New Sherwood

More than the angels?

Originally posted on New Sherwood:

“And in God’s eyes we are the greatest, the most beautiful, the best things about Creation…’But father,
the Angels?’ No, the Angels are beneath us! We are more than the Angels! We heard it in the Book
of the Psalms! God really loves us! We have to thank him for this!”
– Pope Francis, today’s General Audience

“What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou hast
made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour: And hast
set him over the works of thy hands.” – Psalm 8:5-7

“So, therefore, God’s mercy is great in the comparison of man to God; but this follows from man in the comparison to the angels, who man comes into proximity to. Thou hast made him a little less. The image
of God is…

View original 36 more words

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The psychology of annulments


The objective nullity of some putative marriages is a reality. You can’t marry your sister. You can’t kidnap your wife and force her to wed. You can’t be married to someone else. You need to be sober when saying your vows. Etc.

Nevertheless, annulments should be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to obtain.

A healthy culture of marriage demands that Church and State assume the validity of all publicly celebrated marriages. That is the wisdom behind the “presumption of validity” that the Church has always maintained toward every civil marriage, even marriages that are purely natural and non-sacramental. A culture of marriage, protected by marital indissolubility and the presumption of validity, is necessary for the protection of children, the most innocent and helpless among us. The procreation and education of children is the primary purpose of marriage. That is to say: it is greater than the secondary purpose of marriage, which is the union and mutual help of the spouses. Therefore, it makes sense that the Church and human society arrange things in such a way that protects children from parental abandonment and the burden of illegitimacy.

All marriages are subject to difficulties, conflicts, trials, and crises of various kinds. That’s why the vows say “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”. Everything is covered, even the very worst. A valid sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved for any reason whatsoever, no matter what the future may hold. It is absolutely essential, psychologically, that divorce and/or annulment never be considered an option in the minds of married people. When you say the vows, you accept every possible danger the future may bring – period.

Why is this so important? Because for most people, the married state is their means of salvation. The salvation of souls depends upon spouses enduring and persevering through the trials and tribulations of marriage. The Christian experience proves that marriages can survive their difficulties if spouses will only persevere in charity. But if one or both spouses has one eye on the annulment door, there is little incentive to persevere. It is just too easy to throw in the towel, and many do. The new “presumption of invalidity” for troubled marriages – reigning now for 40+ years and brought to a climax by the devastating motu proprio of Pope Francis – has become a classic “self-fulfilling prophecy”, achieving that which it assumes.

If the Church has failed to catechize marriage properly, the response should be a restoration of orthodox catechesis, not the normalization of of fast, cheap, drive-through annulments. In the eyes of the faithful, let the presumption of marital validity stand. Unfortunately there can be no presumption of validity for contemporary annulments.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

An open letter to single Catholics


Dear single Catholics,

Marriage is indissoluble, an ontological reality for as long as both spouses are living. “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” For Catholics, divorce is never an option for any reason. The rare exceptions of the “Pauline and Petrine privileges” pertain only to non-sacramental marriages with at least one unbaptized spouse.

What is popularly known as an annulment is not a divorce, but a “decree of nullity” – a juridical finding that a valid marriage never existed in the first place. For example, if one spouse was coerced by threats of violence, then true consent was absent and there was never a valid marriage. Nullity depends upon defects (e.g., lack of consent) present when the vows were made, not marital problems that developed later. The list of defects that traditionally render a putative marriage “null” is short and sweet:

(1) the male is not yet sixteen and/or the female is not yet fourteen at the time of the wedding; (2) the male is impotent, the female is frigid, or the marriage is never consummated; (3) either party is still involved in a marriage which is not properly dissolved; (4) a Catholic and an unbaptized person marry without a proper dispensation; (5) the male is a recipient of Holy Orders and is not personally dispensed by the pope; (6) either party who publicly vowed celibacy did not receive a dispensation to marry; (7) the female is forced to marry by means of abduction or confinement; (8) one party kills the other in order to enter a new marriage; (9) the parties are closely related by blood; (10) there is prior affinity between the parties such as a widowed person marrying the deceased spouse’s parent or child; (11) someone party to a common-law marriage later attempts marriage with the parent or child of the live-in partner; (12) a person marries a child or sibling he or she has adopted; (13) Catholics enter a marriage “lacking form” and, therefore, validity because it does not take place before an authorized priest and witnesses.

