The Report

We have received a report. Two thick volumes. Took years to prepare. It recounts the underhanded workings of some seriously evil men. [Spanish]

I have a brother who works as a journalist. Writes for politico.com. He has taken to referring to that report that came out in Washington this week as the “Ferris Bueller Report.”

Not the report I’m talking about.

We have received a report. God started this whole business of human life by putting us in a garden of paradise. We foolishly and brazenly rejected His generosity. The shadow of death then covered the bright sun.

But it is not as if God is not God. By which I mean: Both infinitely powerful and infinitely good. God does not allow evil to despoil His good work–at least not without a plan to bring even greater good out of the evil.

resurrectionDevil has some tricks up his sleeve. But you cannot outwit God, Who knows all. God may appear to lose a battle to the devil. But God Almighty and all-beautiful does not lose no wars.

We have received a report, dear brothers and sisters. God became one of us, and walked into the capital city. We might think that Washington, D.C., festers like an evil swamp. But they’re having a Boy-Scout conference up there, compared to Jerusalem in 33 AD.

The God-man walked into the brood of vipers, with no weapon of any kind in His Almighty hands. They pounced on Him like piranhas. He bled and died. Almighty God bled and died in our mortal human flesh.

But we have received a report. Not the Ferris Bueller report. The holy and apostolic report.

Volume One awaited fulfillment. St. Peter, St. John, St. Paul; Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke—they gathered facts and gave us the New and Eternal Volume Two.

He rose from the dead.

They saw the tomb, empty, with the burial cloths neatly folded. Okay. Hmm… Empty tomb of the dead rabbi. Investigation needed here. “They have taken the body of our Lord, and we don’t know where they laid Him…”

“Mary… Cephas… Thomas… Paul… It is I.”

We have received the report. They saw Him. They touched His wounded, resurrected flesh. They ate with Him. They listened to Him some more.

He rose. He won. The all-good, all-beautiful, Almighty God-man does not lose no wars. Not with Satan, not with death and destruction, not with darkness and evil. He did battle with death, and won.

How solid is this report? Did the apostles and martyrs base it on flimsy evidence? Maybe the cynics can explain it all away? Spin it as a lovely myth? File it under “Nice Little Stories” for the weekend edition?

Don’t think so. Too coherent. Multiple witnesses, all eagerly ready and willing to die for the truth of it. And, as we experience through a grand tour of Old Testament passages at the Easter Vigil, Volumes One and Two support and confirm each other.

No, we have received as solid a report as you can receive in this world. We, too, will gladly die for the truth of the holy and apostolic report, if it comes to it. Jesus lives.

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Disproving the Existence of God?

On Annunciation Day, the New York Times published an attempted philosophical demonstration that our idea of God is incoherent.

God cannot be all-powerful, because He cannot create an unliftable stone. If He can lift it, it’s not unliftable. And if He can’t lift it, He’s not omnipotent.

Also: God can’t be all-pure and all-knowing, because He would know what we know. And we know sins–like lust, envy, or even cold-blooded malice. Being human means knowing sin. If God is morally perfect, then He doesn’t know about being human.

egg…Challenge accepted, sir.

The Stone

God has certainly created plenty of stones that no human being can lift–even with the help of a backhoe or crane. But things like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can move some of those “unliftable stones.” And, according to plate tectonics, the earth has long-term forces within her that produce mountains out of mole hills–by moving “unliftable” stones.

So maybe we have to say that the only “stone” that no force on earth can lift is: the Earth itself.

But the Earth does move, as we deduce from astronomical observations. (Plus the few people who have visited outer space have seen this with their own eyes.) A force exists which moves even our entire planet.

So maybe the sun is “the unliftable stone?” Well, no. Apparently, the solar system moves; galaxies move.

So the only “unliftable stone” is: the entire universe.

But hold on. Yes, the universe does not have another location to which it can be moved, so it cannot be moved from place to place. But it has “moved” in another way. Its existence is not absolute. It could not exist. Therefore, something–some force–moves the universe to exist, as opposed to not existing.

That is God. The only “unliftable stone” is: God Himself.

