July AD 2013
Our Lady of the Rosary
Apropos-Denial of Holy Communion to notorious sinners
What is Rigorism?
Is a Spiritual Bouquet Pelagian?
Words from the Fathers, Doctors,
Popes and Saints
From the Sermons of St John Chrysostom Patriarch of
Homily 60 to the people of Antioch
I speak to all that take that Holy
Communion, and to you also, O ye that do administer the Same. To
you now I turn my speech, to warn you with how great care that Gift
is to be given. No slight vengeance is that which awaits you if ye
admit for a partaker at the Lord's Table the sinner whose guiltiness
ye know. At your hands will his blood be required. If a man be a
General, a Governor, a crowned Monarch, yet if he come there
unworthily, forbid him—thou hast greater power than he. To this end
has God exalted you to the honor you hold, that you may judge in
such matters. This office is your dignity, this is your strength,
this is all your crown, this, and not the going about in white robes
and glittering vestments.
I saw it in a number of places that Pope Francis stated that atheists can go
to heaven? Did he really say this? How can it be?
The claim that the Pope spoke of atheists being saved received wide
 It seems that the Pope was
the victim of somewhat lose reasoning on his own part, and of journalists’
ignorance of Christian terminology. His statement is available on the Radio
Vatican website, and speaks of atheists being “redeemed,” but makes no
mention of their “salvation.”
It seems that many journalists equated the two terms. Christ died for the
redemption of all mankind, but individuals are saved by belief in Jesus
Christ and His teachings, Baptism, and a life in conformity with Jesus’
teachings—an atheist would hardly qualify.
What Pope Francis seems to be saying is
that all men, being created in God’s image and likeness, have an obligation
to do good, for everything God does is good. This obligation to do good is
enhanced by the fact of the redemption of mankind. If everyone strives to
do good—in what Pope Francis calls the “culture of encounter—we could enjoy
If we, each doing
our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we
go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter:
we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t
believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another
“We will meet one another there” refers to
meeting in a peaceful world—quite a bit less than a promise that we will
meet in heaven.
Phrasing his words to atheists in
religious terminology may have added to the confusion of those unable to
distinguish redemption from salvation. After all, the terminology of
religion does little or nothing to convince a man who doesn’t believe in God
that he should do good for world peace.
Does redemption make the non-believer more
capable of natural virtue than he would have been prior to the Redemption?
Possibly, but such a question is best left in the arena of theology, and not
in a brief homily at Mass.
Further confusion arose when a Vatican
representative corrected the erroneous reporting by the news services.
Whether out of genuine confusion, or in an effort to save face, the Vatican
spokesman was reported to be correcting the Pope!
In any event, we would remind the Holy
Father of the timeless equation: GOOD – GOD = O
What is “rigorism”?
Rigorism (a.k.a. tutiorism) is a school of moral theology which holds that
one must always take the safest position in deciding how to handle a problem
of moral law, even if doing so will cause a great deal of inconvenience.
One must consider one’s self bound by law unless there is certain evidence
For example, let us take a man shipwrecked
on an island, with no way of telling what day of the week it is. How does
such a man satisfy the Church’s law to abstain from meat on Fridays? A
reasonable answer might be that the man is free to formulate his own
calendar, abstaining from meat on every sixth day out of seven. This
approach will be identical in its effects—penance and self-discipline—with
the actual observance of Fridays. The rigorist, however, is likely to
answer that not knowing which days are actually Fridays, our castaway must
refrain from eating meat every day of the week in order to be certain of
satisfying his obligation.
The rigorist proposition that “It is not
permitted to follow a (probable) opinion, or among the probables the most
probable” was condemned in a decree of the Holy Office under
Pope Alexander VIII.
It is among the errors attributed to Cornelius Jansen and his followers.
The Holy Office failed to demonstrate where these errors might be found in
Jansen’s writings. The famous mathematician, Blaise Pascal, himself a
Jansenist, did correctly take the Jesuit Order to task for sometimes
resolving moral problems with low regard for the Church’s law.
Nonetheless, the proposition is correctly condemned.
The Church follows a moral rule named
“probabilism.” According to The Catholic Encyclopedia:
is the moral system which holds that, when there is question solely of the
lawfulness or unlawfulness of an action, it is permissible to follow a
solidly probable opinion in favour of liberty even though the opposing view
is more probable.
