Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – September 2015

August 31st, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It’s time to print out your September 2015 calendar. Thanks to the good folks at for providing these calendars freely available to all on the Internet.

Also, here are the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for September:

Universal: That opportunities for education and employment may increase for all young people.

Evangelization: That catechists may give witness by living in a way consistent with the faith they proclaim.

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Visit A Beautiful Church during Greekfest

August 29th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

The Highland Greekfest (Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit) 835 South Avenue, Rochester is this weekend. This is a terrific festival of Greek culture every year and this year is no different. Pat and I were there last night (Friday) for dinner and listening to Greek popular music and watching the parish youth groups perform traditional (as well as modern) Greek dances. Tours of the church take place regularly each day. Here is a link to the festival information page 2015 Greekfest. On that website you can click on a link to the festival program guide.

Parking is free during the festival next door, in the parking ramp just south of –and adjacent to– the church grounds. Wonderful food.

Here are some pictures of the interior of the stunningly beautiful interior of the church.

(Click on pictures to see larger and sharper images.)

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As this building house a former Baptist congregation the architecture is not typically Orthodox –no central. The iconography therefor had to be adapted and so we see Christ Pantokator not over us at the apex of the dome but, rather, straight before us over the arch.

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The icon of Christ Pantocrator or Divine Judge, holding the Book of Life, is always displayed just to the right of the central Royal Doors. To His right is almost always depicted the icon of Saint John the Baptist. A version of the “Virgin of the Sign” dominates the back wall.


he Holy Virgin Mary is always depicted in the space to the left of the doors. Immediately above the doors is normally depicted the icon of the Mystical Communion or Last Supper. A Desis (Christ conversing with His mother Mary and with Saint John the Baptist) usually appears appears above the center of the entire iconostasis screen.

A very large crucifixion icon is to the left of the iconstasis screen.

A very large crucifixion icon is to the left of the iconostasis screen.

Many saints line the walls of the nave.

Many saints line the walls of the nave.

Move saints in the nave.

Move saints in the nave.

From Holy Spirit website

From Holy Spirit website

“The Holy Spirit parish was established in 1995, when approximately 50 families desiring to foster pastoral care and an intimate spiritual experience were granted permission to operate as a mission and subsequently as an official parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Metropolis of Detroit.

“In 1998, they entered their present location, the former South Avenue Baptist Church. Construction of an iconostasis screen and the placement of icons in the altar area have transformed this sanctuary into a local home of Orthodox prayer and worship.” –from the parish website

Holy Spirit Greek Orthodox Church Rochester website. After you click on a Menu selection, scroll down to see your selection.


Laudato Si — Disturbing Prayers — Part XIV

August 27th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Concerns about Environmental Prayer

It is not within my ability or right or privilege to comment on strengths or weaknesses in any particular prayers, and certainly not regarding prayers promulgated by the Pope.  However, with the solicitation of dialogue in Laudato Si, and the inclusion of two prayers in particular at the end of the Encyclical itself, it nevertheless seems important to at least personally respond to what is suggested as our own prayer for the environment.  And “disturbing” is an appropriate word.

That we are 2000 years into the many prayers of the Catholic Church for so many varying needs, it is a bit strange that we don’t already have prayers for virtually everything of importance, and that we actually need “new prayers” for ecology and the environment.  Therefore, it is meaningful to compare the newly proposed prayers to those to which we are accustomed, which suggest prayer “by” the environment rather than “for” the environment,  and by such comparison to determine if what is now offered is consistent with our prayer history.

I can think of no prayer as a better exemplar regarding the environment than what is prayed worldwide in the Liturgy of the Hours on the First Sundays in the Psalter for Morning Prayer, a key set of psalms and canticles used on many Feast Days as well.  One might consider it a kind of “premiere” canticle due to such prominence.


Comparison of Canticle of Daniel 3:57-88, 56 to the First Prayer in Laudato Si

Canticle of Daniel

Bless the Lord, all His works, praise and exalt Him for ever.

Bless the Lord, you heavens; all His angels, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, you waters above the heavens; all His powers, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, sun and moon; all stars of the sky, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, rain and dew; all you winds, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, fire and heat; cold and warmth, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, dew and frost; ice and cold, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, ice and snow; day and night, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, light and darkness; lightning and storm-clouds, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, all the earth, praise and exalt Him for ever.

Bless the Lord, mountains and hills; all growing things, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, seas and rivers; springs and fountains, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, whales and fish; birds of the air, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, wild beasts and tame; sons of men, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, O Israel, praise and exalt Him for ever.

Bless the Lord, His priests, all His servants, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the just; all who are holy and humble, bless the Lord.

Ananias, Azarias, Mishael, bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him for ever.

Let us bless Father, Son and Holy Spirit, praise and exalt Them for ever.

Bless the Lord in the firmament of heaven, praise and glorify Him for ever.


A prayer for our earth by Pope Francis (intended for all who believe in a Creator God)

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.


What strikes me is how the Canticle of Daniel is totally oriented to praising the Lord, but “A prayer for our earth” is just that – a prayer “for” the earth, not “by” the earth in praise of God, with a ‘to-do’ list for what God should do about those who are not living in the spirit of the prayer that is being offered.  Even in the Canticle of Daniel, the three young men in the flames are not praying for themselves but calling on the whole world to praise God. I think this dichotomy is the basis of my discomfort with the new prayer, which I find hard to pray.

Lest anyone think that the Canticle of Daniel is pantheistic, it is not.  To personalize the spirit of any part of creation, as being for the Glory of God, is not the same as claiming that God is the element of His Creation.  St. Francis used this approach when he personalized “Mother Earth.”

A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation

The second prayer given by Pope Francis, offered for use by all Christians, is “A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation.”  Rather than reproducing the entire second prayer, which is readily available on line, there are just a few verses within the prayer which may also disturb, or raise questions.  For example:

“Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.”

That verse relates to Romans 8:22, in which Paul says:  “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;” but the scriptural message seems to be more one of waiting for adoption as full sons of God, rather than intended to attribute the groanings of all creation to pollution or environmental problems; i.e. “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste … among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor….”.  There is at least some confusion in using Romans in this way in an environmental Encyclical.

How do the words “help us to protect all life” not raise serious questions about past and current commitments to defend life in the womb?  To resist euthanasia? To refuse to accommodate contraceptives? To oppose gender selection and gender mutilation?  In a prayer specifically related to the environment, one wonders how much of our deeper priorities are consequentially being excluded.

Another kind of disturbance experienced while reading this particular prayer of Pope Francis is a certain gentleness and uplifting language in his writing juxtaposed against language that is more harsh, alienating or even divisive.  For example, some would find it very difficult to say (or to hear said) at, e.g., a daily Mass where parishioners offer intercessions, the following words:  “Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the  common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live.”  Isn’t this an obligation of all humanity?  Why are those who possess power and money so selectively targeted for what all peoples should be doing?  When dioceses close the churches in the inner cities, e.g., meant to offer the greatest riches in the world (the Gospel) to all people, how are the poor not being disproportionately excluded, especially if they lack transportation to reach the suburban alternatives?  Moreover, I would also consider the opposite words distasteful and inappropriate for intercessions at Mass; i.e. “We give Thee thanks for all those who possess power and money and have avoided the sin of indifference, loved the common good, advanced the weak, and cared for this world in which we live.”  As is stated in Luke 17:10: “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”

Lack of development of the link between the poor and the environment

While the link between the poor and the environment is stated repeatedly in Laudato Si, the explanation or development of the linkage is somewhat lacking.  An example would be the words in the second prayer which state: “The poor and the earth are crying out.”  Although it repeats the theme which underlies the Encyclical, in some cases it is either a non sequitur, or the connection is just difficult to decipher.  Two examples:

“The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.” (#27)  “The poor you always have with you…”?  (John 12:8) was stated by Christ.  Such words are also contained in Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7.  Can we reasonably expect to “solve” the problem of poverty through interventions based on governmental power?  How can there be merit to the individual soul in paying obligatory, forced taxes so that half a nation can be on food stamps?  Individual acts of charity arise in the heart, and God uses those for the shaping of souls.  Governments die at the end of time; only people are judged, one by one, at the particular judgment.  Interfering with the ability of individual souls to serve God through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy by stripping their resources to do so is a point worth discussing further.

“And so the day of rest, centred on the Eucharist, sheds it [sic] light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.” (#237)  This is another sentence which is difficult to understand, as the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Love, motivates us (and obligates us) to share a self-sacrificing love with all peoples, rich or poor, and also to serve with many actions, such as the Spiritual Works of Mercy, not limiting our motivations to only nature and the poor, both undefined terms in the Encyclical.   If we look to the Gospels for Christ’s own words on nature and the poor, we do not actually find much, yet a ‘preferential option for the poor’ has been used as if it were a religion in itself.

What we might particularly notice in the Gospels is that while Christ condemned stinginess as on the part of the rich man who ignored the starving Lazarus at his gate, He also seems through the ‘purse,’ to have provided something for the poor, as implied at the Last Supper in the words of  John 13:29: “Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”; or, that he should give something to the poor.”  

We notice that Christ personally and often responded to those in need, whether at the Wedding Feast of Cana, raising the dead, feeding with loaves and fish, or curing lepers and demoniacs, among other works.  But He Who had all power in His Hands, apparently didn’t make poor people rich in what didn’t matter to their souls, or which absence gave those who lacked resources a unique ability to glorify God in ways that  those with more power or money struggle to do (giving out of abundance rather than need.)  No,  the message Jesus sent to John the Baptist in prison was not “the poor are made rich” but rather “… the poor have the good news (Gospel) preached to them.” This charity, sharing the Word of God, exceeds all other charities, which is why evangelizing and witnessing to our Faith is so essential.

It is a great disappointment to me that an Encyclical of more than 40,000 words, linking the poor and the environment, gives so little attention to preaching the ‘good news.’  We must all beware of being covetous of what other people have, and rather be covetous for the sake of souls that all may better know, love and serve God.  Amen?



