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Restoration of Values

Category Archives: Religion

Freedom of Conscience, Ecumenism, and The Validity of Sacraments

Some years ago, a debate took place about the sacraments of penance and marriage administered by priests in the filiation of the late Archbishop Lefebvre. As it was stated in a magazine[1] and a blog[2]dedicated to Catholic apologetics, both sacraments are valid when received from an Eastern Orthodox (E.O.) priest,[3] but not from a priest of the Saint Pius X Society (SSPX), because although the latter possesses the sacramental authority coming from his ordination, he does not possess the juridical authority coming from the bishop as the chief judge of the diocese. Even a priest incardinated in a territorial diocese under the Vatican cannot confer these sacraments in another diocese without a special permit from the local bishop. In layman’s terms, this is equivalent to the license needed to practice a profession. The SSPX bishops are not diocesan bishops, the reasoning goes, “being thus an anomaly unheard of in Christian tradition,”[2]“By contrast, an Orthodox priest is in communion with a bishop who has a diocese. That bishop, while in schism, . . has jurisdiction [which] he can share . . with priests that are subject to him. They have both orders and jurisdiction. Therefore, their absolution is valid.”[2]
A rebuttal of the thesis of the above authors was presented by the SSPX bishops.[4] The discussion here presents the perspective of the educated layman.
First, it is worthwhile to examine the argument that the bishops of the Saint Pius Society (or societies) are “bishops without no (sic) diocese.”[2] That situation is not unprecedented. Thus, in 1948 when the Byzantine-rite Catholic (B.r.C.) church was outlawed in Romania and its bishops were sent to various prisons, Bishop Frenţiu (beatified on June 2, 2019) secretly consecrated as bishops a few of the younger priests imprisoned with him. None of them was assigned to a diocese; all were consecrated at-large.[5]Some survived, were released,and functioned underground. Outside prison, the priests served secretly the faithful wherever they could, that is, also at-large. To have their faculty to hear confessions recorded in the books of a diocese was not necessary for the salvation of souls.
To take another example of a priest at-large, in 1939 the American priest Walter J. Ciszek was in Eastern Poland at the Soviet invasion. He spent 24 years in prison camps and in supervised residence in Siberian cities. In those places he created parishes, mostly among people forcibly moved there from Lithuania, Poland, or Ukraine, for whom he offered the Mass regularly. He celebrated marriages and baptisms, gave absolutions and extreme unctions, until the KGB got wind of it, closed the parish and carted him to another place, where, undaunted, he did the same thing. In camps, he heard confessions regularly. Where a women’s camp was adjacent to his, he went to walk for hours on his side of the barbed wire fence, in the dread of Siberian winter, while the penitents, one by one, walked on the other side and confessed.[6] He had no “permit” to give absolution in those places, as he was for years believed dead, nor was there a bishop who could grant it.
One might argue that those bishops and priests lived in times of crisis. If someone says, however, that today Catholicism is not in crisis, he must be coming from another planet.
The recent case of the Chinese Catholic Bishops replaced by the Vatican with appointees of the Communist government,[7]needs clarification. Have they lost their “licensing” powers and have the sacraments administered by their priests become invalid?
Anyway, the territorial dioceses did not originate with the apostles, but were created after Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire; the term “diocese” was taken from the imperial administrative units. St. Paul had no diocese.

The validity of sacraments conferred by non-Catholic churches follows from the concept of ecumenism defined at the Vatican II Council.[8] Such churches are called not in full communion[9] with the Catholic Church and sharing of sacraments with them is limited.[10] The E.O. church, already mentioned, is an example. In most respects, the attitude of the Vatican toward the E.O. church(es) is remarkable. At the time of his visit to Romania, John Paul II accepted that the place of highest honor in the procession should be accorded to the E.O. patriarch. (The fact that the latter had been an agent of the communist party and security police, particularly of Ceauşescu, bestowed a sad irony on the situation.) Even worse, John Paul II refused to have an official meeting with the Byzantine-rite (B-r) catholic bishops, in order to placate his E.O. hosts. The E.O. hierarchy had worked hand-in-glove with the communists to outlaw the Byzantine-rite Catholic Church (B-rCC) in 1948 and even today denies the right of the latter to exist. After 1990, the Vatican never requested the return to the B-rCC of places of worship and other properties which the communists transferred to the Romanian E.O. church.
Likewise, overtures were made toward the Russian E.O., which has always been and is today pretty much controlled by the government, at a time of increased persecution of B-r Catholics in Crimea and occupied Eastern Ukraine. Many Ukrainian B-r Catholics, including their Patriarch, expressed dismay that “the Holy Father was apparently more interested in placating Moscow than defending the rights of their church.”[11]
It is worth noting, however, that the Eastern Orthodox do not reciprocate. They proclaim that “being united with the pope means to be separated from Jesus Christ;”[12] also that “in the history of human race, there were three falls: that of Adam, that of Judas, and that of the pope.”[12](b) The E.O. churches have even dropped the word catholic from the Nicene Creed, and use the formula: “in one, holy, conciliar, and apostolic church.”
Another case is that of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC). An agreement was reached, recognizing the validity of the sacraments of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) and allowing members of the Latin Church and Eastern Catholic Churches to receive in exceptional circumstances the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick from PNCC ministers.[13](a).Yet, PNCC rejects the doctrine of original sin and proclaims universal salvation with no special requirements.[13](b)(c) The joint communiqué, states, however, that there is “agreement on the seven sacraments . . . in spite of some differences in practice that do not touch upon our basic common faith.” What agreement can exist on absolution with a church proclaiming that everybody is saved, anyway?
Lately, the Vatican signaled that Luther’s heresy might also become acceptable. At its anniversary of 500 years, Pope Bergoglio participated in a meeting with Lutherans in Sweden and issued a joint communiqué stating, among other things, that “Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church.”[14](a) (italics mine). The statement must mean that there was an invisible unity, never touched. On the day itself, the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation issued a joint statement, giving thanks for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation (!).[14](b) The Vatican post office also issued a special stamp in honor of the event.[14](c)

The original debate was apparently mooted by the 2017 decision of the Vatican to recognize the two sacraments administered by SSPX priests.[15] One wonders, however, what is the situation of those who received the sacraments before the decision? What is the disposition of a man married by an SSPX priest in 2013, who had a fatal car accident in 2014? Is a reassignment after death possible? It seems more logical to accept that all sacraments administered by a priest ordained validly by a validly consecrated bishop have been valid all along.
It is highly significant that the reversal of position on the sacraments from SSPX priests came about without any change in the status of their bishops, as non-diocesan bishops, “an anomaly unheard of in Christian tradition;” no mention of that status was even made. This indicates to me that the arguments[1,2] for the interdiction were constructed ad hoc.
Anyway, the SSPX bishops responded with statements expressing “gratitude to the Holy Father for his pastoral solicitude.”[16] This suggests an error in judgment: it seems to validate the thesis that they were given something which they did not have before. Better if they had offered terse thanks for the good intention, pointing out that the sacraments offered by the priests of the Society had been valid all along. Best if they had ignored the Vatican pronouncement.
There was, however, another argument presented[1] for the original interdiction: The SSPX recognized (as it continues to recognize) the annulments granted by the tribunals of the “mainstream” church. This recognition was explained by SSPX as an act of charity,[17] but is puzzling, in light of the open scandal which the granting of annulments has been, particularly in the US.[18] Thus, it was reasoned, the SSPX implicitly recognize Vatican’s right to determine the validity of a marriage, and the interdiction becomes a matter of discipline. On the other hand, the Eastern Orthodox do not recognize Vatican’s authority on any matter, therefore marriages performed by their priests are valid![1] It then follows that sacraments must also be valid if conferred by sedevacantist traditional Catholic priests. Admittedly, they reject only Vatican II, whereas the E.O. and PNC churches reject all the councils for the last one thousand years. The latter two also virulently reject papacy,[12] whereas the sedevacantist Catholics accept and revere the papacy; they just maintain that Jorge Bergoglio is not there. (There is even an archbishop accepting Vat II, who considers Bishop Bergoglio an “usurper and heretic.”[19])

