You’re Welcome, Your Holiness

pope francis mccarrick
September 23, 2015

In 2015, Pope Francis declared a “Year of Mercy.”

The following year, the pope published a book, The Name of God is Mercy.

On Ash Wednesday, 2016, the pope dispatched “Missionaries of Mercy.”

Shortly thereafter, the Vatican Secretary of State received a letter from then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

McCarrick referred to his dealings with the Holy See over the course of the previous decade. The Vatican had attempted to get McCarrick to disappear quietly from the public stage. McCarrick had not co-operated with the cover-up scheme.

But in his March 8, 2016, letter to Cardinal Parolin, McCarrick offered to “retire to a holy place and pray for the salvation of my soul, instead of wandering around the world.”

Cardinal Parolin mentioned McCarrick’s letter to Pope Francis.

The pope already knew that McCarrick stood accused of abusing his authority to force seminarians into his bed. Archbishop Viganò, as well as Cardinal Becciu, had alerted the pope to McCarrick’s predations. The Vatican file contained testimony about McCarrick forcing a seminarian to put on a sailor suit and get into bed with him.

Pope Francis told Cardinal Parolin not to accept McCarrick’s March, 2016, offer to disappear.

“Maybe McCarrick could still do something useful,” the pope said.

[All of this is documented on pages 429-430 of the Vatican McCarrick Report.]

In September of 2018, I published an open letter to Pope Francis. (Before McCarrick was laicized through a secret procedure.)

I wrote:

Holy Father, you have spoken over and over again about the primacy of mercy. You misinterpreted what the moment demanded. For over a generation, no one has had any doubt that the Church knows how to act with mercy. The obvious problem we have is: the Church has forgotten how to act with severity. How can you not see that your former-Cardinal-Priest Theodore McCarrick has–in his brazen recklessness–exposed this colossal weakness?

What did the moment demand, when the first of McCarrick’s brother bishops learned of his predations? Mercy? Hardly. What did the moment demand, when you learned of it? Mercy? No. The moment demanded the just application of strict rules.

Do you not see how desperately the Church needs a severe father right now? A fearless and exacting enforcer of rules. A man whom sinners behold, and tremble.

Pope Francis Annuarium pontificum

Last week, the Holy Father published a decree revising the Code of Canon law.

In his letter announcing the change, the Holy Father wrote.

In the past, great damage was done by a failure to appreciate the close relationship existing in the Church between the exercise of charity and recourse — where circumstances and justice so require — to disciplinary sanctions.

This manner of thinking — as we have learned from experience — risks leading to tolerating immoral conduct, for which mere exhortations or suggestions are insufficient remedies. This situation often brings with it the danger that over time such conduct may become entrenched, making correction more difficult and in many cases creating scandal and confusion among the faithful.

For this reason, it becomes necessary for bishops and superiors to inflict penalties. Negligence on the part of a bishop in resorting to the penal system is a sign that he has failed to carry out his duties honestly and faithfully.

You’re welcome, Your Holiness. For the idea.

Allow me to point out, however, that you accuse yourself with your own words.

You were McCarrick’s bishop, his priestly father in God. From 2013 onward, only one man on earth had authority over Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.


You were negligent. You failed to carry out your duties honestly and faithfully, just like Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II failed to do, before you.

canon law codex canonici

Another person who deserves a big apology from the mitered mafia: Father Lauro Sedlmayer.

McCarrick abused his authority over Father Sedlmayer during the 1990’s, to obtain sexual gratification from the young, naive, foreign-born priest.

Sedlmayer tried to denounce McCarrick for his crimes. In response, the Diocese of Metuchen NJ and the Archdiocese of Newark proceeded to sue him in court.

On May 17, 2013, two months after Francis became our pope, the then-Bishop of Metuchen Paul Bootkoski wrote to Father Sedlmayer. The bishop insisted that Father had “violated Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s rights.”

According to Bootkoski, Sedlmayer had “calumniated” McCarrick, because Sedlmayer publicly referred to McCarrick as a “predator.”

Bootkoski went on to stipulate in his letter: Sedlmayer could not continue in ministry as a priest unless he underwent intense supervision, therapy, and “spiritual direction.”


The Vatican knew perfectly well that calling McCarrick a “predator” did not involve calumny, or a violation of McCarrick’s rights. When Father Sedlmayer blanketed a parish parking lot with fliers calling McCarrick a predator, he spoke the truth, with justice.