Therefore, the argument “God cannot be all-powerful, because He cannot create an unliftable stone” actually means “God cannot be all powerful, because He cannot create another all-powerful God.”

But this is no argument against God’s omnipotence. Create means: produce a creature. Creatures and the Creator are not commensurate things; God is infinite, while creatures are finite. Among finite things, there can be multiple instances of the same type of being. You can have one, two, or a dozen eggs. But there cannot be multiple instances of infinity; that makes no sense. God not being able to double His own infinite power doesn’t make Him anything less than infinitely powerful. The unity and indivisibility of the infinite God pertains to His omnipotence.

God’s “Morality”

“One cannot know lust and envy unless one has experienced them,” writes the philosopher.

Ok. But even we limited human beings regularly experience lust, envy, and other sins, without committing those sins. We can know lust, envy, or malice by falling victim to acts of lust, envy, or malice by someone else. Or we can experience temptations to lust, envy, malice–but not actually sin. We can resist such temptations.

So even limited, human experience shows that the argument against divine omniscience–on the ground that moral purity means ignorance of sin–doesn’t hold water.

But there’s an even deeper problem with this argument against God’s omniscience. It presumes that God’s “moral” perfection–his sinlessness–involves moral choices like the moral choices we make. That He would achieve moral purity by avoiding sin–like we try to do.

We make moral choices–either for good, or against the good–because we finite creatures grow over time (hopefully towards a good goal.) But God does not grow; He does not change. His unchanging, pure goodness is the good goal of the human moral life.

God knows that we defect from Him, and how we do, and why we do; He knows our sins much better than we know them ourselves. But that does not make Him guilty of them.

 

 

Original Sin

adam-eveJesus Christ has revealed the loving kindness of God and the truth about man. As infinite God, He offered to His Father a sacrifice of infinite love, in order to redeem the human race. As a man, Christ exercised pure piety and religion; He submitted Himself completely to the governance of the Almighty. He lived the life of a sinless Adam, to found the human race anew.

In other words, Jesus Christ is the unique light that shines in history, to illuminate the mysteries of human life. Because we can see in Christ the truth about God and man, we can also, by that same light, see the human race as it truly is: A creation of God, destined for glory, which fell away from goodness at the very beginning and remains trapped in a web of destruction and evil.

The Fall. Original Sin. It’s not just a “concept.” It is a historical reality. But at the same time: something so ancient and intimate, that we need to perceive Christ first, in order to even begin to understand “original sin.”

Two ideas about original sin that are not true:

1. When Adam and Eve fell, they started human sin by giving bad example. Original sin involves freely choosing to follow the bad example of the original sinner.

No. Original sin is deeper than this. Original sin has compromised us in our very nature. No one can do good without God’s help.

2. When Adam and Eve fell, they corrupted human nature so profoundly that we are no longer truly free at all. We are nothing more than a jumbled mess of appetites. Our inclination to selfishness is so profound that we cannot rightly aspire to holiness. Instead, we must hope only that God will exercise a kind of mercy that simply does not pay attention to our incurable immorality.

No. Original sin wounded our natural inclination to God, but it did not destroy it. Christ’s grace does not substitute for, or cover over, our hopelessly corrupted human nature; Christ’s grace heals our human nature. God made us to be holy as He is holy, and we can be, by the grace of Christ.

Our Lady’s Holiness, and Our Lord’s

El Greco Virgin Mary

The Blessed Virgin longed for salvation. She longed for the completion, the fulfillment of God’s loving plan. Her total consecration to God from the moment of her own conception in her mother’s womb did not make her less eager for the redemption of the sin-soaked world; it made her all the more eager for it.

The idea that Jesus and Mary could ever “compete” for our admiration or devotion; the idea that they could have a “holiness contest?” No.

The perfectly holy Blessed Mother longed to conceive the Christ more than any human being ever long for anything. Because she longed like no one else ever has for the salvation of the world.

Once she had conceived Jesus, Mary longed to give birth to Him, to gaze upon Him–more than any mother has ever longed to give birth. Not because Mary experienced extraordinary physical strain during pregnancy, but because her matchless purity as a human being made her long more than anyone else to see God.

