131 – ‘I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation’

Let’s imagine a ship from the era of the explorers, manned by valiant souls, setting off on a noble mission – to bring the treasure of the faith and civilization to distant, inhospitable lands. Their endeavors would not only win them earthly glory but, above all, a heavenly reward for having opened wide the doors of Redemption to numerous souls.

When the caravel has already left the port far behind, a violent storm gravely threatens the expedition’s realization and even the lives of crew-members. In this desperate situation they look to their experienced captain, awaiting his swift and ingenious directives to save the ship and all who are in it. However, he suddenly decides to ignore the experience accrued from previous navigations, and begins to try out new tactics whose efficacy has not yet been proven. If they were reasonable attempts, all would be well… but he starts making strange commands. He tells his men to cast the sails into the ocean, dialogue with the waves, abandon the positions of command! … However good-willed the captain may be, the consequences can only be disastrous and irreversible…

Founded by Jesus, the Holy Church has grown and developed upon firm rock, for its methods, times and schedules, language and, above all, its structures, were constituted over twenty centuries under the Holy Spirit’s direct inspiration.

In our day, this is not the first time that the bark of the Church has had to weather crises and storms, but it has never needed to radically change its structures, nor alter the objective of its mission of bringing the Good News to all nations. For this intent, nothing could be more important than the formation of a wise and holy clergy to stand at the helm and steer the faithful along the course of sanctity of life. In this way, it has triumphed amid storms in the past, converted multitudes and attained the transformation of the world.

Leaving aside these proofs offered by History itself, other plans are devised and implemented. What consequences have already ensued, and what are we yet to witness?



Quote A

I am aware that nowadays documents do not arouse the same interest as in the past and that they are quickly forgotten. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences. I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. ‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission’. […] I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: ‘All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion’. […] Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment. (Apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, no. 25. 27. 33)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study

I – The structure and customs of the Church developed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and are oriented according to the truth of the Faith
II – No reform is true if it does not conserve the physiognomy that Christ gave to his Church. The apostolate should not evolve into mitigation or a decrease of the faith
III – The objective of the Church must be none other than divine praise and the salvation of souls
IV – Two realistic but painful questions…
1 – We lament over apostolic sterility…..but do we use, today, the same type of means that the great saints who reformed the Church used in the past?
2 – Is there anything new about divorce, homosexuality and so many other things of “today’s world”? A historical refresher…

I – The structure and customs of the Church developed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and are oriented according to the truth of the Faith

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

It is necessary to make choices of things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the Tradition of the Truth

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. (Rev 22:17). For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the Tradition of the Truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches? To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Book 3, ch. 4, 1 2)

John Paul II

The structures of the Church evolved in reference to the Apostolic heritage

The Church’s journey began in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and its original expansion in the oikoumene of that time was centered around Peter and the Eleven (cf. Acts 2:14). The structures of the Church in the East and in the West evolved in reference to that Apostolic heritage. (John Paul II. Encyclical Ut unum sint, no. 55, May 25, 1995)

Benedict XVI

The Church’s structure should be oriented to the criterion of the truth of faith…

Naturally, the Church needs institutional and structural planning. Ecclesial institutions, pastoral planning and other juridical structures are, to a certain extent, simple needs. At times, however, they are presented as the essential, which makes it impossible to discern what is truly essential. They correspond to their authentic meaning only if they are assessed and oriented to the criterion of the truth of faith. In short, it must and will be faith itself in all its greatness, clarity and beauty that defines the rhythm of reform, which is fundamental and which we need. […] Above all, you will give your approval only to those structural reforms that are in full harmony with the Church’s teaching […]. (Benedict XVI. Address to the second group of German Bishops on their ad limina visit, November 18, 2008)

John Paul II

…and the pursuit of holiness

The life of every Christian and all the structures of the Church must be clearly ordered to the pursuit of holiness. (John Paul II. Address to the second group of Bishops from Baltimore and Washington on their ad limina visit, April 29, 2004)

Pius XII

The Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy

But what is more, the divine Redeemer has so willed it that the priestly life begun with the supplication and sacrifice of His mortal body should continue without intermission down the ages in His Mystical Body which is the Church. That is why He established a visible priesthood to offer everywhere the clean oblation which would enable men from East to West, freed from the shackles of sin, to offer God that unconstrained and voluntary homage which their conscience dictates. In obedience, therefore, to her Founder’s behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy. She does this in the first place at the altar, where constantly the sacrifice of the cross is represented and with a single difference in the manner of its offering, renewed. She does it next by means of the sacraments, those special channels through which men are made partakers in the supernatural life. She does it, finally, by offering to God, all Good and Great, the daily tribute of her prayer of praise. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, no. 2–3, January 20, 1947)

Liturgical rites exist due to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit

The more recent liturgical rites […] owe their inspiration to the Holy Spirit, who assists the Church in every age even to the consummation of the world. They are equally the resources used by the majestic Spouse of Jesus Christ to promote and procure the sanctity of man. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, no. 61, January 20, 1947)

The integrity of faith and morals ought is the special criterion of this sacred science

Indeed, though we are sorely grieved to note, on the one hand, that there are places where the spirit, understanding or practice of the sacred liturgy is defective, or all but inexistent, We observe with considerable anxiety and some misgiving, that elsewhere certain enthusiasts, over-eager in their search for novelty, are straying beyond the path of sound doctrine and prudence. Not seldom, in fact, they interlard their plans and hopes for a revival of the sacred liturgy with principles which compromise this holiest of causes in theory or practice, and sometimes even taint it with errors touching Catholic faith and ascetical doctrine. Yet the integrity of faith and morals ought to be the special criterion of this sacred science, which must conform exactly to what the Church out of the abundance of her wisdom teaches and prescribes. It is, consequently, Our prerogative to commend and approve whatever is done properly, and to check or censure any aberration from the path of truth and rectitude. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, no. 8–9, January 20, 1947)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

All ceremonies are professions of faith

All ceremonies are professions of faith, in which the interior worship of God consists. Now man can make profession of his inward faith, by deeds as well as by words: and in either profession, if he make a false declaration, he sins mortally. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I–II, q. 103, a.4)

II – No reform is true if it does not conserve the physiognomy that Christ gave to his Church. The apostolate should not evolve into mitigation or a decrease of the faith

Paul VI

There can be no question of reforming the essential nature of the Church or its basic necessary structure

First We must lay down a few rules to guide us in the work of reform. Obviously, there can be no question of reforming the essential nature of the Church or its basic and necessary structure. To use the word reform in that context would be to misuse it completely. […] In this context, therefore, when we speak about reform we are not concerned to change things, but to preserve all the more resolutely the characteristic features which Christ has impressed on His Church. Or rather, we are concerned to restore to the Church that ideal of perfection and beauty that corresponds to its original image, and that is at the same time consistent with its necessary, normal and legitimate growth from its original, embryonic form into its present structure. […] Nor should one conceive the desire of renewing the whole structure of the Church just by taking account of the special spiritual gifts (charism) of some of its members. Some imagine that the only genuine renewal of the Church is one which is born from the ideas of a few, admittedly zealous, people who not infrequently consider themselves divinely inspired. Their vain dreams of the wrong sort of renewal could easily defile the very shape which the Church ought to have. We must love and serve the Church as it is, wisely seeking to understand its history and to discover with humility the will of God who guides and assists it, even when He permits human weakness to eclipse the splendor of its countenance and the holiness of its activity. It is precisely this holiness and splendor which we are endeavoring to discover and promote. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 46. 47, August 6, 1964)

Our apostolate must not make vague compromises concerning the principles which regulate and govern the profession of the Christian faith

To what extent should the Church adapt itself to the historical and local circumstances in which it has to exercise its mission? How is it to guard against the danger of relativism which would make it untrue to its own dogmas and moral principles? And yet how can it fit itself to approach all men and bring salvation to all, becoming on the example of the Apostle Paul “all things to all men,” that all may be saved? […] But the danger remains. Indeed, the worker in the apostolate is under constant fire. The desire to come together as brothers must not lead to a watering down or whittling away of truth. Our dialogue must not weaken our attachment to our faith. Our apostolate must not make vague compromises concerning the principles which regulate and govern the profession of the Christian faith both in theory and in practice. An immoderate desire to make peace and sink differences at all costs (irenism and syncretism) is ultimately nothing more than skepticism about the power and content of the Word of God which we desire to preach. The effective apostle is the man who is completely faithful to Christ’s teaching. He alone can remain unaffected by the errors of the world around him, the man who lives his Christian life to the full. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 87.88, August 6, 1964)

Those who are not deeply rooted in the faith and in the observance of the Church’s laws, readily imagine that the time is ripe to adjust themselves to worldly standards of living