The broad acceptance of sacramental validity for non-Catholic churches stems from the thesis promulgated at Vatican II that any honest man can obtain the knowledge of religious truth by searching freely.[20] We take note of this thesis here and we’ll discuss more about it later.
The matter of sacraments can be approached, however, only considering the meaning of religion. Religion is not about good fellowship and brotherhood, or building a better world to live in. It is about immortality and salvation of one’s soul. A man needs the church to provide him a path to eternal salvation; any other function is to be considered only inasmuch it furthers the basic purpose. This axiomatic truth is repeatedly emphasized in the Mass, from the prayer at the foot of the altar, when the congregation (through the acolyte or server) tells the priest: ”Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus et dimissis peccatis tuis perducat te ad vitam eternam,” to the moment when the priest tells each communicant: “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam eternam. Amen.” (Both these have been excised from the Novus Ordo.)
The path to salvation and eternal life is assured by the sacraments received from the church. The sacraments were instituted by Christ and implemented by the apostles [21](a-f) Any church which offers valid sacraments secures a path to Heaven. Parsing full communion, half-communion,quarter communion, is hogwash.
Among churches which common sense dictates cannot offer valid sacraments, we must count San Rocco, in Turin, Italy. Fredo Olivero, pastor (or rector) of that church announced during the midnight Mass for Christmas that he would not recite the Creed, because he does not believe it, so he sang a song from a movie.[22] In this way, he proclaimed himself an apostate, as faith comes before baptism and is a prerequisite for it.[21](g) (The Creed has to be professed at baptism.) Instead of throwing him out on his ear, his archbishop just admonished him to say the Creed. He promised to do so, but did not keep the promise. He did not sing songs from movies, but recited a text written by himself, having nothing to do with the Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant) Creed.[22](b) He has continued to operate, undisturbed. In view of the press coverage of the event, the archbishop’s superiors at Vatican knew for sure what was going on, but did not intervene, being thus accomplices to the apostasy, fraud, and defilement of the church and sacraments. As it was reported, there are in the same province other priests and bishops like Fred Olivero.[22](b)

In his earnest search for a path to Heaven, a man in our time has only two possible logical alternatives: (A) the Vatican II Council (Vat II) is right and (B) Vat II is wrong.[8]
(A) If we accept the conclusions of Vat II, we must agree with the council fathers that any honest man can obtain the knowledge of religious truth by searching freely. From what the Vatican teaches today, the search can carry us to options deviating as much from the Catholic doctrine and discipline as the churches which it accepts as giving valid sacraments (valid paths to salvation), like E.O.C. and PNCC. By all indications, it seems that it is now acceptable that someone’s free search may lead even to the Lutheran denomination.[14] On the other hand, even Vat II did not contest that the One Catholic Church as it existed until 1962, when that council opened, offered a path to salvation; a full calendar of saints attests to this. An option which rigorously adheres to the doctrine and discipline of that time is a valid conclusion of the free search for religious truth.
It is also notable that the Vatican and USCCB have allowed the faithful to receive the sacraments from priests not under their jurisdiction under the provisions of Canon 844 of the (post Vat II) canon law,[13](a) which states that one can do so when it is “morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister.”[10] The moral impossibility, logically, has to be determined individually, by the faithful.
(B) That Vat II could be wrong, may have occurred even to Joseph Ratzinger in later years,[23] although he never said it plainly. That point is unimportant for the present analysis, which just finds that it as the only logical alternative to (A). If that is the case, one must join a church holding to the doctrine and practices of the Catholic Church before 1962. I found a perfect option at a traditionalist Catholic chapel, which had in its Sunday bulletin the note:
“We believe that as Catholics we have a right and a solemn duty to hold fast to the traditions as we have received them from the Church.
The rules for the reception of Holy Communion are as follows:
One must accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church. One must believe and abide by the traditional Catholic moral teaching, especially in regard to purity and marriage.”[24]

[1].The Catholic Response.
[2].(a) ASK FATHER: Valid absolution from Orthodox priest, but not from SSPX priest? Posted on 3 February 2014; see also:
[3].Eastern Orthodox churches are the multiple autocephalous, mostly national, churches resulting from the breakup of the Byzantine Patriarchate as it existed after the separation from Rome in 1054 AD.
[4].Bp Tissier de Mallerais, Supplied jurisdiction & traditional priests
[5].Fr A. Ratiu & Fr W. Virtue, Stolen Church. Martyrdom in Communist Romania, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1979, p.30.
[6].Walter J. Ciszek, SJ, With God in Russia, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1964.
[7]. F. X. Rocca and E. Dou,. Pope Francis to Bow to China With Concession on Bishops, WSJ, Feb 2, 2018,
[8]. References to Vatican II presented in text are found in Vatican Council II. The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, A.Flannery, Editor, Costello Publ Co, Northport, 1980
[9].For a schematic presentation, see:
[10].Code of Canon Law, 1983, Canon 844, §2.
[11].(a) Alec Luhn,‘Finally!’pope and Russian patriarch meet for first time in 1,000 years, The Guardian, 13 Feb 2016, ; (b) SSPX, news & events: A Commentary on Eastern Orthodoxy, July 5, 2016,
[12].(a) Fabian Seiche, Greco-catolicii. uniţi cu papa dar desbinaţi cu Hristos, Agaton, Braşov, 2010. The book was sanctioned by the patriarch of the Romanian orthodox church. (b) Motto of the same book, cited there from someone recently canonized by the Romanian orthodox church.
[13]. (a) USCCB, Declaration of Unity, y.cfm ; (b) Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J, The Polish National Catholic Church, Homiletic and Pastoral Rev, 1956, 56 (7), 552-60, ; (c)
[14].(a) Austin Ivereigh, Catholic and Lutheran Churches pledge to work for shared Eucharist, Crux, Oct 31, 2016, ;
(b) Vatican Radio: Catholics and Lutherans mark 500th anniversary of Reformation,,_lutherans_mark_500th_anniversary_of_reformation/1346149
(c) Roberto de Mattei, Pope Francis and his “Lutheran turning point,” Nov 8, 2017,
[15].(a) Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis According to which an Indulgence is Granted to the Faithful etc., ubileo-misericordia.html ; (b) Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera of the Holy Father Francis, at the etc. dia-et-misera.html ; (c) Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 27 March 2017,
[16].For example, SSPX Statement about Holy See Letter Concerning Marriages, April 04, 2017,
[17]. Telephone call to the office of the US district superior
[18].Sheila Rauch Kennedy, Shattered Faith: A Woman’s Struggle to Stop the Catholic Church from Annuling Her Marriage, Pantheon, 1997.
[19].Michael W. Chapman, Archbishop Jan Lenga: Pope Francis is ‘Usurper and Heretic,’ ‘Leading the World Astray’, Feb 28, 2020 , ld-astray
[20].As stated, the current text presents the observations and conclusions of an educated layman. The theological problems and the consequences of Vat II have been exposed in: Archbp Marcel Lefebvre, (a) Religious Liberty Questioned (1987), Angelus Perss, Kansas City, MO, 2002; (b) An Open Letter to Confused Catholics, Angelus Press, Dickinson, TX, 1987.
[21].(a) Baptism: Matt 28, 19, Mark 16, 16; (b) Eucharist: Matt 26, 26-28, John 6, 48-58, 66-69, esp: 53-54; (c) Absolution: John 20, 22,23; (d) Holy Orders: Acts 1, 21-26, Acts 6, 6; (e)Anointing of the sick: Mark 6, 13, James 14, 15; (f) Confirmation, Acts, 8, 14-17; (g) Mark 16, 16;
[22].(a) ; (b)
[23].Massimo Faggioli, Benedict’s Estrangement from Ratzinger. Theological Drift, Commonweal, Jan 23, 2020,
[24].Weekly Bulletin of the St. Pius V Chapel, Oyster Bay, NY;

