Humanae Vitae 30: To Bishops

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

As our examination of Humanae Vitae draws to a close, we review Pope Paul’s request of bishops:

30. And now as We come to the end of this encyclical letter, We turn Our mind to you, reverently and lovingly, beloved and venerable brothers in the episcopate, with whom We share more closely the care of the spiritual good of the People of God. For We invite all of you, We implore you, to give a lead to your priests who assist you in the sacred ministry, and to the faithful of your dioceses, and to devote yourselves with all zeal and without delay to safeguarding the holiness of marriage, in order to guide married life to its full human and Christian perfection. Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time. As you well know, it calls for concerted pastoral action in every field of human diligence, economic, cultural and social. If simultaneous progress is made in these various fields, then the intimate life of parents and children in the family will be rendered not only more tolerable, but easier and more joyful. And life together in human society will be enriched with fraternal charity and made more stable with true peace when God’s design which He conceived for the world is faithfully followed.

It is deeply lamentable that the ministry of bishop unraveled somewhat in the past fourteen years by the pastoral failings of bishops with regard to the protection of children. That said, HV 30 remains a hopeful message to the people who bore great responsibility for leadership on these issues.

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PS 35-36: Chrism Mass

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check the full document Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet.

Today we take a brief look at the Chrism Mass. Sometimes this is celebrated prior to Passion Sunday, sometimes during Holy Week. Not often on Holy Thursday itself, but there are exceptions to that.

A note for clergy of the diocese:

35. The Chrism Mass, which the bishop concelebrates with his presbyterium, and at which the Holy Chrism is consecrated and the oils blessed, manifests the communion of the priests with their bishop in the same priesthood and ministry of Christ. (Presbyterorum Ordinis. 7) To this Mass, the priests who concelebrate with the bishop should come from different parts of the diocese, thus showing in the consecration of the Chrism to be his witnesses and cooperators, just as in their daily ministry they are his helpers and counsellors.

… and for the laity:

The faithful are also to be encouraged to participate in this Mass, and to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Traditionally the Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Thursday of Holy Week. If, however, it should prove to be difficult for the clergy and people to gather with the bishop, this rite can be transferred to another day, but one always close to Easter. (Ceremonial of Bishops, 275) The Chrism and the Oil of Catechumens is to be used in the celebration of the sacraments of initiation on Easter night.

There are challenges all over for this Mass. In my parish, there was no Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week because all the clergy had left for the cathedral. But a Mass during the day makes it difficult for working men and women to attend. An evening Mass, in turn, means late night travel for anyone coming from a distance.

A bishop or diocese is not permitted more than one celebration:

36. There should be only one celebration of the Chrism Mass given its significance in the life of the diocese, and it should take place in the cathedral or, for pastoral reasons, in another church (Cf. Ceremonial of Bishops, 270) which has a special significance.

This piece is a significant connection for people and their bishop:

The Holy Oils can be brought to the individual parishes before the celebration of the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, or at some other suitable time. This can be a means of catechizing the faithful about the use and effects of the Holy Oils and Chrism in Christian life.

I’d say catechesis is largely complete on which oils are used for which sacrament. Although I did know a priest who insisted on using chrism for the pre-baptismal anointing. That was strange.

The presentation of oils provided by the USCCB gives a basic explanation of the oils in context of a procession. I’ve found this ritual works well.

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Humanae Vitae 29: Christian Compassion

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The message to priests continues here, with a big emphasis on mercy:

29. Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, (See Jn 3. 17) was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners? Husbands and wives, therefore, when deeply distressed by reason of the difficulties of their life, must find stamped in the heart and voice of their priest the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer. So speak with full confidence, beloved sons, convinced that while the Holy Spirit of God is present to the magisterium proclaiming sound doctrine, He also illumines from within the hearts of the faithful and invites their assent. Teach married couples the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.

It is good that married couples are encouraged in the Eucharist to aspire to deeper commitment. This certainly isn’t only a matter for confession. And to be sure, weakness is never a cause for losing heart.



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Just A Thought on Guilt, Shame, and Public Relations

And maybe the subtitle here is “A Whole Lot of Questions.”

My wife is an occasional viewer of the Duggar clan on tv. I know that over the years, the number of kids has upticked from 17 to 18 to 19, and now they’re counting grandkids. A side note: I never figured out why, if the clan heads wanted more kids, they didn’t adopt. Maybe now I know.

A few quick thoughts on Josh Duggar. Not that I’m an apologist for underage sexual activity or a Mike Huckabee clone, but what purpose does it serve for a young man with a wife and four kids to lose a job on account of horrifically bad judgment (or sex addiction) as a teenager?

  • Did his employer pressure him to resign because he’s suddenly a public relations liability? If so, they should just fire him. And be moral and honest about it. And let him collect on unemployment insurance.
  • Did young Mr Duggar resign out of some sense of personal guilt and shame? And if so, is the public outing of this scandal a danger to his own recovery? So what if public appearances with other celebrities is out? There’s nothing wrong with a desk job if its honest work.
  • I read in news outlets about his dad calling the cops on him and getting him into therapy or something. Was the same mercy was shown to those he victimized? I wonder what they think about all this coming down.

When I was talking to my wife about this, she wondered what he was going to do about a job. Who would hire him? Good question. She thinks a book is in the air. Maybe that’s the only possibility left. But is that just another nod to the celebrity-driven culture we live in?

