faith can possibly escape the guilt of the crime defined in Canon 1325 on heresy, and how they can escape the penalties of automatic excommunication entailed thereby.

In fairness to our Catholic people, I hereby issue an official condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter. Furthermore, I send this communication to my brotherbishops, and make known to the priestsreligious and laity of the nation my views on the poisonous character of this publication.

As a bishop, a member of the college of bishops, and one in union with the head of the college, Christ's Vicar on earth, I proclaim with my brother bishops that the Church is, indeed, always in need of reform. This reform is a matter of putting on the mind of Christ, as St. Paul declared, through our contemplation of Christ in His teachings and through our loyalty to the teachings of the Church so painstakingly expressed in recent years in the constitutions, decrees and declarations of the Second Vatican Council.

The status of the world when our Lord came was a deplorable one. We are not surprised that the status of man, wounded by original sin, remains deplorable as long as he does not heed the voice of Christ and his authoritative teacher, his Church. Sociological studies, according to modern techniques, can help us appreciate the status quo -- the exact thinking and acting and attitudes of our people. For this we are grateful. But it is a total reversal of our Divine Lord's policy to imagine for a moment that the disclosure of attitudes through such surveys becomes the norm of human conduct or thinking.

Christ and His apostles preached first and foremost penance, metanoia, the change of mind and heart. The Church continues to do so today, but it finds itself increasingly more frustrated in its teaching of the ideals of our Lord by the type of reporting, editorializing and ridicule that have become the week-after-week fare of the National Catholic Reporter.

IN AS MUCH as the National Catholic Reporter does not reflect the teaching of the Church, but on the contrary, has openly and deliberately opposed this teaching. I ask the editors in all honesty to drop the term "Catholic" from their masthead. By retaining it they deceive their Catholic readers and do a great disservice to ecumenism by being responsible for the false irenicism of watering down Catholic teachings.

I further ask the editors and the board of directors, for the love of God and their fellow men, to change their misguided and evil policy; for it is evident to me that they havealready caused untold harm to the faith and morals not only of our laity, but of too many of our priests and religious.

I make this statement with apostolic freedom as given by our Lord to His followers; I make it conscious of the heavy burden that is mine as a bishop, as one enjoined by the Holy Spirit through the pen of St. Paul: "Reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine; for there will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrines; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their own lust, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and will turn aside rather to fables." (2 Tim. 4:2-4)"


Bishop Helmsing was quite clear but his words fell on harden soil. When a bishop tells you the mortal sin of heresy is upon your soul, the prudent thing to do is repent before it's too late. The NcR did not comply.

In 2013, the Ordinary of Kansas City, Bishop Robert Finn, reminded the NcR of Bishop's Helmsing's charges and repeated the request to drop the word "Catholic" but got the original response. 

In contrast, in 2011 Bishop Vigneron asked Michael Voris to remove the word 'Catholic' from his media outlet. There were no charges of heresy or dissent. Voris complied and the renamed Church Militant 'dot' tv is doing better than ever.

Church Militant along with the Lepanto Institute have launched a petition to the USCCB requesting the NcR comply with their bishop's instruction to remove the word 'Catholic' from their name. It's an important petition and one I hope you will sign.

NCR image 02

As Christians we all have a duty to proclaim the Gospels, to teach, and help as many souls get back to Heaven as we can. Three of the seven Spiritual Acts Of Mercy include: Instruct the ignorant, Counsel the doubtful, Admonish the sinner. Therefore we have a responsibility to speak out against dissenting, heretical media outlets that have been condemned by at least two bishops.

Unfortunately, not all clergy in these modern times agree. It's extremely difficult to imagine how any priest with all their education in the seminary, guidance from their bishop, and daily dealings in Church matters could somehow be unaware of the NcR's disobedience. This outlet makes no secret of its support of female ordination, homosexual marriage, contraception, etc. Why then do the following priests support the NcR in their social media platforms (and yes, continued re-tweets of theirs is support)?

Thomas Rosica, CSB. Vatican Spokesperson, CEO Salt & Light TV

James Martin, SJ. Celebrity Jesuit 
(very popular with Hamilton Diocese Chancery Office Staff)

Rev. Con O'Mahony, Vicar of Education, Diocese of Hamilton

Rev. Mark Gatto, Pastor, St. Matthew's Parish Oakville

If any of the above priests truly did not know the NcR is a dissenting publication then I apologize for assuming they know full well. However, I find it quite improbable any regular reader of theirs in that obtuse. 

What is more likely is that regular readers of NcR share such dissenting opinions.

If Rev. Gatto believes that strongly in altar girls maybe that's one of the reasons the Diocese of Hamilton had so few seminarians when he was the Vocations Director? Connect+The+Dots

Sometimes where there is smoke there is fire (pun intended). Those who subscribe to the NcR should know it's a publication that has been condemned. As such they should unsubscribe, stop reading it, stop re-tweeting it. Other sources that push the envelop such as James Martin SJ, John Allen Jr, American Magazine, Crux Now, The Tablet, etc, should be treated likewise. This matter isn't about pettiness, 'holier than thou' or any other ulterior motive. It's about the obedience that leads to salvation. Eternity is a long time to be wrong; the consequences are unpleasant and permanent

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What The Francis?

Soon after the Pope Of Surprises took office some suggested a new blog was needed: WDTPRS (What Did The Pope Really Say) but the acronym is already taken. Assuming this isn't the last papacy I think the history books will look back at it in wonder. A new phrase may even come into use. When someone says something wild and absurd, the response could be "What the Francis are you talking about?" or in type, "WTF?"