The Vatican had more than enough evidence in hand to vindicate Father Sedlmayer in his accusations against McCarrick.

What did they do?

In the Vatican.

While a bishop mercilessly persecuted a priest who spoke the truth about Theodore McCarrick, the truth that they knew full well?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

In 2016, Bishop Bootkoski reached the normal retirement age, and the pope accepted his resignation, without any reference whatsoever to McCarrick, or to Father Sedlmayer’s decades of suffering at the hands of prelates who abused their authority.

Kinda makes you wonder:

Would they be doing anything at all at the Vatican, about McCarrick, now? Except that circumstances outside their control forced them to do something?

Last week’s revision to the Code of Canon Law changes canon 1395.3, which defines a crime, namely: A clergyman forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts by force or threat. The revised law adds the phrase “or by abuse of his authority.”

The pope first introduced that phrase into the rules in May of 2019.

I pointed out then:

I guess we could call this “The McCarrick Law.” Apparently, he clearly abused his authority to get sex. After all, the pope convicted him of breaking this law (even before it was on the books) in a summary administrative procedure, without a full trial.

But: If it was as clear as all that, why wasn’t McCarrick convicted by Pope Benedict, back in 2006? We generally regard Pope Benedict as a sober, upright man. Why didn’t he recognize a case of criminal abuse, if the matter was so crystal-clear?

McCarrick ordained me a transitional deacon 18 years ago today [May 13, 2019]. On that day, I thought of him as an amazingly talented, crushingly self-centered, charming tyrant. He gave the Archdiocese of Washington a huge amount of energy that it had not previously had. He appeared utterly uninterested in anything having to do with theology. He was a flawed man. He was no walking demon.

On May 13, 2001, many churchmen, who we then regarded as at least somewhat reasonable–including Pope John Paul II–knew something about McCarrick’s sexual life. They had not concluded that his actions amounted to crimes.

My point is: I think anyone who has ever served in the military knows: The line between criminal abuse of authority in a sexual relationship, on the one hand, and a consensual affair, on the other: by no means crystal-clear.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth do grave evils. Who convinced whom to do them? Did Macbeth abuse his authority over his wife? Or did she seduce him into committing murder–to satisfy her ambition? The answer is: Yes.

Criminal laws on paper accomplish nothing without competent investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges–and principles of application of the laws, based on acquired experience. Pope Francis has given us: the paper. We don’t have the rest.

The Mercy of God and the Election


The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

We rightly fear the omnipotent One.  He made everything out of nothing.  His power dwarfs our capacity to conceive it.  Everything exists solely by His pleasure.  Without His will sustaining us–and sustaining the sky, and the earth, and the air–without His constant gift of existence, everything would crumble, collapse, disintegrate, vanish.

Jesus said, “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone…Awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” (Luke 21:6)

The one thing that separates us from chaos and ultimate nothingness is: the divine good pleasure.  True wisdom involves acknowledging this fact.  If we find ourselves enjoying good things in life, it’s because God has made them and keeps them in existence, to give as gifts to us.

The wise person fears the awesomeness of the great Giver of all, Who is truly, wonderfully, magnificently good.  His power dwarfs us, and so does His goodness.  We do not measure up to it.  Rather, we receive from His largesse as unworthy beneficiaries.  He blesses us so abundantly because His love flows so freely.  Not because we have any claim on Him or any “rights” before Him.

Palermo Pantocrator Christ priestWe fear Him. But, in spite of all this, He makes amazingly friendly and intimate promises to us.  “Fear nothing,” He says, “because I myself will give you wisdom.”

The God we rightly fear does not choose to tower above us.  Rather, in the midst of all the great flux of events over which He exercises sovereign control, He moves toward us and embraces us.  By uniting Himself with us in Christ, God Almighty has Personally entered into His own creation, fragile as it all is.  He meets us right here, and clasps us to His bosom.  He makes us His friends, the friends of the King.

By the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we participate in His sovereignty over all things. We share His permanent solidity, His serene transcendence.  Created things pass.  We human beings, too, are created things that naturally pass.  But, by His grace, God has joined us to His permanent Self. So we do not pass, but rather we endure forever, with Him.

Divine Mercy.  Pope Francis gave a book-length interview, published under the title The Name of God is Mercy. The Holy Father puts it like this: “Mercy is the divine attitude which embraces; it is God giving Himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive.”

