Make Haste…Slowly! – On Balancing two texts of Scripture about the use of Discipline in the Church

We’ve had a good amount of debate on the blog about the question of Church discipline. Specifically, what should bishops do to discipline prominent Catholics and Catholic institutions who stray from Church teaching and/or practice, and do so in a rather public way.

The issues revolve around abortion, especially voting to fund abortion, homosexual “marriage,” and religious liberty. Names and Institutions such as Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, Sr. Carol Kegan, John Kerry, the late Ted Kennedy, Georgetown University, Notre Dame University, etc., et al.

Prudence – I have argued that the best way forward in such things is often a matter of prudential judgment. A prudential judgment is the judgment, rooted in the virtue of prudence whereby a person, recognizing his moral duty in a given matter, discerns and then chooses the best means to accomplish it. A prudential judgement is also one in which the circumstances must be weighed to determine the correct action. And since circumstances may vary, there are situations where two people could weigh the circumstances differently and ethically come to different conclusions. Further there are, often times, different paths to the same goal.

It would seem that the essential goals for a bishop in matters like these would be the salvation of souls, the good of individuals, the common good, unity of the faithful in the truth of Christ and the gospel and of holding souls as close to Christ as possible.

How best should this be accomplished? There seem to be two basic camps in the discussion with very different views of what the Bishops should do in terms of discipline, when and to whom. In a way I am mindful of the old Latin expression: Festina Lente: Make haste, slowly! Hence I will term these two schools of thought: Festina! and Lente! Lets look at each school and see the scriptural roots behind each.

I. FESTINA! Swift and firm action – This view holds that the individuals and institutions like those above should be strongly and publicly warned by their own bishop, and, in the case of Federal politicians, also warned by the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington. Further, they should be denied Holy Communion and also warned of formal excommunication if they do not repent. Such procedures should be begun soon after it is discovered that repentance is unlikely.

It is argued that this approach is necessary, both for the good of their own souls, but also for the common good of the Church. As for institutions, such as the universities listed, they should loose their status and identity as Catholic institutions in short order, if they fail to comply with the document Ex Corde Ecclesiae and other relevant norms. Again, this, it is said, will prevent them from doing further harm.

Scandal – For the Bishops, pastors and other Church leaders to fail in this regard is to give wide and public scandal and to allow evil and error to proliferate.

Fraternal correction – This sort of conclusion is strongly rooted in the need and call for fraternal correction spoken of in scripture. Jesus himself says,

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matt 18:15-18)

There are numerous other passages in the Scriptures about fraternal correction (which St. Thomas numbers as an act of charity) in a lengthier article I wrote on the topic here: Correcting the Sinner

The point of fraternal correction, even up to, and including excommunication, is that it is like a medicine meant to heal. It’s purpose is not simply to shame or exclude, but to illustrate the seriousness of something and call forth repentance and ultimate reintegration into the community of faith. A second purpose of fraternal correction, even including excommunication is to protect the community from the effects of sin and sinners.

Here then is approach number one to the situation before us: swift and firm action by the bishops, pastors and other Church leaders, for the reasons stated, against offenders such as those listed above.

II. LENTE! Careful, deliberative discussion with the purpose of keeping doors of communication open and avoiding the alienation of either offenders or third parties. This position usually gives greater weight to the circumstances of our time, wherein disciplinary actions are often misunderstood and misrepresented by a hostile media, and other third parties. For example, it is thought that the refusal of communion to a pro-abortion politicians, will not be seen as a matter of the Church engaging a member in a matter of internal discipline. Rather it is seen and portrayed as a politically based attack by a Church that is increasingly conservative and only “selectively outraged.” These charges are not true but are widely accepted as such. There is also the fear that the disciplined public figures will become martyrs for their cause, and the whole thing becomes a backfire for the Church.

This approach also gives greater weight to the wish to keep the doors of discussion open and to avoid the risk of alienation either of the individual, the institution, or the people people closely associated with them. It emphasizes that Christ called sinners more than he repelled them, that it is better to hold sinners close, than repel them.

The approach is strongly rooted in the Scripture of the wheat and the tares:

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (Matt 13:24-30).

It is also argued that this second approach, articulated here by Jesus, is also the usual approach of God, who is patient with sinners and often very slow to punish. Indeed, his patience often makes the patience of Catholic bishops seem pale by comparison. For God was “slow” to bring an end to the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and many other genocidal maniacs. He has allowed many heretics and heresies to flourish.

God’s delay is deeply mysterious to us. Why does he allow such things, knowing many will be hurt, killed, misled, and confused? It is not easy to say. But this is God’s usual way, and the way described by Jesus in the parable of the wheat and tares. In that parable the “owner” (God) sees greater risk in harming the wheat by pulling up the weeds, than by letting them grow together to the harvest. There is a wisdom that we can grasp here, but it also remains mysterious to us that God allows evil and error to go on so long.

So where do these reflections and camps leave us? It would seem that they lead us back to the understanding that knowing the best course in given circumstances, involves prudential judgements and the weighing of many factors. It would seem that we are led to greater humility and away from certain and sweeping condemnations of Bishops or other leaders who do not follow our exact plan and judgment, and also of those who think more aggressive measures are needed today. Reasonable people will differ on what is best.

Note the balance demonstrated by both Scripture and orthodoxy. Both these very different courses of action are taught and displayed in Scripture. Both are needed. Both can be applied depending on circumstances. The Jesus who said of the unrepentant sinner refusing correction of the Church, “Treat him as a Gentile or tax collector,”  also said of the weeds,  “No, don’t tear them out, let them grow together until the harvest.”

Which is it? Orthodoxy says both. And it is a prudential judgement about which course of action to apply when, on whom, where and to what extent.

Comments are open. I realize you may favor one approach or the other. It is fine to say what you prefer to be done by Church leaders. But try to avoid denunciations of either side. As I hope can be seen, both traditions have a place in the Church, and reasonable men and women can, and do, authentically differ on which course to take. And they differ both generally, and in specific cases.  Again, it is Okay to say what approach you favor, but avoid name calling and judgements about the personal character of those who may have different approaches or understandings, including our leaders. It might be interesting to note not only why you favor one course over another, but also, why you think the parameters of the other course of action do not apply.

In this movie scene from The Mission two brother priests have chosen very different ways to address an impending threat to the community. One chooses to confront the evil,  the other chooses the way of prayer. Sadly both end up dying and destruction comes upon the community despite the best (and different) efforts of both. Who was right, who was wrong? The frustrating and ambiguous ending reminds us that it is not always clear what is best. Yet somehow in the terrible wake of this battle, the faith survived, for God can make a way out of no way.

92 Replies to “Make Haste…Slowly! – On Balancing two texts of Scripture about the use of Discipline in the Church”

  1. God gave us free will. We are permitted to rebel. We are permitted to govern those who rebel. If a rock will not fall according to the law of gravity, then an extraordinary effort is required by the lawmaker to keep the rest of creation from following the example of the errant rock and flying out into the outer darkness where there will be “wailing and nashing of teeth.” Likewise, if a rebel defies the law of the Church, let the hierarchy take action to get the rebel under control – for the sake of the Church and the rebel.

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful post. It seems to me that Church discipline is more often used against those who violate norms of the political right. In other words, I have heard of those being disciplined for violating Church teachings on abortion and homosexuality, but I have never heard of the same being done to those who, in violation of Church teachings, support the death penalty, or elective, unnecessary wars. As a moderate, centrist Catholic, it deeply worries me that this issue seems to be political. While Church discipline in itself may not be a bad thing, the selective application raises questions. Therefore I think the Church should be extremely hesitant to use it.

    1. While the Church is practically against the death penalty, it is not absolutely against it, so disciplining a Catholic for his stance on the death penalty would be difficult, if not impossible. As far as “elective, unnecessary” wars, what you mean is “unjust” wars and here again, since there is such thing as just war, the following would be unsound:

      X war is unjust
      Catholic John supports x war
      Therefore Catholic John is in violation of Church teaching and needs discipline

      Rather you would have to show that Catholic John explicitly believes and/or teaches that unjust war in itself is acceptable. Again, this would be impossible to show because few people support a war they know and believe unjust.

      There is no such wiggle-room so to speak with things like abortion, contraceptive acts, homosexual acts, etc. These aren’t wrong depending on subjective intentions or relative circumstances–they are always wrong in and of themselves.

      That this seems to favor the right is circumstantial.

