On The Feast of the Holy Innocents, A Meditation on the Sins Committed Against Children

Exactly two weeks ago many young children lost their lives in a cruel and horrifying shooting in Connecticut. I do not need to remind any of you of the detail. They are seared in our memory.

Today, we observe the feast of the Holy Innocents, a feast commemorating the young children, of even younger age who were cruelly murdered by the paranoid and crazed killer known as Herod “the Great.” So paranoid was he that others might usurp or limit his power that he killed three of his own sons, and his wife. He ruthlessly killed many others as well. As his own death drew near, according to Josephus,  Herod decreed that in order that the nation properly mourn his death, one member of each family should be killed in his honor, and thus the mourning in all Israel for him would be sincere. His last and final act as King was to rise from his death bed and sentence to death a group of Jewish zealots who had removed an Eagle he place over the entrance of the temple. They had thought the image a desecration. Having killed them, he himself died (in bed) the next day.

Herod was a cruel tyrant and a ruthless and paranoid killer. Calling him “the Great” can only be a reference to his skill in architecture and building and to his headship of the equally cruel Herodian dynasty.

Of the young killer two weeks ago we know little, other than that he was a troubled young man, likely mentally ill. And while we cannot compare him to Herod, the deaths he wrought cannot but make this year’s observance of Holy Innocents more profound and poignant.

I was asked in a recent television interview if the killings did not somehow diminish this year’s celebration of Christmas. To the contrary, I thought. While we moderns like to be sentimental about Christmas, the first Christmas, the biblical one, was anything but pleasant and sentimental: a 70 mile walk for a pregnant woman in the ninth month of her pregnancy due to a census conducted by an oppressive government; no room in the inn; Jesus born in a filthy and stinking stable, a feeding tough for a crib; and then the tragic murder of the innocents that followed; and then a flight by night to Egypt. Nothing cozy here, it was a crisis at Christmas, no delicacies to savor, only disasters to be endured.

Yet here Christ was born and found, in the midst of crisis and disaster. More than ever, the Christmas message is relevant. For despite our cruelty and despite the crises of this world, Christ is still to be found. He was born in one of the most crisis-torn regions of the world. He bids us to find him in just these sorts of places and times, as if to say, there is still hope: The mercies of the Lord are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; it is renewed each morning (Lam 3:22-23).

That he was willing to be born in such circumstances is clear, and from this we see his mercy.

But  from our perspective he should not have to have been born like this. And thus our call to repentance remains. This crisis at Christmas was our human doing, our insensitivity. As Scripture says, He came unto his own, and his own received him not (Jn 1:11). That’s us the scriptures are talking about, No room in the inn.

And while Herod may be said to have acted alone, we cannot evade all responsibility, for to some extent we all participate in making and maintaining a cruel world where such ignominies routinely happen.

Children have much to suffer in this world of our collective making. And while not all of us are equally guilty of contributing to the suffering of children, none of us are wholly innocent either, if for no other reason than our silence.

Consider that most children born today are no longer born into the stable and lasting family units they deserve with a father and mother committed to one another till death do them part.

The problems begin with fornication, which is rampant in our culture. And while most do not think of this as a sin of injustice, it is. It is so because of what it does primarily to children.

The fact is many children are conceived of fornication. Tragically most of these children who are thus conceived are outright murdered by abortion. 85% of abortions are performed on unmarried women. And for all the vaunted declarations of how contraception makes every baby a wanted baby, nothing could be further from the truth. Abortion has skyrocketed with the availability of contraception. This is because the problem is not fertility, it is lust, promiscuity, fornication and adultery. And contraception fuels these problems by further enabling them. The promises associated with contraception are lies, it does the opposite of what it promises.

Thus fornication and the contraceptive mentality (founded on lies) cause grave harm to children, beginning with death, in huge numbers. And the children, conceived of fornication who do (thankfully) survive are, nevertheless subjected to the injustice of usually being born into irregular situations. There are single mothers, some single fathers, and many other irregularities.

Add to this picture the large number of divorced families. And make no mistake, these shredded families cause great hardships and pain for children that include: children be shuttled back and forth between different household each week, having to meet “daddy’s new girlfriend” or mommy’s new “live-in boy-friend” and all sorts of other family chaos. Blended families also dramatically increase the likelihood of sexual and emotional abuse, since legal relationships seldom have the built-in protections of natural relationships.