The Church has long been a fierce and uncompromising defender of the marital bond. Catholic martyrs have died for the truth of marital indissolubility. The entire world knows this, both within the Church and without. As a safeguard, the Church always presumed the validity of every publicly celebrated marriage, whether sacramental or merely natural. Proving invalidity was difficult, and in most cases a decision was made only after an exhaustive investigation. The doctrine of marital indissolubility, the presumption of validity, and the difficulty of proving nullity combined to make a powerful psychological effect. Spouses were encouraged to persevere in difficult marriages and, most importantly, children were protected from parental abandonment.

Tragically, this all came unraveled with the anthropocentric emphasis of the Second Vatican Council. The former annulment procedures were concerned exclusively with the objective reality of the marital bond. But the new orientation began to focus on the interests, convenience, and happiness of the discontented spouse or spouses. In the 1970s the procedures for filing for annulment were greatly simplified in the United States. Predictably, the number of annulments skyrocketed. It’s fair to assume that the same orientation that motivated these procedural changes also motivated the decisions of marriage tribunals.

A still more severe attack on marriage came with Canon 1095 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which states:

The following are incapable of contracting marriage: 1) those who lack the sufficient use of reason; 2) those who suffer from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted; 3) those who are not able to assume the essential obligations of marriage for causes of a psychic nature.

This canon opened the floodgates. “Essential matrimonial rights and duties” and “essential obligations of marriage” could be interpreted as loosely as “the duty to be sensitive and understanding” or, in TOB-speak, “totally self-giving”. But the loophole most often exploited is the idea that defects “of a psychic nature” were present, though unknown, at the time of consent. A spouse who later became unfaithful or who abandoned the marriage could be said to have had, all along, a psychological fear of commitment. A spouse who later developed a drug addiction could be said to have had a secret “addictive personality”. A spouse who developed a mental illness could be said to have had a latent psychological condition. A spouse with inadequacies as a mother or father, or with chronic employment problems, or with unhealthy relationship patterns, etc., could easily be said to have been unable to “assume the essential obligations of marriage for causes of a psychic nature”. Examples could be multiplied ad infinitum.

The result? By 1991 the Church was granting 60,000 annulments per year in the United States. Contrast this with the early 1960s, when the Church granted around 300 annulments per year. Although the number of annulments has declined in recent years – there were 24,010 annulments in 2012 – an astonishing 85 to 90 percent of annulment petitions are granted.

But all of this human carnage was not enough to satisfy Pope Francis and his allies. The pope has, in the first place, publicly entertained the idea that fifty percent of all marriages are invalid, turning the traditional “presumption of validity” on its head. You can be sure that those who adjudicate annulment cases are paying attention. His latest Motu Proprio “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus”, or “The Lord Jesus, Merciful Judge” virtually eliminates any remaining obstacles for discontented spouses seeking a decree of nullity. The document suggests that signs of probable nullity include “defect of faith”, “a brief conjugal cohabitation”, “an abortion procured to avoid procreation”, an “extraconjugal relationship”, “grave contagious illness”, “incarcerations”, and “unexpected pregnancy of the woman” …. “etc”. That “etc” is found in the Motu Proprio at the end of this list, so as not to limit the justifications that might arise!

To summarize, marital indissolubility is no longer supported by Catholic ecclesiastical discipline. Read that line carefully. Anyone who seeks an annulment will almost certainly be granted an annulment. In the Age of Francis, a troubled marriage between two people afflicted with original sin is essentially presumed invalid.

Dear single Catholic, should you choose to enter the marriage state, you need to understand something: The Church no longer has your back. The Church will marry you but has lost the will to defend your marriage. As painful as this is to admit, you’re entirely on your own. You live in a time when marriage is hard, annulments are easy, and charity has grown cold. In some ways our own time is coming to resemble the early Church when, due to heavy persecution, little in the way of ecclesiastical discipline was possible, and heroic faith was expected of all. Nevertheless, take courage! If you marry, pray like your marriage depends entirely on God, because it truly does. Stay faithful to your marriage even if the Church doesn’t seem to care. Jesus Christ cares. Learn to love, forgive, and suffer like Jesus. Stay close to the sacraments. And please, choose wisely.

