“Know that the greatest service that man can offer to God is to help convert souls.”
St. Rose of Lima
Before I begin this post I wanted to say unequivocally that I am under the guidance and direction of the Chair of Peter and I will never leave it. No one should. Whether the man at the helm denies Jesus like Peter did 3 times, goes the way of Caiaphas the High Priest, Judas the betrayer, or the path of Christ Himself, it is Christ Himself who is the ultimate authority over the person in the Chair, and in Him I trust to guide the church and the chair towards resurrection and life, no matter how messy that path. Jesus I trust in you. The Pope is my shepherd. He cannot compel me to sin, but he can and does lead the church that I love and so I abide by the direction we go, wherever that may be, because the promise of Christ is TRUE, that the gates of hell will not prevail, even if the path we are on seems to contradict this. Jesus I trust in you.
My word for the year this year was SPEAK, so though I do owe my obedience to the Pope, I do not have to remain silent in the face of error. I must speak when my conscience compels me to. I am not a sedevacantist, nor do I believe in assuming the interior of a person, including the Pope. It is not my job to judge his soul. I can, however, assess statements that have been made. And it is actually precisely because I love this Pope that I feel compelled to speak now.
Recently I read an article, that if true, is troubling.
Here are the quotes I find most troubling;
“One dimension of clericalism is the exclusive moral fixation on the sixth commandment,”
“We focus on sex and then we do not give weight to social injustice, slander, gossip and lies. The Church today needs a profound conversion in this area.”
“Once a Jesuit, a great Jesuit, told me to be careful in giving absolution, because the most serious sins are those that are more angelical: pride, arrogance, dominion… And the least serious are those that are less angelical, such as greed and lust,”
“Clericalism has a direct consequence in rigidity. Have you never seen young priests all stiff in black cassocks and hats in the shape of the planet Saturn on their heads? Behind all the rigid clericalism there are serious problems.”
To start, let’s focus on the statement that lust and greed are less serious sins. Although many theologians have ordered the sins putting lust and greed at the bottom, they are still considered deadly sins and in certain conditions, they are mortal.
To be clear, this is not a competition between sins or people. To do this is to partake in the very sin that is claimed to condemn as the worst, namely pride. But when we start generalizing and concluding that one deadly sin is worse than another… What a statement of pride! Only God can know the hearts and minds of every sinner. Only He stands to judge each one of us in His perfect justice. We are not worthy to make those judgements so we must avoid it at all costs.
But let me make one thing clear, acceptance of any deadly sin as less than deadly swings a door wide open for Satan to enter. Once we allow Satan to convince us that one deadly sin is “not as bad as another”, he’s got us in his grasp and can do a lot of damage thereafter.
I would further argue that viewing the world this way, that acknowledging lust and sexual sins as deadly will make us blind to other sins like slander and gossip, misses the mark on why lust is so bad for the soul and it underestimates God’s grace in lifting us out of sin. When we view people through a lustful lens, lust begins to harden our hearts and violates the dignity of another human person. Lust is particularly perverse because of how it dishonors the dignity of the human person in both body and soul and gives rise to the sexual sins of adultery, pedophilia, molestation, rape, pornography and the like. It is here that pride takes root because by justifying the violation of the body and soul of either yourself or of another person it is a direct attack on all parts of our humanity that God made dignified. In other words, this sin is personal and relational and opens the doorway to souls being used as sexual commodities. Then assuredly, the sins of pride, power, and greed will end up intertwining themselves into this distorted view of the dignity of humanity. Just look at Jeffery Epstein and Cardinal McCarrick.
The sexual sins of the pedophile, ephebophile and homosexual Priests and Bishops were lustful, alongside being prideful and power filled. Clericalism is not what made these men do these horrific things, giving into temptation (looking lustfully) and choosing to sin is what did. Acting upon the sin of lust is what opened the door to becoming prideful. It is the personal sin that hardens our hearts and eventually leads us to societal chaos. A position as a cleric is just a position, it only becomes sinful when it is an abuse of power. In the case of these priests and bishops, they committed sin in their hearts first, then they used their power to carry out and perpetuate the sinful acts. Then they and many others who knew or found out about what they did, all used their power to cover it up afterwards. Had the cleric not given into the temptation of lust, the temptation to wield power over others would not be an issue. Sin begets sin.