Theology and Quantum Mechanics

A central element of quantum mechanics is the uncertainty principle. To formulate it in a crude, qualitative way, the principle expresses the limitation of the precision with which physical properties of particles can be determined. The physicist who formulated (discovered) it, Werner Heisenberg, noted that a particle can be described by its position and its momentum, the first revealing where the particle is, the second how it is (one of the factors of momentum is mass) and how it moves (the other factor is speed). The product of uncertainties of the two cannot be smaller than a certain limiting value. Then, if we strive toward limitless precision in describing the momentum, we lose all ability to determine the position.
Rationalized at first as limitation in measuring, because of inherent imprecision of the methods and instruments used, particularly because the operation of measuring disturbs the measured object, the uncertainty was found to be inherent to wavelike systems, in which, as quantum mechanics has shown, particles are included.
The idea was for some scientists hard to accept. Albert Einstein spent a sizeable effort trying to shoot it down. His proposals of experiments that would disprove the principle and their corresponding refutation by his colleagues are interesting not only from a scientific viewpoint. For example, to a medieval man, the idea that there are limitations to human knowledge seemed natural. To a man educated in the spirit of the “Enlightenment,” such limitations are hard to accept. Heisenberg did not have such problems. It is worth noting that he was a deeply religious man.[1]
There are such correlated properties in other things or phenomena. For example, in sound waves, the pair is frequency and time: the longer a musical note is sustained, the more precisely is its frequency known. A clever use of this limitation, affecting radio waves, benefits many patients in MRI tests. In magnetic resonance experiments, atomic nuclei are irradiated and absorb energy at various frequencies depending upon molecular structure and environment. Accuracy in measuring those absorptions requires that enough time is spent on each of them, say one second per hertz scanned. If the signals are spread over several thousands of hertz, a scan would last for hours. Moreover, most of the time is spent scanning regions where is no signal. In this manner, the method is practically useless, especially because to achieve adequate intensity several scans have to be run and added up. To make it practical, the entire range has to be excited at once. For this purpose, a very strong sharp pulse is sent through the sample at a precise frequency in the center of the range of interest, for an extremely short time (microseconds). Because of the uncertainty principle, the radiation actually produced is tens of thousands hertz wide, thus covering the whole range. Then, instead of measuring the energy absorbed, the signals emitted by the excited nuclei when they relax, at the same frequencies as those absorbed, are recorded simultaneously. The recording process is conducted over a sufficiently long period (seconds), so the frequency of each signal is determined precisely. The processing of these signals may produce the image of a kidney, showing whether it contains a stone or a tumor.
Of interest for the present discussion is the application of the uncertainty principle to chemical reactions. To undergo a chemical transformation, a molecule absorbs energy, usually by collision with other molecules. Part of the energy is distributed among the atoms and bonds within the molecule. The process is reversible, as the excited molecule loses energy in other collisions. When the energy content reaches a certain value (“passes a barrier”), the molecule can undergo a chemical reaction and the deactivation through collisions gives the reaction product. At any moment there is a distribution of the energy content and of positions. In some rare, special cases, the variability in position of atoms in the starting compound may bring the atoms in the arrangement existing in the product, even though the energy is lower than the barrier. Deactivation through collisions leads then to the reaction product. It is said that the molecules “tunnel” through the barrier, instead of crossing over it.
An interesting parallel can be found between quantum mechanical tunneling and modern theology.
It has been well understood from apostolic times that salvation requires:
– Faith and baptism. (“The man who believes . . . and accepts baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe . . . will be condemned.”[2]). The Fathers of the church summarized the elements of faith in the Creed. The Law of the Old Testament (The Ten Commandments) is an element of Faith as well.
– Reception of the Holy Eucharist, the true body and blood of Christ, not some symbol of it.[3] From the beginning[4]. and to this day, this revelation has been a stumbling block for many. The manner in which this mystery is accomplished and the manner in which the power to effect it is transmitted have also been revealed, such as to assure Christ’s presence among His people to the end of time (“usque ad consummationem sæculi”).
The requirements received and transmitted by the Apostles are exclusionary. Those who do not fulfill them will not be saved. Also exclusionary (and detailed) are the commandments of purity.[5]
This non systematic and summary enumeration is meant to reemphasize what Christ pointed out: the path to salvation is neither smooth nor easy.[6]
A thesis opposite to the New Testaments and the Fathers of the Church has been put forward in the last century, essentially opening the Heaven for everybody. As an example, heard about ten years ago in a homily at a church on Long Island’s North Shore, Hindus recognize a supreme spirit and even consider the incarnation of that spirit; as we know that such characteristics describe only Christ, the Hindus, implicitly, are somehow Christian-like. The same theology is reflected in measures of the French episcopate of about thirty years ago. Before the Muslims reached a critical mass in France and became intolerant and violent, some dioceses and religious orders turned over to them churches to be transformed into mosques.
More recently, Jorge Bergoglio has promised salvation to atheists,[7] constant adulterers,[8] and men who lie with men.[9] The development is natural coming from a bishop who espouses what I would call the theology of the belly, in which God’s plan for man is the satisfaction of man’s telluric needs and urges.
These positions remind us of quantum chemistry: one can acquire salvation either by climbing the (sometimes arduous) path of faith, sacraments, and actions, or “tunneling” under the barrier without those requirements.
Like in chemical reactions, the Church has always maintained that there are special cases in which someone might acquire salvation without formally belonging. I would think that those people did in some form fulfill the requirements laid down by Christ, undergoing at least a spiritual conversion, just we don’t know it.
Both for chemistry and eternal salvation, the “alternative” path is extremely rare. As a consequence, there is no reaction for which a chemical engineer would design a process and an installation based on tunneling. Likewise, telling someone that he can count on salvation foregoing faith, baptism, and sacraments, is cruelly misleading him. Christ’s commands cannot be altered by some sophist-cum-theologian, nor by some assembly of clerics.
Alternatively, if tunneling were a widely accessible pathway, no molecules would react by activation to cross a barrier and no one would run processes requiring high temperatures and pressures. Likewise, if people could tunnel wholesale into Heaven, the Vatican should close shop.
For if being a good Hindu or an upright Zoroastrian could assure inheritance in the kingdom of God, the incarnation of the Son of God would have been superfluous and His sacrifice on the cross — an absurdity.

[1]Werner Heisenberg, Naturwissenschaftliche und religioese Wahrheit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 Maerz 1973, pp. 7-8. (Speech before the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, on acceptance of the Guardini Prize, 23 March 1973);
[2] Mk, 16, 16; also, Mt, 28, 19,20; Jn, 3, 5, 18, 36.
[3] Jn, 6, 48-58.
[4] Jn, 6, 66-69.
[5] 1Cor, 6, 9: “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind . . . shall possess the kingdom of God “ (Taken from the Douay Rheims edition, checked with the two Romanian translations that I possess: (a) Bp. Ioan Bălan, Noul Testament, Lugoj, 1938; (b) Gala Galaction, Biblia, Bucureşti, 1939. The translation of the New American Bible, CCD, Washington, 1970, is imprecise.)
[6] Mt, 7, 13-14; Lk 13, 23-25.
[7] (a); (b) Laura Rodriguez, Pope Francis suggests it’s better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Christian, Chicago Tribune, Feb. 26, 2018; (c) Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Abraham Skorka, On Heaven and Earth. Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century, 2013
[8] See, among many others:; ;
[9] (a);
(b) Francis X. Rocca, The Catholic Church’s Looming Fight Over Same-Sex Blessings, Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2018.

Recollections of Holy Thursday

The most vivid remembrances of Holy Week, which come to my mind each year during that season, go back to my primary school years.
We lived in a town, small by comparison to those that I later lived in, which was, however, an episcopal See of the Byzantine-rite Catholic Church, to which we belonged. The cathedral was an imposing structure with two towers. It was placed in the center of the town, in a square, which was in fact a rectangle, with the East-West axis more than twice the North-South axis. The Western half was a French-style public garden, with no trees, but with flower beds bordered by low boxwood hedges, and alleys with benches. Between the cathedral and the garden there was a paved plaza.
Of the other churches in town, the one of the Roman rite did not have space around it. It was in the middle of a block on another central street. In its vicinity there was its school, with German nuns because the faithful belonged to the German minority. Farther from the center, there was the Orthodox church, which had only one tower.
Of the Holy Weeks that I lived there, the most memorable was when I was nine years old. I was a torch bearer at both Holy Friday and Resurrection processions: from the main entrance to the left, then through the streets around the church, continuing around the French garden, and back through the main entrance.
The Easter night procession ended in front of the closed church door and the celebrant knocked and called: “Open the gates of heaven for the King of Glory to enter!” The candles of the faithful were lighted from that of the celebrant, when he called: “Come and take light!” At the end, all walked home with the candles they had lighted in church, members of a family, sometimes two neighboring families, close together, so if the wind were to blow out a candle it could be re-lighted from another. Tradition required bringing the flame from the church home. By its light, the first red-dyed eggs were knocked. The person who hit said “Christ is risen,” the one who held answered “Truly he is risen!” (This was, in those days, also the greeting that people addressed to each other when they met on the street, until Ascension.) After that, the light in the room was turned on, we ate the eggs, and went to sleep to be ready for the great liturgy at ten in the morning.
The central figure was Bishop Bălan, who was the celebrant all throughout the Holy Week. There was something special about him: whenever he preached a sermon he had something to say directly to the children, and then his eyes were smiling. In fact, he had a sunny disposition, yet he was quite impressive. He was a tall man with a greyish-white beard. He wore glasses. My mother said that he had been operated on for some eye condition. Later, in prisons and camps, he went blind, but he was still comforting and cheering up the other inmates. He died there and, as for all other bishops, a death certificate was issued five years or more later, with the entry in the box for “occupation of the deceased,” “no occupation.”
There was only one other priest that I remember with a beard, Father Ploscaru, but his was brown. He was a young man with a pale complexion. Once, hearing in confession about a raid on the pantry to steal preserves from a jar, he uttered a correction in his scholarly voice: “This is not the sin of theft, but the sin of gluttony.” His frail appearance was, however, deceiving. He survived seventeen years of prison and camps and came out to be a bishop.
Anyway, those events were not to begin until about eighteen months in the future and few of the ordinary people would then have predicted that they would happen.
The Holy Thursday towers in my memory over all other days of that week. Just before the Easter vacation, I was told by the priest who taught us Catechism in school that I had been selected to have my feet washed by the bishop at the liturgy on that day. Because only the bishop could perform that ceremony, the cathedral was jammed. There were people that came to town from other places on that day.
Uncharacteristically for him, when he performed that ritual the bishop became very emotional. His hands had a very faint but unmistakable tremor and his eyes were misty. When he reached the last in line, a bright, articulate boy of twelve, who uttered the words of Peter, the voice of the bishop as he said the words of Christ was choked with tears.
After the liturgy, we went to the residence of the bishop for brunch. It took twenty minutes to reach it. In fact, he usually walked to the cathedral when the weather was good.
We were seated at a long table, with the bishop at the head, we on the two sides, and a young priest at the other end. We ate: dried fruit soup; boiled potatoes, tossed with chopped onion that had been sauteed in oil, then the whole thing put in the oven; finally, some pastry, like donuts with no hole. After eating, we each received a copy of the New Testament, which the bishop had translated into Romanian; he signed each on the title page. I still have that book. He had also completed most of a translation of the Old Testament, but he was arrested before completing it. I never heard of any of it being recovered; most likely the security police threw away or burned all the materials connected to it.
As I said already, only the bishops were conducting this ceremony. There were five dioceses for one million and a half faithful in the country.[1] There was one seminary, at the Metropolitan See. There the twelve selected were seminarians. In the other dioceses, the subjects were boys who had received the first four Sacraments. After the Roman rite moved the Confirmation to a later age, the Eastern rites continued to administer it to infants, immediately after baptism (which in modern times turned out to have been a monumental mistake). Therefore, the subjects of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday were nine to twelve years old. These rules were strictly obeyed. I kept them in my mind, but I did not think much about them until, many years later, I needed to understand their reasons for myself.
As I figured it out, Christ’s action was not aimed at the poor or the downtrodden. He did not call the lepers, the lame, and the blind, like those whom He had touched and cured many times. He did not call the women who served and prepared the supper. The subjects of His action were His disciples, whom He had chosen before. After being taught for three years, they were commissioned, ordained, consecrated, at the Last Supper. The process involved two steps. In the first, the washing of the feet, they were commissioned to service. In the second, they were ordained to the Eucharist and were consecrated from disciples to priests and Apostles.
I concluded that the washing of the feet by bishops was meant to emphasize the founding of the Church by Christ through his Apostles, rather than just charity and compassion. Based on this understanding, the reason for the selection of seminarians for the ceremony was obvious. When the diocese had no seminary, subjects who could potentially follow the path of discipleship to the priesthood could be licitly chosen.
It then follows that selecting women as subjects for the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday is nonsensical; selecting heathens or Moslems is sacrilegious.

