This sermon is about Catholic entitlement versus Catholic reverence. The photo on the blog is the 1956 wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, showing reverence for God and spouse.
The Little Way as Spiritual Warfare: Lining up the Liturgy of several seemingly-unconnected saints this past week: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Therese, St. Francis, Mother Mary and the Gospel of the 18th Sunday After Pentecost.
Although the pro-life movement’s arguments can be proved from science as much as religion, one of the reasons that I am so involved in the pro-life movement is based on this piece of theology: God imagined every person as an unrepeatable blueprint long before their conception. Since God is the exclusive Creator of the Universe, and since God is in eternity (two philosophical necessities to a world with only One God) this means that God imagined the blueprint to each person’s genome long before an individual zygote was ever conceived. Of course, “imagined” and “before” are words that fail us, especially since we are speaking of a God who exists outside of time with a “mind” that is obviously not a physical cerebrum.
It is good that we say in the pro-life movement: “From the moment of conception you were a genetically unrepeatable human being.” But once we add the eternity of God into the mix, it goes even deeper: God had you perfectly planned before He created the Universe. See, if God is eternal, this is not pious or sentimental devotion. God actually loved you into existence during the specific time of history where you are placed (now, if you’re reading this now) but God also had you in mind as the unshakeable version of you. Yes, you are an unrepeatable reality of His own image and likeness which was blueprinted before the galaxy. You were originally the perfect idea of yourself as a “thought” of God before you were ever conceived in your mother’s uterus. In fact, God had you in mind trillions of years before that physical union. “Trillions” is a also weak word to imagine the one and only God who planned you outside of time. So, really God wanted you from forever as an unrepeatable receptacle of His creative Love and as an intimate reflection of His eternal Love.
Imagine a carpenter who is making a door. Philosophers call the wood the “material cause” where the word cause actually means “end” or “goal.” It’s the same as telos in Greek, that towards which a being is aiming its own reality as the goal of its existence (more being than doing.) So the “cause” is needed at the beginning as the intention, just as a door must actually have a form, not just random wood, but actually a cut and sanded door. (See St. Joseph working in the above image.) This “formal cause” is the telos or end toward which a being has its entire thrust of existence. Even more intimate to its existence is the “final cause,” which is in some sense the carpenter’s blueprint of his work. It exists in his mind before he actually takes the wood to task. This is why Aristotle wrote that “First in intention is last in execution.” The mental blueprint of the door is the final cause, end, goal, telos of the carpenter’s work, even though the idea and intention existed before the finished product. So also, each individual human soul had to be blueprinted in God’s mind just before conception. God Himself is the true meaning of Planned Parenthood. Everything else is a diabolical mockery.
October is the month of the Holy Rosary. Both the Roman Breviary and the Lesson from the Tradition Latin Mass for the Mass of the Holy Rosary today include some lines from Sacred Scripture that were ascribed to Mary by the Church for a very long time:
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived.—Pv 8:22-24b
The old Roman Breviary also seems to ascribe pre-existence to Mary between the Psalms of Matins today: From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before Him.—Sir 24:14
I think many Protestants would be shocked to read that the Liturgy would ascribe to Mary the notion of pre-existence before time. They should be assured that we Catholics believe that Mary was not pre-existent. We do not believe that Mary existed before the galaxy like Her Son did. Jesus is the Divine Word and the Second Person of the Trinity, so He obviously existed before earth. But not Mary. So why then does it ascribe to Mary in both Proverbs 8 above and Sirach 24 that she was before He made anything and even before the world?
The answer is found in the first two paragraphs of this blog post: Mary was an idea of God long before she was conceived. Yes, she was conceived as the Immaculate Conception during the holy but normal intercourse of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. But her soul had to have been planned before that actual act, just as a formal cause or blueprint in the mind of the Creator of all things must exist. Your soul and my soul was planned on being infused into our bodies as God pre-destined and foreknew us.