Next Sunday, the Jubilee Year of Mercy will come to an end. But of course the end of the Year of Mercy doesn’t mean that, starting a week from Monday, a Year of Strict and Severe Judgment will begin.  No. God’s mercy endures forever.

Logo for Holy Year of MercyNow, we Americans have elected as our president a man who, by any reasonable estimation, is simply not a good person.  I don’t mean that, had the outcome on Tuesday been different, we would then have elected a good person. I’m not saying that.  But that’s all moot now anyway.

The man who will assume our presidency in January has lived the life of a sybarite, a liar, and a braggart. That’s not all.  There’s another two-syllable word that begins with ‘b’ which suits him perfectly.  But I won’t use that word in pulpit oratory.  I guess we have had unsteady, lying braggarts for presidents before.  And we somehow survived.

But the whole business of government involves co-operation.  And the whole business of co-operation requires trust.  And we have a president who I, for one, wouldn’t trust with five dollars of my own money for even fifteen minutes.

Christ is king.  Prayer works.  It just doesn’t always work in the way that we, with our small minds, expect.  We have, as a country, gotten ourselves into a very serious mess.  Getting out of it will cost us a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

Let’s have the humility to admit that we got the president we deserve.  We elected a man of no character; therefore, we must have serious character flaws ourselves.

Let’s close the Year of Mercy by humbly acknowledging this.  Taking collective responsibility for the great act of irresponsibility that America as a whole has induldged in, with the year-and-a-half-long mess of a presidential election that landed us in the uncharted territory where we are now.

If we put our foreheads to the ground before God and admit, Yes, Lord, this is our fault!  We find ourselves lost in the woods, and we got lost by our own nonsense!  –If we do that, then we can hope for divine mercy and gracious assistance from heaven.  Gracious assistance to help this body politic through the entire weird, unpredictable ordeal that we now face.

Jubilee-Year Lesson?

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. (Luke 15:2)

The man who welcomed sinners and ate with them was?  …Jesus.  His eating with sinners especially displeased the Pharisees because?  …The Pharisees justified themselves based on their observance of purification customs.  They had transformed the ancient Temple purification rituals into little routines observed in the home.

Logo for Holy Year of MercyThis did not come out of nowhere.  The ancient nomadic forefathers of Israel had indeed distinguished themselves by the cleanliness of their camp.  So the Pharisees turned this into the distinguishing characteristic of their religion.  They measured their fidelity to God by their scrupulosity in proper household purification.

We can hardly condemn them.  It comes naturally to us, tribal creatures that we are, to suspect the hygiene practiced by people different from ourselves.  And we also know perfectly well that sharing a table with strangers, with whom we share little in common, poses big challenges.   Making conversation with people from a different clan makes for a lot of work. In human social interaction, like naturally congregates with like.

But a Christian simply cannot be satisfied with this.  When our Lord and Master walked the earth, He dealt with others at a deeper level.  Christ interacts with the innermost heart, where the one, true God and Father of all speaks.  He speaks the truth of His love.

We all possess that interior depth, regardless of color or language or hygiene customs.  We have that human depth in common.  And that interior depth is the place where we can meet a brother or sister in real friendship–as opposed to the shallow relations we can have based on the externals trappings of tribal affinity.

The jubilee Year of Mercy will soon draw to a close.  What lesson can we take from this year of special graces?  Maybe this:  cherishing in our hearts the image of Christ meeting His brethren in their innermost hearts, where we all stand together before God, as His beloved handiwork.

Two Debtors in Order

Francken Feast House of Simon Pharisee

At Holy Mass this Sunday, we read the account of the Lord Jesus’ visit to the home of Simon the Pharisee.  Within that account, we hear a parable, the Parable of the Two Debtors.  Let’s study the parable a little bit first.  [Para leer en español, click  AQUI.]

One debtor owed 250 days’ wages, the other 50.  Their creditor forgave both debts.  Result:  The one who owed more loved the merciful creditor more.  You forgave me 250 days’ wages!  Thank you!  vs. You forgave me fifty days’ wages.  Thank you.

The parable helps us understand what happened in the house.  When the sinful woman entered, Simon compared himself with her like this:  righteous vs. unrighteous.  I’m righteous; she’s not.  But the Son of God compares the two quite differently.  All of fallen mankind is running some debt with the Lord.  Maybe the woman’s debt exceeded the Pharisee’s by a factor of five.  But any debt at all will land you in the bad place.

