Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, published Sunday 22nd December, 2013, states SSPX is in Sacramental Schism, de facto:

With the failure of discussions, what is the position of the Lefebvrians?

“The canonical excommunication due to the illicit [episcopal] ordination was lifted from the bishops, but the sacramental one remains, de facto, for the schism; because they have removed themselves away from communion with the Church. That being said, we do not close the door, ever, and we invite them to reconcile. But they also must change their approach and accept the conditions of the Catholic Church and the Supreme Pontiff as the ultimate criterion of belonging.”


I have already written previously that the SSPX is schismatic, if not completely in schism ,where the latter is legitimately debated.

But as Cardinal Muller states in his answer above, they are de facto in a sacramental schism because they have removed themselves  from full communion with the Church. In the previous post on this, no one can deny the truth that while the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and of the Holy Eucharist (Mass)are valid but illicit due to the canonical suspension applied to the bishops and priests of the SSPX, these are nonetheless valid.

However, the Sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick (except in a life or death emergency) are invalid as are the attempted celebrations of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. A priest must have faculties from the LOCAL bishop in union with the Pope in order for penance and Holy Matrimony to be validly celebrated by any priest. These faculties could be removed from a priest, although the bishop could allow him to celebrate Mass and Baptism. A bishop may also remove the faculties of a priest to preach a homily, although he could celebrate Mass.

An SSPX parish, such as the one in Roswell, Georgia, cannot have a bishop other than the Archbishop of Atlanta. Only the Archbishop of Atlanta can give the priests of the SSPX parish faculties to preach, hear confessions and witness the marriages. No other bishop, especially the SSPX bishops, have the authority to give faculties to a priest or bishop, only the Archbishop of Atlanta can do that. For any priest or bishop, including the SSPX, to celebrate sacraments he does not have faculties could render them invalid but the act of celebrating them without faculties is a schismatic act although the priest may not be in complete schism with the Church, such as joining any branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church which is in schism de facto, but with valid sacraments.

The Eastern Orthodox de facto schism has led the Vatican to recognize, though, their sacraments of Penance and Holy Matrimony (for the first marriage only) as valid and licit. Interesting, no? Thus in this regard, the actual Eastern Orthodox Church is in more "Communion" with Rome, than the SSPX currently are. Interesting, no?

 Another interesting fact is that the marriages of Protestants (their first) are recognized because the Holy Roman Pontiff has stated that Protestants are not under Roman Catholic Canon Law with regards to who it is that witnesses their marriages, whether that be their own ordained minister, a justice of the peace or even common law. This does not apply to SSPX! Interesting, no?

For example, a visiting priest or even an outside bishop from another parish or diocese  who wants to celebrate a marriage in my parish has to have my delegation as pastor of my parish. If I do not give delegation to him, that marriage, if he celebrates it nonetheless in my parish, is invalid!This does not apply to the Greek Orthodox parish or any Protestant Churches in the boundaries of my parish. Their marriages (if the first for both) are completely valid and sacramental. But not for the SSPX! Interesting, no?

To be schismatic does not necessarily mean being in schism, but certainly heading in that direction. An individual in the Catholic Church could be schismatic for simply rejecting a goodly amount of the dogmas and morals in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but they are not de facto schismatic until some formal censure or excommunication is placed upon them.

For example, could we say that a Catholic who divorces their husband or wife (in a marriage presumed to be sacramental) and then remarries in an illicit and thus invalid marriage outside the Church is de facto schismatic in the technical definition of the term. A censure is automatically placed against them (not an excommunication though) that prevents them from licitly receiving Holy Communion or any other sacraments (except in a life or death situation).

Schism and heresy are not necessarily one in meaning. SSPX doesn't teach heresy except in promoting a Catholicism that doesn't have to obey the pope in certain disciplines.. But liberal or progressive Catholics have been teaching that a long time too. I know of no doctrines, except the obedience due to the Holy Roman Pontiff in faith, morals, canon law and the decrees of an Ecumenical Council legitimately approved by the Holy Roman Pontiff (even non-infallible decrees), that the SSPX reject. Their schismatic acts are based on ecclesiology and rejection of non-infallible statements of the Second Vatican Council regarding religious liberty and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. In these, one may legitimately have differing views when privately held. But when these private views go viral and communities form around the rejection of this teachings and it leads them to form schismatic groups opposing the Supreme Pontiff on these matters.

Secular definition of schism:


A separation or division into factions.

A formal breach of union within a Christian church.

The offense of attempting to produce such a breach.

Disunion; discord.


QUESTION: Greetings! I am writing in order to ask you about the SSPX’s canonical status. I’ve heard that they certainly are in schism, as Bishop ___ (my bishop) said, yet I’ve also heard from you that the Prefect of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has said that they’re not. My question is as follows: would there need to be any talks going on between them and Rome if they are not in schism? Isn’t the point, as Pope Benedict XVI said, something about…”as they discover the path to full communion“? First, that seems to imply that they are not in full communion with the Church. And, as noted earlier, it seems like the whole purpose of the Vatican-SSPX discussions is to bring them into communion. Do you see the seeming conflicts? Nevertheless, I’d refuse to associate or attend their Masses until they learn to trust the Magisterium and learn the humility to keep their minds and hearts publicly and officially in syncronization which that of the One Church.

