Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

“Resisting”, Canon 212, and Galatians

February 16th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Rather than imposing a VERY long comment on the thread regarding Cardinal Burke’s “I will resist,” it seemed better to begin a new post, focused more toward the sphere in which we can and sometimes must resist. Such discussion is perhaps one reason why St. Paul says we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, in Philippians 2:12

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling….”

While we begin with, and always embrace, the Assent of Faith, nevertheless we work out our salvation one step at a time. There are limitations on our obedience to hierarchy when such obedience would contravene the moral law, for example.  We would not steal in order to keep a parish community solvent, would we?  Even if commanded to do so? What parent would send his or her child to a Religious Education class with a known or even suspected sexual predator in order that the child might be admitted to Holy Communion?

One thing that we learned from the sexual abuse scandal was that members of the Church hierarchy are also human, sinners who are working out their own salvation “with fear and trembling.”  We rightfully castigate leadership that covered up sexual crimes, moved predators from parish to parish, and did not protect the flock. Actually, the laity has been very “light” in the criticism of brother priests of those predators, who knew or suspected and remained silent. And they were ‘light’ on a number of prelates on whose watch the abuse occurred, without even asking what might have been done earlier to ferret out the abuse?  Only God will know who failed and how much.  And only God will know how much the priest sexual abuse scandal has been (or will be) turned to effecting the good of more involvement in matters which endanger the faith of the laity; i.e. resisting revision of Doctrine, no matter who promulgates the changes.  Did God work, to the good, even the great scandal of the 20th century to prepare us for one that could be imminent?

Cardinal Burke 5Why is Cardinal Burke’s involvement now so important?  If prelates of high rank and influence had gone public years earlier in the sexual abuse matter, even in a general way, would much suffering have been avoided? Would the image of the Church now be more able to influence  today’s secular world for the good?  Is the threatened abandonment of Doctrine (through the mechanism of a Synod, e.g.) such an approaching wolf, that one shepherd, at least, must get lay attention by crying out, at his own risk: “I will resist”?  Will his own fear and trembling be echoed in our own fear and trembling as we don’t run or hide, but rather engage in our own prudent response, given sufficient warning?

The best defense is, of course, always prayer and discernment of what we are called to do.  We pray that we are not called to enter into ‘the test.’  Everyone can pray; not everyone will have the clarity and courage to undertake a prominent resistance, whatever that will mean.  But all are called to resist sin, in whatever form it appears.   Another key element of our own protection is being well-catechized, and continuing to deepen in the Faith.  The support as well as the correction by our brothers and sisters in the Faith is key to our own endurance.  Hence, even discussing these matters together, as we are doing here, is vital to working out our own role “in fear and trembling.”

The following is Canon 212, copied from the website of The St. Joseph Foundation, Code of Canon Law Book Covera not-for-profit foundation which vindicates the rights of Catholics under the Law of the Church. The term “Christian Faithful” includes clergy as well as laity. Thus, Cardinal Burke would also seem to have rights herein.  Moreover, one might ask if it were not better for him to have publicly verbalized his concerns now, before he is possibly forbidden to do so and conflicted with demands of obedience, and encounters an even more difficult decision. Without limiting current discussion only to this Canon, it is also appropriate to mention that the person who should most know what Canon Law permits or prohibits is Cardinal Burke, having served for years as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.   Moreover, departure from his prior practice of more silence simply serves to elevate the importance with which he views what he is saying to us.

Canon 212

§1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

Note in particular that “opinion” in section 3 is modified by the requirement that the person expressing the opinion express it “according to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess.”  It does not convey a willy-nilly right to insist on our own ill-formed opinions, for example, or to create dissent for the sake of dissent. It assumes a certain level of catechesis, as well as good will.  But also note that it does not require only a one-on-one ‘up the ladder’ communication.  Some of our prior experience from years gone by would indicate much of such input was simply disregarded anyway.  Partly, that is because Canon 212 is missing the corresponding obligation on the part of hierarchy to respond; however, rights aren’t given without some expectation of response.  Nevertheless, there also is no obligation to express concerns just one time and let it go.  (St. Catherine of Siena didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer in asking the Pope to return to Rome, did she?) Moreover, section 3 is specific that we can make our opinions known “to the rest of the Christian Faithful”, as we do on this blog, e.g.  So too, apparently, can Cardinal Burke!


I have been particularly concerned about Cardinal Kasper’s hijacking of the word “Gospel” in his arguments regarding the “Gospel of the Family,”  and even more concerned about the repeated use of this term in the Relatios from the Synod.  While even Saint Pope John Paul II may have used the term as understandably illustrative, he never used it to introduce a departure from Gospel Teaching.  In one sense, there is no “Gospel of the Family” or ” Good News of the Family.”  The Relatios catalog more problems than good news.