I suppose the Duggars are nice enough people. They have parlayed their Christian values into a celebrity life. And really, what are the alternatives? The Kardashians? No thanks.

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PS 33-34: Passion and Homily

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet.

Other than the procession, the Passion narrative is the most notable aspect of the last Sunday of Lent. It certainly takes up the most time:

33. The Passion narrative occupies a special place. It should be sung or read in the traditional way, that is, by three persons who take the part of Christ, the narrator and the people. The Passion is proclaimed by deacons or priests, or by lay readers; in the latter. case, the part of Christ should be reserved to the priest.

Note the “traditional” drama often presented in missalettes and hymnals is not so traditional if it includes the assembly shouting out.

The proclamation of the Passion should be without candles and incense, the greeting and the sign of the cross on the book are omitted; only the deacons ask for the blessing of the priest, as on other occasions before the Gospel. (Cf. Roman. Missal, Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), 22. For a Mass at which a bishop presides, cf. Ceremonial of Bishops, 74)

Don’t scrimp, we are advised, on the length of the Passion, on the readings which precede it, or on the homily:

For the spiritual good of the faithful the Passion should be proclaimed in its entirety, and the readings which precede it should not be omitted.

34. After the Passion has been proclaimed, a homily is to be given.

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Difficulty With Pope Francis

It’s no secret that the past two years have been profoundly upsetting to people who, up till recently, defined their Catholicism in terms of institutional loyalty. In addition, some of their number would define others who disagreed with them (and sometimes the pope of the day) as non-Catholic.

I do take seriously the inner anguish of people like Steve Skojec. Once serene and picturesque web sites are now punctuated with open questions like this: Can A Catholic Criticize the Pope?

Of course, if I asked that question three to fifteen years ago on a site like that, I would be called a heretic. Or worse. It’s the main reason why my wife insists on a partial anonymity for her and the young miss on this site. Even the Anchoress has admitted a similar practice in her long pseudonymity to protect her sons from the other side of the cruel divide.

As a church minister, I have to tread lightly in my criticisms. I’m a part of the institution, after all. And not everybody is prepared to listen to criticism in detail. Some people don’t get past the critic. In that case, when the critic is traditional-leaning, the opposition often smirks. When the critic is progressive-leaning, pastors and bishops are notified that a new heretic must be burned fired criticized in turn.

On his website Mr Skojec confesses he is a married father of six. If his family life is anything like mine, I am sure he is occasionally inclined to criticize his wife or children. Some curious questions–ones I ask myself:

  • Am I really right? Or does my wife have a valid stance here?
  • If I am right, will my criticism help the situation or worsen it?
  • Even if I think my criticism will be acted on, is my timing good? For example: if that guy didn’t call my daughter like he promised, should I mention the dishes piling up? And if I did, would the contribution to kitchen cleanliness outweigh the overall pouty mood?

Ctrl-F is a dangerous act on the web. It’s easy enough to find the words that really have meaning to people. On Mr Skojec’s link, “pope” was mentioned in the essay and comments 93 times, and “Jesus” or “Christ” 23. Does that say something? What is more important, 265 popes or the man who set it all up at the beginning? 264 popes are dead to this Earth. Jesus lives.

Can Catholics criticize the pope? Sure they can. It is not a defining point of membership or non-membership. Not even three to fifteen years ago.

I suspect what a few Catholics struggle with is twofold:

  • The blogosphere, for better or mostly worse, has developed into a critic’s heaven. Or hell, if you prefer. Once a person starts in the mode of critic, it is very hard to get away from it. I take the disappearance of many bloggers over the years to be a sign that a lot of people finally got it. And thanks to a few confessors and spouses, the e-critiques came to an end.
  • The very bile leveled at so many sisters and brothers didn’t stick so much to the heretics, the liberals, and the pope-critics of yesteryear. It came home to roost.

The question isn’t “Can I criticize the pope?” The real conundrum is that when bloggers in, say, 2007 felt this way, they would write up a little nasty, tack on a red emoticon, and be done with it. When the pope makes somebody feel this way, well the attack isn’t so quick and natural. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Maybe there are necessary questions to ponder when the instinct to criticize anyone wells up from our gut. Am I right? Will it help? Or is it really about me? And if so, maybe it’s been about me all along. And not any pope. And not Jesus Christ.

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Humanae Vitae 28: To Priests

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

28. And now, beloved sons, you who are priests, you who in virtue of your sacred office act as counselors and spiritual leaders both of individual men and women and of families—We turn to you filled with great confidence. For it is your principal duty—We are speaking especially to you who teach moral theology—to spell out clearly and completely the Church’s teaching on marriage. In the performance of your ministry you must be the first to give an example of that sincere obedience, inward as well as outward, which is due to the magisterium of the Church. For, as you know, the pastors of the Church enjoy a special light of the Holy Spirit in teaching the truth. (See Lumen Gentium 25) And this, rather than the arguments they put forward, is why you are bound to such obedience. Nor will it escape you that if (people’s) peace of soul and the unity of the Christian people are to be preserved, then it is of the utmost importance that in moral as well as in dogmatic theology all should obey the magisterium of the Church and should speak as with one voice. Therefore We make Our own the anxious words of the great Apostle Paul and with all Our heart We renew Our appeal to you: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Cor 1. 10)

Some questions:

  • Was the Holy Fathers confidence misplaced?
  • Do people see clergy as givers of obedience or receivers of it?
  • Does the answer to the question above affect how people might be led?
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