Mary was not God. Mary is not God. She is not pre-existent. But the plan predestined for her is the supreme pre-existing blueprint of God’s best plan for not only humanity but all of creation:
“God could make a bigger world or a wider sky, but He could not raise a pure creature higher than Mary.”—St. Bonaventure
This means that besides the sacred humanity of Jesus (yes, Jesus had a created soul and body even though the center of His personhood is purely Divine as God the Son) Mary was the greatest thing God could think of. Besides the created human soul and body of Jesus (that Christ actually created as God!) we can put all of the above paragraphs together to say that the blueprint of Mary’s soul was the greatest thought that God ever had for creation. God outdid Himself in creating Mary. From St. Bonaventure, we might be able to go so far as to say that God Himself could not have had a greater thought than that of planning Mary’s soul. Even if this is going too far, remember that St. Thomas Aquinas (always quite sober on his Marian theology) admits that although only the soul of Jesus had the Holy Spirit to an infinite degree, the perfection and grace of holiness infused into the soul of Mary “bordered on the infinite.” So, if God Himself could not raise a pure creature to a higher degree than Mary, we can easily say without saccharine sentimentality that Mary was the woman that God dreamed of before all time.
And so, somewhere within the “eons” (so to speak) of this eternal plan of redemption, Christ made her perfect soul and Immaculate body…about 14 years before He made His own human soul and body.
This is why Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote my favorite book on Mary, The World’s First Love. He shows that Mary was God’s First Love. I am convinced Archbishop Sheen must have titled his book The World’s First Love after meditating on those Old Testament readings applied to Mary in the Traditional Latin Mass (Proverbs 8 and Sir 24, as seen above.) In order to contemplate what it means for a planned-but-not-pre-existent creature to hold the Creator for nine months inside her, the old Roman Breviary even ascribes this astonishing line on the Feast of the Rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary: From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before him.—Sir 24:14. That is, Mary was planned to be Christ’s holy dwelling before her creation.
One last time, St. Bonaventure’s quote: “God could make a bigger world or a wider sky, but He could not raise a pure creature higher than Mary.” This means that Mary’s soul was planned before the creation of earth to be so beautiful that it would outdo the combined beauty of the souls of all the saints, all the heroic acts of the martyrs, all the beauty of a newly born baby, all the beauty of uncharted planets with their own unknown Grand Canyons and even more glorious than the invisible world of angels. Such is the soul of Mary.
When you say one “Hail Mary,” you approach this Immaculate soul to intercede for you. Whether you go to the old Mass or new Mass or you’re not even Catholic, you can still fulfill the prophesy that all generations would call Mary blessed (Luke 1:48.) With the Rose garden of the Rosary this month of October, you will see (even if you are not a Catholic) that it is no wonder that Mary’s intercession prompted the very first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2.) Just try to ask her intercession and you will see: Mary is the mother of Catholics, the mother of Protestants, the mother of Muslims and the mother of Jews. Mary is the loving Mother of both transvestites and saints. Mary is the Mother of atheists and Mary is the mother of Jesus. Try the Rosary and you too will see: How could God refuse the request of the most perfect and powerful soul that He Himself has ever created? 1
St. Junipero Serra wrote this beautiful prayer: “O Purest Queen of heaven and earth, most perfect work of the Holy Trinity, since from all eternity the Father chose you for His daughter, the Son selected you to be His Mother and the Holy Spirit selected you as His spouse, there could not be the slightest imperfection, not even the smallest shadow of original sin on your soul. As the first fruit of the redemption, your soul was free, beautiful and free from the initial moment of your conception. Receive, O Mother, in virtue of this singular mystery, my short but prayerful offering, or, to put it another way, the humble utterance of your lowly servant. I would like to offer you all the gold of the Indies and all the riches of the entire world. But what greater treasure could there be than a soul redeemed by the Precious Blood of your most Holy Son? Listen to this prayer, uttered by one of little virtue, for together with it I append the most fervent affections which the most gifted among your servants have offered you. In return, all I want is that for today, all the days of my life and at the moment of my death, I might have the grace of choosing you as mother, advocate and patroness. I ask that you take me under the mantle of your protection and, after gazing at me with your merciful eyes, you free me from human miseries, so that my soul may be happy with you in heaven. Amen. [3 Hail Mary’s in honor of the Trinity for the privileges accorded by the Father to His Daughter, the Son to His Mother and the Holy Spirit to His spouse.] God hails you, Mary, Mother of God and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, temple and chalice of the Holy Trinity, Mary conceived without original sin.” ↩
My last blog post called How Many Will Be Saved? had a lot of shares but also a lot of critique. This makes for good Catholic dialogue. I want to respond in a short blog post to a few objections.
St. Augustine wrote: “There are two things that kill the soul: Despair and false hope.”—St. Augustine, Sermo 87.8. Another word for “false hope” is presumption. The reason I included in my blog post all the saints’ quotes on hell was not to judge Hugh Hefner but to show how many American Catholics live in presumption of last-minute imperfect contrition. So, if someone were to read those saints’ quotes about hell and subsequently scamper from false hope to despair, it’s is proof that the third way has not been tried, namely, a realistic but supernatural hope in salvation. Roughly summarized from St. Thomas Aquinas, supernatural hope is the reliance on God to attain the rigorous good of heaven. Rigorous does not mean heaven is painful, but that it is a big deal for a human to be plugged into an infinite power pack of love forever, that is, the Blessed Trinity. Such is heaven, a supernatural good beyond even the best human abilities.
Comments about my article that spanned much farther on the internet than just my Facebook page have tried to make me feel guilty or judgmental for my blog post. I’m not going to feel guilty, for their response actually reveals to me how many American Catholics have put a false-hope in family members dying in imperfect contrition without the sacraments. It’s important to teach your children that the Council of Trent teaches that death-bed imperfect contrition (accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior with sorrow for sins but without perfect love of God or sacramental confession) is actually not enough for salvation. It is the teaching of the Church we need the sacraments, so don’t kill the messenger who loves you enough to tell you.
But now I will say a word about my thoughts on Hugh Hefner. First, I can’t judge him and I don’t know where he is now, but please realize that I am a priest, and I go to many death beds of Catholics who are dying without any contrition, perfect or otherwise. How do I know this? Because most death-bed events I have gone to has a patient who has not been to confession for 20 years…and they refuse it with me too. (Not to toot the horn of Latin Mass Catholics, because they know I can be a harsh preacher against the sins of traditionalists, but almost all traditional Latin Mass Catholics go to confession on their death beds. This says something about the lost catechesis of the past 50 years.)
So, why do most normal baby-booming Catholics refuse confession? Is it because they don’t actually believe in sin. Let that sink in: Most dying baby boomers I have been to as a priest really believe they are dying without any sin on their soul, for they don’t believe that sin is an actual reality. 1
To be saved from mortal sin on your death bed, you would need to believe that sin actually exists in order to accept either the gift of imperfect contrition with the sacraments or perfect contrition without the sacraments (the latter being much more rigorous to attain, not easier.) To attain heaven, we should be using the means of the Catholic Church, not Protestantism that believes that a single mental act at the end of life is enough for salvation. No, I don’t know for sure that Hugh Hefner was not the recipient of perfect contrition, but if I see people his age constantly refuse the simple gift of imperfection contrition, this is proof to me how few of my critics really have any wisdom about how rare and astronomically soul-changing the gift of perfect contrition is upon the soul. Christ coming to Hugh Hefner by means of perfect contrition is the only thing that could have saved him, and there is no evidence of it. 2
So, the reason so many people got up in arms against me reveals to me how many people needed to hear this truth about what to do before your deathbed begins: Go to baptism or confession. That way, Jesus can forgive you ten times the life of sin of the orgy-throwing, abortion-promoting pornographer Hugh Hefner. If you think I’m going to feel guilty about warning Catholic Americans against presumption for helping people to interpret sacramental imperfect contrition (not to mention perfect contrition!) you are wrong. I would be the first priest in the world to go to the bedside of a Hugh Heffner and hear his confession.
And I would even hope in his salvation.
So, if you have a relationship with Christ and you are going to the sacraments, please stop whining about my saints’ quotes.
But if you are an amateur theologian who thinks God in His love must surely grant perfect contrition to all public pornographers and abortion-promoters, see here:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.—Galatians 6:7
Having come from medicine, I believe the sacraments are like medicine, really necessary for our salvation to move us from a life of the flesh to the Spirit. This is real stuff in the soul and body. I don’t have much time for high-minded, Pharisaical loopholes about most of the world fitting into the extremely rare grace of perfect contrition at a legalistic level. For example, as an ex-paramedic, what do you think I would think of a trauma surgeon who would say “Yeah, room one is a gun shot wound to the chest, but there is a chance he will live…yeah, patient in Trauma 2 has a critical closed head injury from a high-speed motor cycle accident, but there is a chance he will live…yeah, patient in room 3 has a disecting aortic aneurysm but there is a chance she will live without surgery.”
You see, we are not Protestants who believe salvation is a chance mental act that happens without the surgery of the sacraments. We are Catholics who know that salvation requires baptism by water or baptism by blood (martyrdom before water baptism could be given) or baptism by desire, in this case, the extremely rare case of perfect contrition like the thief on the cross next to Christ. But because few of our souls have the capability for so much love to be poured into it as the thief on the cross did in perfect contrition, God has given us the means of salvation that I have seen so many people reject: The sacraments.
