Tag Archives: Fr. Gerald Murray

Morality of behavior hinges on three elements

I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when visiting our parish CCD class. A young boy simply said: “You have to be good in order to be happy.” I told him that St. Thomas Aquinas would be pleased to hear him say this. But how do we make good choices in life? The simple answer is that we need to learn how God wants us to live, and then do that – “Thy will be done.” Our Divine Savior revealed God’s will to mankind by word and example. Jesus commanded His apostles to teach this revelation to all nations. The Church over the ages has set forth clear teachings to instruct the faithful in the way of Christ’s truth.

Fr. Gerald Murray

On the question of the morality of our actions, the Church has given very specific guidance in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on how to judge what we should do, and not do. In paragraphs 1750-1754 we learn the constitutive elements of the moral evaluation of human acts: “The morality of human acts depends on: the object chosen; the end in view or the intention; the circumstances of the action.” Object, intention and circumstances: These three elements determine the moral evaluation of any human act.

Regarding the object the Catechism states: “The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.” By a choice of our will we seek some good in our life. The question is: is it a true good, something pleasing to God? God gave us our reasoning so that we might discover what is pleasing to him in the variety of possible choices we make in life. Once discovered, we should act in conformity with that good, seeking the help of God’s grace.

Regarding one’s intention, the Catechism states: “In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: It is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken.” We seek what we think will produce good in our life, but that alone does not make our choice good in itself. It is a good choice if we seek what is objectively good.

Our intention cannot change an evil act into a good act simply by claiming that we have the best of intentions when doing something that is evil by its very nature. The Catechism states: “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means.”

Regarding circumstances the Catechism states: “The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.”

The task at hand for each of us is, with the help of God’s grace, to conform our lives to God’s law and to the example His Son Jesus Christ set for us.

FATHER GERALD MURRAY is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY. He holds a doctorate in canon law from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and appears as commentator on religious topics on TV and radio, including EWTN, Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC, NY1, Radio Maria, Relevant Radio, Fox News Radio and the Voice of America. He writes a monthly column for “The Catholic Thing” website. He served in U.S. Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps from 1994 to 2005.

Formative years with family – inestimable for life

One of the most inspiring churchmen today is Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Cardinal Sarah hails from the remote village of Ourous in the small West African country of Guinea, where he served as archbishop of Conakry before being called to Rome by Pope St. John Paul II to work in the Roman Curia. Cardinal Sarah has given two book-length interviews to French journalist Nicolas Diat: God or Nothing and The Power of Silence. They are commanding testimonies of faith and wisdom. He is not afraid to challenge with blunt words calling for repentance and renewal, and a return to sound spiritual practices and attitudes.

Fr. Gerald Murray

Regarding family life, he brings his rich personal experience into analysis of today’s challenges. In God or Nothing he states: “In Guinea, the family has remained the primordial cell of society, the place where we learn … to serve them unostentatiously. On my continent, the family is the melting pot of the values that irrigate the whole culture … where customs, wisdom, and moral principles are handed down, the cradle of unconditional love. Without this, neither society nor the Church exists anymore. In a family, the parents transmit the faith… they lay the foundations on which we build our life. The family is the little Church where we [first] encounter God, love Him, and form personal ties with Him.”

Cardinal Sarah’s parents were of great inspiration: “Like many villagers, my parents were farmers.… We were not rich; … our labor allowed us to be fed, clothed, and guaranteed a subsistence wage. My parents’… trust in God made a deep impression… I never saw them conflict with anyone.”

I recently heard a college professor say that when children play, they practice being adults.

Children, then, emulate the adults they spend time with and admire. Here we see the critical importance of parents’ external religious practices and attitudes, which they automatically communicate to children.

Cardinal Sarah recalls his youth: “My father taught me great love for the Virgin Mary. I can still see him kneeling down on the sand to pray the Angelus every day at noon and in the evening. I never forgot those moments … I imitated him and recited my prayers to the Mother of Jesus at his side.” When Cardinal Sarah entered minor seminary, he had to leave the village and travel a great distance. His return home in summers taught him the depths of his parents’ love for God and for their only son. Some of their friends tried to convince them that their son should not be allowed to pursue a priestly vocation. “I was very lucky, because my parents never opposed it. They understood the depth of my joy and did nothing to frustrate God’s plan for me. As Christians, they reflected that if my path was really leading me to the seminary, the Lord would guide me to the end.”

I, too, remember fondly the example of my own parents. As a youth, I was surprised to learn that my father went to daily Mass before work. My childish reaction was to say, “You only have to go to Mass on Sundays.” True, but Dad wanted to be at Mass every day. When I was older, my mother told me I, too, should attend morning Mass during Lent before class at the parish school. Those days were the seedbed of my priestly vocation.

Cardinal Sarah states what is obvious, but often forgotten: “Parents are man’s first educators. In a family, man learns to live and manifest the presence of God. If Christ is the bond that holds a family together, then it will have an indestructible solidity.”

The great challenge for parents is entrusting their children to God not simply at baptism, but every day. They do this by their prayers and sacrifices, by virtuous struggle to inspire children to love the Lord, by continuous example of humble dependence on God and His Church for strength and direction, by a simple way of life that treats Christian duties as opportunities to please the Lord and to grow in his grace.

Cardinal Sarah states: “Familial harmony can be the reflection of the harmony of heaven.” We all know when we feel touched by a heavenly blessing. Faith and love shared between parents and their children will produce abundant joys that are a foretaste of that heavenly harmony.

