Mercy Does Not Compromise Truth

The fury of the Pharisees against Christ was prompted by their thinking that mercy contradicted the Mosaic Law, and they were experts in the interpretation of the Law.  To render the Law insignificant, was to render them insignificant and damage their professional and social position with the people. Austen Ivereigh in his book “Wounded Shepherd” wrote “For the Pharisees, to love the sinner appeared to relativize the sin” (280). And it could be that the reaction against the pope today originates in a fear of people who have been faithful in the struggle to live the faith and the moral demands of Catholic life, and, and fear that now Francis is undermining that. Christ was crucified by the Pharisees inciting the Romans; Francis is denigrated as a heretic.

Consider the following periscope of  Luke (7, 36-47):

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Paul Tillich writes (“The New Being” Scibners [1955] 7]: “Simon the Phasisee is shocked by the attitude of Jesus to the whore. He receives the answer that the sinners have greater love than the righteous ones because more is forgiven them. It is not the love of the woman that brings her forgiveness, but it is the forgiveness she has received that creates her love. By her love she shows that much has been forgiven her, while the lack of love in the Pharisee shoes that litt le has been forgiven him.

               “Jesus does not forgive the woman, but He declares that she is forgiven. Her state of mind, her ecstasy of love, show that something has happened to her. And nothing greater can happen to a human being than that he is forgiven. For forgiveness means reconciliation in spite of estrangement; it means reunion in spite of hostility; it means acceptance of those who are unacceptable, and it means reception of those who  are rejected” (Think of the outrageous, “love your enemies” (John 5, 44).

Francis and Benedict On the Meaning of the Economy

Pope Francis: Inclusive Capitalism

Address of the Holy Father November 11, 2019

Your Eminence,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a cordial welcome to each of you gathered for this meeting of the members of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism. I thank Cardinal Peter Turkson for his kind words offered in your name.

During my meeting three years ago with participants in the Fortune-Time Global Forum 2016, I addressed the need for more inclusive and equitable economic models that would permit each person to share in the resources of this world and have opportunities to realize his or her potential.  The 2016 Forum allowed for an exchange of ideas and information aimed at creating a more humane economy and contributing to the eradication of poverty on the global level.

Your Council is one of the results of the 2016 Forum. You have taken up the challenge of realizing the vision of the Forum by seeking ways to make capitalism become a more inclusive instrument for integral human wellbeing. This entails overcoming an economy of exclusion and reducing the gap separating the majority of people from the prosperity enjoyed by the few (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 53-55). Rising levels of poverty on a global scale bear witness to the prevalence of inequality rather than a harmonious integration of persons and nations. An economic system that is fair, trustworthy and capable of addressing the most profound challenges facing humanity and our planet is urgently needed. I encourage you to persevere along the path of generous solidarity and to work for the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings (cf. ibid., 58).

A glance at recent history, in particular, the financial crisis of 2008, shows us that a healthy economic system cannot be based on short-term profit at the expense of long-term productive, sustainable and socially responsible development and investment.

It is true that “business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world.  It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). However, as my predecessor Saint Paul VI reminded us, authentic development cannot be restricted to economic growth alone but must foster the growth of each person and of the whole person (cf. Populorum Progressio, 14). This means more than balancing budgets, improving infrastructures or offering a wider variety of consumer goods.  Rather, it involves a renewal, purification, and strengthening of solid economic models based on our own personal conversion and generosity to those in need.  An economic system detached from ethical concerns does not bring about a more just social order but leads instead to a “throwaway” culture of consumption and waste. On the other hand, when we recognize the moral dimension of economic life, which is one of the many aspects of the social doctrine of the Church that must be integrally respected, we are able to act with fraternal charity, desiring, seeking and protecting the good of others and their integral development.

Dear friends, you have set before yourselves the goal of extending the opportunities and benefits of our economic system to all people. Your efforts remind us that those who engage in business and economic life are in fact possessed, as bears repeating, of a noble vocation, one that serves the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and make them more accessible to all (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 203). In the end, it is not simply a matter of “having more”, but “being more”. What is needed is a fundamental renewal of hearts and minds so that the human person may always be placed at the center of social, cultural and economic life.

Your presence here is thus a sign of hope because you have recognized the issues our world is facing and the imperative to act decisively in order to build a better world. I express to you my heartfelt gratitude for your commitment to the promotion of a more just and humane economy, in line with the core principles of the social doctrine of the Church, always taking into account the whole person, both in the present generation and in the ones to come. An inclusive capitalism that leaves no one behind, that discards none of our brothers or sisters, is a noble aspiration, worthy of your best efforts.

I thank you for this meeting and I accompany you with my prayers. Upon all of you, your families and your colleagues, I invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, strength, and peace. And I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Future of the World Economy

POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI

Communio 13 (Fall, 1986). O 1986 by Communio: International Catholic Reuiew

The economic inequality between the northern and southern hemispheres is increasingly threatening the survival of the family of mankind; in the long run this may be no less a menace to the progress of history than are the arsenals of weapons with which East and West are already confronting one another. And thus new efforts must be made to overcome this tension. All previous methods have proven ineffective; in fact, in the last thirty years world poverty has increased at a truly staggering rate. To find constructive solutions, we need new ideas in the field of economics; but these ideas will be unthinkable and certainly not practicable without a new set of moral impulses. Thus there arises the possibility and the need for dialogue between the church and the economy.

Let us try to define the problem more closely. For it is not obvious at first glance — and certainly not from the standpoint of classical economic theory — just what the church and the economy have to do with one another, ex­cept that the church is also involved in business transactions and is therefore a factor in the marketplace. But it is not in this capacity — as a mere component of the economy — that the church is contributing here to the dialogue, but in its own right, as church.

The objection will now be raised that especially since Vatican IIthe autonomy of all areas of specialization must be respected, and thus the economy must be allowed to pro­ceed according to its own rules, unrestricted by moral con­siderations imposed from outside. Thus, following the tradi­tion inaugurated by Adam Smith, market and ethics are ir­reconcilable, since voluntary “moral” transactions are con­trary to the laws of the market and the moralizing in­dustrialist will simply be driven out of business.. And thus, for the longest time, business ethics rang like hollow metal, since economics was a matter of efficiency, not of morality. The inner logic of the market would therefore free us from the need to build up the greater or smaller morality of the in­dividual entrepreneur. The undisturbed interplay of the market’s laws was the best way to ensure progress and also fair distribution.

The great achievements of this theory made it possible for quite some time to overlook its limitations. But now a changed situation has drawn attention to that theory’s philosophical presuppositions and thus to its problematics. Though this view emphasizes the freedom of the individual businessman, and can therefore be termed liberal, it is in fact fundamentally deterministic. It assumes that man and the world are so constituted that the free play of the market forces can lead in one direction only — namely toward the balance of supply and demand, toward economic efficiency and progress. This determinism, according to which man, for all his apparent freedom, is completely controlled by the binding laws of the market, implies yet another perhaps even more astounding presupposition, namely that the market’s natural law (if Imay phrase it thus) is essentially good and must necessarily work toward the good, whatever the moral values of the individuals concerned.