Every English Mass Should Be Like the Anglican Ordinariate’s

August 27th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

From Heroic Virtue Creations Blog

OurLadyOfWalsinghamChurchWe traveled to Houston this weekend and went to Holy Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham, a church in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.I was delighted when Pope Emeritus Benedict established the Anglican Ordinariate years ago, but I had never gone to one of its churches. Until Sunday.

The parish is beautiful. It is like an acre of England has been cut out and dropped in Houston. The church itself looks like a classic Anglican (originally Catholic!) church.

The language of the liturgy is English, but the phrasing and words used are elegant, dignified, and…

Read More Here…

Mass at the Fellowship of Saint Alban in Henrietta, NY.

Mass at the Fellowship of Saint Alban in Henrietta, NY.

The Fellowship of Saint Alban will celebrate Mass in the Anglican tradition (Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter) this coming Saturday (5:00 pm) at The Church of the Good Shepherd, 3318 E Henrietta Rd, Henrietta, NY 14467 (the old church that faces onto East Henrietta Road). It’s a real Roman Catholic Mass and you can receive communion. Light refreshments and social following Mass.

Fellowship website here:


Laudato Si — What DID Pope Francis Call us to DO? — Part XIII

August 26th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

What are the “Action Points” for Individuals?

Most of the prior parts in this series have dealt with the general principles which Pope Francis promulgated through his teaching office and, in a number of cases, with his personal opinion.  It is difficult to consistently distinguish teaching from opinion but, since the Encyclical appears at least on its surface not to be binding, the need to distinguish minutely is abated.  Nevertheless, respect for any pope’s writing is sufficient reason to search for any statements in Laudato Si which ask for specific individual actions (as contrasted to the more obvious macro recommendations for actions at various governmental levels, from industry or from other organizations.)

Examples of Matters not Included in this Part XIII: Water and Food

To isolate the specific individual actions,  it is also necessary to leave out all the generalizations, all the calls for actions other than from individuals, and then attempt to answer the question from the pew: “But what can ‘I’ do about environmental and ecological issues?”  The following discussion will leave out implied calls for action which identify needs but not how to solve those needs, such as certain remarks regarding water and food, for example.  Pope Francis clearly decries the waste of water.  For those living in areas with abundant water, providing care to lawns, golf courses and gardens, washing cars, taking daily showers, even visiting water parks, how are individual conservationists of good heart to save water for people living in remote desert areas?  Water cannot be shipped effectively, and self-denial may have some spiritual benefit, but for others it may be a health risk.  Since there is no specific action called for on this matter in Laudato Si, it therefore is not included in this particular discussion below.

Another example, would be the sentence regarding food waste, which cannot help but apply to many communities and families considered affluent on a world wide basis.  Pope Francis writes: “… whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.”  (#50)  Such a dramatic statement has an element of both truth and drama to it, but how is an individual to respond beyond some of the methods in place locally, like food kitchens and pantries, often run by church communities?  In the U.S. there are restrictions and government regulations on recycling food, such as from restaurants, and especially related to USDA and FDA guidelines.  It is already reported that over half the U.S. is on food stamps. Pricing in most stores prevents one from buying only what is needed, say, a half head of lettuce, or 3 eggs, or a third of a loaf of bread.  And living at some distances in more rural communities we can see where it is better to buy something in the market which may not be fully used, rather than driving again, many miles round trip, if and when it may actually be needed, thus wasting fuel and time.  There are encyclical assertions which better fit the overcrowding in cities in nth world countries than life in more rural areas or in what is often called “first world.”  That is not to discourage solutions which may be developed from one location to another, but only to make the point that such “brainstorming” pertains more to the dialogue and discussion which Pope Francis requests between individuals, rather than to being listed directly as individual actions decided worldwide.

Specific Individual Actions Prescribed

Thus, statements of genuine concern, not translated to specific individual action in Laudato Si, are not included below, because it is not the function of this review and dialogue on Laudato Si to try to extend the general words of the encyclical to specific actions.  That is a role for implementation groups. This Part XIII only lists those specific, identifiable actions in the Encyclical for which individual actions are urged.

1. Dialogue and discussion regarding the environmental and ecological issues raised are mentioned prominently throughout the Encyclical.  Not only does such dialogue refer to the Encyclical itself in paragraph #3, but also dialogue between individuals affected.  Such dialogue would seem to be appropriate, both as a means of educating and involving people in taking care of their communities, and in mobilizing broader, well-aligned efforts. Pope Francis writes:  “… local individuals and groups can make a real difference.  They are able to instill a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land.  They are also concerned about what they will eventually leave to their children and grandchildren.” (#179)  A good local example might be how individuals were able to unite in various ways regarding hydrofracking concerns.  Spontaneous action from citizens can have impact when it flows from rational dialogue.  It becomes complicated by government interference.

Unfortunately, the Encyclical itself has an apparent clash between the principle of subsidiarity (see Part IX), with actions rising from the bottom up, in which needs and possibilities are generated and implemented by those closest to the problem, and an imposition of top down rules and penalties on a worldwide scale, in a collectivist setting.  The two methods inevitably clash at the point where strategies conflict, and then power reigns.

2. Prayer:  Laudato Si issues the following call for prayer: “We believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays.” (#169)   Specific comments on the prayers offered near the end of Laudato Si will be discussed in Part XIV.  But certainly we recognize that prayer is both for individuals and for communities, and in that sense we all have a call to participate, petitioning that God’s Will may be done, rather than the will of human organizations.

3. Specific Actions: are recommended in Chapter Five of Laudato Si:  “Lines of Approach and Action.”  The following excerpts show some of Pope Francis’s focus:

“… [use] less heating and [wear] warmer clothes … avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights….  Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it….”  (#211)

“Ecological education…” (#213)

“… personal qualities of self-control and willingness to learn from one another.” (#214)

“…stop and give thanks to God before and after meals.”  (#227)

There is a tension between addressing every person individually and inviting individual dialogue, yet recognizing the limited ability of individual persons to achieve change, and also their great potential.  Pope Francis writes “Isolated individuals can lose their ability and freedom to escape the utilitarian mindset and end up prey to an unethical consumerism bereft of social or ecological awareness.  Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds.” (#219)  Yet he also writes: “…while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference.” (#179)

Such limitations raise the question not only of tension between individuals and collectivist power, but also within individuals and their own obligations and spiritual direction.  Just how important is proposed change involving the environment in contrast to other activities to which we are called in a spiritual and moral sense? Should individuals be encouraged to give themselves over en masse to saving the environment when so much is yet undone in faithfulness to Christ’s full teaching?

The only truly unsustainable, unrenewable resource is our own time.  To be principally consumed with environmental and ecological matters cannot help but detract from even higher spiritual activities, i.e. worship of God and performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We are creatures, with only 24 hours in a day and a single lifetime to know, love and serve God before He calls us home.  It is not negotiable, but reminiscent of a hymn from the Liturgy of the Hours:

“My destined time is fixed by Thee,

And Death doth know his hour.

Did warriors strong around me throng,

They could not stay his power;

No wall of stone can man defend

When Thou Thy messenger dost send.”

Jesus gave us the priorities by which to live when a Pharisaic lawyer asked Him (Matthew 22: 36-40): “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”  And similar are the words in Mark 12: 28-31.

There is a common distortion in some preaching and teaching of these words, that this is all one commandment, that there is an interchangeability between the First and Second Commandments, or that they are identical.  In my opinion, it is a dangerous teaching, prompting confusion, and taking from God what belongs to Him.  Clearly the Greek source uses the word “deutero,” and that clearly means second.  But given these words of Christ, where are we to fit into the text the words specifically directed to the environment and ecology?  In certain Corporal Works of Mercy one can find a way of serving brothers and sisters in Christ by “giving drink to the thirsty” implying clean water.  Or “feeding the hungry”, with good and nourishing food.  But none of that service is taught to be at the expense or distraction from worshiping God.  Rather, it is a manifestation of worshiping God.  And that is a key point in which it is difficult to see how the overwhelming environmental and ecological concerns of Laudato Si fit in a deeply consistent way in the Greatest and Second Commandments.

That is not to say that such concerns for our environment and for the whole planet have no importance, but only that we know their importance falls in priority below the two Great Commandments, and the challenge is to do what we can without shortchanging God, who is not a pantheistic object nor is He willing to share His Glory in a Syncretistic sense.  These are our convictions, and it would seem that Pope Francis’s words provide a balance if we do not lose sight of our convictions.  He writes: “It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognize the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions.”  (#64)  And, we might add: “and we fulfill those ecological commitments without compromising our convictions.”  But I think there is a reason why the specific recommendations to individuals seem somewhat trite or impotent in such a long encyclical.

The Problem of Individualism

And therein lies the “Problem of Individualism.”  Pope Francis states his desire for dialogue with individuals (upon which invitation this half of the dialogue is offered), responding to his words:

“I will advance some broader proposals for dialogue and action which would involve each of us as individuals….” (#15)

However, most of the Encyclical is really directed to action at collectivist levels, out of the hands of individuals.  Rather, there seems to be a hint that individual actions are more suspect or less trustworthy or effective; comments on “individualism” are uniformly negative:

“romantic individualism” (#119);

“rampant individualism” (#162);

“If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.” (#208)

“…myths of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market).” (#210)

At the fork in the road, where one direction leads to collectivist controls, rules and penalties at the highest level, all administered by selected powerful sinners, or the other road where we are all sinners working out our salvation with fear and trembling in the light of God’s gift to us of free will, I know I’d choose the latter.  King David himself chose a penalty of falling into the hands of a punishing God, rather than into the hands of men.

1 Chronicles 21:13:  “Then David said to Gad, ‘I am in great distress; let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercy is very great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.'”

It made sense to David; it makes sense to me.


Use of Technology in Catholic Schools

August 25th, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

An experienced educator recently sent me a link to this article in America Magazine:

Unplugged but Connected: The role of Catholic schools in the information age by Mike St. Thomas

It’s an analysis of how much and in what ways technology ought to be embraced by educators. This quote sums up what I took away:

Seven years of teaching high school English have taught me that one basic fact suffices to call into question this entire technocratic vision: Personal technology comes between student and teacher and destroys classroom focus in a way that notebooks or old-fashioned classroom high jinks never did. You would have a hard time finding teachers and students who will not acknowledge this state of affairs. And how could it be otherwise? Given access to the Internet, most adults, never mind children, have a hard time staying attentive to something they are not particularly enthusiastic about.

And this:

What is the goal of Catholic education in the midst of the flurry of screens and devices that bring the modern world to our fingertips? It is to keep the human person at the center of our enterprise. The world of information may be only a swipe away, but we should know better than to think it is the most important world. That honor goes to a world made of flesh and spirit, of encounter and conversation. That world must guide our schools, and everything else must follow from it.

I have some experience as an educator, but not enough to make my opinion worthwhile. However, I can speak as a software engineer and someone who fully embraces technology in my own learning by saying that I full heartedly agree with Mike St. Thomas’ analysis. If you want to focus and use technological devices at the same time, you must create your own barriers to do so… barriers that are constantly under attack by intentional assailants which are built into the design of the devices.

I recalled this article and the topic as I came across this article in the Catholic Courier:

Schools embrace new technology by Annette Jiménez

More area Catholic schools are expanding the use of personal technology devices in their curriculums to better prepare students for the future.

Siena Catholic Academy in Brighton decided to provide Google Chromebooks for incoming sixth-graders this fall…

All Saints Academy in Corning… decided to follow the recommendation of diocesan IT to purchase a set of Classmate Tablets, which are Windows-based tablets with built-in magnifying glasses and thermometers for science lessons.

Use of such apps as Dropbox allow students to share documents in group research projects, added Don Mills, principal of Immaculate Conception School in Ithaca. The school is moving toward a one-to-one, device-to-student model and has nearly reached that goal in its upper grades, he added.

Funding also is a challenge, she added, since Catholic schools don’t have access to the kinds of grants that are available to public schools. Kilbridge said Siena received seed money from the diocese…

At St. Joseph School in Auburn, staff members have developed a long-term technology plan incorporating iPads, Apple TV and projectors to provide one-to-one technology over the next five years, said principal Susan Nedza.

So what do you think? Should our Catholic schools try to once again mimic the public school system or should they take this technocratic push as a way to re-think why we educate our children and try to differentiate themselves?


This is neat! Sophia Sketch Pad.

August 22nd, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

Check out this website and its videos as well as other religious teaching aids — especially if you are a religious ed teacher or home school teacher.

Sophia SketchPad

Click Here to Link to the Page

“Thank you!” to Jonathan


And THIS is News?

August 21st, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

If you’ve ever felt that being Catholic is misunderstood by the popular media, look no further than the  site today to find a rotating display of 20 truly bizarre stories — ranging from a pig who won’t come out from under a truck, to a gold find off Florida’s coast, to a still-tasting-good 60 year old wedding cake.  But the strangest of all, handled somewhat in the same tone as “Woman marries herself (substitute her dog, her parrot, or 6 friends” in the lead banner) is what doubtless the media thinks the strangest of all:  “Woman Marries Jesus Christ.” Yes, they’ve only missed more than a millennium’s worth of stories about those vowed to God in convents and monasteries around the world, as well as stories of those taking solemn vows outside of an order.

The story comes from the Diocese of Fort Wayne, and is journaled in “Today’s Catholic News”.

Obviously, from the picture, the bishop presided and a solemn event was celebrated. However the Newsy reporter is stunned, absolutely flabbergasted, by a story that a woman married Jesus!  What a scoop!  Enjoy.  We know who has the last laugh.

Edit: the full video is available here

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Laudato Si — Is it Infallible? — Part XII

August 17th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Obviously, the answer to the question “Is it Infallible?” cannot be given fully in this space.  An opinion can of course be offered, but it is without authority. Nevertheless, questions can be raised for discussion regarding what individual obligations Catholics might incur on matters set forth in Laudato Si. In that spirit, some comment is offered.

1. Lack of Infallibility Claim

Upon completing the reading of Laudato Si, one notices the ‘prominent absence’ of any words claiming “infallibility”.  For contrast, Saint John Paul II declared, clearly and significantly,  in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,  the impossibility of women’s ordination:

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

Invoking an abundance of divine assistance upon you, venerable brothers, and upon all the faithful, I impart my apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, on May 22, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 1994, the sixteenth of my Pontificate.”

Even such clear words have been parsed and murmured against by those who are adamant about seeking women’s ordination, demurring at the lack of the specific word “infallible.”  Nevertheless, the intent of Pope John Paul seems clear and was subsequently upheld by Pope Benedict XVI.

The words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si contain no such claim of infallibility or even allusion to binding the Faithful, but actually contain implications which weaken any infallibility assertion. That is not to say that a papal writing doesn’t deserve, on its own merit and out of respect, some attention to the message. That is what has driven the examination of Laudato Si in this present writing.  And it is the reason we begin by examining two sentences which might be its strongest claims for infallibility, yet seem quite weak.

2. Consideration of Two Sentences which Possibly Assert Infallibility of Laudato Si:

Only two sentences were found which hint at infallibility; however, hinting is not usually considered strong enough to be effective.  Here are the two specific, somewhat personally-oriented papal sentences:

“I [i.e. Pope Francis] will offer some inspired guidelines for human development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience.” (#15)  One might wonder if the use of the word “inspired” is claiming that this Encyclical contains Divine Private Revelation, but there seems to be only a very tenuous connection to claiming infallibility, which would likely have been more specific if infallibility were being claimed. Thus, the word ‘inspired’ makes more sense as personal insight, rather than as Divine Revelation. This conclusion is reinforced by lack of  consistent repetition or clarification of an intended claim, without first developing the specific areas to which a claim of Divinely inspired revelation might be argued or applied. Moreover, given placement early in the Encyclical, such words are difficult to attribute to anything specifically covered by a subsequent arguments.

“It is my [Pope Francis’s] hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face.” (#15)  The proximity of this text to the one mentioned above would seem to put it in the same class as a general or orienting statement, not as a specific claim of infallibility.  Moreover, adding the Encyclical to the “body of the Church’s social teaching” specifically reminds us that much of the Church’s “social teaching” has not been claimed to be infallible and some is not even specifically in the area of “faith and morals” (which is the domain to which claims of infallibility are restricted). Therefore, any claim of infallibility based on the ‘body’ of social teaching seems weak. Whatever Pope Francis’s intent is with these specific claims, it seems remote from claiming infallibility.

One argument not made, but which might be argued, would be that “everything” is in the moral category (unless it is faith.)  But such a broad definition of “moral” would have removed the original need to define the limitations, resulting in no limitations. So, again, such a theoretical argument for infallibility fails.  Further, although St. Francis is mentioned a number of times, canonization is not a guarantee of being error-free, or requiring obedience to a saint’s personal teaching.

3. The Encyclical is Broadly Addressed to the Entire World without Specific Binding Language

The address to the entire world raises two concerns:  1) Is the Pope’s addressing the entire world and asking for its input a de facto invitation to non-Christians to shape the teaching of the Church?  If so, how would that support any infallibility claim for the current content of the Encyclical?  2) Doesn’t such a worldwide invitation for input at least partially imply a currently incomplete work, making it difficult to consider it as infallible?

Relevant quotes include:

“…faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on the planet.” (#3)  

“…I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.” (#3)

“We need a conversation which includes everyone.” (#14) 

4. The Encyclical’s strong call for Debate and Discussion implies a Meaningful Possibility of Changing what was written, bringing further into question how binding it could realistically be

The very implication of changing what has been already been written, based on worldwide discussion or on any other input (including possible refutation of global warming and climate change premises, or including clarification of currently ambiguous statements), could weaken any argument that the Encyclical, as now written, binds infallibly.  There are many Encyclical entries on this subject; here are a few:

“…the need for forthright and honest debate….” (#16)

“Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (#49)

“On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.” (#61)

“A broad, responsible scientific and social debate needs to take place, one capable of considering all the available information and of calling things by their name.”  (#135)

“This necessarily entails reflection and debate about the conditions required for the life and survival of society, and the honesty needed to question certain models of development, production and consumption.”  (#138)

“Even as this Encyclical was being prepared, the debate was intensifying.”  (#169)

“We need to stop thinking in terms of ‘interventions’ to save the environment in favour of policies developed and debated by all interested parties.” (#183)

“But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.”  (#188)

5.  A Strong Call for Discussion by Every Individual is without a Practical Mechanism for Implementation

The call for discussion is broad-based.  Some discussion may be narrower on individual projects, but much seems to be directed to a world-wide dialogue which has no mechanism to effect even the dialogue, let alone the implementation.  In simpler terms, it would seem that God doesn’t ask of us what it is not possible to do. Thus, the impracticality of worldwide discussions (with or without a collectivist “one world” approach) weakens any claim to infallibility.  It may even, when tried, become the stumbling block to the very implementations which Pope Francis seeks.

“We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”  (#14)

“Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected (farmers, consumers, civil authorities, scientists, seed producers, people living near fumigated fields, and others) can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good, present and future.”  (#135)

“We believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays.” (#169)

“Honesty and truth are needed in scientific and political discussions; these should not be limited to the issue of whether or not a particular project is permitted by law.” (#183)

“If politics shows itself incapable of breaking such a perverse logic, and remains caught up in inconsequential discussions, we will continue to avoid facing the major problems of humanity.”  (#197)

6. Non-specificity of Action Items

Laudato Si does not read as having a narrow drawing of potentially infallible issues, but rather it reads more like an op-ed than a Church Teaching. Even if it were desired to make Laudato Si binding in some infallible manner in certain subject areas, the action items are weak, scattered and without clarity as to exactly what is being asked.  The entire Encyclical reads more like a rant against the world environmental and ecological situation than prescriptive for spiritual growth or required obedience, with very little expectation of individual readers’ “doing” anything much different from the daily lives they already lead.  That is understandable, since much of what is decried and much of what is desired is out of the hands and influence of individuals. However, there are a few specific actions, and those will be covered in Part XIII, for the sake of completeness.