October 31, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Trent, the Pope, and Annulment “Reform”

Originally posted on New Sherwood:


“[T]here is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this”. – Pope Francis, 28 July 2013

“Can we eliminate the necessity of having detailed personal interviews, hefty fees, testimony from witnesses, psychological exams, and automatic appeals to other tribunals? In lieu of this formal court-like process, which some participants have found intimidating, can we rely more on the conscientious personal judgment of spouses about the history of their marriage (after all, they are the ministers and recipients of the sacrament!) and their worthiness to receive Holy Communion?”  – Bishop Thomas Tobin, 21 September 2014

“CANON XII. If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema.” – Council of Trent, Session XXIV, 11 November 1543

View original

October 31, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

St. Alphonsus Liguori: On the abuse of God’s mercy


God is merciful. Behold the third delusion of sinners by which an immense number are lost! A learned author says, that the mercy of God sends more souls to hell than his justice; for sinners are induced, by a rash confidence in the divine mercy, to continue in sin and thus are lost. God is merciful. Who denies it? But great as is his mercy, how many does he send to hell every day ? God is merciful: but he is also just; and therefore he is obliged to punish those who offend him. He shows mercy; but to whom? To them who fear him. He hath strengthened His mercy toward them that fear Him. As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear Him (Ps. cii, 11, 13). But he executes justice on those who despise him, and abuse his mercy to insult him the more.

God pardons sin; but he cannot pardon the will or the determination to sin. St Augustine says, that he who sins with the intention of afterward repenting, is not a penitent, but a mocker of God’s majesty. But the Apostle tells as that God does not allow himself to be mocked. Be not deceived. God is not mocked (Gal. vi, 7). It would be a mockery of God to insult him as often and as much as you please, and afterward to expect heaven. But as God has shown me to many mercies hitherto, so I hope he will treat me with mercy hereafter. Behold the fourth delusion ! Then, must the Lord, because he has had compassion on you, show mercy forever, and never chastise you ? No: the greater have been his mercies to you, the more you have reason to fear that, if you offend him again, he will pardon you no more, but will take vengeance on your sins.

Say not: I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me? For the Most High is a patient rewarder (Ecclus. v, 4). Say not: I have sinned, and have not been punished; for though God endures, he will not do so, forever. When, the number of mercies which he has resolved to show to the sinner is exhausted, he then punishes all his sins together. And the longer God has waited for his repentance, the more severe will be his punishment, says St. Gregory. (In Evang. Hom. 13). If then, O my brother, you see that you have, often offended God, and that he has not sent you to hell you should say; The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed (Lam. iii, 22). Lord ! I thank Thee, for not having sent me to hell, as I deserved. Consider how many have been damned for fewer sins than you have committed, and labor to atone, by penance and other good works, for the offences you have offered to God. The patience which he has had with you, and the great mercies which he has shown to you, and not to others, ought to animate you not to offend him again, but to serve and love him.

December 3, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Is Pope Francis of sound mind? The dementia hypothesis.

Epiphany Is Celebrated At Vatican City
What kind of a pope hath the Catholic Church today? A liberal? A modernist? A Lutheran? A charismatic? A liberation theologian? A socialist? A Catholic? A phenomenologist? We see all of these strains and more in the writings, homilies, interviews, and actions of Pope Francis. The only consistency is a nasty impatience with Catholic doctrine, and the absolute priority of human experience over any other consideration. The rest is, quite frankly, an incomprehensible mess.

This baffling incoherence is leading some to question whether Pope Francis is actually of sound mind. Open speculation about the Holy Father possibly suffering the early stages of dementia arose within several months of his election. He seems not to be aware that he contradicts himself (and the Church) continually, and embarrassingly.

For my part, I am aware that Pope Francis has been educated under Modernist influences from his earliest years in seminary; that Modernism is a flight from reality; and that a mental habit of fleeing from reality eventually destroys one’s rational faculties. So, I’m not yet convinced that Pope Francis is suffering from a biologically-induced mental decline along the lines of dementia. It seems more likely that his intelligence has suffered because of the contradictions in his theological worldview, and his habitual avoidance of difficult or painful truths.