We must strengthen these convictions in ourselves if we are also to avoid another danger which the desire for reform can produce, not so much in us pastors, who are restrained by the proper awareness of our sacred duty, as in many of the faithful, who think that the reform of the Church should consist principally in adapting its way of thinking and acting to the customs and temper of the modern secular world. […] Hence, those who are not deeply rooted in the faith and in the observance of the Church’s laws, readily imagine that the time is ripe to adjust themselves to worldly standards of living, on the assumption that these are the best and only possible ones for a Christian to adopt. This craving for uniformity is observable even in the realm of philosophy (it is extraordinary how much weight is attached to fashion in a province where the mind ought to be free and independent, anxious only to arrive at the truth, and bowing to the authority of none but proved masters). It is observable also in the realm of ethics, making it more and more perplexing and difficult to define moral rectitude and the right conduct of life. In addition we are confronted with the doctrine of Naturalism, which attempts to undermine the fundamental conception of Christianity. Relativism, too, seeks to justify everything, and treats all things as of equal value. It assails the absolute character of Christian principles. We are also confronted with the growing tendency to prune away from the Christian life everything that requires effort or causes inconvenience. It rejects as vain and futile the practice of Christian asceticism and the contemplation of the things of God. Indeed, sometimes even the apostolic desire for a ready passport into secular society and the determination to make oneself acceptable to men and particularly to the youth of today, prompts certain people to lay aside the principles which characterize our faith and to reject the sort of dignity which gives meaning and force to our determination to make contact with others and makes our teaching effective. Is it not, perhaps, true that some of the younger clergy and religious, in their laudable endeavor to come closer to the masses and to particular groups, aim at becoming like them rather than different from them? By this worthless imitation they forfeit the real value and effectiveness of their endeavors. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 48–49, August 6, 1964)

When does the Church rediscover its youthful vitality? By submitting to the obedience of Christ

The Church will rediscover its youthful vitality not so much by changing its external legislation, as by submitting to the obedience of Christ and observing the laws which the Church lays upon itself with the intention of following in Christ’s footsteps. Herein lies the secret of the Church’s renewal, its metanoia, to use the Greek term, its practice of perfection. Even though the Church, in the reliance which it places on the liberty of the modern Christian with his increased awareness of his duties and his greater maturity and practical wisdom in fulfilling them, may make certain of its laws or precepts easier to observe, nevertheless the law retains its essential binding force. The Christian way of life as set forth and interpreted by the Church in its prudent legislation, demands a not inconsiderable degree of loyalty, perseverance and self-sacrifice. It constrains us, as it were, to take the “narrow way” recommended by Our Saviour. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 51, August 6, 1964)

Saint Vincent of Lerins

All possible progress; on the condition that it be real progress not alteration of the faith

But someone will say, perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ’s Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged n itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else. […] In like manner, it behooves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits. (Saint Vincent of Lerins. Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, Ch. 23, no. 54.56)

The deposit of the faith: responsibility of preserving the Catholic Faith inviolate

What is “The deposit”? That which has been entrusted to you, not that which you have yourself devised: a matter not of wit, but of learning; not of private adoption, but of public tradition; a matter brought to you, not put forth by you, wherein you are bound to be not an author but a keeper, not a teacher but a disciple, not a leader but a follower. “Keep the deposit.’ Preserve the talent of Catholic Faith inviolate, unadulterate. That which has been entrusted to you, let it continue in your possession, let it be handed on by you. You have received gold; give gold in turn. Do not substitute one thing for another. Do not for gold impudently substitute lead or brass. Give real gold, not counterfeit.(Saint Vincent of Lerins. Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, Ch. 23, no. 53)

‘Shun profane novelties of words,’ which to follow was never the part of Catholics but heretics

“Profane novelties of words.” What words are these? Such as have nothing sacred, nothing religious, words utterly remote from the inmost sanctuary of the Church which is the temple of God. Profane novelties of words, that is, of doctrines, subjects, opinions, such as are contrary to antiquity and the faith of the olden time. Which if they be received, it follows necessarily that the faith of the blessed fathers is violated either in whole, or at all events in great part; it follows necessarily that all the faithful of all ages, all the saints, the chaste, the continent, the virgins, all the clergy, Deacons and Priests, so many thousands of Confessors, so vast an army of martyrs, such multitudes of cities and of peoples, so many islands, provinces, kings, tribes, kingdoms, nations, in a word, almost the whole earth, incorporated in Christ the Head, through the Catholic faith, have been ignorant for so long a tract of time, have been mistaken, have blasphemed, have not known what to believe, what to confess. “Shun profane novelties of words,” which to receive and follow was never the part of Catholics; of heretics always was. (Saint Vincent of Lerins. Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, Ch. 24, no. 61–62)

New and unheard-of doctrine contrary to that of all the saints does not pertain to religion

This being the case, he is the true and genuine Catholic who loves the truth of God, who loves the Church, who loves the Body of Christ, who esteems divine religion and the Catholic Faith above every thing, above the authority, above the regard, above the genius, above the eloquence, above the philosophy, of every man whatsoever; who sets light by all of these, and continuing steadfast and established in the faith, resolves that he will believe that, and that only, which he is sure the Catholic Church has held universally and from ancient time; but that whatsoever new and unheard-of doctrine he shall find to have been furtively introduced by some one or another, besides that of all, or contrary to that of all the saints, this, he will understand, does not pertain to religion, but is permitted as a trial […]. (Saint Vincent of Lerins. Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, Ch. 20, no. 48)

Pius XI

It would be iniquitous for the divinely revealed truth to be made a subject for compromise