In other words:  Nothing could be more pointless than me thinking of myself as more righteous than so-and-so.  Maybe I am more righteous than so-and-so.  But that doesn’t mean that I am righteous enough.  What I have in common with so-and-so outweighs any difference between us.  We both sinners.

Logo for Holy Year of MercySo now we have the meaning of the parable.  But let’s consider this:  The parable has a clear sequence.  First, debt.  Next, forgiveness of the debt.  Then, as a result of the forgiveness, love.  Debt.  Forgiveness.  Grateful love.  A clear sequence.  But, in the Lord’s interaction with the sinful woman in the Pharisee’s house, the sequence is different.  It’s debt, love, then forgiveness.

She walked into the house a notorious sinner.  Maybe a repentant sinner, but apparently an as-yet-unforgiven sinner.  She sought Christ with love.  Why?  Not because He had forgiven her already.  He hadn’t forgiven her yet.

Maybe she just wanted to lavish herself upon the beautiful, righteous One.  Christ’s magnificence as a person—His kindness, patience, gentleness, tender chastity—He makes sin look like what it is:  sad.  So maybe the woman lavished Him with love simply for walking into the world and giving her hope for a better life.

She definitely loved Him.  Lord Jesus Himself said it, as he spoke to Simon:  “You never gave me water for my feet.  But she bathed them with her tears.  You never gave me a welcoming kiss, like even we men give each other in this Middle-Eastern culture.  But she has not ceased kissing my feet, and she has anointed them, cracked and calloused as they are, with sweet, soothing ointment.”

The sinful woman loved Christ, and wept because He is so beautiful, and her life had been so ugly.  She loved Him.  So He forgave all her sins.

See what I am saying about the sequence?  The difference between the sequence of the parable, and the sequence of the events in Simon’s house—the difference is notable.  We picture the forgiven debtors in the parable jumping up with love, after their creditor tore up their IOU’s.  But the woman loved Christ first.  Then He forgave her sins.

Did Lord Jesus get confused?  Did He lose focus, and tell a parable that wasn’t exactly on-point?  Don’t think so.  To the contrary:  I think He is trying to help us get focused and on-point.

divine-mercyOur Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given us a jubilee year of mercy.  He has opened all the Church’s doors of mercy, so that we can gaze inside, so to speak, and contemplate the great divine mystery.  When we contemplate the triune God, love moves us, and penance, and self-esteem.

Jesus has revealed the face of the Father.  God loves.  God loves me.  God is on my side.  God has a plan to get me to heaven.  He has a plan for me to become my true self.  The power that governs all things:  He’s a loving, kind, patient father, who only wants His children to be happy.

This is reality.  Love rules reality.  Reality, as we know it—the whole universe—exists because of the divine love.  The very fact that we exist at all is because of Divine Mercy.  And one Person—Jesus Christ—stands at the center of everything.

When we behold this truth, we see our sins for what they are:  pointless self-destruction.  We see our egotism for what it is:  preposterous self-delusion.  We see our self-centered anxiety for what it is:  pride.  When we behold the bottomless graciousness of God, we repent of all our shallow, chicken-scratch smallness.  And we just love Him, because He is so awesome.  We go to confession, and it’s like our sins never happened.  And of course that makes us love Him even more.

The Lord’s gaze upon us has no “sequence”:  it’s just merciful love.  He gazes at us with merciful love, always.

This divine gaze offers us renewal, a change, and a fresh start, at the very same time that it offers acceptance and esteem.  When we look back at Him with love, we feel repentance; we feel contrition; and we feel supreme confidence, all at once.

Year of Jubilee: the Why

Lord Jesus said, “the Holy Spirit has anointed me to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” A year of jubilee. Like this year. Last month, Pope Francis inaugurated a Jubilee Year of…

christ-synagogue1Now, maybe you think: Father, that’s nice. But, when we read the Bible, we see that the jubilee of Divine Mercy began when Christ first came into the world. He said so, in the synagogue in Nazareth, as we will hear at Sunday Mass (assuming we can safely get to church).

Christ came to bring glad tidings: God’s love overcomes all evil. God loves the suffering and the poor. We human beings don’t need to mistreat each other over inconsequential trifles. We don’t have to fight over having the most stuff, or the most glamour, or the most fleeting pleasure.

God wills to give us His Kingdom, true happiness that does not die. God will give us something infinitely better than anything we could ever fight each other for in this world. The glory of God, better than ten Super-Bowl rings or 25 Oscars.