Nevertheless, the dementia hypothesis is gaining traction and may one day be vindicated. The prospect should move every good Catholic to a sentiment of compassion for the Holy Father. Blogger Laurence England of That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill gives expression to this concern:

“Is Pope Francis okay? I mean, is he okay? I know that we can all quite happily overlook our own sins and bothersome personality traits. We can all be a bit hypocritical and recognise in others more quickly those faults that are our own, but I agree with Veneremur Cernui that there is something about Pope Francis’s homilies and speeches that almost demands some call for a papal ‘reality check’ …

The way in which papal homilies are going nowadays indicate a Pope who does not have a healthy relationship with reality and I say that as someone who enjoys escaping reality a great deal.”

“I am so confused by this Papacy I don’t have a clue what is going on, where the Pope really stands on anything. I’m still left a little confused. In fact, every day I find his comments and the lack of transparency in Rome confusing. I’m confused at the ‘de-Ratzingerisation’ of the Vatican. There is nothing terribly clear about this papacy. It’s like driving in a dense fog. Even when his opinion is made clear on something, you still have a nagging feeling that that is simply the opinion (life imprisonment, the death penalty, the Big Bang, evolution etc) of Jorge Bergoglio, the man, rather than that of the more hitherto carefully constructed and balanced positions of the Catholic Church.”

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

The Pope’s First Commandment Problem

“I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” – Exodus 20:1-3

“Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40

It’s official: Pope Francis has a problem with the First Commandment.

The first sign was his homily on July 3, 2013, in which he said that knowledge of Jesus Christ cannot be arrived at through “meditation”, which in his words is the “path of the gnostics”. Meditation – which might also be called contemplation or adoration – is a work that is focused on God alone, and has been the vehicle for countless saints in their ascent to God. According to the pope, one can only find Jesus through “His wounds … [in] the body of your wounded brother” – that is, through loving one’s neighbor.

The second sign was his bold inversion of the commandments as given to us by Jesus. In his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (par 161), the pope stated that the “first and greatest of the commandments” is to “love one another”, which of course is contrary to the words of Our Lord in Sacred Scripture. This mistake is so obvious and fundamental that I expected it to be corrected eventually. But, alas, eleven months later it’s still there in the document. As every Catholic schoolboy has been taught, the first and greatest commandment is “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind”. Jesus could hardly have taught otherwise, as the First Commandment of the Decalogue imposes this primary obligation upon all believers.

The revolutionary nature of this error cannot be overstated. It undermines the Church’s entire theology. There are, after all, Christian duties that are prior to love of neighbor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that adherence to the First Commandment – which derives from the love of God – demands sacrifice, worship, and adoration; the assent of faith to all that God has revealed; obedience to the divine and natural law; and public witness to divine truth. The Catechism states clearly that “adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion” and is directed to God alone. The First Commandment also forbids sins like idolatry, witchcraft, superstition, blasphemy, sacrilege, heresy, schism, apostasy, atheism, agnosticism, voluntary doubt, religious indifference, despair, and presumption. Whereas obedience to the commandment to love God results naturally in the love of neighbor, the same cannot be said of the reverse. The love of God is the necessary foundation for properly loving one’s neighbor.

And now we have more confusion on the matter from Pope Francis. It’s simply not credible to say that his previous statements were just careless “off the cuff” musings, mistranslations, or media spin. No, Pope Francis has a real problem with the First Commandment. In yesterday’s Angelus the pope chose a different approach. Rather than ignore the first and greatest commandment altogether, as he has done in the past, he chose to present the first and greatest commandment (i.e., the love of man for God), and the second which is like unto it (i.e., the love of man for neighbor), as though they are totally merged without hierarchy or distinction, as though one did not have priority over the other. It is the error of false equivalence. The practical effect is the same as before: seek God in your neighbor first, to the exclusion of divinely revealed truth (doctrine) and the demands it imposes. Vatican Insider/La Stampa reports:

“In the midst of the dense forest of rules and regulations – the legalisms of yesterday and today – Jesus shines a ray of light that helps us to make out two faces: the face of the Father and that of our brother,” Pope Francis said at today’s Angelus. “Today’s Gospel reminds us that the whole law of God is summed up in love for God and neighbour.” The “novelty” of Christ’s teaching consists “in the union of the two commandments – love of God and love of neighbour – proving that they are inseparable and complementary, they are two sides of the same coin.” …