All of this misbehavior, individual and cultural, harms children. Not being raised in a traditional marriage dramatically increases a child’s likelihood of suffering many other social ills, starting with poverty.

The chief cause of poverty in this country, is the single motherhood, absent fatherhood.
71% of poor families are not married.
Children of single parent homes are 2 times more likely to be arrested for juvenile crime,
2 times more likely be treated for emotional and behavioral problems,
Twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school,
33% more likely to drop out of school,
3 times more likely to end up in jail by age 30.
50% more likely to live in poverty as adults,
And twice as likely to have a child outside of marriage themselves
. [*]

Add to the burdens children must experience, the new trend of same sex adoption. Never mind that it is best for the psychological development of a child to have a father and mother, a male and female influence. No, what is best and just children must be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Same sex couples must now be given equal consideration under law (in many states) to heterosexual couples. It’s the adults and their rights that seem to matter most here, what is best for children is quite secondary.

Our culture has also sinned against children by sexualizing them, by robbing them of their innocence at an earlier and earlier age, by targeting them directly in marketing campaigns, and exposing them to all sorts of political and social indoctrination and experimentation in the schools that they should be spared. We also fail to properly correct and admonish children in many ways.

Again, not all of us do all these things personally and to the same degree. We should further note that abortion is complex and some women have recourse to it out of despair, others are pressured and so forth. But the point emphasized in this reflection is that all of us do contribute to the sort of culture that is increasingly poisonous and unjust to children if not downright deadly.

If nothing else, too many of (starting with clergy) are far too silent about the sins of injustice committed against children. Many remain quite silent while the bad behaviors adults pile up in our culture. Our silence is largely the product of fearing to offend other adults. Meanwhile children suffer, and the injustices pile higher, beginning with the body count of aborted babies and watered by the tears of surviving children who have had much to suffer.

Something to think about on the feast of the Holy Innocents.

I put the following video together to honor these young martyrs. The musical setting is by Michael Haydn of the hymn for the Feast of the Holy Innocents: Salvete Flores Martyrum – It is from his Vesperae In F for Equal Voices, Soli and Orchestra.The singers are the The Group singing is Collegium Instrumentale Brugense. This music is available at iTunes. The Latin text of this ancient hymn is quite beautiful. I produce here the Latin text followed by a fairly literal translation. I would like to call your attention to the second verse and a very charming detail. That verse described these young, two year old martyrs and holding palm branches (the symbol of martyrdom) but as they hold them they play with them, in the way a young child will often fiddle with palm branches in Church. Beautiful and so very human!

Salvete flores martyrum, – Hail Martyr Flowers
quos lucis ipso in limine – On the very threshold of the dawn (of life)
Christi insecutor sustulit – Christ’s persecutor destroyed (you)
ceu turbo nascentes rosas. – like the whirlwind does the budding roses.

Vos prima Christi victima, – You Christ’s firstfruits
grex immolatorum tener, – A flock of tender sacrificial victims
aram sub ipsam simplices – right up by the very altar
palma et coronis luditis. – now play with your palms and crowns

Iesu, tibi sit gloria, – Jesus to you be glory
qui natus es de Virgine, – who were born of the Virgin
cum Patre et almo Spiritu, – with the Father and loving Spirit
in sempiterna saecula. Amen. – unto to eternal ages. Amen.

62 Replies to “On The Feast of the Holy Innocents, A Meditation on the Sins Committed Against Children”

  1. Epilogue: In a bizarre, Herodian like twist, Russian Leader Putin has decreed that American families cannot adopt Russian babies. He is doing this in retaliation for certain American policies he dislikes. Though bloodless, it is a kinda weird, cowardly and herodian of him, and it is strange that the story has gained traction on the feast of the Holy Innocents.

    1. From what I’ve read, it has more to do with low birth rate and how Russia (like the US) is slowly dying from lack of children.

        1. Putin himself talked about America “humiliating” Russia. I have four younger siblings adopted from Russia and the idea of kids like them being used as political pawns breaks my heart. My coworker is also in the middle of adopting three Russian siblings. The birth rate claim is pretty dubious considering that statistically Russia orphans often die young because of poverty and lack of work skills or end up in prostitution. Please please pray for these kids that they are given families. Talk about innocents who have been victimized!

        2. Russia is in for a sever demographic winter, but I doubt Putin’s jerkiness has anything to do with it.

        3. They closed adoptions to Americans after some lady put a child on a one way flight to return him to Russia after she found it too difficult after adopting him.

