Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Life as a Liberal

I've been debating about posting this story, as it doesn't reflect particularly well on me (well, the "me" of my past). However, I think it will be instructive, so post it I will.

I used to be a liberal, and at one point, a bit of a leftist. Communism never appealed to me as it tends toward totalitarianism. I leaned more toward social libertarianism or anarcho-syndicalism—at least, that's what I held in the partially and inadequately formed elements of my political and economic intelligence. I still don't understand economics as well as I should. However, having some years in management and as a small business owner, I now have a much more practical understanding of how business works and how tax policy actually affects the common man (albeit without most people knowing it).

What I never understood is how creeping socialism affects human charity, particularly since socialism is supposed to be about equality and equal access to wealth. While most socialists seem to tout these values as axiomatic, they don't seem to feel particularly bound as individuals to help this happen, putting it on the shoulders of the government to address. I was no different. I thought there should be government-sponsored daycare for single parents, government-sponsored health care for every citizen, job training, and so on. Yes, some anarcho-syndicalist... how you have all that without expansive government bureaucracy and interference in our lives, I'll never know, but I wasn't particularly consistent.

That inconsistency bled over into my life. My wife (now a ex-wife of an invalid marriage) and I occasionally donated to Amnesty International, WWF, and the humane society, but I don't recall that we ever did more then give a token offering to the poor. That was the job of Health and Welfare. It's easy enough to do when poverty or misfortune isn't knocking directly on your door. Then one day, misfortune knocked.

My daughter had begun elementary school and had made friends with a young girl I'll call Katy. Katy was a little rough in the etiquette department, not really understanding how to ask for things correctly or how to behave in other people's houses. We put up with these matters since Katy did not come over very often, and we attempted to educate as well as we could.

We began to learn more of the ugly truth about Katy's home situation. Her mother was either a drug user, mentally ill, or a bit of both. She could barely take care of herself, much less Katy. Her father did the best he could on a fry-cook's income. The fact that he worked nights did not help matters since Katy's mom was sometimes alone with Katy but unable to care for her properly. The situation worsened when she disappeared for a time. I'm not sure if she went into treatment somewhere or if she simply left a situation with which she was unable to cope. In any case, Katy's father now had sole care of Katy and a night job—and few if any means for night-time care for his daughter.

One night, he came to us in desperation. He had to be at work and had no one to care for Katy. He asked if she could stay and play with our daughter until he got off around 10:00 PM. We reluctantly agreed.

My wife and I talked about what a shame it was that there weren't resources for people in that situation and how something really should be done. Passive voice. Nameless entity. Something should be done.

When Katy's father called us the next time, the challenge was laid squarely. He had to close, which meant, he had to work until well after midnight, and he had already had problems in the past. Another missed shift would mean no more job. Oh yes, the guilt trip. It's our responsibility to cover for you. Well, we were having none of it. We declined and said we weren't able to help. We had no idea what kind of pressure Katy's father was truly facing. We found out a few days later. He had no one to take care of Katy, so he sent her off to bed, locked up the trailer, and went to work hoping for the best.

The best did not happen, nor did the worst. Our daughter came home and told us that Katy wasn't at her school anymore. Our next-door neighbor shared that Health & Welfare had gotten wind that Katy was being left alone, and they took custody of her. Much worse could have happened, but the situation was still grim.

Katy's father did manage to regain custody of her, and he promised to do whatever he could to avoid the situation in the future. I have run across him on a number of occasions, most notably at the church where I attended RCIA when I returned to the faith. Katy was enrolled in CCD classes there, and I could see something different in how he carried himself—something that suggested he had found a direction.

It's now eight years later, and Katy plays in the same orchestra as my daughter. I see her father at the performances. I was struck by a thought and by a sense of shame that I should have realized long ago. He made it there without my help. He continued to care for his daughter on a fry-cook's wages, made it possible for her to play sports, rented (or bought) her violin, and gave her many things that kids in whole families often don't enjoy. I felt an incredible shame that I had turned him away when he desperately needed help. I feel a need to ask him to forgive me, and I will probably do so when I see him next.

We are our brothers' keepers. When we depend on the government to provide the answers for such basic needs, we have failed in our own moral obligation. I don't know how I'll respond if I'm faced with such a situation again, but I pray I'll have the grace to do better.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Fr. V shared this link to a site where you can see a 360-degree view of the the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Good stuff. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there are any vertical views, so you don't get to see the beautiful Christ Pantocrator over the Greek Orthodox chapel. I've included a shot of it in this post, and you can view my other photos of Israel from here.

UPDATE: My mistake! If you click the Details tag on the right side, you can get directional controls to view the ceiling. I'm still searching to find images of Calvary. You can see the stairs up to the site of crucifixion, but so far, no Calvary.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

To my eight followers, and to those who are following me through RSS feed, and to those who just happen to drop by in the next few days, merry Christmas. I'm humbled that anyone takes the time to read anything I write and happy that you find it worth reading. God bless you in the coming new year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holy Orders and Matrimony

Explain the doctrine of Catholic priestly celibacy and its limits.

Priests in the Latin Rite are normatively bound by obligatory celibacy. This obligation is frequently mistaken for a vow of chastity, which is taken by religious and some lay people, or continence, which is obligatory for all Christians who are not married. In contradistinction to these, a priest in the Roman rite is obligated to permanent continence, which practically speaking necessitates celibacy (CIC 277). According to Joseph Martos, the discipline of celibacy grew out of an ever increasing encouragement for priests and deacons to practice continence on days when they presided over the liturgy. This obligation has been customary in Western Christianity since the 6th century for all priests, becoming a legal requirement for both priests and bishops in the 11th century. In the East, celibacy has been a requirement for bishops since the 5th century, while married men can be ordained into the priesthood and diaconate.

The practice of priestly celibacy in the West developed over several centuries. While most, if not all, of the Apostles were married and married bishops and presbyters were common in the early Church, the Church showed a preference for celibacy in general, as attested in scripture. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (19:12). In Luke, Jesus refers to those who have “left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God” (18:29). In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul notes this preference for celibacy (7:8), explaining that “[t]he unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord” (7:32).

Despite the clear precedent for celibacy in the Latin Church and the common practice of celibacy in the Eastern Church, celibacy is a disciplinary practice, one that could be changed if the Church determined that such a change would be beneficial. However, the Church teaches, in light of St. Paul’s words, that celibacy frees men to serve the Lord and the Church more fully:

Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord,” they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God. (CCC 1579)


While relaxing the discipline of celibacy might allow more ordinations, married ordained ministers would be bound by obligations to wives and children and would not be as free to serve the Church. In some instances (for example, for Anglican priests who convert to the Church), the obligation of celibacy is waived. However, these men have tremendous challenges facing them, juggling the duties of a parish priest while also supporting a wife and children.

Explain the fruits of the sacrament of the priestly Order.

Like the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, the sacrament of Holy Orders “confers an indelible spiritual character” on the recipient (CCC 1582). Ordination changes the ordinand permanently, configuring him to Christ through a “special grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1581). While all baptized and confirmed Christians share in the priesthood of Christ, those who receive Holy Orders share in the office of Christ to act in persona Christi as priest, prophet, and king. At the Council of Trent, the Church confirmed that this sacrament conveys a permanent power, after which the ordinand can never again become a lay person (CF 1710; CCC 1583). While the priesthood common to all the faithful allows us each to offer spiritual sacrifice to God, the ordained priesthood grants the priest the ability to act as a representative for Christ, the Head of the Church, to offer the sacrifice of the Eucharist, to grant absolution, and to give anointing of the sick. Priests are dependent upon their bishop for the exercise of these powers, while the bishop exercises the priesthood of Christ in its fullness, also having the power to ordain priests and to exercise their apostolic authority (CF 1711, 1720, 1739). This character is no guarantee of the personal sanctity of the priest. However, because the power is ultimately that of Christ, the sacramental work of the priest is in no way dependent upon the priest’s personal holiness. As St. Augustine noted, “[W]hat flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains clear and reaches the fertile earth” (CCC 1584).

In addition to this indelible character, ordination confers the grace of the Holy Spirit proper to the sacrament and necessary for the exercise of this ministry. Through ordination, the priest receives the spiritual gift to proclaim the gospel and fulfill the ministry of the word, to offer spiritual gifts and sacrifices, and to act as an ordinary minister of baptism (CCC 1587; CF 1733). Bishops are granted strength and prudence to guide the Church as father and pastor, to proclaim the gospel, to be models for those under their care, and to identify themselves with Christ and the Eucharist as priest and victim, even to the point of death to defend their flock (CCC 1586).