“Remember this: love is the measure of faith,” Francis said speaking off the cuff. “How much do you love? What is your faith like? I believe as much as I love.” “A visible sign that the Christian can show to witness God’s love to the world and to others, to his family, is the love of his brethren,” Francis observed. This is why, he explained, “the commandment of love of God and neighbour is the first, because it is not high on the list of the commandments. Jesus does not put it at the top, but at the center, it is the heart from which everything eradicates and to which everything returns.”

Ah, so the two commandments are now merged as one! And this new merged commandment of Francis is not even “high on the list of commandments” or “at the top” – that’s too hierarchical, too much like the old scholasticism, I suppose – but “at the center”, whatever that means. Are the commandments are now arranged in a circle? And aren’t we supposed to start with the existential peripheries? Nevermind …

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Fiddling around in Red Bluff

The 32nd annual Western Open Fiddle Competition was launched in Red Bluff today. This is always a welcome respite from work and the worries of life. I can’t adequately describe how relieved I was to see old familiar faces – not close friends, but people I see at all the contests, all ages, everyone in a jovial mood. Strangers saying hello and goodbye. Music in every corridor. The live entertainment was light-hearted, funny, toe-tapping, rejuvenating. Children playing everywhere: innocence, wild and free.

The California Old Time Fiddlers Association survives on the work of self-less volunteers who love the old time fiddling tradition, donating countless hours without remuneration of any kind. I have the privilege of knowing some of these generous souls, and meeting new ones at every contest.

I would estimate that fifty percent or more of the youngest competitors are home schooled. One of the perks of these contests – for home schooling families, at any rate – is that the children have the opportunity to perform on stage in front of the multitudes from a very young age. To a friendly and appreciative crowd. Our little Annie Jo (age 6) earned 6th place in the PeeWee division today. Her older sister, Amanda (age 11), earned 1st Place in the Junior Junior Division. Here’s the round of tunes that led to Amanda’s prize:

And here’s Christopher (age 16) in the Junior Picking Division on his new mandolin:

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

One Peter Five: “Who Ya Gonna Call?”

A link and a nod to One Peter Five is long overdue. If you’re not already reading this website, it isn’t too late to start. Read the archives, too. They’re rich, rich, rich.

Have you ever wondered why all those deathbed conversions are conversions to Catholicism, and little else? I remember the first time I met a real Catholic priest. A Lutheran with Lutheran prejudices, I was nevertheless in awe … and then subsequently dejected at the priest’s tragic worldliness. (He was a Jesuit, alas.) There is just something about the Catholic Church. Everyone – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – instinctively looks to the Church and her priests for holiness and spiritual power.

“Why should men love the Church? … She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.” – T.S. Eliot

Whether it’s the crisis of an impending death, a personal tragedy, or a haunted house, men turn to the Catholic Church when in distress. And so it was with the Cranmers of Pittsburgh. Steve Skojec of One Peter Five introduces the fascinating story of a non-Catholic family who found their home occupied by evil spirits, and who naturally turned to the Church for help:

“For two years, a private demonologist, protestant ministers, and most importantly, Catholic exorcists, worked to remove the demonic presence from the Cranmer family home. Victory was finally achieved through exorcism and the celebration of Mass at the house in 2006. The details of the story are unnerving, to say the least. A local report on what transpired provides more detail …”

October 24, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Trent, the Pope, and Annulment “Reform”


“[T]here is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this”. – Pope Francis, 28 July 2013

“Can we eliminate the necessity of having detailed personal interviews, hefty fees, testimony from witnesses, psychological exams, and automatic appeals to other tribunals? In lieu of this formal court-like process, which some participants have found intimidating, can we rely more on the conscientious personal judgment of spouses about the history of their marriage (after all, they are the ministers and recipients of the sacrament!) and their worthiness to receive Holy Communion?”  – Bishop Thomas Tobin, 21 September 2014

“CANON XII. If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema.” – Council of Trent, Session XXIV, 11 November 1543

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 12 Comments


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 77 other followers

%d bloggers like this: