Wednesday, April 3, 2013


In the many statements, allocutions, encyclicals and speeches of Pope John Paul II, it is sad to report, the words "mortal sin" are conspicuous by their absence.  I can not say he never spoke those words nor do I want to say he never thought about the issue but I cannot point to a single utterance or writing of his where he mentioned it.  The same can be said for Pope Benedict XVI.  It is as yet too early to determine what Francis as Pope will say on this topic.  Along the same lines I have not gone through the laborious task of reading everything that Paul VI wrote but I suspect he, too, had little to say about the explosion of mortal sin in the world.  I would happily welcome any corrections by readers.

Regardless what recent Popes may or may not have warned about mortal sin we do know that it is rarely, if ever, spoken from our pulpits.  Those who regularly attend the New Mass and have still managed to stay Catholic have told me that sin is a three-letter four-letter word.  Indeed as a regular attendee at an Ancient Rite Mass in my town this writer can add that I rarely even hear it from so-called traditional priests.  I cannot explain what is holding them back from speaking frankly.  Fear?

In a world sodden with vice, both natural and especially unnatural, the silence of the Church regarding the proliferation of those sins which offend God the most is incomprehensible.  Papal writings of the past fifty odd years have not exactly been shining examples of clarity, the Popes preferring ambiguous phrases over the simple, understandable King's English.  They make for very hard reading.  I hate to add that they are excruciatingly boring.  Yet while there are gems to be mined in those writings and utterances, the mining has to go very deep.  And even when found the truth is sometimes obscured by trendy words like "hermeneutic". Yes, I know that is a perfectly legitimate word.  There are others, surely.  Simple people really should not be expected to be left wondering about meanings when reading documents of great moment.  More than once this writer has had to have a dictionary nearby when wading through modern papal writings; conversely, when reading someone like Gregory the Great the words are as clear as a mountain lake.  Popes St Pius X, Pope Leo and Pope Pius XI didn't seem to have much trouble making themselves understood perfectly.  True, education being what it is the general level of intelligence today is far, far lower than it was 100 years ago.  Even so, the Popes of the last centuries and early 20th were able to convey their teachings clearly, so clearly that today's badly educated can understand them just as well as their forebears.

But who reads those anymore?  Not your average 21st century Catholic.  It is odd that numerous Catholics will, most commendably, read every word from the pen of the current holder of the Petrine Office, and, most strangely, be at the same time totally oblivious to, say, Rerum Novarum or much more tellingly, Testem BenevolentiaeOur crowd these days, and that includes priests, nuns, Bishops and even Cardinals, probably have never read - perhaps never even heard of - Gueranger, Marmion, Goodier or Fahey.   They fairly ooze with Urs - von Baltasar, that is; they delight with de Lubac.  They are attracted to the nebulous, far from clarifying ideas of those gentlemen.  But anything written before 1962, or God forbid the works of the Fathers and Doctors, is a closed book to them.  Literally.  This is why I believe we are so badly instructed nowadays: our teachers are reading the wrong writers.  Chasing after anything new or revolutionary they instinctively reject the wisdom of ages past.  For them the first Pope was not Peter but John XXIII, or so it would seem when we hear whom they continually quote.  It is something remarkable when a modern prelate, high or low, can quote anything from any previous Pope.  Popes of the past were forthright when it came to discussing serious sin. No punches were pulled. They were unafraid to call a spade a spade, or a mortal sin a mortal sin.  Contemporary Popes have taken a different, more "nice" approach.  Rarely is sin even mentioned, let alone condemned.  Perhaps that is why we hear so little of past wisdom from modern Churchmen.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons why there is so little Faith today....not "faith" but Faith.

I find a truer sensus Catholicus among the simplest Christian mother than masters of convoluted thinking like Yves Congar, for example, and I for one will be very pleased when my co-religionists start to think of Teilhard as a new type of kitchen flooring and Schillebeekx as some sort of prehistoric bird.