Explain the doctrine of indissolubility in Jesus.

Throughout the Old Testament, God is portrayed as a husband who is faithful to his bride, the People of Israel, who rebuff Him and “play the harlot.” This image is most pronounced in the book of the prophet Hosea but is frequently referenced in the book of Judges to represent Israel’s unfaithfulness. However, the emphasis in these passages is on the covenant relationship between God and Israel, a covenant that God honors regardless. The marriage imagery promotes an ideal of marriage as perpetual and indissoluble, even in the face of unfaithfulness.

In each of the synoptic gospels, Jesus speaks of the indissoluble bond of matrimony in response to the questions of the Pharisees and scribes. In Mark, Jesus notes that Moses permitted divorce only because of the hardness of men’s hearts (10:5). Instead, Jesus refers them back to Genesis 2:24 and adds, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (10:9). In both Mark 10:11–12 and Luke 16:18, Jesus declares divorce and remarriage to be adultery. Only in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 does Jesus note any exception in the case of porneia, which is frequently translated as “unchastity” but more likely refers to degrees of consanguinity within which Jewish law forbade marriage. St. Paul also taught the indissolubility of marriage, noting that this law comes not from him but from God: “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10–11). Furthermore, Paul teaches that marriage is a great mystery, one that points as a sign to Christ’s fidelity to the Church: “For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church” (Ephesians 5:29).

The Church teaches that conjugal love “requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses; community of persons, which embraces their entire life: ‘so they are no longer two, but one flesh’” (CCC 1644). Unity and indissolubility, according to the Code of Canon Law, are essential properties of marriage given special firmness by the sacrament (1056). The implication, then, is that indissolubility is not due to the sacrament (although enhanced by it) but is an essential property of the natural institution. Jesus raises that indissoluble bond to a supernatural bond in the sacrament (CIC 1055). In addition, the sacramental bond is in itself a sign of Christ and His relationship to the Church (CF 1831).

What is the Pauline Privilege?

The Church has always taught, in line with Christ’s words in the gospels, that marriage is indissoluble (CCC 1644; CIC 1055–1056). As such, the Church is bound to respect this indissolubility as a natural and essential property of marriage. Canon 1141 notes that a marriage that is “‘ratum et consummatum’ [established and consummated] can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death.” The free consent of both parties and the consummation of the marriage in the conjugal act together establish and finalize this bond (CCC 1624).

However, there are narrow circumstances in which a natural marital bond can be dissolved, specifically in the case of disparity of cult (CCC 1634) in which a believer is married to an unbeliever who desires to separate. St. Paul makes note of such a condition in 1 Corinthians 7:15. In such a case, the baptized party is free to marry. Because this circumstance is specifically noted by St. Paul in scripture, it is known as the pauline privilege. However, St. Paul also notes that a marriage in such circumstances can be a means of sanctification for the unbaptized party: “For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:14).

The Code of Canon Law stipulates that a marriage is “dissolved by means of the pauline privilege in favor of the faith of the party who has received baptism by the very fact that a new marriage is contracted by the same party, provided that the non-baptized party departs” (CIC 1143). However, before the baptized person can validly enter into a new marriage, the nonbaptized person must be “interrogated” as to whether he or she wishes to be baptized and wishes to remain peacefully married (1144§1). The baptized party can only enter into a new marriage if the unbaptized party responds negatively to the interrogation, if the interrogation is “legitimately omitted,” or if the unbaptized party departs without just cause (CIC 1146).

What is the meaning of Catholic marriage?

A Catholic marriage is a matrimonial covenant, which by its nature, is ordered to the good of both spouses (CIC 1055). Established by God, “the author of marriage” (GS 48), it was raised to the level of a sacrament by Jesus Christ. Between two baptized people, a valid marriage is by necessity a sacramental marriage (CIC 1155§2). The Church recognizes this institution as one critical to the continuation of the human race and notes, “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory” (GS 48). A Catholic marriage is one that is aimed toward the sanctification of the two spouses through sacramental grace and the begetting and education of children.

While marriage in the ancient pagan world was viewed primarily as a contract, God reveals it, through His own covenant relationship with Israel, to be a covenant to which God is a witness (Malachi 2:14). In Ezekiel, God describes His relationship to Israel in precisely the covenant language of marriage (16:8). God’s revelation of marriage in this way is sometimes called the divine pedagogy. When Jesus, then, condemns divorce in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, He is restoring marriage as it was originally intended and divinizing it through the grace of the Holy Spirit. While marriage is a natural good (as recognized by the Protestant reformers), it is supernaturalized through the words of Christ in the gospels, who said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).

The Church has long recognized that marriage involves more than just the two individuals who consent to be married. Therefore, since the earliest days, bishops have sought to guide, encourage, and bless marriages. Today, marriage for Catholics is bound by canonical form, which requires that Catholics adhere to norms established by the conference of bishops (CIC 1059, 1067), or in the case of mixed marriages or disparity of cult, seek a dispensation from their bishop to do so (CIC 1124). In most cases, a bishop, local pastor, priest, or deacon must preside for a marriage to be considered valid (CIC 1108).

Who are the ministers of the marriage in the Catholic Church?

The proper minister for the sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Church depends on the rite of the participants. In the Latin rite, the ministers of marriage are the two consenting parties who are to be married. In most cases, a bishop, local pastor, priest, or deacon must preside for a marriage to be considered valid (CIC 1108). However, in some circumstances, when one of the ordinary ministers cannot be present, the bishop can delegate a lay person to preside (CIC 1112). The Catechism notes, “According to the Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church” (CCC 1623). The priest or deacon receives the consent of the two parties and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the priest or deacon as well as the two required witnesses makes the marriage a visible, “ecclesial reality” (1630). In the Eastern Churches, the priests (Bishop or presbyter) are witnesses to the consent given by the two parties. However, for the marriage to be valid, they must also give a blessing (1623).

In the Latin rite, weddings typically take place in the context of the Mass (1621). However, when a deacon presides, the rite of marriage may be accompanied by a communion service. The Catechism notes the obligation of faithful Catholics to marry according to the proper ecclesiastical form, noting the appropriateness of the rite of marriage as a liturgical act, the rights and obligations of Catholics when they enter the “ecclesial order” of marriage, the need for the community as witnesses to the event, and the public character of the consent given by the parties as a means of strengthening that consent (CCC 1631).

Explain the meaning of the three goods of the marriage.

In the fifth century, St. Augustine wrote The Advantage of Marriage in response to a challenge mounted by Jovinian concerning the merits of the state of consecrated virginity as compared to marriage. In that work, Augustine proposes three goods of marriage, which are cited by Pius IX in his encyclical Casti Connubii (CF 1826–1830).

The first good is the begetting and education of children. The procreation of children is one of the two ends to which marriage is ordered (CCC 1601). Gaudium et Spes refers to children as “the supreme gift of marriage” who contribute to the good of the parents themselves (GS 50). In the procreative act, a married couple is taking their proper place in the order of creation: “Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters” (GS 50). However, in addition to the act of begetting children, parents are also the primary educators of their children in the faith and have both the right and obligation to teach the faith, constituting, as it were, an ecclesia domestica (CCC 1656). Parents educate their children in their faith by, first and foremost, receiving the sacraments regularly and providing a Christian witness through self denial and acts of charity (CCC 1657).

A second good is the partnership and fidelity of the spouses. The unity and indissolubility of marriage provides an environment in which both children and parents can flourish spiritually. Only in a relationship of trust and fidelity can this take place (CCC 1646). In addition, this fidelity allows the two to assist each other in the process of sanctification. As Pius IX wrote in Casti Connubii,

This mutual interior conformation of husband and wife, this persevering endeavor to bring each other to the state of perfection, may in a true sense be called, as the Roman Catechism calls it, the primary cause and reason of matrimony, so long as marriage is considered, not in its stricter sense as the institution destined for the procreation and education of children, but in the wider sense as a complete and intimate life-partnership and association. (CF 1829)


This faithful partnership gives both parties an environment most suited to perfecting charity toward another and to putting oneself sacrificially at the service of another. As John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio, “In this sacrifice there is entirely revealed that plan which God has imprinted on the humanity of man and woman since their creation; the marriage of baptized persons thus becomes a real symbol of that new and eternal covenant sanctioned in the blood of Christ” (FC 13).

A third good of marriage, the “complement and crown of all,” is the sacramental bond that signifies the bond between Christ and the Church. As a sacrament, it is a cause of grace (CF 1830). In this bond, we can see a similitude of the indissoluble bond between Christ and the Church. Pius IX notes, “If we seek with reverence to discover the intrinsic reason of this divine ordinance… we shall easily find it in the mystical signification of Christian marriage, the full perfection of which is realised in consummated marriage between the faithful” (CF 1831). John Paul II calls it “the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross” (FC 13).