      1. Bender writes: “Rather you would have to show that Catholic John explicitly believes and/or teaches that unjust war in itself is acceptable.” See my comments elsewhere on John 13:34,35. Do you think that removes “wiggle room”?

    2. The teaching of the Church is to protect human life, such that “thou shall not kill” merely to cause the death of another, but that one might justly exercise deadly force in the protection and defense of life. Hence, the “death penalty” is in fact permissible in those extreme cases where imprisonment is insufficient to protect the life and safety of others. Likewise, war is permissible where the lives of a nation’s citizens are endangered.

      So, the question usually is in the practical application of these teachings to a given situation. And the Church leaves such case-by-case applications to the prudential judgment of the competent governmental authorities, such that mere personal disagreement by Church officials on a given case does not give rise to any discipline for acting contrary to Church teaching. Rather, the Church is called to repeat her teachings and call all persons to ensure that they are acting consistent with them.

      Now, if a person were to, instead, publicly say that the Church was wrong in her teachings, if he were to publicly advocate against the substance of these Church teachings themselves, rather than their application, if he were to, for example, promote the idea that government has the rightful power to arbitrarily declare people criminals without cause and kill them with impunity for any reason, and/or promote the idea that rulers may go to war for any and all reasons, with or without just cause, then by promoting these false ideas, such person would indeed be causing scandal and misleading people, and that would be cause for discipline by the Church.

      However, if we take the example of the Iraq War (begun under Bush) or the example of the Afghanistan War (expanded under Obama), in neither case was there a public repudiation of just war principles, in neither case did either Bush or Obama advocate for the right to engage in arbitrary warfare. Rather, in both cases, they seriously considered the various criteria for just war, the causes for going to war, the extent of engagement, etc., and they decided in their prudential judgment, having much more information at hand than the public or Church officials, that just war principles had been met and complied with. In the case of treatment of detainees, despite the false narrative and slanders coming from some quarters, NO ONE in the former Administration said that it is morally permissible to torture detainees. They all said torture was wrong. And they further said that in their prudential judgment, pouring water on someone for 10 seconds in the same manner as the U.S. does with its own troops does not constitute “torture.”

      In either example, had people come out and said that it was morally permissible to engage in unjust war or that torture was not immoral, then there would have been cause for correction and discipline by the Church. But that is not what happened in either case.

    3. A thoughful post indeed. The core of the teaching IMO is Mt 18:
      ““If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matt 18:15-18)
      Lauren worries rightly about double standards, and ‘church politics’, which can also vary with nationality. (But cf. God’s own view at Gen 18:25. “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of ALL THE EARTH do right?”)
      We don’t need Augustine to teach us about apostasy (which is the term for doctrinal differences). Mt 18:15 means, to me, that false teaching against Jehovah s/b false teaching also against me. Wars IMO are covered by two scriptures:
      Rev 4:11. “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power. Because you have created all things: and for your will they were and have been created.” Only the Creator of all has the right to decide destruction of any of his creation. That means I cannot decide on a capital crime case. What do you think?
      For Christians in wartime, we have John 13:34,35. “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” My conscience won’t allow me to kill a person who is my spiritual brother, even if Roosevelt or Hitler say he is my national enemy. What do you think?
      Homosexuality is an interesting case. First, I’ve known very literate gay people who say, ‘The Bible doesn’t talk against homosexuality; it was the old fogeys who were against it.’ That, of course, is not true. 1 Cor 6:9-11 comes to mind. In fact, it’s worth quoting (Douay, as always):
      “Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers: Nor the effeminate nor liers with mankind nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor railers nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God. And such some of you were.”
      Note first, that ‘not coming into the kingdom of God’ means the one alternative: death. Note also that this includes “fornicators … adulterers”. So straight people who have sex outside of marriage will also ‘die the death’. Note further that “drunkards” ditto. But “such some of you were”, so the passage refers to UNREPENTANT ones. Note finally that “covetous” or ‘envious’ people ditto. And envy is not enforceable by men- it’s a state of mind or heart condition- but ‘Jehovah reads the hearts’.
      One point to get out of this is, I may hate gay folks, but I have to hate my own drunkenness or railing in anger also, to be a godly person. Too much anti-gay preaching is simply human prejudice.
      BTW, does our Christian training allow us to see the first goal in approaching even the most serious of wrongdoers in the congregation? ‘We have won our brother over”!

      1. “Too much anti-gay preaching is simply human prejudice.”

        Thankfully, the anti-gay preaching is entirely proportionate to the cultural juggernaut bent on normalizing it. If there is ever a Theives’ Pride Parade, I’m certain we will see more anti-stealing preaching.

        1. Scott, here’s what I had in mind. From 1 Cor 6:
          “Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers: Nor the effeminate nor liers with mankind nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor railers nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God.”
          Unrepentant drunkenness is a capital crime under the Law and per Paul. Now look at the public attention given to it by preachers compared to their attention to homosexuality. Or theft: we all regret being victims of it, but is it ever a hot topic from the pulpits? The jails are full of burglars who are nominal Christians, while many gay people are ‘unchurched’, so why aren’t the religious blogs full ot commentaries on that?
          “cultural juggernaut bent on normalizing it.” What about the cultural juggernaut of war fever? The US alone is fighting wars on three fronts: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Homeland Security. In these [just?] wars the daily collateral damage often exceeds any sort of military “progress” against combatants. What do Catholic and Protestant military chaplains have to say or do about it? Do they act in jeopardy of their own paychecks?

          And now we read an unintended consequence of “progress” in the US military; women are moving more toward the forward lines, are being trained for and promoted to “male” positions- and are suffering rapes and other abuse as a result. If an American woman is terrorized by rape by an American soldier, then how are man’s “anti-terrorism” schemes working out for her?

          In 1994 ‘the most intense episode of killing’ occurred in Rwanda, by Hutus against Tutsis. It was ‘stopped’ by intense killing by the recovering Tutsis.What percent of Rwandans were nominal Catholics? A handful? A minority? What did the priests say or do about it? I know the answers- if you don’t, you should do some research- and they lead me to expect many blogs about the incident. Where are they?

  3. Make haste, slowly!

    Fair enough. Beginning when?

    When does “the clock” start on these matters? In January 2012, when the Georgetown invitation and the contraceptive mandate were both made? In the last couple of years, when same-sex marriage has been pushed in multiple states and Catholic organizations have been obligated to get out of providing adoptions and other services?

    Or do we start in 1991, over 20 years ago, when Ex Corde Ecclesiae was promulgated? Or 1967, over 44 years ago, when the “Land O’Lakes” statement was issued, claiming autonomy from ecclesiastical supervision, which no doubt emboldened theologians and priests to openly and loudly rebel against Humanae Vitae? And, although few of us were actually paying attention to such things back in the 60s, does anyone doubt that the rupture began well before 1967?

    Are not these earlier dates the right and proper beginning point?

    Yes, prudence dictates that one proceed with deliberation and care, and God Himself takes His time, but are we then to expect the same slowness here? Must we cry out for 400 years as did the Israelites in Egypt? Or can we say, with all reasonableness that nearly 50 years of this is enough slowness, that people have been more — much, much more — than patient, and that it is finally time for some haste?

    There are wolves who have separated the flock and have led many sheep away. The quiet approach of the last 50 years or so has only allowed more sheep to be lost. Is it the answer of the shepherd to say that those who have been led astray will simply have to wait even longer, and that those sheep in the flock are on their own and must fend for themselves? What if they do not have time to wait? What if the wolves tear into their flesh in the meantime? The wolves have been allowed to run free for at least nearly 50 years — longer than the Israelites wandered in the desert.

    We are fast approaching Pentecost. The Holy Father has called for a New Evangelization. The time is now. Enough with remaining inside in the Upper Room. Yes, it is time for our present-day Apostles to run with haste out into the street, filled with zeal and the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the truth. It is time for them to be a sign of contradiction. It is time for them to go defend the sheep and reunite the flock.

    Yes, I know that sometimes it is not a pleasant task to stand fast in the truth and to call people to task. Cardinal Ratzinger took a lot of arrows when he was at the CDF. And Cardinal Wuerl took a few arrows over the Sister Elizabeth Johnson affair (for which he is to be highly commended), and his own assignment to the CDF will be a thankless job.