FATHER Z'S ANSWER: Since the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” has competence in this area, I will opt for the position of the PCED rather than the opinion Bishop of X diocese.

The situation is confusing. In the 1988 Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta Pope John Paul used the word “schism“. It looks like a schism, to be sure. But officials of the PCED have affirmed over the last few years that while Archbishop Lefebvre’s actions in 1988 were schismatic acts, the SSPX did not in fact go into schism. I don’t really understand that, but I will take the PCED’s word on this.

What we need to do is pray pray pray that the SSPX will accept the CDF’s “Doctrinal Preamble” and some eventual canonical structure which could be offered to them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Lauren Giddings, Saint Joseph parishioner, Mercer Law School recent graduate, murdered days before moving to Atlanta in June of 2011:
Her funeral Mass at St. Joseph Church in July of 2011, media coverage. Fr. Dawid Kwiatkowski was less than a month ordained and newly assigned to St. Joseph's:
The devil exists and possesses those open to him! Steven McDaniel murdered my parishioner Lauren Giddings, sometimes daily Mass goer,  three years ago in late June of 2011 and dismembered her body throwing part of her body in a dumpster near her apartment and the other members across the street at Mercer Laws School's dumpster. The Mercer dumpster was sent to the dump prior to discovering Lauren's remains. (McDaniel lived next door, was a classmate of her at Mercer law school and both had graduated and Lauren was days away from moving to Atlanta.) The murderer gives a local news interview a few days after her disappearance/ murder, as the interview progressed, the reporter tells him that her dismembered torso has been found. He did not know that the body he threw in the dumpster next to his apartment had not been taken to the dump: On  Easter Monday, three years later, McDaniel who had steadfastly stated he was innocent, confessed to his heinous crime and was sentenced to live in prison. He indicated exactly what he did, which the family wanted to know. Fr. Dawid Kwiatkowski who was the celebrant for her funeral Mass in Macon and has stayed in touch with the Giddings family who lives in Maryland was also at the court procedure yesterday with the family. Lauren mother was at Mass at St.Joseph on Easter Sunday. She had agreed with the local DA not to seek the death penalty in the case, hoping for an eventual confession and information about what he did with Lauren and where her remains not found are. The Confession: Yesterday's Macon Telegraph's news article:

On the last night of Lauren Giddings’ life, perhaps while she slept, her killer was on the prowl.

With duct tape, Stephen McDaniel lashed a video camera to a 6-foot-long wooden stick and, standing beneath her second-floor apartment, peered in a living room window.

Several videos recorded between about 9 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. lent him peeks through the blinds at her front door and the burglar bar bracing it.

Prosecutors allege that McDaniel had been in the apartment before and had stolen a flash drive belonging to Giddings that contained hundreds of personal photos.

He was obsessed with Giddings, his next-door neighbor at Barristers Hall apartments on Georgia Avenue, across the street from Mercer University’s law school where they had been classmates. McDaniel, 28, and Giddings had graduated a month and a half earlier. Now the 27-year-old blonde was about to move away.

And in the final hours of her life, he was spying on her.

About 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 26, 2011, a masked McDaniel used a master key to slip into Giddings’ apartment while she slept. He had researched methods of defeating Giddings’ burglar bar.

After a tussle, he strangled Giddings, clenching his hands around her throat for as long as 15 minutes, until she stopped moving.

Chilling details of a crime that gripped Macon and the region emerged Monday after McDaniel, in a surprise to all but those close to the case, pleaded guilty.

Last week, after learning of the FBI’s scouring of his camera and finding the deleted surveillance video, McDaniel agreed to a deal.

Franklin J. Hogue, one of his lawyers, described the evidence as “the last straw.” McDaniel had been considering a plea since potentially damning evidence of his Internet browsing came to light in recent months.

As part of a plea deal, McDaniel penned a one-page confession describing Giddings’ last hours and how he dismembered her body. In exchange, he was sentenced to life in prison.

He will first be eligible to request parole in 2041, but District Attorney David Cooke said, “I fully expect Stephen McDaniel will spend the rest of his life behind bars.”

‘Stephen? Please stop.’

The night he killed, McDaniel wore gloves and a mask.

After creeping into Giddings’ apartment, he watched her sleep.

The floor creaked and Giddings sat up in bed.

She “saw me, and said, very calmly, ‘Get the f--- out’,” McDaniel wrote in his confession chronicling Giddings’ slaying and his disposal of her remains.

“I leaped across the bed onto her and grabbed her around the throat. We tumbled out of the bed to the floor and in her struggle to get away, she moved her legs and her lower body under her bed, preventing her from getting away or kicking me,” he wrote.

As they wrestled, Giddings pulled the mask from McDaniel’s face and said, “Stephen? Please stop.”

After Giddings stopped moving, “I dragged her into the bathroom and placed her in the bathtub,” he wrote.

He returned home and spent much of the day on his computer.