7. An Ironic Reflection

It would be difficult to close this Part XII on Infallibility without reflecting on its ironic context to Vatican I.  In the recent book “History of the Catholic Church,” by respected historian Dr. James Hitchcock, a brief history is recounted of Vatican I, and its wrestling with a statement on Papal Infallibility.  Pope Pius IX summoned the Council in 1869 targeting “modern errors” and believing that it would be essential to include a proclamation on the dogma of papal infallibility.  It was the first Council since Trent, three centuries earlier, and was deemed as a pastoral council, reinforcing or restating what was already Church dogma.

Hitchcock writes:  “The idea of papal infallibility was already widely accepted, and Pius did not ask the Council to approve it, lest it appear that he received his authority from the Council. He merely waited until the Council voted to proclaim it” … but exerting some “strong pressure on wavering bishops.” Hitchcock notes that “Some bishops were troubled by the doctrine of infallibility because they thought it implied that they received their authority solely from the pope, rather than being direct successors of the Apostles.”  …  “A preliminary vote showed 451 in favor of the dogma, 62 in favor “conditionally”, and 88 opposed.  On the eve of its solemn ratification, the opposition leaders agreed that, rather than vote … ‘It does not please me’, they would absent themselves.”   (Apparently all but two of those in opposition left the Council.  A schism occurred in Germany, in particular, thereafter, with the “Old Catholic” breakaway.  One local rumor is that the bishop of the recently established Diocese of Rochester also went home.  However, Napoleon III’s troops were protecting Rome from the Italian armies, so there may well have been other reasons for hasty departures from Rome.  Vatican I was not officially “closed” until Vatican II.)

Hitchcock continues “Infallibility was understood as encompassing only matters of faith and morals that were solemnly proclaimed by the pope ex cathedra… a limitation necessary in order to exclude the doctrinal errors of some popes” …”The pope could not create new dogmas but merely authoritatively define what were already the Church’s beliefs.”

Herein lies the irony.  The bishops of Vatican I, to some extent, objected to a clear, bold statement on papal infallibility because, in part, it appeared to extend the Pope’s power, although infallibility was already well accepted.  But the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways.  Here we are about 145 years later, now understanding that the clarifications of Vatican I placed constraints and limitations on the infallibility claim of any pope, especially the restriction to matters of “faith and morals,” which may well be a source of comfort to bishops concerned with directions Synods may take, and priorities of encyclicals, for example.  It may well be that what once seemed to be strengthening the papal power has in reality clarified for the Faithful the limits of papal power, and the right of the Faithful to protect their faith, and not be seduced into enjoying the ‘flavor of the month’ so easily chosen by self-governed sects and faith traditions which rely on their own elders’ opinions, rather than doctrinal infallibility.



Eugene Genovese, a Communist turned Catholic

August 12th, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

Here’s an interesting article that came via my google alerts that are at least tangentially related to Rochester. Eugene Genovese, a Communist turned Catholic

Eugene recounts how they were invited by the Catholic chaplains of the University of Rochester to participate in a public discussion with some Catholic Marxists (American proponents of liberation theology). The Genoveses, two Marxists who did not believe in God, found themselves “driven to defend Catholic theology against ‘dissident Catholics’ who had no time for the fundamentals of Catholic theology, Church doctrine, and the teachings of the Vatican”


The Catholic Rite of Christian Funerals

August 11th, 2015, Promulgated by Ludwig

Last month, an incident at a funeral mass at St. Mark’s in Greece drew quite a bit of attention from the local media. At that time, I reached out to a handful of other Cleansing Fire writers to see if anyone planned to address the matter. We concluded that, due to the sensitive nature of the incident, and our imperfect knowledge of what transpired, it would be best to not touch upon the matter.

With that said, it’s worth reading the words of Reverend Paul English, Pastor of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Irondequoit. Published in last Sunday’s bulletin (pdf), Father English provides a fair, loving but strong explanation of why something like this occurs, and how we ought to understand (and hopefully share) the beauty of the Catholic Rite of Christian Funerals. (Emphasis is in the original.)

An incident occurred during a recent Catholic funeral in our diocese, reported in local media and on the Internet. Given the sensitivity of an incident like this, it may be impossible ever to learn the complete set of facts. This unfortunately, does not stop people from drawing their own conclusions and leveling harsh criticisms. As followers of Jesus Christ, we would do well to consider, in all humility, that we don’t have all the facts, and thus reserve judgement, harsh or otherwise.

This does, however, provide an opportunity to learn about the way our Church worships the Lord in the particularly fragile moment of the death of a loved one. Often it is the lack of knowledge of the Roman Catholic rites (our “way of doing things”) that leads to misunderstandings and expectations that are impossible to meet.

There may have been a time when everyone had a strong familiarity with the Catholic funeral rites, allowing realistic expectations on the part of bereaved families and loved ones. Today, people’s understanding of a “funeral” comes more from movies, television shows and services for celebrities, often with little or no reference to faith, Catholic or otherwise. It’s usually one event, then the burial, so what you don’t say at the funeral, you’ll never get a chance to say. It’s understandable, then, that grieving people might come to a parish expecting things that are actually not part of our way of worshiping. This must be handle with care, sometimes simply allowing for a brief statement, since the moment of grief is the hardest time to try to explain the depth and beautify of the Catholic Rite of Christian Funerals. That’s why I’m taking this opportunity now.

The pastoral care given at the end of a person’s life begins with prayer for healing while the person is still alive (the Anointing of the Sick). At the time of death, the rite provides for Prayers At The Moment of Death. Relatives and loved ones gather later for the Gathering in the Presence of the Body, where further prayer is offered. At the funeral home, a Vigil Service can be celebrated. Later a Funeral Mass is celebrated. There’s a procession to the cemetery and a Rite of Committal. That is five separate moments after one’s death for gathering and prayer. At the Gathering in the Presence of the Body, the Vigil and the Committal in particular, it is very appropriate for those who knew the deceased to say a good word about them for others to hear. This “eulogy” (usually the substance of non-Catholic funerals) is not actually part of the Order of Christian Funerals during the Mass, particularly since we have several other opportunities to do this.

We need to develop a fuller understanding of the pastoral care that is available to us as Catholics, of the multiple opportunities there are for sharing memories, and of the time for respectful solemn prayer according to the ancient practice of Catholics throughout the centuries. I hope this helps.

Fr. Paul F. English, CSB, Pastor

Please remember to pray for the repose of the soul of Mary Deuschle, as well as for Christ’s peace for her family, with special blessings for her two sons.


Majestas Domini and the Angels of Judgment

August 10th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

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Mosaic ceiling of the interior of the baptistry of Saint John the Baptist in Florence, Italy.

(Click on pictures to see larger images.)

Begun in 1225 and completed in the 14th century, the mosaic composition is dominated by a Last Judgment scene featuring a Majestas Domini familiar to us as of the same type as we saw in the Blessed David Chapel, Thessalonica (ca. 425-50). The four creatures of the apocalypse are not present in this image, however, and Christ here extends his arms and hands as we saw in the scene of the Last Judgement in the tympanum of Autun Cathedral, presenting to us the saved on his right and the damned, on his left.

Choirs of Angels –Dominations, Powers, Archangels, Angels, Principalities, Virtues and Thrones occupy the top tiers of the ceiling and scenes from Genesis, stories of Joseph, stories of Mary and Christ and finally, in the lower tier, stories of Saint John the Baptist, fill out the other sections.

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Constructed in what is called the Florentine Romanesque style, sometime between 1059 and 1128, the baptistry itself is one of the oldest buildings in the city of Florence. The octagonal shape of the building signifies the six days of creation, the Day of Rest, and a day of re-creation through the Sacrament of Baptism. It is an ancient tradition of the Church, going back to the earliest centuries of Christianity, to construct octagonal baptistries and/or baptismal fonts.


Laudato Si — “Who Am I to Judge?” — Part XI

August 8th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Pope Francis made world headlines in his press interview aloft,  flying back from World Youth Day in Brazil in 2013, when asked about the status of a reputedly ‘gay’ priest.  His reply “Who am I to judge” became a rallying cry for LGBT life style to be legitimized by the Catholic Church (which clearly is impossible to happen.)  Faithful Catholics, knowledgeable regarding Church teaching, trustingly strained to understand the words to mean “If a person repents of his sins and is forgiven by God, who am I to decide otherwise?”  Unfortunately, the popular media and the subsequent lack of papal explanation simply allowed a runaway wish list of aspirations, each more liberal than the foregoing, each encouraging that perhaps the Catholic Church was going to finally ‘permit sin.’  The Synod, held in 2014, only made matters worse due to its foggy language, leaked documents, poor translations and questionable motivations, sowing doubt where previously there had been clarity.

It is worth mentioning those track records of poor Vatican communications as prelude to sorting out some seemingly quite harsh language in Laudato Si, threatening further division within the Church, in words from the one who has care of all souls. In the Encyclical, there is, like prior breaches and misunderstandings, a lack of clarification, and a sense of “you know to whom I’m referring,” without being specific. And very unlike our expectation of teaching documents, there is an ambiguity which may do a disservice to Truth, and to souls.

In this Part XI, a number of Laudato Si statements are listed, without trying to ‘explain’ what may well be unexplainable, but which language yields a fruit which may cause division, defensiveness, confusion, pain, and alienation.  Not only the content, but also the tone contributes to such impact. These comments are not intended to be a judgement of Pope Francis himself since we don’t know his motives, or even the accuracy of his translators.  So the quotes are put forward hoping to invoke that same spirit of “Who am I to judge?”