          1. There were other, less acceptable, reasons given, as well. The American policies they are complaining about sound pretty reasonable to me. (Something along the lines of accusing Russian government of torture? Sounded like it was an accurate accusation, too.)

      1. Their birthdate is super low, yet they continue to abandon disabled infants, even with minor disabilities, as well as healthy ones, to overcrowded orphanages. The children with disabilities like Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and HIV positive, are transferred to mental institutions at 4-7 years of age. These institutions are deplorable. The healthy ones grow up in orphanages until age 16 or 17 and then turned out onto the streets to fend for themselves. The girls end up inprostitution, the boys end up in crime. The suicide rate of these kids is very high. No, it was a power play.

    2. The Dima Yakovlev Law (Russian: Закон Димы Яковлева),

      [1] formally “On Sanctions for Individuals Violating Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms of the Citizens of the Russian Federation”
      [2] also known as the Dima Yakovlev Bill, Dima Yakovlev Act
      [3], anti-Magnitsky law
      [4] is a law in Russia that bans citizens of the United States from adopting children from Russia.
      [5] The law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 28 December 2012, will take effect on January 1, 2013.

      [6] The law is named after a Russian orphan adopted by a family from Purcellville, Virginia
      who died of heat stroke after being in a parked car for nine hours.


      1. The law was named after Dima Yakovlev (born Dmitry Yakovlev), a Russian toddler who was adopted by Miles Harrison of Virginia.

        The child was renamed Chase Harrison[12] while in America.

        In July 2008, less than three months after he arrived in America, Dima was killed while he was strapped in to his adoptive father car.

        He was left alone for nine hours in the car as his father forgot to bring him to daycare service.

        Following trial Harrison was acquitted for involuntary manslaughter by a Circuit Court judge in Fairfax County, Virginia on January 2009.

        The case became national news in Russia, and highlighting abuse cases involving Russian children adopted by American parents. Following the accident, Russian federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the boy’s death, and Russian authorities called to restrict or end the adoption of Russian children by Americans. [13]
        On December 28, 2012, Governor of Pskov Oblast Andrei Turchak, has suspended two officials pending an investigation for their roles in the adoption of Dima Yakovlev.[14]


        1. “[15] The Russian Orthodox Church supports the law. Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin said that the orphans adopted by American citizens “won’t get a truly Christian upbringing and that means falling away from the church and from the path to eternal life, in God’s kingdom”.

          [16] Criticism
          Media and commentators in America condemned the move.[17][18][19][20][21] British newspaper The Guardian commented on the law that it “not about children’s rights” and “ruins lives and leaves both countries looking sordid”


          So, assuming the wikipedia-article is somewhat correct, the Russians seems to be under the impression that the US has decended into an atheistic hell-hole unfit and unsafe for children to grow up in.

          Furthermore, the reason you did not hear about the child and the background is that the western secular media largely hates Russia.

          This is mainly due to the stand Russia took against the punk band known as “P* Riot” who recently physically invaded a Church to perform feminist propaganda.

          And also because the western secular media could not care less about children, since children don`t buy newspapers.

          Since Russia has, as you may be aware of, taken a very firm stand against both feminism and atheism – the vast majority western media hates them.

          Therefore, the secular western media, who so eagerly promoted “P* Riot”, and whom are always pushing to spread atheism and feminism, conveniantly left out the actual backround story about the child himself:

          Dima Yakolev.

          That is why you did not know about the child, Monsignore.
          Because the western secular media hates Russia – for their firm stand against both feminism and atheism.

          Western secular media promotes the killing of children every single day through their promotion of feminism, atheism and abortion. So to them, Dima Yakolev was just another dead child not worth mentioning.

          Deleted from the newspages.
          Like so many of his brethren whom are killed every singel day through abortion.

          I am truly sorry to bring you this information, Monsignore, for I know how much you care about children.
          But rest assured, Monsignore.

          Dima Yakolev is with God now.

          Right up by the very altar.

  2. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”
    We pray for all the babies unborn killed by abortion, children abused and suffering. Let only YOUR Love, oh GOD, guide us to bring them back to YOU for we have reneged on our duty to tell them about YOU.

  3. Thank you for speaking on divorce. I wish more priests would.

    There is so much focus on SSM, but we, as Catholics, are often too quiet on the topic of divorce, in my opinion.