That Sunday night, McDaniel returned and dismembered her using a hacksaw, he wrote.

“I removed her limbs and head, wrapped them in several black trash bags, separately, and discarded them in the Mercer law school dumpster,” he wrote.

He cut up the mask he had worn, along with his gloves and his shirt. He flushed them down his toilet.

McDaniel wrote that he put Giddings’ torso in the apartment complex trash can just before daylight on June 28, about two days before it was found.

During Monday’s hearing in Bibb County Superior Court, Cooke said an autopsy ruled Giddings’ death was due to “unknown homicidal violence.” No signs of sexual assault were detected, he said.

McDaniel, in his statement, also denied performing a sex act on Giddings.

“She was wearing the pink running shorts when she died and I never removed them,” he wrote. “They were found on her torso just as I had left them.”

McDaniel’s statement also describes what he did in the days after the slaying.

He said he rarely slept, but used his computer extensively. Although he skipped a bar-exam preparation class on June 27, he went to class June 28 and June 29.

Having joined a group of friends and classmates who searched for the then-missing Giddings on the night of June 29, 2011, McDaniel wrote that he was “in a dream-like delusional state” in which he believed Giddings was still alive.

‘In my eyes, you are the devil’

Giddings’ parents first learned of ongoing plea negotiations last Thursday, the eve of what would have been their daughter’s 30th birthday. After Monday’s hearing, the Giddingses, along with two dozen or so friends and family members, had a noon-hour picnic in Macon’s Washington Park. There is a memorial bench for her there.

Billy Giddings said he believes about a third of McDaniel’s account of his daughter’s slaying.

“He’s had a long time to put it together. That’s about as good as he could get it, and that’s pretty horrible,” Giddings, 58, said.

Karen Giddings, Lauren’s mother, didn’t see how McDaniel could have subdued her daughter.

In court Monday morning, Billy Giddings stood at his wife’s side, holding her at the waist, as she read a statement to the judge.

She began by quoting the Bible and described her daughter as “the light of our life.”

Karen Giddings, 53, said her loved ones are “scarred forever by the sheer, exquisite pain of missing her.”

Although she has prayed for McDaniel and his family, she said it is hard to comprehend how one person could inflict such agony. “We have lived going on three years now an unimaginable nightmare wondering what kind of horror our daughter endured,” she said.

As she spoke there were sobs in the courtroom, which was almost filled with Giddings’ supporters, investigators, judges and other observers. McDaniel’s parents were not there.

Karen Giddings said children in her family “have been robbed of their innocence, burdened at such a young age with whispers of evil doing only seen in horror flicks.”

Billy Giddings later said it was hard being near his daughter’s killer in the courtroom.

“We just don’t want him in our thoughts anymore. ... I hope he lives a long life in the worst possible way,” he said.

His wife added, “I really just can’t stand to look at him.”

Friends of Lauren Giddings since childhood in her native Maryland, Katie O’Hare and Lori Supsic, also addressed the court about McDaniel. Supsic said, “He has caused more pain than I am even sure he could have imagined.”

Choking back tears, O’Hare said, “In my eyes, you are the devil.”

‘A broken, beaten, pitiful man’

In his confession, McDaniel described himself as “divided in mind, unable to account for how I could have committed these horrible acts and, at the same time, also be able to carry on daily routines.” He went on, “It’s difficult for me to explain why I killed Lauren and attempted to conceal my deed the way I did. ... I know that it was very wrong; I am not delusional or without all morals or decency.”

McDaniel said, “Something in my makeup — my psychology, my neuropathy (sic), my own particular pathology, perhaps — must explain it.” He expressed remorse, saying he grieves Giddings daily, but doesn’t expect forgiveness from her family.

“There is no way I can ever deserve it,” he said. “If I could take back what happened, I would.”

Floyd Buford, one of McDaniel’s lawyers, said McDaniel was “nervous” and “somewhat emotional” during Monday’s hearing.

He has cried on occasion at the Bibb County jail where he’s been housed since his arrest on July 1, 2011.

Buford said McDaniel — who was a lawyer except for passing the bar exam — worked several hours a day on his own defense, bringing up issues that he and Hogue considered.

“If this hadn’t happened, I think he would have been a fine lawyer,” Buford said.

After hearing that the prosecution knew about McDaniel’s peering into Giddings’ window with a video camera, McDaniel decided to plead guilty.

McDaniel, Buford and Hogue met with McDaniel’s parents Saturday afternoon so that McDaniel could tell his folks he wasn’t going to trial. “It was a very moving, but private meeting,” Hogue said.

He described Mark and Glenda McDaniel as “good people” who are “confused like anyone would be how their child could do such a thing.”

The McDaniels asked their son if he wanted them to travel from their home in Lilburn for court Monday.

He replied “no,” to try to shield his family from media questioning, Hogue said.

As part of McDaniel’s plea deal, prosecutors dropped the sexual exploitation of children and burglary charges against him.

The federal wrongful death lawsuit Giddings’ family filed against McDaniel also is expected to be settled this week.