To be fair, some of the bizarre statements attributed to Pope Francis have been taken out of context. His infamous, "Who am I to judge?" is traditional Church teaching if you read the whole statement. The mainstream media have spun other pope's comments into their secular narrative (ex: 'Pope Benedict XVI Approves Condoms In Africa').

Last month Pope Francis said Christmas trees and nativity scenes are a charade since there is not peace on Earth.

The self-proclaimed Bishop Of Rome has made a habit of uttering confusing and insulting remarks directed at no one in particular. On Monday, in his homily in the papal chapel (without kneelers) Pope Francis accused those opposed to change as being idolaters and rebels. The problem with this accusation and others is that he doesn't specify to whom it is directed. The closest he got was to state it's not the lawmakers. Can we speculate that means he is not referring to changing the Sacrament of Marriage? Who knows?

So who could he have been referring to?
- his personal chef who refuses to put Argentinian items on the menu
- his personal assistant who insists the pope dress like a pope
- liturgists who only invite men to the Washing Of The Feet
- sedevacantists who reject the Novus Ordo as invalid
- bishops who reject Summorum Pontificum

Since he usually doesn't clarify statements such as these we will probably never know and that's probably a good thing. The ambiguous nature of such insults has led some to suggest the prudent approach with our Holy Father is to ignore him. I've tried that but in our age of social media and constant information it's a hard thing to do. Pope St. Pius V may have said a lot of loony things but no one tweeted them out to the world. How things may have been different if the Internet was around immediately after Vatican II.

There is evidence to suggest those in and around the Vatican either follow or are aware of new media, blogs, and other humble voices. The Vatican's English spokesperson threatened to sue one blogger so we know that blog gets attention in Rome. When the mid-term report of the first synod on the family came out insinuating the Church was about to legalize sodomy, bloggers raised hell and the matter went away. Coincidence? Church Militant dot com has recently exposed Cardinal Wuerl's taste for luxury and Cardinal Dolan's preference to cover-up urine drinking priests; stories the mainstream Catholic media prefers to ignore.

If we speculate as to what the Church would be like today without voices of the orthodox porters it's difficult to imagine anything good. One of the pope's closest advisers recently admitted to something we've known all along - the Lavender Mafia is real and powerful. What this gay lobby hates is exposure - ironically preferring to remain in the closet. Their manipulation is sinister and deceptive. The best way we laity can help rid the Church of modernist rot is to shine a light on it and await the holy clergy to remove it.

In a recent post I shared St. Thomas Aquinas guidelines for correcting clergy. When necessary it needs to be done in such a way as to not violate the Second Commandment and thus commit a mortal sin. The end goal of correcting anyone should always be the salvation of their soul. Prudence and charity are to be exercised when sounding the alarm bell. We should be humble because the destination of our soul is not yet determined.

Pope St Pius X warned us of modernists in 1907, Blessed Pope Paul VI told us in 1972 the smoke of Satan had entered the Church, and Pope Benedict XVI told us upon his election wolves threatened him so no one is being paranoid or a 'rad trad' by responding to the enemy's attacks. Since most of us today were poorly catechised such operations can be self-teachable moments. The wise among us will take the time to learn the faith so as not to appear like some barking lunatic - a yappy mutt too insignificant to kick off the porch.

In conclusion and return to the subject, I still have hope for this pope. I hope he will stop talking so much and actually do something constructive for the Church so desperately in need of repair. The Curia needs to be swept clean, his Jesuit order needs to be rebuilt, the laity need to return to the Sacrament of Confession and fulfill their Sunday Obligation every week. As a bonus I keep hoping he will at least start the process of reunifying the Eastern Orthodox and return the SSPX to normal communion (although at this point they may not want it).

Sts Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Actual Francis Effect

Image result for chiesa espresso on line

Jubilee of Mercy, But With the Confessionals Empty

The shocking letter of a priest with the care of souls. Fewer and fewer penitents, and less and less repentant. The counterproductive effects of a “door” thrown open too wide 

by Sandro Magister

ROME, January 9, 2016 – One thing that made the news at the end of the year was the data furnished by the prefecture of the pontifical household on attendance in 2015 at the public audiences with Pope Francis, with numbers down almost by half compared to the previous year:

At the Wednesday general audiences there was a drop from 1,199,000 visitors in 2014 to 704,100 in 2015. While for the Sunday Angelus the fall was from 3,040,000 to 1,585,000.

This does not change the fact that Pope Francis remains overwhelmingly popular. His popularity ratings are not enough, however, to determine what level of effective religious practice corresponds to them.

Other revelations are much more indicative in this regard. For example, the official figures that ISTAT compiles every year in Italy on the daily life of a gigantic sampling of citizens, made up of almost 24,000 families, for a total of 54,000 individuals residing in 850 cities large and small.

In the most recent annual report made public, relative to 2014, the “percentage of persons over the age of 6 who go to a place of worship at least once a week” turned out to be 28.8 percent.

The fact that more than a quarter of Italians go to church at least once a week can be seen as significant, in itself and in comparison with other countries. But if this figure is compared with the results of previous years, here as well a clear drop can be seen.

During the seven years of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, this same indicator was consistently above 30 percent in Italy, on average around 32-33 percent. Decisively higher than in 2014, the first full year of the pontificate of Francis and the one in which his popularity reached its peak.

The following letter takes these statistical indicators into account. But it evaluates the real “Francis effect” on religious life with the more up close and direct gaze of the pastor of souls, of the confessor. Who writes that during this pontificate he has experienced not only a further drop in the practice of sacramental confession, but also a deterioration in the “quality” of the confessions themselves. A deterioration that does not seem unrelated to the use of certain remarks of pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio that have had enormous success in the media.

The author of the letter is a churchman with a high level of scholarly specialization and with significant teaching appointments in Italy and abroad, but who also dedicates a great deal of time and energy to pastoral care.

His evaluations reflect those of a growing number of pastors, who - in a private capacity - do not fail to confide similar concerns to their respective bishops.

And “www.chiesa” also guarantees confidentiality to the author of the letter, who would be too exposed to the predictable retaliation of an ecclesiastical “new establishment” - as he calls it – whose conformist fawning over this pontificate is one of its most deleterious vices.

A confidentiality that allows that “parresia” or frankness of speech so greatly encouraged by Pope Francis himself, who even during a synod wants the attention to be on “what” is said in the assembly, but not on “who” says it.


“Who are you to judge me?” The confessions of a confessor

Dear Magister,

Not a little has been written on the impact of the pontificate of Pope Francis “ad intra” and “ad extra Ecclesiae,” when it comes to the renewal of the spiritual life of the faithful and their communal participation in that of the Church, as also on the hoped-for return to evangelical and sacramental practice by those who had distanced themselves from it in recent decades. And it has been written from different perspectives: theology, anthropology, history, sociology, culture, communication, and politics. I do not believe it is necessary to add anything in this regard, in part because many of these facts and considerations still need to be digested through calm, critical reflection.

There nevertheless remains open - and in part undecided - the identification of a robust spiritual and pastoral indicator for measuring the effect of a change of personality, discipline, or teaching on souls and on the people of God.

I am aware of this. “Souls” and “people of God” are two theological and ecclesial categories that are decommissioned today, particularly in the statements of the current pontiff and his “new establishment.” But barring evidence to the contrary they are still part of the Catholic faith as confirmed by Vatican Council II itself. And negligence of them carries the risk, which is anything but transitory, of exchanging the “salus animarum” for the “vota aliquorum” and the “bonum populi Dei” for the “popularis consensus.” I translate: the health of souls for the wishes of a few and the good of the people of God for popularity.

I leave to the devotees of the sociology of religion, of the public communication of the faith, and of ecclesiastical politics every consideration on the mass participation of the faithful and of nonbelievers in public events at which the Holy Father is present (general audiences, Angelus, liturgical celebrations, etc.) - the official statistics on which as furnished by the prefecture of the pontifical household show a marked decrease from the first to the third year of the pontificate of Pope Francis - and on the possible significance that these numbers might present in terms of conversion to the Gospel and adherence to the pontiff’s message “urbi et orbi” for a “new springtime” of the Church, characterized by the “doors” being thrown open with facility for all (if memory serves, however, the Gospel of Luke speaks of a “narrow gate” through which one must “strive” to enter, make an effort, and of the “many who will seek to enter but will not be able”).

I would like instead simply to communicate the experience - the facts as they present themselves in the daily like of pastoral work on the periphery, so that “contra factum non valet illatio” - of a priest who dedicates his remaining time and energy, after fulfilling the primary ministry that the bishop has entrusted to him, to the work of sacramental reconciliation, convinced that the mercy of God passes above all, in the ordinary and always accessible way, through the discretion of the dim partition and the narrow window of the confessional, and not by entering, in the beacon lights of the basilica and before the eyes of all, through the great doors of the Holy Year (the merit of which is another: that of obtaining remission before God of the temporal punishment for sins already remitted, as for their guilt, in the sacrament of confession, which remains the first and fundamental vehicle of God’s mercy toward us sinners, after baptism).

The facts are these. Since the opening of the Holy Year backed by Pope Francis and on the occasion of the Christmas festivities of 2015 - as also since Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been sitting on the throne of Peter - the number of faithful who approach the confessional has not increased, neither in ordinary time nor in festive. The trend of a progressive, rapid diminution of the frequency of sacramental reconciliation that has characterized recent decades has not stopped. On the contrary: the confessionals of my church have been largely deserted.

I have sought comfort for this bitter consideration by imagining that the basilicas connected to the Holy Year in Rome or in other cities, or the shrines and convents, have been able to attract a larger number of penitents. But a round of phone calls to some fellow priests who regularly hear confessions in these places (using the opportunity of the Christmas wishes that I extend every year) has confirmed my observation: lines of penitents that are anything but long, everywhere, even less than at the festivities of past years.

And there is also less and less news of memorable conversions of sheep lost for many years and returning to the sheepfold of the Good Shepherd through the “useless servants” of his mercy that we priests are. When this happens, very rarely, there is neither explicit nor implicit reference to the person or the word of the current pope more than there was in the past for his predecessors (how many young people came back from the World Youth Days and put into practice their resolution of frequent confession!).

Distrusting the value of the numbers, because even the salvation of one soul has an infinite value in the eyes of God, I reviewed the “quality” of the confessions I have heard and I asked - while respecting the secret of the confessional concerning the identity of the penitent - for news from a few fellow confessors of long experience. The picture that presents itself is certainly not a happy one, both concerning the awareness of sin and in reference to the awareness of the prerequisites for obtaining God’s forgiveness (in this case as well, I know that the term “forgiveness” is giving way to “mercy” and is in danger of being mothballed soon, but at what theological, spiritual, and pastoral cost?).

Two examples stand for all. One middle-aged gentleman whom I asked, with discretion and delicacy, if he had repented of a repeated series of grave sins against the seventh commandment “do not steal,” of which he had accused himself with a certain frivolity and almost joking about the circumstances, certainly not attenuating, that had accompanied them, responded to me with the words of Pope Francis: “Mercy knows no limits” and by showing surprise that I would remind him of the need for repentance and for the resolution to avoid falling back into the same sin in the future: “I did what I did. What I will do I will decide when I go from here. What I think about what I have done is a question between me and God. I am here only to have what everyone deserves at least at Christmas: to be able to receive communion at midnight!” And he concluded by paraphrasing the now archfamous expression of Pope Francis: “Who are you to judge me?”

One young lady, to whom I had proposed as an act of penance connected to the sacramental absolution of a grave sin against the fifth commandment “do not kill” that she kneel in prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament exposed on the altar of a church and perform an act of material charity toward a poor person to the extent of her means, responded to me with annoyance that “no one must ask for anything in exchange for God’s mercy, because it is free,” and that she had neither the time to stop at a church to pray (she had to “run around doing Christmas shopping downtown”), nor money to give to the poor (“who don’t even need it that much, because they have more than we do”).

It is evident that a certain message, at least as received from the pope and come down to the faithful, easily lends itself to being misunderstood, mistaken, and therefore of no help in the maturation of a sure and upright conscience in the faithful concerning their sins and the conditions of their remission in the sacrament of reconciliation. With all due respect to Msgr. Dario Viganò, prefect of the secretariat for communication of the Holy See, the “zigzag course” through concepts without ever pausing to clarify any of them - which he recognizes as a gem of the “communication style of Pope Francis,” capable of “making him so irresistible” to the modern listener - presents a few spiritual and pastoral inconveniences, far from trivial if they have to do with grace and the sacraments, the treasury of the Church.

I will stop here, so as not to exploit your patience in reading me. I am not making the claim of proposing as a thermometer of ecclesial faith and life the quantity or quality of confessions and, more in general, of recourse to the sacraments, nor of making them an exclusive parameter for the evaluation of a pontificate or of the state of the Church’s health. This would not be fair and would lose sight of other dimensions of life according to the Gospel and the ecclesial mission.

But we should also not neglect to take into consideration some worrying signals that are coming from the churches of the “periphery,” as also from those of the “center.”

Those bishops were not entirely wrong who, at least until Vatican Council II and in many cases even afterward, during pastoral visits in their dioceses asked the priests above all how many confessions and how many communions they administered in a year, comparing them to the number of baptized entrusted to their care.

Nor were those popes wrong who, in the past, had the bishops on their visits “ad limina apostolorum” deliver to them the overall number of sacraments administered in their dioceses.

They were bishops and popes who drew useful indications on the state of the care of souls and the holiness of the people of God simply from the medicine of souls and from the vehicle of sanctifying grace.

They certainly did not have at hand the whole apparatus of institutions, communications, technology, and organization made possible by religious sociology and by the print and broadcast media, but they did have the humble certainty that it is not by coddling the cultural and anthropological fashions of the time that souls are saved, nor by following in the wake of individual and social (re)sentiments and demands inside and outside the Church that the people of God are strengthened on the path of holiness.

Thank you for your attention and many cordial greetings, “ad maiorem Dei gloriam.”


Monday, January 4, 2016

Laity Correcting Clergy - St Thomas Aquinas

Article 2. Whether fraternal correction is a matter of precept?

Objection 1. It would seem that fraternal correction is not a matter of precept. For nothing impossible is a matter of precept, according to the saying of Jerome [Pelagius, Expos. Symb. ad Damas]: "Accursed be he who says that God has commanded any. thing impossible." Now it is written (Ecclesiastes 7:14): "Consider the works of God, that no man can correct whom He hath despised." Therefore fraternal correction is not a matter ofprecept.

Objection 2. Further, all the precepts of the Divine Law are reduced to the precepts of the Decalogue. But fraternal correction does not come under any precept of the Decalogue. Therefore it is not a matter of precept.

Objection 3. Further, the omission of a Divine precept is a mortal sin, which has no place in a holy man. Yet holy and spiritual men are found to omit fraternal correction: since Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 9): "Not only those of low degree, but also those of high position, refrain from reproving others, moved by a guilty cupidity, not by the claims of charity." Therefore fraternal correction is not a matter of precept.

Objection 4. Further, whatever is a matter of precept is something due. If, therefore, fraternal correction is a matter of precept, it is due to our brethren that we correct them when they sin. Now when a man owes anyone a material due, such as the payment of a sum of money, he must not be content that his creditor come to him, but he should seek him out, that he may pay him his due. Hence we should have to go seeking for those who need correction, in order that we might correct them; which appears to be inconvenient, both on account of the great number of sinners, for whose correction one man could not suffice, and because religious would have to leave the cloister in order to reprove men, which would be unbecoming. Therefore fraternal correction is not a matter of precept.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. xvi, 4): "You become worse than the sinner if you fail to correct him." But this would not be so unless, by this neglect, one omitted to observe some precept. Therefore fraternal correction is a matter of precept.

I answer that, Fraternal correction is a matter of precept. We must observe, however, that while the negative precepts of the Law forbid sinful acts, the positive precepts inculcate acts of virtue. Now sinful acts are evil in themselves, and cannot become good, no matter how, or when, or where, they are done, because of their very nature they are connected with an evil end, as stated in Ethic. ii, 6: wherefore negative precepts bind always and for all times. On the other hand, acts of virtue must not be done anyhow, but by observing the due circumstances, which are requisite in order that an act be virtuous; namely, that it be done where, when, and how it ought to be done. And since the disposition of whatever is directed to the end depends on the formal aspect of the end, the chief of these circumstances of a virtuous act is this aspect of the end, which in this case is the good of virtue. If therefore such a circumstance be omitted from a virtuous act, as entirely takes away the good of virtue, such an act is contrary to a precept. If, however, the circumstance omitted from a virtuous act be such as not to destroy the virtue altogether, though it does not perfectly attain the good of virtue, it is not against a precept. Hence the Philosopher (Ethic. ii, 9) says that if we depart but little from the mean, it is not contrary to the virtue, whereas if we depart much from the mean virtue is destroyed in its act. Now fraternal correction is directed to a brother's amendment: so that it is a matter of precept, in so far as it is necessary for that end, but not so as we have to correct our erring brother at all places and times.

Reply to Objection 1. In all good deeds man's action is not efficacious without the Divine assistance: and yet man must do what is in his power. Hence Augustine says (De Correp. et Gratia xv): "Since we ignore who is predestined and who is not, charity should so guide our feelings, that we wish all to be saved." Consequently we ought to do our brethren the kindness of correcting them, with the hope of God's help.

Reply to Objection 2. As stated above (32, 5, ad 4), all the precepts about rendering service to our neighbor are reduced to the precept about the honor due to parents.

Reply to Objection 3. Fraternal correction may be omitted in three ways.

First, meritoriously, when out of charity one omits to correct someone. For Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 9): "If a man refrains from chiding and reproving wrongdoers, because he awaits a suitable time for so doing, or because he fears lest, if he does so, they may become worse, or hinder, oppress, or turn away from the faith, others who are weak and need to be instructed in a life of goodness and virtue, this does not seem to result from covetousness, but to be counselled by charity."

Secondly, fraternal correction may be omitted in such a way that one commits a mortal sin, namely, "when" (as he says in the same passage) "one fears what people may think, or lest one may suffer grievous pain or death; provided, however, that the mind is so dominated by such things, that it gives them the preference to fraternal charity." This would seem to be the case when a man reckons that he might probably withdraw some wrongdoer from sin, and yet omits to do so, through fear or covetousness.

Thirdly, such an omission is a venial sin, when through fear or covetousness, a man is loth to correct his brother's faults, and yet not to such a degree, that if he saw clearly that he could withdraw him from sin, he would still forbear from so doing, through fear or covetousness, because in his own mind he prefers fraternal charity to these things. It is in this way that holy men sometimes omit to correct wrongdoers.

Reply to Objection 4. We are bound to pay that which is due to some fixed and certain person, whether it be a material or a spiritual good, without waiting for him to come to us, but by taking proper steps to find him. Wherefore just as he that owes money to a creditor should seek him, when the time comes, so as to pay him what he owes, so he that has spiritual charge of some person is bound to seek him out, in order to reprove him for a sin. On the other hand, we are not bound to seek someone on whom to bestow such favors as are due, not to any certain person, but to all our neighbors in general, whether those favors be material or spiritual goods, but it suffices that we bestow them when the opportunity occurs; because, as Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i, 28), we must look upon this as a matter of chance. For this reason he says (De Verb. Dom. xvi, 1) that "Our Lord warns us not to be listless in regard of one another's sins: not indeed by being on the lookout for something to denounce, but by correcting what we see": else we should become spies on the lives of others, which is against the saying of Proverbs 24:19: "Lie not in wait, nor seek after wickedness in the house of the just, nor spoil his rest." It is evident from this that there is no need for religious to leave their cloister in order to rebuke evil-doers.

Article 3. Whether fraternal correction belongs only to prelates?

Objection 1. It would seem that fraternal correction belongs to prelates alone. For Jerome [Origen, Hom. vii in Joan.] says: "Let priests endeavor to fulfil this saying of the Gospel: 'If thy brother sin against thee,'" etc. Now prelates having charge of others were usually designated under the name of priests. Therefore it seems that fraternal correction belongs to prelates alone.

Objection 2. Further, fraternal correction is a spiritual alms. Now corporal alms giving belongs to those who are placed above others in temporal matters, i.e. to the rich. Therefore fraternal correction belongs to those who are placed above others in spiritual matters, i.e. to prelates.

Objection 3. Further, when one man reproves another he moves him by his rebuke to something better. Now in the physical order the inferior is moved by the superior. Therefore in the order of virtue also, which follows the order of nature, it belongs to prelates alone to correct inferiors.

On the contrary, It is written (Dist. xxiv, qu. 3, Can. Tam Sacerdotes): "Both priests and all the rest of the faithful should be most solicitous for those who perish, so that their reproof may either correct their sinful ways. or, if they be incorrigible, cut them off from the Church."

I answer that, As stated above (Article 1), correction is twofold. One is an act of charity, which seeks in a special way the recovery of an erring brother by means of a simple warning: such like correction belongs to anyone who has charity, be he subject or prelate.

But there is another correction which is an act of justice purposing the common good, which is procured not only by warning one's brother, but also, sometimes, by punishing him, that others may, through fear, desist from sin. Such a correction belongs only to prelates, whose business it is not only to admonish, but also to correct by means of punishments.