Excerpts from Laudato Si

So, we quote directly, letting the reader form conclusions about the objectives of each statement. There are many quotes which might have been used, but the limited ones selected are those which seem to ascribe a questionable motive to others, to people, groups or nations, notwithstanding the occasional use of the first person plural pronouns “we”, “our” and “us”.  Affluent individuals, multinational companies, northern hemisphere countries in particular seem to be targeted. Perhaps, surprisingly, the Church and other organized religions seem to escape all criticism.   Unfortunately, there are few proposals for remedy other than loss of subsidiarity to a theoretical collectivist  power, as described in prior Parts IX and X, especially of allocation of financial penalties on sovereign governments.  It is not the purpose of this section to debate again what was previously covered, but only to convey what some may see as an attitude of accusation.  It is only fair to point out that there may simply be a misunderstanding, since Christ Himself did not come to condemn, one must be careful in attributing condemnation to His Vicar. Nevertheless, these are direct quotes from Laudato Si:

“…many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.  Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.”  (#14).

“Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.” (#26)

“Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.  This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding….” (#30)

“We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.” (#34)

“Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation…. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits….”(#36)

“…there are ‘proposals to internationalize the Amazon which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations.'” (#38)

“…many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems.  They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population …. This lack … can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality….” (#49)

“… a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized….” (#50)

“There is also … pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, … in the countries in which they raise their capital … often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals….” (#51)

“The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming ….” (#51). Note: like many other unsupported statements in Laudato Si, again there is no footnote citation as a source.

“The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them …. developing countries … continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future … globalization of indifference…. [ownership] is structurally perverse … developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy …. ” (#52)

“There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” (#54)

“The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests  … the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.” (#54)

“People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.  A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.”  (#55)

“… human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.” (#59)

“…Twenty percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.” (#95)

“…showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations…[t]heir behavior shows that for them maximizing profits is enough.” (#109)

“…the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere ‘given’, as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference.”  (#115)  — In my personal experience I have often found scientists to be even more fascinated with the physical world and its wonder than many with no technological training, who seem to take it for granted.

“…we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests.” (#122)

“The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labor on them or enslaving them to pay their debts.  The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly … human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species… buying the organs of the poor for resale…. This same ‘use and throw away’ logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary.”  (#123)  By such logic, every overweight person, consuming “more than what is really necessary,” would be implicated to some degree in heinous crimes.  Obviously the problems are far more intricate, as is human nature.  Simplistic accusations illustrate the risk of thinking any particular organization can ever bridle concupiscence of fallen nature, especially large collectivist organizations with their  ultimate un-accountability resulting in being responsible to no one, because they can hide behind being responsible to every one. Should not the emphasis, rather, be toward conversion of souls rather than super-sized organizational structure and its impositions? Railing against multinationals hardly seems to create argument for still larger enforcers, whose individual members are as corruptible as anyone else.

“An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries.” (#164)

“The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro … was a real step forward … [but]… poorly implemented due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance.  The principles which it proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation.” (#167)

“Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most.” (#169)  One point on which the Encyclical is relatively silent is that the burden, if it were to be assigned, would more properly apply not only to countries that pollute, but also to the recipients of the benefits of the polluting manufacturing or technology made available to them as customers. Probably few countries would willingly give up products and technologies they want or need in order to minimize the associated pollution. Also for that reason, one wonders about the high level of prioritization skewed to environmental matters, relative to other subjects to which papal encyclicals might be addressed.

“Political activity on the local level could also be directed to modifying consumption.” (#180)  Unfortunately, much of the talk of ‘sustainability advocates’ means fewer people alive, in order to achieve consumption reduction.  The Encyclical skirts the issue, supporting the objective but being silent on the strategy.

“While some are concerned only with financial gain, and others with holding on to or increasing their power, what we are left with are conflicts or spurious agreements where the last thing either party is concerned about is caring for the environment and protecting those who are most vulnerable.”  (#198)

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.” (#204)

“… we are unconcerned about caring for things for the sake of others; we fail to set limits on ourselves in order to avoid the suffering of others or the deterioration of our surroundings.” (#208)

In a general sense, we can see that much of the theme in these words directed against others (people, companies, nations) is about transfer of power, from those who have it (and at least, to some extent, have earned it) to those with more limited power, even within their own borders, where, for a variety of reasons, legitimate power has apparently not been fully or faithfully exercised.  On the matter of power, it is well to remember that coveting is clearly reprobated by two of the Commandments.  That includes coveting power, doesn’t it?

As one reviews the excerpts above, perhaps it would have been better for Pope Francis to have used his language aloft one more time, regarding those portrayed as enemies of the environment or ecology or, I wish, at least had emulated the gentleness of Pope Benedict.  And, finally, without knowing reasons or purpose, we can simply recall and pray the words of Sacred Scripture:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,

but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  

Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  

Colossians 3:21




Ordination video… and nineteen men in seminary

August 5th, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

From the Catholic Courier’s facebook page:

The three newest priests of the Diocese of Rochester were ordained before a cathedral full of friends and family in late June. After being on the job for a little over a month, they spoke with us about one of the most important days of their lives.

(Courier video by Mike Crupi)

Also, there was a recent article in about Fr. Van Lieshout. It’s a nice article, but the most encouraging snippet I found was this:

Nineteen men will be in the seminary this fall. Three priests were ordained this year, with three others scheduled for 2016.

Actually, soon it’ll be 4 priests ordained in 2015.


Lies About Cleansing Fire

August 1st, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Today I received a forwarded email of a newsletter sent to me at Cleansing Fire (Staff email) containing a number of lies about Cleansing Fire.  I do not intend to correct all of them, but only the most egregious against Cleansing Fire, as I believe it underpins many of the rest.  The Newsletter also criticizes Bishop Matano, and I will respond to that matter as well.  I will not here be addressing what I believe to be libel against prior popes.  I also see no necessity at this point to fully identify the sender of the email, or the publisher of and link to the newsletter, or the writer of the lies, as that would only give the perpetrator more publicity, which seems to be what is being sought by sending it to Cleansing Fire Staff.

I have communicated with the person who sent it to me and received permission to reprint in its entirety, but that would only serve to give it more publicity.  Therefore, I will excerpt (without changing the text) a few items for your attention, because you or someone you know (and knows of your Cleansing Fire involvement, interest and support) may bring the subject up to you, and it would be well for you to at least be prepared.

The newsletter forwarded to me had a section entitled: “An Unusual Hate Group.”  It continued: “Within the Diocese of Rochester there is a Catholic group called Cleansing Fire that hates Catholics.  If that were not weird enough, they are so secretive that probably 95 percent of the hated Catholics don’t know they are being hated. The group’s name sounds like a cult, and its website,, carries out that theme.”

Now, it doesn’t bother me if people of good will genuinely disagree in their opinions, and even in their interpretations of what should be clear facts.  It doesn’t bother me to engage in strong, sincere and clear dialogue, in an orderly manner.  But people of good will don’t, all of a sudden, jump out of the dark to use the word “hate.”  It is a very unfortunate choice of word because it is so grossly overused in our culture to divide, rather than to unite.  In social media and liberal causes, the word hate has been used to make over-arching statements like whites hate blacks, straight people hate homosexuals, pro-life supporters hate abortion providers, rich hate the poor, etc.  It has even been used to enact “hate crimes” which is an attempt to read minds and motivations, rather than simply and fully to judge the crime.

What is interesting is that the word “hate” is so rarely used in the opposite direction.  Why should this be?  My personal belief is that those who love do understand how hopeless and depraved is the word hate, and they make a deliberate effort not to use it; whereas, those who aren’t motivated principally by love (but rather of social agenda, greed, sex, license– i.e. ‘do it my way’) use the word “hate” from their own absence of love, because they know it has power and sting, even if they don’t understand its opposite: love.  As a matter of fact, attributing the motive of “hate” to someone is indeed “judging” them, and that is best left to God.

Yet we should not be surprised that the word “hate” is used against us.  Christ Himself used the word “hate” in the Gospels (and in Revelation).  Note particularly Matthew 24:10 regarding the end times which many believe are upon us.  Christ says:


Mat 5:11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Mat 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” 
Mat 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Mat 24:10 And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another.”
Luk 1:71 “…that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us;
Luk 6:22 “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”
Luk 6:27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,…”
Luk 14:26 “If any one comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”  [Thus is the dramatic comparison of true love of God to ordinary love]
Luk 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Jhn 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.


These verses serve well for meditation, because the natural human response is “Hate?  I don’t hate anybody!  What did I do to deserve this?”  Rather, let us take the accusations of hate as evidence of supporting Christ’s work, and use it as an opportunity for prayer for those who use such a word against us.  Truly, when we support Christ and His Church out of love for souls, we are absolutely going to be misunderstood, no matter how much we try to explain.  For example, when we speak or write against same-sex unions (or abortion, or euthanasia), not because we want to deny people happiness but out of concern for their souls, it will not be understood as truly being real love for them.  But lack of understanding doesn’t let us off the Fisherman’s hook, does it?  So the mistaken idea that we are secret or cult-like is better understood as a failure of the accuser to see clearly.  Let us keep the lamp upon the lampstand which is called “Cleansing Fire,” and let us all continue to examine and refine our own motives.

Our Responsibility to the Eucharist

And when the One toward Whom our greatest love must be directed is the object of our work to praise Him, Bless Him, Love Him we are only worthless servants called to do what we are supposed to do.  Those who do truly believe in the Real Presence will do whatever is necessary to guard the Sacrament.  That is why we have a priest and nun martyr in the Diocese of Rochester (St. Philip Neri and the unsuccessful attempt to save the Eucharist in a fire.)