McDaniel will admit fault and responsibility for Giddings’ death, but there won’t be a hearing or trial to determine monetary damages.

If McDaniel is ever paroled, the Giddingses will have an opportunity to have a hearing, Buford said.

McDaniel didn’t speak on his own behalf during Monday’s hearing.

While Giddings’ loved ones talked of her and spoke of his crime, he sat still.

In the stone-gray suit he has worn to court for nearly three years, McDaniel gazed down at the defense table, at a legal pad and a pitcher of ice water.

His face was blank, empty, pale. He was the picture of meekness as his victim’s mother declared him a monster.

“Today,” the district attorney said later, “he was a broken, beaten, pitiful man.”

When it came time for sentencing, Judge Howard Simms told McDaniel that he couldn’t fathom the reasons behind his violence. Frankly, the judge said, he didn’t want to know.

“Because if I ever found out, I’m afraid I wouldn’t forget,” Simms said. “I don’t want that running around in my head.”

Simms went on to say that in all his years as a prosecutor and judge, he had “seen and heard literally thousands of criminal defendants. And in all of that time there are only two that I would describe as being truly evil. ... Having sat and watched you for these last few months and looked into your eyes, you make number three.”


I've always considered myself  a middle of the road traditionalist. I'm very traditionalist when it comes to the liturgy and progressive, like Pope Francis, when it comes to pastoral sensibilities. I am orthodox but not rigid. I've adopted a live and let live theology although in-your-face sin and sinful ideologies annoy me.

We tend to obsess on sexual sins but harbor more resentment towards some types of sexual sins than others. I consider sin to be something that should be hidden and only bright to the light of the confessional and the seal of the confessional.  So I am annoyed with sinners who think they can live publicly as sinners, flout that sin and ask for acceptance of their sin and parade to Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, although they want that label removed and the sin accepted publicly. That's down right wrong.

But when sinners for whatever reason present themselves for Holy Communion but no one really knows if they've been to confession or not and actually that is no one's business other than the sinner, then their additional sin in going to Holy Communion without absolution is between them and God.

I was taught as a child, when most people did not go to Holy Communion at any given Sunday Mass, that we should not judge why that person didn't go and simply presume they had broken the fast. Many of us knew very devout Catholics in second illicit marriages who went to Mass faithfully, prayed daily and sometimes went to daily Mass but never received Holy Communion because of their illicit sexual lifestyle. Some of these people may have been in closeted homosexual relationships. But most Catholics didn't stick their nose in other people's business and avoided the sins of gossip and calumny.

I think everyone was glad and edified by their piety and recognition of their sinfulness by not going to the communion rail during Mass.

Today, even many traditional Catholics are Jerry Springer types in wanting to expose and tell all of others sins and sinners are the same way with their own sins. This, as well as our casual blue jean culture has denigrated our  Catholic dignity at worship and in terms of humility.

But the more distressing element I have found with one or two who send comments, and perhaps they are trolls or schismatics belonging to a variety of breakaway groups, such as the SSPX, but they make an art of criticizing and denigrating Pope Francis. I'm scandalized by their coloring book catholicism which emboldens them to disrespect the current pope when all Catholics are called to respect not only  the office of the papacy but also its current occupant. We don't have to agree with any particular pope's style of papacy or personality, thus those progressive coloring book catholics criticized Pope Benedict, but their public rather than private criticisism is wrong. The same with those pseudo-traditionalists or conservative coloring book catholics who criticize Pope Francis and his style of papacy and personality. Disagree with it and denigrate it in private, don't bring one's disdain of another human being, be he pope or the janitor to the public realm. Detraction, calumny and uncharitableness are serious matter, even coloring book catholics should know this, and when done with full consent of the will and publicly (as well as privately, even in thought) is a mortal sin.

In the areas of faith and morals, we are obliged as Catholics to respect and obey the pope and his successors as well as the bishops in union with him in the areas of faith, morals and canon law. 

Our disagreement with any particular pope's style and personality or pastoral sensibilities should be respectful and sober. Thus I can say that I liked Pope Benedict's recovery of many elements of papal "bling" and would have preferred that Pope Francis would have maintained it. A progressive Catholic might say that it is high time that a pope start bringing simplicity and poverty back to the papacy as well as pastoral sensitivities that are inclusive and embracing of sinners.

Monday, April 21, 2014


That great reporter and writer, John Allen, who, thank God, wizened up to the fact that he worked for a ridiculous so-called "c"atholic newspaper, I mean rag, called the National Chismatic Reporter (NCR) and finally got a job at a reputable newspaper once owned by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, has a good article on the two popes being canonized next Sunday, Mercy Sunday but also a very good comment on the existence of anyone being in hell (of course there is a hell and there is Lucifer there and the other fallen angels, but are there any human beings there?).

You can read his full article by pressing HERE.

But for the purposes of this post, this is the part of John Allen's Boston Globe essay that I want to focus upon:

Is Hell empty?
It’s customary that the homily for the Vatican’s Good Friday service is delivered by the Preacher of the Papal Household, who is by Church law the only person allowed to preach to the pope. Since 1753 the role has been restricted to a member of the Capuchin Franciscan religious order, and it’s been held since 1980 by Italian Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. (His last name, by the way, means “sing the Mass.”)