These assumptions are not completely false, as isclear from the successes of free enterprise so far. But neither can they be extended indefinitely; they are not universally valid, as is obvious from the current problems of the world economy. Without going into the subject in detail — which is not my task — I would merely like to underline a statement by Peter Koslowski, clearly pointing out what it is all about: “Economics is not only ruled by economic laws, but controlled by people….” Even though free enterprise relies on individuals following a particular set of rules, it cannot dispense with the individual; it cannot banish his moral freedom from the world of economics. Itis becoming increasingly clear that the development of the world economy also involves the development of the world com­munity, of the universal family of man, and that the develop­ment of the spiritual dimension of man is an essential com­ponent in the development of the world community. The spiritual dimension of man is also a factor in the economy: free enterprise can function only with the help of an underly­ing moral consensus.

So far I have emphasized the tensions between a strict­ly liberal economic model and ethical considerations, and I have thus attempted to circumscribe a first set of ques­tions which will play a role in the discussion. Imust now point out the opposite set of tensions. The question of market and ethics has long ceased to be a merely theoretical problem. Because the inherent inequality of the various economic zones threatens the free play of the market, there have been attempts, since the 1950s, to restore the economic balance by means of development projects. It can no longer be ignored that these attempts have failed, and have even accentuated the inequalities. In consequence, large areas in the Third World which had originally welcom­ed such development assistance with high hopes, now blame their misery on the market economy; they view it as a system of exploitation, as institutionalized sin and injustice. In this perspective, a centralized economy appears to be the moral alternative, toward which one turns with almost religious fervor. For, while the market economy relies on the effective action of egoism and on its automatic limitation by the competing egoisms, the main idea here seems to be that of a just control, striving to secure the same rights for all and to ensure the equal distribution of goods.

To be sure, attempts so far have not been very en­couraging, but it does not follow that we should dismiss all hope that such a moral perception can ever achieve success. It is argued that if the whole system were set on a stronger moral foundation, it should be possible to reconcile morality and efficiency in a society which is not geared toward max­imum profit, but toward self-restraint and the service of others. And thus in this area, the argument between economics and ethics becomes more and more an argument against the market economy and its spiritual foundations, in favor of a centrally controlled economy.

But the full range of the question under consideration first becomes clear if we include the third set of economic and theoretical considerations characterizing the panorama of the present situation: the Marxist world. In its theoretical and practical structure as a centrally controlled economy, the Marxist system is the diametrical opposite of the market economy. Salvation is to come from the fact that there is no private control of the means of production, that supply and demand are not aligned by competition in the marketplace, that there is no possibility of the pursuit of private profit, and that all controls originate from a central economic man­agement.

But despite these radical differences in the concrete economic mechanisms, similarities can be observed in the deeper philosophical assumptions. The first one is that Marxism is also a deterministic system, and conversely that it too promises full liberation as the product of this deter­minism. It is therefore a fundamental error to hold that a centralized economic system is a moral system in contrast to the mechanistic system of the market economy. This becomes very clear, for instance, when Lenin agrees with Sombart’s thesis that there is not a grain of ethics in Marxism, only inherent economic laws. Indeed, determinism is here far more radical and fundamental than it is in liberalism: for the latter at least recognizes the area of the subjective and views it as the realm of ethics; but here “becoming” and “history” are completely reduced to economy, and the delimitation of the individual subjective domain is viewed as opposition to the only valid law — that of history — and thus as a reaction hostile to progress, which therefore cannot be tolerated. Ethics is thus reduced to a philosophy of history and the philosophy of history lapses into party strategy.

But let us return to the similarities in the philosophical foundations of Marxism and strict capitalism. The second similarity — as will already have been clear in passing — is that their determinism involves the rejection of ethics as an independent entity of relevance to the economy. In Marxism this is especially dramatic, in that religion is reduced to economy; it is seen as the reflection of a particular economic system and thus also an obstacle to true knowledge and cor­rect behavior — an obstacle to the goal of the natural laws of history, namely progress. It is also assumed that history, which unfolds in the dialectic of positive and negative, must, by its very deepest, most unfathomable essence, ultimately end in total positivity. It is obvious that in such a perspective the church can contribute nothing to world economy; its on­ly significance for economics is that it must be overcome. That it might also be used for the time being as the means of its own destruction — and thus as an instrument of “the positive forces of history” — this is a view which has sur­faced but recently; it obviously does not alter the basic thesis.

Moreover, the whole system owes itself to the apotheosis of the central administration, in which the world spirit itself must be at work if the thesis is correct. That this is a myth in the worst possible sense of the term, and is simply an empirical observation which is constantly being verified. And thus the radical rejection of a concrete dialogue between church and economy which is at the root of this way of thinking actually confirms its very necessity.

In my attempt to describe the facets of a conversation between church and economy, I came across yet a fourth aspect. It is evident in the famous utterance by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912: “I believe that the assimilation of the Latin-American countries to the United States will remain very difficult as long as these countries remain Catholic.” Along these same lines, in a 1969 address, Rockefeller recommended that the Catholics there should be replaced by other Christians, an undertaking which we now know to be in progress. In both statements, religion (in this case a Christian denomination) is presented as a socio-political, and thus as a economic-political, factor which determines the nature of the unfolding of political structures and economic possibilities. We are reminded of the thesis of Max Weber, on the inner relationship between capitalism and Calvinism, between the structure of the economic system and the determinant religious idea. It is as though Marx’s idea were turned upside down: it is not economy which generates religious views, but rather the basic religious orientation determines which economic system will evolve.

That only Protestantism could produce free enterprise, whereas Catholicism — encompassing no corresponding education toward the freedom and the self-discipline that free enterprise requires — favors instead authoritarian systems, is a notion which is without doubt still widespread, and recent history seems to bear it out in many ways. On the other hand, despite all the adjustments the market system has undergone, we can no longer view the liberal capitalistic system as the salvation of the world without reservations, as was still possible in the Kennedy era with its Peace-Corps optimism. The reproaches by the Third World may be one- sided, but they are not unfounded. And thus, first of all, the Christian denominations must examine very critically their own attitudes towards political and economic ethics.

But this cannot only be an internal debate, for such self-examination can be fruitful only if it is carried out as a dialogue with those who are Christians and are responsible for the economy. A long tradition has often led such people to consider their Christianity as their private-concern, while as members of the business community they abide by the laws of economics; these areas have come to appear mutual­ly exclusive in the modern context of the separation of the objective and subjective realms. But the whole point is precisely that they should meet, preserving their own in­tegrity and yet inseparable.