That leads me to share with you one other point (among many which were in the newsletter I received, and that was rather a rant against Bishop Matano (called therein the “unnamed” bishop.)  A bishop, a priest, a Catholic has no higher calling that to be faithful to the Eucharist, in the way we receive, speak, protect.  Bishop Matano, for whom we are so grateful, has apparently issued a few decisions recently which have irked those who have seemed to want an institutionalized casualness about handling of the Holy Eucharist.  I have not seen his decision or a diocesan letter, but the subject newsletter reported:

“Recently, we heard that the bishop of Rochester, N.Y., issued a decree saying that the glass goblets used by the Eucharistic Ministers [sic] to distribute the Blood of Christ to the faithful are completely inappropriate and must be replaced as soon as possible.”  Comments trying to criticize that decision, based on what was available at the time of Christ, is a false argument of course.  It ignores the point that we should give our best to God, not an historic mimic or re-enactment.  What is being ignored is that Bp. Matano (if indeed he has issued the decision reported) is acting fully as a Bishop protecting the Eucharist and in a noble way.  The Church has long required noble metals to be inside the cup and forbidden use of glass or ceramic.  Many churches have simply ignored the requirement and used Aunt Tillie’s ceramic gift as adequate, or a dozen glasses from Macy’s.  That is not and never has been acceptable.  These rules are not being changed; they are simply being enforced as they need to be.  Glass and ceramic can break, ceramic and wood are hard to cleanse fully from all penetration of the Precious Blood.  To be fair, undistinguished glasses have long been used; for example, at St. Louis in Pittsford.  How wonderful that they will finally have to do what has been required but ignored all along!  Now if only that Church and others (“who [hopefully] know who they are!) would get a proper Sacrarium, it might actually be a believable witness that, truly, the Eucharist IS the real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ, Son of God.  In the meantime, may Bishop Matano be blessed to do what a bishop, any bishop, ought to be doing!


For the moment I will leave comments open, but not as a stage for more lies or innuendo about Cleansing Fire from those who prepared and circulated the newsletter.  Do not be surprised if the “comments” get shut off.

Reference:  Redemptionis Sacramentum on Sacred Vessels

[117.] Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books.[205] The Bishops’ Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region,[206]so that honour will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate.[207]

[118.] Before they are used, sacred vessels are to be blessed by a Priest according to the rites laid down in the liturgical books.[208] It is praiseworthy for the blessing to be given by the diocesan Bishop, who will judge whether the vessels are worthy of the use to which they are destined.

March 25, 2004

Mandated by Saint John Paul II


Deacon Ruiz to be ordained Aug. 15

July 31st, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson Deacon Ruiz to be ordained Aug. 15

The priestly ordination of Deacon Daniel Ruiz, postponed for nearly two months due to a family illness, has been rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 15. He will be ordained by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano during a Mass beginning at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park, Rochester.

Read the rest here.


Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – August 2015

July 31st, 2015, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It’s time to print out your August 2015 calendar. Thanks to the good folks at for providing these calendars freely available to all on the Internet.

And the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for August:

That volunteers may give themselves generously to the service of the needy.

That setting aside our very selves we may learn to be neighbors to those who find themselves on the margins of human life and society.


Laudato Si –Collectivism? Liberation Theology? — Part X

July 31st, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

There is no better way to begin this Part X post than with quotes from Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, in the Ratzinger Report, 1985, Second Printing 1986, Ignatius Press, in Chapter 12 on Liberation Theology, p. 190.  It is as if he were looking 30 years into the future at some of the concerns we’ve been discussing:   

“What is theologically unacceptable here, and socially dangerous, is this mixture of Bible, christology, politics, sociology and economics. Holy Scripture and theology cannot be misused to absolutize and sacralize a theory concerning the socio-political order. Of its very nature, that order is always contingent. By sacralizing the revolution — mixing up God, Christ and ideologies — they only succeed in producing a dreamy fanaticism that can lead to even worse injustices and oppression, ruining in the praxis what the theory had proposed.”

“It is also painful to be confronted with the illusion, so essentially un-Christian, which is present among priests and theologians, that a new man and a new world can be created, not by calling each individual to conversion, but only by changing the social and economic structures. For it is precisely personal sin that is in reality at the root of unjust social structures. Those who really desire a more human society need to begin with the root, not with the trunk and branches, of the tree of injustice. The issue here is one of fundamental Christian truths, yet they are deprecatingly dismissed as ‘alienating’ and ‘spiritualistic’.”

I was struck by the word “painful” which then Cardinal Ratzinger used, as I too am feeling this entire process of reading and analyzing Laudato Si has been quite painful and deeply sad, but necessary.  Re-reading pages 169-190 of the Ratzinger Report (Chapter 12 on Liberation Theology) has enabled me to finally cut through so much that has been confusing and unexplainable in Laudato Si, and I highly recommend the reader’s consulting that chapter directly.  The content of that Chapter 12 was given to the interviewer, Vittorio Messori, prior to the release of Ratzinger’s Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation” given August 6, 1984, with the approval of Saint John Paul II. Ignatius Press has printed the entire content of the published “Preliminary Notes” to that “Instruction” as the text of a “private theologian.”  More of Cardinal Ratzinger words will be included in upcoming Parts of the Laudato Si review, for the sake of explanation and interpretation.  For now, it seems important to continue with excerpts of Laudato Si which raise questions of collectivism.

Key Questions:

Among the key questions related to this Part X are 1)  can consensus among yet unidentified participants, of unknown skills and motives, ever trump sovereign countries’ rights (except perhaps as between allies in a global war like World War II) and still be in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding subsidiarity? 2) why is there any hope that artificial structures like summits, paper agreements or special appointees would be any more successful in implementation than was the League of Nations or has been the U.N.?   3) how far has all of this already gone, unbeknownst to citizens of countries likely to be most impacted negatively? 4) when one considers all the reasons the world has not been able to come together for an alleged common good, how would there be anything different in new structures, when weak humans are still weak humans?  5) how is ‘common good’ to be assessed and by whom in a world becoming increasingly degenerate, and failing to have made any impact on so many more apparent social evils?  6) What unspoken dangers lurk in the persistent pursuit of lofty global ambitions?

So as at the beginning, also at the end?

On a more biblical level, might one contemplate whether or not there is an effort afoot to reassemble the peoples of the world into a new Tower of Babel; some of these efforts do seem to be hoping to do so. In Genesis 11:1-9 we read: “Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”

God did warn that Babel was “only the beginning.”  Here are the relevant quotes  from Laudato Si, which envision a superstructure of sorts — this time a superstructure of organization, in opposition to subsidiarity and possibly also trying to regather from all the earth a scattered (in many senses) humanity, to do what belongs to the Second Coming?  The organizational superstructure language focuses on bringing together a consensus from all over the earth, about the earth, in the “dialogue” for which Pope Francis repeatedly calls, to agree on and enforce causes of action.    

Does this sound like too much of a stretch?  Too untenable?  Then consider these words of Cardinal Ratzinger regarding liberation theology: “… by fighting for justice and integral liberation, by transforming unjust structures into more human ones … is exercised by repeating in history the gesture by which God raised Jesus, i.e. by giving life to those who are crucified in history.  Man has taken over God’s gesture — this manifests the whole transformation of the biblical message in an almost tragic way, when one thinks how this attempted imitation of God has worked out in practice and continues to do so.”  (Page 184, Ratzinger Report.)

Laudato Si Quotations

One should carefully ask what is being created if the following quotations from Laudato Si were to prevail:

“Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness …  so we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration …. etc.”  (#43)  It is particularly striking how these words are blatantly disconnected from what Americans in particular value from the Declaration of Independence … “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Where is Liberty?   And experience shows us all that we don’t have a “right” to happiness, but rather the right to pursue happiness.  It is a strange juxtaposition, raising questions of “Why?”

“‘A true ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time” (#51)

“The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.” (#52)

“…we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis.  We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations.” (#53)  

“”…The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable, otherwise the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.”  (#53)

“There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good….”  (#54)  With this kind of attitude toward certain interested sectors of the issue, who claim a right or need to participate, how can the repeated call for open and honest dialogue ever be honored?  Of course participants will have vested interests, the Aparecida Document notwithstanding. In particular, that Aparecida Document is mentioned in an article in America, saying “one particular aspect of Pope Francis’ biography [is] his relationship with the Fifth Latin American Episcopal Conference held in May 2007 in Aparecida, Brazil, and its possible consequences for this pontificate. At Aparecida, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected by his brother bishops to chair the important committee charged with drafting the final document. This was not an incidental fact but a token of his leadership in such events.”  [With more time and resources it would be interesting to revisit the Aparecida document and examine it as a source for Laudato Si, considering even that wider publicity for Aparecida might be one of the purposes of the Laudato Si encyclical.]

“…this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation.”  (#64)  Given concerns about the infiltration of Liberation Theology, the word choice seems odd.

“To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power.” (#129)

“We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision.” (#141)  Reminiscent of the “central planning” of socialist countries.

“…social ecology is necessarily institutional, and gradually extends to the whole of society….” (#142)

“A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries.”  (#164).

“…the international community has still not reached adequate agreement about the responsibility for paying the costs of … energy transition.” (#165)

“World Summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment.”  (#166)

“… the 1972 Earth Stockholm Declaration … enshrined international cooperation to care for the ecosystem of the entire earth, the obligation of those who cause pollution to assume its costs and the duty to assess the environmental impact of given projects and works…. (#167)

“International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interest above the global common good.” (#169) Shouldn’t this statement be clarified to say “alleged global common good,” since so much is unproven, except the ever-persistent desire for more cash from the wealthier nations.  What countries’ representatives, assuming the responsibilities for which they were elected, would not see their job as primarily protecting their own nations’ interests?  How does subsidiarity fit into these concepts at all, except as a denial of free will of the individual, and denial of sovereign rights of nations?

“As the bishops of Bolivia [at a Bolivian Bishops Conference] have stated, ‘the countries which have benefited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused.'” (#170)

“Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.” (#173)

“What is needed … is an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called ‘global commons.'” (#174)

“The same mindset which stands in the way of making ‘radical decisions’ to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of the goal of eliminating poverty.  A more responsible overall approach is needed to deal with both problems: the reduction of pollution and the development of poorer countries and regions.” (#175).  And in this particular statement, the real link between the environment and the “poor,” mentioned so many times in this Encyclical, is clearly displayed.

