Tag Archives: roman catholic church

Good Pope, Bad Pope

Mike Aquilina writes that bad popes prove that Jesus has been looking after his Church . . .

AquilinaGood Pope, Bad Pope
Mike Aquilina
Servant Books, 2013
140 pages, $14.99 paperback

Why would Mike Aquilina pick some of history’s worst popes for his book? Every pope is by definition a remarkable man. But he chose these men because they reveal how the papacy developed. They show how Christ kept his promise to his bride, the Church, not only in her health, but also in her sickness.

The great popes advanced our understanding of Christian doctrine, but even more remarkable, the worst popes could do nothing to damage Church teaching. That’s why, even in its darkest moments, the story of the papacy is a story of triumph.

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How does the Church approve an apparition?

Al Kresta writes that investigations are empirical, rational, moral, and theological . . .

Al Kresta

Al Kresta

When there is credible evidence of an apparition, the Church engages in empirical, rational, moral, and theological investigation. From the beginning, the Church assumed responsibility for investigating unusual supernatural phenomena.

The local bishop usually has the task of investigating allegedly supernatural claims, and his is normally the last word as far as the Church is concerned. While the pope can overturn the judgment, he is unlikely to do so unless there are some extenuating circumstances.

The bishop looks at three basic areas: the content of the message; the means by which the message was transmitted, such as trances, ecstasies, voices, visions, and so on; and the character of the spiritual fruit displayed in the life of those influenced by the message.

He might assemble a commission to investigate. He may close the apparition site for a while and call in experts in moral and dogmatic theology, forensic pathology, optics, photography, medicine, abnormal psychology, chemistry — even meteorology, if weather conditions significantly played into the claims. Can this phenomenon be explained away as natural or perhaps even diabolical?

The investigators interview the seers. Is there evidence of hallucination, grandiosity, schizophrenia, or self-delusion? Inquiries regarding the character of the visionaries are made among their friends, families, acquaintances, spiritual directors, and pastors — as well as those who have attended any public sessions where supernatural manifestations allegedly occurred. Devotion, however, is no guarantee that a revelation is authentic.

The investigators gauge the moral and spiritual impact on the seers and the proponents of the apparition. They pore over any alleged messages from Christ, Mary, or the saints to see whether these messages contradict Scripture or Sacred Tradition.

It’s important to keep special supernatural manifestations in perspective. Saint John of the Cross wryly observed, “One act done in charity is more precious in God’s sight than all the visions and communications possible — since they imply neither merit nor demerit — and many who have not received these experiences are incomparably more advanced than others who have had many.” Normally, the local bishop’s disapproval buries the claim. In the case of St. Joan of Arc, however, the bishop’s decision was reversed. The apparitions at Medjugorje (since 1981) have faced strong and repeated rejection by local bishops. Other prominent theologians and churchmen, however, have disputed the bishop’s judgment. A definitive decision in this case is probably far off.

After looking at all the facts, the bishop’s commission may conclude that these particular private revelations are “probable.” Usually that’s about as much “approval” as they will give. Nobody is required to believe these apparitions. The approval of a private revelation may simply be “negative” — that is, there is nothing against faith and morals in the revelation or the phenomena emanating from it. It is “worthy of belief” and people are free to believe it.

AL KRESTA is CEO of Ave Maria Communications and host of Kresta in the Afternoon. Reprinted with permission from his book “Why Do Catholics Genuflect?” St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001.


Catechism 101

The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 66, 67

What is papal primacy?

Fr. John Trigilio writes that papal primacy is based on Christ’s teaching . . .

Reverend John Trigilio Jr.

Reverend John Trigilio Jr.

Papal primacy is the concept that the bishop of Rome (the pope) is the universal pastor and supreme head of the Catholic Church. He has full, supreme, immediate, and universal jurisdictional authority to govern the Church.

This means that no bishop, synod, or council of bishops can override his authority. His teaching authority is defined in the doctrine of papal infallibility. His governing authority is contained in papal primacy.

The Eastern Orthodox Church considers the bishop of Rome to have a primacy in honor among the five patriarchs of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome. They do not recognize his primacy in jurisdiction, however.