It is becoming an increasingly obvious fact of economic history that the development of economic systems that con­centrate on the common good depends on a determined ethical discipline, which can in turn be generated and sus­tained only by strong religious convictions. Conversely, it has also become obvious that the decline of such discipline can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse. An economic policy which strives not only for the good of the group — that is, toward the good of a particular state — but for the common good of the family of man requires extraor­dinary ethical discipline and extraordinary religious strength. A political structure which concentrates the in­herent laws of economics on this very purpose seems almost impossible today, despite all great humanitarian protesta­tions. It can only be realized if completely new ethical forces are released. A morality which would presume to dismiss the technical knowledge of the laws of economics would merely be moralism, quite the opposite from moral. A scien­tific approach which would claim to manage without ethics would be a misunderstanding of the reality of man, and therefore not scientific. A maximum of technical expertise is sorely needed today, but also a maximum of ethics, so that the science of economics can be applied to the right goals and so that its findings can be politically and socially realized.

For all that, I neither could nor would attempt to give answers to the problems which concern us: I lack the necessary technical competence in economics. But I have tried to outline the question which brings us here together. This is an extremely urgent matter. It is already a great suc­cess that we are talking about it. Let us hope that in this much needed encounter of ethics and economics, we will succeed in taking a step forward Which will lead to greater knowledge and more effective action, and thus ultimately to the greater peace, the greater freedom, and the greater unity of the family of mankind.

Pope Francis: “Inclusive Capitalism” (Nov. 11, 2019) – Pope Emeritus – “The Future of the World Economy”

Address of the Holy Father November 11, 2019

Your Eminence,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a cordial welcome to each of you gathered for this meeting of the members of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism. I thank Cardinal Peter Turkson for his kind words offered in your name.

During my meeting three years ago with participants in the Fortune-Time Global Forum 2016, I addressed the need for more inclusive and equitable economic models that would permit each person to share in the resources of this world and have opportunities to realize his or her potential.  The 2016 Forum allowed for an exchange of ideas and information aimed at creating a more humane economy and contributing to the eradication of poverty on the global level.

Your Council is one of the results of the 2016 Forum. You have taken up the challenge of realizing the vision of the Forum by seeking ways to make capitalism become a more inclusive instrument for integral human wellbeing. This entails overcoming an economy of exclusion and reducing the gap separating the majority of people from the prosperity enjoyed by the few (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 53-55). Rising levels of poverty on a global scale bear witness to the prevalence of inequality rather than a harmonious integration of persons and nations. An economic system that is fair, trustworthy and capable of addressing the most profound challenges facing humanity and our planet is urgently needed. I encourage you to persevere along the path of generous solidarity and to work for the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings (cf. ibid., 58).

A glance at recent history, in particular, the financial crisis of 2008, shows us that a healthy economic system cannot be based on short-term profit at the expense of long-term productive, sustainable and socially responsible development and investment.

It is true that “business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world.  It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). However, as my predecessor Saint Paul VI reminded us, authentic development cannot be restricted to economic growth alone but must foster the growth of each person and of the whole person (cf. Populorum Progressio, 14). This means more than balancing budgets, improving infrastructures or offering a wider variety of consumer goods.  Rather, it involves a renewal, purification, and strengthening of solid economic models based on our own personal conversion and generosity to those in need.  An economic system detached from ethical concerns does not bring about a more just social order but leads instead to a “throwaway” culture of consumption and waste. On the other hand, when we recognize the moral dimension of economic life, which is one of the many aspects of the social doctrine of the Church that must be integrally respected, we are able to act with fraternal charity, desiring, seeking and protecting the good of others and their integral development.

Dear friends, you have set before yourselves the goal of extending the opportunities and benefits of our economic system to all people. Your efforts remind us that those who engage in business and economic life are in fact possessed, as bears repeating, of a noble vocation, one that serves the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and make them more accessible to all (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 203). In the end, it is not simply a matter of “having more”, but “being more”. What is needed is a fundamental renewal of hearts and minds so that the human person may always be placed at the center of social, cultural and economic life.

Your presence here is thus a sign of hope because you have recognized the issues our world is facing and the imperative to act decisively in order to build a better world. I express to you my heartfelt gratitude for your commitment to the promotion of a more just and humane economy, in line with the core principles of the social doctrine of the Church, always taking into account the whole person, both in the present generation and in the ones to come. An inclusive capitalism that leaves no one behind, that discards none of our brothers or sisters, is a noble aspiration, worthy of your best efforts.

I thank you for this meeting and I accompany you with my prayers. Upon all of you, your families and your colleagues, I invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, strength, and peace. And I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Future of the World Economy

POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI

The economic inequality between the northern and southern hemispheres is increasingly threatening the survival of the family of mankind; in the long run this may be no less a menace to the progress of history than are the arsenals of weapons with which East and West are already confronting one another. And thus new efforts must be made to overcome this tension. All previous methods have proven ineffective; in fact, in the last thirty years world poverty has increased at a truly staggering rate. To find constructive solutions, we need new ideas in the field of economics; but these ideas will be unthinkable and certainly not practicable without a new set of moral impulses. Thus there arises the possibility and the need for dialogue between the church and the economy.

Let us try to define the problem more closely. For it is not obvious at first glance — and certainly not from the standpoint of classical economic theory — just what the church and the economy have to do with one another, ex­cept that the church is also involved in business transactions and is therefore a factor in the marketplace. But it is not in this capacity — as a mere component of the economy — that the church is contributing here to the dialogue, but in its own right, as church.

The objection will now be raised that especially since Vatican IIthe autonomy of all areas of specialization must be respected, and thus the economy must be allowed to pro­ceed according to its own rules, unrestricted by moral con­siderations imposed from outside. Thus, following the tradi­tion inaugurated by Adam Smith, market and ethics are ir­reconcilable, since voluntary “moral” transactions are con­trary to the laws of the market and the moralizing in­dustrialist will simply be driven out of business.. And thus, for the longest time, business ethics rang like hollow metal, since economics was a matter of efficiency, not of morality. The inner logic of the market would therefore free us from the need to build up the greater or smaller morality of the in­dividual entrepreneur. The undisturbed interplay of the market’s laws was the best way to ensure progress and also fair distribution.

The great achievements of this theory made it possible for quite some time to overlook its limitations. But now a changed situation has drawn attention to that theory’s philosophical presuppositions and thus to its problematics. Though this view emphasizes the freedom of the individual businessman, and can therefore be termed liberal, it is in fact fundamentally deterministic. It assumes that man and the world are so constituted that the free play of the market forces can lead in one direction only — namely toward the balance of supply and demand, toward economic efficiency and progress. This determinism, according to which man, for all his apparent freedom, is completely controlled by the binding laws of the market, implies yet another perhaps even more astounding presupposition, namely that the market’s natural law (if Imay phrase it thus) is essentially good and must necessarily work toward the good, whatever the moral values of the individuals concerned.