Shall We suffer, what would indeed be iniquitous, the truth, and a truth divinely revealed, to be made a subject for compromise? For here there is question of defending revealed truth. Jesus Christ sent His Apostles into the whole world in order that they might permeate all nations with the Gospel faith, and, lest they should err, He willed beforehand that they should be taught by the Holy Ghost: (Jn 15:13) has then this doctrine of the Apostles completely vanished away, or sometimes been obscured, in the Church, whose ruler and defense is God Himself? If our Redeemer plainly said that His Gospel was to continue not only during the times of the Apostles, but also till future ages, is it possible that the object of faith should in the process of time become so obscure and uncertain, that it would be necessary to-day to tolerate opinions which are even incompatible one with another? If this were true, we should have to confess that the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, and the perpetual indwelling of the same Spirit in the Church, and the very preaching of Jesus Christ, have several centuries ago, lost all their efficacy and use, to affirm which would be blasphemy. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 8, January 6, 1928)

III – The objective of the Church must be none other than divine praise and the salvation of souls

Paul VI

By reducing the mission of the Church to the dimensions of a simply temporal project, she loses her fundamental meaning

We must not ignore the fact that many, even generous Christians who are sensitive to the dramatic questions involved in the problem of liberation, in their wish to commit the Church to the liberation effort are frequently tempted to reduce her mission to the dimensions of a simply temporal project. They would reduce her aims to a man-centered goal; the salvation of which she is the messenger would be reduced to material well-being. Her activity, forgetful of all spiritual and religious preoccupation, would become initiatives of the political or social order. But if this were so, the Church would lose her fundamental meaning. Her message of liberation would no longer have any originality and would easily be open to monopolization and manipulation by ideological systems and political parties. She would have no more authority to proclaim freedom as in the name of God. This is why we have wished to emphasize, in the same address at the opening of the Synod, “the need to restate clearly the specifically religious finality of evangelization. This latter would lose its reason for existence if it were to diverge from the religious axis that guides it: the kingdom of God, before anything else, in its fully theological meaning….” (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 32, December 8, 1975)

The Church reaffirms the primacy of her spiritual vocation and refuses to replace the proclamation of the kingdom by the proclamation of forms of human liberation

With regard to the liberation which evangelization proclaims and strives to put into practice one should rather say this:
– it cannot be contained in the simple and restricted dimension of economics, politics, social or cultural life; it must envisage the whole man, in all his aspects, right up to and including his openness to the absolute, even the divine Absolute;
– it is therefore attached to a view of man which it can never sacrifice to the needs of any strategy, practice or short-term efficiency. Hence, when preaching liberation and associating herself with those who are working and suffering for it, the Church is certainly not willing to restrict her mission only to the religious field and dissociate herself from man’s temporal problems. Nevertheless she reaffirms the primacy of her spiritual vocation and refuses to replace the proclamation of the kingdom by the proclamation of forms of human liberation – she even states that her contribution to liberation is incomplete if she neglects to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 33–34, December 8, 1975)

John Paul II

In our world we see an urgent need for powerful proclamation and solid Christian formation

In our world, often dominated by a secularized culture which encourages and promotes models of life without God, the faith of many is sorely tested, and is frequently stifled and dies. Thus we see an urgent need for powerful proclamation and solid, in-depth Christian formation. There is so much need today for mature Christian personalities, conscious of their baptismal identity, of their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world! There is great need for living Christian communities! And here are the movements and the new ecclesial communities: they are the response, given by the Holy Spirit, to this critical challenge at the end of the millennium. You are this providential response. […] You have learned in the movements and new communities that faith is not abstract talk, nor vague religious sentiment, but new life in Christ instilled by the Holy Spirit (John Paull II. Address during the Meeting with Ecclesial Movements, no. 7, May 30, 1988)

It is vital to choose genuine truth, not half-truths and pseudo-truths

Never forget that anything in your lives which is not in tune with God’s plan for the human person is doomed sooner or later to failure. It is only with God and in God that people can find complete fulfilment and attain the fullness to which they tend from the depths of their hearts. […] It is vital to choose true values, not those which pass, to choose genuine truth, not half- truths and pseudo-truths. (John Paull II. Address during the Meeting with Ecclesial movements, no. 6, October 4, 1988)

Benedict XVI

Missionary zeal: dispel the darkness of a world overwhelmed by the contradictory messages of ideologies!