So: Live simply, humbly, and devoutly through this pilgrim life; love your neighbor; give to the poor. Avoid evil. Live for the Mass; live for the next Holy Communion; live by faith. Long for heaven. What’s the point of fighting over peanuts, doing injustices, and piling up a lot of junk that will only turn to dust in the end?

The Age of Grace and Mercy dawned like a perpetual Year of Jubilee, when the Christ came to the world. He atoned for our sins, conquered death for us, and gave us a hope worth living for.

So why would a Sovereign Pontiff of the Christian Church feel the need to proclaim a special jubilee year, since every year in which the grace of Christ flows is a year of jubilee already?

Good question.

In this case, I think our Holy Father has a double reason for proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

1) Popes always have one basic reason for proclaiming years of jubilee: to help people get out of purgatory more easily.

Pope Francis fiatNow, how can our humble Pope Francis help souls complete purgatory and reach heaven? This pope’s very simple; he just rides around in a little Fiat.

But: Pope, simple as he may be, has full executive authority over a unique kind of bank. It’s the bank with the most valuable assets in the entire cosmos: the treasury of all the good works done by the saints of Christ throughout the Christian ages.

All these good works shine before the eyes of God, like jewels. And the pope has the authority to “disburse” these jewels, and give them to us, to show to God as if they were our own.

So the pope declares: For this year, my dear people, you can make withdrawals from the bank of saintly merits more easily! You can more easily apply the goodness of the saints to yourself, or to a deceased relative in purgatory. Make a pilgrimage, or do the works of mercy, and the goodness of the saints will count as your goodness, too–or as the goodness of your beloved dead.

That’s called an “indulgence.” Popes declare years of jubilee in order to grant indulgences liberally.

So: that’s reason enough for Pope Francis to have declared this Year of Jubilee! But he has another reason, also.

2) In his letter about the jubilee year, Pope Francis wrote about the very passage from the gospel which we hear on Sunday. The Pope wrote: “A ‘year of the Lord’s favor’ or ‘mercy’: this is what the Lord proclaimed and this is what we wish to live now.”

Christ came and proclaimed the perpetual jubilee of divine mercy, in the synagogue in Nazareth. By doing so, He fulfilled a commandment He had given long before, during the time of the Old Covenant.

In the laws of Leviticus, the Lord commanded Moses and the ancient Israelites to start fresh every fifty years. Start fresh, as in: forgive debts, liberate slaves, restore lost property. Everyone has the right to a decent, peaceful life–to food, shelter, health-care, etc. Start fresh with a fair shake for everyone, every fifty years. Equalize all the incomes. That was a law in the Old Covenant. You might laugh, but there really was a divine law that said basically what Bernie Sanders says.

The ancient Israelites, however, never followed that law. The rich got richer and the poor poorer, even among the Chosen People of God. The fact of the matter is: in this fallen world, a complete fresh start never comes. But there is a way for us to try to make things the way God would have them: those of us who possess stuff–corporal and spiritual goods–have to make sacrifices for the good of others.

So Pope Francis has given us this jubilee year as an occasion for us to: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.

Also to: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.

By doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy this year, we obtain the Jubilee-Year indulgence. But not only that. By doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we help to bring about the unending jubilee the Christ came to declare.

Mercy Basics

Logo for Holy Year of MercyThis year the Church keeps a special Jubilee Year of…

God heard Hannah’s prayer. He had mercy on her.

She had wept bitterly. She suffered. She longed to have a son. God heard her; her pain became His. He acted to relieve her suffering.

That, in a nutshell, is mercy. To experience someone’s suffering as my own, and to act to relieve it.

We human beings experience suffering whenever a necessary good is lacking. Hunger and thirst count as the most basic form of suffering, since we can’t survive if we lack food and drink.

In order truly to grasp the depths of divine mercy, though, we have to contemplate this: God, in His mercy relieved us of a much-more profound lack. The lack of existing.

It could have been that we wouldn’t even be. But God, in His mercy, made us. Not because we deserved it—we weren’t even around to deserve or not deserve. He made us because He is love, and He loves us.

Getting caught up in the question of what so-and-so deserves tends to turn us into merciless meatheads. Who am I to judge what anyone deserves? I know that I myself hardly deserve the safe and secure life that I enjoy.

No, the question is not what so-and-so deserves. Mercy means suffering right alongside someone who suffers. The question, if any, is: What can I do to relieve this suffering?