Explain the effect of the sacrament of Marriage.

In addition to the three goods of sacramental marriage, there are effects of the sacrament as well. While marriage is a natural good even among pagans, a sacramental marriage is supernaturalized, or divinized, as it integrates the marriage covenant “into God’s covenant with man” (CCC 1639). Because this marriage bond is established by God Himself, a marriage established and consummated is an irrevocable reality (CCC 1640). This bond is rooted, as John Paul II notes, in the self-giving of spouses and the good of the children and manifested in God’s revelation: “[H]e wills and he communicates the indissolubility of marriage as a fruit, a sign and a requirement of the absolutely faithful love that God has for humankind and that the Lord Jesus has for the Church” (FC 20; CF 1844).

The grace of this sacrament enables couples to live together in fidelity, growing in perfection by the practice of mutual charity and cooperation. In the sacrament the natural bond of marriage “is strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state” (CCC 1638). This grace helps them to persist in the face of the natural challenges of matrimony, to submit to each other in humility, to forgive when forgiveness is necessary, and to set aside natural inclinations that would not be ordered to the matrimonial state. These graces enable the married couple to develop virtues of selflessness, egoism, and pursuit of personal pleasure. While religious life had always been seen as a shortcut to heaven, the married state also provides a means to developing virtues and personal sanctity. Through the sacrament, married couples assist each other in this process of attaining holiness (CCC 1641).

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Edition. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vatican, 1997.
Code of Canon Law. Washington, D.C.: Canon Law Society of America, 1989.
D'Ambrosio, Marcellino. “Sacraments: Lecture 11.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, 2005.
—. “Sacraments: Lecture 12.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, 2005.
—. “Sacraments: Lesson 10.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, 2005.
—. “Sacraments: Lesson 6.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, 2005.
Depuis, Jaques, ed. The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church. New York: Alba Press, 2001.
John Paul II. “Familiaris Consortio.” 22 November 1981. Vatican the Holy See. 12 December 2009 apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio_en.html>.
Jurgens, William A. The Faith of the Early Fathers. Volume 3. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1979.
Martos, Joeph. Doors to the Sacred: A historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church. Revised and Updated Edition. Liguori: Liguori/Triumph, 2001.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sacraments of Healing

Why do we call penance and unction of sick sacraments of healing?

Christ came to heal the sick and wounded, both physically and spiritually. Likewise, He gave to the Church two sacraments so that His Church could continue to heal physically and spiritually in His name. The two actions are connected by Christ Himself in scripture in Matthew 9, when He tells the paralytic, brought to Him for physical healing, that his sins are forgiven (Matthew 9:2). Christ also commands His Apostles to go out, which they do, preaching repentance and healing by anointing with oil (Mark 6:12–13). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in 1420, “Now we carry this life ‘in earthen vessels,’ and it remains ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are still in our ‘earthly tent,’ subject to suffering, illness, and death (Colossians 3:3). This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin” (CCC 1420). Aside from providing forgiveness of sins, the Sacrament of Penance heals the spiritual wounds caused to the sinner by the act of sinning. However, in addition to the spiritual wounds incurred by the penitent, the Church also suffers wounds from the penitent’s sins (CIC 959). The Sacrament of Penance, then, reconciles and heals the Church as well as the individual.

Unction of the sick is clearly the most directly connected to the healing ministry of Christ. However, while it has a physical dimension, it also intends to address the spiritual effects of illness as a sacrament of “strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age” (CCC 1520). Anointing also benefits not just the individual but the whole Church by building up and strengthening, by extension, anyone in the community who comes together to celebrate this rite with the infirm. As the Catechism notes, those who receive the Sacrament of Anointing “contribute to the good of the People of God” (CCC 1522). Both sacraments, then, contribute to the healing of individual and community through God’s grace.

Explain Private penance (500–1000 A.D)?

While confession as part of the sacrament of reconciliation has always been a private affair (CF 1606), penance following confession of grave sin after baptism was only undertaken under rare circumstances and in most regions only once in a person’s life (CCC 1447). This public penance was very rigorous and frequently lasted for years before a penitent was reconciled with the Church. The process tended to be so rigorous that people either did not attempt it or waited until they were on their deathbed to request reconciliation (at which point it would not be denied except by certain rigorists). Celtic monks in Ireland developed a habit of private penance that accompanied their habitual private auricular confession, often coupled with spiritual direction (CCC 1447). These confessions often included serious sin and were increasingly followed with private penance and reconciliation, not just once in one’s life but “repeatedly for any sin at any time.” While bishops were the ordinary minister of reconciliation in the ancient practice, priests more and more became the ordinary ministers and offered absolution and reconciliation following penance. While this penance was made in private, it was still quite rigorous, and the monks devised a system of penances based on the Celtic penal system that imposed specific penalties for certain sins, mitigated by the penitent’s depth of contrition.

When the Celtic monks went to the European continent as missionaries, they took this practice of private confession and penance with them, and it became a common practice, much to the dismay of many bishops. The practice was condemned by at least one regional council. However, by 800 AD or so, this method of reconciliation had completely supplanted the older rite. By 1000 AD, confessors had modified the rite more to provide reconciliation prior to completion of penance. At the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, this rite was made the de-facto standard when it was mandated to be done once a year for serious sin.

What is the meaning of “second conversion”? (CCC 1427-1429)

While baptism is the normal means for remission of sins for those being initiated into the mysteries of the Church, reconciliation is the normative means for reconciliation of baptized Christians (CCC 1497; CIC 960) since the Sacrament of Baptism cannot be repeated (CCC 1280). Baptism, then, marks the first conversion. Reconciliation with the Church follows repentance, which is the second conversion, coming like baptism through water in “the tears of repentance” (CCC 1427) as St. Ambrose aptly described.

The term “conversion” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek term “metanoia” (μετάνοια), which means “to change one’s mind,” repentance, correction, or reorientation. This choice of terms seems particularly fitting in that the common term used for “sin” in the New Testament, “hamartia” (ἁμαρτία), which means “to miss the mark.” Metaphorically, this image suggests the sinner as an archer who has “missed the mark” and turns back or corrects his sin. Theologically, the sacrament reinforces the need for the daily conversion that we all need to come to complete perfection in Christ. Quoting Lumen Gentium, the Catechism notes, “This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, ‘clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal’” (CCC 1427). It is fitting, then, as the Medieval Fathers came to recognize, that reconciliation requires renewed and repeated conversion of heart. This understanding also conforms more completely with Christ’s insistence in Matthew 18:22 that we forgive our brother not merely seven times, but seventy times seven.

What are the parts of the Sacrament of Penance?

To be valid and efficacious, the sacrament of penance requires of the penitent three primary actions or “matter”: contrition (or repentance), confession, and satisfaction (CCC 1450). The first of these is contrition. This contrition is not mere emotion but a decision or conviction about the sinful act, a detestation of the act one has committed, and a firm amendment to turn from that sin. Contrition can be perfect, in which one is moved to sorrow through love of God and at having offended Him (CCC 1452) or can be imperfect, in which one is moved through fear of eternal punishment or the ugliness of sin itself (CCC 1453). The latter form is also called “attrition.” While perfect contrition can result in forgiveness of mortal sin when accompanied by a firm resolution to confess, attribution requires sacramental confession before mortal sin can be forgiven. Without contrition, perfect or imperfect, there is no forgiveness of sin. As Pope John Paul wrote in “Reconciliation and Penance,” [T]he essential act of penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again,(185) out of the love which one has for God and which is reborn with repentance.”

Next, the penitent must confess all known mortal sins. In order to make an adequate confession, then, one must perform a “diligent self-examination” of conscience. The canons of the Council of Trent make note of the necessity of confession to a priest, even of sins against the ninth and tenth commandments, noting “for these sins sometimes wound the souls more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly” (CF 1626; CCC 1456; CIC 988.1). There is no obligation to confess venial sins, but it is encouraged as it helps us to “form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit” (CCC 1458).

Finally, the penitent must make satisfaction. The confessor assigns some form of penance (CIC 981). This penitential act has several important functions, the first of which is reparation. The penitent must try to repair any harm done, if possible, when our sins have harmed a neighbor (CCC 1459). However, penance is also reparative in that it attempts to address the wound or disfigurement of the soul—the temporal effects of sin. Penitential acts must keep in mind the personal circumstances of the sinner and be directed toward the penitent’s spiritual welfare (CCC 1460; CIC 981). In addition, penance should help to destroy a penitent’s attachment to sin and to build up believers by repairing and healing spiritual wounds and configuring us to Christ.