These assumptions are not completely false, as isclear from the successes of free enterprise so far. But neither can they be extended indefinitely; they are not universally valid, as is obvious from the current problems of the world economy. Without going into the subject in detail — which is not my task — I would merely like to underline a statement by Peter Koslowski, clearly pointing out what it is all about: “Economics is not only ruled by economic laws, but controlled by people….” Even though free enterprise relies on individuals following a particular set of rules, it cannot dispense with the individual; it cannot banish his moral freedom from the world of economics. Itis becoming increasingly clear that the development of the world economy also involves the development of the world com­munity, of the universal family of man, and that the develop­ment of the spiritual dimension of man is an essential com­ponent in the development of the world community. The spiritual dimension of man is also a factor in the economy: free enterprise can function only with the help of an underly­ing moral consensus.

So far I have emphasized the tensions between a strict­ly liberal economic model and ethical considerations, and I have thus attempted to circumscribe a first set of ques­tions which will play a role in the discussion. Imust now point out the opposite set of tensions. The question of market and ethics has long ceased to be a merely theoretical problem. Because the inherent inequality of the various economic zones threatens the free play of the market, there have been attempts, since the 1950s, to restore the economic balance by means of development projects. It can no longer be ignored that these attempts have failed, and have even accentuated the inequalities. In consequence, large areas in the Third World which had originally welcom­ed such development assistance with high hopes, now blame their misery on the market economy; they view it as a system of exploitation, as institutionalized sin and injustice. In this perspective, a centralized economy appears to be the moral alternative, toward which one turns with almost religious fervor. For, while the market economy relies on the effective action of egoism and on its automatic limitation by the competing egoisms, the main idea here seems to be that of a just control, striving to secure the same rights for all and to ensure the equal distribution of goods.

To be sure, attempts so far have not been very en­couraging, but it does not follow that we should dismiss all hope that such a moral perception can ever achieve success. It is argued that if the whole system were set on a stronger moral foundation, it should be possible to reconcile morality and efficiency in a society which is not geared toward max­imum profit, but toward self-restraint and the service of others. And thus in this area, the argument between economics and ethics becomes more and more an argument against the market economy and its spiritual foundations, in favor of a centrally controlled economy.

But the full range of the question under consideration first becomes clear if we include the third set of economic and theoretical considerations characterizing the panorama of the present situation: the Marxist world. In its theoretical and practical structure as a centrally controlled economy, the Marxist system is the diametrical opposite of the market economy. Salvation is to come from the fact that there is no private control of the means of production, that supply and demand are not aligned by competition in the marketplace, that there is no possibility of the pursuit of private profit, and that all controls originate from a central economic man­agement.

But despite these radical differences in the concrete economic mechanisms, similarities can be observed in the deeper philosophical assumptions. The first one is that Marxism is also a deterministic system, and conversely that it too promises full liberation as the product of this deter­minism. It is therefore a fundamental error to hold that a centralized economic system is a moral system in contrast to the mechanistic system of the market economy. This becomes very clear, for instance, when Lenin agrees with Sombart’s thesis that there is not a grain of ethics in Marxism, only inherent economic laws. Indeed, determinism is here far more radical and fundamental than it is in liberalism: for the latter at least recognizes the area of the subjective and views it as the realm of ethics; but here “becoming” and “history” are completely reduced to economy, and the delimitation of the individual subjective domain is viewed as opposition to the only valid law — that of history — and thus as a reaction hostile to progress, which therefore cannot be tolerated. Ethics is thus reduced to a philosophy of history and the philosophy of history lapses into party strategy.

But let us return to the similarities in the philosophical foundations of Marxism and strict capitalism. The second similarity — as will already have been clear in passing — is that their determinism involves the rejection of ethics as an independent entity of relevance to the economy. In Marxism this is especially dramatic, in that religion is reduced to economy; it is seen as the reflection of a particular economic system and thus also an obstacle to true knowledge and cor­rect behavior — an obstacle to the goal of the natural laws of history, namely progress. It is also assumed that history, which unfolds in the dialectic of positive and negative, must, by its very deepest, most unfathomable essence, ultimately end in total positivity. It is obvious that in such a perspective the church can contribute nothing to world economy; its on­ly significance for economics is that it must be overcome. That it might also be used for the time being as the means of its own destruction — and thus as an instrument of “the positive forces of history” — this is a view which has sur­faced but recently; it obviously does not alter the basic thesis.

Moreover, the whole system owes itself to the apotheosis of the central administration, in which the world spirit itself must be at work if the thesis is correct. That this is a myth in the worst possible sense of the term, and is simply an empirical observation which is constantly being verified. And thus the radical rejection of a concrete dialogue between church and economy which is at the root of this way of thinking actually confirms its very necessity.

In my attempt to describe the facets of a conversation between church and economy, I came across yet a fourth aspect. It is evident in the famous utterance by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912: “I believe that the assimilation of the Latin-American countries to the United States will remain very difficult as long as these countries remain Catholic.” Along these same lines, in a 1969 address, Rockefeller recommended that the Catholics there should be replaced by other Christians, an undertaking which we now know to be in progress. In both statements, religion (in this case a Christian denomination) is presented as a socio-political, and thus as a economic-political, factor which determines the nature of the unfolding of political structures and economic possibilities. We are reminded of the thesis of Max Weber, on the inner relationship between capitalism and Calvinism, between the structure of the economic system and the determinant religious idea. It is as though Marx’s idea were turned upside down: it is not economy which generates religious views, but rather the basic religious orientation determines which economic system will evolve.

That only Protestantism could produce free enterprise, whereas Catholicism — encompassing no corresponding education toward the freedom and the self-discipline that free enterprise requires — favors instead authoritarian systems, is a notion which is without doubt still widespread, and recent history seems to bear it out in many ways. On the other hand, despite all the adjustments the market system has undergone, we can no longer view the liberal capitalistic system as the salvation of the world without reservations, as was still possible in the Kennedy era with its Peace-Corps optimism. The reproaches by the Third World may be one- sided, but they are not unfounded. And thus, first of all, the Christian denominations must examine very critically their own attitudes towards political and economic ethics.

But this cannot only be an internal debate, for such self-examination can be fruitful only if it is carried out as a dialogue with those who are Christians and are responsible for the economy. A long tradition has often led such people to consider their Christianity as their private-concern, while as members of the business community they abide by the laws of economics; these areas have come to appear mutual­ly exclusive in the modern context of the separation of the objective and subjective realms. But the whole point is precisely that they should meet, preserving their own in­tegrity and yet inseparable.

It is becoming an increasingly obvious fact of economic history that the development of economic systems that con­centrate on the common good depends on a determined ethical discipline, which can in turn be generated and sus­tained only by strong religious convictions. Conversely, it has also become obvious that the decline of such discipline can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse. An economic policy which strives not only for the good of the group — that is, toward the good of a particular state — but for the common good of the family of man requires extraor­dinary ethical discipline and extraordinary religious strength. A political structure which concentrates the in­herent laws of economics on this very purpose seems almost impossible today, despite all great humanitarian protesta­tions. It can only be realized if completely new ethical forces are released. A morality which would presume to dismiss the technical knowledge of the laws of economics would merely be moralism, quite the opposite from moral. A scien­tific approach which would claim to manage without ethics would be a misunderstanding of the reality of man, and therefore not scientific. A maximum of technical expertise is sorely needed today, but also a maximum of ethics, so that the science of economics can be applied to the right goals and so that its findings can be politically and socially realized.