I therefore say to you, dear friends of the Movements: act so as to ensure that they are always schools of communion, groups journeying on in which one learns to live in the truth and love that Christ revealed and communicated to us through the witness of the Apostles, in the heart of the great family of his disciples. May Jesus’ exhortation ceaselessly re-echo in your hearts: ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 5: 16). Bring Christ’s light to all the social and cultural milieus in which you live. Missionary zeal is proof of a radical experience of ever renewed fidelity to one’s charism that surpasses any kind of weary or selfish withdrawal. Dispel the darkness of a world overwhelmed by the contradictory messages of ideologies! There is no valid beauty if there is not a truth to recognize and follow, if love gives way to transitory sentiment, if happiness becomes an elusive mirage or if freedom degenerates into instinct. (Benedict XVI. Message to the participants of the Second World Congress on Ecclesial Movements, May 22, 2006)

Cardinal Angelo Sodano

The missionary must not cease to be a disciple; he should give no more than he himself has received

As good disciples, Movements and Communities are likewise called to be witnesses and missionaries of the message received and to hold out a friendly hand to others, so that they too may discover Christ. They should reach out to those who do not yet know him and those who live their Christianity superficially, to those who should also be given the necessary support to strengthen their faith more and more every day and to form it correctly as they face the snares of a secularized mentality or a mindset that spreads religious indifference in many Latin American milieus. In this task, the missionary must not cease to be a disciple; he should give no more than he himself has received and continues to receive, nor should he put his own ideas first or seek his own advantage. (Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Message to the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Latin American Episcopal Council, Bogota, March 9–12, 2006)

Benedict XV

The man who enters upon the apostolic life must have sanctity of life

But for the man who enters upon the apostolic life there is one attribute that is indispensable. It is of the most critical importance, as We have mentioned before, that he have sanctity of life. For the man who preaches God must himself be a man of God. The man who urges others to despise sin must despise it himself. Preaching by example is afar more effective procedure than vocal preaching, especially among unbelievers, who tend to be more impressed by what they see for themselves than by any arguments that can be presented to them. (Benedict XV. Apostolic Letter Maximum illud, no. 26, November 30, 1919)

IV – Two realistic but painful questions…

1 – We lament over apostolic sterility…..but do we use, today, the same type of means that the great saints who reformed the Church used in the past?

Saint Vincent de Paul

To reform the world, we need good priests

He who does not wish to dedicate himself to form good priests is deceived, and greatly so. […] The Church’s necessity for good priests to order to repair so much ignorance and so many vices covering the earth, and tear the Church from this lamentable state, ought to make good souls shed tears of blood. One wonders if perhaps all of the disorders we see should be attributed to the priests. This may scandalize some, but the topic requires that I show, through the extent of the evil, the importance of the remedy. […] It has been shown that the worst enemies of the Church are priests; proofs of this, are the heresiarchs, Luther and Calvin, who were priests; and if heresies have prevailed, if vice has reigned and ignorance has established its throne among the humble people, it is through the fault of the priests, for their own disorder, and for not having opposed these three torrents that have inundated the world, with all of their might as was their duty. What sacrifice do you not offer to God, working in his reform, so that the priests may live in keeping with the height and dignity of their condition and the Church may thus see itself freed from the opprobrium and desolation in which it lies! (Jose Herrera. Works and writings of Saint Vincent de Paul. 2nd edition. Madrid, BAC, 1955, pg. 808)

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

…Good preachers and good confessors

If all preachers and confessors fulfilled the obligations of their office the whole world would be sanctified. Bad preachers and bad confessors are the ruin of the world. By bad preachers and confessors I mean those that do not fulfil their duty as they ought. […] By preaching, the faith has been propagated, and by the same means God wishes it to be preserved […] But for a Christian, it is not enough to know what he is obliged to do; it is, moreover, necessary for him, by hearing the divine word from time to time, to be reminded of the importance of eternal salvation, and of the means which he ought to adopt in order to secure it. (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. Dignity and duties of a priest: or, Selva)

Saint Anthony Mary Claret

The remedy for the world consists in training a good and virtuous clergy - At the sight of good priests, the irreligious will lose their boldness and daring

[The Catholic Priests] neither study nor teach morality, but dedicate themselves to the pursuit of their ambitions and disorderly appetites. They do not preach the Gospel […] Priests abuse everything; nothing is sacred to them. They have profaned and debased everything: pulpit, confessional, conscience, family, all of society. They have been the ruin of everything. […] They should be the light of the world, but they fill it with darkness by their ignorance […] In conclusion: Flee from them, separate yourselves from them. They are twice-told impostors: voracious wolves instead of good shepherds. […] After much thought I have come to the conclusion that the remedy consists, on the one hand, of training a good, learned, virtuous, zealous, and prayerful clergy and, on the other, of catechizing and preaching to both children and adults and circulating good books and pamphlets. […] At the sight of the virtue and fortitude of good priests, the irreligious will lose their boldness and daring. (Saint Anthony Mary Claret. The Autobiography, pg. 120–121)

Woe betide us if we become a plague that drives people off!