The obvious problem is in determining what
is “solidly probable.” We are not talking about mathematical probability,
but rather the moral strength of an opinion. Who gets to decide that an
opinion in favor of liberty is strong enough to act upon—particularly if
there is a more probable contrary opinion? The Catholic Encyclopedia
estimating the degree which is required and which suffices for solid
probability, moralists lay down the general principle that an opinion is
solidly probable which by reason of intrinsic or extrinsic arguments is able
to gain the assent of many prudent men. All admit that extrinsic authority
can have sufficient weight to make an opinion solidly probable; but there is
divergence of view in estimating what number of experts is able to give an
opinion this solid probability. The prevailing theory amongst Probabilists
holds that if five or six theologians, notable for prudence and learning,
independently adhere to an opinion their view is solidly probable, if it has
not been set aside by authoritative decisions or by intrinsic arguments
which they have failed to solve. Even one theologian of very exceptional
authority, such as St. Alphonsus Liguori, is able to make an opinion solidly
probable, as we know from the official declarations of the Holy See.
The Encyclopedia’s definition above
may have worked well when it was published. The problem today is that there
so many crackpot theologians around, and the people who are to designate
“five or six theologians, notable for prudence and learning,” are often
In today’s world it is not enough to find someone who calls himself a
theologian and follow his opinions of what is morally permissible—one has to
“reach back” into the past and look for pronouncements made by men like
Augustine, Aquinas, and Alphonsus.
Finally, be sure to understand that
probabalism is employed only when making decisions about law vs. liberty.
It does not apply to the validity of the Sacraments. In
administering the Sacraments one is bound to seek certainty
and not probability. For example, very weak tea is mostly
water, and very probably valid matter for Baptism, but the
Sacraments are so important that one would be bound to use certainly
valid water if it can be procured.
The late Father Abbot Leonard Giardina
Catholics are a provincial kind of people. When a Traditional Catholic gets
that certain complacent feeling that he is living out the unquestionably
correct Catholic Experience in his own tiny and exclusive chapel
environment, he becomes intolerant of anyone who differs from him, even if
he differs in the most insignificant way. He has convinced himself that his
own “home made” Catholic way of living is THE orthodox way and that
everyone, under pain of sin, is bound to live and believe and act as he
does. Anyone who fails to live out the same rites and usages that he has
selected as proper Catholicism is forever anathematized. Until humility
becomes the FIRST DEGREE OF CATHOLIC EXPERIENCE, there will never be unity
amongst the various and sundry “Catholic provinces.”
Among certain traditional Catholics we can
observe a rigorism that is Pharisaical in the sense that it is affected for
one or more reasons: “The right way is what we did back in the day” (“the
day” being fifty years or so ago, the memory not being all that bright, and
maybe it not being only way “it” was done back then); “We should be the
only Mass in town (perhaps because of ego, perhaps because we spend a lot of
money to fly a priest into town and can’t afford “competition”); “The
principles of theology and the rules of logic apply differently to them and
to us”; “We have
finally found respite from the insanity, and anything different from our
respite seems threatening. No doubt, there are additional reasons—and no
one should deny the possible influence of the evil one.
Indeed, the influence of the devil seems
to be a significant part of this pharisaical rigorism. He acts in order to
make false distinctions between various traditional organizations, for he
knows that they are, individually and collectively, his enemy—and that he
will be more successful in defeating them if they are not united. Our Lord
addressed this two thousand years ago:
answering, said: Master, we saw a certain man casting out devils in thy
name, and we forbade him, because he follows not with us. And Jesus said to
him: Forbid him not; for he that is not against you, is for you.
But, perhaps, the evil one is happier when
no one is casting out devils. Certainly, he is happier when Catholics are
locking priests out of churches and rectories (particularly in the northern
winter), when priests are lying about priests and composing libelous
fictions. The devil is especially happy when good people are so confused by
the invidious rhetoric that they throw up their hands and stop attending
Holy Mass altogether.
A homily of
Pope St Gregory the Great.
on the Gospels.
whose exaltation comes of a false righteousness, look down upon their
neighbor, but are softened by no mercy toward his misery, and are all the
more sinful, because they perceive not that they themselves are sinners. Of
such were those Pharisees who judged the Lord because He received sinners,
and, in the dryness of their own heart, rebuked the very Fountain of mercy.
They were sick of so desperate a sickness that they knew not of themselves
that they were sick; but, that they might know that they were so, the
Heavenly Physician applied to them His tender ointments, and, by means of a
gracious parable, lanced the boil of their pride of heart.
The sin of the Pharisees was hypocritical
pride. “Until humility becomes the FIRST DEGREE OF CATHOLIC EXPERIENCE,
there will never be unity amongst the various and sundry ‘Catholic
provinces.’” May God grant that the sin of the Pharisees never be our sin.