But those great unspoken words "mortal sin" are going to have to be heard again and often if we are to pull our Church, and ourselves, out of the mire that is sucking us downwards.  It might mean remedial education for some notable Princes of the Church such as Timothy Dolan who has apparently never heard of such concepts as sin and Hell.  Indeed he must never had heard those terms at all, else why would he hobnob with Vice Creep Joe Biden at Mass and offer the Sacred Species to this man who sneers at Christ and who relishes his role as assistant persecutor of the Catholic Faith?  (One wonders if Dolan is aware of how the Obamas and Bidens must laugh at him behind his back)  When our teachers once again re-learn their Catechism perhaps then they will be better able to pass it along to those whose souls they are responsible for.

I am not going to wait for our Churchmen to suddenly remember that they have been neglecting their flocks for several generations.  In our small way we writers on internet blogs can dig out our old Catechisms and Missals and quote them as often as the situation demands.  Waiting to be led by the Bishops is not a sensible option at this moment in time.  In 16th Century England many Englishmen waited  for their Churchmen to act against the rising tide of apostasy.  Rome didn't act.  Until it was too late.  Unless we wish to repeat that episode, the one that split Christendom asunder, we must come to the realization that the Bishops aren't going to mount their chargers and come racing to our rescue.  They're not coming.  We've seen that in country after country every time some despotic government tries to shove the faces of Catholics into their steaming piles of filth.  When the government gets nasty the Bishops vanish. At least one could say that that's one ancient Apostolic tradition they have kept: the minute trouble emerged they all fled from Our Lord.  As the late and very great Hamish Fraser used to say, the first Official Collegial Act of the Bishops of the Church was to abandon Christ on Good Friday.

[God has taken pity on us a little.  He has given us men like Schneider, Rai and a number of other prelates who are deadly serious about restoring the Faith.  Rally around these men and pray for them.  May they go from strength to strength.]

There is nothing more edifying than finding a solid Confessor.  They're out there.  They are not numerous but you can find them.  They will not be afraid to tell you about that wrong road you are taking.  Treasure these men.  Make use of their guidance.  They will tell you squarely what most of our Bishops will not.

Then nourish yourself.

I cannot recommend highly enough the practice of reading the great minds of the past as a sort of tonic to refresh yourself after decades of sterile and badly-written tomes.  May I recommend the writings of Archbishop Goodier as a beginning?  Anyone who wishes for a non-Hollywood depiction of the Life, Sufferings, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ could find no better place to begin than with Goodier.  No equivocations, no flights of authorial fancy, no dabbling with odd theories, the Archbishop brilliantly walks us through the various moments in Jesus' life.  He was a great writer and a holy man.  Reading him is like being revitalized.

It is possible that this insignificant and small blog may possibly fall underneath the eyes of a Bishop or two.  If that happens may I ask Your Lordship to once again tell it like it is with regard to sins that are mortal?  Use your authority and do not tarry any longer.

You have the God-given authority to teach.  I haven't.



Elizabeth said...

Excellent article. So many good points. Your blog is such a blessing, to many, I'm sure.

I'll look into Goodier, but I already have so many books that I still want to get to! One of my favorites is Fr. Faber.

Anonymous said...

This is such a trivial response to your thoughtful and beautifully written contemplations. It is at least relevant I think. Just yesterday from a blog I linked to the Telegraph UK, "I am a Catholic because I am Screw-Up". supposedly "gone viral". The gist and whole of it, the Catholic Church is a home for sinners. Full of Sinners. I found it rather disgusting really. So cliché. This has become cliché hasn't it? Too many Catholics say it all the time. Too many Catholic priests say it all the time. It comes to seem they're saying sin, sin, and more sin. Welcome. Which rather proves your point exactly.

Aged parent said...

Elizabeth: Father Faber is a very great favorite of mine, too. Thank you for your kind words.

Anon: Thank you, too, for your kind and thoughtful comment.

May you both, and all readers of this this blog, have a blessed Easter Season.

Appreciative Reader said...

I too must chime in and thank you for your words of truth. The internet does serve a purpose for good when Catholic bloggers live out their Confirmations by soldiering up when our pastors, bishops...and not.

As Father Cyprian says in one of his audio sermons "We fight as orphans. With no fathers behind us and none to lead the way."

Thank you, Aged Parent for being a a soldier, admonisher and beacon for the TRUTH of the Catholic Faith.

Aged parent said...

Dear Appreciative Reader:

Thank you very much for those words.

Thank you, too, for that quote from Father Cyprian. It is so terribly true.

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