The minister of this sacrament, who must be a priest or bishop, provides absolution to the penitent. While the acts of the penitent are considered the matter of the sacrament, the minister’s action is the form (CF 1612). Priests cannot deny or defer absolution if the three actions of the penitent are present and the penitent’s disposition appears to be correct (CIC 980). The minister of this sacrament and anyone who assists (such as an interpreter), are strictly bound to secrecy in regards the content of any penitent’s confession (CIC 983), nor is a confessor permitted to using knowledge gained in the confessional “to the detriment of the penitent” (CIC 984).

Anointing of the Sick

Explain Mark 6:13 and James 5: 14–15.

Mark 16:13 and James 5:14–15 are two of the clearest examples of how a sacrament can be both implicitly and explicitly instituted by Christ. This fact is important for the Sacrament of Anointing in particular because it is one of the sacraments that is not recognized by our Protestant brothers and sisters. Yet scripture itself supports this sacrament quite clearly. First, there is no doubt the Christ Himself healed. His response to the disciples of St. John the Baptist make this evident as Christ holds His acts up as evidence of His messianic role (Matthew 11:4–6). In addition, He sends out His Apostles to heal as well (Matthew 10:1). So first Christ demonstrated how it was done, and then He commanded them to do it. Clearly, the Apostles had a mandate to heal.

In the Gospel of Mark, we get an indication of the sacramental use of oil as part of this healing mission: “And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them” (6:13). In this instance, we have the Apostles, commanded by Christ to heal, going and doing what they are commanded using a matter common to their culture as a healing medium. Oil had been used for centuries for healing and soothing, so it was only natural to connect this matter with the prayerful actions of the Apostles in effecting the sacrament.

In the First Letter of James, the Apostle tells the elders in the tribes of the Dispersion to heal in the following fashion: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (5:14–15). Again, as with Mark 6:13, anointing with oil is specifically mentioned, along with prayer. In both, the matter used for anointing is mentioned, as is the effect (res) of the sacrament. The Council of Trent cited both Mark 6:13 and James 5:14–15 in their doctrinal statement concerning the Sacrament of Extreme Unction: “By these words, as the Church has learned from Apostolic Tradition handed down and received by her, he teaches the matter, the form, and the proper minister, and the effect of the salutary sacrament” (CF 1636).

Explain the fruits of this sacrament (CCC 1520–1523).

The doctrinal statement of the fourteenth session of the Council of Trent enumerates the various effects of this Sacrament. Among these effects are the forgiveness of sins and expiation of the effects of sin, comforting and strengthening the soul to awaken awareness of Divine mercy, protection against the temptation of the devil through this strengthening, and “when expedient for the salvation of the soul,” physical healing (CF 1637). The Catechism reinforces this conciliar teaching as well:
This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will. Furthermore, ‘if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.’ (CCC 1520)


While the council’s statement reveals well the individual effects of the Sacrament of Anointing, the current Catechism elaborates on the effects of this sacrament to reveal its communal effects.

The Catechism brings out the way in which this sacrament unites the suffering of the sick person with Christ’s Passion. Christ in His suffering and dying transformed the very nature of suffering and its meaning. Suffering, particularly when it is engaged in this sacrament, allows the infirm to participate in “the saving work of Christ” (CCC 1521). As a work for the sake of the salvation of others, this suffering is an “ecclesial grace” and “contributes to the good of the people of God.” In this sacrament we can see the Church and the communion of saints working for the sanctification of all (CCC 1522). Finally, this sacrament prepares those who are dying for their final journey. As the sacramentum exuntium, this anointing (when given along with reconciliation and the Eucharist) prepares those who are dying, conforming them more perfectly to Christ and sealing them, in a similar fashion to the sealing they receive in the initiatory sacraments (CCC 1523–24).

Holy Orders

What are the objections made by the Protestants in opposition to the Catholic view of the Sacrament of Holy Orders?

Perhaps the most common argument that Protestants make in opposition to the Catholic view of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is that the ordained priesthood appears to interject a layer of mediation between God and man. Christ, they say, made the whole Levitical system of sacrifices and ritual law unnecessary to mediate between and God and man. People, then, can all go directly to Christ rather than through an intermediate. In addition, Protestants often see the law and the priesthood as being part and parcel of the same system, and they quote St. Paul in Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16 as clear indications that the Law does not save and that the Levitical priesthood is not only unnecessary but abolished by Christ. Based on these narrowly interpreted passages, Protestants do not see in scripture any ordination that sets apart or indelibly marks a man for service in a unique way to the Church. In most Protestant denominations, ministers are primarily a professional class that performs a function, with no notion of permanence in vocation.

In addition, some Protestants (particularly evangelical Lutherans) reject the sacerdotal framework of the ordained priesthood. This rejection is undoubtedly based on Protestants’ mistaken connection between the ordained priesthood of the Apostolic churches and the Levitical priesthood, with its repeated propitiatory sacrifices. However, the priesthood of the Church is not of the same character of the Levitical priesthood, but is a sharing of the High Priesthood of Christ in the Order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20) and an exercising of Christ’s own priesthood. While the Levitical priests offered repeated propitiatory sacrifices, the ordained priests of Christ offer only a re-presentation of Christ’s atoning sacrifice offered once and for all (CF 1548).

Who instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders and how?

Christ Himself instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders, in two tiers. First, He established the office of the episcopacy by selecting twelve apostles, the leader of whom was Peter, and Christ gave to him the keys to the kingdom with the power to bind and loose (Matthew 16:18–19). This passage closely parallels another in Isaiah (22:22) in which stewardship over the House of David is assigned to Eliakim. Christ later extended this power of binding and loosing to all of the Apostles (Matthew 18:18; John 20:23). The terminology of “binding and loosing” originates with the rabbis of the time period and refers to their power to impose and lift bans on members of a synagogue. In Christ’s Church, these terms came to refer to the authority of bishops to bind and loose sins (in the Sacrament of Reconciliation), as well as to excommunicate (CCC 1444).

Christ also established another lesser order of service when he chose seventy of His disciples to go out and evangelize (Luke 10:1). These disciples He commanded to go and heal the sick (10:9), but He also implies an authority to bind (10:10–11). These seventy are prefigured by the seventy elders chosen by Moses to assist him and Aaron (Numbers 11). While the twelve Apostles parallel the twelve Patriarchs of Israel, the seventy elders parallel the seventy disciples chosen by Christ. In Acts 14:23, we see Paul and Barnabas appointing elders or presbyters (from πρεσβύτερος) for the various communities they establish. Earlier in the gospel accounts, we see frequent references to the “chief priests and the elders” (Matthew 21:23, 26:3; Mark 8:31, 14:43), so clearly the tradition is established prior to Christ of relating these two roles to each other authority, with the chief priests clearly being of higher rank. In Acts 15, we see a change in this terminology to Apostles and elders, suggesting a supplanting of the authority of the chief priests and reinforcing the higher authority conferred to the Apostles. This authority, of course, is eventually handed on to bishops (επίσκοπος) as the successors of the Apostles. Lumen Gentium states:

They therefore appointed such men, and gave them the order that, when they should have died, other approved men would take up their ministry. Among those various ministries which, according to tradition, were exercised in the Church from the earliest times, the chief place belongs to the office of those who, appointed to the episcopate, by a succession running from the beginning, are passers-on of the apostolic seed. (LG 20)


Lumen Gentium then goes on in section 21 to explain the role of priests as assistants to the bishops. The order of the presbyterate having been established by Christ, it is fitting then that they also share in His priesthood.

The order of the diaconate, although still considered an ordained ministry by the Church (CCC 1570), does not share in the priesthood of Christ but in His ministry of service (CCC 1569). This difference seems particularly fitting given that the institution of the diaconate, if one looks to scripture for evidence, seems to come from a delegation and imposition by the Apostles rather than from Christ directly (Acts 6:2–3). In light of this action by the Apostles, it seems likewise fitting that the imposition of hands during diaconal ordination is performed solely by the presiding bishop and not by any priests also in attendance (CCC 1569).

Explain Apostolic Succession according to the Bible.