    But such things must be done. Thus, Cardinal Wuerl is to be encouraged to apply the same diligence now, both himself and through his delegates, to the present crises that have persisted for far too long. He is the teacher and shepherd for the entire Archdiocese, including those who inhabit those several acres of land over by the Key Bridge, and those people over at Georgetown are sorely in need of instruction, from the president of the university on down.

    1. Make no mistake — this is just a prelude of things to come if the contraceptive mandate is upheld. Many hospitals and health systems that were established by the Church and religious orders, only to later have their leadership taken over by secular boards, will quite possibly break from the Church when push comes to shove, and they will provide not only contraception coverage but abortions.

      Why? How? Again, because like the universities, the hospitals have been stolen from the Church by secular leadership and they thus consider themselves to be wholly autonomous from the bishops and anyone else in the Church, including her Head.

      So, if not now, the bishops better be ready then. The fight is no longer coming, the fight is here. The battle has commenced.

      1. I think the clock started at Pentecost. Even as far back as the Council of Jerusalem there were fierce arguments about what constitutes “valid” membership in the community of Jesus’ followers, and Peter himself seems to have seen the need for compromise after being confronted by Paul on the need for adaptive change to the needs of the times. The history of the Church is one of extremes which gradually and eventually leads to a balance. I’m sure apocalyptic battle language has often been in the conversation from both sides but I’ve always been personally uncomfortable with it since, in spite of the need for courage and consistency, it sometimes can lead to a lack of ultimate trust in God. We plant seeds, but we’re not the ones to harvest the crop…

      2. Well stated Bender. If not now, when? Christ minced no words when He publicaly stated, “Hypocrites, well
        did Isaiah prophesy about you when he said, ‘this people honor with their lips, but their hearts are far me;
        in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ ” He may well have been talking about
        tradition, but the point is, He called them what they were, ‘vipers and hypocrites.’ The Holy Father has it
        right when he stated,’ the future of the Church may well quite smaller’.

  4. A brilliant blog once again Father! Perhaps the ‘festina’-inclined reply quickly, and the ‘lenten’-inclined take a little longer to consider their position…. With prayers.

  5. My opinion is that, as with all things Catholic, the solution is somewhere in between camps A and B. look, we obviously can’t be too quick to drop the hammer on people and I think it does behoove us to be merciful. But, like Bender has illustrated, there has to come a time where public action is taken.

    I am honest enough to admit that I have zero idea whether or not Catholics who give massively public scandal like those you named above have been quietly disciplined or not. Maybe Pelosi or Biden or Sebelius have quietly been denied communion. We just don’t know, and I would argue that in the case of *most* people it’s none of our business. However, like I said there *has* to be a line somewhere so as to protect the rest of the faithful and to avoid giving such scandal that you turn away outsiders.

    In my own experience as a convert, I can definitively say that the public witness of Catholics such as Pelosi, et al negatively impacted my view of the Church and greatly contributed to my delaying of conversion by two years or so. And it certainly gave me pause when I finally *did* join RCIA and then had to sit through classes where the very doctrinally faithful instructors praised those notorious folks as “good Catholics,” and their response when I pointed out how they have very publicly strayed from orthodox Catholic teaching was that if they were not good and faithful Catholics the bishops would have done something. It may sound silly to a cradle Catholic to hear me say that it was very discouraging, but as someone coming into the Church from lifelong Protestantism it was one additional hurdle of many that I had to get over.

    And I realize this is all anecdotal, but I have several friends and relatives that would be a lot more receptive to Catholicism if not for the public scandal these types of folks and institutions give. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard family comment that while Catholic doctrine may be fine or that they mostly agree with us, they’re not open to conversion because those public folks we’re discussing are such a huge sign of contraditon between what the Church teaches and what we *appear* to practice as evidenced by the bad example that is set. And if that’s my experience, I’m sure there are a lot of other folks out there seeing and hearing the same thing. And that’s all just considering people looking in from the otuside. That doesn’t even get into all the Catholics I know that justify all manner of things because they don’t expect anything to ever happen to them (don’t get me started!).

    So, again, mercy is needed but the question for me is how long is too long? Because there is a point where the most loving thing you can do for someone is say “no.”

  6. I liked your article but there is error in the point on “For God was “slow” to bring an end to the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and many other genocidal maniacs. He has allowed many heretics and heresies to flourish.”

    These were just figureheads similar to Pres Obama. There were many people who supported, turned their head, or walked away fearful from these dictators. Half the USA supports Obama, a dictator of moral dysfunction here now.

    God does not will these atrocities the people welcome them when they loose sight of GOD.

    1. May 17th: perhaps we can ‘make haste slowly’ in certain cases but where going slowly causes death, I believe immediate action is required. We have publicly chastised not only the Priests who engaged in sex with minors but also those who did not report them…abusing a minor is a grave sin but killing a pre-born baby is far far worse. The minor who is abused can get help and go on to live a fruitful, happy life. Once the baby is dead, it is dead!!! And those who publicly and aggressively promote this killing and URGE OTHERS TO DO SO because they know better than the Church, should not be considered Catholics in good standing. If Nancy Pelosi started advocating for the molestation of children, would the Bishops stand by and allow her to consider herself a Catholic in good standing? And she is leading many others astray by her stand that influential Church leaders stand with her because she is right. And she and others who stand publicly and defiantly against the Church are being affirmed in their sin. Does anyone doubt but that Pope Benedict counseled her to renoune her anti-life, anti-Church positions? Kathleen Sebelius’ Bishop told her not to present herself for Holy Communion until she had made a good confession and publicly denounced her anti-life agenda. Millions of pre-born human babise are being exterminated while we “make haste slowly”…and abortionists and pro-abortion public figures like Pelosi are being affirmed in their sin and in their anti-life agenda.

  7. Msgr. Pope, I admire the balance and thoughtfulness you present. At times I tend to slightly favor the first approach, because at times the scandal seems so great, I do see the need for prudence however. I feel like the Church in some sense has “regions plagued by guerilla warfare” and that the two approaches you present amount to “bring on the inevitable full-scale civil war, let’s fight it out and be done with it, even if we lose territory” and “peace will never be established by full scale war, we will just create a hostile enemy nation and the fighting will never stop, far too many will be lost to justify the war.”

  8. Msgr Pope, I truly appreciate your blog thoughts!! They are thought provoking not only in mind, but in heart and spirit. Yes, there are always two ways to look at issues whether in Church or in the public square. And as someone mentioned in their entry we have the gift of free will. A freedom to choose, to exercise our rights as necessary. Some do it for the good of all humanity and civilization. While others do it out of pure selfishness, ego, pride and status. How to judge and administer that judgement is truly a very tough and sometimes tricky dilema for many of us. However, what is and has been going on in the public square has definitely raised the tone of voice for many of us from both sides of the streets. Whichever way we are calling for “justice and equality for all” someone has to “die” so that the greater good for all can arise.

    Many thanks and blessings to you for all you do for us!!

  9. Did Our Savior use the festina or lente approach when He threw out the scoundrels from the temple? When I looked at the commentary for the “wheat and tares”, it said the weed closely resembled the real wheat. Thus prudence required the guidance that was given. My take on this would be, Do the current day scoundrels; e.g.,Biden, Pelosi, Sebellius et al deserve this same prudence? Do they closely resemble their Catholic brethern trying to follow the Church’s teachings? Slow and temperate treatment of the multitudes of Catholics, who may personally hold beliefs contrary to Church doctrine, is not the same as pre eminent Catholic politicians that publicly scandalize our Church. This is where the “wheat and tares parable” applies.

    1. Jesus was a little more complicated than you presume. What you say is true and needs to be part of the balance but it is also true he tolerated Judas for the whole of his public ministry, and, by pharisaical standards at least he welcomed sinners. My point here is not that I am right and you are wrong or vice versa but that Jesus should not be simplified. Here too a quote from Ross Douthot comes to mind:

      Christianity is a paradoxical religion because the Jew of Nazareth is a paradoxical character. No figure in history or fiction contains as many multitudes as the New Testament’s Jesus. He’s a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine at weddings. He’s an apocalyptic prophet one moment, a [careful and] wise ethicist the next….He promises to set [spouses and one another and] parents against children,  and then disallows divorce; he consorts with prostitutes while denouncing even lustful thoughts….He can be egalitarian and hierarchical, gentle and impatient, extraordinarily charitable and extraordinarily judgmental. He sets impossible standards and then forgives the worst of sinners. He blesses the peacemakers and then promises that he’s brought not peace but the sword. He’s superhuman one moment; the next he’s weeping….