Every bishop in the Catholic Church must be approved by the pope and receive a papal mandate before being ordained and consecrated to the episcopacy, and it is the pope who confers on that bishop the authority to govern the diocese to which he has been appointed.

The First Vatican Council defined papal infallibility and papal primacy. “All the faithful of Christ must believe that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and that the Pontiff of Rome himself is the successor of the blessed Peter, the chief of the apostles, and is the true Vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church and faith, and teacher of all Christians.”

The charism of infallibility is exercised only when the pope issues an ex cathedra statement on faith and morals or when he proposes a teaching united with all the bishops of the world. Unlike divine inspiration of scripture, where God directed the sacred authors to write only what he wanted them to write, infallibility means there are no moral or doctrinal errors present in the statement.

The basis for the teachings on papal primacy and papal infallibility are found in Matthew 16:17-19 when Jesus said to Simon, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Some who dispute papal primacy claim that the original Greek words used by Matthew (Petros for Peter and petra for rock) show a difference between rock and stone, as if Peter were a small stone and the Church was a large rock. Actually, the Greek word for stone is lithos. Petros is nothing more than petra (rock) with a masculine ending. Calling Simon “petra” would be like calling John “Joan” or “Johanna.” So despite the feminine ending of Petra, linguistic and biblical scholarship maintains that Simon “Peter” is the rock upon which Christ built his church.

FATHER JOHN TRIGILIO JR. is an author, theologian and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. This article is reprinted with permission from “The Catholicism Answer Book: The 300 Most Frequently Asked Questions,” which he authored with Fr. Kenneth D. Brighenti.


Catechism 101

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.

The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head. As such, this college has supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 882, 883

Pope Benedict XVI stuns the world

Holy Father resigns, conclave to elect 266th Pope will take place later this month . . .

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

It had been nearly 600 years since a successor of St. Peter resigned from his post. After months of reflection and prayer, Pope Benedict XVI became the third pope in the last 1,000 years to resign from the Chair of Peter.

The Feb. 11 announcement that shook the world has now given way to speculation as to who will become the 266th successor of St. Peter. The 115 cardinals who will choose the next pope (including 11 Americans and three Canadians) have already begun to assemble in Rome for meetings, prayer and discernment.

The Resignation

While the surprise announcement took everyone by surprise, Pope Benedict gave several hints at his decision that most Vatican-watchers missed or dismissed.

On April 29, 2009, Pope Benedict stopped in Aquila, Italy, and visited the tomb of an obscure medieval pope named St. Celestine V (1215- 1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his episcopal authority as bishop of Rome, on Celestine’s tomb.

As Scott Hahn pointed out, Pope Celestine V was elected “somewhat against his will, shortly before his 80th birthday (Ratzinger was 78 when he was elected pope in 2005). Just five months later, after issuing a formal decree allowing popes to resign (or abdicate, like other rulers), Pope Celestine V exercised that right. And now Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to follow in the footsteps of this venerable model.”

Pope Benedict also indicated his inclination to step down in an interview with German papal biographer Peter Seewald. The writer told German magazine Focus that when he met with the Pope in December, he appeared to have lost vision in one eye, was losing his hearing and looked emaciated.

“I had never seen him so exhausted, so worn out,” Seewald said. “He did not look unwell, but the fatigue that had taken over his whole being, his body and soul could not be missed.”

Seewald quoted Benedict as having said, “I’m an old man, and the strength is ebbing. I think what I’ve done is enough.” When Seewald asked if he was considering giving up the papacy, the Pope responded, “That depends on how much my physical strength will force me to that.”

The Conclave

Pope Benedict acknowledged his impending retirement during his first public appearance after the announcement. “I did this in full freedom for the good of the Church, after having prayed at length and having examined my conscience before God, well aware of the seriousness of the act, but equally conscious of no longer being able to carry out the Petrine ministry with the strength that it requires,” he said during his Feb. 13 general audience.

The resignation became official on Feb. 28 when the Pope left the Vatican for his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. He will live there until remodeling work is completed on the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens.