[1]Ronald D. Bachman, ed. Romania: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1989: Religion;

A Shattering Experience

On a Sunday in December 2014, my wife had a stomach virus attack and had to stay at home. Late in the morning her condition allowed me to leave, so I could go to a church that had a noontime Mass.
I sat at the far end of a back pew. Right in front of me there was a young lady flanked by a girl about six years on her left side and a boy, two years or so, at her right, but mostly on her knee or in her arms. The children were quiet and well behaved.
The Mass was offered by an old priest, who is a friend of mine. At Communion time, a young priest came and helped with distribution, at our side of the church.
Generally, I receive Communion at the Traditional Roman Mass (known as Tridentine), or the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Byzantine). Since I did not go up to receive at that Mass, I could see from my place how the lady in front of me went to take communion with the little boy in her left arm and the girl in tow. She took the Host in her right hand, turned, and walked to her place in the pew, where she seated herself and gave the Host to each child to touch, feel, and play with.
As the ceiling whirled over my head, I groaned:
“- In God’s name, Madam, what are you doing?! What are you doing with the Holy Communion?!”
I cannot report what she did then. I did not register.
At the end of the Mass, I went to the vestibule, where my friend priest was greeting people as they were leaving. When all were gone, I went with him into the sacristy and related the incident.
“ – Tragically,” –he replied – “that’s the risk when one allows communion in the hand. This is why I watch the communicants and if anyone steps away or turns around with the Host in his hand, I call him back.”
At that point, the young priest came in; I repeated to him my account of events. He became flustered and asked the older priest, haltingly, whether this is permissible.
As a first reaction, I charged him in my mind with unbelievable ignorance. Then I realized that his bewilderment was generated by the paralyzing fright that some new directive had legalized even that transgression.

I distributed the above lines to a number of friends and acquaintances. The correspondence generated was most interesting; I am copying it below.
– Karen Knoll (VA): Oh! How unnerving! A similar situation occurred at my parish here in VA several years ago. I was at a funeral and several pews behind a mother with two small children. I noticed that the little girl was given communion along with her mom. When they arrived back at their pew, the mom held her head in her hands while her daughter examined the host, tapping it on her seat. As I passed by their pew, I reached down slowly and took the host from the girl, saying, “That is Jesus. You must not do that with Him.” I proceeded up the aisle and just bowed to the priest as I had consumed the retrieved host a few moments before I passed him. Later, I explained to my pastor why I had not received communion from him that day.
– Debi Vinnedge (TN): I have seen the same thing happen in my own Church – twice! One time I was able to confront the woman and her child who she told me was preparing to make her First Holy Communion. I told her she already had. The woman tried to tell me that’s how they do it in her parish back north – the children get to taste the Eucharist before their First Holy Communion. I told her they used unconsecrated hosts! She didn’t have a clue… In the other incident, the woman took the Host, broke it in two pieces, gave it to her child and then walked out the door before I could catch her. (I told my pastor who was absolutely livid, by the way.) Very sad that so many are so uneducated about the Sacraments!
– James Likoudis (NY): Sad to say, I can perhaps top that one. Recently, I saw someone take the Host in the hand and walk out of the church with it. To view such abuses is simply an extra penance.
– Don Pranzo (NY, age 80): It seems absolutely outrageous to me, as well. However, be careful how to judge that young mother. She delivered the children; she brought them to church; she may well have been in the state of grace. We really don’t know what precipitated her actions. We can attempt to educate both the people (and the clergy), but we should be very careful to judge the young mother. I think Pope Francis said it best: “Who am I to judge?” Only God will make the final judgment.
My reply: Thank you for your message. The guilty parties are those who have destroyed the catechesis in the Church. Of course, the one who allowed communion in the hand bears a great guilt.
Don Pranzo: And who did allow the reception of Communion in the hand?
My reply: That I don’t know. I suppose it must have been Paul VI or John-Paul II.
– Elena N. Suciu (WA): See the attachment, Liturgical Abuse at Largest Papal Mass in History.
The little film captured a mob scene in which Hosts were frantically passed from hand to hand, above heads, some of the Hosts ending in the mud and trampled. In a commentary on the incident, Steve Kojec wrote: (F)aith alone is not a safeguard against error or sacrilege. Catechesis is. . . . Simply stated, the issue is this: the Church has created strict rubrics to protect the Most Holy Sacrament and to enhance our belief in it; any Catholic with true faith in the Real Presence will honor those rubrics, because the nature of the sacrament creates in those who understand it a sense of profound reverence and awe.”[1]
For his part, the Archbishop stated: ““Under normal circumstances, this should not have happened, but the situation in the Luneta was extraordinary, six million people.” He added: “On this occasion, it was necessary to help each other receive communion (italics are mine).”[1a]
In my opinion, this is the crux of the matter. The Archbishop thinks that receiving Holy Communion at the Mass celebrated by the Pope meant so much, that risking its desecration was warranted. Thus, a Host consecrated by the Pope is by implication special, or, conversely, a Host consecrated by a simple priest is somehow inferior. It is, however, a fallacy, also a heresy, to hold that clerical rank can add quality to the Body of Christ. The Pope, like and equal to the parish priest, prays at the altar: Suscipe Sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus, hanc immaculatam hostiam, quam ego indignus fmulus tuus offero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis et offensionibus et negligentiis meis . . . (Accept, O Holy Father, almighty everlasting God, this immaculate Host, which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my true and living God, for my innumerable sins, and offenses, and negligences . . )
The proper way to organize a papal Mass was to have each parish in the country select one representative (or each diocese, two dozen) to receive Communion there. They would be seated all together, perhaps wear some sign, a pin for instance, which they would deposit in a basket before receiving Communion. All others could receive Communion in their parishes. All the faithful could listen to the sermon given by the Pope, which is the only personal thing that the celebrant brings to the Mass.
It was said, and rightfully so, that the sad spectacle in Philippines comes from deficient catechesis. But how can the faithful be educated when the Archbishop himself does not grasp the basic tenets of his (and our) faith?
About the same event, I also found a note:
06 Feb. 2015. If you could, please help us get the word out that we would be having a First Friday Traditional Latin Mass and Holy Hour as a Solemn Act of Reparation for the sacrilege that occurred during the Papal Visit here in the Philippines . . . [2]
(In the words of the French writer Maxence van der Meersch, we should not despair; there might still be enough good men to save us.[3])

[1] Steve Skojec, (a) Blessed Sacrament Profaned in Manila: Archbishop Villegas Responds, Jan 21, 2015, ; (b) personal communication.
[3] Maxence van der Meersch, Corps et Âmes, Paris,