      1. Monsignor Pope I am many things, Catholic sinner, father, grandfather, but I hope that I never presume to make our Lord simple. It is a bit strange to me for you to employ the musings of a New Yorkre Times reporter to counter this simple Catholics thoughts. It would seem that our many great Catholic thinkers, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Sheen etc could provide some insight for us. Are you saying Douthat(Harvard) and myself (St. Louis U.) is akin to this simple/complex equation you lay out. My initial points seemed to be well founded, but I take your points to heart, other than the Douthat reference. We should all step back and allow our Church to fix this problem at it’s Spirit filled pace. The particular and general judgement will eventually come to each of us. I await it as I’m told to in our Creed. Thanks for trying to help us all on this monumental problem.

      2. But Msgr. Pope, Judas was not publicly standing against the teachings of Jesus nor urging others to do so. Judas was not aggressively advocating for the extermination of human babies…if Jesus was so angry about those who were making His Father’s house a ‘den of thieves’ how would he feel about making His Father’s world a slaughterhouse…exterminating over 50 million of God’s created infants? I’m sorry- I respect your opinion but I strongly disagree. I work in the pro life field and those who are anti-life try to prove that the Church is not really strongly against abortion since those who are publicly and aggressively pushing the abortion agenda are practicing Catholics. Pope Benedict wrote a long and scathing letter to the Irish because of the sexual abuse scandal there…and rightly so. But we have heard nothing as scathing or as consisten here in the States or elsewhere about those engaged in the slaughter of millions and millions of unborn human babies…and this will not stop. There has already been talk of promoting ‘post-birth abortion’, giving the mother the right to terminate her child’s life for a certain period of time after birth. So not only are the Catholics in public office promoting the killing of pre-born babies, they are opening the door to more horrors…because they are affirmed publicly in their sin and so will take it as far as they can…’make haste slowly’ does not apply here while millions of human babies’ lives are in the mix…

  10. I am reminded of Mark 11:12 – 14: “And the next day when they came out from Bethania, he was hungry. And when he had seen afar off a fig tree having leaves, he came if perhaps he might find any thing on it. And when he was come to it, he found nothing but leaves. For it was not the time for figs. And answering he said to it: May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. And his disciples heard it.”
    So many leaves these days. So little fruit.

  11. Lets assume we take the “slow approach”. I would argue this has been the favored approach for the last 45 years or so, since the Canadian Bishops rejected Humane Vitae With the Winnepeg statement. I would also argue that the consequences have been pretty much a disaster. ( Are there a lot of Catholics who accept the teaching on contraception? ). On some level the evidence is in, then it is no longer “prudent” to select one of the options. Again the empirical evidence is in. Lets look at the near complete collapse of the Catholic University system, The few schools that are “orthodox” are mostly small, and in terms of the impact on the general culture not influential. I do not want to be harsh, but we have Georgetown university with a medical school a law school and a world famous school of foreign service firmly in the secularist camp, and the opposition is the firmly othodox but rather tiny likes of Christendom College in Virgina. I have no doubt that Christendom college is a fine place, but really if we had to pick which place was othorodox and which was secularized, would we not prefer the reverse situation? How about the fact that the CHA is pretty much in the secular camp, they certainly did not take the side of the Bishops in the battle over the HHS mandate. The percentage of Catholics who attend mass weekly is down to about 20%. 60% of the Catholics polled in S, New Jersey thought Jesus sinned. I could go on for many days, so the question is how much data do the Bishops need to say.. ah this current approach needs to be rethought…

    The even bigger problem is rarely touched on by anyone, and I would like to see someone who is advocating the go slow approach address. In the case of those who are trying very hard to adhere the the teachings of the Church you are placing enormous strain on them by tolerating the dissent. Here is the situation, imagine a Catholic married couple, one of whom is trying to adhere to the teaching on contraception the other who says “Fr. Jones said you can use your conscience!” “Why are you making our marriage so hard!” By tolerating the dissent you give it plausibility and thus You are really throwing the person trying to adhere to the teaching under the bus. You leave them open to the charge of “fanaticism”. Imagine the young woman who is single and is attending a Catholic college and is involved with a young man, the young man wants to have sex, the young woman says we can not.. the man thinks this is crazy, no one thinks thats a sin anymore. In fact the liberal nun in his theology class says all thats important is to make loving choices and after all he thinks he loves the girl.
    Imagine the married couple who find they have a child with a terrible birth defect, one spouse insists that aborting the child is murder the other says that you can not be so rigid and the Church does not teach there are not exceptions anymore, you can still accept abortion in some circumstances and be ok with God…
    How about the lonely divorced woman who can not get remarried, she meets a fine kindly man she longs to get remarried, but alas she can not.. but she is tormented by the idea that no one she knows really thinks divorce and remarriage is a sin, the parish even has a singles night for divorced people… In fact you can make the some story up about the gay man trying to live chastely,, Some within the Church say the teaching is false, he is not “sure” what God really wills, maybe he is a fool for trying to live chastely. The go slow approach raises the inevitable question in ones mind, Does is the Church in what it tolerates and what it fails to say, really telling me these teaching I am trying to adhere to, no longer valid, am I a fool doing this all for nothing. I know Jim and Susan are happily contracepting and their marriage seems better than mine… Ann and Bob are living together and seem so happy.. why am I suffering trying to live chastely…? What is your answer to the person who asks such a thing in the “go slow, lets not condemn” world?

    It comes down to this, I am a married father of 3 sons, I need to pass on the faith to them, What are they to believe if Dad says one thing, Mom says another, and liberal father Jim at their Catholic school says a third thing? I do not think your scriptural analogies hold. The Wheat and the tares are more about God tolerating evil, this is a great mystery, but it is not how the Church acts in scripture at all, What the Church does is what St Paul does In Galatians: “As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! ”
    God tolerating evil for a long time before allowing the person to his fate of eternal damnation, is mercy, the Church tolerating evil for a long time is allowing people to flirt with sin until they sort of come around. Is this a zeal for saving souls? Compare this to what any Saint at any pre Vatican II time did? Is there an example of this kind of timidity?

    1. Again, another well thought, well stated summation of the confusion and lack of concise direction created by Catholic bishops who refuse to rock the political boat or fail to stand up and declare what is and what are not
      faithful teachings of the Church. And we could go back and forth all day long with regard to the ‘Faithful Citizens Guide To Voting’, put out by the USCCB however , in my, view the document has created more confusion than spiritual guidance and actually justified wrongful votes for seemingly the right reasons by many good willed and faithful Catholics who feel empowered by the transfer in many places of responsibilities from the clerics to the laity by misinterpreting, as has been done with so many encyclicals, Lumen Gentium. The way faithful teachngs of the Church are made clear in my view, is by publicaly correcting those politicians who use their Catholicism to
      get elected and then publicaly declare their support for obvious and flagrant laws that are in direct conflict with the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church. If not now, when?

      1. Fair enough, but don’t miss the main point which is that God is slow. The Ministry of God’s apparent slowness, is what I am discussing here not all the particulars. It is closely akin to the problem of evil, wherein many grow even despondent over God’s apparent delay in dealing with injustice sin and sinners. I do not claim to solve the mystery, only to recall and report it. .

        1. Msgr. Pope: The examples you cite are just the most recent symptoms of a problem that has been festering in the United States for many years. Catholics who flaunt the Magisterium and their secularist brethren are no longer taking things slowly. They smell blood, and they are coming fast and hard. I am not unsympathetic with your notion that more punitive measures may have a place in some situations. But for you why admit there are different possible scenario rather than just i mply malfeasance

          1. Well okay, Don, but remember, the point of this article is that there are teo different biblical traditions at work, both well attested in holy writ. Do you have anything more to offer in terms of addressing the different biblical point of view other than to imply that people who do nt agree with you are A “problem”

    2. You are right! I broke my son’s CD in a dozen pieces and threw it in the garbage when he was in college! No incremental approach because after reading the lyrics to the songs online(recommend this to all parents) I knew it was over the top toxic misogynistic garbage. I handed him $10.00 for the price of the CD and asked him to donate it to Mother Teresa.
      It seems to me parents can not fight the culture alone but must have authoritative, no nonsense proclamation of the truth from ALL our Catholic Institutions and clergy.
      Yes, now faithful Catholics are for the most part considered fanatics because we are not hearing a unified voice but rather continuous dissonance, confusion, and mixed messages.
      I can almost understand why some are running for the hills and joining ultra orthodox catholic groups that think the last true pope was Pius XII.
      We are alarmed for the children!