Cantalamessa is involved in the Catholic charismatic movement and is a member of the Catholic delegation for dialogue with Pentecostals. In past years he’s used his platform to make some bold statements, including a 2006 recommendation to Pope Benedict XVI that he declare a day of prayer and fasting to express repentance for sexual abuse committed by clergy and solidarity with victims.
Given that history, ears tend to perk up when Cantalamessa speaks.

This time around, the Capuchin didn’t directly address any hot-button issues in the Church, though he did say that Judas’s betrayal of Jesus is repeated whenever “a minister of God is unfaithful to his state in life.”

Instead the homily was a reflection on Judas Iscariot, arguing that his betrayal of Christ for 30 pieces of silver is emblematic of the corrupting effect of money. In that context, Cantalamessa denounced the drug trade, the mafia, political corruption, the manufacture and sale of arms, and even the sale of human organs taken from children as examples of sin motivated by greed.

From a doctrinal point of view, Cantalamessa’s most interesting comment came in a brief meditation on Judas’s eternal destiny. He said it’s legitimate to hope that in his final moments Judas repented and was saved. More broadly, Cantalamessa hinted that it’s legitimate to have the same hope for everybody, meaning to hope that while Hell is real, it’s also basically empty.

“The Church assures us that a man or a woman proclaimed a saint is experiencing eternal blessedness,” Cantalamessa said. “But it does not itself know for certain that any particular person is in Hell.”

The comment is noteworthy given that the idea of an “empty Hell” has been a matter of controversy in Catholic theological circles. 

In general, conservative theologians insist that although the Church has never pronounced definitively that any specific person is damned, both the Bible and the Fathers of the Church took it for granted that there are plenty of unrepentant sinners in Hell. 

For instance, Cardinal Avery Dulles argued in a 2008 essay shortly before his death that the language of Scripture about Judas “could hardly be true” if he were really among the saved, and asserted that belief in an empty Hell reflects a “thoughtless optimism” characteristic of the modern age.

“Quite apart from what theologians teach, popular piety has become saccharine. Unable to grasp the rationale for eternal punishment, many Christians take it almost for granted that everyone, or practically everyone, must be saved,” Dulles wrote. “More education is needed to convince people that they ought to fear God who, as Jesus taught, can punish soul and body together in Hell.”

To be sure, a homily by the Preacher of the Papal Household hardly qualifies as a dogmatic declaration, and in any event Cantalamessa’s brief reference wasn’t intended as a careful theological assertion.

At a minimum, however, the fact that he said it out loud, and that the Vatican newspaper published it, indicates that hope for an empty Hell is not viewed as utterly out of bounds in Rome.


I can see both sides of this issue, that of Cardinal Dulles and Father Cantalamessa. I would teach both but always teaching that we really don't know definitively if no one is in hell. Of course, as Cantalamessa points out, there is no process in the Church similar to the canonization process to determine sainthood, meaning a candidate for sainthood is actually in heaven and infallibly declared to be so, to determine if any human being is actually in hell, not even Judas who would be a good candidate for such a process to determine if it is so or not.

I'm not sure from reading John Allen's essay if Cantalamessa points out that no one is in hell precisely because of the Paschal Mystery and only because of it. Would he make the conjecture that if Christ had not died for us poor miserable sinners, that we would all be in hell after death? If not, then Cantalamessa would be undercutting the whole purpose of salvation history beginning after Adam and Eve's fall. Why even be Catholic if there is no chance of hell?

I think Cardinal Dulles comments are more cogent and actually more orthodox.  “More education is needed to convince people that they ought to fear God who, as Jesus taught, can punish soul and body together in Hell.”

Cantalamessa and I would unfortunately also place myself in this school of thought in which I was formed, is of the 1970's type of theology which Cardinal Dulles decries:   “Quite apart from what theologians teach, popular piety has become saccharine. Unable to grasp the rationale for eternal punishment, many Christians take it almost for granted that everyone, or practically everyone, must be saved,” Dulles wrote.

Dulles final point and a final one it is needs to be stated again:  “More education is needed to convince people that they ought to fear God who, as Jesus taught, can punish soul and body together in Hell.”

What do you think about anyone in hell and who are the candidates?


This morning I posted a comment about Holy Thursday's foot washing where everyone washed each other's feet. This is what JJ had to write:

 Fr. McDonald, Our pastor invited everyone to wash each other's feet. I tried to just sit through it all but our young (and very well-meaning) parish council president insisted that I allow him to wash my feet and my wife's feet. I went along . . (at least we got to sing the Latin "Tantum Ergo" at the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament).
This was my comment:

Joseph, Given my Italian sense of "formality" with strangers gotten from my mother, if I were still a lay person and knew that everyone would be washing everyone's feet, I would not go to that particular Holy Thursday Mass. To experience what you did would have made me extremely uncomfortable and angry. I might have departed as it began.