Woe betide us if, instead of attracting the faithful by our good manners, we drive them away by our gross behavior and unmortified passions. Woe betide us if, instead of being Christ’s good odor everywhere, as the Apostle says, we become a plague that drives people off. (Saint Anthony Mary Claret. The Autobiography, pg. 130)

‘I shall not be silent, even if I knew it meant that I should be cut to pieces’

O Immaculate Virgin and Mother of God, Queen and Mistress of grace: Deign out of charity to cast your glance upon this lost world. Consider how all have abandoned the way that your most holy Son deigned to teach them. His holy laws have been forgotten and so much has been perverted that one might well say: non est qui faciat bonum, non est usque ad unum. The virtue of faith has been extinguished in them, so that it can scarcely be found upon the earth. Ah, once this godly light goes out, all is dark and shadowy, and men cannot see where they are falling. And yet they rush with headlong strides along the path that leads them to eternal loss. And would you, my Mother, have me, who am a brother of these luckless ones, look on indifferently at their utter ruin? Ah, no! Neither the love that I bear God, nor that I bear my neighbor, could stand it. […] How can I have charity if, knowing that thieves and murderers are set to rob and kill all those who pass along a road, I do not warn all those who are heading there? How can I have charity if, knowing that ravenous wolves are devouring my Master’s flock, I hold my peace? How can I have charity if I am silent at the theft of those most precious jewels that cost the lifeblood of a God, or at the sight of people setting fire to the house and heritage of my most loving Father? Ah, my Mother, I cannot still my voice on such occasions. No, I shall not be silent, even if I knew it meant that I should be cut to pieces. I shall shout, cry out, lift up my voice to heaven and earth to remedy so great an evil. I shall not be silent, and when my voice is hoarse or mute from all my crying I shall lift up my hands to heaven, make my hair stand on end, and stamp my feet upon the ground to make up for my lack of speech. (Saint Anthony Mary Claret. The Autobiography, pg. 33–34)

The enthusiasm of those who came to listen to the word of God

Besides preaching, we distributed thousands of leaflets, pamphlets, and books. To facilitate this work we had large boxes of printed material sent ahead to each of the towns we were going to stop in. I simply can’t describe the enthusiasm with which everyone came to listen to the words of God, the effect it had on them, their eagerness to have some souvenir of it, and the love with which they cherished whatever we gave them, even if it was nothing but a leaflet. There were great conversion […] I have dealt with a large number of cases since I have been a priest, however unworthy; but I have never written about them because I have been too busy. […] Today, April 15, 1864, I was told that in the parish of Saint Andrew where I gave the Lenten Mission, 4,000 more souls fulfilled their Easter duty than in previous years. Blessed be God. Glory be to God. Confessions have been made by men who have not confessed for 40 years and by women who have not confessed for 30. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory.” (Saint Anthony Mary Claret. The Autobiography, pg. 117.129)

Saint John of Avila

In two-hour long sermons, he converted sinners

His sermons more often than not lasted two hours, and were so fluent and varied that they could hardly have been shorter. He spoke so clearly that all could understand him, and no one ever grew tired of listening to him. Day and night his only thought was how he might increase God’s glory, reform morals, and convert sinners. In preparing his sermons he avoided using many books or elaborate concepts, and his talks were relatively free of scriptural allusions, far-fetched examples, and other such finery. With a simple thought and a single cry, he could set the hearts of his listeners afire. […]While Father Avila was preaching in Granada, another preacher, the most famous of his day, was also engaged in preaching there. People would leave this preacher’s sermons crossing themselves in amazement at the many fine and profitable things that had been so beautifully said. But when they left Master Avila’s sermons they all went out with bowed heads, not saying a word to one another, rapt and repentant from the sheer force of the truth, virtue, and excellence of the preacher. His preaching was directed mainly toward withdrawing sinners from their unhappy state by showing them the ugliness of sin, the wrath of God, the awful punishment that awaits the impenitent, and the reward that awaits the truly contrite and repentant. (Saint John of Avila commented by Saint Anthony Mary Claret. The Autobiography, pg. 44)

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saint Ignatius preaches to counter laxness in customs and indifference

My good brother, everywhere, I perceive a great laxation of customs and much indifference in the fulfillments of Christian duty. I find the cause of this disorder in the ignorance of the people and I am firmly resolved to preach wherever I may be, as long as it is possible for me, for the greater glory of God, our Master and Lord. (J. M. S. Daurignac. Vie de Saint Ignace de Loyala. Paris, 1861, p. 155–157)

His preaching led a great number of penitents to the confessionals

He preached every Sunday, every feast day and three weekdays, besides the catechism he taught the children. The first time he preached, there was an immense multitude to hear him. [..] Ignatius, far from exciting the rejection of the people, inspired profound veneration for the sanctity of his life, and attracted all hearts to himself due his simplicity of manners, the sweetness of his words, the benevolence of his gaze and the amiable goodness of which he rendered witness to all. […] They came from all the villages, castles and cities of the province to consult the saint, to hear him, see him and ask for prayers. Since there was no church that could contain the multitude that congregated about him, he had to speak outdoors, and despite the faintness of his voice, it was heard at a great distance. Some even climbed trees in order to listen to him. The clergy of the province had never seen such a great number of penitents invade the confessionals; for all, eager to reform their lives and to put into practice the holy words that they had heard, wished to begin by purifying their consciences. (J. M. S. Daurignac. Vie de Saint Ignace de Loyola. Paris, 1861, p. 155–157)