In his Feb. 14 address to thousands of priests from the diocese of Rome, in what turned out to be a farewell address in his capacity as their bishop, the Holy Father described his retirement plans.

“Even if I am withdrawing into prayer, I will always be close to all of you, and I am sure that you will be close to me, even if I remain hidden to the world,” he said in his mostly extemporaneous remarks.

According to current rules, established by Blessed John Paul II, a period of sede vacante (Latin for “the seat being empty”) follows a pope’s death or resignation. A conclave of papal electors (cardinals in good standing under the age of 80) must convene between 15-20 days after the Chair of Peter is vacated. Benedict altered those rules, allowing cardinals to shorten the length of the sede vacante.

Presiding over the conclave will be the most senior cardinal-bishop under age 80, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. Two secret ballots are held each morning and two each afternoon in the Sistine Chapel. A two-thirds majority is required. Ballots are burned after each round. Black smoke means no decision; white smoke signals that cardinals have chosen a pope and he has accepted. Bells also signal the election of a pope to help avoid possible confusion over the color of smoke coming from chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

The presiding cardinal, if not elected himself, is charged with asking the elected candidate to accept the papacy. If the candidate accepts election, the presiding cardinal will ask what the new pope’s name will be. The cardinals may elect any baptized Catholic male, but since 1389, they have always elected a fellow cardinal.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor of Legatus magazine.

Culture warrior

Cardinal Raymond Burke talks marriage, life, culture and Legatus’ 25th  anniversary Summit

With Legatus’ 25th Anniversary Summit less than two months away, members from across the country and around the world are gearing up for what’s anticipated to be one of the highlights of the organization’s quarter century of existence.

The event’s remarkable lineup of faculty and clergy will focus on this year’s theme — “Living the Fullness of Faith.” Attendees will hear from President George W. Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Dr. William Donohue of the Catholic League, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Legatus’ former national chaplain Fr. George Rutler, and others. EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo returns as the master of ceremonies.

As a preview of the Feb. 2-4 event — to be held at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Fla. — we bring you an exclusive interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church. American Catholics recognize the former archbishop of St. Louis for his orthodoxy and willingness to confront America’s culture wars head-on. He is the recipient of Legatus’ 2006 Defender of the Faith Award.

The prefect of Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Burke is the second-highest ranking American prelate in the Roman Curia after Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His talk title at the Summit is: The Universal Vocation to Holiness and the New Evangelization.

Tell us about your upbringing.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin in a very Catholic home as the youngest of six children. We were certainly encouraged both at home and at school to consider the possibility of a vocation. At an early age, I felt a strong attraction to the priesthood. My family even obtained for me — and this was very common at the time — a little Mass kit for children to play “Mass.” I received that for Christmas one year. Over time the attraction grew stronger.

I started serving Mass in the fourth grade. Over the years, I sensed more and more that God was calling me to the priesthood. I finished the eighth grade and entered the minor seminary of my diocese. I received wonderful help at Holy Cross Seminary in the diocese of La Crosse. Over the years, I was more and more confirmed by those who were in charge of my seminary education. Not that I didn’t consider other calls, but I became convinced that I was being called to be a priest.

You founded a Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin when you were bishop of La Crosse. What was your motivation for that effort?

First of all, it was to provide the diocese with a fitting place for pilgrimage. One of the oldest forms of devotion is pilgrimage. This is also true in the Jewish religion, as our Lord went to Jerusalem with his parents. I chose Our Lady of Guadalupe because of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, which encouraged us to look to Our Lady of Guadalupe as a star in the culture of life. I felt that how she appeared to Juan Diego in 1531 and her image miraculously remained on his tilma, that she would be a model and powerful intercessor to transform society.

Tell us about your relationship with Legatus.

I knew about it when I was bishop of La Crosse.When I arrived in St. Louis there was already a chapter and, of course, I was very involved with it. Legatus helps Catholic leaders in various areas see how their Catholic faith is their guide in whatever endeavor they are involved. It brings good Catholics together to encourage one another and assist one another. And it helps members see how to be more faithful witnesses to the Catholic faith in whatever areas they as individuals are involved.