Scripture makes clear in the gospels that Christ had many followers or disciples but that He selected twelve who were held in a privileged position (Matthew 10:1–4; Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16). To Peter, Christ provides a very specific role as “the rock” on which He will build His Church, giving Peter also the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and the power of binding and loosing (Matthew 16:17–19). In Matthew 18:18, Jesus appears to be extending this power to the other disciples, which the Church assumes are the twelve (although the passage does not make this absolutely clear). However, the Church has always understood Matthew 18:18 in light of the power extended to Peter and in the context of the twelve disciples rather than the broader group of disciples who followed Christ (LG 20). To these twelve, Jesus also promised the assistance of the Holy Spirit to guide them in their ministry (John 14:26). Again, in John, Christ confirms the authority of the Apostles to forgive and retain sins (20:22), as well as the role of Peter as the leader of the Apostles (21:15–19).

One of the disagreements many Protestants have concerning the episcopacy is whether the roles of the twelve constitute an actual office, as the Church has always taught. Yet a careful reading of scripture must lead one no other conclusion. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus grants to Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, as well as the authority to bind and loose, an authority mentioned previously as one deriving from and essentially supplanting rabbinical tradition: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This passage parallels a similar event in Isaiah 22:22, when the Lord supplants one steward of the house of David and replaces him with another: “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Peter, acting as Christ’s steward, binds and looses with the authority of Christ.

One of the earliest acts that Peter and the remaining Apostles perform is the selection of a replacement for Judas, citing Psalms as his reason for this action: “For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry…. For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it'; and 'His office let another take’” (Acts 1:17, 20). They selected Matthias to take Judas’ place as an Apostle. Just as the priesthood of the Jews had a form of succession (albeit one handed on through lineage rather than vocation), the Apostles saw clearly that their office must persist for the Church to be guided until Christ’s return, and clearly this guidance would fall to those put in place as local shepherds of the flock by the Apostles themselves (CCC 1087). While the Petrine and Apostolic offices clearly connote the notion of stewardship (as follows from Matthew 16:19 and its relationship to Isaiah 22:22, and reiterated by St. Paul in Titus 1:7), they also act as shepherds as delegated by the Good Shepherd (John 10:11; John 21: 5–17; Hebrews 13:20).

Works Cited
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D'Ambrosio, Marcellino. “Sacraments: Lesson 10.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational television, 2005.
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—. “Sacraments: Lesson 9.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, 2005.
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Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist

What is understood by “Baptism by immersion?” What are the different meanings of water? What is necessary for the validity of the Baptism? Is Baptism necessary for Salvation? What is the effect of the Baptism?

The word “baptism” comes from the Greek word βάπτισμα, which means “to dip” or “to immerse.” While the Church has always accepted baptism by affusion or by pouring water over the head of the baptized, immersion, or the plunging of catechumens into water, is a fuller sign of the sacrament and better symbolizes the spiritual dimension of the act—dying and rising again with Christ (CCC 628). St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (6:3–4). The immersion reflects our dying to our old selves and rising to new life in Christ.

However, one of the significant aspects of water symbolism is its numerous dimensions. Water can represent the tomb, death, and destruction (as it did for Pharaoh and the Egyptians in Exodus 14: 26–29). Conversely, water represents life and vitality. We cannot live without it. Water can represent the undifferentiated void from which all creation is drawn (Genesis 1:1) but also a passage from one state or condition to another, as in the story of Noah (Genesis 7–8), the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), or the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 3), all of which prefigure Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. Water represents the original passage we each make in this life, but also the passage of rebirth and renewal, as in Christ’s words in John 3:3–5 to Nicodemus. In baptism, the catechumen goes from degenerate to regenerate (Titus 3: 5–7), from the fallen state of Adam to divination in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Of course, the most basic use of water in Jesus’s time and our own is for cleansing and purifying.

As for all sacraments, proper matter and proper form are necessary for validity of the sacrament (in addition to a valid celebrant and recipient). The matter involved in baptism is, of course, water. Canon law stipulates that baptismal water should be “blessed according to the prescripts of the liturgical books” (CIC 853). However, in a case of necessity, unblessed water can be used. The formula or invocation for baptism is important. It must invoke the three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the words that Jesus Himself uses in Matthew 28:19. While the Church prescribes other symbols and rites to be performed during baptism (such as the three-folder renunciation of Satan), as well as additional forms (the triple immersion or affusion of the baptized), these are not required for the validity of the sacrament.

The Church has always held that baptism is necessary for salvation (CCC 1257). This stance follows Jesus’ own statements in John 3:5 and His command in Matthew 28:19 to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” While the normative means of baptism is through the sacrament as practiced by the Church, the Church does not limit the normative means as the only possible means of baptism. While salvation is bound to the sacrament, God “Himself is not bound by His sacraments” (CCC 1257). Several factors in the early Church led to this understanding. First, during times of persecution, some believers suffered martyrdom prior to receiving sacramental baptism. These were said to be baptized in their own blood (CCC 1258). Second, those who belonged to the Order of Catechumens and were preparing for baptism occasionally died prior to baptism. Because these people explicitly desired to do what the Church requires, the Church considers them baptized by desire, when this desire is accompanied by repentance for their sins and charity (CCC 1260). In addition, we may also hold out the possibility of salvation to those who are ignorant of the Gospel through no fault of their own but who otherwise sought the truth about God and strived to do His will according to his or her understanding of it (CCC 1260).

According to paragraph 1262 of the Catechism, there are two principle effects of baptism: forgiveness from and cleansing of one’s sins, and new birth in the Holy Spirit. First, baptism cleanses both original sin, the stain on the human soul due to Adam’s and Eve’s original disobedience, and personal sin, any personal offenses we have committed against God. In addition to this cleansing, we are remade and adopted into the Divine life. As the early Church Fathers, particularly Athanasius, would say, we are divinized and made adopted sons and daughters through baptism. St.Clement of Alexandria described the progression in the Christian following baptism thus: “Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal. In some instances, this outpouring of the Holy Spirit may seem to be dormant, as expressed by the Syrian theologian Philoxenus of Mabbug, who saw this later “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as an actualization of the power received from the Holy Spirit during baptism. Dr. D’Ambrosio also brings out some additional elements of baptism in his lecture. Through baptism, we are joined to the Body of Christ, the Church. We share in Christ’s anointing and become temples of the Holy Spirit, a point noted by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. And as noted earlier, we are made adopted sons and daughters of God.

Why does Confirmation come after the Baptism? Explain the seven (7) gifts of the Holy Spirit. Why is the ordinary minister of the Confirmation the Bishop?

Normatively with adults, confirmation is given immediately following baptism, as was the practice during the early years of the Church. The scriptural basis for this ordering of sacraments comes initially from all four gospels, in which Jesus is baptized first, and then anointed by the Holy Spirit who descends in the form of a dove. This order is again confirmed by Peter in Acts 10: 36–38. The anointing during Confirmation is sometimes referred to as the “seal of confirmation” (CCC 1295). This seal recalls the “seal in the flesh” of circumcision, and recalls the Jewish custom of circumcision and baptism of proselytes. The sealing or anointing also recalls the sealing of soldiers in ancient Israel as described in scripture (CCC 1295), setting confirmands apart as soldiers or spiritual warriors for Christ. While the Latin Church anoints with oil as part of the Confirmation rite, the emphasis is placed on the original sign of Confirmation, the imposition of hands (CCC 1288). In the Eastern Church, which refers to this sacrament as Chrismation, the focus is more on the anointing which takes place and which properly identifies Christians with the anointing of Christ (CCC 1289).

While the Eastern Church has always maintained this close connection between baptism and confirmation, perpetually celebrating the three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) together, even with infants, the Latin Church over time separated the two sacraments for infants, celebrating baptism during infancy but delaying confirmation. The reason for this delay was not based specifically on theological grounds but on practical considerations. In the Latin West, confirmation has always been reserved to the Bishop, while in the East, the priest is the proper celebrant. For the Latin West, then, expansion of dioceses and growth in rural areas made it difficult for bishops to be present at the time of baptism. Because of this delay, the two sacraments became separated, and Confirmation was often not received until much later (CCC 1290). However, the Latin Church performs an anointing with chrism during Baptism as a sign pointing forward to Confirmation as the completion of Christian initiation.

Confirmation is said to be a commissioning of a Christian initiate into the service of God, in a sense, an inclusion in the Great Commission from Matthew 28:19–20. As a sealing in the Holy Spirit, confirmands are strengthened and given gifts appropriate to service. Echoing St. Ambrose (CCC 1303) and the prophet Isaiah (11: 2–3), the bishop recounts these gifts in the invocation he proclaims during the rite:

Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to be their helper and guide.
Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of right judgment and courage,
the spirit of knowledge and reverence.
Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. (CCC 1299)

The gifts, specifically, are wisdom, understanding, right judgment (counsel), courage (fortitude), knowledge, reverence, and awe (fear of God). Isaiah links these gifts to the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (11:1). Clearly, these verses speak of the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested in Christ, to whom the gifts belong “in their fullness.” While the sacrament itself strengthens confirmands for service, these gifts assist us in completing and perfecting the seven virtues (CCC 1831).