“It is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions.”  (#175).  And in this very sentence, discussed in Part IX relative to an out-of-context quote attributed to Pope Benedict, all the dangerous elements are exposed in a clear statement of how someone can argue that the “end justifies the means.”   From whence comes the hope that nations, governments and politicians, so roundly criticized for inability (or unwillingness) to act, to rule, govern and sanction will then appoint (unelected) ‘functionaries’ in a super secular and greedy world who will be effective, responsible and above reproach? Doesn’t the entire argument collapse on itself!  Or else, perhaps confessionals will no longer be needed, if people transcend all temptation and greed and intimidation!  More likely, the faults of a persistently fallen human race will not be erased by new ways to manipulate, but rather be stimulated by the opportunity.

“…the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.” (#193)

There is also a challenge to private property rights in Laudato Si:

“In some places, … the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty….”ecological” neighborhoods … are closed to outsiders … we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities….” (#45)

“The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.’  The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.”  (#93)

“Saint John Paul II…explained that ‘the Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property but she also teaches no less clearly that there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them.'”(#93)  [Context not verified.]

“The world was created by the three Persons acting as a single divine principle, but each one of them performed this common work in accordance with his own personal property.” (#238)  [Meaning is not obvious; context not verified.]

Collectivism, Marxism, Socialism?

If some of the above statements sound suspiciously like socialism, or Marxism or Collectivism (i.e. the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it; the theory and practice of the ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state,)  it is not surprising.  ‘Tis the perennial error in the swing of the pendulum to the left.

Certainly this is all NOT to say that Pope Francis is or is not a collectivist or any version of that ilk, as not enough information is provided. Rather, it is to note the risks of associating the Catholic Church with those who are socialists, and the dangers that they will misuse and abuse all that many hold dear, being especially divisive within the Church, e.g. against Americans, whose God-given Freedoms are enshrined in our constitution, and bred in our bones.  In Part XI, we will consider what some might regard as hostile statements from Pope Francis aimed toward the North American continent in particular and relate more of the context between Pope Francis’s and Cardinal Ratzinger’s words.

The author Messori recounts Ratzinger’s words:

“… in the West, the marxist myth has lost its attraction for the young and even for the workers. There is an attempt, therefore, to export it to the Third World on the part of those intellectuals who actually live outside countries dominated by ‘real Socialism’, indeed, it is only where marxism-leninism is not in control that there are still people who take its illusory ‘scientific truths’ seriously.” (Page 187, Ratzinger Report).

“[Cardinal Ratzinger] … then went on to tell me how dismayed he was by reading many of these theologians: “A continual refrain is this: ‘Man must be liberated from the chains of politico-economic oppression; the reforms are not enough to liberate him, indeed they lead away from liberation; what is necessary is revolution, and the only way to bring about a revolution is to summon people to the class struggle.’ Yet those who repeat all this seem to have no concrete and practical idea how a society could be organized after the revolution. They limit themselves to repeating that the revolution must be brought about.” (Page 189, Ratzinger Report).


Basic Christian Iconography: the “Majestas (Maiestas) Domini”

July 28th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

Majestas Domini is Latin for “the majesty (glory) of the Lord”.[1]

This iconic image is arguably older than the cross –especially the crucifix– in Christian art, having its origins in the 4th century, whereas the cross did not appear until the 5th century and the crucifix, even later.

The Majestas Domini is not often employed now-a-days perhaps due to the ascendency of a theology of “Jesus, our brother” or even “Jesus, our friend” and the simultaneous suppressing of a Christology that emphasizes the divinity of Christ along with his humanity, as the Majestas Domini does.

In the iconic image, Christ sits regally upon a throne (signifying his authority to make laws) surrounded by a special halo called a mandorla, an almond shaped aureola[2] that encircles the entire body, signifying holy or divine status. He raises his right hand in the ancient gesture of an authoritative orator, teacher or law giver. He is not giving a blessing as some believe.[3] His left hand holds a book that is sometimes open with an inscription that varies depending on the contexts in which the image is deployed.

In some renderings Christ holds a closed book which is interpreted as a book of the Gospels, the “new” law.

The image is very much in the spirit of the opening chapter of the Gospel of Saint John; “In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God…  “ establishing Christ as divine, consubstantial, co-eternal, and co-creator with the Father.

The image of divine creator, ruler of the universe and authoritative teacher and law giver that we see in the Majestas Domini does not fit the softer, more ambiguous and non-judgmental “Jesus our friend/brother” theology of the modern liturgist and that may account for why the icon is seldom used today but it may also explain why we do not see, anymore, the various themes or dogmatic images it was paired with –the Last Judgement or Second Coming. In fact we don’t see anything concerning judgement or law in contemporary liturgical art.

Following are just a few of the various appearances of the Majestas Domini icon in Christian art history.

(Click on pictures to see larger images)

"Codex Bruchsal", Romanesque illuminated manuscript Gospel Book, c.1220. Here we can see the basic "Majestas Domini" icon in one of its most common presentations; with symbols of the four evangelists depicted in the corner medallions (upper left: winged man for St. Matthew; upper right: an eagle for St. John; lower left: a winged ox symbolizing St. Mark; lower right: the winged bull symbol for St. Luke. One interesting aspect is almost always include in the Majestas Domini: the Lord's orator hand and one or both feet overlap or even extend beyond the boundary of the mandorla/full body halo.

“Codex Bruchsal”, Romanesque illuminated manuscript Gospel Book, c.1220.

Above, we can see the basic Majestas Domini icon in one of its more common appearances, with symbols of the four evangelists depicted in corner illustrations (upper left: winged man for St. Matthew; upper right: an eagle for St. John; lower left: a winged lion symbolizing St. Mark; lower right: the winged bull symbol for St. Luke). The arrangement of the fingers on the Lord’s extended hand is the standard ancient Roman arrangement utilized by teachers and orators when teaching and speaking.

Central tympanum of the Royal portal, Chatres Cathedral, 1145-50. The "Majestas Domini" in the typmanum of the Main potral of the Chartres Cathedral is usually called a "Last judgement" as the symbols of the four evangelists are often interpreted as the four beasts of the apocalyse although the title would be more obvious if the Lord was seated on a rainbow as mentioed in Old Testament phrofit's vision.

Tympanum of the Royal Portal of the Cathedral of Chartres, France, 1145-150.  The harmonious style and coordination of shapes within the design offers us a simple but very powerful image. The four symbolic figures next to the image of Our Lord, in this instance, represent the four beasts of the Second Coming (tetramorphs).

During the Middle Ages, the Majestas Domini icon was often paired with the theme of the Second Coming over the central entrance to a church. Doing so suggested to the faithful entering the church the glory and power of the Lord and the promise of future glory for the faithful.

Below is a depiction of the Second Coming as the Last Judgement with several scenes from the story paired with the icon of the Majestas Domini. The faithful were reminded, as they entered through the portal of the church under this image, to live according to the divine law if they wanted to enter through the gates of heaven.

"Last Judgement" in the typanum over the central portal of Autun Cathedral, ca. 1130.Lazare, Tympanon Autun (Saone-et-Loire), Kathedrale Saint Lazare. Westportal, Tympanon: - Christus als Weltenrichter in der Mandorla und Juengstes Gericht. - Skulptur von Gislebert von Autun, um 1140. Foto, undat. E: Autun, Cath. Saint Lazare, tympanum Autun (Saone-et-Loire), Cathedrale Saint Lazare. West tympanum: - Christ as Judge in the mandorla with the Last Judgement. - Sculpture by Gislebert von Autun, c. 1140. Photo, undated.

The Last Judgement in the tympanum over the central portal of Autun Cathedral, ca. 1130. (Click on the image in order to read the labels.) The right hand and left hands of the Lord are empty but appear to be presenting to us the two groups of people: the condemned on the left and the saved, on the right.

During the Middle Ages, disputes, both secular and religious, were decided in the portals of churches under the depiction of the Last Judgement.

The next image (below) is of  the earliest known Majestas Domini image in a church setting. The mosaic icon is in a 5th century small apse in the chapel of Hosios David (Blessed David) attached to a monastery in Thessaloniki, Greece. A young Christ appears in front of a radiantly colored aureole, seated on a rainbow. Four abbreviated creatures –the beasts of the Second Coming– flank the central figure of Christ and are partially overlapped by the transparent aureole. Below the figure of Christ, the four rivers of paradise flow from a hill. Christ holds a scroll that reads “I am the spring of living water”.

"The Vision of Ezekiel", apse mosaic in Blessed David Chapel, Thessalonica, ca. 425-50. The "Majestas Domini" depicted with the Lord seated upon a rainbow is usually associated with "Last Judgement" themes. (Ezekial 1: 1 - 28: "...and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it [the mandorla]. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord").  The term "Majestas Domini" comes from Ezekial's last sentence of his description.

“The Vision of Ezekiel”,
apse mosaic in Blessed David Chapel,
Thessalonica, ca. 425-50. This Majestas Domini depicts the Lord seated upon a rainbow surrounded by rainbow colored bursts of light [the mandorla]. It is based on the biblical text of Ezekial 1: 1 – 28: “…and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around [the mandorla]. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord). The term Majestas Domini is an excerpt from Ezekial’s last sentence.

The scene is of the prophet Ezekial’s vision as recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament. The figure seen cringing and turning away in terror on the far left, hiding from the vision, is the Old Testament prophet, himself.  St. John the Evangelist, the writer of the Book of Revelation, is shown seated to the far right in the mosaic. John describes a similar vision to Ezekial’s in the Book of Revelation, but he is calmly writing done what he is seeing. In the Hosios David mosaic we see depicted the two contrasting images favored by the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. The Old Testament vision of the god-head, Ezekial’s vision, was favored by the Eastern Church. [4] The New Testament vision revealed to St. John was favored by the Western Church.

Below is another composition using the Majestas Domini in depicting the Second Coming. In this tympanum the centrally placed iconic Majestas Domini is surrounded on three sides (left, right and bottom) by the twenty-four elders described in the Book of Revelation.