FATHER GERALD MURRAY is the pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY. He was ordained on December 1, 1984. He was awarded a doctorate in canon law in 1998 by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has appeared as a commentator on religious topics on various television and radio outlets, including EWTN, EWTN Spanish, Fox News, Fox Business News, MSNBC, NY1, Radio Maria, Relevant Radio, Fox News Radio and the Voice of America. He writes a monthly column for The Catholic Thing website. He served in U.S. Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps from 1994 to 2005.


Standing strong for the family

…Experts say the Vatican’s Synod on the Family must defend traditional teaching while acting as a ‘field hospital’ in a sin-sick world

synod-featureFamily problems like divorce and fatherlessness have long concerned the Church. When bishops gather Oct. 4-25 in Rome for the ordinary synod on the family, they will discuss the difficulties they’re seeing in families around the world — and offer solutions to the Pope.

Although some Bishops and Secularists would like to see major doctrinal changes resulting from the Synod — like the approval of homosexual activity or the allowing of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communionv — the reality is that the Synod will certainly disappoint them.

Extraordinary Synod

Fr. Gerald Murray

Fr. Gerald Murray

One of the reasons many Catholics are anxious about this synod is because of the media circus and confusion that swirled around the Extraordinary Synod which met in Rome last October. What emerged was division among participants: On one side was a group of bishops who want Church doctrine to change on issues of homosexuality, contraception, and Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics; on the other side were bishops who want to uphold time-honored Church teachings on marriage and family.

“We are in the midst of a debate that will try to influence each side,” said Fox News contributor Fr. Gerald Murray. “Both sides have been going back and forth. However, I don’t believe there will be a change in Church teaching.”

German and Swiss bishops head the camp opposing Church teaching on the family, with de facto leader German Cardinal Walter Kasper.

“The German Church is the wealthiest one in the world because of a very peculiar tax system, so most German bishops agree with Kasper,” said Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome office.

In May, two-thirds of the German bishops voted to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics — and those living in homosexual unions — to continue employment in Church-run institutions.

Faithful Catholics look to U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke as their leader. Priests who found their vocation under Pope St. John Paul II, as well as bishops from Africa, Asia and the Middle East occupy this camp. They want Humanae Vitae (Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical opposing artificial birth control) and John Paul’s Theology of the Body to be better integrated into Catholics’ lives.

Pope Francis will use the synod’s final document to craft an apostolic exhortation on the family. Most believe that he will uphold Church teachings, while calling upon Catholics to be merciful towards struggling families.

Finding focus

Although no one knows the synod’s outcome, there are a myriad of opinions as to what the bishops will discuss.

“I would like to see efforts to strengthen family life, helping people face challenges like divorce, raising children in the faith, and preparing couples for marriage,” said Fr. Murray, pastor of Holy Family Parish in New York City. “I would like to see a clearer teaching on Humanae Vitae, not as a Catholic hang-up but as the key to cooperating with God’s plan for marriage and the family.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a delegate to the synod, told Legatus magazine that there is a great need for the Church to accompany those who are hurting.

“It’s not easy to live a good life,” he said. “For us to be that healing touch of Christ, we need to be a ‘field hospital.’ We have to be that light on the mountain, not a light hidden under a bushel.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Archbishop Kurtz says the Church needs to inspire witnesses — including single parents — to stand up and speak about the sacrifices they’ve made for their children and their marriages.

“They often say to me, ‘I don’t want my child to endure what I did alone,’” he said. “We need to call forth couples and families who can be mentors for others. There needs to be witnessing going on in neighborhoods, one family to another, even informally.”

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., said he “would like to see the synod identify cultural obstacles that make it difficult to live out marriage — and give couples the tools to navigate them. There are all kinds of wonderful tools for couples. I think that families can get overwhelmed, distracted and lose hope.”

Jayabalan said the synod fathers need to talk about the state of marriage in the wake of the sexual revolution.

“They should go back to Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae: What do we need to do to practically to teach this again?” said Jayabalan. “They should also find ways for married couples to give their testimonies.”

Creative solutions

Many dioceses and individual bishops are already working on creative solutions to the problems families face. For example, the Pittsburgh diocese announced recently that it would stop charging a fee to begin the annulment process. In the Archdiocese of Louisville, it’s been free for 15 years. The Diocese of Lincoln waives the fee if necessary and asks for a donation when possible.

Bishop Conley’s Lincoln diocese is also working on a tribunal outreach.

“Oftentimes, in the process of annulments, we wait for couples to come to us,” said Bishop Conley. “The idea now is to present a positive message and go out and find couples that are outside the Church. The idea is to offer them a remedy to look at the Church again. We will also have someone shepherd them through the annulment process. It will be a person-to-person ministry.”

The Lincoln diocese is also looking for ways to speed up the process.

Bishop James Conley

Bishop James Conley

Bishop Conley published a pastoral letter on contraception in 2014 called “Language of Love,” which re-presents Humanae Vitae in a way that people can understand today.

“It reaches out in a pastoral way,” he said. “The whole issue of contraception is at the heart of so many struggles.”

In terms of the New Evangelization for families, some dioceses, notably Lincoln and Denver, are leading the way with online resources to help struggling families — articles, webinars, audio links, blogs, and links to organizations devoted to helping couples and families.

Proponents of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the family want to encourage those faced with difficulties.

“What I would like to see at the Synod is the rich treasure of the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage re-presented in a robust way,” said Bishop Conley. “I know that there are all kinds of struggles, but we cannot lower the bar on our teaching.”

Archbishop Kurtz concurred. “We cannot turn away from the great gift of marriage as a union of one man and one woman who are open to new life. We need to be true to the dignity of every person.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

Learn more:

Ordinary Synod: An advisory body to the Pope that considers issues of the Universal Church or specific to a certain geographical area. Meetings are held at fixed intervals.

Extraordinary Synod: A special synod that is held to deal with urgent matters. Only three have been held since the Second Vatican Council.