Catholic Controversies

She Wrote that She is Worried about the Church…

by Steve Ray on November 10, 2018

In response to a concerned convert to the Catholic Faith.  What to think about all the scandals and the confusion and the divisions in the Church under the current Vatican? Here is my short response…

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You’re not the only one distressed by what’s going on in the Church today all the way up to the pope. There is confusion and division swirling everywhere, much of it instigated up to the highest levels and that is not a good thing. Plus we have Cardinals, bishops and priests who are acting scandalously — although in the big picture, I must say — there are only a very few in relation to the great ones that predominate in the Church.

This is a time where knowing church history is a big benefit. When you study the history of the Church you find out that there have been times much worse than now, many more scandals and awful popes. Discovering the lives of some of the popes of the past is enough to curl your hair.

But at this time, as a convert, I love being Catholic and I know this is the Church and I know that it has always been filled with sinners and often with some leaders who care more about their own well-being, agendas, and desires (even lusts) than they care about the sheep. That’s why God is always warning the shepherds because he knows their propensity towards self-interest.

But this is a great time to be a Catholic because we have a battle to fight and as far as I’m concerned, I feel I was born for a time like this. Yes, it often makes evangelism difficult but at the same time, it gives us a chance to talk with people about the Church that we may not have had before. People may want to bring up the issues and I always say, “Great, let’s talk!”.

The first one to sit on the Chair of Peter denied our Lord and of the other 11 “bishops” one of them betrayed Jesus and the rest of them fled. Later St. Paul confronted the first Pope Peter for being a hypocrite (Gal 2:11). We were never promised perfect leaders (nor perfect fellow sheep). From beginning to end Scripture warns us that many of our leaders will be problems and some even “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” So we should not be surprised.

Should we leave? Where else can we go?  Peter said to Jesus, “You’re the one who has the words of eternal life.”  Jesus is the one building his Church (not “churches”) and we know the end of the story already because the Bible tells us. In the end, we win and the Church will be triumphant. Those who have remained faithful will be rewarded, and those who have caused little ones to stumble will be punished severely.

If one thinks a pope or prelate is above criticism, read that section in my new book The Papacy: What the Pope Does and Why It Matters (released this month by Ignatius Press).

So, don’t be too discouraged but just pray and keep living out your Catholic life in a faithful way. Remember it’s not our job to fix it — though we pray and work toward that end. This is Jesus’ Church  — it’s built on him and he is building it. The pope is simply the successor of Peter. They come and go, good ones and bad ones, but the Church continues to march forward. Onward Christian soldiers!

God bless you!

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ea5bbaf0-9208-4600-9a93-fd5be29153d3A month ago Archbishop Viganó exposed the secrets of the homosexual network in the Vatican and the Catholic Church. He called on Pope Francis to resign and all the bishops and Cardinals in the network to resign with him.

Since Pope Francis has been silent (and unhappily Pope Emeritus Benedict too) Archbishop Viganó has released a new letter.

If you haven’t read it yet you need to do so.  God bless this Archbishop.

Article and full text here.

Matt Fradd explains why we can and should criticize a pope. His commentary on ++Viganó’s letter. Great video here….

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If Pope Francis were to teach that capital punishment is “absolutely” immoral, he would be contradicting the teaching of scripture, the Fathers, and all previous popes, and substituting for it “some new doctrine.”

 Editor’s note: This first part of a two-part article on Catholicism and the death penalty was originally posted on July 17, 2016. It is reposted now that By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment (Ignatius, 2017), written by Dr. Feser and Dr. Bessette, has been published. 

Pope St. John Paul II was well-known for his vigorous opposition to capital punishment. Yet in 2004, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the pope’s own chief doctrinal officer, later to become Pope Benedict XVI — stated unambiguously that:

[I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment… he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities… to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible… to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about… applying the death penalty… (emphasis added)

How could it be “legitimate” for a Catholic to be “at odds with” the pope on such a matter? The answer is that the pope’s opposition to capital punishment was not a matter of binding doctrine, but merely an opinion which a Catholic must respectfully consider but not necessarily agree with. Cardinal Ratzinger could not possibly have said what he did otherwise. If it were mortally sinful for a Catholic to disagree with the pope about capital punishment, then he could not “present himself to receive Holy Communion.” If it were even venially sinful to disagree, then there could not be “a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics.”

