Musings on Mark 6, the Martyrs of Japan, Etc.

A faithful reader has a nomination for best scene from “Prince of Egypt.” It is pretty cool.

Another faithful reader asked me what I thought about the “Bishop Williamson affair.” The prelate in question is also known as the Dinoscopus. (You can read an eloquent letter if you click the link.)

I already spilled a little ink on this business. It looks like our Holy Father may not have written the letter I wished he would.

If he didn’t write it, I certainly don’t hold it against him. He knows better than I do. No one’s job is more demanding than the Pope’s.

That said, “being media-savvy” is not really part of the Pope’s job.

auschwitzAbove all, the Pope has to be a prayerful, obedient priest–obedient to the sacred inheritance that he has received. Secondly, the Pope has to try to be a loving father to ALL his children.

Pope Benedict has been a patient, loving father through the entire episode. He lifted the Society of St. Pius X excommunications in order to further the re-unification of all the sons and daughters of the Church of Christ.

No one–Pope, good bishop, bad bishop, good layman or bad layman–no one has the authority to teach in the name of the Church anything that is not true. Also, the Church does not have doctrine about the events of 20th-century history. She leaves such matters to historians.

Excommunication is a medicinal penalty imposed to alert someone to the fact that they have removed themselves from communion with the Church. The four men ordained to the episcopate by Archbishop Lefebvre were automatically excommunicated for participating in an episcopal ordination without the approval of the Holy See.

The Church does not excommunicate people for being wrong about history, or for being bastards. (Look at me–I’ve never been excommunicated for being a bastard.)

Bishop Williamson performing an ordination last year.  He is STILL not allowed to do this.
Bishop Williamson performing an ordination last year. He is STILL not allowed to do this.

The Pope was not making a statement about whether or not the Nazis used gas-chambers when he lifted the excommunications. The Holy Father lived through the Holocaust, after all. He visited Auschwitz. I think we can safely say that the Holy Father knows a great deal more about the Holocaust than everyone currently working for Reuters and CNN put together.

Being the Pope is not easy, and there is only one man alive who really knows what it is like. He deserves our love and our prayers.

Let us pray that someday the entire Society of St. Pius X will be fully re-united with the Catholic Church–and all the other separated brethren, too. Let us pray that Bishop Williamson, and everyone else, will study the history of the Holocaust with open, sober minds and accept every bit of the painful truth. The truth always leads us to Christ.

The authority of God is much more important than the authority of the Church on earth. Bishop Williamson will have to answer to God for any and all malice and negligence in his conduct. The Pope will have to answer to God, too.

Elie Wiesel may be a Nobel laureate, but I am more worried about answering to God than I am about answering to him.

We human beings are capable of making some accurate judgments regarding facts. We are utterly incapable of judging accurately whether another human being is good or evil.

Even with his excommunication lifted, Bishop Williamson possesses no legitimate jurisdiction of any kind in the Church. In other words, He possesses no authority to act as a bishop. He probably never will be vested with such authority. (Any priest who publishes a weblog is suspicious anyway.)

May God have mercy on us all. May He preserve us all from doing evil!

St. Paul Miki, S.J., was martyred by crucifixion
St. Paul Miki, S.J., was martyred by crucifixion
Today we keep the Memorial of the Martyrs of Japan, St. Paul Miki and his companions.

At Holy Mass this week we have been reading the sixth chapter of St. Mark’s gospel.

Here are a few observations…

1. The Greek word adelphoi (Mark 6:3), which is generally translated into English as “brothers,” can also mean “cousins” or “kinsmen.” In Greek as in English, the word ‘brother’ is more elastic than just immediate family.

All the citizens of Phil-adelph-ia, the City of Brotherly Love, do NOT have the same mother. The brotherliness of adelphoi extends indefinitely.

Our Lady and St. John
Our Lady and St. John
If the Lord Jesus had ‘brothers’–in the sense of ‘sons of the same mother’–then why did He entrust our Lady to St. John before He died? (John 19:26-27) Is it possible that these supposed other children of Mary would have died by the time Christ was 33 years old? Not likely.

If our Lady had in fact had other children, the Lord would not have given her to St. John. There were no other children. The Blessed Virgin Mary is a perpetual virgin.

2. The Lord entrusted to the Apostles everything necessary for the salvation of the human race. In other words, He initiated them into the sacred ministry of the Church.

Extreme Unction by Rogier van der Weyden
Extreme Unction by Rogier van der Weyden
One of the means by which the Lord helps souls get to heaven is sickness. He allows sickness because it can be a way to join Christ on the Cross. A gravely sick person can be united to Christ’s suffering when a priest lays hands on the person and anoints the sick person with oil.

This is one of the seven sacraments which the Lord gave to His Church.

3) We need to know how to “set priorities.” We can consistently make good decisions if we set the right priorities and stick to them. We need good teachers to help us learn how to set the right priorities.

Clearly, the following are high priorities: Honesty and integrity. Family. Being a faithful friend. Putting one’s talents to good use. Being a good member of society, a helpful, kind person.

All of these are high priorities. But the highest priority of all is: faithfulness to God. Nothing could be worse than to betray God.

Most of the time we don’t have to think about this. We can say to ourselves, ‘Of course I am not going to betray God. That would be foolish. I want to get home to heaven, not wind up in the other place.’

head-platterThe martyrs are such heroes because they faced the ultimate choice, and moved forward according to perfectly clear priorities. They had to choose between betraying God and death. They did not betray God.

The martyrs could have saved their skins by saying what other people wanted to hear. St. John the Baptist could have said to Herod, “Hey, you can marry whomever you want. You can marry the woman your brother is married to. Who am I to judge?”

St. Paul Miki and his companions could have said, “Oh, we’re not really sure who Jesus Christ is. Maybe He is the Savior, maybe He isn’t. Depends on your point of view. No biggie.”

But the holy martyrs knew that if they betrayed the truth, they would face something worse than death. They would have to live a lie for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps we will face moments when we are not sure what our priority ought to be. It is not always easy to make the right decision.

If faithfulness to God is my highest priority—if I am sure that I would rather die than betray God—then other things will fall into place.

The martyrs are the best teachers of decision-making skills we could ever find.

One thought on “Musings on Mark 6, the Martyrs of Japan, Etc.

  1. Well said Father. Finally some clarity and accuracy on the SSPX issue. I’m pray hard for the Holy Father. Great letter also.

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