      1. “I broke my son’s CD in a dozen pieces … when he was in college”
        Anne, was that his first unacceptable entertainment choice? If there were earlier ones while he was in your home, was your response the same, or did you make them teaching moments?
        Plenty of scriptural advice on such choices in the Book written by those who had not even a cell phone!

  12. Interesting article. However, “For God was “slow” to bring an end to the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and many other genocidal maniacs”; don’t you think that’s a bit of sleight of hand reasoning? Publicly declaring a politicians position as contrary to the faith, is not the same as bringing an end to them.

  13. My one concern is that of scandal. I know too many Catholics who believe that it’s ok to dissent in grave matters such as abortion and homosexual sex because they have seen their biggest proponents honored by clergy and Catholic institutions.

  14. I agree with Mr. Kennedy’s comment above. I would also add that God is able to take the slow approach because he stands outside time and is able to see all. But it seems to me that humans (bishops) do not have this luxury, and that it isn’t really possible to take such a slow approach as God is able to take. Practically, this often means the slow approach is equivalent to doing nothing at all. This is because while God is able to perceive all actions spread out over time working in concert, we are not. We can only choose to act or not act
    Imagine winning a war. We know that many times winning a war is a long and slow process. But that doesn’t mean that each soldier takes the long view and thus does nothing. He must act, and in so doing become a part of the long and slow process. If he fails to act, he does not take the slow approac. Rather he takes no approach at all. He is derelict with respect to his duty. God sometimes takes the slow route, but bishops are not God. Bishops must act. It is their job. God works through us, through action.

  15. I would like to thank the Archdiocese in remarks made to the President of Georgetown. In ways, this invitation by Georgetown is a little more outrageous than Mr. Obama’s invitation to Notre Dame for a commencement speech.

    Slowness and prudence are admirable; but, when an institution as the Catholic Church has come out so strongly against the HHS mandate, then, we should hold to the teachings of the Church with great strength and zeal.

    Slowness and prudence has allowed a great deal of confusion among the laity and at points has become scandalous. Slowness on the part of Cardinal Wuerl silence in the beginning gave the wrong sign to Catholics in this country. The Church is universal; when one part of the body is sick; then the rest of the body suffers.

    Thanks for the article, but on a personal note. The Church looks weak in the Sebelius do the Jesuits unfortunately.

  16. When I was at Catholic University Law 20 years ago, we considered this very issue, given the occasional threats to water down and reduce the Catholicity at the school. And I specifically remember our student group reading those warnings from Ezekiel, such that we could not in all good conscience remain silent —
    “Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me.
    If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death.
    If, on the other hand, you have warned the wicked man, yet he has not turned away from his evil nor from his wicked conduct, then he shall die for his sin, but you shall save your life.
    If a virtuous man turns away from virtue and does wrong when I place a stumbling block before him, he shall die. He shall die for his sin, and his virtuous deeds shall not be remembered; but I will hold you responsible for his death if you did not warn him.
    When, on the other hand, you have warned a virtuous man not to sin, and he has in fact not sinned, he shall surely live because of the warning, and you shall save your own life.”
    – Ez 3:17-21 (see also Ez 33:7-9)

    1. That’s always been one of my favorite quotations too. though, to be fair, warning and punishment are not the same. I often one parishioners, with little or no capacity to punish them. To be fair, also to what you are saying, it remains true that when those who have the capacity to punish, but never do, that warning does begin to seem hollow. So once again, we are back in the area prudential judgment, and those who do have the capacity to punish, need to consider when, how often, and what degree to punish.

      1. My remarks throughout really have not addressed the matter of “punishment” or “discipline” at all. They are all more in the nature of speaking out, of teaching, of reminding those who should know better, and telling them that they are wrong, very wrong, pointing our their specific errors, and telling them that they should reform themselves.

        We need more active voice NOW. (But I do suggest that those in error be given a short leash after being admonished and if they do not comply, then active measures need to be ready to be applied (whether one calls that punishment or discipline or something else)). I am less concerned about the well-being (or punishment) of the wrongdoers than I am about protecting the innocents who are misled by them.

        And perhaps instead of admonishing the wrongdoers, or in addition to, a Mass for the faithful of Georgetown, during which Cardinal Wuerl voices his unwavering support for them in their struggle and gives the lesson of a proper definition of what a Catholic university is and should be (and by implication how Georgetown is falling short)?

      2. I guess my question is whether or not excommunication or forbidding someone from communion, etc. is discipline and/or punishment or is it actually a warning? I know the world sees it as punishing someone. But is it really? I think of those things more as a formal announcement that one is outside of the visible Church on earth and in serious danger of hell. Isn’t that more a warning than a punishment?

      3. Msgr. Charles Pope writes: “warning and punishment are not the same.” Indeed they are not. One big difference is that God often sends men to warn, but himself or his angels to punish. (Noah/flood; Joshua’s tramp around Jericho/miraculous destruction of the walls; and on and on.) Part of the evangelical message- the part that’s easy to satirize- is ‘The End is Near!!!!’ 🙂 But it is in fact being delivered by men today (Mt 24:14; Acts 20:20) and the End is from God himself (Rev 16:14,16). Many are committing a sin no more “serious” or “mortal” than those of the days of Noah, as our Lord himself said:
        “And they knew not till the flood came and took them all away: so also shall the coming of the Son of man be.”
        They did “know”- 2 Peter 2:5- but they didn’t pay attention. (“they took no note” some Bibles read.)
        How are they to learn in time? Romans 10:14,15.

  17. Remember that emperor who knelt for three days in the snow before one of the popes would forgive him? That was a different time. These Catholic politicians can do a lot of direct damage to the Church, as we are already finding out. And that is one reason for caution on the part of the bishops.

  18. Thank all of you for your extremely well thought out and well spoken comments. This is an extremely civil, considerate discussion. The kind of discussion that the Jesuits taught me to have. Personally, It doesn’t matter if I’m a lentist or more of a fesinista. I think I’ll defer to whatever path the bishops decide to take. In the meantime, I urge everyone pray for their bishops today…and tomorrow…and the next day…and…

    (Ps) God should have flooded the world a lot sooner. What the heck was he waiting for? (Just kidding)

    1. “What the heck was he waiting for?”
      Stephen, he gave them warning, and plenty of time to come to the one place of safety. 2 Pe 2:5

  19. Msgr Pope’s blog suggests that most of the authorities are actually trying to find ways to end the scandals, and bring the scandal-givers to repentance, and differ in prudential judgement merely as to whether “fast” or “slow” tactics should be applied in various concrete situations. Would it were so!

    I fear our problem is deeper than that. I can’t be alone in suspecting that we have a significant number of people in authority who choose the “slow” approach merely to enable the scandalizers to continue along their chosen paths.

    It isn’t that they disagree about how to defend Christianity; it’s that they’re determined not to defend it at all.

    1. Bring them to repentance? I guess so, but what’s really needed is conversion…You know, the ole 180 degree turn !!

    2. Well there is a little all or thinking that you end with. There is to be sure a need in life to pick ones battles, and i sure you do not fight every battle or engage every argument if you are a father or husband. That said, your point remains valid, slow doesnt mean nothing. In saying nothing has been done however, you must also admit that you cannot know this for sure. For example, I know of a certain very prominet prelate who has met on numerous ocassions with a very prominent politician on warned that politican not only to refrain from communion, but that the politican risked hell. Now I do not the Pol. But can probably guess. I also know thrid hand of other bishops who do meet privately. They do not go public with these meetings, though in a couple of pols have (mrs pelosi is one). So that is not nothing even if, I understand, you would like more.

  20. If the Church wishes that we understand certain truths about our behavior and encourages us to conform our will to the salutary indications of the Gospel, how then is the desired change in our nature supposed to come about? If we learn, by the Good News, that we are fallen and in a state of sin and are sinners, what is the total means by which the erroneous state is to be rectified? In other words: What is pastoral care? Does it consist in acknowledging that many that have some notion of attachment to the Catholic faith are not yet able to live in accord with the teachings? If they, the fledgling flock, are not able to live in accord with the teaching, is the Winnipeg Statement-style softening of tone (psychological) the correct approach? What is the alternative? If it is a call to greater or more frequent or more fervent prayer; if prayer is the means of our salvation, where is the call to more prayer? How else is salvation to be affected (in terms of our part, not God’s) other than by application of prayer, prayer, sacraments, good works, and more prayer? Or is the priesthood really just psychologists in disguise?