For all that, I neither could nor would attempt to give answers to the problems which concern us: I lack the necessary technical competence in economics. But I have tried to outline the question which brings us here together. This is an extremely urgent matter. It is already a great suc­cess that we are talking about it. Let us hope that in this much needed encounter of ethics and economics, we will succeed in taking a step forward Which will lead to greater knowledge and more effective action, and thus ultimately to the greater peace, the greater freedom, and the greater unity of the family of mankind.

Onlookers saw a scuffle break out between the two men, according to news reports, until Mr. Harris climbed into the buoy. As the rescue team pulled him to safety, the line sagged into the unforgiving rapids a half-dozen times, soaking Mr. Harris. When he reached land, the sailor gasped for air. “Get the buoy back as quick as you can,” he told the rescue team, according to The New York Sun. “That damn fool Lofberg said he was the skipper and I’d have to come ashore first.”

Over a century ago,the 80-foot-long scow was dredging for a tugboat along the Niagara River, upstream from Niagara Falls. But when the boat ran aground on a sandbar, the steel cable connecting the two snapped, sending the scow — and its two crewmen — hurtling.

Tossed between the rapids, the scow hit a shelving rock and jolted to a stop, a mere third of a mile from the 167-foot drop of Horseshoe Falls.

The fate of the two men, James Harris and Gustav Lofberg, rested on an American and Canadian rescue team that coalesced about 650 feet from the scow on the Canadian shore.

From the roof of a powerhouse, rescuers shot a rope line to the boat from a cannon and constructed a pulley system. Then they attached a breeches buoy, or a canvas sling, to the pulley, which they hoped could carry the men ashore.

It was a risky gambit: The strain on the line from the first man to cross might have pulled the scow from its ledge and sent it plunging over the falls.

As darkness fell, and a knot in the pulley’s ropes blocked the buoy from the marooned men, the rescue team abandoned its efforts for the evening. But the rescuers erected a large electrical sign to comfort Mr. Harris and Mr. Lofberg through the night, according to news reports at the time. It read, “REST.”

The next morning, after a Canadian volunteer, William “Red” Hill Sr., braved a trip across the pulley to untangle its ropes midair, the buoy finally reached the scow.

Onlookers saw a scuffle break out between the two men, according to news reports, until Mr. Harris climbed into the buoy. As the rescue team pulled him to safety, the line sagged into the unforgiving rapids a half-dozen times, soaking Mr. Harris.

When he reached land, the sailor gasped for air.

“Get the buoy back as quick as you can,” he told the rescue team, according to The New York Sun. “That damn fool Lofberg said he was the skipper and I’d have to come ashore first.”

The team sent the buoy to Mr. Lofberg, whom they pulled to shore.

The iron scow they left behind remained lodged among the rocks, reminding residents of the feat and their ancestors’ bravery.

But if the scow dislodges from its new location, Mr. Adames warns it could wind up behind Horseshoe Falls’ base, and out of sight.

Purgatory, Prayer and Sacrifice For the Souls Therein

The essential Christian understanding of Purgatory has now become clear. Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra‑worldly concentration camp where man is forced to undergo punishment in a more or less ar­bitrary fashion. Rather is it the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people [p. 231] with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are power­less to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipi­ent of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re‑forms us to be vessels of eternal joy.[1] This insight would contradict the doctrine of grace only if pen­ance were the antithesis of grace and not its form, the gift of a gracious possibility. The identification of Purgatory with the Church’s penance in Cyprian and Clement is im­portant for drawing our attention to the fact that the root of the Christian doctrine of Purgatory is the christological grace of penance. Purgatory follows by an inner necessity from the idea of penance, the idea of the constant readi­ness for reform which marks the forgiven sinner.

One vital question still remains to be cleared up. We saw that prayer for the departed, in its many forms, be­longs with the original data of the Judaeo‑Christian tradi­tion. But does not this prayer presuppose that Purgatory entails some kind of external punishment which can, for example, be graciously remitted through vicarious accep­tance by others in a form of spiritual barter? And how can a third party enter into that most highly personal process of encounter with Christ, where the “I” is transformed in the flame of his closeness? Is not this an event which so concerns the individual that all replacement or substitu­tion must be ruled out? Is not the pious tradition of “help­ing the holy souls” based on treating these souls after the [p. 232] fashion of “having”‑whereas our reflections so far have surely led to the conclusion that the heart of the matter is “being,” for which there can be no substitute? Yet the being of man is not, in fact, that of a closed monad. It is related to others by love or hate, and, in these ways, has its colonies within them. My own being is present in others as guilt or as grace. We are not just ourselves; or, more correctly, we are ourselves only as being in others, with others and through others. Whether others curse us or bless us, forgive us and turn our guilt into love‑this is part of our own destiny. The fact that the saints will judge means that encounter with Christ is encounter with his whole body. I come face to face with my own guilt vis-à-vis the suffering members of that body as well as with the forgiving love which the body derives from Christ its Head.

The intercession of the saints with the judge is not … some purely external affair whose success is necessarily doubtful since it depends on the unpredictable benevolence of the judge. It is above all an inner weight which, placed on the scales, can bring them to sink down.[2]

This intercession is the one truly fundamental element in their “judging.” Through their exercising of such judg­ment they belong, as people who both pray and save, to the doctrine of Purgatory and to the Christian practice which goes with it. As Charles Peguy so beautifully put it, “J’es­pere en toi pour moi”: ”I hope in you for me.”[3] It is when the “I” is at stake that the “you” is called upon in the form of hope.

This second line of reflection is actually even more important than the first which, to remind the reader, turns on the relation between Purgatory and the Church’s penitential practice. Even more important because self – substituting love is a central Christian reality, and the [p. 233] doctrine of Purgatory states that for such love the limit of death does not exist. The possibility of helping and giving does not cease to exist on the death of the Christian. Rather does it stretch out to encompass the entire com­munion of saints, on both sides of death’s portals. The ca­pacity, and the duty, to love beyond the grave might even be called the true primordial datum in this whole area of tradition‑as a Maccabees 112, 42 ‑ 45 first makes clear.[4] Furthermore, this original “given” has never been in dis­pute as between East and West. It was the Reformation which called it into question, and that in the face of what were in part objectionable and deformed practices. Here, then, is where the ecumenical way ahead in this matter lies, at least as between Orthodox and Catholics. What is primary is the praxis of being able to pray, and being called upon to pray. The objective correlate of this praxis in the world to come need not, in some reunification of the churches, be determined of necessity in a strictly unitary fashion, even though the content and rationale of the Western teaching is anchored, as we have shown, in an­cient tradition and central motifs of faith.