 It is one thing for Jesus who is God washing the feet of the 12 of the closest people to him who actually have dirty feet and it is a part of that culture. It is quite another thing for a contrived situation such as a liturgy to inflict this on the unsuspecting, some of whom might appreciate it and others who would not but might be embarrassed or stunned into silence.

 The stylized version which is a rubric of this optional element of the Mass  is meant to be a liturgical gesture with consenting participants chosen ahead of time, whether all male or female or a combination (and having women's feet washed who were asked ahead of time and gave their consent would be of absolutely no offense to me or all men for that matter) is a purely symbolic act that needs explanation in terms of its cultural context and the relevance of the symbol today. It is about serving people who have a need, such as visiting the sick, caring for the dying, helping the poor and getting oneself dirty in the process.But it also means being of service as a parent, relative, friend, doctor, nurse, bed pan attendant and the like...

My further thoughts and elaboration: 

I remember the late 1960's and 70's very well when the Sign of Peace became a time of silliness and everyone kissing everyone, hugging everyone and advances being made to people who did not like for their personal space to be invaded. We are talking about people formed in the formality of the 1950's being manipulated and ridiculed for wanting to maintain that aspect of their upbringing only to have this intrusion into their personal space violated at Mass.  The same can be said of holding hands at Mass where unwilling participants had to hold the hand of someone they do not know and who may have perverted intentions.

The culture of the 1970's as a whole did not value the personal space of others and often there were intrusions into that space especially by people who had power over other people, this is especially true of hugs and kisses from perfect strangers quite common in this period and especially at church.

And then we discover in the 2000's John Jay School of Criminology that the greatest number of cases of sexual abuse and invasion of the personal space of young people and adults, sins and crimes, in the Church took place during this period of time in the Church in the mid 1970's.
Now that 1970's types and wanna be's are trying to recover that period of time in the Church today and emboldened to do so I would tell them flatly: Don't intrude on people's personal space in the formality of the Catholic Mass!

Sunday, April 20, 2014


 Urbi et Orbi

Pope pleads for peace in Easter message

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated the Easter Morning mass, with an assembly of about 150,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square. After the mass, as is custom, he ascended to the loggia to pronounce his Easter message and to grant his blessing Urbi et Orbi.

Below is a translation of the Pope’s message, which pleads for peace in the most distressing places in our world today.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy and Holy Easter!

The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” (Mt 28:5-6). “Do not be afraid! The Lord is Risen!

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!

Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you.

Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.

Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.

Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty.

Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped.

Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith.

We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent.

We pray in a particular way for Syria, beloved Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!

Glorious Jesus, we ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan.

We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela.

By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the iniatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future, and that they as brothers can shout “Christos Voskrese!” [Christ is Risen!]

Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace! Christus surrexit, venite et videte!

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!


With Pope Francis firmly establishing his liturgical presence within simplicity and recently renewing the term of office for his most excellent Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, we see Pope Francis' priorities, to bring the liturgy to our life in service to those we meet with a special care for the poor and sick. 

His liturgical style is simple in style and vesture, direct, sober, somber, pious and his liturgical piety is very much in continuity with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. He is detached from the crowds before Him and it is as though it is the Holy Father and the Lord are alone at Solemn Mass. 

He has now established since the Solemnity of the Chair of Saint Peter his own version of the altar arrangement, what might be called the "Franciscan Arrangement." It is in continuity with Pope Benedict's restoration of the altar's arrangement with continuity with the Extraordinary Form's arrangement with minor differences. The six candles are now arranged at a more severe angle so as to make more room to seen the liturical actions of the Eucharistic Prayer. The Episcopal Candle is now to the side rather directly in the middle behind the crucifix. The crucifix remains central but of a smaller version or shorter version that places the crucifix more in eye range of the Holy Father as he celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist. 

The Holy Father is not adverse to celebrating an all Latin Mass or an all vernacular Mass in Italian. He is not phobic about celebrating the Mass ad orientem. In this is gives priests a good example. 

Today's Solemn Mass for Easter Sunday with His Holiness, Pope Francis, which he celebrates mostly in Latin,  in a sun drenched Saint Peter's Square:

Pope Francis' Easter Vigil homily:

(Vatican Radio) Jesus’ call to his Apostles, after his Resurrection, to “return to Galilee”, is the call to re-read everything in the life of Christ “on the basis of the cross and its victory.. from this supreme act of love,” said Pope Francis in his homily during the Easter Vigil celebration on Saturday evening.

It is also a call to every Christian to rediscover their baptism “as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience,” he said. “To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey."

To “return to Galilee” also means renewing “the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. … It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me,” he added.

During the celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Pope also baptised 10 catechumens, the youngest of whom is a seven-year-old Italian and the eldest is a 58-year-old from Vietnam. These 10 newly baptized Christians come from different countries, including France, Belarus, Lebanon and Senegal.

Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ Easter Vigil homily:

The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath. They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty. A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7). The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).

After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness. The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said. And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”.

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.

For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.

Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.

The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.

“Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)! Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter… Let us be on our way!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Despite the fact that it was a cold, rainy and just miserable Good Friday in Macon, our two sets of Stations of the Cross at 12:10 PM and 3:00 PM as well as the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord at 7:00 PM saw our church completely full!