Saint Francis Xavier

Nothing impeded his limitless zeal for the glory of God

Javier […] set forth for the most remote and dangerous missions; his zeal for the glory of God saw nothing but this, had no other aim. […] He returns to his preaching, to his classes, to his habitual sojourns from one populace to another, detained neither by rain, the heat nor any other obstacle. His zeal knew no limits. (J.M.S. Daurignac, J. M. S. Daurignac. Vie de Saint François Xavier. Paris, 1858, pg. 70)

With his zeal and preaching, the Cross triumphed over the empire of Satan: forty-five Churches were established and ten thousand pagans were baptized in one month. Hearing him the pagans would run to their temples and destroy them completely

When Francis Xavier, accompanied only by Vaz Fernandes, entered into the lands of the kingdom of Travancor, the population ran to surround him…not to massacre him, as the Christians feared, but rather see him and listen to him… […] The entire coast of Travancor submitted itself to the obedience of the Gospel as Xavier went along, and when the king, at his request, authorized his vassals to openly profess Christianity, immediately forty-five Churches were established for the piety of the neophytes; in just one month, ten thousand pagans were baptized! In each of the villages he visited, all of the inhabitants united together, men, woman and children; he brought them to a field and there put the men on one side, the woman on the other, and to be heard by all, he climbed a tree to announce them the Christian truths. Such was the enthusiasm of the pagans when they heard him, that immediately after the instruction they would run to their temples and destroy them completely. “I cannot describe the happiness that I feel”, our saint wrote, “seeing those temples and idols, that had been just a little while before the object of their worship, fall under the axe of my new Christians…Such are, then, the conquests of the Cross over the empire of Satan…Once more, my happiness and my joy surpass all possible expression: tongue and pen cannot describe my admiration!” (J.M.S. Daurignac, J. M. S. Daurignac. Vie de Saint François Xavier. Paris, 1858, pg. 70)

2 – Is there anything new about divorce, homosexuality and so many other aspects of “today’s world”? A historical refresher…

Guy Bedouelle, Jean-Louis Bruguès and Philippe Becquart

Homosexual practices were always present in the history of humanity and the Church has never ceased to condemn such aberrations

According to the New Testament it has become clear that in the first three centuries Christians describe homosexuality as contrary to the divine law. Saint Augustine returns to this concept when speaking of a sin that infringes on the relation of the person with God. The Bishop of Hippo associated the concepts of divine will and contra natura practices, inheritance of Greek philosophy: “Therefore those offenses which be contrary to nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in detestation and punished; such were those of the Sodomites, which should all nations commit, they should all be held guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which has not so made men that they should in that way abuse one another” (Confessions, III, 8). Saint John Chrysostom (344407) equally condemns homosexual practice, for he sees it as an act that is not in accord with nature […] “The worst of all passions is the concupiscence between men […] There is nothing so irrational and harmful as this perversion” (Commentary of the Letters of Paul to the Romans, hom. IV). Pope Saint Gregory the Great illustrates, without ambiguity, this condemnation for homosexual practices, seeing in them an injustice. These practices are not just because they are not conformed to the divine law: “For being full of perverse desires, born of a fetid flesh […]” (Moralia in Job III, I, libro XIV, 23). Pope Saint Pius V, in his constitution Cum primum (1–4–1566), vehemently condemns the practice of contra natura acts. […] As God chastises such infidelities, the Church should chastise them canonically. The punishments are not only canonical excommunication, exclusion from the sacraments…­ –, but also those determined by the secular powers. This decision is confirmed in the constitution Horrendum illud scelus (1568), that affirms: “the clerics culpable of such a noxious crime […] be chastised by the secular authority, vindictive of the civil law.” This is an energetic reaction of the Sovereign Pontiff in an epoch in which the homosexual practice was spreading under the influence of the paganizing humanism. (BEDOUELLE, Guy; BRUGUÈS, Jean-Louis; BECQUART, Philippe. The Catholic Church and sexuality, Madrid, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 2007, pg. 175–178)

Saint Justin Martyr (sec. I)

Herds of children are reared to make shameful use of them

And as the ancients are said to have reared herds of oxen, or goats, or sheep, or grazing horses, so now we see you rear children only for this shameful use; and for this pollution a multitude of females and hermaphrodites, and those who commit unmentionable iniquities, are found in every nation. And you receive the hire of these, and duty and taxes from them, whom you ought to exterminate from your realm. […] And there are some who prostitute even their own children and wives, and some are openly mutilated for the purpose of sodomy. (Saint Justin Martyr. First Apology, Ch. 27)