I heard on a Sunday a sermon by a bishop, on the defining features of a Christian. (He was talking to Catholics, but his words apply to all Christians.) He formulated them as commands: “We must live our faith, profess our faith, and – if necessary – defend our faith.” (The bishop did not start with: “We must know our faith.” He trusted the congregation to have satisfied that prerequisite.)
The first of these commands orders our existence both inside and outside our intimate circle. The last two govern our life outside it. At present, however, our public life as Christians affected by the misconception that manifestations of faith must be private, hidden from the public. Restrictions on practicing the Christian faith are based strictly on the preferences of Supreme Court Justices. The other two branches of government have not imposed such restrictions and occasionally have resisted them.
The constraint is attributed to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or rather the interpretation by the Supreme Court of the reply of President Jefferson to a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association. The Baptists noted that previously laws and custom considered the practice of religion as a privilege, or favor granted, and expressed the hope that in the new form of government it would be an inalienable right.[1] Jefferson allayed their apprehension stating that the establishment clause builds “a wall between Church and State.”[2] He did not actually mean to make a fundamental statement, but a political one. He explained to his Attorney General that the letter was intended to please people in places like Virginia, “being seasoned to the Southern taste only.”[2]
The nature of relations between church and state in the mind of the framers of the Constitution can be better ascertained from the actions of George Washington, the President of the Constitutional Convention. As commander-in-chief, he issued an order to his troops: “All chaplains are to perform divine service tomorrow, and on every succeeding Sunday. . . . The commander in chief expects an exact compliance with this order, and that it be observed in future as an invariable rule of practice – and every neglect will be consider[ed] not only a breach of orders, but a disregard to decency, virtue and religion.”[3] Thus, Washington did not presume that the government should choose chaplains for the army, but on the other hand assumed with no hesitation that the soldiers should pray on army time, in army facilities, and have the government pay for the chaplains they chose.
Another proof that the excision of religion from public life was not in the minds of the framers of the constitution comes from John Adams: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[4] The opposite interpretation arose only in the twentieth century, and its restrictions have been broad, as well as capricious. For example:
– Opening of town board meetings with a prayer offered by members of the clergy is allowed.[5] So is opening a state legislature’s session with a prayer by a state-paid chaplain. The rationale is “the unique history of US,” as shown by examples.[6] Inviting, however, a member of the clergy to deliver a prayer at a high school graduation (at no cost),[7] or teachers setting aside one minute each day for meditation or voluntary prayer,[8] is unacceptable.
– A nativity scene in front of a public building is forbidden, whereas a large menorah placed together with a Christmas tree is not, because the menorah “has become a secular symbol,”[9] while a nativity scene displayed together with a Christmas tree, a Santa Claus house and a “Season’s Greetings” sign was ruled as having “legitimate secular purposes,” and thus acceptable.[10]
– The placement in County Court houses in Kentucky of a “Foundations of American Law & Government Display,” containing nine framed documents of equal size (Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, etc.), one of them being the Ten Commandments, was struck down,[11] but a monument with the Ten Commandments at the Texas Capitol, together with other monuments “designed to illustrate the ideals of those who settled in Texas,” was approved. One of the reasons given was that “(t)he physical setting of the monument suggests little or nothing of the sacred.”[12] The two rulings were issued on the same day.
It is noticeable that the Court has been stricter in denying the right of religious practice to students than to other classes of citizens, and also that its pronouncements have been supremely arrogant. Thus, the majority opinion (by Justice Anthony Kennedy) denying the students the right to hear an invocation at their graduation, reads: “The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental limitations. . . ”[6] As the Danbury Baptists feared in 1801, the practice of religion has become a favor which the sovereign (here the Supreme Court) may extend, rather than an inalienable right.
The thesis that religion has to be excluded from the public sphere can be counteracted with the Supreme Court’s own arguments: the protection of the First Amendment is meant specifically for the public sphere, because private practice of religion is protected by the right to privacy, established earlier by the Court.
There is also a fundamental objection to the position that the first Amendment requires imposition of secularism on the public life of citizens. As Marxists correctly understood, there are only two philosophical systems: materialism and spiritualism (called by them idealism). The two are opposed and mutually exclusive. Anything else reduces to one of them.[13] Here, philosophy means the fundamental representation of the world and of life (world view, best expressed by the German Weltanschauung). Secularism is a form of materialism. The government, being constitutionally prohibited from taking sides, cannot promote secularism at the expense of religion. The Court’s view that pupils are “compelled by law to go to school for secular education”[14] is an abuse.
That being said, scraping acceptance for religious displays via conjunction with unrelated messages is demeaning. We should publicly celebrate Christmas as a holy day, rather than on account of any “secular purposes,” and display the Ten Commandments for what they are, not in a setting suggesting “nothing of the sacred.” Christians should not degrade their faith. Likewise, when a judge forbade a graduation prayer devised and offered by the students, the reaction was to decry the loss of an eighty-year-old tradition.[15] A tradition, no matter how long, was not itself worth the fuss; Christian students should reject the ruling by the judge for more fundamental reasons. Moreover, if there really was a conflict between the Constitution and the Ten Commandments, Christians would stand on the side of the Ten Commandments.
In reality, the problem is not with the Constitution, but (in Justice Rehnquist’s words) with the Court’s majority’s “hostility to all things religious in public life.”[16] There are two possible responses, one confrontational, the other not. For the former, a threatened religious display can be defended in the manner in which citizens have defended a Nevada rancher when the government tried to confiscate his cattle.[17] For the latter, Christians should determine which is their hierarchy of values. In other words, if prayer before football games is forbidden, should Christians give up prayer, or football? The answer to such a question was given by a Utah team qualified for the Little League Regional tournament, which chose to forfeit a game, rather than play on Sunday.[18] The same uncompromising attitude was shown by the basketball team of an Orthodox Jewish school in Texas, which gave up its participation in the state semifinal game, because it was scheduled on a Friday night.[19]
There is no need, however, that Christian students give up competitive sports; they should only refuse to play on the school team and start a private league open to students. If there are Christians in town, they will prefer to watch the independent league games.
In the same manner, Christian students can refrain from participating in official graduation exercises, request their diplomas from the school office, and organize a private graduation ceremony, in a club or barn, inviting all teachers and school officials who would care to attend. In a few years this could become the main event and the citizens might vote to remove the money for the secular graduation ceremony from the school budget.
Town council members could arrange to meet on the street in front of the building before the official meeting is scheduled to start, and pray for the success of their official work due to begin in a short while.
If the Ten Commandments on the lawn, or even the corridor of an official building, are objected to, the space can be sold to a private nonprofit organization that would then allow the government entity to use it.
We could find ways to neutralize the antireligious dictates of courts, perhaps with some effort and inconvenience, at least at the beginning. We would not mind the inconvenience . . . if we were Christians.

[4] John Adams, Reply to Massachusetts Militia, Oct. 11, 1789; Adams Microfilm, Reel 119, i.e., The Adams Family Papers, housed in the MA Historical Society
[13] V.I. Lenin, Materialism and Empiriocriticism, Ten questions to a lecturer;

