Tuesday, September 18, 2018
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all… If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” —1 John 1:5-10, cited in a 2016 essay by Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, USA (reprinted below) which stresses that the supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls. The passage from the First Letter of John is relevant to the present crisis of clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Church
“Salus animarum suprema lex (‘The salvation of souls is the supreme law (of the Church)’).” —Canon 1752 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (link), the collection of the laws which govern the Church
“When the Church ceases to be ‘the mysterium lunae [the mystery of the moon],’ that is, to depend on Christ for receiving and reflecting his, not its own, light, it then ‘gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness, which according to (Jesuit Cardinal Henri-Marie) De Lubac, is the worst evil that can befall the Church,’ said then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The Church then ‘lives to give glory only to one another,’… he added.” —A 2013 article by Carol Glatz describing the remarks then-Cardinal Bergoglio made in front of the College of Cardinals in the days before the Conclave in which he was elected Pope. Bergolgio warned that “spiritual worldiness” was the “worst evil” that could befall the Church. The accusation of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano in his “Testimony” is that that evil has, in fact, befallen the Church, and must be fought and removed (link)
Today is the 25th day since the publication of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s “Testimony.” (The full text is here; it was made public on the evening of August 25.)
A lot is happening in Italy, and throughout the world, some of it quite dangerous for the integrity of the Church’s perennial teaching and unity. I will offer an overview of these events in my next letter, but for the moment I wanted to consider a larger issue: the salvation of souls.
Many forget souls can be lost.
Even to speak in such terms can seem today something silly, and many hearing it may say “Thou speaketh of nothing,” as Romeo said to his friend, the raving Mercutio, in Act 1 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Because few any longer believe that men have souls, or are souls. This is how far we have fallen.
So perhaps, in line with Walker Percy’s argument that words “wear out” and are no longer understood in a new generation, or only understood partially — partially right, and partially wrong — it may (perhaps) be better to speak rather of a “human person” than of a “soul.”
Precisely our fidelity to orthodox doctrine — which we were taught from our youth that we must persist in to the end, no matter what — may require us to discover a new vocabulary in order to speak the truths of our faith… truths that the old words expressed in a beautiful way, but truths which today can no longer be understood in those old formulations, because the old words have “worn out.”
So this is the point. There are miseries than everyone wants to end, to heal. All of us wish to end the misery of confusion, self-hatred. So all of us have a desire to “care for souls.” But we just do not use those terms any more.
So let’s put it this way. People, persons, individuals (“souls”) can become confused, beset by doubts, tormented by self-loathing, addicted to (and defensive about) evil habits and sins, even justifying them as good. They can become unable to conceive of any need to change course or direction. In the end, they can fall into that psychological-spiritual death which we call despair — lack of all hope.
This final condition is terrible. No one who cares for a person — a son, a daughter, a friend, even an enemy(!) — would wish to leave that person in such a condition.
In such a condition, the person (soul) has no hope of escaping guilt and meaninglessness and, in the words of St. Francis, “Sister bodily Death.”
In such a condition, the person has no hope of escaping the “triple death” of condemnation (death in moral terms), meaninglessness (death in Logos terms, the Logos being the meaning of all things), and death itself (death in material terms, the seeming definitive end of all existence).
And so, in this context, we say, following the Code of Canon Law (Canon 1752), that the ultimate purpose of the Church, the “supreme law” of the Church, is the “salvation” of “souls.”
We mean by this that the Church, if she provides nothing else, must provide — to confused, doubting, sinful, despairing people (souls) — truth.
She must provide those truths, those realities, those sanctifying mysteries, which can heal (“save”) suffering people from guilt and final condemnation (damnation), emptiness and final meaninglessness (Logos-lessness), and sickness and final death (material death).
The Church does this in one way: by point to Christ. Not to herself. The Church offers a “connection” to the One who conquered death, a “link” to, a “communion with,” the One who, being Holy, could not be bound by death, but lives eternally in a realm transcending time (that is, in eternity).
Jesus came to give humanity hope, to give individual humans hope, so that condemnation, meaninglessness and death might not have the final word.
He founded His Church, with her sacramental system, 2,000 years ago, to bear witness to, and “incarnate” until the end of the world, this saving mission.
So, in all that She does, the Church must bear witness to the One who saves, and not to Herself — precisely as Pope Francis told his fellow cardinals when he spoke to them before he was elected Pope (link), telling them that the Church is like the moon, shining with the reflected light of the sun, who is Christ, and that without Christ, and His teaching, and His holiness, the face of the Church would be as dark and cold as the face of the moon without the light of the sun.
For this reason, to carry out her mission, the Church must seek out out all truth, and declare it, not hide and cover-up the truth, in a conspiracy of silence.
This is why this current scandal must be faced head on, and the conspiracy of silence and cover-up must end.
All the truth should come out, for the sake of the salvation of souls, the supreme law of the Church.