The fact is that it is the irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate, not merely to ensure the physical safety of others when an offender poses an immediate danger (a case where even John Paul II was willing to allow for the death penalty), but even for purposes such as securing retributive justice and deterring serious crime. What is open to debate is merely whether recourse to the death penalty is in practice the best option given particular historical and cultural circumstances. That is a “prudential” matter about which popes have no special expertise.

We defend these claims in detail and at length in our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty. What follows is a brief summary of some key points.

Sacred Scripture

 The Church holds that scripture is infallible, particularly when it teaches on matters of faith and morals. The First Vatican Council teaches that scripture must always be interpreted in the sense in which the Church has traditionally understood it, and in particular that it can never be interpreted in a sense contrary to the unanimous understanding of the Fathers of the Church.

Both the Old and New Testaments teach that capital punishment can be legitimate, and the Church has always interpreted them this way. For example, Genesis 9:6 famously states: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” The Church has always understood this as a sanction of the death penalty. Even Christian Brugger, a prominent Catholic opponent of capital punishment, admits that attempts to reinterpret this passage are dubious and that the passage is a “problem” for views like his own.i

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans teaches that the state “does not bear the sword in vain [but] is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” (13:4). The Church has always understood this too as a warrant for capital punishment, and by Brugger’s own admission, there was a “consensus” among the Fathers and medieval Doctors of the Church that the passage was to be understood in this way.ii But in that case, attempts to reinterpret the passage cannot possibly be reconciled with a Catholic understanding of scripture.

Not only Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:4 but also passages like Numbers 35:33, Deuteronomy 19: 11-13, Luke 23:41, and Acts 25:11 all clearly regard capital punishment as legitimate when carried out simply for the purpose of securing retributive justice. The lex talionis (“law of retaliation”) of Exodus 21 and Leviticus 24 is also obviously a matter of exacting retribution for its own sake. Deuteronomy 19:19-21 talks of execution as a way of striking “fear” in potential offenders, and deterrence is clearly in view in Romans 13:4. Hence scripture clearly teaches that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate for the sake of deterrence.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church

The Church has always regarded the Fathers as having an extremely high degree of authority when they are agreed on some matter of faith or morals. Now, some of the Fathers preferred mercy to the use of capital punishment. However, every one of the Fathers who commented on the subject nevertheless also allowed that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate. For example, in his Homilies on Leviticus, Origen teaches that “death which is inflicted as the penalty of sin is a purification of the sin itself.” Clement of Alexandria says that “when one falls into any incurable evil… it will be for his good if he is put to death.” In his commentary On the Sermon on the Mount, Augustine writes that “great and holy men… punished some sins with death… [by which] the living were struck with a salutary fear.” Jerome taught that “he who slays cruel men is not cruel.”

It is sometimes claimed that Tertullian and Lactantius were exceptions to the patristic consensus on capital punishment as legitimate at least in principle, but even Brugger admits that this is not in fact the case.iii And again, the Fathers also uniformly regarded scripture as allowing capital punishment, and the Church teaches that the Fathers must be followed where they agree on the interpretation of scripture.

Like scripture, the Fathers also speak of capital punishment as in principle legitimate for purposes like the securing of retributive justice and deterring others. (Indeed, neither scripture nor the Fathers refer to protection against immediate physical danger even as a purpose of capital punishment, let alone as the only legitimate purpose.)

The Church has also regarded the Doctors of the Church as having a very high degree of authority when they are agreed on some matter of faith or morals. Like the Fathers, these Doctors—including thinkers of the stature of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, and St. Alphonsus Ligouri—are all in agreement on the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment. Aquinas even dismissed as “frivolous” the suggestion that capital punishment removes from offenders the possibility of repentance, arguing that “if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers” (Summa Contra Gentiles III.146).

The popes

No pope from St. Peter to Benedict XVI ever denied the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment, and many popes explicitly affirmed its legitimacy, even as a matter of basic Catholic orthodoxy.

For the whole article, click here.

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Bishop Barron: Why Remain Catholic? Why Not Cut and Run?

September 5, 2018
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An Impassioned Appeal to the Pope & Explanation Why Our Patience has RUN OUT!