  4. Artificial contraception was the big crack in the foundation…all the other evils you have described came roaring in, one by one. May Godhave mercy on us all.

  5. Thank you. So much to consider here. I, too, am often silent, fearing to offend others. Although I have done my best to teach my children (my little flock) the truth, others don’t really want to hear it. I think priests – the shepherds – have failed here. I don’t EVER hear our parish priest talk about any of this. EVER. The flock is being assaulted by the messages of a depraved culture and priests are doing too little to protect.

    As always, love the music!

    1. come to my parish, our priest has people getting up and walking out after he says “if you don’t like it get up and leave”.

  6. A very effective gathering of some very depressing information. You are right. Our clergy, have hidden themselves away from the facts. They should be shouting from the rooftops. Sad to say, most of them lack the courage to push back against the evil rampant in our country. Like Donna, they fear offending and having to defend their position. Not exactly ‘in persona Christi.’

    Why not send this blog post to all of them? Maybe some will squirm into action.

    Good job, Msgr. Pope!

    1. I sometimes keep silent when I’ve already said the truth to someone (usually in-laws, or coworkers), and found them not open to it, so as to avoid a big ugly quarrel in the family or the workplace. I hope this is okay.

      1. No one can blame you Pam. In our fallen world, we often have to go along to get along. That doesn’t mean telling people that divorce is ever a good thing because it isn’t.

  7. We turned the corner of a God fearing country to a God less country when this country legally killed unborn children, thus to follow are all of the other evils that accompany abortion, lust,cohabitation,fornication etc.

    Yes, the priest in his garments is the first to stand up for what is right and to procalim what is true and what is corrupting our countries (for lack of another word) soul – Our parish priests and those priests in our diocese have done a good job talking about these treacheries. Yes we are a rural diocese, with 23 % unemployment and 30% of the children living in poverty so the treacheries are sometimes more prevelant here than the ones I saw when living in east L.A.. The Reverend Lee has done tremendous things in the L.A. area and has taken these issues head on, however he could not do it alone as he got the local adults engaged in bringing a better life to these children.

    So I ask you that are of the laity, that believe we as a country have fallen to far, how are you helping your parish priest stand up for these issues? Are you by his side or are you more concerned about your own “little flock” as you should be or do you step out of your, I do not want to offend bubble and realize that they offend you and God on a daily basis. Do not argue just point out their faillings by speaking the gospels. Fore if one is complicate in these actions all are complicate in these atrocities.

    One should take a look at the group of Catholic Faith Defenders Phillipines – This group of young people gather every friday evening in the local town square and preach the gospels. The started with few listeners and many more protestants yelling at them, and they answer with a calm voice with passionate convictions and the truth of our faith. The crowds are in the hundreds asthe people listening are impressed with their cool heads and candor and the protestant hecklers are fewer and less influential.

    Our parish Vicar and a small group of us that teach in the parish religious formation classes, are looking at a new way to spread the gospel (evangelize) and we are looking at thjis type of spreading the gospels. So remeber that the parish prieat is the shephard of the Lords flock as he is away and the shephard needs a few sheep dog’s to help look after the flock.

    I pray adult catholics will step out of the comfort zone and worry and pray more towards our salvation and worry less about earthly offense of the non-believers.

    I will pray for the Martyrs and those that will commit themselves to the well being of our countries soul.
    God bless you Msgr. Pope

    1. My comment was short – I did not mean to imply that I do not support my parish priest or that I am “more concerned” about my children. I only meant that my children HAVE to listen to me… others don’t. Like another commenter, I tell people what the Church says on certain matters, but do not press the issue when it is clear that they are not receptive. There have been times when family members have refused to speak to me because of things I’ve said. I felt a duty, but they took offence. Very painful for everyone.

      The priest, on the other hand, has hundreds (in our parish thousands) of people sitting in front of him every weekend, and they are expecting a message. My frustration is that my priest’s messages are empty. They do little to rouse people out of their apathy, and as a result, our nation and church are falling into decay.

      I teach CCD year after year. Most of my students are too busy to attend Mass and rarely go. The head of Faith Formation claims she “doesn’t even believe half this stuff” (Catholic doctrine). So why was she chosen? Yes, we must all bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and most of us can do much more. But the priest has a special responsibility. He is a shepherd – chosen by Christ to watch over His sheep. Too many shepherds are losing Christ’s sheep.