Confirmation is, in essence, a call to engage in the Apostolic mission and a sign of full communion with the Church. Because of this connection between confirmand and the Apostolic Church, the bishop has always played a prominent role in the sacrament of confirmation. According to the Catechism, the bishop’s participation better expresses “the apostolic unity of the Church whose bonds are strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation” (CCC 1313). In the early Church, the bishop was the ordinary minister of the sacrament. In the Eastern Church, priests now preside over the sacrament of Chrismation immediately after baptism. In the Latin Church, the bishop is still the ordinary minister of this sacrament, although he can delegate this responsibility to a priest in case of necessity (CIC 882–884). While this continued preference for bishop confirmation has had what some might consider detrimental effects (temporal delays between baptism and confirmation), maintaining the bishop as the ordinary celebrant for this sacrament reinforces the sense of connection between the confirmand and the Church: “The administration of this sacrament by them demonstrates clearly that its effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her apostolic origins, and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ” (CCC 1313). For both Eastern and Western Churches, the chrism used in the sacrament of Confirmation or Chrismation must be blessed by the bishop, or in some instances, by a patriarch. Like the sign of episcopal celebration, requiring the chrism to be blessed by bishop or patriarch reaffirms the sign of this sacrament as a full indication of communion with the apostolic church.

Explain why the Eucharist is considered as a Passover? What are the matters used in the Eucharist? What is the meaning of wheat bread? What is the meaning of grape wine?

The institution of the Eucharist is closely tied to the Passover celebration of the Jews in all four gospels. In the synoptic gospels, the Last Supper is
portrayed as the Seder meal, the first meal of the Jewish Passover celebration. However, the Gospel of John situates the Last Supper prior to the Seder (John 18:28). John’s account makes more fully clear the relationship between the Passover lambs, which were being sacrificed at the temple at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross, and Jesus Himself, the paschal lamb of God. The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with a blessing, first, over the bread and then, the wine: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.” Jews utter a similar Kiddush at the beginning of the Passover seder: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.” Later, another blessing is uttered over the matzo or unleavened bread: “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth.” Both Jews (at Passover) and Catholics (during the Liturgy of the Eucharist) refer to their offerings as a “paschal sacrifice.” Yet where Jews originally offered a lamb as an atoning sacrifice, Jesus has offered Himself. Hence, He is our Paschal lamb (CCC 1324). However, the Eucharist is also prefigured in other ways in scripture: in the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16), in the Bread of the Presence offered in the temple (Exodus 25:30). The Catechism notes the use of bread and wine under the Old Covenant as a thanksgiving sacrifice, and the offering also recalls the sacrifice of Melchizedek, the King of Salem, in Genesis 14 (CCC 1333–34). While the Passover sacrifice of the Jews represents the Old Covenant, the Eucharistic sacrifice represents for us the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

The Eucharistic matter are wheat bread and grape wine. A drop of water is added to the wine and used for the ablution following the blessings over the bread and wine. However, essentially, the bread and wine are the Eucharistic matter. In the Western Church, unleavened bread is used to recall the “bread of affliction” eaten during Israel’s flight from Egypt (Exodus 12:14–20). In many but not all the Eastern Churches, leavened bread is used. Some in the East consider leavened bread more suitable on the Lord’s Day as representative of Jesus’ resurrection and our new life in Christ. St. Thomas attributed the change to the use of leaven as a counter to the demands of the heretical Ebionites. The bread must be made of wheat flour and water only, with no flavorings, sweetners, or any other grain. The wine must come from the pure juice of grapes. However, alcoholic priests can be permitted to use mustum, which is natural, minimally fermented grape juice.

Bread and wine are particularly suitable as Eucharistic symbols because of their use in everyday life. Bread represents a most basic foodstuff and even the very act of eating. As a communal act, the very words “breaking bread” suggest sharing at the family table. The connection with the sacrifice of Melchizedek, the bread of affliction, and the manna has been noted previously. Dr. D’Ambrosio notes the means by which wheat grains are crushed, ground, and mixed together to become a loaf of bread to be a symbol of Christian unity. In John 12:24, Jesus foreshadows His death using this symbolism: “[U]nless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” St. Ignatius of Antioch also recalls this symbolism in his letter to the Romans when he asks them not to prevent his martyrdom: “Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”

Wine also carries various symbolic meanings. Its use as a libation predates Christianity and occurs several times in the Torah. Grapes themselves are associated with fertile land, the fruit of the soil, and one of the notable riches of the Promised Land (Numbers 13:23). The juice of a grape represents life and blood, which is sacred. It is also only accessible through crushing, and so represents suffering (as in Christ’s agony in the garden in the synoptic gospels). Wine can represent God’s wrath and is used as a symbol by the Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah 25:15–16; Isaiah 51:17) to indicate God’s displeasure. This cup of wrath causes one to stagger. However, wine can also represent abundance and blessing, as in the Psalms 23:5 (“my cup overflows”) or John 2 (the wedding at Cana) and certainly joy and happiness. Finally, wine represents inspiration. Certainly, in the Eucharist, the wine is a holy spirit indeed.

Explain the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist like a sacrifice: in Council of Trent, in Vatican II (LG 34, SC 48). What is the meaning of “Real Presence of Christ?”

The Church has always held the Eucharist to be a sacrificial offering. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia which means “thanksgiving.” During the Protestant Reformation, this identification of the Eucharist as sacrifice disturbed some reformers, particularly in that the act was repeated. In their thinking, this meant a re-sacrificing of Christ. They considered this unnecessary as Christ’s atoning sacrifice was all sufficient and that nothing could be added to it. Yet the early Church Fathers, from Clement of Rome to St. Justin to St. Augustine and others, had always understood the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist. The Council of Trent took up this issue in defense of the perpetual teaching of the Church and noted the connection among the sacrifice offered by Melchizedek, Christ’s unbloody sacrifice “under the species of bread and wine,” and Christ’s bloody sacrifice on the cross. Specifically, they noted that the celebration of the Eucharist is both an offering of praise and thanksgiving, but also a propitiatory sacrifice, benefiting not only those who communicate but also those living and dead. In addition, the council taught that this is not a new sacrifice but the same sacrifice: “For, the victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only in manner is the offering different.”

This matter was to be taken up again during the Second Vatican Council. In Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Church taught not only that the Eucharistic celebration was a sacrifice in the true sense but that it is the “outstanding means whereby the faithful can express their lives and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.” In addition, the Church again insisted that the Eucharistic celebration does not re-sacrifice Christ but “perpetuate[s] the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until He should come again.” However, Lumen Gentium also stressed that Eucharistic sacrifice is an offering of ourselves to God in union with Christ.

In addition, the Council of Trent addressed the matter of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. While Luther offered a compromise with the consubstantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist, many other reformers such as Zwingli and Calvin denied the presence of Christ in any true sense. The Council Fathers unequivocally condemned these views, affirming that Christ is “truly, really and substantially contained” in the Eucharist. The council leaned heavily on the thought of St. Thomas to explain the transformation, which came to be called transubstantiation. During the consecration, the physical matter of bread and wine are transformed in essence into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. As St. Thomas notes in Question 76 in the third part of Summa Theologica, this presence is not in quantity but substance. In Question 75, he notes the error of Berengarius, who denied a substantial change in the species, stressing to the contrary that Christ is present “not merely in signification or figure, but also in very truth.” However, St. Thomas and the Council Fathers affirmed a distinction between the natural mode of Christ’s body (the one to which Mary gave birth) and the sacramental mode in which His body is present to us in the sacrament. So Christ’s presence is not a physical presence (although there is a physical aspect in the accidents) but a sacramental presence that we can truly eat as He commanded in John 6:53.