Tympanum, Second Coming, Moissac Abbey, ca. 1125

Tympanum, Second Coming, Moissac Abbey, ca. 1125

details of Second Coming, Moissac Abbey. The central Majestas Domini image and the left hand Elders.

details of Second Coming, Moissac Abbey. The central Majestas Domini image and the left hand Elders.

Another tympanum from the Middle Ages (below) employs the Majestas Domini in a most interesting composition as it might stand as a visual metaphor for a couple of important religious activities that took place at the time: pilgrimages and crusades.

The Vezelay tympanum is in the narthex of the church, just over the door into the nave.

The tympanum is in the narthex of the church of Saint Mary Magdeleine in Vezelay, France –just over the door into the nave.

The theme of the composition, above, is the Commissioning of the Apostles: “Go out into the whole world and… ” spread the good news. Surrounding the central image of the Lord are compartments –symbolic of foreign lands– occupied by figures representing the different peoples of the world, many of whom were not well known at the time.[5]

Sending the apostles out involved travel, of course, and so did going on pilgrimage and joining a crusade, both of which were happening at the time this tympanum was created. This church was the point of origin or staging for many significant pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and it was also the site of the preaching of the Second Crusade.[6]

Tympanum of the Church of the Abbaye Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay, "Commissioning of the Apostles", 1130

Tympanum of the Church of the Abbaye Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay, “Commissioning of the Apostles”, 1130

The Majestas Domini in the (above) tympanum is significantly different than the usual. Here, the symbols of the four evangelists (or the beasts of the Apocalypse) are missing and the Lord is not teaching or holding a book. Rather, both arms are extended with palms of the hands open and rays of light (or power) emanating from the finger tips to the heads of the apostles. There is still a regal pose to the figure of the Lord and there is still a mandorla but we can see that there are significant changes in some of the specifics of the basic iconic image.

The poses of all the figures in the composition of the Commissioning tympanum suggest a kind of jittery and intense movement that conveys excitement and movement (traveling?).

Russian, 1874?

Russian, 1874?

In the particularly beautiful ceiling fresco shown above we notice that the normal flat Byzantine Eastern icon style has given way to the influence of the European  style of “Renaissance” space and form. The symbols of the four evangelists are shown as if in real space, two in front of the throne and two farther back. The mandorla looks almost as if it is a snow globe enclosing the symbols of the evangelists as well as the figure of the Lord. The Lord holds the Book of the Gospels in his raised right hand and an Eastern crozier or staff in his left indicating teaching and governing authority. He wears the vestments of a tsar.

Below is a photo of a late 4th century apse mosaic in a church in Rome. In it we see a Majestas Domini depicted as a rather natural Christ seated upon on gem studded throne under the gem studded cross of Golgotha, erected on orders of Constantine the Great in the 4th century on the actual site of the crucifixion of Christ. The Lord, wearing gold vestments with purple trim (a sign of imperial authority), sits regally and yet comfortably holding an open book in his left hand and teaching with his right. The four evangelists (we can only see two from this angle) are in the sky over Jerusalem. Acting as a virtual mandorla is the profile of the hill of Golgotha just behind and over our Lord. To the Lord’s left and right are his apostles.[7] Standing behind Saint Peter, on our right, and holding a wreath over Peter’s head is a woman who symbolizes the Church of the Jews. On the left is depicted the same idea only it is Saint Paul being crowned by a figure representing the Church of the Gentiles.


Below are two “modern” uses of the Majestas Domini.

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The large tapestry of Christ (Majestas Domini) in Coventry Cathedral, England, designed by Graham Sutherland. 1962.

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Christ in Glory, “Christ the Light” Cathedral, Oakland , California. 2008. The window depicts a 90 foot image of Christ in majesty taken from the transept of Chartres Cathedral in France (see the second photo at the top of this post). The image is created by natural light passing through aluminum panels that have been pierced with 94,000 holes.

Finally, the Majestas Domini icon is thought to have originated in the 4th century with the so-called Dominus Legem Dat (the Lord Gives the Law to Peter [and Paul]) image.

Dominus legem dat Petro, from the 4th century sarcophagus of Junius Bassus.

Dominus legem dat Petro, from the 4th century sarcophagus of Junius Bassus.

Above, Christ sits or stands with his feet on Caelus, the Roman sky god. This image proclaims that the new law of Christ has defeated the world of the ancient gods and goddesses (represented by Caelus) and all the worldly powers that invoked them. The two apostles (Peter on Christ’s right and Paul on his left) symbolize the proclamation of the new law to the entire world for Peter symbolizes the Jewish wing of the Church and Paul, the Gentile wing. The new law is, therefore, for everyone –Gentile (the non-Jewish world) as well as Jew. Many times in the history of Christian art the Majestas Domini appears as a Dominus Legem Dat.

There are even more compositions we could look at that derive from this basic dogmatic icon but this will serve as a basic introduction to those not familiar with The Majestas Domini.


[1] The image (icon) is usually referred to as “Christ in Glory”

[2] a full body halo or nimbus

[3] Eastern Roman Catholic and Orthodox priests use it when giving a blessing (which is why some say the Lord is giving a blessing. He isn’t)

[4] The Hosios David type Majestas Domini is assumed to have been a popular image in the churches of Constantinople because they were frequently deployed in the apses of Egypt and Armenia. Some survive in Cappadocia, Turkey. Constantinople, as the Eastern capital would have influenced the decoration of Egyptian and Armenian churches and those in Cappadocia. At that time, the image was known as the theandric or god-man image.

[5] Many of the figures in the boxes are distorted characterizations of reports made by people who had been in those foreign lands or who had heard from people who had been there.

[6] by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, beneath this very tympanum.

[7] Two are missing, cut off from the ends, unfortunately, when the mosaic underwent restoration in the 16th century.


Laudato Si — “Subsidiarity is Vital” — Part IX

July 26th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The Principle of Subsidiarity

The Catholic Church strongly embraces the Principle of Subsidiarity in its social teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs 1883 through 1885 regarding subsidiarity is excerpted as follows:

1883: “…. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative.  The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which ‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.'”

1884:  “….The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities.  They should behave as ministers of divine providence.”

1885:  “The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention.  It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies.  It tends toward the establishment of true international order.”

Lip Service to Subsidiarity

Unfortunately, in my perception, Pope Francis gives a bit of lip service to the principle of subsidiarity but then proceeds to seriously violate the principle in repeated appeals to solving the world’s environmental and ecology ‘problems’ at a secular level of the highest order.  The word “subsidiarity” only occurs twice in the 40,000+ word Encyclical:

“Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development.  It has also to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity. Outstanding among those groups is the family as the basic cell of society.  Finally the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues.  Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.” (#157)

“What happens with politics?  Let us keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power.  Today, it is the case that some economic sectors exercise more power than states themselves.  But economics without politics cannot be justified, since this would make it impossible to favour other ways of handling the various aspects of the present crisis.  The mindset which leaves no room for sincere concern for the environment is the same mindset which lacks concern for the inclusion of the most vulnerable members of society.  For “the current model, with its emphasis on success and self-reliance, does not appear to favour an investment in efforts to help the slow, the weak or the less talented to find opportunities in life.'”  (#196)  The quote with which the prior excerpt ends is by Pope Francis quoting himself in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelium Gaudium, November 24, 2013.

Losing the Sense of Subsidiarity

Quotations from Laudato Si seem to shift away from the Principle of Subsidiarity, and rarely return to justify recommended actions even as a test related to subsidiarity. Rather, the conclusions appear to advocate placing key world decisions in the hands of a type of centralized planning committee.  It should be noted that paragraph #195 ends with the assertion:  “An instrumental way of reasoning, which provides a purely static analysis of realities in the service of present needs, is at work whether resources are allocated by the market or by state central planning.”  (#195).  Once again the language confounds, but seems to be asserting that free market factors or central planning, so common to socialistic states, are equivalent on their relevant bases. (This is of course not true; there is no comparison between the exercise of God-given free will, and slavery to dictatorship no matter how seemingly benevolent.) Thematic to this encyclical (which will be expanded in later Parts) is a sense that much of humanity is not to be trusted with its free will regarding the environment. We should remember, even when we misuse or abuse the environment, that God Himself is not intervening to reverse our actions; He gives free will to us and it has its price! Perhaps there is more need to trust each other in these matters than to institute centralized human control? See CCC 1884 above.

So, there is no evidence or proof given to justify the assertion of equivalency between resources allocated by the market (and human will) vs. central planning.   But it is in this context that we can view the numerous assertions in Laudato Si that decisions of world wide import should be handled at a level which supersedes the rights of sovereign nations and de facto ignores subsidiarity.  For most people in western cultures, valuing freedom and self determination, such assertions likely appear socialistic.  And, as mentioned above, the Catechism is clear in Paragraph 1885: “The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism.”

In Part X of this series, many of the Collectivist and Socialistic quotes from Laudato Si will be reported.  But first it is important to consider how Church teaching stands on the shoulders of prior magisterial pronouncements.

Magisterial Teaching of Subsidiarity

Previously in Part II it was mentioned that all the quotes in Laudato Si would be taken at face value as being the words of Pope Francis, without attempting to dissect the quote and its context and prior references.  So far, that has been true. But arriving at this section on subsidiarity, which is an essential underpinning of a global teaching on environmentalism, pollution, alleged climate change and imposing of penalties, it is absolutely necessary to first revisit the basis for the teaching, especially since Pope Francis uses quotes by other papal sources to justify or support his own teaching.  We must remember that Popes do not simply pop up unconnected to all prior history but, rather, they are the custodians of all prior magisterial teaching. Thus, when I did read the following reference in Laudato Si (#175), it did not ring true to me regarding either the Catechism paragraph 1885, or Pope Benedict’s own words in the Ratzinger Report (see Part X).  Hence, I put aside, for this particular instance, the prior determination to simply accept all quotes at face value as belonging to Pope Francis (no matter who is cited.)  In this case, with a teaching expected to stand on the shoulders of prior papal teaching, it is vital to confirm what Pope Benedict is reported to have said.  My own interpretation does not support that conclusion of Laudato Si.

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