Reply to Objection 1. Even as regards that fraternal correction which is common to all, prelates have a grave responsibility, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 9): "for just as a man ought to bestow temporal favors on those especially of whom he has temporal care, so too ought he to confer spiritual favors, such as correction, teaching and the like, on those who are entrusted to his spiritual care." Therefore Jerome does not mean that the precept of fraternal correction concerns priests only, but that it concerns them chiefly.

Reply to Objection 2. Just as he who has the means wherewith to give corporal assistance is rich in this respect, so he whose reason is gifted with a sane judgment, so as to be able to correct another's wrong-doing, is, in this respect, to be looked on as a superior.

Reply to Objection 3. Even in the physical order certain things act mutually on one another, through being in some respect higher than one another, in so far as each is somewhat in act, and somewhat in potentiality with regard to another. On like manner one man can correct another in so far as he has a sane judgment in a matter wherein the other sins, though he is not his superior simply.

Article 4. Whether a man is bound to correct his prelate?

Objection 1. It would seem that no man is bound to correct his prelate. For it is written (Exodus 19:12): "The beast that shall touch the mount shall be stoned," [Vulgate: 'Everyone that shall touch the mount, dying he shall die.'] and (2 Samuel 6:7) it is related that the Lord struck Oza for touching the ark. Now the mount and the ark signify our prelates. Therefore prelates should not be corrected by their subjects.

Objection 2. Further, a gloss on Galatians 2:11, "I withstood him to the face," adds: "as an equal." Therefore, since a subject is not equal to his prelate, he ought not to correct him.

Objection 3. Further, Gregory says (Moral. xxiii, 8) that "one ought not to presume to reprove the conduct of holy men, unless one thinks better of oneself." But one ought not to think better of oneself than of one's prelate. Therefore one ought not to correct one's prelate.

On the contrary, Augustine says in his Rule: "Show mercy not only to yourselves, but also to him who, being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger." But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected.

I answer that, A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.

Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 5:1): "An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father."

Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church.

Reply to Objection 1. It would seem that a subject touches his prelate inordinately when he upbraids him with insolence, as also when he speaks ill of him: and this is signified by God's condemnation of those who touched the mount and the ark.

Reply to Objection 2. To withstand anyone in public exceeds the mode of fraternal correction, and so Paul would not have withstood Peter then, unless he were in some way his equal as regards the defense of the faith. But one who is not an equal can reprove privately and respectfully. Hence the Apostle in writing to the Colossians(4:17) tells them to admonish their prelate: "Say to Archippus: Fulfil thy ministry [Vulgate: 'Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.' Cf. 2 Timothy 4:5." It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Galatians 2:11, "Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects."

Reply to Objection 3. To presume oneself to be simply better than one's prelate, would seem to savor of presumptuous pride; but there is no presumption in thinking oneself better in some respect, because, in this life, no man is without some fault. We must also remember that when a man reproves his prelate charitably, it does not follow that he thinks himself any better, but merely that he offers his help to one who, "being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger," as Augustine observes in his Rule quoted above.

Article 5. Whether a sinner ought to reprove a wrongdoer?

Objection 1. It would seem that a sinner ought to reprove a wrongdoer. For no man is excused from obeying a precept by having committed a sin. But fraternal correction is a matter of precept, as stated above (Article 2). Therefore it seems that a man ought not to forbear from such like correction for the reason that he has committed a sin.

Objection 2. Further, spiritual alms deeds are of more account than corporal almsdeeds. Now one who is in sin ought not to abstain from administering corporal alms. Much less therefore ought he, on account of a previoussin, to refrain from correcting wrongdoers.

Objection 3. Further, it is written (1 John 1:8): "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves." Therefore if, on account of a sin, a man is hindered from reproving his brother, there will be none to reprove the wrongdoer. But the latter proposition is unreasonable: therefore the former is also.

On the contrary, Isidore says (De Summo Bono iii, 32): "He that is subject to vice should not correct the vices of others." Again it is written (Romans 2:1): "Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. For thou dost the same things which thou judgest."

I answer that, As stated above (3, ad 2), to correct a wrongdoer belongs to a man, in so far as his reason is gifted with right judgment. Now sin, as stated above (I-II, 85, 1,2), does not destroy the good of nature so as to deprive the sinner's reason of all right judgment, and in this respect he may be competent to find fault with others for committing sin. Nevertheless a previous sin proves somewhat of a hindrance to this correction, for three reasons. First because this previous sin renders a man unworthy to rebuke another; and especially is he unworthy to correct another for a lesser sin, if he himself has committed a greater. Hence Jerome says on the words, "Why seest thou the mote?" etc. (Matthew 7:3): "He is speaking of those who, while they are themselves guilty of mortal sin, have no patience with the lesser sins of their brethren."

Secondly, such like correction becomes unseemly, on account of the scandal which ensues therefrom, if the corrector's sin be well known, because it would seem that he corrects, not out of charity, but more for the sake of ostentation. Hence the words of Matthew 7:4, "How sayest thou to thy brother?" etc. are expounded byChrysostom [Hom. xvii in the Opus Imperfectum falsely ascribed to St. John Chrysostom] thus: "That is--'With what object?' Out of charity, think you, that you may save your neighbor?" No, "because you would look after your own salvation first. What you want is, not to save others, but to hide your evil deeds with good teaching, and to seek to be praised by men for your knowledge."