There was a reason why Jesus spoke so firmly on marriage, which is the only appropriate place for sexual union to take place. If marriage breaks down, so does society. Breakdown of the family CAUSES POVERTY. The poverty we so want to stop. If we teach and build up sexual morality and marriage, poverty is way less likely to happen.
I want to go back to something I touched on earlier, which is the claim that focusing on sexual sin means we do not give weight to social justice issues. Seeing where we are as a culture right now and the heavy focus our culture has on sexual identity, it seems only fitting that we focus in on this very thing. If we are to win this battle against Satan, and it is a battle that we are in whether we know it or not, we must focus in on how Satan has convinced us to identify ourselves through the scope of a sinful behavior, instead of identifying as our true identity, which is sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. This statement that we are too focused on sexual sin is one of division that pits those doing social justice work against those doing work to improve sexual morality.
It is not an either/or situation… It’s a both/and situation! It is actually an insult to the Mystical Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints to say that one is more important than the other. Some are called to feed the poor, others to teach on sexual morality, still others are called to a multitude of other areas. All of these things are meant to compliment one another in the Kingdom of God and build it up, not to be in competition with one another. To think otherwise is to think like a demi-god. Half-god. One who knows better than the teachings of God Himself.
This is actually one of the strategies of Satan, to get Christians to turn inward, to focus on our differences of opinion, to attack one another. When we are busy doing this, we actually cease fighting Satan.
God of course wants us to help the poor, but He also wants us to be interiorly free from sin. It is only when we interiorly work on our own sinfulness are we able to truly become servants of God by serving others. If we have not healed and grounded ourselves in the truth, we are at risk of being devoured by the wolves of the world, instead of being able to serve those in need. It is a cooperation in our own redemption and it is the duty of the Christian to help others see this too, but never by way of force. God Himself respects free will, and we should also. But we also don’t abdicate to the position that it’s just too hard and stay wallowing in sin and sit back and do nothing while others wallow in sin as well. That is not what we are called to do! Correction of a person is actually one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. We are called to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is the universal or Catholic call. It is the one that brings freedom and saves. And it ministers to the whole person and the whole truth. It seeks total conversion.
You know who takes half a truth into the world and twists it to be the full truth? Satan. The self-made demi-god who begets non-servium. If you want service from the heart, full truth must be embraced in prayer and reverence.
Lastly, I must comment on the very hurtful words that no doubt insulted those who adhere to full truth and respond lovingly in every way possible, even in the details of how they dress (which, by the way, was put in place to keep clerics from wearing richly styled clothing, thus stressing poverty as well as modesty). These very words are filled with judgement and division, let alone their being completely unprofessional.
Most of the young Priests in black cassocks that I know love God with their whole heart, mind and soul. They are prayerfully serving. They actually pray their Divine Office and mean it. To insinuate otherwise is calumny. No one but God knows their interior. These men that bring us the Eucharist do not need to be subverted by the very authority they serve. It does absolutely nothing to foster unity, truth and love. They are facing accusations and name calling from society, while getting called out for not changing basic teachings, not compromising the truth from within. All the while, those committing actual crimes get very little or even no penalty at all.
