Exhortation to Holiness, Kind Of


Thank you, Holy Father, for giving us an exhortation to holiness. May the good Lord grant us the humility and grace to heed your words.

I am not for being suspicious of the pope. I am not for thinking the pope is “too liberal.” He’s our pope. We only have one. The more fools we, if we do not love him.

But there is something odd about this exhortation to holiness, and I cannot hold my tongue.

Pope Francis’ spiritual father, St. Ignatius Loyola, wrote at length about the vows of poverty and obedience, in the Constitutions of the Jesuit order. But the founder of the Jesuits got stingy with his words when it came to the vow of chastity. He wrote: On the matter of Jesuit chastity only one thing needs be said. Jesuits ought to imitate the purity of the angels. That’s it. –Pretty parsimonious, as far as giving the would-be angel something to go on.

ignatiuswritingBut not as parsimonious as our Jesuit pope

Gaudete et exsultate exhorts us to holiness over the course of 176 paragraphs, without ever using the word chastity at all.

Or purity. Or the word sex.* Holy Father never mentions the sixth commandment, or any of the Ten Commandments, other then the eighth (in para. 115, against slandering on the internet.)

Chapter Three includes a commentary on the Beatitudes. In commenting on “Blessed are the pure of heart,” Pope Francis refers to the Lord Jesus’ words in Matthew 15:19. The Holy Father quotes Christ: “from the heart come murder, theft, false witness, and other evil deeds.” But when we read the gospel verse we find that the Lord didn’t actually say ‘other evil deeds.’ He said “adultery, unchastity, and blasphemy.”

Is this not odd? This utter silence on the subject of sex, in an exhortation to holiness? In the year 2018? Maybe “chastity” is too abstruse a word? But the Holy Father repeatedly uses the words “gnosticism,” “Pelagianism,” and “semi-pelagianism.”

Now, I’m also not for having a siege mentality when it comes to the sexual revolution. In my experience, most people still know deep-down that a chaste life is a happier and better life.

But: Do we not face a problem? The billion-dollar pornography industry, with all its inhuman degradations? Young people highly confused about how to find the path to a lasting marriage? How do you publish an exhortation to holiness in AD 2018 that doesn’t have the word chastity in it?!

This reminds me of when I served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, before I entered the seminary. The five of us Baltimore volunteers–three men and two women, all between 22 and 24 years of age– we lived in a slightly ramshackle house on the edge of the ‘hood. The kind, fatherly Jesuits who lived nearby often visited us. They liked to do our dishes after dinner.

Let me re-iterate. We were all between 22 and 24 years old. Three men and two women, living under one roof. We needed guidance in the area of sex. Desperately. But none of our Jesuit fathers ever brought the subject up. Ever. I had one for a spiritual director for two years. I brought the subject up once. He did not want to talk about it.

Like I said, I am not for criticizing the pope. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. If I were writing an exhortation to holiness, I would insist on daily meditation on the inevitability of death. And I would encourage the fear of hell. But I’m not the pope.

However, I cannot let this particular matter pass in silence. I am dismayed by this omission. The young people of the West are groaning under the weight of utter confusion when it comes to sex and marriage, and our pope’s 2018 exhortation to holiness doesn’t even mention the subject.


*The word lust does appear once, in a parenthetical list of vices, para. 159.

4 thoughts on “Exhortation to Holiness, Kind Of

  1. ‘…by it’s fruit is a tree known’ says Our Lord. Lack of expected fruit, presence of malformed fruit are but two indicators of a severe problem with the tree in question, says this forester. Thank you Fr. Mark for making a stand for your flock!

  2. Thank you Father…….well 1/2 of me says that, the other 1/2 wishes you didn’t. Pope Francis will never be a JP2 in my eyes but he’s up there. I can’t believe after what our CHURCH went through in these past few years that this subject wasn’t handle right down the middle. It’s his job to tell it like it is, CLEARLY, so we normal folks have a path to follow.

  3. I’ve read the April 10 and today’s post; not quite sure what to think. But they’re making me think. Thank you, FrMark. About today’s post: I attended a Mass this past summer in Tennessee and the priest suggested we pray for Hitler’s soul. These are souls I never, ever thought of praying for. Are they the ‘most forgotten souls in Purgatory’ I often pray for??????? God have mercy on their souls.

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