Holiness as a human being doesn’t make you long for the holiness of God less. It makes you long for God more.

So maybe we could put it like this: Human holiness during this pilgrim life = emptiness. The spiritual life involves emptying ourselves, as much as we can, of all the folderol that distracts us from the one, true thing—God. We strain throughout our lives to have the emptiness that our Lady had from Day One.

On the other hand, divine holiness is fullness. Divine holiness fulfills the fundamental emptiness of us lowly creatures made of dust and ashes.

Mary is a mother. Not just any mother–she was empty enough to conceive a son by believing in God’s love for His creation.

Jesus is a son.  Not just any son. The Creator.

Forty Years Ago Today

Pope John Paul II: His Remarkable Journey

Pope St. John Paul II began his ministry as the pope. Over the course of the ensuing quarter century, many of us came to revere John Paul II as a hero and a spiritual father.

During the 1980’s, when I was in high-school, some of us held on to the pope for dear life. It seemed like he alone, on the whole face of the earth, offered a brave witness to sexual sanity, to chastity–while everyone else was awash in condoms and broken marriages.

Many of us spent the 90’s reading John Paul II’s writings. He consumed himself with teaching the faith inherited from the Apostles. He traveled the world and used the power of his reverberating voice and magnetic charm to evangelize.

Technocrats and feminists hated his intransigence on artificial contraception, abortion, divorce, and the men-only ministerial priesthood. Political and aesthetic conservatives hated his rejection of the capitalist profit motive and his embrace of Vatican II.

But in the middle, we vast multitudes of spiritual children listened eagerly to the man we loved as a trustworthy father. A lot of us wept more bitterly on the day that he died than we had since we were babies. Mainly because we knew we wouldn’t hear the sound of his voice on earth again.

Looking back now with 20/20 hindsight, we can wish that JP II had applied himself more to the reform of the Roman Curia. We can wish that he had understood the sex-abuse crisis better–understood it more as a practical matter, rather than as a purely spiritual one.

st john paul ii

And we can recognize: The way Popes Paul VI and John Paul II defined the Roman papacy after Vatican II left a huge gap in authority. That gap has now brought the Church to the point of paralysis.

Bishops need a disciplinarian, too—just like priests, seminarians, doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, bricklayers, school children–everybody needs a disciplinarian. But the world’s Catholic bishops don’t have one. The whole post-Vatican II system of Church governance assumes that bishops will do right. But, as we now know all too well, often they do not.

So St. John Paul II had human faults, blind spots—which we did not want to see, as we listened to him heroically urge us on to holiness.

But let’s go back to October 22, 1978, to what he said in his homily that day. His words resonate today with even more force than they had then.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself…

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk….

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ… Christ knows ‘that which is in man.’ He alone knows it.

…Man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart… He is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 20, and Nikko Lane at OnePeterFive

To Kill a Mockingbird Jem Scout Dill

Three children have snuck into the Maycomb, Alabama, county courthouse to hear a trial. The children of the defense attorney, Scout and Jem, and their friend Dill. They sit in the “colored” balcony, because they’re not supposed to be there. It’s too ‘grown-up’ for them.

The accused is black, and everyone but the children know that he will not get justice. At one point during the trial, while the prosecutor cross examines the defendant, something in eight-year-old Dill begins to realize: the truth doesn’t matter in this courthouse. He starts crying. Jem and Scout take him outside for a breather.

A town fixture named Dolphus Raymond sits outside the courthouse, drinking from a bottle in a paper bag. He tries to comfort Dill. “He’s crying because the world hasn’t gotten a hold of him and made him blind to its meanness.”

Raymond offers Dill a sip from the bottle to calm his nerves. Jem and Scout are horrified at first, but turns out: it’s not whiskey. It’s just Coke.

…That’s us, those kids. Sitting outside the courthouse. They went inside to hear their father do his work. They assumed that all the people running things there were basically honest. It had never occurred to them that there are such things as corrupt judges and county prosecutors. Just like we sons and daughters of the Catholic Church assumed. Until the summer of 2018.