  8. This is a good argument that I have heard against same-sex adoption: a child that requires adoption is already suffering hardship. Same-sex adoption is a social experiment, untried in all of human history. It is wrong to subject children suffering from hardship to a social experiment, especially when they are many, many heterosexual couples willing to adopt.

  9. There is a huge piece of offense to children that is missing in this piece that makes this “holey” and not a very “holy ” article. It is filled with a extremelly judgemental… agenda as well. (seems judgement was supposed to be left to “God” or am I wrong?) Where is the part about popes, bishops, priests, molesting and moved on to molest more little ones… murdering the spirit of each one touched by them..includes their life and the lives of those who will later suffer with them…THese “holier than thou” articles may be just the hypocrisy that needs looking at.. and let those “=poor needy” sinners to be judged by the almighty!

    1. Hopefully you feel better now that this comment is posted.

      I am not seeking “Holier than thou” status. I am just concerned that children have to suffer through a lot of adult misbehavior.

      As for the rest of your comment, It is a common technique of many today to simply dismiss as “judgmental” what are necessary critiques of a culture that is clearly in disrepair. The “judgmental” assertion should be avoided, and besides, one breaks that very rule by asserting it. If you were really to have followed the norm you assert, you would have remained silent, for in speaking against my message and mode you are asserting judgement, which you say is not right to do. Why do you violate the norm you insist upon for others? And how is this different than being “holier-than-thou” ??

      By the way, as for your judgment of me and implicit inclusion of me in a class of criminal violators, I would like to say that I have never sexually abused children (or adults) or transgressed proper celibate boundaries, and neither have the vast majority of priests I know or have known.

      Nevertheless your addition of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy is valid, but was not included since it is being aggressively addressed, unlike most of the other matters I have mentioned. I wonder if you have seen any recent statistics on clerical sexual abuse?

        1. I love you Msgr Pope 🙂 If it was me, he probably would have succeeded in getting under my skin, but I aspire to your example.

      1. We are supposed to judge actions. The bible is chock full of this, including the words of Christ. But we can’t judge who is going to hell and who is not. Monsignor didn’t do this.

    2. From today’s Second Reading: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another” – Col 3:16

      Just one of many places in Scripture that make it clear that we are NOT supposed to sit quietly and leave our brothers in their sins. We MUST judge actions – in order to avoid sin. Admonishing our sinful brethren is a form of CHARITY, if done with love – with their best interest (eternal salvation) in mind.

      As to clerical abuse: it is not a problem only of the Church. It is pervasive in our society. Priestly abuse is reported a lot more because the press hates the Church. The public school system is far worse, but they are protected by a poewrful lobby and a compliant press. “The physical sexual abuse of students in [public] schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” – Charol Shakeshaft, author of “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature” a study done for the U.S. Department of Education

      That doesn’t in any way diminish the horror of it: each and every case is a terrible crime and a mortal sin, and we must pray for the victims and the perps. But the Church has done more to protect against abuse than any other organization. There are extremely few new cases, and the Church responds quickly to prevent even suspected abusers from getting anywhere near kids. This is what Msgr meant in saying that this has been addressed within the Church.

      The other issues he brings up, however, are in dire need to attention. And, though I agree that we need to hear about it more from the pulpit, it will require a serious effort by us, the laity, to accomplish any change in our culture. So let’s quit yiping about the very few Judas-types, and get busy being the best Catholics we can be. Prayer, fasting, personal holiness, political action (run for office, if you can!) and admonishing sinners with charity, where appropriate. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in all things.

      1. “But the Church has done more to protect against abuse than any other organization. There are extremely few new cases, and the Church responds quickly to prevent even suspected abusers from getting anywhere near kids.”

        Would this were true, Mary. Unfortunately, Bishop Finn’s mishandling of the case of Father Ratigan in Kansas City shows that some priests and prelates still take a lax attitude to child abuse:


        1. That’s one case. I didn’t say there were zero cases. The Church is doing a far better job than any other organization.

          Remember that Jesus chose 12 men. Of these hand-picked disciples, one betrayed Him, one denied Him 3 times, all of them ran away when He was arrested, and only one stood by Him during His crucifixion. Do we really expect today’s churchmen to be better than those who spent so much time with Jesus in the flesh? Do we expect our priests and bishops to be 100% pure and perfect in all things (while still on earth)?