    Therefore, let not the response to the accidental occurrences of the world be more statements, letters, books, blogs and so forth. Nay, there is far too much of that already. I am choking on words! Let ours be a life of prayer. A visible life of prayer. In church. On our knees. Confessing. Praying. Worshiping.

    The RCC is not a debate club. It is an organized, enduring tradition of liturgical worship, prayer and alms giving. Let’s try re-emphasizing this aspect for awhile. Enough chatting in the pews already.

  21. I know that I lend myself towards thinking that these politicians, schools, etc should be punished swiftly and firmly. Upon reflection, I probably feel this way because the other way has not seemed to work. However, I must be honest in saying that I have never witnessed firm, swift punishment from the Church and do not know what response that would have either. It may be worse than the current situation. But I know what I can do about it personally. I can pray, fast, give alms, and generally try to grow in holiness. That will probably have the greatest effect on changing the world.

  22. It seems to me that the article “Make Haste…Slowly! – On Balancing two texts of Scripture about the use of Discipline in the Church” sets up two false alternatives, which as described, seem to me to be more a matter of either applying sanctions or not applying sanctions, not a matter of time, and then goes on to say “. is a prudential judgement about which course of action to apply when, on whom, where and to what extent” when in most cases these courses of action should follow one upon another: private ongoing discussions and warnings followed by public action if the first course fails.

    It also seems to me that the claim that “God is slow”, that slowness is “the usual approach of God, who is patient with sinners and often very slow to punish” has no bearing on the duty of bishops to safeguard the Church. One of the purposes of Church discipline is to convert the sinner so that he/she be spared punishment by God. Just as the statement of the Archdiocese of Washington issued on May 15th said “The Archdiocese of Washington reserved public comment to permit Georgetown University and its sponsor, the Society of Jesus, the opportunity to address the controversy.” so too, one may say, God reserves judgment waiting to permit bishops and laity to act, and sinners to repent, so that he may give all their just rewards.

  23. Darren, I’m with you 100% about prayer, but I’m confused about it being the means of our Salvation. It sounds like it’s something we can do to merit salvation. I always thought the the rectification of our erroneous (fallen) state was through Faith and Baptism…which is a totally free and undeserved gift from God. Sure you can (and should) pray for Salvation, but prayer is a conversation that always originates from God and not us.

    Good works are subsequent to Salvation and, if you’re truly conformed to Christ, it’s Him whose doing these good works through you. It shouldn’t really be us that does things Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

  24. We used to have a culture in which Catholics who openly flaunted the Magisterium were relatively rare or obscure. Taking the “slow” approach (really meaning “no coordinated approach at all”) for many years has emboldened them. Now they have tenure at Catholic universities, editorialize in Catholic magazines, or write for the New York Times. They and their secularist brethren are no longer taking it slow; they have already “taken” most of our great Catholic universities and hospitals, and they want more. They smell blood, and they are coming fast and hard on unthinkables like same-sex marriage, “reproductive rights”, and women’s ordination.

    1. Have you read The Faithful Departed by Phillip Lawler? It gives a pretty good history of the loss of respect for authory and teaching which you describe. Lawler lays the decline singnificantly at the feet of the Bishops and the Jesuits. But he also shows how culture and the overall rebellion against authority has a lot to do with it too. Even Bishops like like McIntyre and OBoyle who laid down the law did not eventually prevail. Short term victories do not always yield long term victory. At any rate, I do not absolutely disagree with your impatience, but I, unlike you, am willing to see that there is a wisdom in other approaches too and am not will to issue wholesale condemnations of bishops who do not “tow the line” of the festina approach. Prudence is local, ideology often is too broad and I fear I here too much of that in what you say. Preference, even general preference is ok by me, but in matters of prudential judgement I think a little more leeway should be granted before one simply says “wrong” in a sweeping or general way.

      1. Msgr. Pope,
        Biden, Pelosi, Cuomo of N.Y., the Gov. of Illinois, I believe in a woman`s right to choose abortion. I believe in the right of same sex marriage and contraception.” Sen Casey of Penna. who voted to fund Planned Parenthood
        all practicing Catholics who ran proclaiming themselves Catholic. How much more leeway do you want?
        This is not a “line to tow” this is not an ideological approach. This is pure and simple uncomplicated, basic, uncompromising defense of core Catholic doctrine. The problem exists in a “sweeping and general way and begs to be dealt with in a broad and universal way. I also don`t accept your characterization of condemnation of
        bishops as I believe it is more of a cry for action, leadership and guidance for those who have yet to stray from their Faith. We beg for strong leaders who speak for the laity to defend our beliefs. Leaders that politicans listen too and respect and Msgr. in this day and age, that takes guts, courage, and most of all true belief in what you stand for. That`s all we ask. Pax

        1. As I said in the article, you are free to be in the Festina camp. I am not unsympathetic to your concerns, but I, unlike you am willing to accept that there are other biblical traditions etc. that balance the festina view. For example, how would you answer the Lord, who having been told of weeds among the wheat and being asked by zealous farmhands if they should tear out the weeds answered: “Let them grow together until the harvest.”

          So all I ask, is that you might accept that even Jesus spoke of different approaches that were both valid. And that maybe the conclusion that anyone who disagrees with how you think it should be done, may not be just wrong-headed and out to lunch, maybe they just see it differently than you’d wish and to allow that to tone down the discussion a bit and see it as two different traditions at work that are at least worthy of a place at the table. But the “I am right and you are SO wrong” bi polar nature of things doesn’t help the back and forth influence that balancing principles are meant to have.

          I take this approach when dealing with pacifists. I am not a pacifist, but the pacifist tradition within the Church is not without merit, it has a long tradition in fact, going back to the early Church and comes out of a scriptural understanding that, while I do not share it, is non the less not wholly crazy either. Further, I think the pacifist tradition has a role in causing a lot of soul searching among those who might otherwise be less than reflective about war and the awful reality it is. I think mutual respect is a helpful notion to bring to a table where different views are permitted in the Church’s tradition.

          I like you might be more prone to have acted more punitively by now. And, it would seem some of the newer Bishops may in fact be more in this school as well. But I am a priest and have tried to listen and learn from all the Bishops and, having had opportunities to discussion such things with many of them over the years, have at least come to understand that they are operating out of a view that has been thought out and is not without reasons that deserve serious consideration.

          Finally, I have to say YOU confuse me! There are a lot of typos in your post so I am not sure I follow everything you say: are you saying you are pro-choice and for Gay marriage – or not? You seem to be conservative but then you say “I believe in a woman’s right to choose” etc. Also, are you saying that clergy who don’t speak to your view are cowards, without guts, and not true believers – or what?

          What exactly are you saying?

          1. Msgr. Pope
            Sorry for the typos. Getting old and tired. I was quoting the politicians I named. I am not calling bishops and clergy anything. I only stated what I believe it takes to stand up to nationally recognized politicians, and yes I am a conservative with an open mind that struggles very hard to give the higherarchy the benefit of a more patient approach to the problems however, like many others I believe we have run out of time. By the way, there were quite a few typos in your own posts, so forgive me if I misunderstood some of what you said. It sounds to me as though you were picking and choosing what approach you like Christ has suggested we take. You almost had me convinced that you were in favor of niether approach till you openly compared yourself to others who posted comments that you disagreed with. Know that your in my prayers. Pax Father.

          2. Thanks for the little lecture, some of which I deleted. By the way, you never answered how you might answer the Jesus who said “Don’t tear them up, let them grow together to the harvest.” I know I have struggled to answer him well and to sort out how he also said “Let him be a tax collector or a Gentile to you” An interesting balance with which to wrestle. Maybe balance is the key, maybe its a case by case solution. I don’t know you ask him. But How would you answer him if he quoted that, instead of the excommunication quote? And of course I understand if you’d prefer to answer him “off-line” But it IS a worthy meditation to make for all of us who are so sure of everything.