Now we’re sitting outside the courthouse in a daze, trying to dry our tears.

We, too, need a little sip of Coke. Here’s one. Excerpts from an article called “The Laity Action Plan for Our Dark Times.”

*

The pope has no answers for us. Do we really need them at this point?

The bishops he has promoted defend him and continually deflect public attention away from him and his camp. And what do we lay faithful do? We sit, we worry, we ruminate, we pray.

Is this enough?

With the hierarchy covering for themselves and their allies amid this scandal and the lower clergy without the power to implement change in this present pontifical climate, our Church leaders remain static. It seems the Church, like its lay members, as an institution (innocently and guiltily), is stalling, waiting for change to occur with a pope who has given no indication of making changes and reforms, no indication of admitting fault, no indication of stepping down.

Let us not forget what started all of this: sexual abuse of minors, adolescents, and adults alike by clergymen and the continued cover-up from the lowest to the highest levels of the Church. These victims call for us to break the static, even when it is apparent that Francis and company have no intention of acting on anyone’s behalf but their own.

Being the voice of Jesus Christ’s Church when society will call you crazy is what sainthood is all about… This is especially true in light of the scandal: when the Church’s leadership are outed as perpetrators of injustices against the people, the Church will require strong, saintly lay defenders of the faith moving forward.

The best way to seek our Lord’s consolation is by getting back to the basics of our faith. Attending daily Masses on a regular basis, spending time in adoration with the Blessed Sacrament, and engaging regularly with a confessor in the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation are all wonderful ways we can return to what makes us Catholic – and thus seek the solace we so desperately need as His damaged but unbroken Church.

Let’s reclaim our place in the Church as its driving force. This starts with the seemingly mundane, daily activities we can take part in in our local parishes. Be a strong leader of your parish. Get involved. Join councils and committees at your parishes and in your dioceses. Be the support the victims in our own communities need.

The strength of our Church as a whole starts with you. It starts at home.

What does this have to do with the scandals we face today, right now? Pope Francis calls us as lay Catholics to lead the Church out of a scandal that he refuses to face. So be it. This is how we lead.

While the response by the Church’s leadership has been unacceptable up until now, Pope Francis may get what he asks for. He calls us to take this scandal into our own hands. Through his inaction and silence, he may be inadvertently provoking us to do just that. Take Pope Francis’s influence for what you will, but the lay faithful will be the force the Church needs to overcome this dark time. These initiatives – fervent prayer; a desire to defend Church doctrine, tradition, and values; and enabling ourselves to lead our Church on our local levels – may seem small, but the Lord moves mountains with our small actions.

Mother Teresa put it wonderfully: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” That’s what our Church needs right now. That is what we can do.

Being Catholic Now. Q1 a2

Vatican II stalls

Whosoever knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by God through Jesus Christ would refuse…to remain in Her could not be saved. (Vatican II Lumen Gentium 14)

On the one hand: She is the Mother of the People of God. She is the eternal Israel. She gathers where Satan has scattered.

You need the gift of divine faith to see this. But not blind faith.

After all, where do cultures intersect, enrich each other, and bear fruit in genuinely peaceful human interaction? In the Church. Where do people come together, help each other, and form a real family that transcends blood and tribe? In the local parish church.

What institution has preserved the facts about Jesus Christ? What Christian community can, with perfect truthfulness, claim Him for Her founder?

And what religion has a single leader who can truly unite the world?

…On the anniversary of the appearance of the Lady in white to the children in Fatima–May 13, 2001–I gave my life to the holy Roman Catholic Church. With total faith and trust, I, along with my seminarian brothers, promised to serve Her all our lives long. I still love Her like I did then. No, I love Her a hundred times more.

After we made our promises, then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, duly appointed Archbishop of Washington, ordained us transitional deacons. That was our “wedding day.” The beginning of long, happy, fruitful lives as clergymen, in the bosom of Mother Church, dedicated to helping our neighbors get to heaven.

On the other hand: McCarrick should have been in jail that day.