Our Lady, Vatican II, Mercy Old and New

Closing Mass of Vatican II
Closing Mass of Vatican II

Today, the Lord re-established the Garden of Eden, as it had been before the Fall.

The place where the human being, child of God, could receive the Creator’s love, and return it, without selfishness getting in the way. The place where human intelligence and freedom could exercise itself fully, without vice and dishonesty destroying things. The place of quiet, pure friendship between God and man.

That lovely garden returned to the earth on this day. Because the soul of the Virgin Mary is that garden. In her conversation with the Archangel Gabriel (which we read at Holy Mass today), we see into Our Lady’s soul: perfectly honest, humbly intelligent, living by faith, and ready to serve. An un-fallen Eve.

Now, that was well over 2,000 years ago, when our Lady was conceived immaculate in the womb of St. Anne. Who remembers what happened exactly 50 years ago today? Pope Paul VI solemnly concluded the Second Vatican Council.

The Pope made all the Council Fathers’ teachings his own. Four years of fervent prayer, study, and debate came to an end. Something much bigger began. In the teachings of the Council, the Lord gave us modern Christians a unique and profound insight into our identity and mission.

Fifty years ago. Hate to break it to you: If you can remember the Second Vatican Council, you old.

Or perhaps we should say, ‘mature.’ Because in fifty years, I think it’s fair to say, we have matured in two ways.

1) Fifty years on, we can understand that the Church of today, the Church of the new millennium, has not fundamentally changed from the Church of the two previous millennia.

Neither Pope St. John XXIII, nor any of the Council Fathers, saw themselves as founding a ‘new’ Church. At Vatican II, the same Church of our holy ancestors greeted the 20th century—greeted the ‘modern’ world. Holy Mother recognized the urgent need for us to share the Gospel of Christ faithfully in this age. So, at Vatican II, the Church strove to understand Herself in that light.

2) We have also matured in this way: We thoroughly recognize the teachings of the Council as the pure, rich, and beautiful gift that they are. We needed new guidance in order to stay true to the faith of the saints of old.

Even old-fashioned Catholics like myself take all the important teachings of Vatican II for granted: full participation in the liturgy by everyone; the apostolate of the laity; the importance of Scripture study; our shared baptism; our common humanity; the good that modern means of communication can do; the good that the modern dream of a unified world can do. Vatican II reminded us that we believe in a fruitful future just as much as we revere the holy Tradition.

Today we begin a Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Jubilee Year offers a path to the Garden of Eden, to the soul of our Lady. Holy Father has sketched out the path for us. (I think it’s a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit that the following could also serve as a basic summary of the teachings of Vatican II.)

Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Heal the sick. Visit the imprisoned. Bury the dead.

Counsel the doubtful. Instruct the ignorant. Comfort the sorrowful. Admonish sinners. Forgive those who have wronged you. Bear patiently with those who do you ill. Pray for the living and the dead.

Pope Francis enters St Peters through Holy Door

What is a Jubilee Year?

Pope Francis at Holy Door St Peters

Is it when the Georgetown Hoyas beat the Syracuse Orange? We present another answer, from the Holy Bible…

In the beginning, the human race dwelt in paradise. God freely gave us everything we need.

But our First Parents fell. The human race became slaves of the devil, condemned to death. Malice and contempt entered into our relations with each other.

Before the Fall, our First Parents could easily understand themselves as children in the divine household, endowed with life through the infinite generosity of the omnipotent Creator. But as sinners we learned to put our selves at the center of all our reckonings. We human beings took up the business of ruthlessly competing with each other. We learned to deal harshly with others, seeking individual advantages at every turn.

We can pick up this story at the beginning of the book of Exodus. The fallen human situation manifests itself completely in the fate of the Hebrew people in Egypt.

Continue reading “What is a Jubilee Year?”

Pope Francis Holy-Year Indulgence

Pope Francis at Holy Door St Peters

Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
(Luke 5:34)

We know that the heavenly Bridegroom is always with us. Problem is that we are not always with Him.

He always loves–loves us with an earnest, peaceful, all-encompassing zeal. His constant, unflinching love is, after all, the only thing that can really make us happy. We, for our part, pay attention to Jesus loving us approximately 3% of the time.

On the one hand: time passing—weeks passing; months, years—on the one hand, all this time passing can very much work to our advantage. Because good things grow with time, even when we don’t realize it. If we keep some kind of wholesome routine and stay on the right track, the power of God can foster our growth in virtue and intimacy with Him. He accomplishes great things in us when we aren’t even paying attention.