We must be clear.  There are four Gospels that comprise Sacred Scripture, attested as divinely inspired: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  There is no other Gospel, and the not-so-subtle “language” by which Cardinal Kasper tries to legitimize his desperation is transparently in error, as evidenced by the attempt to permit those living in what Christ called “adultery” to commit the sacrilege of receiving Holy Communion.  We should be grateful that the error is so clear, flagrant, and easy to oppose with strong voice.  What I have most held onto during this period is St. Paul to the Galatians 1: 6-12.  It is worth memorizing:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel–not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Is it not ironic that at least part of the motivation to be more like the world, more like the Churches which do homage to the world, is indeed “pleasing men?”  St. Paul nailed it, giving us fair warning.

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9 Responses to ““Resisting”, Canon 212, and Galatians”

  1. annonymouse says:

    Diane, I can’t quarrel with you other than to question whether Cardinal Burke should be so outspoken, or whether he would be more effective to advance his arguments privately with the Holy Father.

    With respect to your rather narrow interpretation of the word “Gospel,” I would ask which of the four evangelists Our Lord was speaking of in Mark 1:15, since none were written when He proclaimed the Kingdom.

  2. Midwest St. Michael says:

    From Fr. John Hardon’s “Modern Catholic Dictionary” is the following definition for the word “Gospel”:

    One of the four authentic accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which the Church teaches have been divinely inspired. They are the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Several stages in the use of the term “Gospel” may be distinguished. In the Old Testament are predictions of the Messianic “Good News of Salvation” (Isaiah 40:9, 41:27, 61:1). The Gospels themselves speak of the “Good News” from the angelic message at Bethlehem (Luke 2:10) to the final commission to the Apostles (Mark 16:15). Beyond the four narratives of the Evangelists the entire New Testament speaks at length, in detail, and with a variety of nuances of the “Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Prior to the original, inspired Gospels there was an “Oral Gospel,” or tradition, on which the written narratives were based. And after the canonical Gospels were produced, numerous counterfeit Gospels were also written. There is record of twenty-one such apocryphal Gospels. (Etym. Anglo-Saxon g_dspel: god, good + spel, tale.)


  3. annonymouse says:

    Thank you for that, MSM. Very helpful.

    I still need an exegesis, I think, on what exactly Our Blessed Lord meant in Mark 1:15. I will take that as my homework.

    I do agree with Diane that Cardinal Kasper has misappropriated the word, which is her point.

  4. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Also for your perusal, dear mouse. From the Catechism on the word “Gospel” (to name just a few):

    In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:

    – orally “by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received – whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit”;

    – in writing “by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing”. (CCC 76)

    The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures “because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior”.

    We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:

    1. The life and teaching of Jesus. The Church holds firmly that the four Gospels, “whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up.”

    2. The oral tradition. “For, after the ascension of the Lord, the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done, but with that fuller understanding which they, instructed by the glorious events of Christ and enlightened by the Spirit of truth, now enjoyed.”

    3. The written Gospels. “The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form; others they synthesized or explained with an eye to the situation of the churches, the while sustaining the form of preaching, but always in such a fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus.”

    The fourfold Gospel holds a unique place in the Church, as is evident both in the veneration which the liturgy accords it and in the surpassing attraction it has exercised on the saints at all times:

    There is no doctrine which could be better, more precious and more splendid than the text of the Gospel. Behold and retain what our Lord and Master, Christ, has taught by his words and accomplished by his deeds.

    But above all it’s the gospels that occupy my mind when I’m at prayer; my poor soul has so many needs, and yet this is the one thing needful. I’m always finding fresh lights there; hidden meanings which had meant nothing to me hitherto. (CCC 125-27)

    The Paschal mystery of Christ’s cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God’s saving plan was accomplished “once for all” by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ. (CCC 571)

    The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners. The angel announced to Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (CCC 1846)


  5. Diane Harris says:

    Great discussion and I will write more later! But fyi for the moment, in the Revised Standard Version there are 100x the word “gospel” is used (in 93 different verses) in the New Testament, all are before the sacred writings and well before the Church decided on the canon of Scripture. As said above, Christ Himself, with His message, is the Good News.

  6. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “As said above, Christ Himself, with His message, is the Good News.”

    Agree with this 100%, Diane.

    In its essence, we can look at it like this:

    Jesus is the Good news. So, Jesus = Gospel, Gospel = The Word, The Word = Divine Revelation, Divine Revelation = The Way-The Truth-The Life, The Way-Truth-Life = The Faith, The Faith = The Catholic Faith, The Catholic Faith = The Catholic Church.