Works Cited
Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Edition. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vatican, 1997.
“Code of Canon Law.” 1983. Vatican the Holy See. 5 September 2009 . 9 October 2009.
D'Ambrosio, Marcellino. “Sacraments: Lesson 2.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc., 2005.
—. “Sacraments: Lesson 4.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc., 2005.
—. “Sacraments: Lesson 5.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc., 2005.
—. “Sacraments: Lesson 6.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc., 2005.
Depuis, Jaques, ed. The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church. New York: Alba Press, 2001.
“Eastern Orthodox – Leavened Bread.” AllExperts. 23 September 2009. 11 October 2009.
Emminghaus, Johannes H. The Eucharist: Essence, Form, Celebration. Collegeville: The Liturgucal Press, 1997.
“Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions I–IV.” Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, and Theology. 30 September 2009. ChurchDocs/EPV1-4.htm>. 11 October 2009.
Fanning, W. “Baptism.” 1907. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 4 September 2009 . 9 October 2009.
Jurgens, William A. The Faith of the Early Fathers. Vol. Volume 1. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1970.
“Kiddush.” Wikipedia. 11 October 2009. . 11 October 2009.
McDonnell, Killian and Montague T. George, Fanning the Flame. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991.
Mosey, Rev. Douglas. “Patristics: Lecture 4.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc., 2006.
“Mustum.” Wikipedia. 28 September 2009. . 11 October 2009.
“Passover Seder.” Wikipedia. 23 September 2009. wiki/Passover_Seder>. 10 October 2009.
Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition. Vol. 1. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971.
“Pesach: Passover.” Judaism 101. 2008. . 11 October 2009.
Pohle, Joseph. “Eucharist.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1909. cathen/05572c.htm>. 9 July 2008.
Schulte, Augustin Joseph. “Altar Breads.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1907. . 11 October 2009.
—. “Altar Wine.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1907. cathen/01358a.htm>. 11 October 2009.
“The Didache.” Early Christian Writings. 2001. text/didache-roberts.html>. 9 October 2009.
“βάπτισμα.” The Apostolic Bible Polyglot. Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006.

Sacraments and Sacramentals

This is my first assignment from the course I took on sacraments this semester. While we didn't have regular papers, I wound up writing about the same or more relatively speaking. I had this course in parallel with the sacramental theology course we had for Servant School (diaconal and lay ministry formation).

Explain the differences between Sacraments and Sacramentals. Who instituted the Sacraments? What is the difference between an explicit and implicit institution? When did the Church define the seven sacraments?

Sacraments are visible signs, instituted by Christ, that convey the grace they contain (CCC 1131). They are symbols, but not merely so as they “make present efficaciously the grace that they signify” (CCC 1084). Sacramentals are like sacraments in their form (CCC 1667), but they differ in that they do not convey or contain grace, but merely dispose us to receive and cooperate with grace (CCC 1670). While the seven privileged sacraments of the Church were instituted by Christ, sacramentals are instituted through the intercession of the Church (Sacrosanctum Concilium 60). This difference in source, perhaps, explains the difference in effects. While the Church has intercessory power and represents Christ on Earth, the fact that Christ instituted the seven privileged sacraments indicates that something unique was imparted through His actions.

Each of the seven privileged sacraments were instituted, either implicitly or explicitly, by Christ Himself. Explicit institution means that Jesus Himself requested something to be done, either in scripture or in some event that was not recorded in writing but handed down by the Apostles, whereas implicit institution indicates that his words and actions indicated a course of action to be followed by the Apostles. We can look to various passages in Scripture to support the claims of sacramental institution. Baptism (Matthew 27:19) and the Eucharist (Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:19; and Mark 14:22) are clearly the most explicit examples in which Christ specifically tells His Apostles to perform these signs. The sacrament of reconciliation is also mentioned, with the powers to bind and loose in Matthew 16:19 and most directly in John 20:22–23. However, each of the seven sacraments is implied in scripture in word or in deed. The Church has always understood the selection of the Apostles, the granting of powers to bind and loose, and the various admonishments to evangelize, baptize, and anoint to be the establishment of a hierarchical organization, whose offices were transmitted from the Apostles to the episcopacy (Lumen Gentium 18–22). Christ’s miracle at Cana (John 2:1–11) and his condemnation of divorce (Matthew 19:3–9) imply a positive affirmation of the sacramental nature of marriage. His own actions in healing the sick and his command to the Apostles to do the same (Matthew 10:8) institute the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

However, the Gospel of John states at least twice (John 20:30, 21:25) that not everything Christ did was written down but that He performed many other signs in front of the disciples. From these statements, we can extrapolate that some sacraments may have been implemented explicitly but not recorded. For example, in Acts 6, the Apostles select a group of men and ordain them into the diaconate, in much the same way as a bishop or priest is ordained. We do not see Jesus doing this in the gospels, but one does have to ask where the Apostles got the notion of its necessity. In James 5:14–15, the author instructs the elders to anoint the sick with oils and pray over them. Scripture does not indicate that Jesus used this form, so we might infer that this instruction was not recorded but nonetheless occurred.

While the practice of the Church from the earliest times included all of what we call the seven sacraments, the term “sacrament” was not used in an exclusive manner about these seven until much later. The word sacramentum was used by the Church Fathers to refer to various rites, as well as to the doctrine and discipline of the Church. Not until the 12th century did Peter Lombard first enumerate the seven sacraments in Quatuor libri Sententiarum. The seven sacraments were confirmed as dogma at the Council of Florence in the Decree for the Armenians in 1439 and confirmed again at the Council of Trent in the Decree on the Seven Sacraments in 1547.

Explain in your own words the meaning of ex opere operato. Explain the five conditions for the validity of the sacraments.

The words ex opere operato mean “from the work done” or as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “by the very fact of the action’s being performed.” (CCC 1128) In essence, this means that the efficacy of the sacraments is not based upon any personal righteousness on the part of the participants (celebrant or recipient) but simply by virtue of the power of God, particularly through Christ and by the Holy Spirit. While the term did not come into use until the Council of Trent, the concept goes back at least as far as the Donatist controversy in the 4th century, at which time the Church was torn between those who claimed the invalidity of the sacrament of baptism by traditores (ministers who had turned over sacred scripture during times of persecution) and those such as St. Augustine who held that the office of the priesthood gave validity to the sacrament rather than the individual’s personal sanctity.

Five conditions are required for the objective efficacy of the sacraments: First, the celebrant or minister of the sacrament must be eligible to perform the sacrament. Eligibility to be the celebrant of a sacrament varies, depending on the sacrament. For example, the normal minister of the sacrament of baptism would be a bishop, priest or deacon (CIC 861.1). However, in an emergency, anyone—even a non-Christian—can baptize, as long as they intend to do what the Church does (CCC 1256, CIC 861.2). Other sacraments, such as reconciliation, anointing of the sick, and the confection of the Eucharist are reserved for priests and bishops. The only valid minister for the sacrament of holy orders is a bishop.

Second, the recipient must be eligible to receive the sacrament. For baptism, the recipient must be unbaptized. If they have been baptized previously, they cannot receive the sacrament again, although they can receive it conditionally if there is some question of the validity of the first baptism—for example, if use of the proper form is in question. For most other sacraments, the recipient must be baptized (CIC 842.1), and for ordination, the recipient must be male (CIC 1024).

Third, the participants must intend to do what the Church does through this sacrament. A minister cannot be forced to perform a valid sacrament, and one cannot accidentally perform a sacrament or do it in jest. Pope Alexander VIII, in response to the error of the Jansenists, confirmed that an interior intention to do what the Church does (and not merely an apparent external intention) must also be present for a sacrament to be valid.

Fourth, valid matter must be used. For baptism, only water may be used and not some other substance (CIC 849). For Eucharist, bread made from wheat flour and wine made from grapes must be used (CIC 924.1–3). For confirmation, ordination, and anointing of the sick, oils are used. In the sacraments of marriage and reconciliation, what constitutes valid matter is not as obvious. However, for marriage, consummation is required for validity (CIC 1061.1), so the matter could rightly be considered the parties themselves.

Finally, proper form must be followed for a sacrament to be valid. In general, canon law admits of no changes to the words of the sacramental prayers: “In celebrating the sacraments the liturgical books approved by competent authority are to be observed faithfully; accordingly, no one is to add, omit, or alter anything in them on one’s own authority” (CIC 846.1). In the sacrament of baptism, invocation of the Trinity as commanded in Matthew 28:19 is often held up as a canonical example of proper form, as are the words of institution in the consecration of the Eucharist.

According to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), Sacrosantum Concilium 60-61; CCC 1667-1673 and CIC canons 1166-1172, explain: name, nature and purpose of the sacramentals.

Sacramentals are sacred signs that signify spiritual effects obtained through the intercession of the Church. Their principle effect is to dispose or prepare us to receive the effects of the sacraments (SC 60). They do not convey grace but prepare us to receive it. They also accompany and sanctify different events in our lives. They are called “sacramentals” because they have a close resemblance to the sacraments and often use the same matter and similar forms and can sometimes point forward toward a sacrament (such as confirmation) or allude back to one (such as baptism) (CCC 1668). As Sacrosanctum Concilium notes, sacramentals are meant to sanctify our lives and draw their power from the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ (SC 61). Sacramentals are yet another way in which all Christian life becomes sacramental: “There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God” (SC 61).