Last week, our dear bishop of Richmond gave us a pastoral letter. In it, he wrote the following:

“I support, and promise my full co-operation, with any independent, lay-managed, authoritative investigation into the scandal of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick.” (page 4)

Problem is: The day before Bishop Knestout gave us this letter, the president of the US Conference of Catholic bishops met with the pope. According to Cardinal DiNardo’s own statements prior to that meeting, he had traveled to Rome to ask the Holy Father to authorize an investigation into ‘the scandal of Theodore McCarrick.’

But Pope Francis authorized no such investigation. After the meeting in Rome, none of the participants so much as mentioned any investigation.

Ergo: We will never know how and why a dangerous criminal became a Cardinal. And flashed his red hither and yon for seventeen heady years. Making a mockery of pretty much all of us–all of us east-coast-USA Catholics aged 35-70. No one will ever be held accountable for this utterly crushing betrayal. The pope appears to have no intention whatsoever of holding anyone accountable for it.

And none of us can reasonably believe that the very bishops who flat-footedly stood by, as McCarrick took all the limelight for himself during the Scandal of 2002–thereby making a pathetic mockery of all of them— None of us can reasonably believe that any of them will stand up like men and vindicate their own honor. By personally punching McCarrick in the face.

In fact, none of us can reasonably believe that the course of justice will move forward in the McCarrick case at all.

Maybe sometime next year we will learn that the pope quietly laicized McCarrick. And that, supposedly, will satisfy justice. When the good faith of thousands of American Catholics has been cruelly mocked.

…By the way, I wish McCarrick nothing but grace from God. I bear the man no ill will. I hope he gets to heaven. I have no doubt that he has more right to go to heaven than I do.

But when you minister as a priest and then as a bishop, and when you represent the holy and Apostolic See as a Cardinal, your crimes touch the faith of all the souls around you.

How will any of us find peace? Unless those crimes get reckoned with, publicly, by a competent, impartial, honest judge. Which would certainly embarrass all of McC’s cynical accomplices. But isn’t such crushing embarrassment precisely what they deserve?

Anyway, you know we have reached an abysmal low point when the one person who makes sense is: Theodore McCarrick’s lawyer. Last week the New York Times quoted the lawyer saying, “the accusations are serious and McCarrick looks forward to invoking his right to due process at the right time.”

Amen to: The accusations are serious. And Amen to: Due process.

So the question:

What kind of institution is this? This institution necessary for the salvation of the human race. With which no one could safely choose to associate him- or herself–at least not anyone who prizes honesty and integrity, and who has ever heard of Theodore McCarrick.

…Just to repeat: The “Scandal” is not (and has never been) that so-and-so sexually abused so-and-so. Painful as it is to face, such things happen. And they will continue to happen, until the Last Day.

The scandal is: So-and-so abused so-and-so, and so-and-so, who was supposed to deal with it, to help everyone move on, by reckoning with the crimes publicly, did… [crickets].

In the case of Theodore McCarrick, The Scandal continues, unabated.

Good Morning to the Admirable Atheist

Grunewald the Small Crucifixion

Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if He did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 324)

From the grudging respect department. Some people say: How can I believe in God, when I see so much evil?

Two things to respect here:

1. Having the honesty to see evil and call it evil. Doing so is actually an act of faith in the goodness of God. Because to call evil evil requires measuring it against good. If you don’t measure evil against good, evil isn’t evil. It’s just “stuff.”

For instance, Pontius Pilate would not have described the crucifixion of the perfectly innocent divine Lamb as “evil.” The Roman historian Tacitus wrote in AD 64: “Christus, from whom name of the sect has its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius.” Calling evil evil is good. Calling evil by a bureaucratic euphemism is evil.

2. The one who says, “I won’t believe, because I see so much evil,” also deserves credit for this: Taking us believers at our word when we say we believe in God Almighty.

You cannot compromise with the word omnipotent. God is omnipotent. There is nothing at all, except what He wills. He wills good. He wills to permit evil.

If God isn’t omnipotent, He’s not God. We tend to imagine God as a kind of nice pet who soothes our feelings. We want Him to follow the rules of niceness that we follow. Except that He obviously doesn’t.