My friend Shawn Sulak put it this way, she said, “In our broken society my heart craves the truth, which has always been clear. In an effort to be “inclusive” we have lost beautiful traditions and the fruit of this seems to be that for every 6.5 Catholics that leave only 1 convert. Additionally, most Catholics believe the Eucharist is only a symbol. Why do most Catholics believe the Eucharist is only a symbol? Why aren’t Catholics attending Mass? If the hierarchy could just embrace what the church already is; beautiful, perfectly designed, and instituted by Christ Himself, the Holy Spirit could work. It doesn’t need to be watered down. That is the problem, it is losing all of it’s luster – which is the supernatural beauty and awe that compels you towards heaven. If only people truly understood what is happening at Mass and if only our leaders would cultivate this. People are not craving a mediocre experience where you can go and ‘hangout’ and follow a portion of what you feel like, and then go about the rest of your lackluster week. People thirst for and NEED Christ. The Catholic Church is the only place that can fill this – yet so many in leadership want to water it down. It is heartbreaking and sad.” Shawn went further and stated, “if people truly experience the Mass, the Eucharist, the Liturgy – the way it was written and intended, if they would go to Confession and experience God’s mercy and Grace, then the Holy Spirit could get to work and things would turn around. But if we continue down the path of ‘this sin isn’t as bad as that sin’ and saying Priests are ‘too rigid’, ignore the rubric of the Mass, and don’t teach the truth about the Mass and the Eucharist, Mass becomes like a sporting event. I want something RADICAL. I want radical Priests to rise up and say enough! Radical Love is what Christ was about and the beauty of our traditions embody this.”
While there are those who are truly “rigid” and need prayer, the converse is true that there are those who are morally loose, especially those in the ranks who commit sexual crimes and have destroyed the trust of a faithful flock. They are harming the Kingdom of God and need to be held accountable by our leadership. Why is this not happening? Their moral laxity has led to moral laxity in teaching the lay faithful and now we can see how depraved our society has become as a result. The church is supposed to be a beacon of truth. It draws you in because it is truth. It is Jesus. Now with watered down teaching it just looks like the rest of the world. The Holy Spirit is the advocate of the church and it is the Holy Spirit who convicts hearts and leads souls to full conversion. But we’ve seemed to lose hope in the Holy Spirit. We’ve stopped praying for our families and laity who are the sheep of the flock. We’ve turned to our own thinking and our own ability to try to reach out to the flock instead of calling on the Holy Spirit, the advocate, to do the work of conversion. It’s the Holy Spirit who keeps people from leaving the Church. It’s prayer that opens us up to the Spirit. The church should be calling all the faithful to prayer so that each catholic may encounter the living God in their very hearts.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” John 14:15. He didn’t quantify that and say to only keep some of them. This is because they are unified and belong together, to separate them out and pit them against one another is dangerous. Satan is the divider, God is the ultimate uniter, and God wants nothing more than for us to be ONE and for us to work as ONE body. It is our duty to build of the Kingdom of God. Don’t accept an ideology of halves. Be all in for the Kingdom of God. I believe Pope Francis truly wants the best for people, that he wants Priests to not get so stuck in the rules that they don’t love people. All of that is good. But the faithful also must not be offended by the truth. The Priests must not be afraid to teach it and should most definitely not be admonished for teaching it. The bar does not need to be lowered, the path should be clear – because it is a path to heaven. To downplay this just brings more destruction on the Body of Christ.
Pray for the Pope.
Fiat voluntas tua.
Susan, I think this posting needs to be made private.
Perhaps you’re right. I will pray about that. Can you expound on your reasoning why? I prayed long and hard about this and tried to be respectful and use prudential judgment. Please give me your reasoning so I can consider it and take it to prayer with me. Thank you and God Bless you.
Susan, Thank you for your blessing; much appreciated!
I’m glad the title has changed.
I think it is better to find truth in the words of a pope than to find perceived error. For example! The sins of sexual lust may essentially be sins of pride, arrogance and lust for power or simply consensual acts (sins) of passion, intense desire or of neediness; the latter examples being potentially of lesser seriousness. Shouldn’t a priest be man enough to know when he is wearing a silly hat?
Necessary words of rebuke from the pope are always going to be hard to accept. We have to accept that the words of the pope are exactly what God wants, apparently clear or easily rejected, all for the greater good. If the words of the pope weren’t grating they may actually do more harm than good! We are just not in a position to know!