You’ve been outspoken in defense of true marriage while same-sex “marriage” has become more acceptable in America. Can we win this battle?

Certainly we can win this battle. Christ has brought truth into this world. He promised to remain with us always. We must be confident that that truth will prevail. This means that in the meantime we must witness to the truth. To me the source of confusion in regards to human sexuality goes back to the acceptance of contraception. Once you separate the procreative meaning of human sexuality, you open the door to all kinds of sexual expression that are not true to our nature and not true to our sexuality.

What can the laity do in this struggle?

We have to start at home with parents being formed in the truth about marriage, always open to the gift of life, sure that sexual union is procreative in meaning. There has to be a true gift of self, which includes the gift of fertility.We have to provide sound catechesis for children — that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, that it is enduring, lifelong and procreative. That teaching must be restored. Interference with human sexuality by chemicals to eliminate its procreative nature is a great evil. It cannot be justified.

Latest polls have found that more Americans call themselves pro-life than pro-choice. What’s your take on this?

More and more Americans are recognizing the bankruptcy of the attacks on human life — the unborn, the gravely ill, the elderly, the artificial generation of human life. As Americans are becoming more and more informed about what abortion is, what embryonic stem-cell research is, they are appalled because God has placed a natural moral law in our hearts to safeguard human life. It’s in our nature.

Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae that we must call abortion what it is — the taking of human life. In my dioceses, I have visited many crisis pregnancy centers. I’m told that as soon as women see ultrasounds, the great majority of them choose not to have an abortion. In our culture, there are lots of lies — giving women a “choice” sounds good. But we don’t talk about the fact that that “choice” will destroy a life.

You have also been outspoken against Catholic institutions honoring pro-abortion politicians, but few priests and bishops talk about this.

I think that in latter years there has been a false sense of being pastoral, in the sense that priests and bishops can only talk about positive things. The whole notion about confronting the evils of society — especially those things that have become politically acceptable — became difficult, as if these subjects should not be raised. But the fact of the matter is that if we are true to the Holy Scriptures, priests and bishops have always been sentinels who alert people in their care about the evils that destroy individuals and society. The Gospel confronts people to ask serious questions.

How can a Catholic institution, like a university, forge a stronger identity once it has weakened?

It is fundamentally with the personnel. Make sure that you are hiring individuals who understand the Catholic teachings and are firmly committed to following them. The leadership level, certainly, and the whole staff will strengthen the Catholic identity of an institution. Certainly, if there are documents of the institution that are not in line with Catholic teaching, they must be put in order. Governing documents have to be true to the Catholic faith.

These new universities [in the United States] are wonderful developments. There are new universities, also new hospitals and new Catholic charities. It is my hope that they will lead some of the older, weaker institutions to take on a renewal of their Catholic identity.

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.

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Silver anniversary summit

President Bush to headline all-star event in February

by Matthew A. Rarey

President George W. Bush

The clock is ticking down to Legatus’ 25th anniversary. And excitement is building as the landmark year kicks off with Legatus’ annual Summit from Feb. 2-4 at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Fla. Because a capacity crowd of over 500 participants is anticipated, event organizers suggest booking a room as early as possible.

The Summit’s theme, “Living the Fullness of Faith,” takes its inspiration from Christ’s declaration, “Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). The roster of speakers and special guests is impressive. Confirmed faculty include:

President George W. Bush, who wowed Legates at the 2010 Summit

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the main celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a convert to Catholicism

Dr. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Fr. George Rutler, Legatus’ former national chaplain and host of EWTN’s Christ in the City

• Legatus’ international chaplain Bishop Sam Jacobs, Houma-Thibodaux (La.) diocese

J. David Karam, president of Wendy’s International

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services

• EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, master of ceremonies

The 2012 Summit is hosted by the Legatus’ Genesis Chapter, based in Toledo, Ohio. The Summit’s Friday program honoring Legatus founder Tom Monaghan will take place on the campus of Ave Maria University. For more details, visit Legatus.org.

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.