At the end of each set of Stations of the Cross, the three of us priests here at St. Joseph Church heard confessions for a total of 3 hours. 

Were Confessions available in your parish on Good Friday?

Here are some powerful words preached to Pope Francis and everyone else in attendance at the Good Friday Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord at Saint Peter's by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, preaching  on idols, money, mercy, Judas—and the simple (but often forgotten) church teaching that we cannot say for certain that there is any particular person is in hell:

One can betray Jesus for other kinds of compensation than 30 pieces of silver. A man who betrays his wife, or a wife her husband, betrays Christ. The minister of God who is unfaithful to his state in life, or instead of feeding the sheep entrusted to him feeds himself, betrays Jesus. Whoever betrays their conscience betrays Jesus. Even I can betray him at this very moment — and it makes me tremble — if while preaching about Judas I am more concerned about the audience’s approval than about participating in the immense sorrow of the Savior. There was a mitigating circumstance in Judas’ case that that I do not have. He did not know who Jesus was and considered him to be only “a righteous man”; he did not know, as we do, that he was the Son of God.


At your Palm Sunday Mass or Good Friday Liturgy of the Passion, was the Passion acted out? This is a Baptist Church's Good Friday Service on a horrible, rainy Good Friday in Macon. Baptists don't have a true liturgical tradition so they often resort to drama instead of liturgy and try to make it prayer. Some Catholics have turned away from the true spirit of our 2000 year old liturgical tradition and have become like these Baptists at worship, liturgical literalists or fundamentalists, not only with the Passion but also with the Foot Washing at Holy Thursday and the manner in which the Eucharistic Prayer is proclaimed to the Assembly by the priest-dramatist.

One of the devastating effects on the liturgy's reform of the 1960's is what I would like to call a creeping or creepy literalism or fundamentalism. In the Mass it manifested and continues to manifest itself in the following ways:

1. The celebrant as an actor and master of ceremonies where it all hinges on his ability to draw people in, entertain them and make them feel at home as though the congregation is an audience visiting the priest's house. Priest and people together form the Body of Christ in their own home but this is not often communicated either by priests or official greeters who make it seem like everyone else are guests. Do you have an official greeter at your home to greet your family members when they arrive home?

2. In many places and in still some today, Palm Sunday and Good Friday's passion are acted out instead of the Gospel being chanted or even spoken. Usually youth groups do this and take it very seriously--however it is entertainment and not liturgy and is best kept for devotional purposes apart from the liturgy.

3. While the Foot Washing option of Holy Thursday's Mass has created much controversy over the years in terms of who is invited to have their feet washed and this has accelerated since Pope Francis has chosen not only to wash the feet of women but also of non-Catholics, a more serious liturgical abuse is having everyone wash everyone's feet, a very clear literalism or fundamentalism that goes against what the Mass is and the actions of the Mass which are liturgical, sober and often very highly stylized, not drama, literalism or fundamentalism.

4. Turning the Liturgy of the Eucharist, especially the Eucharistic Prayer, the Canon, into a literal event as though Jesus is still at the Last Supper the night before He died and the congregation is the apostles. This manifests itself with the priest, when facing the congregation for the Eucharistic Prayer, or any prayer for that matter, gestures toward them with the bread and then the wine when consecrating both as though everyone is at the Last Supper, as though it is a literal enactment of the Last Supper rather than the means by which the Church after the Resurrection will in prayer recall what Jesus did the night before He died as a memorial of His entire Paschal Mystery, His incarnation, life, passion, death, burial, resurrection, giving of the Holy Spirit and the anticipated return of our crucified and Risen Lord at the Last Judgement.

5.The Kiss of Peace which is meant to be a highly sober, symbolic longing for the complete reconciliation of the world in the heavenly life is turned into a time of greeting and highfiving everyone as people go everywhere to greet someone else. In the 1970's the Sign of Peace often eclipsed the reception of Holy Communion as a central act of the Rite of Holy Communion in the same way that washing everyone's feet at the Holy Thursday's Liturgy puts that act way out of proportion to the rest of the Mass and in a fundamentalistic way.

The Roman Liturgy, both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of it, is meant to be highly stylized, symbolic in many aspects and completely sober and to the point.

The Good Friday Liturgy is the epitome of sobriety when done according to the Liturgical Books. It is a stark liturgy, quiet and quite stirring when done appropriately. All liturgies of the Church can be this way when done according to the books and without drama, fundamentalism, literalism and the like.

Do your parishes celebrate the Mass as described above as Protestant Fundamentalists or literalists might or often do?

Friday, April 18, 2014


Please note that the Holy Father does prostrate himself, but with great difficulty, assisted and please note the length of time of the prostration and the difficulty getting up:

This is Pope Benedict's last Passion Liturgy in 2012. He did not prostrate as Pope Francis has done the last two years:


Last year's Holy Thursday Mass at St. Joseph:

A blessed Good Friday to all of you. Last year's Good Friday Liturgy here:

Last night here in Macon, The Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper was well attended. We were not standing room only, but the church was full. I'd say we had about 500 in attendance and I was impressed with the number who remained afterward for adoration. It concluded at 12 midnight with Night Prayer.