By baptism or confession, Jesus could have easily forgiven the sins of Hugh Hefner, even though Hefner corrupted literally the whole world with pornography, abortion and abuse of women. Yes, I believe one single confession to a priest would have still forgiven even Hugh Hefner: Such are the depths of God’s untrackable, unspeakable, unfathomable mercy upon even the worst of sinners (like me.) And so, let’s talk about hope not in last-minute, legalistic, Protestant mind games, but let’s be covered with the all powerful blood of Jesus in the sacraments, and get those sacraments to as many people as possible.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, a saint and doctor of the Church, teaches that there is no veniality to the sixth and ninth commandment. Since most Catholics live and die with a tremendous number of unconfessed sexual sins in their past, it is safe to say that most Catholics are dying in grave sin if not mortal sin. ↩
Even Pope John Paul II who apparently entertained (outside an encyclical) the possibility of all being saved, warned in an extremely important encyclical on the moral life (Veritatis Splendor) against the idea that a general choosing of goodness could trump the decisions we make in the body as vital to salvation. He called this error “fundamental option theology”: “Some authors, however, have proposed an even more radical revision of the relationship between person and acts. They speak of a “fundamental freedom”, deeper than and different from freedom of choice, which needs to be considered if human actions are to be correctly understood and evaluated. According to these authors, the key role in the moral life is to be attributed to a “fundamental option”, brought about by that fundamental freedom whereby the person makes an overall self-determination, not through a specific and conscious decision on the level of reflection, but in a “transcendental” and “athematic” way. Particular acts which flow from this option would constitute only partial and never definitive attempts to give it expression; they would only be its “signs” or symptoms. The immediate object of such acts would not be absolute Good (before which the freedom of the person would be expressed on a transcendental level), but particular (also termed “categorical” ) goods. In the opinion of some theologians, none of these goods, which by their nature are partial, could determine the freedom of man as a person in his totality, even though it is only by bringing them about or refusing to do so that man is able to express his own fundamental option. A distinction thus comes to be introduced between the fundamental option and deliberate choices of a concrete kind of behaviour. In some authors this division tends to become a separation, when they expressly limit moral “good” and “evil” to the transcendental dimension proper to the fundamental option, and describe as “right” or “wrong” the choices of particular “innerworldly” kinds of behaviour: those, in other words, concerning man’s relationship with himself, with others and with the material world. There thus appears to be established within human acting a clear disjunction between two levels of morality: on the one hand the order of good and evil, which is dependent on the will, and on the other hand specific kinds of behaviour, which are judged to be morally right or wrong only on the basis of a technical calculation of the proportion between the “premoral” or “physical” goods and evils which actually result from the action. This is pushed to the point where a concrete kind of behaviour, even one freely chosen, comes to be considered as a merely physical process, and not according to the criteria proper to a human act. The conclusion to which this eventually leads is that the properly moral assessment of the person is reserved to his fundamental option, prescinding in whole or in part from his choice of particular actions, of concrete kinds of behaviour.”—Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor #65, 6 August 1993. ↩
In the TLM calendar, today is the external feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Although this sermon deals with abortion, I tried to avoid extremely graphic descriptions of the violence. In fact, the families with whom I inquired after Mass had no problem with my vocabulary in preaching. Nevertheless, I would highly encourage parents to preview this sermon in order to first determine the level of age-appropriate listening in your family.
Nota Bene: Future sermons will probably be released on Mondays, blog posts on Thursdays.
“And a certain man said to him: ‘Lord, are they few that are saved?’ But He said to them: ‘Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.'”—Luke 13:23-24.
Hugh Hefner died today, and even bloggers like Fr. Dwight Longenecker at patheos are promoting a very different attitude towards Hefner than the tradition of the Catholic Church. I don’t know where Hefner is any more than Fr. Longenecker, and I’m not saying Fr. Longenecker has a theology that is wrong, but his attitude towards heaven and hell is very, very different from that of Jesus Christ in the New Testament and the saints in every century.
I don’t have a better insight than any priest, but I do know that we simply need to return to the Deposit of the Faith in both Scripture and Tradition to find what is taught De Fide (by defined dogma.) Even most of my faithful readers will be surprised to read that we can know De Fide that hell is not empty. We will look first at public revelation and later private revelation, as only the former is De Fide.