Letter from a reader
September 14, 2018
Dear Dr. Moynihan:
A friend showed me a sample letter from you and I signed onto your list awhile ago because of our mutual passion for Russia.
Now I am following your coverage of the Vigano testimony with great sorrow and growing hope.
My emotions have been moved, in part, by the scope of clerical homosexual activity at the base of abuse and cover-up, and in part because of my own gender brokenness and healing.
Bottom line, our bodies and souls cry out for Divine Mercy; the Church desperately needs cleansing and healing.
The cross of Christ with its holy water and redeeming blood is the only place to go for such healing administered by ordinary Christian believers empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Ironically I was in the middle of reading The Benedict Option [by Rod Dreher] when your email #55 arrived in my inbox.
The Christian communities described in Rod Dreher’s book could become safe places not only to preserve faith for our families, but oases where those wounded by sexual abuse can find compassion and healing.
In my case the beautiful bond between mother and nursing infant was interrupted by unforeseen circumstances and I experienced a profound break in my relationship with Mom. Every day thereafter my heart bled — not literally but figuratively. Emotional pain began to define and motivate me instead of the well-being and trust that God had intended to grow inside me. I recoiled from this nagging distress by lashing out at the one closest to me — my mother. By resisting her I rejected not only her God-given authority in my young life, but also other gifts like her embrace and nurture, the essence of her motherliness and the model of my own gender identity.
As I grew up my femininity was stunted, and as an adolescent I felt same-sex attraction (SSA). I had been taught as a Catholic (and I believed it) that sex was sin outside marriage between a man and a woman, so I narrowly avoided the seductions of both men and women in young adulthood. But I knew something was not right because I felt powerless to quench my need for emotional intimacy with a woman and equally impotent to respond with my whole heart to the men who courted me.
In my early 30’s I made a career move to Los Angeles where a friend introduced me to Desert Streams Ministries (DSM), a ministry to people with sexual and relationship problems. I knew I was broken, so I joined their five-month long program called Living Waters.
My healing began there with worship, teaching, repentance, prayer, and small group interaction, and it has continued to this day!
This part of my journey opened many things to my understanding: the abusive background of many homosexual strugglers, our legitimate need of love, the requirement of forgiveness, and the tender power of Jesus to meet needs of the human heart at the cross. Essentially God added to me what I lacked at the outset — a sense of well-being and trust. Because of Jesus (and his Church) the pain in my heart subsided along with SSA. It has been almost seven years now that John and I have been married.
Stories like mine can help put a human face to sexual and relational brokenness. Every person on the planet can relate to that in some way!
Even though the majority of Catholics are not homosexual strugglers or victims of clerical sexual abuse, the present crisis can help the person in the pew understand more about the experience of those wounded ones, and perhaps identify their own places of weakness to bring to Jesus.
In light of this, I would like to share a resource for the Church. The director of DSM, Andrew Comiskey, is a Catholic convert and his wife is Anglican. Andrew blogs (https://andrewcomiskey.com/blog/) and I recommend reading it to get better equipped, helping the laity to think and talk clearly about the issues, and ultimately helping them bring healing to the Church.
Another extraordinary document is this online booklet prepared for California legislators during a recent battle over AB-2943 (bill to prohibit helping those with unwanted SSA) — CHANGED, beautifully written and photographed personal stories. Read it here: https://equippedtolove.com/changed/
Jesus said of Sodom where men did not cover-up but instead publicly displayed their same-sex lust and violence, “It would have remained to this day,” if its citizens had seen God’s mighty works. Jesus has given us his hopeful view of homosexuality: the wonderful works of God done by Christians can change the hearts of the sexually immoral, their victims, and the righteous observers who are tormented by the immorality they see around them (Genesis 19:5 and Matthew 11:23).
It seems we need to be about our Father’s business and do whatever he tells us, just like Cardinal Vigano and you, Dr. Moynihan, are doing.
Thank you, or as they say in Russia — BIG thanks!
—Mary Beth Dunn
Brief essay on abuse scandal
September 17, 2018
By Andrew Comiskey
The ongoing outing of men acting badly (Les Moonves of CBS, new evidence against Weinstein, Cardinal McCarrick and his cronies, hundreds of American priests who abused in the second half of the 20th century) may tempt us more to disgust than self-examination. I refer here to my brothers who may not be big players in the Catholic hierarchy or media but who are familiar with sexual disintegration — ways we have squandered our powers of life and love.
The cycle is all-too-familiar: high stress, low significance, mounting pain, decreasing words, sensational pleasure, greater shame, riskier business, escalating shame, huge-consequences-if-caught, SILENCE. Until exposed. Then the glare of public scorn burns off hope of restoration.
We may never have coerced another person sexually but our sins of omission and commission have doubtlessly wounded others. And fractured our dignity. We thank God that we are not felons yet we share in the wound of corruption common to men, disordered desire which results from mistaking random sexual release with power. Then the delusion: ‘it’s what I need’, or ‘(s)he likes it.’