    Does this make sense? To me they essentially mean the same thing. Am I wrong?

    Yes, good discussion.


  7. Diane Harris says:

    This morning I was in a Scripture Study which prepares for next Sunday’s readings: the First Sunday of Lent, and the reading in the Ordinary Form of the Mass is exactly the passage we are discussing (Extraordinary Form uses Matthew’s more extended content on the temptations of Christ in the desert.) The entire Gospel (OF) this coming Sunday is the following:

    The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
    and He remained in the desert for forty days,
    tempted by Satan.
    He was among wild beasts,
    and the angels ministered to Him.

    After John had been arrested,
    Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
    “This is the time of fulfillment.
    The kingdom of God is at hand.
    Repent, and believe in the gospel.” — NAB on USCCB site.

    In some churches, the last two lines will also be used tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, in the distribution of ashes (although personally I hope to hear the more traditional “Thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”) Tomorrow and this coming Sunday make our discussion very timely and relevant.

    One of the first questions someone asked this morning was “How could Christ tell people to believe in the gospel when it hadn’t been written yet?” Again, to the points above, we delved into the message really being conveyed: “Repent (otherwise one cannot really hear what they are supposed to hear in the sacred Word), and then listen, learn, absorb and truly believe in the message from the Divine Messenger.” These were words of preparation — what the Jews had been waiting for since the first parents’ sin — about to be preached, not yet a fait accompli.

    I thought perhaps recounting my experience this morning might help as a bit of exegesis. The Greek (original) text of the four gospels uses euaggelion as the word for gospel, with the root “aggelos” meaning angel or messenger. This is a message, from the Divine Messenger, a call for a change of heart, a metanoia, thematic to Mark’s Gospel, all conveyed with a certain urgency. Christ, the Messiah can indeed say that with His appearance, the Kingdom of God “is at hand”, even though it awaits perfection in us in the next world.

    PS When I get a chance, I will also address Annonymouse’s question re Cardinal Burke.

  8. Sid says:

    People get hung up on “gospel” having a very specific meaning, but it’s just an Old English word that comes right from the meaning of the Koine Greek (??????????) in which the New Testament was originally written.

    •Koine Greek: Transliterated into the Latin alphabet, ?????????? ? euangelion (or euaggelion as Diane notes… different methods for doing the transliteration of writing systems). Roughly speaking “eu” = “good” and “angelion” = “message”. I *think* the precise form used in Mark 1:15 is slightly different (?????????) because of the declension employed (the ending varies depending upon case, i.e. for what part of speech the word is used). If you need more detail then that, visit your local philologist.

    •Latin: Even if you don’t know Koine Greek, if you understand Greek letter sounds, you can see the Latin word used in the Vulgate’s Mark 1:15 is quite direct from the Greek ?????????: evangelio . The verb form of the Latin word gives us evangelize and evangelist and all the other derivatives we are familiar with in English.

    •English: For whatever reason, we don’t use the Latin noun forms evangelio or evangelium in English to mean the “good news” itself. What we do (or did, since it’s actually the very Germanic Old English) was a word-for-word translation: “gospel” comes to us from Old English g?d-spell , which merely means (you guessed it) “good news”. I’m no linguist, but my assumption is that we retained the Old English derived word because it was already common prior to the Norman Conquest. This introduced a lot of Latin (and French) into the language so if there wasn’t already a very entrenched Old English term, the Latin or French often got adopted. But, the 11th century being the Age of Aquarius, g?d-spell got retained. 🙂

    So anyhow all these are what linguists call a “calque”, a word-for-word translation because they mean the same thing: “good news”. When a (usually modern) Bible translation does a search-and-replace, substituting “good news” instead of “gospel” for this verse and others, they are merely assuming that no one understands Greek and Latin roots anymore, and will instead be confused into anachronistically taking the word to mean specifically the “capital G” canonical Gospels of the New Testament, which it probably did not mean. So they patronize us simpletons a bit and spell out “g-o-o-d n-e-w-s” for us. I might add that at around the time “the Gospels” were written, “gospels” (lower case) was an entire genre of religious writing. As a result, there are many non-canonical “gospels” from varied early Christian, semi-christian, and gnostic sects. Only four gospels were ultimately considered canonical though, and accepted by the Church. In a similar way, apocalyptic writings (cf. Revelation) and epistolary writings (cf. the Epistles) were also common genres with many non-canonical examples.

  9. Sid says:

    Agh! All those ?????? above were not in the the preview message window. Apparently the preview window for WordPress is fully Unicode-compliant, but the main posting window is much less so. Anyow, every place above you see a “?” I had nicely used the actual Greek (or Old English) Unicode characters. Oh well, you can probably figure out what I meant… Imagine bunches of Greek letters.

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