September 4, 2018

A friend and well-known commentator everyone knows, Al Kresta,  President of Ave Maria Radio, sent me this today. I said it captured a lot of Catholic’s sentiment and asked if I could share it. He said YES!  I think his comments reflect the heart of all of us good Catholics in America struggling to understand […]

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“Defending Archbishop Viganò & Why We Stay Catholic” by George Weigel

August 31, 2018

I found this article by George Weigel in First Things to be very insightful and compelling. It is one more voice confirming the integrity and importance of Archbishop Viganó and what he wrote in his 11-page letter. Hopefully you’ll have a chance to read this article. He ends, “What Archbishop Viganò testifies to knowing on […]

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Really? The Pope has more important things to do ?!?!

August 28, 2018

When I saw this I couldn’t believe it. With the sex scandal raging, Cardinals exposed as perverts, young men, seminarians and priests abused and raped by clergy, men raised to Bishop and Cardinal while doing such despicable and perverted things, the Pope credibly charged with culpability — and Cupich of Chicago says there are more important […]

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Pope Francis and Capital Punishment

August 4, 2018

Excellent article by Edward Feser in First Thing Magazine that puts Pope Francis misstep in perspective … ********************** “In a move that should surprise no one, Pope Francis has once again appeared to contradict two millennia of clear and consistent scriptural and Catholic teaching. The Vatican has announced that the Catechism of the Catholic Church will […]

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Two Relevant Quotes from Two Brilliant Minds

July 17, 2018

Christopher Dawson (@cdawsonquotes) “Protestantism, Liberalism, and Communism are three successive stages by which our civilization has passed from Catholicism to complete secularism. The first eliminated the Church, the second eliminated Christianity, and the third eliminates the human soul.”   Hilaire Belloc (@bellocquotes) “The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — […]

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Cardinal Burke Speaks on the Confusion in the Church and the Need for Bishops to Speak Out

May 7, 2018

Here is a real prince of the Church. God bless him. The following interview on current events in the Church with George Weigel is also excellent. You may also want to read “The German Church Divided” in the Catholic Thing. This regards communion for divorced and civilly remarried and communion for Protestants. Also Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s […]

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“Encouraging ministers to give holy Communion to divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics”?

March 5, 2018

Luke 16:18  “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Thus says Our Lord Jesus. Some Church leaders today seem to be contradicting His words and the Laws of the Church. Canon Lawyer Ed Peters comments on new developments: “A […]

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EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo is Under Attack – even it seems from the Vatican

February 26, 2018

A number of good Catholic journalist and newscasters are speaking out about what is going on with the Vatican. Raymond Arroyo is one of them. “Raymond Arroyo is a New York Times bestselling author, journalist and a producer. He is the news director and lead anchor of EWTN News, the news division of the Eternal […]

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Does God Tempt Us to Sin? Should we Change the Words of the “Our Father” Prayer?

December 11, 2017

There are a lot of discussions this week about the Pope’s comments on the wording of the “Our Father” prayer, especially the line “Lead us not into temptation.” He said it gives the wrong impression — that God Himself leads us into sinful temptations. Of course, taken at face value without understanding the nuances of […]

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“Francis was never pope? Call me unpersuaded.” By Dr. Ed Peters

September 29, 2017

By Canon Lawyer, Dr. Ed Peters: (Note: I am giving this one shot. If it sways some adherents of the ‘Francis-was-never-pope’ group, great; but if it only reassures observers who, regardless of what they think about how Francis is governing, are disquieted by the suggestion that his papacy itself is a chimera, that satisfies me […]

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Is Pope Francis Teaching Heresy? 66+ Scholars and Bishops Say “Yes”

September 25, 2017

I am not expressing any opinion here. I am just posting three of the many articles about a Papal Correction which is taking the Catholic world by storm. Because Pope Francis is refusing to explain his teachings there is a justified response and request for clarification or correction. Read and consider this historical situation and […]

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Leading Theologian: Change Canon Law to Correct Papal Errors

August 19, 2017

Fr  Aidan’s proposal for procedures to rein in an errant Pope and below, Canon Lawyer Ed Peters astute and complementary thoughts. Leading theologian: change canon law to correct papal errors, by Dan Hitchens posted Friday, 18 Aug 2017 In the Catholic Herald… “Fr Aidan Nichols said that Pope Francis’s teaching had led to an ‘extremely […]

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