Thirdly, on account of the rebuker's pride; when, for instance, a man thinks lightly of his own sins, and, in his own heart, sets himself above his neighbor, judging the latter's sins with harsh severity, as though he himself were just man. Hence Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 19): "To reprove the faults of others is the duty of good and kindly men: when a wicked man rebukes anyone, his rebuke is the latter's acquittal." And so, as Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 19): "When we have to find fault with anyone, we should think whether we were never guilty of his sin; and then we must remember that we are men, and might have been guilty of it; or that we once had it on our conscience, but have it no longer: and then we should bethink ourselves that we are all weak, in order that our reproof may be the outcome, not of hatred, but of pity.

But if we find that we are guilty of the same sin, we must not rebuke him, but groan with him, and invite him to repent with us." It follows from this that, if a sinner reprove a wrongdoer with humility, he does not sin, nor does he bring a further condemnation on himself, although thereby he proves himself deserving of condemnation, either in his brother's or in his own conscience, on account of his previous sin.

Hence the Replies to the Objections are clear.
Article 6. Whether one ought to forbear from correcting someone, through fear lest he become worse?

Objection 1. It would seem that one ought not to forbear from correcting someone through fear lest he become worse. For sin is weakness of the soul, according to Psalm 6:3: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak." Now he that has charge of a sick person, must not cease to take care of him, even if he be fractious or contemptuous, because then the danger is greater, as in the case of madmen. Much more, therefore should one correct a sinner, no matter how badly he takes it.

Objection 2. Further, according to Jerome vital truths are not to be foregone on account of scandal. Now God's commandments are vital truths. Since, therefore, fraternal correction is a matter of precept, as stated above (Article 2), it seems that it should not be foregone for fear of scandalizing the person to be corrected.

Objection 3. Further, according to the Apostle (Romans 3:8) we should not do evil that good may come of it. Therefore, in like manner, good should not be omitted lest evil befall. Now fraternal correction is a good thing. Therefore it should not be omitted for fear lest the person corrected become worse.

On the contrary, It is written (Proverbs 9:8): "Rebuke not a scorner lest he hate thee," where a gloss remarks: "You must not fear lest the scorner insult you when you rebuke him: rather should you bear in mind that by making him hate you, you may make him worse." Therefore one ought to forego fraternal correction, when we fear lest we may make a man worse.

I answer that, As stated above (Article 3) the correction of the wrongdoer is twofold. One, which belongs to prelates, and is directed to the common good, has coercive force. Such correction should not be omitted lest the person corrected be disturbed, both because if he is unwilling to amend his ways of his own accord, he should be made to cease sinning by being punished, and because, if he be incorrigible, the common good is safeguarded in this way, since the order of justice is observed, and others are deterred by one being made an example of. Hence a judge does not desist from pronouncing sentence of condemnation against a sinner, for fear of disturbing him or his friends.

The other fraternal correction is directed to the amendment of the wrongdoer, whom it does not coerce, but merely admonishes. Consequently when it is deemed probable that the sinner will not take the warning, and will become worse, such fraternal correction should be foregone, because the means should be regulated according to the requirements of the end.

Reply to Objection 1. The doctor uses force towards a madman, who is unwilling to submit to his treatment; and this may be compared with the correction administered by prelates, which has coercive power, but not with simple fraternal correction.

Reply to Objection 2. Fraternal correction is a matter of precept, in so far as it is an act of virtue, and it will be a virtuous act in so far as it is proportionate to the end. Consequently whenever it is a hindrance to the end, for instance when a man becomes worse through it, it is longer a vital truth, nor is it a matter precept.

Reply to Objection 3. Whatever is directed to end, becomes good through being directed to the end. Hence whenever fraternal correction hinders the end, namely the amendment of our brother, it is no longer good, so that when such a correction is omitted, good is not omitted lest evil should befall.

Article 7. Whether the precept of fraternal correction demands that a private admonition should precede denunciation?

Objection 1. It would seem that the precept of fraternal correction does not demand that a private admonition should precede denunciation. For, in works of charity, we should above all follow the example of God, according to Ephesians 5:1-2: "Be ye followers of God, as most dear children, and walk in love." Now God sometimes punishes a man for a sin, without previously warning him in secret. Therefore it seems that there is no need for a private admonition to precede denunciation.

Objection 2. Further, according to Augustine (De Mendacio xv), we learn from the deeds of holy men how we ought to understand the commandments of Holy Writ. Now among the deeds of holy men we find that a hiddensin is publicly denounced, without any previous admonition in private. Thus we read (Genesis 37:2) that "Josephaccused his brethren to his father of a most wicked crime": and (Acts 5:4-9) that Peter publicly denounced Ananias and Saphira who had secretly "by fraud kept back the price of the land," without beforehandadmonishing them in private: nor do we read that Our Lord admonished Judas in secret before denouncing him. Therefore the precept does not require that secret admonition should precede public denunciation.

Objection 3. Further, it is a graver matter to accuse than to denounce. Now one may go to the length of accusing a person publicly, without previously admonishing him in secret: for it is decided in the Decretal (Cap. Qualiter, xiv, De Accusationibus) that "nothing else need precede accusation except inscription." [The accuser was bound by Roman Law to endorse (se inscribere) the writ of accusation. The effect of this endorsement or inscription was that the accuser bound himself, if he failed to prove the accusation, to suffer the same punishment as the accused would have to suffer if proved guilty.] Therefore it seems that the precept does not require that a secret admonition should precede public denunciation.

Objection 4. Further, it does not seem probable that the customs observed by religious in general are contrary to the precepts of Christ. Now it is customary among religious orders to proclaim this or that one for a fault, without any previous secret admonition. Therefore it seems that this admonition is not required by the precept.