So we concede the admirable nobility of mind that moves someone to say: I won’t believe, because I see so much evil.

We respond:

Amen. We don’t believe in Mr. Nice Happy Pet God, either. We fearlessly gaze at the evil you see, and we give it its proper name. We don’t believe in Mr. Everything is Lovely Everything is Great God.

But you have not grasped Who we believe in. You think we believe in a god who engages in some kind of on-going competition with Satan, as if the two were on the same plane.

No. We believe in the one and only true, omnipotent God: Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal Father. Jesus Christ crucified and risen. There is no God but He.

From His point-of-view, and from His point-of-view alone: it all makes sense. He knows all the good that comes even from the gravest evil. He knows the all-conquering power of divine love. On the cross, we see that He knows it.

We do not claim to know it. We only claim to believe in Him.

Priesthood Ex Opere Operato

Ecce Agnus Dei

Jesus said to them: “I am the Bread of Life.” (John 6:35) [Spanish]

In the Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself, our Passover. (Vatican II)

Christ, our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer Himself to God the Father by His death on the altar of the cross. But because His priesthood was not to end with His death, at the Last Supper, He willed to leave His beloved spouse, the Church, a visible sacrifice. By the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ our Lord. (Council of Trent)

In the Blessed Sacrament, Christ is present in the fullest sense. That is to say, Christ, God and man, makes Himself wholly and entirely present. (Pope Paul VI)

God Almighty. His Son Jesus Christ, Savior and Redeemer of the human race. The Last Supper, the Holy Mass, the sacred priesthood, the Church, our Church. We stand on our faith, on what we believe, on what God Himself has revealed to us about Himself, the Bread of Life.

God loves. Loves eternally. He begot the eternal Son out of eternal love. In the fullness of time, the eternally begotten Word of God became one of us, a human being, a man. Out of love for us human beings, wretched sinners. The Word became flesh, and He gave us this heavenly mystery, the Mass: Jesus Christ, our Bread of Life.

Boston Globe 2002Older people like myself remember a very tough period in the life of the Catholic Church in the USA. “The Scandal.” Sixteen years ago. Now we have another one: the retired Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Turns out, he preyed on young people for years.

Just so happens that this now-notorious former Cardinal—he and I, along with eight other young men—we had a very important encounter on May 24, 2003. He ordained us priests. So this hurts. This is personal for me, not just a story on the news. Forgive me for bringing it up, unpleasant as it is. But we have to find a way through this together.

The thing about the sacraments of Jesus Christ, though; the thing about the living Bread of Life, Who we offer to the Father and then receive at a Mass celebrated by a validly ordained priest—the thing is: Christ does not fail. We fail. He does not.

Our beloved seminarian David has faithfully done his best this summer, here in Rocky Mount and Martinsville. Done his best to grow into the man God made him to be. May it be God’s will, in six years, maybe David will celebrate his first Holy Mass here. Sunday he concludes his summer assignment. We’re sad to say goodbye for now. But you go with our gratitude and best wishes, David.

David of course didn’t go to the seminary to offer his life to God in a scandal-plagued Church, any more than I did. Now he and I have this in common: having to get through seminary during a time when many Catholics reasonably struggle with a crisis of confidence in our bishops.

But. This does not mean that we don’t have the Bread of Life. It doesn’t mean that Christ fails us. We fail Him. But He keeps loving. A thousand McCarricks committing a thousand crimes cannot stop Jesus loving us in the Mass and giving us Himself as the Bread of Life.

priest_jesus_mass

After all, what did the Word Incarnate do? Why do we have a Church at all? He died, so that we prodigal sinners could be reconciled to our heavenly Father. And receive our heavenly inheritance again.

All it takes is an honest confrontation with the truth. That’s the New-and-Eternal Covenant ‘deal,’ so to speak. God says to us inveterate moral scrubs: “I, dear souls, am infinitely merciful. I will forgive you, no matter what. Just face the truth. That’s all you have to do.” Then we–bolstered in our confidence by this unmerited promise, freed from fear of the condemnation we deserve—we can face the truth.