Saint Clement of Alexandria

The shameful vices of the “gods” of paganism

Hercules, the son of Zeus […] in one night deflowered the fifty daughters of Thestius, and thus was at once the debaucher and the bridegroom of so many virgins. It is not, then, without reason that the poets call him a cruel wretch and a nefarious scoundrel. It were tedious to recount his adulteries of all sorts, and debauching of boys. For your gods did not even abstain from boys, one having loved Hylas, another Hyacinthus, another Pelops, another Chrysippus, and another Ganymede. Let such gods as these be worshipped by your wives, and let them pray that their husbands be such as these – so temperate; that, emulating them in the same practices, they may be like the gods. Such gods let your boys be trained to worship, that they may grow up to be men with the accursed likeness of fornication on them received from the gods. (Saint Clement of Alexandria. Protepticus)

Saint John Chrysostom

The pagan laws honored pederasty and there were houses for this purpose

They were addicted to the love of boys, and one of their wise men made a law that pederasty, as well as anointing for wrestling, should not be allowed to slaves, as if it was an honorable thing; and they had houses for this purpose, in which it was openly practiced. And if all that was done among them was related, it would be seen that they openly outraged nature, and there was none to restrain them. […] For as to their passion for boys, whom they called their “Pædica,” it is not fit to be named. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homily V on Titus)

The sin against nature is worthy of thunderbolts and hell

[Men] come in gazing about at the beauty of women; others curious about the blooming youth of boys. After this, do you not marvel, how bolts are not launched, and all things are not plucked up from their foundations? For worthy both of thunderbolts and hell are the things that are done; but God, who is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forbears awhile His wrath, calling you to repentance and amendment. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Homily 73, no. 3)

Athenagoras of Athens

Prostitution dishonors the fair workmanship of God

For those who have set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure – who do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways, so dishonouring the fair workmanship of God (for beauty on earth is not self-made, but sent hither by the hand and will of God) – these men, I say, revile us for the very things which they are conscious of themselves, and ascribe to their own gods, boasting of them as noble deeds, and worthy of the gods. These adulterers and pederasts defame the eunuchs and the once-married (while they themselves live like fishes; for these gulp down whatever falls in their way, and the stronger chases the weaker: and, in fact, this is to feed upon human flesh, to do violence in contravention of the very laws which you and your ancestors, with due care for all that is fair and right, have enacted), so that not even the governors of the provinces sent by you suffice for the hearing of the complaints against those, to whom it even is not lawful, when they are struck, not to offer themselves for more blows, nor when defamed not to bless: for it is not enough to be just (and justice is to return like for like), but it is incumbent on us to be good and patient of evil. (Athenagoras of Athens. A plea for the Christians to the emperors, Ch. 34)

James C. Thompson

The extent of divorce in Ancient Rome

With the permission of any relevant guardians a man and woman could declare themselves married as long as both were past the age of puberty, so it seemed not unreasonable that if one of the parties withdrew consent the marriage was over. Following this principle any man or woman who wished to do so could become divorced simply by sending the partner a letter or even by declaring in front of witnesses that the marriage was over. There was no such thing as joint marital property and any children of the marriage belonged to the father, so there was little to argue about. If the husband initiated the divorce he had to return the full dowry. […] If the wife (or in some cases her father) initiated the divorce, the husband was allowed to keep one-sixth for each child up to three plus, if applicable, another sixth for her adultery [Rules of Ulpian, 6.9]. Since children were in the potestas of the father there were fewer custody suits following divorce in Ancient Rome than today. A vindictive man could ensure an ex-wife never saw her children again, and this possibility may well have persuaded some women to remain in an unhappy marriage. (Thompson, James C. Women in the Ancient World, Divorce in Ancient Rome)

Basilio Sebastián Castellanos

What would have become of pagan peoples without the severity of the Church?

As Seneca said, [the women] counted the years, not by the succession of the consuls but rather by the number of husbands they changed; those women without a trace of modesty, given over to the most repulsive dissolution: that so deeply depraved society, in which vice was laughable and gained the upper hand, and corruption was not even masked by the mantle of customs. […] If we were to make a dissertation on the customs of the Nordic peoples, if we wished to demonstrate, based on solid and robust testimony, that the Bretons, for example, every 10 years or every 12 years, had common women, principally brothers with brothers, and fathers with sons, in such a way that to distinguish the families one had to grope, attributing the children to the first who had taken and lived with the maiden, as the cited Julius Caesar tells us in his aforementioned work De Bello Gallorum. Libro IV […] [what would have become of these peoples] if the Catholic Church had not prevented such grave evil with her inflexible severity? (Basilio Sebastián Castellanos. Ecclesiastical Biography, p. 605–607)

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