Objection 5. Further, religious are bound to obey their prelates. Now a prelate sometimes commands either all in general, or someone in particular, to tell him if they know of anything that requires correction. Therefore it would seem that they are bound to tell them this, even before any secret admonition. Therefore the precept does not require secret admonition before public denunciation.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. xvi, 4) on the words, "Rebuke him between thee and him alone" (Matthew 18:15): "Aiming at his amendment, while avoiding his disgrace: since perhaps from shame he might begin to defend his sin; and him whom you thought to make a better man, you make worse." Now we are bound by the precept of charity to beware lest our brother become worse. Therefore the order of fraternal correction comes under the precept.

I answer that, With regard to the public denunciation of sins it is necessary to make a distinction: because sins may be either public or secret. On the case of public sins, a remedy is required not only for the sinner, that he may become better, but also for others, who know of his sin, lest they be scandalized. Wherefore such like sins should be denounced in public, according to the saying of the Apostle (1 Timothy 5:20): "Them that sin reprove before all, that the rest also may have fear," which is to be understood as referring to public sins, as Augustinestates (De Verb. Dom. xvi, 7).

On the other hand, in the case of secret sins, the words of Our Lord seem to apply (Matthew 18:15): "If thy brother shall offend against thee," etc. For if he offend thee publicly in the presence of others, he no longer sins against thee alone, but also against others whom he 'disturbs. Since, however, a man's neighbor may take offense even at his secret sins, it seems that we must make yet a further distinction. For certain secret sins are hurtful to our neighbor either in his body or in his soul, as, for instance, when a man plots secretly to betray his country to its enemies, or when a heretic secretly turns other men away from the faith. And since he that sins thus in secret, sins not only against you in particular, but also against others, it is necessary to take steps to denounce him at once, in order to prevent him doing such harm, unless by chance you were firmly persuaded that this evil result would be prevented by admonishing him secretly. On the other hand there are other sins which injure none but the sinner, and the person sinned against, either because he alone is hurt by the sinner, or at least because he alone knows about his sin, and then our one purpose should be to succor our sinning brother: and just as the physician of the body restores the sick man to health, if possible, without cutting off a limb, but, if this be unavoidable, cuts off a limb which is least indispensable, in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so too he who desires his brother's amendment should, if possible, so amend him as regards his conscience, that he keep his good name.

For a good name is useful, first of all to the sinner himself, not only in temporal matters wherein a man suffers many losses, if he lose his good name, but also in spiritual matters, because many are restrained from sinning, through fear of dishonor, so that when a man finds his honor lost, he puts no curb on his sinning. Hence Jerome says on Matthew 18:15: "If he sin against thee, thou shouldst rebuke him in private, lest he persist in his sin if he should once become shameless or unabashed." Secondly, we ought to safeguard our sinning brother's good name, both because the dishonor of one leads to the dishonor of others, according to the saying of Augustine(Ep. ad pleb. Hipponens. lxxviii): "When a few of those who bear a name for holiness are reported falsely or proved in truth to have done anything wrong, people will seek by busily repeating it to make it believed of all": and also because when one man's sin is made public others are incited to sin likewise.

Since, however, one's conscience should be preferred to a good name, Our Lord wished that we should publicly denounce our brother and so deliver his conscience from sin, even though he should forfeit his good name. Therefore it is evident that the precept requires a secret admonition to precede public denunciation.

Reply to Objection 1. Whatever is hidden, is known to God, wherefore hidden sins are to the judgment of God, just what public sins are to the judgment of man. Nevertheless God does rebuke sinners sometimes by secretly admonishing them, so to speak, with an inward inspiration, either while they wake or while they sleep, according to Job 33:15-17: "By a dream in a vision by night, when deep sleep falleth upon men . . . then He openeth the ears of men, and teaching instructeth them in what they are to learn, that He may withdraw a man from the things he is doing."

Reply to Objection 2. Our Lord as God knew the sin of Judas as though it were public, wherefore He could have made it known at once. Yet He did not, but warned Judas of his sin in words that were obscure. The sin of Ananias and Saphira was denounced by Peter acting as God's executor, by Whose revelation he knew of their sin. With regard to Joseph it is probable that he warned his brethren, though Scripture does not say so. Or we may say that the sin was public with regard to his brethren, wherefore it is stated in the plural that he accused "his brethren."

Reply to Objection 3. When there is danger to a great number of people, those words of Our Lord do not apply, because then thy brother does not sin against thee alone.

Reply to Objection 4. Proclamations made in the chapter of religious are about little faults which do not affect a man's good name, wherefore they are reminders of forgotten faults rather than accusations or denunciations. If, however, they should be of such a nature as to injure our brother's good name, it would be contrary to Our Lord's precept, to denounce a brother's fault in this manner.

Reply to Objection 5. A prelate is not to be obeyed contrary to a Divine precept, according to Acts 5:29: "We ought to obey God rather then men." Therefore when a prelate commands anyone to tell him anything that he knows to need correction, the command rightly understood supports the safeguarding of the order of fraternal correction, whether the command be addressed to all in general, or to some particular individual. If, on the other hand, a prelate were to issue a command in express opposition to this order instituted by Our Lord, both would sin, the one commanding, and the one obeying him, as disobeying Our Lord's command. Consequently he ought not to be obeyed, because a prelate is not the judge of secret things, but God alone is, wherefore he has no power to command anything in respect of hidden matters, except in so far as they are made known through certain signs, as by ill-repute or suspicion; in which cases a prelate can command just as a judge, whether secular or ecclesiastical, can bind a man under oath to tell the truth.