[1] H.U.von Balthasar,”Eschatologieim Umriss,”in Pneuma und Institution. Skizzen zur Theologie IV (Einsiedeln 1974/, 1443‑

[2] Ibid. p. 441.

[3] Cited in P. Engelhardt, “Hoffnung II. Überlieferung,” LThK V,1422.

[4] Perhaps this is already clear, indeed, in Sirach 7, 33.

Meditation on the Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell for the Month of Novemberm – Written in 2005.

(The Loss of the experience of the self produces a stench from under the floorboards)

On the morning of the Conclave, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger announces the “dictatorship of relativism,” The pagan gods which arose within the epistemology of objects, i.e., within the sensible cosmos, were extirpated by the experience of God in Jesus Christ as Absolute (“You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Matt. 5, 48]) that took place within the epistemology of subjects.[1] Christian faith that is the gift of self to the God Who is the Gift of Self in the Person of Jesus Christ is an experience of self given in free action, not through sensation. It is an experience of reality in an essentially different way than through experience in sensation. The gods of all time have been posited as the highest and most in the cosmos of sensation. The God of Jesus Christ is experienced as “I AM.”

Now, since the Enlightenment, we have progressively lost the experience of Jesus Christ as Person, we have neither God nor gods. Thus a remark by C.S. Lewis in which he expressed nostalgia for paganism as he/we confront a looming nihilism in which there is no truth. Absent the experience of God, there are no absolutes: except what looms before us, Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell: in the form of fear, guilt, yearning for ecstasy and loneliness-sadness-depression. Cardinal Ratzinger made the same observation in an interview in 1992:[2]

Ratzinger on the Catechism of the Catholic Church Re-proposing the Faith in the Face of Nihilism:[3]

 “Why publish a `universal catechism’ in 1992? Were previous catechisms inadequate?

Ratzinger: “The reason is that today we are in a situation exactly like that at the time of the council of Trent, which, held in the middle of the 16th century, marked the dawn of modern times.

        “Now we are close to the end of a millennium and in an entirely new historical period, indicated by schemas of thought, science, technology, culture and civilization, breaking completely with all that we knew previously.

        “This is why it was necessary to reformulate the logic and the sum total of the Christian faith. This is the fruit of a reflection, over some years, by the universal Church to rethink, re-articulate and bring up-to-date her doctrine.”

      “You are, like the Pope, extremely worried by the crisis of faith in modern society. And the new situation in Europe only aggravates the diagnosis since in your last work on Europe you go as far as to say that nihilism is rapidly taking the place of Marxism. How do you analyze this divorce between faith and modernity?

Ratzinger: “It is explained by the encroachment of relativism and subjectivism, an inevitable consequence of a world overwhelmed by the alleged certainties of natural or applied science. Only what can be tested and proved appears as rational. [Sensible] Experience has become the only criterion guaranteeing truth. Anything that cannot be subjected to mathematical or experimental verification is regarded as irrational.

        “This restriction of reason has the result that we are left in almost total darkness regarding some essential dimensions of life. The meaning of man, the bases of ethics, the question of God cannot be subjected to rational experience, verified by mathematical formulae. And so they are left to subjective sensibility alone. This is serious because if, in a society, the bases of ethical behavior are abandoned to subjectivity alone, released from common motives for being and living, handed over to pragmatism, then it is man himself who is threatened.

        The great ideologies have been able to give a certain ethical foundation to society. But today, Marxism is crumbling and liberal ideology is so split into fragments that it no longer has a common, solid, coherent view of man and his future. In the present situation of emptiness, there looms the terrible danger of nihilism, that is to say, the denial or absence of all fundamental moral reference for the conduct of social life. This danger becomes visible in the new forms of terrorism.”

      That is to say…

Ratzinger: “Even though perverted, the political, social terrorism of the 1960’s had a certain kind of moral ideal. But today, the terrorism of drug abuse, of the Mafia, of attacks on foreigners, in Germany and elsewhere, no longer has any moral basis. In this era of sovereign subjectivity, people act for the sole pleasure of acting, without any reference other than the satisfaction of `myself.’

        “Just as the terrorism that was born from the Marxism of yesterday put its finger on the anomalies of our social order, in the same way the nihilistic terrorism of today ought to show us the course to be followed for a reflection on the bases of a new ethical and collective reason”

…Are you not tempted, in this period of ideological emptiness, by a sort of Christian reconquest?

Ratzinger: “No, in the dialogue that I wish with all political and intellectual forces in order to define this minimum ethic, the Catholic Church is not seeking to impose a new kind of respublica Christiana. It would be absurd to want to go back, to return to a system of political Christendom. But it is true that we feel a responsibility in this world, and we desire to make our contribution as Catholics. We do not wish to impose Catholicism on the West, but we do want the fundamental view of Christianity and the liberal values dominant in today’s world to be able to meet and make one another mutually fruitful.”

  1. November is the month to consider the last things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell. They are not preached because they are presumed to be beyond our experience. Nevertheless, the massive experiences in society are fear (of death), guilt (in judgment), ecstasy in drugs, pornography and the orgasmic (Heaven), and sadness and depression (Hell). The absolutes of the future are present now, making them.
  2. Yet, confessions are rare and tend to be trivial. They register interior events: anger, negativity, impatience, jealousy, victimization by others, unforgiving, defensiveness, distraction, etc., etc. The cause: amnesia of the self. Original and personal sins turn the self back on itself. There is no experience of self-transcendence.
  3. Jesus Christ is the revelation not only who God is, but who man is. The encounter with Christ by the Samaritan woman (John, chapter 4) and by Zacchaeus (Luke, chapter 19) are definitive.

Both the Samaritan woman and Zacchaeus must experience the personal entry of Christ into their lives. So do you.

            S. Woman: water as object. Desires water that is forever (discloses desire for Heaven). Christ changes the horizon of discourse: “Bring me your husband.” She reveals the waywardness of her personal existence: “I have no husband.” Christ reveals that she has had five. She moves to the transcendence of religion: “Sir I see that thou are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you say…” (Jn. 4, 20). She then says, “I know that Messias is coming (who is called Christ), and when he comes he will tell us all things. Jesus said to her, `I who speak with thee am he.’” (Ibid. 4, 26).

            Zacchaeus: self-accusing of fraud and exorbitant interest, Christ calls him down from the tree wants to enter into his house (his persona). (See JPII, Holy Thursday, 2002, Letter to Priests, #6 -7). Conversion takes place: “Half of my goods to the poor,” “If I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Lk. 19,  8-9).

5)   The Sacrament of Penance: Encounter with Christ in the priest. You need to tell the truth about the self. Conversion. The key: Go to the causes that are absolutes under the event perceived as trivial. The talk by Msgr. Jim Mulligan, Washington, D.C: a) You can’t do it alone; b) it is not a work of will power but of grace and your correspondence. After the initial conversion, regular subsequent confession sustains it.


[1] For a presentation of this notion, see David B. Hart’s “Christ and Nothing,”  First Things 136 (October 2003): 47-57. I do not share the conclusion of the author, which is negative.