          It’s not that I am statisfied with even one case of abuse or cover-up. I worry, not only about those who don’t react quickly or forcefully enough, but also about the over-reaction cases, like Fr. Gordon MacRae’s http://eww.thesestonewalls.com

          Truly, I pray for our priests and bishops all the time, and I hope for the Church to do a better job next year than they did last year. But we must remember that these are human beings, and this is a fallen world.

          1. “I pray for our priests and bishops all the time, and I hope for the Church to do a better job next year than they did last year.”

            Well said, Mary. Not all bishops can be perfect administrators like Gregory the Great, just as not all people can be perfectly holy. Nonetheless, we have to strive for holiness as best we can and pray that our bishops can be the best pastors and administrators they can be.

  10. Reminds me of a dumb argument I hear teeangers use for abortion: “Babies can’t be human because if they were they’d have the right to drive, and who would let a baby drive a car?”

    In reverse logic, that’d mean everyone is non-human, since we were all born babies. But I guess when people forget the blessing of being born and growing up, they turn on children.

  11. The Bishops need to be held to account. They are the teaching authority in the diocese. There are priests who are ready and willing to preach these hard teachings, but are effectively silenced when their Bishop smacks them down if even one affluent donor registers a complaint. Souls are at stake for all eternity, but some Bishops seem more interested in their reputation in this world.

    St. Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us!
    St. Francis of Assisi, Pray for us!
    St. Catherine of Siena, Pray for us!
    St. Pius V, pray for us!

  12. Great article Msgr. Add perhaps the negativity expressed towards children in so much of popular speech . Comments about ‘brats’ or disparaging large families, or saying ‘after this baby that’s it: no more.” Do we think children don’t hear these things, or internalize them? This kind of sarcasm and negativity toward children, babies and birth, almost taken for granted in our culture, comes from and is reinforced by the use of contraception. Contraceptives, by their very nature and purpose, are used to AVOID children. After enough times, it becomes a way of life and a way of thinking.

    This is the opposite of our Lord’s way: “let the children come to me, for to these belong the kingdom of God; their angels continually behold the face of my Father in heaven.” No wonder kids have trouble with their self esteem.

  13. my youngest grandchild goes to sandy hook elementary in newtown ,ct she was spared. the deep sadness in my heart will never leave.. america speaks with a forked tongue…proclaims to love their children and is horrified and rightly so with this horrendous deed, but sees nothing wrong with destroying children in utero. my heart tells me you cannot continue to throw Gods greatest gift (Life) back in His Face and not be called to account.Why is it so hard to make that connection ? there are none so blind as those who will not see.

  14. This is all so terribly true. I think it is inextricably linked with the project of actualizing what we would call a post-human world. This is all very much in sync with the Pope’s Christmas address this year on 21 December.

    Hopefully after a good dose of this insanity, enough people will be granted the grace of sense to enable us to pass some good old fashioned laws that will promote the good of the true family.

    Russia isn’t communist anymore; with God anything is possible.

  15. So Monsignor, if a woman comes to you and asks to have her adopted child baptized in Christ, do you ask her about her fornication preferences before you say yes?

    Is it a deal breaker if the child was conceived in sin? Do fertility treatments count as sin? How about rape? Is it better to be raped than to be intoxicated when the egg is fertilized?

    Should the parent or parents double check with you before they order the cake?

    Just curious. Because I don’t think that Jesus Christ is going to quibble at the end of the earth as we know it. I’m betting that he welcomes all the little children regardless of how much you think their parents are icky.


    1. I do baptize the Children. Perhaps you missed the main point of the article which is a concern of how children must suffer for the misbehavior of adults. Why would I further punish a child by denying them baptism. Sadly most children conceived in fornication are outright murdered by abortion before I ever get to baptize them.

      As for your rewrite of the last judgement, the actual text is given by God in the Scriptures wherein the real Jesus does seem to “quibble” a bit more than the fake Jesus you contrive does. But his judgment is of the unrepentant sinner, not the child victim: Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. (Rev 22:12-15)

      Thus the sexually immoral who are unrepentant are excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Or at least that is what the real Jesus says. You’re going to meet the real Jesus, not the make-believe Jesus you have fashioned in your own image. It may be better for you to prepare for that than to argue with me or Church. Talk to the real Jesus about this. Fashioning your own god and worshiping that is called, in the Bible, “idolatry” and that too is a very serious sin of which God repeatedly warns. Please take your last judgement more seriously Michele.