God puts us to the test for a reason, so that we may believe by faith. In many ways it’s as though we are being pushed out of the ‘church’ to go and love. It’s frustrating and hard for all concerned including me. Dying to our self is hard. Suffering is hard. Loving is hard.
Thank you for your perspective. I really do appreciate it. I have never commented before on his statements because when I read what he wrote in context I have actually understood what he was trying to say. A comment on what a Priest is wearing, especially if he felt called to do so, like I did with a veil, is hurtful though. However, we do need to get messy and uncomfortable in ministering to people. This was the first time I felt compelled to speak for the reasons I outlined above. And because I feel the term “clericalism” is whitewashing and side stepping the sexual scandal. We have not done nearly enough to clean the house out. But I do trust that God will. And I do believe God chose this Pope. God Bless you. Have a great day.
Susan once again you say things so much better than I can. Thank you. I was reminded of St. Catharine of Siena who wrote to the Pope in Avignon and convinced him to return to Rome. I somehow pray that God uses your very respectful words to convict Pope Francis of his errors. Again, thank you.
Yes….”the Holy Spirit is the Advocate of the Church and it is the Holy Spirit Who convicts………..the church should be calling all the faithful to prayer so that each catholic may encounter the Living God in their very hearts”
brilliantly said Susan. Your prayer for the Illumination is wonderful and should be said.
I was looking for an answer to a situation I am dealing with and just before I read this I called on God to help me to discern my response to someone. To be silent and call in the Holy Spirit or to give a written response and perhaps a quote from scripture. Within a few minutes of asking for help I read these words. They really spoke to me in a very delicate situation I am experiencing.
We should be constantly calling down the Holy Spirit to enlighten us all.
In the MMP book OurLady said all you can do now is pray. In your January article where you mention your prayer you say the faithful collectively should call down the Holy Spirit.
Those words have stayed with me.
Thank you Susan ……. Keep praying,listening and writing.
Just my thoughts, please forgive any lack of clarity.
I view the Pope’s words on not focusing on sexual sins so much – in a more positive manner – due to my personal experience of living and working in a Muslim country. Here, fixation on sexual matters is the national pastime, from Muslim Ministers, to Religious Leaders, right down to the simple (Muslim) man in the street. It drives the rest of us nuts because they cannot seem to maintain interest in other stuff. This preoccupation with sexual practices, deviations, promiscuity, sexual health even, begins benignly enough but soon warps into a fetid obsession. All you need is to dangle something remotely sexual and there’s a good chance they’ll charge for it.
For all the obsession and outward concern and religious bearing upon this issue, too many of these same people shockingly lack empathy and a humane response towards victims of sexual crimes, for instance. They are also less interested in other social issues. And they think nothing of viewing pornography. It’s as if the interest in sex dims everything else for them.
On the other hand, I have a few very good Muslim friends who have made it their life mission to champion the poor, the marginalised, the abused – through their lifestyles and work. I can tell you that they are beautiful people, with a heart open to all – without the vices synonymous with the other group.
So, if the Pope meant for us not to become unnaturally fixated on sexual matters to the point it eclipses social justice issues for us, I guess I hear him loud and clear because of my experience.
Caitlynnegrace, what a wonderful comment. You have a totally different perspective living where you live than what I have living where I live where rampant immorality takes place and the majority of Priests remain largely silent. Your insight gives me a new perspective. If this is the case of where he was coming from I wish he would clarify who his audience is. The context of the article seemed to be that he was speaking to Catholics and a Catholic flock. So that is exactly how I took it. In the West we have gender confusion, not to mention the sexual crimes of the clergy that have largely remain unaddressed and have so seriously harmed the victims. He appeared to be blaming the “rigid” Priests and clericalism for the sexual sins of the clergy that largely did not come from those who adhere to the truth. It’s almost as if the issues are convoluted. There is reason in a Muslim country to perhaps speak the way he did. Again it’s the use of clericalism vs sexual sin that I take issue with when it comes to the abuse scandal. It is the cover up of the sexual sin inside the church that outright disgusts me. This isn’t a clericalism problem, the root of it is sexual sin. So in the same way in your country that you say there is no mercy to a victim of sexual abuse, I was referencing it as the abuse inside the church. I really do appreciate your words and will take them to prayer. I hope everyone here knows I love the Pope and I pray for blessings upon him.