Limiting Factors of the Pro Life Movement

Forty-one years have passed since the Roe v Wade ruling and likewise forty-one years of anti abortion efforts. These efforts can be expended in two directions, in some measure intertwined: (1) changing the law that permits abortion (overturning Roe v. Wade) and (2) the actual elimination of abortion from the society. To assess the accomplishments to date of the anti abortion movement, both aspects have to be examined.
In the mid-nineteen-nineties, I was serving as faculty advisor to a Students for Life organization, a group of about twenty students in a university of thirty thousand. In that capacity, I was invited to an annual meeting of Respect Life coordinators of the local diocese. The highlight of the event was a presentation by Helen Alvare, of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, regarding her legislative work, mainly lobbying, in Washington. The speaker was quite impressive, but I was left with an uneasy feeling. Thus, she stated that President Clinton was far from helpful to our cause. I remembered then that Mr. Clinton had received about 52% of the Catholic vote. During the period of discussion that followed, I offered the following comments:
“Whenever I hear of the struggles of the U.S. Catholic Church in the defense of life, I am visited by the image of a great ocean liner on high seas, in a big storm. The night before, the crew has given a firework display and, being careless, discharged one round through the hull, and now they exhort the passengers to help patch the hole with cardboard. The fact is that Mr. Clinton was elected by the Catholic vote. More generally, there hasn’t been an abortion advocate running for anything from President to dog catcher, in whom some part of the Catholic establishment wouldn’t find compelling redeeming qualities. The Church forbids abortion. If Catholics follow the teachings of the Church, we should expect that while others might abort their offspring to extinction, the world would increasingly be populated with Catholics and others sharing their pro life stand and so the matter would be taken care of. In reality, there is no statistically significant difference in the rate of abortions between Catholics and the rest of the US population.”
In her reply, Ms. Alvare attributed the failings to which I had alluded to deficiencies in catechesis. It might be helpful to survey in more detail the two aspects of the pro life activity and to identify the causes of progress or lack of it.
On the political-legislative side, one notes that since 1973 there have been 10 presidential elections (seven presidents have occupied the White House) and 20 elections for the House, while the Senate has been turned over six times. Throughout, the position espoused by our elected leaders has varied from one electoral cycle to the next, but there has been no sustained evolution toward opposing abortion. Most telling, in 2008 a higher percentage of Catholics voted for Obama, a candidate with an extreme pro abortion philosophy and record, than had voted for Clinton in 1992, and almost as many voted for him in 2012, after he had met or exceeded the worst expectations.
This unquestionable failure of the pro life efforts is easier to understand upon considering the limitations under which they have been conducted. The first limitation was brought about by the linkage principle. Thus, until 1991 the abortion issue was linked with the quest for nuclear disarmament. This intellectually deficient notion was the fruit of thought of the late Cardinal Bernadin, of whom I won’t write more here. Ironically, the nuclear danger of that time was removed by the demise of the Soviet empire, in which the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe under the Reagan administration played a decisive role.
When opposition to nuclear arms, or more accurately opposition to the U.S. possessing nuclear arms, lost its luster, capital punishment was adopted for linkage with abortion. Rejection of capital punishment was the position of the philosopher Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II, as well as of some American theologians and bishops. It is not, however, part of Catholic doctrine, nor does it follow from it. Rather, it was first propounded by people opposed to the Church and religion in general, and logically followed from their denial of the existence of an immortal soul. This topic, however, requires separate treatment.
The linkage approach had two destructive consequences. First, it pressed a wedge between Catholics and potential allies, who did not amalgamate their pro life position with extraneous theories. Second, and worse, it provided an excuse for many to accept and vote for abortion advocates that embraced the political positions artificially linked with the defense of innocent life argument. At one time, working on a pro life legislative initiative, I had a talk with a parish Respect Life coordinator. On my mentioning a notorious abortion pusher in Congress, the coordinator (a nun, by the way) replied: “No, she is pro life; she opposes capital punishment!” One might be even tempted to think that the linkage policy was cleverly put in place by someone secretly wishing to doom the anti abortion movement to failure.
Common sense dictates that even if the other topics, or concerns had great merits, they should have been pursued separately. Their linkage with the opposition to abortion suggested that the latter was not important enough to be pursued for itself. Even the adoption of the bland name Respect Life instead of something suggesting an active posture, for instance Defense of Life for parish offices or groups engaged in this line of endeavor suggests uneasiness with it.
Another limitation on the pro life activity comes from the official adoption by the Catholic Church, including by Rome itself, of Bismarckian Socialism, a truly secularist idea which, as an added irony, was first advanced by a virulently anti-Catholic statesman. As a consequence, the defense of life issue has been now linked with a motley collection of social, or rather socialist, concerns.
A newsman from Dallas reported on a revealing explanation of the 2008 presidential elections given by a Rev. Thomas Reese, Catholic priest:
“Catholic voters ignored the instructions of a group of vocal bishops and delivered 54% of their vote for Barack Obama as president of the United States. These bishops, led by Archbishops Charles Chaput and Raymond Burke, argued that abortion was the most important issue in the election and that no other issues outweighed it. As a result, they argued, Catholics could not vote for a pro-choice candidate. . . Although these bishops were a minority of the U.S. bishops, they received much attention in the media because other bishops kept silent or simply referred people to their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The silence of the majority gave the impression that the vocal bishops were speaking for all the bishops. . . . Most Catholics ignored the bishops who told them not to vote for a pro-choice candidate.” [1]
It appears thus that most of the bishops did not care much about the pro life argument (at least, that’s the impression they conveyed) and that the political participation of the faithful is morally regulated by the paper cited [2].
That particular statement of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (2007), is a verbose document, running on thirty pages (with pictures!). Reading it through, one may feel that its main concern was to deflect potential criticism from the usual enemies of the Church in the press and among politicians and so every statement is carefully hedged. Matters of heaven or hell are concatenated with prudential judgment statements and with contemporary fad issues, in a monumental heap of mush. Here is a sampling from the text:
“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity . . .
There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons . . .
It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual’s salvation (emphasis mine).”
One is at a loss to comment on the last remark.
With such a level of confusion, it’s no surprise that some individuals claiming to be pro life leaders not only voted for Obama but boasted about it [1,3], and that members of the pro abortion group Catholics for Choice are tolerated in all American dioceses but one [4].
Whereas the legal framework of our society is important and we have to make every effort to improve it, one should keep in mind that abortion is a form of service, regulated by supply (which legislation can favor or hinder) and demand. I use the term service in its general meaning of an activity requested by some and provided by others. Contract killing and drug trafficking are other examples. It is unquestionable that, were the demand for abortion to vanish, there would be little need for political efforts to ban the supply.
To counteract the demand side of the transaction, the first action actually being taken is praying near the entrances of abortion centers. Prayer is the most important action of a Christian. It always and everywhere helps both the one who prays and the one he prays for, so I certainly wish that this practice will continue and expand. Other activities consist mostly of seeking pregnant single women, convincing them to forgo abortion, helping them through pregnancy and childbirth, and providing material and other assistance during the time immediately after birth. It is not a uniquely American initiative. I visited a shelter, run by nuns, for such women in Spain.
As applied now, the help to unwed mothers is deficient, because it is not accompanied by the appropriate rebuke for the actions that brought them in that situation. This approach is most awkward for anyone who is part of a Christian church. After all, one may go to hell as readily on the grounds of the sixth commandment as of the fifth. Besides, the personal and social destructive consequences of families led by single mothers (other than widows) are well established. The reason for this deficiency is a justified fear that the women might respond to criticism by going away and having the abortion. Yet, the corporal work of mercy (giving food, clothing and shelter to the mother and child) should go together with the spiritual work of mercy (admonishing the sinner). I have not heard, however, of a bishop noting in public the inconsistency of the current approach, let alone proposing to do something about it. Moreover, it does not seem right to ask the government to eliminate the availability of abortion if people recorded as Catholics provide ample demand for it.
We are thus back to Ms. Alvare, who diagnosed so well the root of the problem. Moral catechesis is worse than deficient. It is almost nonexistent. Here are some illustrations: A while back, I spoke to a pastor on Long Island about an important respect life project. He replied that there is no point in doing it in his parish, because theirs is a heavily Jewish community and the parishioners have adopted the views and mores of the community. At about the same time, newspapers reported that two Catholic high schools in the same area canceled their proms when it was learned that the graduating seniors of the two sexes had reserved a sizable number of rooms in the area hotels, to spice up the occasion. And because small problems often grow into big problems, I should mention that the uniforms of students from some Catholic high schools that I saw, one in Manhattan’s East side (near 70th Street) the other in Northern Nassau County, sport hip-length skirts, which don’t reflect the best guidance from the relevant educators.
Unless such deficiencies are remedied, requests for legislative redress will not solve the problem. After all, the apostles did not petition Roman emperors from Claudius to Nerva. Instead, during that time they provided unambiguous commandments, clearly and succinctly formulated in Didache, as injunctions against common practices of those times (as of ours):
“Thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide. . . .” [5]
The people who received those instructions went on to change the world.

[1] Jeffrey Weiss: The Rev.Thomas Reese analyzes the Catholic vote — most didn’t follow the anti-abortion line; (The Dallas Morning News), 9:54 P.M. Tue, Nov. 04, 2008
[2] USCCB: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (long statement), Nov. 14, 2007;
[3] Douglas W.Kmiec: Barack Obama is a natural for the Catholic vote, Feb. 13, 2008;
[5] Didache, II, 2, quoted in: Rev. Fernand Mouret, S. S.: A History of the Catholic Church, translated by Rev. Newton Thompson; Herder Books, St. Louis, MO, 1931, vol. I, p. 91