Today we will have The Stations of the Cross twice to accommodate the crowds, at 12:10 PM and again at 3:00 PM. The church will be full for both. In addition to that, we three priests will hear confessions after each!

Then at 7PM we will celebrate The Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord. The church will be full.

The Paschal Vigil will be at 8 PM Holy Saturday. The Church will be full for it as well. On Easter Sunday we have to change our Mass schedule to accommodate all those who come and add a Mass: 7 AM; 9 AM; 11 AM; 1 PM; and 5 PM.

Where you live how is attendance like at the Paschal Triduum?


There is nothing new in women having their feet washed by a bishop at the Holy Thursday Mass. When I was master of ceremonies for Bishop Raymond W. Lessard of Savannah from 1985 to '91 he would wash the feet of women. However he did not want to confuse this with what Jesus actually and literally did at the last Supper in terms of making it appear to be a reenactment of Jesus washing the feet of the apostles. Therefore he directed me to choose only six people. I usually asked three women and three men.

In other words, in this act of foot washing, the bishop was acting as an apostle, not as Christ, in doing what Jesus Christ mandated his apostles to do, the first bishops, in terms of service. The new Covenant priesthood Jesus instituted the night before He sacrificed His life for our salvation was not to be exclusively cultic or temple oriented with purity as the most important aspect as it was for the Jewish priesthood. The apostles Jesus ordained, the first bishops, where to imitate Jesus and not fear ritual impurity in their ministry of modeling their lives after the great High Priest Jesus Christ whose ministry transcended the temple.

In fact, the ministry of deacons of Holy Orders is symbolized in the bishop washing the feet of others, which is the foundational aspect of Holy Orders with priesthood and episcopacy built upon that first aspect of Holy Orders. Just imagine at the Last Supper, Jesus who had humbled Himself to become Man further humbled Himself to become a deacon when He washed the feet of His apostles!

The rubrics of the post-conciliar liturgy for the foot washing on Holy Thursday tend to focus on this being a sort of "play" with the priest acting as Jesus and the twelve chosen "vir" "men" acting as the apostles. Therefore there is consternation when women are chosen because in this model it implies that women should be ordained. There is a political statement being made about a future hope, as false as it is, when women are chosen by some communities (certainly not all though).

However for Pope Francis, his interpretation is that he as Bishop of Rome is acting as the Apostle Peter, not in the "person" of Jesus Christ and implementing what Jesus taught all the apostles, not just Peter, to do in their ministry after Jesus' sacrifice of the Cross, His passion, death and resurrection until He comes again for the final judgment, the Second Coming.

And more importantly the Bishop of Rome is acting as a "deacon" the foundation of Holy Orders as he wears either a deacons stole alone or can add the dalmatic. The people chosen for this liturgy do not in any way symbolize the apostles. I would recommend to the Holy Father, in terms of his reinterpretation of this ritual, to choose more or fewer than 12 so that the complete break with the tradition of "re-enacting" what Jesus actually did at the Last Supper is made clear. Bishop Lessard was ahead of his time!

Pope Francis confirms others in their ministry of helping the poor by the locations he chooses to wash the feet.

Here in Macon where Catholics are a small minority and yet we have four major institutional outreaches to the poor, the vast majority of the poor we help, almost 99.9% of them are not Catholic.

The symbolism of Pope Francis washing not only the feet of women but of non-Catholics indicates that our service to the world is to the world not just to Catholics. This in reality has always been the case with the Church, Pope Francis simply symbolizes it in who is chosen for him to was their feet.

John Nolan rightly indicates that prior to the placing of the foot washing in the Liturgy it was usually a postlude or a prelude and in convents Mother Superiors would was the feet of nuns and Queens in civil society would wash the feet of a variety of people.

But John Nolan fails to point out that in the EF Mass, the homily and its extension of it through the washing of the feet immediately following the homily is seen as "outside" the Mass. In fact, it is licit to remove the chasuble to preach in the EF.

On Holy Thursday in the bishop or priest is to remove the chasuble as did Pope Francis clearly indicating this is outside the "Order of Mass." The Pope placed the stole of a deacon on himself to carry out this foot washing.

Finally in keeping with subsidiarity, the other interpretations of this rite can also be included. It can be celebrated as a drama that literally has the priest or bishop acting as Christ and 12 men acting as the apostles to emphasize the institution of the priesthood on Holy Thursday night.This is certainly in keeping with the current rubrics for this optional part of the Mass.

However, I think having everyone wash everyone's feet turns the symbolism of a liturgical act into a literalism best left to the Protestants to do who have no real liturgy to celebrate.

Given His Holiness interpretation of the Mandatum, I do not fault him for washing the feet of laity to include women or of non-Catholics. It makes perfect sense and is in continuity with what our Lord mandated His apostles to do in their priesthood of worship and service.

I think, though, we can critique in a charitable way the music of this liturgy and its style. This is the greatest liturgical problem for the Church today, music, not whose feet get washed!