First, Our Savior Jesus Christ said “Not every one who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 7:21a. This is not simply a “warning” like most modern theologians say. Christ looked through time as the Son of God and said very clearly that some Christians who will profess Him as Lord, but they will go still go to hell forever. Why? The answer is found in the full phrase: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”—Matthew 7:21.
Of course, Jesus “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”—1 Tim 2:4, but the problem is not in the heart of God. God wills even the worst sinners to be saved. The problem is Satan who has tricked us into original sin and actual sin to the point that we refuse the Divine Rescuer, Who, please God, will never say to us: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Mt 7:23. Obviously, the first answer to all of this is to know Jesus Christ intimately. If we do come to know Him, we will be led to the same love of God and fear of God that we read below in the lives of the saints.
But first, the Council of Trent, an infallible council of the Catholic Church gives a definitive statement on whether hell is empty or not: “But though He died for all, yet all do not receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of His passion is communicated; because as truly as men would not be born unjust, if they were not born through propagation of the seed of Adam, since by that propagation they contract through him, when they are conceived, injustice as their own, so if they were not born again in Christ, they would never be justified, since in that new birth there is bestowed upon them, through the merit of His passion, the grace by which they are made just.”—Council of Trent, Chapter 3, Session 6, 13 January 1547 under Pope Paul III.
Therefore, no one can say: “The Church admits that hell exists but we don’t know if anyone is there.” (Fr. Longenecker never wrote this, but I hear it all the time from priests and modernist theologians.) But such a statement would indeed be a material heresy, considering that the Council of Trent infallibly stated that “not all receive the benefit of His death.” (It would be a formal heresy to say such a thing after reading this blog post!)
Let us look to what has been referred to as “The Magisterium of the Saints.” The “Magisterium of the Saints” is not as De Fide (defined dogma of the faith) as the above quotes from inerrant Sacred Scripture or an infallible council like Trent. However, those canonized men and women had to be found nearly flawless in their theology to be canonized. Furthermore, the canonized saints’ private revelations of the afterlife have to be pretty spot-on to make the honors of the altar. As far as visions of the afterlife in the following quotes from the saints, you will notice how many saints give actual percentages as to how many are saved, and ask yourself if Hugh Hefner showed any signs of being in these numbers below:
- “Out of one hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin until death, scarcely one will be saved.'”—St. Jerome, Western Doctor and Father of the Church
- “What do you think? How many of the inhabitants of this city may perhaps be saved? What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that!'”—St. John Chrysostom, Eastern Doctor and Father of the Church, speaking about Constantinople when it was still a Christian city.
- “Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said, ‘When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned.'”—St. Leonard of Port Maurice
- “Woe to you who command others! If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you? If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrer will show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, ‘Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell.'”—St. Leonard of Port Maurice
- “So many people are going to die, and almost all of them are going to Hell! So many people falling into hell!”—Bl. Jacinta of Fatima
- “If you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few. Do not follow the majority of mankind, but follow those who renounce the world and never relax their efforts day or night so that they may attain everlasting blessedness.”—St. Anselm, Doctor of the Church
- “With the exception of those who die in childhood, most men will be damned.”—St. Regimius of Rheims.
These quotes come from Fewness of the Saved Saints’ Quotes, a post that contains 101 quotes describing the population of heaven versus hell, at the writing and description of only canonized saints. Honestly, I hope those numbers are wrong, but I can no longer say that the above saints are “Jansenist” or “sedevacantist.” I can no longer claim that those quotes are “Jansenist” or “sedevacantist” because those quotes span 2,000 years, coming from saints in the East and the West, long before the advent of either of those errors.
Again, I don’t know if Hugh Hefner is in purgatory or hell, but I have a pretty good guess, and I do no one any favors by promoting this presumption that Hugh having a last-minute emotional movement to have a sweet thought about God can erase 50 years of oppression of women and getting half the globe of men addicted to pornography. Yes, I have a pretty good guess where such a man resides. God could have forgiven all of his sins by repentance, baptism or confession. But there’s no evidence that Hugh wanted any of those. No, I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to follow a preponderance of evidence. I write this post not to rip on Hefner, but to bring sobriety to the living that God can forgive any sin in the confessional, so go to confession. 1
Finally, Fr. Longenecker mentioned Divine Mercy, and I agree that next to the Bible, there is no greater written revelation of the Love and Mercy of God than the Divine Mercy Diary of the 20th century nun, St. Faustina of Poland.