Dan Fărcaşiu, July 2, 2014

The HHS Mandate on Contraceptives. A Critical History

Suits demanding exemptions from the HHS mandate on contraception and abortion covering in health insurance policies are to be decided by the Supreme Court. Most plaintiffs are Catholic organizations. Irrespective of the final outcome, it is appropriate to examine at this time how and why we have arrived in the situation of hanging on a Supreme Court decision.
On January 20, 2012, the HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, issued regulations on the implementation of the medical care and insurance law, colloquially named ObamaCare. The regulations cover “reproductive services,” meaning in fact anti-reproduction services. They require that all medical insurance plans offer contraceptive services, including abortion-inducing drugs. Exceptions were provided for church employees. Other religious institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, were not exempted.
It was noted that ObamaCare leaves the Administration to decide what constitutes a religious organization and what conscience protection it deserves. The government also decides what is “health care,” what conditions are to be treated, who is entitled to medical care and to what extent, and how care is to be provided and paid for, with no considerations for “individual choices or ethical convictions.” The force of the government will impose the outcome from considerations of costs or ideology that will override religious conscience.[1]
The argument for the mandate was that everybody uses birth control agents. Insuring a general occurrence, however, makes no economic sense. It is cheaper for everybody to pay directly for the service than through the insurance; payment through government is the most expensive. The goal was then political
The mandate was bound to be controversial, so its timing was at first surprising. The promotion of abortion, contraception, and homosexual agenda were in his stated plan for government, but Mr. Obama is reputedly too astute a politician to start a controversy when the campaign for the next presidential election was heating up. After all, other evil aspects of the health care bill were hidden or scheduled to become effective in 2013 or later.
Information about the inside deliberations in preparation for the move, suggests that he expected a positive reaction. ABC News reported that a major role in reaching the decision was played by the Catholic members of the administration, Leon Panetta, Joe Biden and Bill Daley on one side, Kathleen Sebelius and David Plouffe on the other.[2] (Israeli blogs claim Plouffe is Jewish, but his biography notes he graduated from a diocesan Catholic high school.[3]) None of them argued the matter from religious or moral principles, but only for its potential to gain or lose votes. Panetta, Biden, and Daley thought that it might lose votes, but Plouffe and especially Sebelius argued that Catholics are very much in favor of birth control and free access to it.[4] This fitted Mr. Obama’s agenda and was also urged by his allies in Congress like Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and outside the government, like the Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.[2] (Another ally, Catholic Health Association president Sister Carol Keehan, welcomed the ObamaCare version without protection from abortion financing.[5])
The US Catholic bishops spoke forcefully against this measure. Acquiescing to such a diktat meant (perhaps this was its goal) denying the Catholics their identity, but the regulations attack all the citizens, by destroying the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion
The Administration replied along two lines: First, it stressed that individuals will not be obligated to use contraceptive services. Second, it claimed readiness to work with religious organizations, “to see if implementation of the policy can be done in a way that allays some of those concerns” (White House spokesman Jay Carney) [emphases added]
The first point confused the matter. It was not that individuals could choose to use or not use contraceptives and abortifacients but that Catholic institutions would have no choice but to pay for contraception and abortion. A religious institution has to operate faithfully according to its creed and persons that cannot abide by its rules should find work elsewhere. On the second point, the arrogance of White House’s response was striking. Essentially, they told the Catholic Bishops and all other critics: “We can talk with you if you insist, but rest assured it won’t make any difference.”
After negotiations involving Mr. Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Daley, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan (Head of US Conference of Catholic Bishops), the White House presented on Feb. 9 a modified plan: religious organizations still had to offer contraceptive coverage, but did not have to pay directly for it. The amended plan obviously disregarded the concerns expressed by the Archbishop.
The weakness of the bishops’ argument[6] was to claim exemption only for organizations. Not all Catholics work for religious organizations. Also, an agnostic opposing abortion and contraception should be protected, too. Christian charity compels us to demand that the conscience of all citizens be protected. We note that when a draft law was in effect, American citizens could claim “conscientious objector” status to avoid serving in combat.
Another weakness was that similar mandates have existed at state level, such as in New Hampshire and New York. Complying without protest were, for example, Catholic Charities and St. Anselm College (Benedictine) in NH, and Fordham University (Jesuit) in NY, although New York law allows waivers for faith-based entities. In New Hampshire, Diocese of Manchester and the Catholic Medical Center are self-insured and, therefore, exempt. The state mandates, however, were probably illegal under existing law, contravening the Religion Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.[7] On that basis, Catholic institutions that acquiesced to state mandates could have been brought out of them or ordered out by their bishops.
Even without the HHS regulations, ObamaCare was structured to circumvent conscience protections. Thus, the law does not prevent use of public money for abortions, because Rep. Bart Stupak (a Catholic, and the key vote for passing it[8]) accepted the President’s pledge to reaffirm by executive order the 1976 Hyde Amendment banning federal funding of abortions.[9] The Hyde Amendment, however, applies only to funds provided through annual appropriations bills. The Congressional Research Service found that no funds to be expended for ObamaCare plans will flow through HHS appropriations bills. Therefore, the Hyde amendment will not cover government expenditures for ObamaCare.[10] Mr.Stupak should have known that, but did not want to. Likewise the favorable reaction of the Catholic episcopate to the concept of nationalized health insurance underlying the law was ill-inspired. The danger of that approach to religious liberty is obvious. To protect the rights of all, the solution was not protection of organizations, but personalization of health insurance, so that each citizen can decide for himself whether to buy a specific coverage.
The contraception mandate and the lack of protection against abortion funding in ObamaCare have not been the only difficulties facing Catholics in the U.S. There has been a long push to transform the USA into a territory inhospitable for Christian faith. In matters of sexual morality, one should add the promotion of unnatural relationships, culminating with introduction of same-sex marriages. After a morally objectionable practice is accepted, it soon becomes politically incorrect to criticize it. In the end, one arrives at the situation in France, where a renowned physician was sent to jail for trying to pray in front of the Notre Dame church for abortion victims, or in Sweden, where a pastor can be jailed for stating from the pulpit that homosexual acts are sinful. Interestingly, some justices of the U.S. Supreme Court recommend that we trade our constitution for theirs!
In this context, the muted reaction from Catholics, particularly from the bishops, to the push for legalization of same-sex marriages has been disconcerting. Legalization occurred in Washington State[11] and in Maryland,[12] while we were all concerned with the contraception mandate. Yet, the two are facets of the same problem.
In any event, the bishops followed up on their denunciation of the mandate. Their messages were read in all churches and the faithful were urged to use the available political means to accomplish their rescindment. It became clear, however, after the failed negotiations involving Archbishop Dolan, that the only path to rescindment went through the elections of November 2012.
To analyze the result of the presidential elections, a comparison of votes cast by three groups of voters in 2008 and 2012 is most instructive (O = Obama, McC = McCain, R = Romney):[13]

Catholics: 2008, O 54%, McC 45%; 2012, O 50%, R 48%; O loss: 4
Jews: 2008, O 78%, McC 21%; 2012, O 69%, R 30%; O loss: 9
NR: 2008, O 75%, McC 23%; 2012, O 70%, R 26%; O loss: 5

The switch of Catholics from Obama in 2012 was half of that of Jewish voters and the same as that of those with no religious affiliation (NR). Whereas it might have been said (generously) that Catholics voted for Obama in 2008 because they didn’t know, the 2012 vote showed that they didn’t care. The comparison with the other groups suggests that even those who switched did not do so for moral reasons. The effect of bishops’ exhortation was nil. Likewise, the law adopted in December 2010,[14] repealing the so called “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy in the armed forces, did not seem to influence the Catholic vote in the congressional elections of 2012.
In an article of February 2012, a self-declared Catholic, Tim Padgett, wrote that according to polls the bishops no longer speak for most U.S. Catholics on issues like abortion, divorce, homosexuality, women priests and priests getting married, masturbation, premarital sex, and contraception. He stated that 98% of Catholic women ignore the ban on birth control, “in keeping with their faith’s precept of exercising personal conscience.”[15]. The implications of his statement are grim, but the 2012 elections seemed to bear him out.
As could have been expected, once reelected Mr. Obama wasted no time before starting the push to eliminate Christian morals from public life. Thus, his refusal to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act was followed by an offensive through judicial channels using carefully selected judges, to force the same-sex “marriages” in state after state, against the will of state legislatures and of the citizens.
An enormous problem for maintaining Catholic principles and morals in the public place has been presented by the actions of members of the Catholic church with prominent positions in the society. A list (incomplete) of such persons is shown below. Notably, many of them are also products of Catholic education:
• Kathleen Sebelius: Summit Country Day School, Trinity Washington University (both Catholic); strongly pro abortion.
• Nancy Pelosi, US House Minority Leader, former Speaker: Institute of Notre Dame HS, Trinity College (both Catholic); strong supporter of every position incompatible with Catholic morals. After the first version of the HHS mandates was issued, she stated: “I am going to stick with my fellow Catholics in supporting the Administration on this.”
• Andrew Cuomo, NY Governor: St. Gerard’s School, Archbishop Molloy HS, Fordham University; attacked the other candidate for governor for being pro life. Promoted and signed the same-sex marriage bill. Recently, stated that people that strongly advocate pro life positions and the Catholic position on marriage are not welcome in his state.
• Martin O’Malley, MD Governor: Our Lady of Lourdes School, Gonzaga College HS, The Catholic University of America; supports federal funding on abortion, lobbied for a bill to legalize same-sex marriages, introduced it himself into the Legislature, and signed it when passed.
• Christine Gregoire, WA Governor: public school, Gonzaga U Law School (Jesuit); supports abortion and requiring pharmacies to sell morning-after pills, signed same-sex marriage law.
• John Lynch. NH Governor: public schools, Georgetown University Law Center; pro abortion, in favor of dispensing morning-after pills without prescription, signed same-sex marriage law.
• John Baldacci, ME Governor: public education; voted no on the partial birth abortion ban (while in Congress), signed same-sex marriage law (overturned by referendum).
• Barbara Mikulski, long term US Representative and Senator from MD: Institute of Notre Dame HS, Mount St. Agnes College; rated 100% by the pro abortion organization NARAL; has strongly promoted the homosexual agenda.
• Patty Murray, Senator from WA: public education, voted against partial birth abortion ban and parental notification, supports federal funding of abortion, was one of the three female Senators to support publicly the mandates when issued.
• Thomas Menino, five-term Mayor of Boston: Thomas Aqinal HS, attended Boston College (jesuit), but did not graduate; has supported abortion and taxpayer financing of it throughout his career. Going one step beyond his colleagues mentioned above, he abused verbally, threatening with retaliation against his business, an owner of a fast food chain “guilty” of expressing in an interview opinions on sexual purity and marriage identical to that taught and commanded by the Catholic Church
• The likely point of origin: Father Robert Drinan, S.J., MA congressman, advocated abortion before Roe v. Wade. After retiring from Congress, taught at Georgetown (1981- to his death in 2007).
Undoubtedly, as long as these politicians are not excised from the Church, the faithful in the pews will treat with indifference the exhortations of the bishops about morality of legislation.
It seems difficult to rationalize the bishops’ acceptance of “Catholics” like those listed. The explanation might be found in the adoption by the bishops (in America and elsewhere) of socialism as the method for helping the poor and achieving equality. According to this social model:
– The poor are not required to work for their living; they are not expected to strive to escape their condition. Poverty becomes permanent, hereditary. The poor are expected to demand to be provided with a living from the resources of the rich.
– The role of assigning people to the “poor” and “rich” categories belongs to the government. The latter provides for the upkeep of the poor, by confiscating a part of the resources of the rich. Expropriation is deemed theologically acceptable.[16](a)
– In practice, the government extends expropriation to the whole productive segment of the society. Additionally, the government refuses to be bound by moral restraints, invoking the separation of church and state.
– The right of the poor to sustenance is not limited to subsistence, but includes gratification, in which the government has included sexual satisfaction.
The virtue of providing for the poor through redistribution by the government seems to redeem every mortal sin and scandal. Being oneself wealthy and not giving to the poor more than the general expropriation does not detract from that virtue.
The Catholic institutions created to address social concerns also have fully embraced the philosophy and methods of the secular state.
The model contradicts the apostles,[17] and also Pope Pius XI,[16](b) therefore it must be more recent.
It was noted that the current situation shows a failure of catechesis in all three forms (from the pulpit, in the classroom and through example). The change in method cannot succeed, however, as long as the subject of catechesis contains basic contradictions. Moreover, these contradictions will continue to reduce the role of Catholic social institutions, until the care for the poor and education of children will be fully taken over by the government. Suits like those currently at the Supreme Court will then become moot.