But, on the other hand: the passage of time can lead us to sink into a rut, and our spiritual lives corrode gradually. We can find ourselves all but completely enveloped in the tedious monotony of the world–it’s short horizons and petty agitations. Over time, human beings can grow accustomed to a life that is all but spiritually dead.

cuaSo we need opportunities to break out of the small, uninspiring confines that our routines can lead us into. That’s called a jubilee: when the normal rut, which everyone got used to, without realizing it, and forgot that there is more to life—a jubilee is when that rut gets broken to bits by the hugeness of God.

The coming of a year of jubilee reminds us that everything is God’s. His mercy trumps all our antagonisms and lists of grievances. We remember that there was a beautiful beginning to this world, and it can be beautiful like that again.

In less than three weeks, our Holy Father will arrive here for a visit with us in the US. Can’t wait to concelebrate Mass with Him, at my alma mater and the site of my ordination, for the canonization of one of my most-beloved saints, using the Pope’s, and the saint’s, mother tongue.

In three months, we will begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The other day, as we discussed, the media focused on one passage of a letter the Holy Father recently wrote about the Jubilee Year. I think we should focus on a different passage:

It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead. (Misericordiae Vultus 15)

Popes designate jubilee years for one main reason: to grant indulgences. When we repent of our sins, God forgives us and liberates us from the eternal punishment that we have deserved for offending Him. Nonetheless, our debt to justice remains, and purifying ourselves completely takes time.

We do not, however, face the prospect of this painful purification all by ourselves. We face it as members of the one Church. And the Church has had many saints. So the supreme authority of the Church, moved to imitate the indulgent heavenly Father, indulgently grants us a share in the goodness of the saints, thereby reducing our own personal debt to justice. That’s an indulgence.

In his letter of Tuesday, Holy Father expressed something very profound, I think, when he focused on our obtaining the Holy-Year indulgence by practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Practicing the works of mercy obtains for us the grace of total forgiveness from the Father. The Pope writes that this would be the Jubilee-Year Indulgence in full—to experience living a year of jubilee in total harmony with the merciful Father.


…involves taking an innocent and defenseless life.  Many women who have had abortions never did so with full awareness and deliberation.

God forgives, when we cry out to Him with sorrow. He pours out grace to heal us.

The Church loves her children. So she sternly warns us against doing things that will destroy us from within. One very effective form of warning: “You will be punished severely if you do this…”

Any priest in good standing can absolve any sincere penitent from any sin.

Committing the crime of abortion means excluding oneself from the life of the Church. But I daresay very few, in any, of the mothers who confess abortions have in fact committed the crime. Because to commit the crime you have to understand the full picture of the evil you do.

Now, that doesn’t mean evil of the gravest kind hasn’t been done; it has. And the remorse she feels means that the mother bears some guilt. But the crime has been committed by the abortionist. Only the one who commits the crime incurs the excommunication

That said, it’s a moot distinction in most of the dioceses of the United States, anyway. Almost all American priests have been granted the authority to lift this excommunication. I have–and all the priests I know who have been ordained anytime these past 20 years–all of us have always had the authority that the Pope granted to all priests in the world for the upcoming Holy Year.

Which is not to say that we don’t love the Holy Father for opening the door of mercy even wider–I guess in countries where the bishops have not generally granted priests the faculty to lift censures for the crime of abortion.

The report that I heard by Sylvia Poggioli on NPR lacked the following:

1. A sober recognition of what abortion involves.

2. Any sympathy–even remote sympathy–for what going to confession is actually like.

3. Any background knowledge regarding the discipline of this matter in the dioceses of the United States (on National Public Radio, when the nation in question is the United States).

Ms. Poggioli states: “Until now it’s been a difficult and complicated process for a woman who repents to get absolution…”

This is utterly and totally false in the United States (or, I think it’s fair to say, anywhere else.)

All the sympathy which our Holy Father has expressed towards women who have had abortions was originally expressed by Pope St. John Paul II, in Evangelium Vitae, twenty years ago. During the Holy Year in honor of the Redemption in 1983, Pope St. John Paul II extended the authority to lift the excommunication for the crime of abortion to all priests. I am not a historian, but I think it is highly likely that his having done that over thirty years ago is what led to the perpetual concession of that faculty to so many confessors.