      As for the rest of your comment, I deleted it since it goes on at length about constitutional law, something which this blog does not take up in a detailed basis. The comments also engaged in unnecessary polemics and celebrate those who “love and practice falsehood” as denounced in the words of Christ above.

  16. Thank you for gracing us with your wisdom Msgr. Pope, as well as the further clarifications of respondents’ concerns. Unfortunately, as is common with conversation and media today, some respondents have top-of-mind issues that have been planted there by media exposure. Yet the underlying cause of our problems in Faith tie directly to our culture. Keep in mind that our culture is our greatest export to other nations too, and we have seen family-centered cultures in other countries erode this past decade to take on features of our own culture of death.

    I hope more attention is drawn to your paragraph “Our culture has sinned against children by sexualizing them…”. I could write volumes about this well-substantiated with research across all disciplines. Unfortunately, however appalled a well-meaning Christian may be, when it comes to us changing our own small habits and preferences in order to be divested of this culture, we typically fail. If the American Catholic church for Lent gave up (1) profanity and (2) cable TV, we’d see immense change. Perhaps our Bishops might promote this in 2013 :>)

    In the meantime, preachers could aid us by speaking in real, concrete language and not the language of the culture. Most prominent is use of the word gender, which is a perception (thus relative) and created in the last century or two. Absolute terms such as sex are rarely heard now, and yet these speak truth: we are born male or female. Taken from business and growing in popularity is the use of the word transparent—e.g. they aren’t always transparent — rather than saying someone is not being honest or is being deceptive. Again, honest and dishonest are absolute standards that counter society’s attempt to manipulate our thinking. Language is an effective tool of the Enemy to condition our minds into a confused state.

    God’s blessings on you :>)

  17. Thank you for this. My children, grandchildren and I are damaged survivors of no-fault divorce in the early days of its imposition on families. The children don’t know or care about the issue much
    They ride the fence between both parents and make no distinction of any note between the parent with the step parent married outside the Church and the single paren’t. This attitude is now that of the grandchildren.

    Don’t think much can change soon. The harm is incalculable

  18. Thanks Msgr. Pope. I appreciate that you acknowledged divorce as a sin committed against children. Far too many today, priests included, seem to not see divorce as a sin at all, but rather a neutral act.

    However, one thing you might add, and I know this may not sit well with some, but also the Church’s complicity in this sin against children. There is nothing in canon law that requires civil divorce before one can petition for a declaration of nullity, yet that is what the tribunals in the U.S. and other countries (though no all) require. It is astonishing how the bishops can’t see how this requirement actually encourages divorce, instead of working through problems! Once a couple has reached the point of divorce, if the tribunal finding is against nullity, reconciliation would be akin to putting the toothpaste back in the tube after it has been squeezed out. Of course, the high numbers of marriages being declared null is in itself scandalous.

    All in the name of being “pastoral.” Pastoral for who? The children, “traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them?” (CCC 2385) The spouse who doesn’t want the divorce, which “It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law.” (CCC 2386) To continue CCC 2386, “There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.” Trust me, Msgr. Pope, the effects of divorce on children and innocent, faithful spouses, can often be devastating.

    1. Yes, the problem you describe is a problem with civil law however. The reason the Church requires a civil divorce is not canon law but due to the fact that the Church, if she proceeded without that “protection” could and likely would be sued for alienation of affection when the divorce is disputed. It is a clear fact however that the Church, in granting so many annulments has created a very confusing pastoral situation. One that is not easy to resolve. What drives the process is ultimately a pastoral wish to return people to the sacraments, but in granting so many creates other pastoral problems as well. It’s a huge mess driven by a culture in grave disrepair and people often show up on the Church’s doorstep with many and significant pastoral problems. It is akin to a doctor who receives a patient with a plethora of problems and goes to work trying to make the best of a very bad situation. Some of the meds have unfortunate and unforeseen consequences. I think the annulment situation has gone so off the rails that it is necessary for a world-wide synod of Bishops to devote significant attention on how to restore balance in the pastoral practice of the Church. Since it is so significant, there must be a unified effort at teaching and then applying a more unified pastoral approach. Right now difference countries and different dioceses handle the matter rather differently. A big mess needs a big solution. This is the top piece of paper in my “If I were Pope” file. 🙂

      1. So, the Church is worried about protection from alienation of affection lawsuits (which would be very rare, as only a small handful of states still have statutes against alienation of affection still on the books) for itself, but as there has been mostly (only???) silence from the U.S. Bishops against “no-fault” divorce, innocent spouses are undeserving of protection against forced divorce, having their children taken from them, and usually financial ruin? That sure doesn’t feel too pastoral, at all, for the faithful spouse and innocent children having their family ripped apart. As a faithful spouse, there’s not much consolation that the Church is working hard to see that my unfaithful spouse can get an annulment and then marry her adulterous partner is she so chooses.