Same thing with the Catholic Scandal of the summer of 2018. Sure, I might be tempted to think: A predator, a villain who belonged in jail on that very day—he ordained me a priest. So my priesthood… it’s weakened, or tarnished, or rendered meaningless.

But I can honestly say that I am not really tempted to think that at all. I actually think the opposite. Yes, I want to punch the man. For the evils he did to others. And for the fraud he pulled on us–all of us priests and seminarians who gave him the benefit of the doubt, and trusted him, and spent ourselves for years, helping him exercise his ministry.

But the dark human truth about the sinner who ordained me—it actually only makes the sacred mystery involved in the sacrament of Holy Orders all that more evident. Because the priesthood, the Mass, the holy Church—these things do not exist for this man’s worldly glory or that man’s power and influence. McCarrick may have lived for worldly things. But that’s not why the priesthood, the Mass and the Church exist. They exist because of faith—faith in God and His Christ.

We believe in God Almighty, Who sees all, knows all, and judges justly. We believe in His Son, the Divine Mercy. We believe in the sacraments He gave His Church. We believe in the Bread of Life.

God Will Judge

The ancient Israelites sang in the Temple that “God will judge the world with justice.” The statement appears in three different Psalms of David. God will justly judge the world.

pantocratorA basic, inescapable conclusion of faith in God. We human beings, endowed as we are with some intelligence, have the capacity to investigate the truth and judge guilt and innocence. But our capacity to do this is limited and imperfect.

Almighty God possesses a perfect capacity to judge according to the truth. He will certainly execute His judgment, at the proper time, which He alone knows. All these are “Rational Monotheism Basics,” so to speak.

When the Messiah came, He offered us a lot more clarity about this. God the Father has appointed His Christ as the divine Judge. Jesus will make the final separation between the saved and the damned.

Christ also enlightened our understanding of the Law that He will apply. The Law of Divine Love. The Law of Love that unites the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, Who all live in their perfect blessedness by living for The Others.

Christ will judge us on how we have forgotten our fallen, selfish selves, loved the Truth, and loved our neighbor—and thereby found our true selves. He will judge us with uncompromising rigor: “When did we ever see you thirsty and not give you something to drink?” “When you despised the least one of My brothers, you accursed.”

St. Paul spoke in Athens to help the Greeks understand all this. We share in Paul’s apostolate, his mission to offer our neighbors as much clarity as possible about the judgment to come. After all, the Lord has revealed as much as He has about the judgment for a reason—namely, to help us human beings prepare ourselves.

scales_of_justiceThe peace of the reconciled Christian soul rests, therefore, on this sublime reality: In Christ, God has revealed both his unfathomable mercy and His uncompromising justice.

To someone whose soul actually rests in the peace of communion with this reality, the peace of communion with Christ—to such a soul, nothing could be more absurd than any suggestion that God is “nice.” Nothing could be more absurd than compromising the truth about God’s rigorous judgment according to the Law of Love, for the sake of supposedly being more evangelical and appealing to “the public.”

When he explained the final judgment to them, St. Paul paid his audience in Athens the compliment of assuming that they could see the facts in front of their faces. The world lurches along, estranged from truth and from justice. That’s reality. The world is not a nice place; innocent people suffer, and the powerful take advantage of the weak for the sake of their empty, fleeting self-indulgences. How could God’s judgment be nice?

So: anyone who preaches about a God Who doesn’t have any plans to settle everything righteously—what kind of non-powerful, non-righteous, non-worthy non-God would that be? How could such preaching of this Mr.-Nice-Guy God have any impact on this screwed-up world?

And what kind of consoling Gospel would it be? If it didn’t involve the assurance that all the injustices we see clearly with our own eyes will be set to rights? No, the Gospel of Christ assures us that all the evil we see will be set right by divine power and divine righteousness. Christ will accomplish this.

Meanwhile, He has provided us with everything we need to make our peace with Him. So that we can face Judgment Day without fear.

No one will ever find peace by pretending that Judgment Day will not come, or that we will endure it easily, without any trouble. But Christ crucified can give us peace, so that we can face His judgment serenely.