Is it true that Pope Frances equated the practice of reciting rosaries as a
“spiritual bouquet” for someone (himself in this case) with Pelagianism?
We have a transcript of a private audience of Pope Frances on June 6th with
the Religious Confederation of Latin America and the Caribbean (CLAR), which
describes itself as the coordination body for Latin American superiors of
religious orders. The Vatican has not commented on the accuracy of the
transcript or on the Pope’s intent.
The heresy of Pelagius (354–c. 430) held
that man could earn eternal salvation through good works alone. It is more
or less the opposite of Martin Luther’s heresy of salvation through faith
alone. It is difficult if not impossible to reconcile Pelagianism with the
practice of counting rosaries—in order to do so, one would have to prove
that the rosaries were recited by people of no faith, who believed that they
were obtaining grace through a sort of mechanical process. Frankly, it is
hard to believe that such people would pray at all, and even harder to
believe that those people concerned for the restoration of the Catholic
Faith in the Church are without faith! Here is what the Pope said:
with you two concerns. One is the Pelagian current that there is in the
Church at this moment. There are some restorationist groups. I know some, it
fell upon me to receive them in Buenos Aires. And one feels as if one goes
back 60 years! Before the Council... One feels in 1940... An anecdote, just
to illustrate this, it is not to laugh at it, I took it with respect, but it
concerns me; when I was elected, I received a letter from one of these
groups, and they said: "Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure:
3,525 rosaries." Why don't they say, 'we pray for you, we ask...', but this
thing of counting... And these groups return to practices and to disciplines
that I lived through - not you, because you are not old - to disciplines, to
things that in that moment took place, but not now, they do not exist
is one of those things that is hard to quantify. Grace has no units, and we
have no meters that can measure it. We know of no ratios that might suggest
that one prayer is twice as grace-filled as another. It seems also that one
person might be better disposed to receive grace than another (not that we
can say how much better)—and that even this might change over time.
The closest we can come quantifying grace
is by looking at the effort expended and the duration over which it is
expended. (It seems reasonable to presume faith on the part of one
praying—it is madness to imagine one of Pope Francis’ atheists setting out
to pray a half dozen rosaries!) A person who chooses to pray five decades
of the Rosary is giving God his attention for about a half an hour—time he
could have spent in another manner. Such a person is saying, in essence,
that he would rather meditate on the lives of Jesus and Mary than earn his
living, or read a book, or watch T.V. or converse with a friend—he is giving
God something which is valuable to him.
Before the current crisis of authority in
the Church the Holy See granted partial indulgences that were phrased in
terms of what I have just called “effort expended and the duration over
which it is expended.” The days, months, quarantines, and years of an
indulgence referred not to time off Purgatory, but to the grace that
would be earned if one were to spend that amount of time performing the
harsh penance of a traditional Lent. The modern practice of saying that an
indulgence is simply “partial,” with no reference to duration suggests a
Church which thinks It lacks the authority to make a more precise grant.
That people thought enough about the Pope
and the Church to invest 3,525 half hours of their time—perhaps 5.300 hours
if a Rosary is understood as fifteen decades—is a marvelous demonstration of
faith, and a tremendous occasion of grace.
[concern] is for a Gnostic current. Those Pantheisms... Both are elite
currents, but this one is of a more educated elite... I heard of a superior
general that prompted the sisters of her congregation to not pray in the
morning, but to spiritually bathe in the cosmos, things like that... They
concern me because they ignore the incarnation! And the Son of God became
our flesh, the Word was made flesh, and in Latin America we have flesh
abundantly [de tirar al techo]! What happens to the poor, their pains, this
is our flesh...
is not the old rule, nor this Pantheism. If you look at the periphery; the
destitute... the drug addicts! The traffic of people... This is the gospel.
The poor are the gospel...
The Pope seems to be saying that
“restorationists” and the “Pantheists” are both “elite currents,” and it
blows the mind to hear that a Pope thinks of the latter as “a more educated
elite”! The Hindus he is saying, are better educated than the Catholics.
Good to see that he perceives that he has a problem with his nuns who “bathe
in the cosmos” instead of praying Matins and Lauds. Just pray that he
understands just how big a problem he has.
Pictured to the left, a fellow Jesuit, Father Saju George, S.J. (a.k.a. “the
dancing Jesuit). Father must be seen and heard to be believed:
Luke 15:1-5 in
the third nocturn of the Sunday within the Octave of the Sacred