[2] “And Marxism Gave Birth to… NIHILISM,”Henri Tinq: Catholic World Report January 1993, 52-55:

[3] “At that time, I sent a small wok of mine to Hans Urs von Balthasar, who, as always, immediately thanked me with a post card and with his thanks added a pregnant phrase which I have never forgotten: `Don’t `presuppose,’ but `pro-pose’ the faith.’ It was an imperative that struck me…. The faith does not have permanence in and of itself. One can never simply presuppose it as something already concluded in itself. It must be continually re-lived. And as it is an act, an act that embraces every dimension of our existence, it must always be thought through anew and always borne witness to anew.’” in “What Does the Church Believe?” Catholic World Report  March 1993, 26.

The Catholic Church As Unique Source of Sanctity

 In Mediaeval Latin, things “exist;” only persons “subsist.” Hence, the means of sanctitication – “things” – can be found outside the Catholic Church, but the “I” of Christ can only be found as “I” inside the Catholic Church

Given the extensive confusion today over the truth of the Church, I think it is valuable to understand precisely what has been written as authoritative interpretation of the Church as the unique source of holiness (“Subsistit”) and how there are elements of sanctity and sanctification outside the Church

‘Subsistit In’: Church of Christ ‘Subsists In’ Catholic Church: Ecclesiology Of The Constitution On The Church, Vatican II, ‘Lumen Gentium’, The Ecclesiology Of The Constitution On The Church, Vatican II, ‘Lumen Gentium’

By Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

June 28, 1992

Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

(…)

“At this point I would like to interrupt my analysis of the concept of communio and at least briefly take a stance regarding the most disputed point of Lumen gentium: the meaning of the disputed sentence of Lumen gentium, n. 8, which teaches that the unique Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, “subsists” in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. In 1985 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was forced to adopt a position with regard to this text, because of a book by Leonardo Boff in which he supported the idea that the one Church of Christ as she subsists in the Roman Catholic Church could also subsist in other Christian Churches. It is superfluous to say that the statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was met with stinging criticism and then later put aside.

In the attempt to reflect on where we stand today in the reception of the Council’s ecclesiology, the question of the interpretation of the subsistit is inevitable, and on this subject the post-conciliar Magisterium’s single official pronouncement, that is, the Notification I just mentioned, cannot be ignored. Looking back from the perspective of 15 years, it emerges more clearly that it was not so much the question of a single theological author, but of a vision of the Church that was put forward in a variety of ways and which is still current today. The clarification of 1985 presented the context of Boff’s thesis at great length. We do not need to examine these details further, because we have something more fundamental at heart. The thesis, which at the time had Boff as its proponent, could be described as ecclesiological relevatism. It finds its justification in the theory that the “historical Jesus” would not as such have conceived the idea of a Church, nor much less have founded one. The Church, as a historical reality, would have only come into existence after the resurrection, on account of the loss of the eschatological tension towards the immediate coming of the kingdom, caused in its turn by the inevitable sociological needs of institutionalization. In the beginning, a universal Catholic Church would certainly not have existed, but only different local Churches with different theologies, different ministers, etc. No institutional Church could, therefore, say that she was that one Church of Jesus Christ desired by God himself; all institutional forms thus stem from sociological needs and as such are human constructions which can and even must be radically changed again in new situations. In their theological quality they are only different in a very secondary way, so one might say that in all of them or at least in many, the “one Church of Christ” subsists; with regard to this hypothesis the question naturally arises: in this vision, what right does one have to speak at all of the one Church of Christ?

Instead, Catholic tradition has chosen another starting point: it puts its confidence in the Evangelists and believes in them. It is obvious then that Jesus who proclaimed the kingdom of God would gather disciples around him for its realization; he not only gave them his Word as a new interpretation of the Old Testament, but in the sacrament of the Last Supper he gave them the gift of a new unifying centre, through which all who profess to be Christians can become one with him in a totally new way, so that Paul could designate this communion as being one body with Christ, as the unity of one body in the Spirit. It then becomes obvious that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not a vague announcement but brought about the reality of Pentecost, hence the fact that the Church was not conceived of and established by men, but created by means of the Holy Spirit, whose creation she is and continues to be.

As a result, however, the institution and the Spirit have a very different relationship in the Church than that which the trends of thought I just mentioned would like to suggest to us. The institution is not merely a structure that can be changed or demolished at will, which would have nothing to do with the reality of faith as such. This form of bodiliness [body of Christ] belongs to the Church herself. Christ’s Church is not hidden invisibly behind the manifold human configurations, but really exists, as a true and proper Church, which is manifest in the profession of faith, in the sacraments and in apostolic succession.

The Second Vatican Council, with the formula of the subsistit — in accord with Catholic tradition — wanted to teach the exact opposite of “ecclesiological relativism”: the Church of Jesus Christ truly exists. He himself willed her, and the Holy Spirit has continuously created her since Pentecost, in spite of being faced with every human failing, and sustains her in her essential identity. The institution is not an inevitable but theologically unimportant or even harmful externalization, but belongs in its essential core to the concrete character of the Incarnation. The Lord keeps his word: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her”.

Council: ‘Subsistit In’ Explains Church As Concrete Subject

At this point it becomes necessary to investigate the word subsistit somewhat more carefully. With this expression, the Council differs from the formula of Pius XII, who said in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi: “The Catholic Church “is” (est) the one mystical body of Christ”. The difference between subsistit and est conceals within itself the whole ecumenical problem. The word subsistit derives from the ancient philosophy as later developed in Scholastic philosophy. The Greek word hypostasis that has a central role in Christology to describe the union of the divine and the human nature in the Person of Christ comes from that vision. Subsistere is a special case of esse. It is being in the form of a subject who has an autonomous existence. Here it is a question precisely of this. The Council wants to tell us that the Church of Jesus Christ as a concrete subject in this world can be found in the Catholic Church. This can take place only once, and the idea that the subsistit could be multiplied fails to grasp precisely the notion that is being intended. With the word subsistit, the Council wished to explain the unicity of the Catholic Church and the fact of her inability to be multiplied: the Church exists as a subject in historical reality.

The difference between subsistit and est however contains the tragedy of ecclesial division. Although the Church is only one and “subsists” in a unique subject, there are also ecclesial realities beyond this subject — true local Churches and different ecclesial communities. Because sin is a contradiction, this difference between subsistit and est cannot be fully resolved from the logical viewpoint. The paradox of the difference between the unique and concrete character of the Church, on the one hand, and, on the other, the existence of an ecclesial reality beyond the one subject, reflects the contradictory nature of human sin and division. This division is something totally different from the relativistic dialectic described above in which the division of Christians loses its painful aspect and in fact is not a rupture, but only the manifestation of multiple variations on a single theme, in which all the variations are in a certain way right and wrong. An intrinsic need to seek unity does not then exist, because in any event the one Church really is everywhere and nowhere. Thus Christianity would actually exist only in the dialectic correlation of various antitheses. Ecumenism consists in the fact that in some way all recognize one another, because all are supposed to be only fragments of Christian reality. Ecumenism would therefore be the resignation to a relativistic dialectic, because the Jesus of history belongs to the past and the truth in any case remains hidden.