          3. I`ll answer Msgr. but first allow me to point out, I never suggested in any of my comments, excommunication simply a public correction after a private one after which maybe the enforcement of canon 915, on a of course, a case by case basis. How would I answer Christ? You know very well as I do that there are several parable related to dealing with heretics and public sinners who try to lead the faithful astray and this back and forth could
            go on forever. I don`t believe Jesus would ask me that, since He hasn`t called me to lead His flock. I am not one of the Apostles sucessors. “To whom much is given much is required.” You are correct though, Benedicitine balance is always best however, I have not seen any balance so far at least till the HHS mandate came out and all the Institutions were threatened. As far as treating them as tax collectors and gentiles, you follow the Lord`s instructions when you go to them privately then with someone to correct them, then to the Church and if they still
            don`t listen, then you treat them as a tax collectors or gentiles with love. After all this, which by the way has already been done more than once, and in Nancy Pelosi`s case by the Pope himself in personal audience, then
            you correct them with refusal of Holy Communion because you care for their souls and the well being of the rest of the flock God has given you charge of. I am not the one to advise or lecture you or anyone else for that matter
            I am just stating my opinion and that would be in the ‘for what it`s worth department’. Pax

      2. Msgr – I have not read Lawler’s book; I need to get it. I want to be clear that I do not intend a “wholesale condemnation” of bishops who do not “tow the line” of the “festina” approach. I fully understand that our bishops must weigh many issues, and I understand the desire to make deliberate rather than hasty decisions. Our bishops are great men doing what they believe is best for their flocks and for Holy Mother Church. I do understand that in the past when certain bishops have attempted a “crackdown” it has blown up in their faces. But, I think there are several perceptions that the proponents of the “slow” approach are battling. The first perception is that we have given the “go slow” approach many years, and it is not working – in fact the situation is getting dramatically worse. The second perception is that even acting decisively now could be seen not as a “festina moment” but rather as the culmination of many years of the “slow” approach. The third perception is that the “go slow” strategy be a description for not really having an overall strategy but instead dealing with issues on an ad-hoc basis with the main objective being to quell the immediate controversy with the least amount of disruption and move on.

      3. “culture and the overall rebellion against authority has a lot to do with it too.”
        Prophesied thoroughly at 2 Tim 3:1-5, which begins, “Know also this, that in the last days …”
        [when] “Men shall be lovers of themselves … and lovers of pleasure more than of God: … Having an appearance indeed of godliness but denying the power thereof. Now these avoid.”

        Bad times, indeed, but isn’t that why we pray for God’s kingdom to come?

    2. Don
      That about sums it up. I wonder though, why no very public and co-ordinated action from all the bishops of the USCCB until the HHS mandate that threatened all Catholic institutions and challenged their core beliefs. In other
      words, why have they waited till we got this far along? Gives credence, in my mind to what you say.

  25. Stephen form N. O.:
    You’d better ask the appropriate authorities for clarification. Please forward their explanation to me. I have no credentials to explain such matters. If I speak wrongly, I will recant.


    1. Me too ! I have no credentials either. Please don’t think I was being argumentative…I really wasn’t. I was hoping Monseigneur Pope would correct me. (I even misspelled Monseigneur wrong, thank the Lord for spell check.)

      1. There’s a reason I use the abbreviation “Msgr.” Less opportunity for error!

        Also I’m a lazy typist.

          1. I’m not sure South Louisiana is in America so I went with the French (lol)

  26. Thanks everyone. I am sorry I could not respond more to everyone. I was traveling today and could only make responses when I got a moment here and there as comments rolled steadily in. Also typing on my iPad is hard for me. Interesting conversation though.

  27. “The Exorcist” author is initiating canonical action against Georgetown University. In his heartfelt letter he comes down on the too slow reactions of the laity, clergy and bishops to defend our Catholic faith. Finally! The whole article and link to the new website is on today’s New Advent page.

    1. Yes, I had said in response to a few comments here and on a post earlier in the week that more was to come and that the editorial and second statement of the Archdiocese were, in effect, a shot across the bow. As you can see from the article, a similar pattern unfolded back in the 90s during Cardinal Hickey’s time

      1. This is something that I would not be in favor of.

        “Georgetown University alumni, students and others are preparing a canon law suit to be filed with the Archdiocese of Washington and the Vatican, seeking remedies ‘up to and including the possible removal or suspension of top-ranked Georgetown’s right to call itself Catholic or Jesuit in its fundraising and representations to applicants.’”
        CNS announcement, with link to Blatty’s letter.

        The problem is that removing Georgetown’s right to call itself Catholic or Jesuit is basically a tactical surrender — it cedes the university to the secularists who have stolen it from the Society and the Church at large. Georgetown University is rightfully OURS, it belongs to the Church who built it, not to the secularists who have seized control of it. Rather than denying it the right to call itself Catholic, efforts must be made to take back what belongs to the Church.

        1. Georgetown never belonged to the Catholic Church – denoting ownership. It was a Jesuit University that called itself Catholic.
          Many Jesuit Universities in the USA support or honor heretics and schismatics. Perhaps the Vatican can get these cleaned up or not let them cause SCANDAL by using the name Catholic, since some of those in charge of each Diocese refuse to do so.
          It is fraudulent to allow a person or organization to use the name “Catholic” when they are not. If they are heretics or schismatics they should be called heretics or schismatics – for the TRUTH.

          1. Georgetown was established by Fr. John Carroll shortly before he was elevated to bishop. He established it as a Catholic university for the Church.

          2. All Catholic Colleges and Universities were originally established to teach the Faith in addition to the secular studies. Many have strayed from their original intent and are now merely fraudulent by defrauding students and parents.
            These fraudulent schools should be given the choice of behaving Catholic, or becoming secular – but not having it both ways – which is dishonest.
            If they choose not to use the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” as a required Student Text in the first or second year they do not accurately teach the Faith in its entirety.

  28. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    I enjoy your blog very much for the way you break things down. I pondered your post and decided to respond with a post of my own.

    In short, I think there is a right time, duration, and place for a slow, cautious approach. However, for some Catholics, their public behavior, using very public platforms over many years to undermine the Church and the bishops, deserves a very public response. In fact, for some of those wayward Catholics leading others astray, that needs to include public penalties. While it is good to be concerned with uprooting some of the wheat, the bishops must turn their attention to the wheat that is being choked out by certain weeds and selectively cull them to mitigate the damage.

    Here is my post:

    Thanks for your though-provoking post.

  29. I think we can all agree that the “fast” approach hasn’t been tried very much recently. So … can we think of any case in which a prominent American Catholic was treated to the “slow” approach, and *stopped* making statements opposed to the Faith? We can all name dozens of them who’ve gone on with their advocacy of women priests, their “nuanced” approaches to abortion, and so on. Did any of them ever change, recant, return to the Faith? Even one?

    Maybe the “slow” approach just flat doesn’t work.

  30. The slow approach loses souls. – Lost due to the mortal sin of SCANDAL, and the confusion in appearing to honor HERETICS and SCHISMATICS.
    The slow approach also supports the appearance of ‘Relativism’ – where there is no real right and wrong.

    CCC: 2284, 2285, 2286, & 2326 regarding Scandal.
    CCC: 2089 regarding definition of Heresy and Schism.

    CCC: ” 2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

    CCC: ” 2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
    Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.”

    1. I don’t disagree with your point but what about the Biblical tradition Bill? e.g. the “let them grow together to the harvest” and God’s own posture of “extreme” leniency and “delay?” How do these factor into your analysis….?

      1. Thanks for asking.
        First of all we must all (including Cardinals and Bishops) adhere to the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition”.

        “ The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved … and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. “ – Pope John Paul II. (pg 5)

        1. No where in the Bible does it say to tolerate sin.
        2. Admonishing sinners, and instructing the uniformed are two Spiritual Works of Mercy.
        3. If we love our Neighbors as commanded by Jesus, we will want them to get to Heaven, not tolerate their sins.
        4. The CCC quotes the following Bible verses regarding SCANDAL- Mt. 18.6; 1 Cor 8:10-13; Mt. 7:15; Eph 6:6:4; Col 3:21; Lk 17.1

        CCC: ” 2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!” ”

        Cardinals and Bishops ALWAYS need to take the MORTAL Sin of Public SCANDAL into consideration. Instruction, and also Discipline is necessary in the case of Georgetown U, and some politicians.
        Again a quote from Our Lord, Jesus – – “TEMPTATIONS to sin are sure to come; but WOE to him by whom they come.”
        St Paul’s letter 2 Tim 3 –
        For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrognat, …, haters of good,….lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion by denying the power of it. AVOID SUCH PEOPLE…”

        As per the CCC I think we will both agree that the Cardinal or Bishop as head of the Diocese has responsibility for everything ‘Catholic’ within his own Diocese. We can not make up our own Biblical Tradition regarding Scandal, heretics, and schismatics.