Part of the confusion, on the Pope’s part as well as others, is Satan taking advantage of the traditional Roman/Latin/Western Christian methodology of divinization/theosis. The Protestant mind, thanks to Luther and Calvin, believes you merely have to faith to be saved, and that the important thing is to be saved. In other words, you do not have to be holy, but be saved. Catholicism believes you have to be holy, but too often focuses inordinately on good works for your neighbor as a good in of itself, rather than doing these works in order to grow in holiness. Ultimately, Catholicism for many is a state of spiritual mediocrity, where by one does good works fight social injustice, rather than to grow in holiness, that is participate in divinization/theosis. In other words, we have confused the concept of salvation, either as an intellectual assent (Protestantism), or what is due our neighbor as social justice (Catholicism), rather than growing in love of God and neighbor (divinization/theosis). Yes, this is an overgeneralization, but you get my point.
Evagrius of Pontus stated that one was to grow in purification of the 8 deadly passions: gluttony, porneia, love of money, acedia, anger, despondency, vainglory, and pride. This was passed to the Western Church by St. John Cassian, in his book the Institutes. In his various works, Evagrius makes distinctions between sins of the flesh (those that only humanity can do) and sins of the spirit (demonic sins). Evagrius notes what are doorway sins, the types of demons associated with certain sins, what sins (demons) do not get along with each other, and so on. Evagrius further observes that people are more susceptible to sins of the flesh than others.
Evagrius understands that both types of sins, those of the flesh and the spirit, can lead to self damnation. A soul that is damned due to porneia is still, in the end, just as damned as one who is damned due to pride. Maybe both sets of the damned have different punishments, as Dante discusses, but they are both still damned, that is separated from our beloved, God. So, in the end, in one sense, it dos not really matter whether the sin that sends you to hell is one of the flesh or one of the spirit. Damnation is damnation.
I think the West, as much as the Muslim world, is obsessed with sins of porneia. Maybe the Pope is trying to get us to note that besides sexual sins, the world also has a problem with other sins. I know from my profession that slander, gossip, lies and backstabbing play a major role. But the other sins are not less serious – they, too, can lead to damnation.
I suggest that is it is misconception of the Pope to believe that “angelic sins” are more important than sins of the flesh. His words certainly are not framed well. And, did not our Lady at Fatima statement that most souls are lost due to sins of the flesh?
Your comments about poverty as the results of frolicking fornicators is spot on. A lot of social justice issues would be solved if we avoided the sins of the flesh,
As always, thank you James. I guess I haven’t seen obsession with the sin of lust from clergy in my 47 years. I was told to get my tubes tied by a Priest. I was presented information on contraception in my Catholic high school. I was told by a Professor at my Catholic College abortion was a right and a good thing. To me it wasn’t really looked at as sinful. Let’s not forget my son got kicked out of Catholic High School because they wanted to teach him “pleasure points” with graphics and all. So my experience has actually been the opposite. I could count on one hand the times I heard a Priest speak of it (until maybe the few years year or so) with the exception of abortion. I did hear many condemn that. I waited YEARS to hear someone speak truth, and when they did I knew it was true.
It was a Dominican Sister. And when I did finally hear Priests doing it, they were usually in a black cassock. So that’s my experience and understanding. It becomes so disheartening to hear them berated when FINALLY they are speaking. I know Pope Francis may have a different perspective….but all of it skirts the issue of the SCANDAL inside the church, which has yet to have been dealt with properly. Rigidity did not cause victims to be molested. Again as always, thank you. I learn so much from you. I love your explanation.
James. Went to an evening last night. Alan Ames. Wonderful…. Thought of you.