        1. I think re no fault divorce there is an explanation that is not an excuse. Namely, in 1969 the Church was inwardly focused, tuning up guitars, moving altars, having debates about authority. And while we were inwardly focused and fighting each other an enemy sowed weeds in the Lord’s wheat field. Yes, we tragically focused inward, tuned our guitars (played the fiddle??) while Rome burned. Not an excuse, just an explanation. Deus Miserere!

        2. I am not a lawyer, canon or civil, I simply tell you what I was taught. Reach out to Ed Peters at “in the light of the Law” blog. I am no fan of the annulment situation in the Church, but a fair discussion must seek to understand some of the background and the motives of the Church, not simply to examine the issue in a vacuum.

  19. Hello Msgr. Pope,

    I share your observations about the annulment mess.

    If the Church followed our own canon law about separation of spouses, at least those who cared about being Catholics in good standing would not seek civil divorce without first going through the ecclesiastic process for separation of spouses and getting the bishop’s permission for filing in the civil forum. Canons 1692, and 1151-1155, are mysteriously disregarded in the U.S. Children could be prevented from the overnight visits with the abandoning partner — because spouses would only seek decrees in the civil forum that were not contrary to divine law. Support orders could exist that would expect the abandoner to provide the material support fit for any normal spouse for life. No-fault divorce is an abortion against nature – and at least, if canon law was followed, children could be protected from that horror.

    Bai Macfarlane

  20. Church could avoid most alienation of affection suits by having both parties sign waivers.

    Where has the Church been at the state level to fight no fault and mandatory joint custody? I can assure you that when a diocese I worked in issued a public statement against joint custody after diocesan wide consultation priests objected strongly.

    Good try Msgr. Afraid the fight will be long and hard

  21. The vast majority of states do not allow alienation of affection suits. Your answer is a


    1. Just proceeding from advice of legal counsel, no legal expert am I, apparently as you are. But this does explain the Church’s insistence. Perhaps you should take up such arcane canonical matters with an expert in Canon and Civil Law such as Ed Peters. But a word to the wise Karl, true experts in this matter will not be impressed or engaged by your dismissive and patronizing tone. You have a long history on this and other blogs of having an axe to grind on this matter, likely born in personal history. I am sorry for your personal struggle with this issue, but there are many factors to consider, not just what Karl thinks. I am not going to re-engage you on this matter since you show absolutely no movement on the matter no matter what is said. I do recommend you raise this matter with true canonists, but engage in a matter that might actually be open to true discussion. As a “former catholic” as you describe yourself, I rather doubt though that you are interest in true discussion on this matter. I say this from long experience with you and also the long experience of other bloggers with you. You are not a serious or honest participant in discussions on this matter, as you have made every clear.

  22. I too am a lawyer and I do believe off the top of my head that most states have done away with alienation of affection laws. BUT that does not mean that tort law cannot be used in some states to bring a cause of action

    Further, I would think there may be procedures in Canon law available.

    We are not qualified to so decide, so hope Ed Peters will jump in

  23. Msgr. Pope, I echo the appreciation for your inclusion of divorce as gravely sinful. Many are not willing to hold that truth up any more. I pray that you will also consider that 45 or so states have a legal separation alternative to civil divorce. In the rare cases when a separation is morally licit and needed then the legal separation provides the needed protections. Our Catechism plainly teaches that a civil divorce cannot be tolerated and does constitute a moral offense unless it “remains the only possible way” of providing the needed protections. In those 45 or so states with a legal separation alternative a civil divorce should therefore never be tolerated and always recognized as a moral offense. Also, I pray that our American shepherds start to fear God more than man’s silly lawsuits in regards to requiring civil divorces before considering marriage validity. Man’s penalties are nothing compared to the eternal fire of Hell.

    1. The separation option is toothless in a no fault state. The person wanting a divorce gets one.

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