But he left out the part where St. Faustina was also given a vision of a highly-populated hell so that people might understand that we face a populated hell and that this aspect of Our Faith is an intricate part of what Divine Mercy saves us from. In the Divine Mercy Diary, St. Faustina had to describe the human souls already in hell:
Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like. I, Sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell. When I came to, I could hardly recover from the fright. How terribly souls suffer there! Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners. I incessantly plead God’s mercy upon them. O my Jesus I would rather be in agony until the end of the world, amidst the greatest suffering, than offend You by the least of sin.—St. Faustina, Divine Mercy Diary 741
Notice again that according to Jesus’ revelation to St. Faustina, “most of the souls [in hell] are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.” We can conclude in all fairness that the same destiny awaits the souls of clerics and theologians who lead lay people to the same practical conclusion (even if not theological error) by teaching them: “There is a hell, but we are not sure if anyone is in it.” 2
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott is a compilation of all the De Fide dogmatic statements of the Catholic Church, including the topic of perfect and imperfect contrition on pages 427-428. The Council of Trent teaches that if a person is dying on his death bed in mortal sin, the only way he can go to heaven is by baptism or confession or perfect contrition. A baptized Catholic who is dying in mortal sin with imperfect contrition but finds no priest for confession, according to Trent, will not be saved. I know this will rub many readers the wrong way, but it rubs poorly only because we are so influenced by Protestantism. Remember, Protestantism holds salvation to be a mental-act. A single mental-act is not sufficient for salvation in any age of the Catholic Church, even the early Church, unless it be accompanied by martyrdom (baptism by blood) or perfect contrition, that is: a perfect love of God where the penitent is sorry for his sins not because of a fear of hell, but because of pure love of God. The crucified thief next to Jesus had perfect contrition, a perfect love of Christ, and therefore went to heaven without need for water baptism. But King Henry VIII, after destroying the Catholic Church in England, had quite a different ending. Apparently, he had a last-minute frantic desire to confess to a priest on his death bed! However, his court could not find him a priest, for King Henry had killed most validly-ordained Catholic priests. Thus, the wicked King apparently died with imperfect contrition and a desire for the sacraments, but this was not sufficient for salvation according to Trent. The Divine Mercy Diary does say, however, that anyone who is dying will be saved if the Divine Mercy chaplet is prayed over him or her, assumedly by himself or another, assumedly for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Christ’s promise to St. Faustina on this is extremely generous and therefore doubted by many traditionalists who don’t believe in Divine Mercy. But I do believe in Divine Mercy, and I even tried to pray this Divine Mercy chaplet over dying people even a decade ago as a paramedic. This was of course best prayed after patients were transferred to ED staff from EMS as we men can only do one thing at once. ↩
Someone on my Facebook page publically asked me how to not get depressed after this blog post. I wrote her back: “It’s good news because Savior actually means ‘rescuer.’ If everyone is going to heaven, then we don’t need a rescuer. But if the status-quo is actually separation-from-God, then Christ is our only hope, and He gives us the perfect and sure way to heaven. The quotes from the saints show that most people choose their own way, and not He who is The Way and The Truth and The Life. But, if you choose Him and His Church, if you love him and are confessing your sins, then it is exactly as the Apostle John says: ‘Perfect love casts out all fear.’ Hugh Hefner chose a pathway of abusing women and no sacraments. That’s why I don’t hold out much hope for salvation for him. But Jesus wants you in heaven more than I want you in heaven, more than you WANT to be in heaven! So take courage and walk this pilgrimage to heaven, for his ‘yoke is easy and burden light.’ It really is.” ↩
The Mass and Salvation History, part 2. This two-part series is based on the stained glass around the high altar and sanctuary, here at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Jacksonville, Florida. All of salvation history culminates in the single sacrifice of the Last Supper and Calvary, found in both of the center panes. The featured landscape image above is the sculpture of the Last Supper, found under the mensa of the high altar. Pictures for reference to the podcast are on my blog. They are numbered 1 to 9, going west to east with a north-facing high altar (still liturgical ad orientem, of course.) Today is 5 to 9 on the East Side, seen below on the blog.
5) Wedding Feast of Cana (Jn 2)
6) Abraham and Isaac (Gen 22)
7) Passover (Ex 12)
8) Multiplication of the Loaves (Mt 14)
9) Calvary (Jn 19)
This is a sermon on Padre Pio, suffering and love. (If you want to help spread these sermons, please click “Apple Podcasts” below and review this podcast on iTunes.)