You said what needed to be said! It needs to stay public. Thank you for writing it. The “powers that be” seem intent on turning Catholicism into the denomination I left. I left it for a reason.
Thank you for your comment. God Bless you!
Southern Plains, This is how I see it!
1) It is not my Church it belongs to Jesus. I am just a part of His body and I must die to myself so that I can live!
2) I essentially have no authority to change the Church. I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church.
3) If God accepts ambiguous or scandalous leadership in the Church there must be a good reason. Feel the pain, seek the truth, pray for the Church and fulfill your calling, but don’t make things worse by simply broadcasting discontent (that goes for clergy too!).
4) We are called, at the least, to give our religious ascent (i.e. not to the degree of belief by faith but by showing obedience and respect) to all non-infallible teachings of the pope (see CCC892, also Canon Law 331)
5) Jesus mixed with sinners including working with Judas.
6) Jesus said to do what ever the Pharisees teach but not what they do!
7) The tares and the wheat must remain together to the end!
8) We should interpret Church teachings and communications in regards to the fullness of Church dogma. The Holy Spirit is there for whoever seeks with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.
9) It is possible to miss the contained truth in Church communications and statements by the clergy to only react to the fact that certain truths were not stated and miss a chance to grow closer to God (faith, trust, obedience). Teach the truth!
10) It is possible to hold onto partial truths and promote and defend them with a passion (both liberals and traditionalists) missing God completely.
11) God does not want a perfect Church He wants us to be tested. Jesus spoke in parables for a reason. If it is all about us (self-indulgence and self-satisfaction or about rules and practices) isn’t it right that we get a chance to choose ourselves over God. Jesus could create a perfect Church at any time He desired and it certainly won’t come from our human agitations and manipulations). Alternatively we can choose God, be humble, and desire growth and conversion, being open to correction!
12) Those of immature faith need to be fed milk; those who lack love expressing control and dominance or getting self-satisfaction from activities or practices need to be rebuked (let the pope decide how that plays out). If we feel a sting it hit the mark!
Stephen I agree with everything you said but I also believe in speaking in the face of error which is not actually expressing discontent. It is a duty and a spiritual work of mercy. Remaining silent in the face of evils like molestation and abuse would be sinful. Allowing someone to malign and slander someone else could also be sinful. So there is discernment there about when to speak and when to be silent. If the Pope were to try to make you obey sin, you are not obligated to that you’re only to assent teaching that enhances Divine Revelation. I am very aware that I will be held accountable for every careless word that comes out of my mouth. It is why I don’t print these things without having them reviewed by people in authority and people who have very spiritually mature relationships. If in the end, I am the one in error I know God will let me know. I have never commented on the Pope’s ambiguous teachings because I do believe we should interpret them in light of already defined dogma. In this instance though, I saw error as I outlined above. I truly believe God is the one in charge, and he will work all things for the good of those who love Him. A great book to read about all this is called The Day is Now Far Spent by Cardinal Sarah.
Thank you Susan for this post. You were very clear and respectful. You spoke in the Spirit of St. Paul and I appreciate that as the Enemy continues to sow confusion and hurt causing many to leave. I too love the Bride of Christ and have always defended the Pope in the past. Yet he has also said and done things in the past which have hurt the faithful and caused great confusion. Yet God does not leave us alone, He has sent you and others, like Mark Mallet, to help us stay the course during the storm. I will never abandon the Church because Jesus promised the gates of Hell would not prevail. We must continue to pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis.
You spoke in Love with Kindness and Clarity. Do not be afraid. Be blessed!
Thank you. God Bless.
Susan, this is an excellent, charitable, and respectful post. If you choose to leave it public, I believe that it will do much good. May God bless you, and may God bless the Holy Father.
Thank you Mick and God Bless.
Thank you for this spot-on article. I especially appreciate your opening paragraph. I think it reflects an appropriate stance. I find many of our Holy Father’s remarks confusing, but I know Our Lord is the One who’s really in charge. Thank you for your great work. God bless.
Thank you and God Bless you too.