This is especially tragic when paired with religion.
Many of the abusive priests were orthodox in their understanding of purity. They just failed to become what they believed.
Mastered by lust and shame, they learned to compartmentalize, to live elsewhere, to tune out the lament of a dying conscience and conjure an unreal world. Then religion becomes part of the defense against reality.
I dreamt last night of a priest who wrapped himself tightly in scholarly and spiritual vestments; instead of guiding or cleansing him, these garments protected then mummified him, hastening a shameful death. ‘If religion does not make you better, it can make you a whole lot worse’, to quote C.S. Lewis.
What good purpose can these monstrous sins have? They can reveal our little monsters, men, and invite us to do urgently and persistently what Weinstein and Moonves and McCarrick never did: we can expose ourselves ‘before the throne of grace and receive grace to help us’ (Heb. 4:16) so that our little monsters stay small and cease to govern us. Rather, we tame them, and learn to direct our sexual energies in alignment with the dignity afforded us by God and His friends.
We must be the first to confess our sins, to reveal our monsters before we are silenced by shame and dwell in darkness. Presumption and pride fall away, and the narrow way which leads to life becomes lit for our brothers.
That is precisely what we as men accomplish together in Living Waters. We live in the light of mercy for 6 months of daily accountability; connection rather than shameful isolation begin to define our lives.
In the shaking, the exposure of monstrous things, we can fall on the Rock before it falls on us.
The supreme law of the Church
By Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
I hope our readers will pardon a little wading into the Code of Canon Law, the system of law that governs the Catholic Church. I can’t help it — after all, I am a trained canon lawyer! Jesus teaches us in the Gospel that the two greatest commandments are love of God and love of neighbor, for sure.
But what is the greatest love we show for God and neighbor? Is it not to see as many people as possible, including ourselves, come to know the love and mercy of God and be with him one day forever in heaven?
The Church’s Code of Canon Law contains 1,752 laws covering everything from the structural organization of the Church as the people of God, the teaching of the Faith, the sacramental life of the Church, the administration of the material goods of the Church, and even penal and procedural law.
But lest any of us (especially canon lawyers) forget the purpose of all of this body of law, the very last law (or “canon”) states that the “salvation of souls”, which must always be the supreme law of the Church, must be kept before our eyes.
The salvation of souls. How often do we hear this language in the Church today? Not very often, I am afraid. And yet that is the very mission of the Church!
To emphasize this very point, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (# 776), quoting the Second Vatican Council, states: “As sacrament, the Church is Christ’s instrument. ‘She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all,’ ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ by which Christ is ‘at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men.’ The Church ‘is the visible plan of God’s love for humanity,’ because God desires ‘that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit.’”
Why am I emphasizing this point, you may ask? Because I sincerely think that we are in danger of losing our focus in fulfilling the mission that Christ has entrusted to all of us in the Church.
Our ultimate mission is to bring as many people as possible into the one People of God, to incorporate them into the one Body of Christ, and be built up as the temple of God, animated by the Holy Spirit. The gift of eternal salvation is the greatest gift God has given to us, a gift that was purchased at a great price, the blood of his only begotten Son.
Jesus began his public ministry by boldly proclaiming, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
His last words to the Apostles of his Church before his Ascension were, “Go forth and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The message is clear. Repent, believe, go forth and baptize. The essential mission is spiritual, focused on bringing people to life in Christ.
Throughout the Gospels Jesus speaks of the dangers of losing the gift of salvation, missing the moment of his redemption, and risking eternal punishment by rejecting the offer God has given us in the death and resurrection of his Son. One of Jesus’ most startling statements is: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
It seems our current environment cultivates the opposite view. Our culture seems to tell us that the way to life is easy and wide, and most people find it, while to find the road to destruction is narrow and hard, and really very few people end up there. I go by our blessed Lord’s words.
Part of the reason I think that we are in danger of losing the essential and primary message of salvation of souls is based on how I see many people defining what it means to be a good Catholic. Many people have reduced being a good and faithful Catholic to being nice, tolerant and doing good works. They think if we do service projects for the poor and needy, and don’t make any judgments about human behavior and sin, then we are fulfilling the Gospel mandate.
While it is a good and even essential thing that a disciple of Jesus care for the poor and seek justice for the oppressed in this world, there is so much more to the message of redemption in Jesus Christ. We must follow the Ten Commandments, avoid sin, and repent and seek forgiveness when we fail. Our eternal salvation depends on all these things, as Jesus himself taught. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
God’s mercy extends to all of us when we have sinned and repented. There is no limit to this mercy. It is infinite.
But we must seek it. If we say we are not sinners and are not in need of God’s mercy, we make God a liar. “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5-10)
True mercy goes beyond justice. But mercy does not oppose justice.
Our mission is, only by the grace of God, to seek the salvation of our souls, and to bring as many with us to Heaven as we can, again only as God uses us as his instruments of grace and mercy.
The supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls.
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