The Mass and Salvation History, part 1. This two-part series is based on the stained glass around the high altar and sanctuary, here at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Jacksonville Florida. All of salvation history culminates in the single sacrifice of the Last Supper and Calvary, both found in the center panes. The featured landscape image is a stained glass from the nave. Pictures for reference to the podcast are on my blog. They are numbered 1 to 9, going west to east with a north-facing high altar (still liturgical ad orientem, of course.) Today is 1 to 4 on the West Side.
- Pentecost (Acts 2)
2) Melchizedek (Gen 14)
3) Moses and God giving Manna (Exodus 16)
4) Last Supper (Lk 22)
For the few of you who actually live human lives without social media, and don’t know who Fr. James Martin SJ is, here you go: Fr. Martin is a highly influential Jesuit Catholic priest who is editor at large of America Magazine, located just off Columbus circle and Central Park in Manhattan. On 12 April 2017, Fr. Martin was also promoted as a consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications. Now, I rarely name people by name in my blog posts, but this priest has over half a million Facebook followers. Fr. Martin has a wide footprint in the social justice world, but the most controversial of his teachings is that he implies on a weekly basis that sodomy can sometimes be morally acceptable for two Catholics. 1
Of course, that teaching is against every drop of Divine Revelation coming from the Holy, Triune God “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”—1 Tim 2:4. So, I do not agree with Fr. James Martin’s extremely-clear implication that there are certain times when two monogamous same-gender lovers can proceed into disordered actions (even provided their spiritual director declare their consciences clear!) We know this is wrong not only because of Divine Revelation, but the Holy Spirit speaking through the Apostle Paul teaches that one need not even be a Jew or a Christian to know that homosexual actions are wrong. Please experience the beauty of this quote even if you don’t think you like St. Paul:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened….For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.—Romans 1:19-21, 26-28.
That chapter from Romans is saying that the beauty of creation is enough to show man and woman that those pieces do not go there, even before one gets to the topic of any religion. Thus, Fr. James Martin is teaching not only against Divine Revelation, but against the very nature of the universe.
So why then the title of this blog post, “Leave Fr. James Martin alone!”? Endure this one boring doctrinal paragraph before getting to a whole new battery of overdone similes and metaphors that I’ll hopefully never pull out again. Doctrinally, the heresy of modernism has nothing to do with being a modern Christian in an age of technology. What Pope St. Pius X named as the heresy of modernism is essentially the denial of the supernatural and a religion that is anthropocentric (human-centered) not theocentric (God-centered.) When did it start? Some people say modernism influenced the minds of Catholics in the West beginning with the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Others will say it started with the Protestant revolt in the 16th century. Others say it started with Vatican II. Others who are very clever will trace it all the way back to Francis Bacon or maybe Adam and Eve at the fall. Or Satan. That debate is unending. But really, from all of my study on this, I don’t believe that the heresy of modernism entered seminaries until sometime just before World War I. Then, Pope St. Pius X first excommunicated Fr. Alfred Loisy (a Scripture professor at a French seminary) in 1908 for denying the divinity of Christ, denying parts of Divine Revelation and overturning the supernatural side of the sacraments and the miracles of the Bible. Notice that Fr. Loisy was not discussing liturgical innovations or challenging the Church’s teaching on contraception. Rather, the root of modernism is a very denial of Divine Revelation. Fr. Loisy himself wrote:
“Christ has even less importance in my religion than he does in that of the liberal Protestants: for I attach little importance to the revelation of God the Father for which they honor Jesus. If I am anything in religion, it is more pantheist-positivist-humanitarian than Christian.”—Mémoires II, p. 397.
I’m not saying that Fr. James Martin would ever write this. So, don’t jump to any conclusions quite yet. Follow me here: Fr. Loisy did not really believe in the Bible. I know that sounds more like an evangelical sticking-point than a Catholic sticking-point to some, but Fr. Loisy kicked off this modernism thing by implying to many others in the Church that really God did not mean what He said. It started to sound a lot like the enemy of human nature: “‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’”—Genesis 3:1. Notice that Satan weasels his way into the heart of Adam and Eve not by the temptation of the sin, but first by the temptation against Divine Revelation: Did God really say in the Bible? This is the root of the heresy of modernism.