[1] Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 7, 2012
[2] Jake Tapper, Feb. 9, 2012, Policy and Politics of Contraception Rule Fiercely Debated Within White House, ABC News, Feb. 9, 2012,

Click to access American_Catholicism%60s_Pact_With_The_Devil.pdf

[7] David B. Rifkin, Jr.& Edward Whelan, Birth-Control Mandate: Unconstitutional and Illegal, WSJ, Feb. 15, 2012
[12] timees
[16] John A. Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Catechism, Doubleday, New York, 1975, (a) pp. 386-388; (b) p. 387.
[17] (a) 2 Thessalonians, 3, 6-10; (b) 1 Corinthians, 9, 5;

Meaning and Implications for Catholics of Minimum Wage


A debate on minimum wage flares up periodically, as it does at this time. Much of the debate, however, is based on ignorance and misinformation. The compassionate argument reduces itself to the question: How could a family live on a minimum wage? The answer is, it does not. Thus, let’s consider a Mr. Smith with wife and two children, employed at $7.50/hr. If he works 50 weeks per year, he makes $15000 per year. Let’s say he earns $100 annually in interest (the paychecks are deposited in a bank).

Assuming the family pays for shelter (rent, heat, electricity, gas, water, telephone) a low $500 per month, it receives $405.35 of food stamps per month ($4864.20 per year).[1] If the shelter costs are higher, the aid is greater. In April, Mr. Smith files an income tax return and receives an earned income credit (EITC). payment of $5370,[2] bringing the family income to $25,334.20 per year. Additionally, the children receive free lunches at school, without any reduction of their food stamp benefits,[3] and they have free medical care in all states. Thus, half of the family’s income comes from charity, which should be the business of the church, rather than result from forcible confiscation and redistribution by the government.

The question arises: Why doesn’t Mrs. Smith work, say, four hours a day, when children are in school? Usually, because the added income would reduce the family’s benefits and it is not worthwhile to disturb herself for an effective pay of four dollars per hour or so. This is another negative moral effect of the scheme.

The poor family argument is in fact a red herring. Only a small fraction of minimum wage earners support a family. In addition, not all workers are forced into low paying jobs. For example, in my first years in the U.S. I found out that my experience did not matter much on the market: “Educated in Bucharest? Is that in Bulgaria, or where?” So, one day I went to a world-known professor at Princeton and offered my services as a postdoctoral investigator for a symbolic $1 per month. He had seen, however, some publications from my PhD research and hired me at 60% of the already low regular pay. As I was putting in 50 hours/week, my hourly pay was definitely below the minimum wage. Shortly thereafter, he hired my wife too, at 50%. One year later I was an instructor in the department and two years later both my wife and I had jobs with major companies.

In the same period, a physician, refugee from Romania, found work cutting grass in a cemetery at minimum wage, until he passed the examination to practice in NY.

Whereas those were personal examples, a minimum wage job is almost generally a first step for people with no experience, but with advancement in mind.

An elementary fact missed by partisans of dictating wages is that a salary is tied to the value produced by the employee through his work and that people are paid a low salary because that’s their output value. Nobody ever thought that farmers should sell their produce on the market at prices determined by the farmers’ family size. If the output value of low-paid workers surpassed their remuneration, they could refuse working for those wages and employers would have to accommodate them. In reality, if minimum-wage employees should quit, others would step in to take their jobs, knowing that their work can’t produce enough value for a higher salary. An increase in the minimum wage hides within the “salary” a part of the charity received and demeans the dignity of labor. It is in fact a hidden increase in public assistance payments and in the corporate tax. Having cooked the books on two lines, the government then makes uninformed people believe that it is all about protecting workers from “corporate greed.”

Negative consequences of political, rather than economical, control of salaries are many. Thus, there was a time when all office buildings had elevator attendants, mostly youngsters at their first job. Working, they learned to be on time, to be responsible, to know the layout of the building, to be neat, to be polite. Their cost to the employers was just a little cheaper than the operation, maintenance, and depreciation of an automated system. After a few years most went on to better jobs, sometimes in the same building. When the mandated minimum wage made the automated system cheaper, they were all on the streets. (It seems, though, that during the transition there was a bonanza for elevator manufacturers.)[4]

Some people argue that employers should have kept those workers at a loss. They blame “corporate greed.” for the bad consequences. “Corporate greed” is nonsense, just like “corporate gluttony” or “corporate lust,” or even “corporate charity.” Corporations can’t go to Heaven. They should make profits by legal means. In that way they help consumers, their employees (even those in the lowest positions are owners of company stock), and also retired workers whose pension funds are invested, etc. Companies that don’t make profits go bankrupt and all the jobs are lost.

Some minimum wage earners don’t even work for corporations. I witnessed how a minimum wage increase during the Clinton presidency robbed some students of the opportunity of doing (actually learning) research on small sums that professors had as remnants from research grants. Suddenly, the hourly paid student research helpers became unaffordable. It has been noted that the minimum wage increases also reduce the number of department-paid campus jobs.[5]

As shown by the examples given above, the main losers from minimum wage hikes are the least qualified and experienced workers, whom the move is claimed to help. Thus, youth unemployment, which was below 15% before the 2007 minimum wage hike, soared to 27% by October 2009, and is still very high.[6] The presence of a parent working steadily, however, helps educate a youngster for his first job. The societal unraveling of the family removes that mitigating factor. Counteracting that plague should be a first priority of the church. As explained by D. P. Moynihan (later a US senator for the Democratic Party), the government welfare programs have had a disastrous effect on black families.[7] Unsurprisingly, the unemployment for young blacks is higher than 35%.[8]

A salary hike does not always lead to the termination of all minimum wage earners. Also, the hike never affects only the minimum wage. For instance, if in the company the salary next to the lowest is $12/hr, those workers make 60% more than ‘Mr. Smith,’ a ratio determined by the relative value of their output. After Mr. Smith gets a raise from $7.50 to $10/hr, the pay ratio shrinks to 1.2, but the output value ratio is still 1.6, a situation unfair and unacceptable to the more productive workers, which demand, and receive, a raise as well. The move is repeated upwards the salary scale. As a matter of fact, labor unions routinely set the salaries in the collective bargaining at certain ratios to the legal minimum wage. Naturally, the unions are champions of raising the latter. In turn, politicians who depend upon union support, do their best to fulfil that request.

All these extra costs imposed on the companies are distributed in the company’s finances; a major part must go into higher prices for the products sold. The people with below average income suffer the most. In this race between prices and salaries, the only beneficiary is the government, which confiscates and redistributes, thus increasing its power. Another consequence is that more and more companies are pushed outside worldwide competition. Their production moves to China, Thailand, or some other place..

Most important, however, the replacement of Christian mercy for the poor under the auspices of the Church by the forced wealth transfer ordered by the secular government is destructive for the soul and marginalizes the Church in the society.


[2] www.







Dan Fãrcaºiu

Attitudes, Positions and Actions Taken in Response to the Use of Materials from Nonconsenting Humans, Particularly the Unborn, in Medical Research and Practice

In 2006, I was contacted by a Dr. Edward E. Furton, Editor of The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, inviting me to write an article for his journal, based on Read more of this post