        Canon Law allows for excommunication and various disciplines as well. The Vatican web site has several Church writings that can be followed regarding ‘Catholic Universities”, and none of them tolerate Sin, Scandal, or honoring Heretics and Schismatics and the ungodly.

        The Souls of many young people can be lost due to Scandal. Then they in turn do not raise their own children properly. A loving Father will discipline his children as necessary, and this is required of the head of each Diocese at various times.
        Georgetown U has a public reputation of openly defying the teachings in the Bible and CCC. Being a “nice guy” rather than an “authoritative father” has not helped them get the message to date.

  31. The scriptural references that refer to “delay” almost always refer to God’s ultimate judgement in dealing with human beings. The reference is to how God will deal with us. He is giving us time to repent. It is usually said in response to someone asking more or less ” why do you not turn them into pillars of salt now? ” It is the response to people who want to see justice done. As such it is relatively irrelevant to the the issue, because conservatives do not want to see justice done by the Church. In our time the Church does not have a real capacity to “punish” the likes of Nancy Pelosi et al. There may be some exceptions but it strikes me as most unlikely that someone who vigorously supports abortion on demand, (when abortion is obviously murder, even in the eyes of any middle schooler who has the misfortune of learning what it means,) will be deeply distressed by being denied them Eucharist. Most of these people very likely think the Eucharist is a quaint tradition associated with the Church and is a symbolic representation of something or other. So the issue is not Conservatives wanting the Church to “punish” anyone. So God ultimate justice is not the reference point. The Church has no ablitity to do anything that these folks would feel as punishment! This takes all the scriptural references of how God is patient with evildoers out of the question. How long God chooses to let evildoers like Congresswoman Pelosi thrive in this veil of tears is his business. The issue is what to do about people who defend sin as virtue. The issue then is how does the Church prevent scandal. Condemnation of those who call sin virtue be they wayward Catholic pols or Catholic instutitions is not aimed at the condemned (although it may call some of them back to virtue perhaps) the bigger concern is the scandal to society at large.

    So the question is how does the Church deals with people who publicly defend sin. That is who call sin not to be sin. .How does it do so in a way that the Church vigorously makes the case for what its own teachings are. The Church needs to clearly witness so as to effect several things: 1) to support those who are stuggling to avoid sin themselves, by tolerating scandal they undermine their faith and indeed the resolve of those who try to avoid sin 2) To help preserve a society in which virtue is held at least as a goal. We live in a society in which we have some say at least for now in crafting our laws, there are those who still have some loyalty to the teachings of the Church and they may very well not elect the likes of a Nancy Pelosi to be their law makers if the Church makes it unambiguous what is morally at stake. By giving someone who promotes unspeakable crime honors at Catholic commencements or funerals that resemble cannonizations,
    The Church makes it unclear if one is sincere about the things it claims to oppose. If someone insults and ridicules my wife publicly, and I was to fail and rebuke this person, in fact if then honored and praiseed this individual, my wife would justly wonder if I was sincere in my devotion to her. Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life remains under some sort of house arrest at a convent in Texas, while endless dialog is encouraged with the proponents of the culture of death. It is fair for the faithful to question the sincerity or rationality of an episcopate that acts this way. IT is one thing to have a society were people commit sins. God knows we all fall victim to this. Its another thing to call sin directly or indirectly virtue, ie abortion as a right,. IT seems to me the scriptural passages where this is what is going on are near unanimous in their condemnation and the idea that we need to get rid of this. Eveywhere in Scripture where the issue is scandal, the response is vigorous. Sure Jesus tolerated Judas, he may have been a hypocrite but he was not leading others astray. The real issues is scandal which is A kind of “soul murder” I do not think there is any scriptural support for this. In the parable the Tares are sinners, those lead astray by the devil ( the enemy) Jesus says lets not destroy them now.. I am not sure Jesus and oh by the way lets not do anything about the enemy who is spreading the bad seed..

    Conservatives in short can not abide this “go slow approach” because it is allowing scandal to continue, it is manifestly not working and backing Christians into an ever smaller corner from which they play defense from an ever weaking position. In the meantime there may very well be souls placed in danger of hell ( not least of which is our own, because of increasing pressure from an increasingly pagan society. We fear when we may fall. Is there a Catholic saint one could site who was sort of go slow about scandal? IT does not sound like the Cur d Ars to me.

    So the answer to the question regarding the Biblical tradition is that God is patient with sin but not patient with scandal, and the Church is not God. The Church must proclaim the truth. thus should always preach clearly and unambiguously what she is commissioned to preach. This may entail telling us that what a leader or public figure, especially a Catholic one is doing is sinful and if we follow or support them we too will be sinning.

    The “go slow approach” could be defended in the beginning when there was no track record of failure. After 45 years of failure, to characterize this as “prudence” is inaccurate, it is timidity at best, perfidy at worst. There is minimal scriptural support for it.


  32. mdepie, There is no such thing as Liberal Catholics or Conservative Catholics when it comes to the Faith – only Catholics who adhere to the the teaching of the Church in the “CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition”, and those ‘Catholic Heretics’ and ‘Catholic Schismatics’ who do not.

    CCC: ” 2089
    INCREDULITY is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it.
    HERESY is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same.
    APOSTACY is the total repudiation of the Christian faith.
    SCHISM is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

    Catholics may not pick and choose what they want to believe.

  33. Sebelius has given her Georgetown speech.

    Apparently she hasn’t gotten the message. Or maybe she has and is intentionally defiant in this shot at the bishops in her speech

    “Kennedy talked about his vision of religion and the public square and said he believed in an America, and I quote, ‘where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against us all.’”

    1. In addition, Sebelius was sure to get in this advocacy for subjective moral relativism —

      “Contributing to these debates will require more than just the quantitative skills you have learned at Georgetown. It will also require the ethical skills you have honed – the ability to weigh different views, see issues from other points of view, and in the end, follow your own moral compass.”

      1. Sure sounds a lot like the snake in the garden doesn’t it. She might as well have gone a little further and said…

        God doesn’t want you to be like him. Forget all about becoming Christ like. That’s why he didn’t want you to eat from this tree. You don’t need to listen to Him. This is the tree of knowledge of good and evil…eat it and then you’ll be able to decide for yourself what is right and wrong. Worship yourself not God. Why let him tell you what is right and wrong?”

        She’s advocating the most fundamental sin of all.

      2. That link goes to the Washington Post’s “Under God” blog, making the Post more willing to admit the religious dimension of this story than is Georgetown.

  34. Now that she has spoken, there is great danger that inertia will take over and no further action will be taken until the next controversy. The fear is that there is no grand strategy (either “festina” or “lente”) to deal with the Georgetown situation, but rather a series of ad hoc responses to controversies when they arise. Perhaps the canon law petition to enforce Ex Corde Ecclesiae, to be filed shortly by a prominent alumnus, will bring things to a head. Maybe I am clueless, and the canon law petition is being brought with the blessing of and coordination with the Cardinal, but my guess is not the case since the petition impliedly accuses Church leadership of failing to do it’s job. That is unfortunate. I pray that our leaders continue to see the critical importance of recovering our Catholic universities and will implement a coordinaed strategy to do so.

    1. Well, if the situtation were not bad enough before she came, I for one am highly — very highly — outraged that a government official like Minister Thomas Cromwell, er, I mean, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, would come and seek to impose a wedge between students at a Catholic university and the Catholic faith.

      That a government official should come and tell students, “follow your own moral compass” rather than consider the moral guidance of the Church and for them to not allow that “religious body . . . to impose its will directly or indirectly” on them is not only outrageous, but highly indicative of the despotic and tyrannical anti-Catholic nature of the Administration of King Henry, er, I mean, Barack Obama.

  35. Msgr Pope,

    The priests in the movie “The Mission” were acting in disobedience to the Vatican envoy who came to the shut down the whole operation of the Jesuits in the mountain there.

    What good could come of that disobedience, according to your line of reasoning?

    1. I don’t know, I don’t recall all the details of the movie, just used the clip since I remember the part about the priests differing, not about the Vatican.

  36. This is no time for pride.

    The cob webs are getting so thick folks are leaving the Church.

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