Now, we have had nearly 100 years of modernism creeping into the Church. The reason I say “Leave Fr. James Martin alone” is because Fr. Martin was simply the first one courageous enough to rainbow-color in the lines of the adult coloring-book handed to him by superiors who didn’t want to take the hits of not really believing any of the hard parts of Christianity. In some sense, it is not the fault of Fr. Martin for swinging at a pitch right down the middle, a pitch given by parishes and “Catholic” Universities to Fr. Martin, all surreptitiously promoting sodomy and letting this poor man take the hits for his courageous stance, if it can be called that. I rather pity the man. Here he is at my alma mater, Boston College:
Fr. Martin is the lightning rod that cowardly liberal Catholics have hoisted high above themselves to take all the hits from mean conservatives, all the while shielding their conscience behind each other in what they all call collegiality. But Fr. Martin also seems to be the surrogate case of conscience to the right. We have a group of barely-awake neo-conservatives who have finally reached their boiling point after sleeping through decades of putatively-orthodox Catholics promoting the exact same heresy of modernism, just non-pelvis issues against the Magisterium, like the timelessness of the liturgy.
Fr. Martin only did one thing new: He brought modernism out of the closet, pun intended, and implied that a gentle God would not send people to hell for sodomy. It’s sick, I know, but in that sense, Fr. Martin is nothing more than the intellectual boy-toy for the big, silent players in this war for souls. These are those men who have not only allowed such a mind to develop, not only fomented such a heart under their tutelage, but finally promoted him as their unarmed little flag-bearer in the culture wars of the Catholic Church. I for one, think it’s cowardly to shoot the little drummer-boy in war.
Also, remember that community organizers like Saul Alinsky actually want half of the population to love them and half of the population to hate them. This schism causes chaos. So, the more ink you waste on Fr. James Martin, the more you cause chaos.
If you want something good on this topic of homosexuality, go to see the website of my friend, Joseph Sciambra. Joseph was a gay porn star in San Francisco turned traditional Catholic and he even goes to the Latin Mass. He is not schismatic. He does not hate people who identify as gay. He actually loves people at BDSM parades more than anyone I know. However, my friend’s website might seem extreme to even mildly-orthodox Catholics, for Joseph claims that no one is actually gay! Still, Joseph has helped me give spiritual direction to some of my dearest spiritual directees and friends who have struggled with same-sex attraction. Again, his site might seem extreme to you at first, but realize that his website has more daily visitors than even Jason Evert, the juggernaut of Catholic chastity talks (a married man whom I admire greatly, too.) I give my friend Joseph a “pass” to my excoriation to leave Fr. James Martin alone, as this is his full-time ministry.
But the rest of you should really go further down the rabbit hole of modernism to ask: Do I really believe everything taught by God in the Bible? If not or if so, you might be able to find yourself in this awesome and accurate categorization of modern American Christians coming from Matt Walsh recently:
1) The Apostates. These are the Christians who have renounced Christ without fully realizing that they have renounced Him, and are now skipping merrily into the eternal clutches of the Devil.
2) The Apathetic. These are the Christians who may basically accept the faith on some level, but they have given up attempting to live according to it, or else they have never really tried.
3) The Struggling. These are the Christians who believe, who try with all their might to live as though they believe, but who are besieged on all sides by the forces of darkness. These Christians have placed their hope in the Lord, but their lives on this Earth, in this depraved culture, are filled with fear, confusion, and pain.
Which one are you? I really, really love Walsh’s categorization of modern American Christians because it allows for no self-righteousness. It shows that no one is perfect, that the best of us struggle with something, even if not same-sex-attraction. I would sell down the river those struggling with same-sex attraction and relegate them to the category of “apostate” if I gave them a pass from struggling. Why? Because “struggling” is what it means to carry your cross of chastity with Jesus Christ in a community that actually wants you “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”—Phil 2:12.
I will not allow my friends struggling with same-sex attraction to slip into the category of “apostate” or “apathetic Christian.” This is what Fr. James Martin does to so-called gays, and it is ironically discrimination against them. Notice one last time that the best of these three groups of Matt Walsh is the “struggling.” We all struggle with something to make our lives square away with the rigorous demands of Divine Revelation. And when we try, we find it’s not so rigorous. Rather, His yoke is easy and His burden light. We are not perfect, but we try. You can’t really struggle against your own sins by following Christ if you’re spending too much time on Fr. James Martin (or listening to him) so leave him alone.