Most sacramentals are liturgical blessings of persons or objects. These blessings can be for meals, people, objects of various kinds, sacred spaces, or other locations such as homes or places where charitable works are performed (CCC 1671–72). Some of these blessing consecrate spaces or objects for sacred use. They can also consecrate people to God or to special offices or various lay ministries (CCC 1672). Exorcism is also a sacramental. In baptism, a minor exorcism is used to prepare a recipient to receive baptismal grace (CCC 1673). Major exorcisms, too, are considered a sacramental. The Catholic Encyclopedia offers the following applications for sacramentals: “Orans (public prayer), tinctus (use of holy water or oils), edens (eating blessed foods), confessus (listing of faults), dans (alms), benedicens (blessings).”

The form of a sacramental is very similar to the form of a sacrament. The Catechism notes the following concerning sacramentals: “They always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water (which recalls Baptism)” (CCC 1668). Unlike sacraments, which work ex opere operato, sacramentals work ex opere operantis, which means that the blessings received from the sacramental depend upon the faith of the recipient and the minister. Blessed objects were (and in some places, still are) called sacramentals. However, this usage is considered outdated.

Works Cited
Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Edition. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vatican, 1997.
Chapman, John. “Donatists.” 1909. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 4 September 2009 .
“Code of Canon Law.” 1983. Vatican the Holy See. 5 September 2009 .
D’Ambrosio, Marcellino. “Sacraments: Lesson 2.” International Catholic University. 28 August 2009 .
Depuis, Jaques, ed. The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church. New York: Alba Press, 2001.
Fanning, W. “Baptism.” 1907. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 4 September 2009 .
Ghellinck, Joseph de. “Peter Lombard.” 1911. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 5 September 2009 .
Hardon, Fr. John. “Ex opere operantis.” 1999. Modern Catholic Dictionary. 5 September 2009 .
—. “Ex opere operato.” 1999. Modern Catholic Dictionary. 4 September 2009 .
Leclercq, Henri. “Sacramentals.” 1912. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 5 September 2009 .
Mosey, Rev. Douglas. “Patristics: Lecture 4.” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc., 2006.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Prisoner (1955)

This review is yet another for the Korrektiv's 52 Movies for the Year of the Priest. I have yet to receive the original movie I offered to review, The Massacre in Rome, both attempts resulting in damaged DVDs. We'll see if number three proves to be more successful.

The Prisoner takes place in a nameless totalitarian country following World War II. Alec Guinness plays a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, much beloved by the people of his flock. He is arrested in suspicion of aiding the resistance movement. The claim is not without merit, given that the Cardinal was formerly involved in the resistance against the Nazis. However, the captors have no proof and must rely on manipulation and psychological stress to coerce the Cardinal into saying something truly damning, even going so far as to splice together his statements over numerous interrogations to give the impression that he has indeed admitted to crimes against the state.

Guinness plays the role well, showing the pious cardinal coming under increasing strain, admitting to flaws he perhaps doesn’t see in the clearest light, and straining to maintain his sanity in the face of solitary confinement and other psychological pressures. His portrayal is realistic, and while the character is a priest and cardinal, you get a sense that the story could almost apply to any Christian’s struggle against sin and toward greater humility. While this is a movie about a priest, it’s almost difficult to classify it as a priest movie as that element is almost beside the point. Nonetheless, dramatic development engaged me, and I found myself able to understand and empathize with the cardinal’s increasing challenge. The script seems well suited for screen or stage, but watching Guinness in this role definitely satisfies.

Overall grade: A+
Priest factor: B+

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another week of Advent

This song never fails to get to me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thesis Topic - Matthew in Aramaic?

I'm beginning the process of determining a topic for my master's thesis. While a thesis isn't required for my degree program, it's recommended for those who place to go beyond the master's degree. One of the topics I find interesting is the synoptic problem—the question of which gospel acount came for first and which borrowed from it. One of the more popular theories from the source criticism is the Two Source hypothesis, which posits that Mark and some lost source designated Q where the two orginal source from which Matthew and Luke were drawn. The problem I have with this scenario (and I'm not alone) is that it flies in the face of Sacred Tradition, which holds that Matthew was written first. However, to be creditable as scripture scholarship, there needs to be some justification within the existing source to make the claim. The testimony of Sacred Tradition is not, strictly speaking, relevant in source criticism. Now, I personally believe Sacred Tradition accounts is quite important as a witness, but to vindicate tradition, one needs to use the tools of its opponents. So, I want to use source criticism to demonstrate the legitimacy of the testomony of Sacred Tradition. How does that sound?

Anyway, my hope is to focus on Matthew and to demonstrate the Semitic influences that recommend a source in a Semitic language—figurative language that otherwise doesn't convey the proper meaning, word choices that might be due to norms in one culture (Jewish Palestine) versus another (the Diaspora).

I'd be grateful for any suggestions you might have and any source material you could recommend (particularly a certain someone in Trumau whom I know also has an interest in this subject).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

MA in Theology - Progress So Far

Okay, so I think I've made it clear that I'm on the perpetual student plan for this degree. I've made it a rule that I don't take two sequential semesters and only take one class each time. I've decided that I need to pick up the pace a bit if I want to wrap up my thesis in time for diaconal ordination. It's either that or skip the thesis (which isn't a requirement but helps if you seek a terminal degree). Anyway, as money is tighter and college looms for my daughter, I have to try to get my studies out of the way or look at going into debt to help her. The first is obviously preferable. Please pray for God's assistance for me in this endeavor. With business travel, family responsibilities, and diaconal formation, I can get a little overwhelmed. I'm hoping to seek an STL at some point, and that point is looking further and further in the future unless God throws us a game changer.

Also, we're looking at a delicate situation with one of our family members. I'm not really at liberty to say what it is, but if you could keep us in your prayers, I would be grateful.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Scarlet and the Black: a Review

The literary crew over at Korrektiv have been celebrating this Year for Priests with a multiblog project: 52 Movies for the Year of the Priest. I initially volunteered to review The Massacre in Rome, but that movie is still sitting in my NetFlix queue marked "short wait."*

I slipped The Scarlet and the Black into my NetFlix queue as a second option, given that the that first has yet to appear. Frankly, I didn’t expect much from it. When it showed up in my mailbox, I wanted to watch it and send it back as soon as possible. So I plugged it in, only to discover that it’s lead and supporting roles were filled by two of my favorites: Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer. I couldn’t just give this a cursory viewing, so I set it aside for the weekend, and I’m happy I did.

The movie is based on the book The Scarlett Pimpernel of the Vatican by J.P. Gallagher, the true story behind the film. It opens in Nazi-occupied Rome in 1943. A boxing monsignor named Hugh O’Flaherty (Peck) has been helping escaped prisoners of war and Jews to hide from the invaders. While the movie begins in and around the Vatican, the flavor is less one of a religious epic and more an espionage film. Msgr. O’Flaherty is adept at skirting the Nazi authorities and hiding escaped prisoners in their midst. The Holy Father, Pius XII (played by Sir John Gielgud), encourages the priest in his efforts, but makes clear that his ability to protect him outside the walls of the Vatican are limited. A side note here is that this portrayal of Pius XII shows no hint of the scandalous figure so commonly trotted out in the media but of an experienced diplomat who has no love for the Nazis in any sense, yet struggles with which risks to take. The monsignor also struggles with these risks as the Nazis tighten the noose around the Vatican.

While the Catholic setting is never downplayed, the religious dimension really doesn’t become pronounced until midway into the movie. The priests are not perfect, saintly types but real flesh and blood, flawed men—but faithful to their calling, sometimes to the point of torture and death. Msgr. O’Flaherty makes no bones about his antipathy for the British, noting that schoolmates of his had been shot by Black and Tans during the Irish revolution. Yet he assists them anyway. Pius also shows signs of human frailty, reminding O’Flaherty of the threats to the material wealth of the Church and the priest’s own life. It takes the Irish priest’s example to help Pius to recognize the true cost and true value of this work. During the close, O’Flaherty comes face to face with his own weakness when his enemy, the mastermind of so much suffering, seeks him out for aid.

The Scarlet and the Black doesn’t give us caricatures or two-dimensional sanctimonious images of the priesthood but an image of service and sacrifice by imperfect but holy men.

*As it turns out, The Massacre in Rome appears to present a rather unsympathetic portrayal of Pius XII, diametrically opposite of the portrayal in The Scarlet and the Black.

Overall grade: A+
Priest factor: A+