The vision of the Council is quite different: the fact that in the Catholic Church is present the subsistit of the one subject the Church, is not at all the merit of Catholics, but is solely God’s work, which he makes endure despite the continuous unworthiness of the human subjects. They cannot boast of anything, but can only admire the fidelity of God, with shame for their sins and at the same time great thanks. But the effect of their own sins can be seen: the whole world sees the spectacle of the divided and opposing Christian communities, reciprocally making their own claims to truth and thus clearly frustrating the prayer of Christ on the eve of his Passion. Whereas division as a historical reality can be perceived by each person, the subsistence of the one Church in the concrete form of the Catholic Church can be seen as such only through faith.

Since the Second Vatican Council was conscious of this paradox, it proclaimed the duty of ecumenism as a search for true unity, and entrusted it to the Church of the future.

Conclusion: Call To Holiness

I come to my conclusion. Anyone who desires to understand the approach of the Council’s ecclesiology cannot ignore chapters 4-7 of the Constitution, which speak of the laity, the universal call to holiness, religious, and the eschatological orientation of the Church. In these chapters the intrinsic purpose once again comes to the fore: that is, all that is most essential to her existence: it is a question of holiness, of conformity to God, that there be room in the world for God, that he dwell in it and thus that the world become his “kingdom”. Holiness is something more than a moral quality. It is the dwelling of God with men, and of men with God, God’s “tent” among us and in our midst (Jn 1,14). It is the new birth — not of flesh and blood, but of God (Jn 1, 13). The movement toward holiness is identical with the eschatological movement and indeed, from the standpoint of Jesus’ message, is now fundamental to the Church. The Church exists so that she may become God’s dwelling place in the world and thus be “holiness”: it is this for which one should compete in the Church — not for a given rank in rights of precedence, or for occupying the first places. All this is taken up and formed into a synthesis in the last chapter of the Constitution, which presents Mary, the Mother of the Lord.

Marian Vision

At first sight the insertion of Mariology in ecclesiology, which the Council decided upon, could seem somewhat accidental. In fact it is true, from the historical viewpoint that a rather small majority of the Fathers voted for the inclusion of Mariology. But from the inner logic of their vote, their decision corresponds perfectly to the movement of the whole Constitution: only if this correlation is grasped, can one correctly grasp the image of the Church, which the Council wished to portray.”

“You Are Peter and on this Rock, I Will Build My Church” (Mt. 16, 16): The Authority of the Pope: Lumen Gentium #25

25. Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place.(39*) For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old,(164) making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock.(165) Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.(40*) This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.(41*)

And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith,(166) by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals.(42*) And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.(43*) The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith.(44*)

But when either the Roman Pontiff or the Body of Bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with Revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with, that is, the Revelation which as written or orally handed down is transmitted in its entirety through the legitimate succession of bishops and especially in care of the Roman Pontiff himself, and which under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church.(45*) The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, in view of their office and the importance of the matter, by fitting means diligently strive to inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents;(46*) but a new public revelation they do not accept as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.(47*)

Article on the Primacy of Persons in Relation

The Age of Miracles and Misery Machines

OCTOBER 29, 2019BY NATHANAEL BLAKEWe have more material comforts than kings and merchant princes of old, and technological progress has wrought what would once be considered miracles. Yet our culture makes every effort to promote dissatisfaction, for there is money to be made when people are unhappy or bored with what they have. In an age of miracles, our phones are becoming misery machines.

You can’t win it all in the genetic lottery—or, at least, I didn’t. I won some, such as being six feet tall with a full head of hair, and I lost some, such as having cataracts develop in my early thirties. Thanks, Mom.

In any other time or place, this would have meant declining vision and even early blindness, but we live in an age of medical marvels. Not only can cataracts be removed, but my clouded natural lenses can also be replaced with customized synthetic lenses, thereby improving my eyesight. I have already had one eye operated on, and I am looking forward to the next operation. I was going blind, but now I see.

From a historical perspective, this technological triumph seems miraculous. Yet it is only one small example of the blessings of the modern world. The American middle class, and even many of the poor, have more material comforts than kings and merchant princes of old. We have abundant and varied food, indoor plumbing and hot water with the twist of a knob, light with the flick of a switch, warm or cool air on demand, rapid and comfortable transportation, and books, music, and other entertainment in endless digital profusion. But the astounding has become normal. Our expectations have adjusted, and we are more inclined to be angry when our everyday miracles fail than to be grateful for their usual efficacy. Wonder at the convenience of a car is dwarfed by anger at traffic, or frustration at mechanical troubles.

The amazing becoming ordinary is part of why, in this time of unprecedented prosperity and technological prowess, many people are unhappy and angry enough to want to burn society down. But ignorance of, and ingratitude for, how materially good we have it cannot bear all the blame. The economic system and technological progress that have driven our prosperity have also produced many profiteers of unhappiness and machines of misery.

Our economic culture makes every effort to promote dissatisfaction, for there is money to be made when people are unhappy or bored with what they have.

Our economic culture makes every effort to promote dissatisfaction, for there is money to be made when people are unhappy or bored with what they have. Advertising aims to inflame desire, which already tends to expand beyond our means. But advertising not only sells stuff and services; it also markets status and significance. Commercials use images to incite our vanity and envy, hoping that this will induce us to try to buy the identities we aspire to. The advertising often works; the purchase of identity does not. A good S`cotch, or a good suit, or whatever else takes one’s fancy, is a nice thing, but consumption is a hollow source of identity.

The finer things in life are pleasant to have, but they are still things, and they cannot satisfy our relational needs. It is in relationships that we can find happiness. Yet many of the factors that have made us rich are degrading our ability to develop and sustain fulfilling relationships.

There are pockets of real material deprivation in America, but the dramatic increase in deaths of despair from suicide, drugs, and alcohol is not a tale of poverty alone. It is about the loss of respect, community, family stability, and hope. These losses result both from the structure of our economy and from the technological developments that it encourages and depends upon.

The globalized, high-tech economy generates enough excess wealth to provide for the basic material needs of those Americans whom it leaves behind. But the dynamism that creates this abundance is unstable: it erodes job security, encourages mobility, and sometimes economically devastates entire regions. The economic stability that encourages family formation and provides a foundation for community is thus sacrificed in exchange for a higher GDP. Shamefully, some conservatives who are eloquent about the importance of predictable tax and regulatory regimes for businesses are silent when it comes to the necessity of stability for families and communities.

It is not that living a life integrated within family and community is easy—often it is not. Rather, regardless of its difficulty, such a life is essential to human flourishing. Unfortunately, our political and social discussions tend to focus on prosperity and technological proficiency while overlooking relational well-being.

Those with political and cultural power tend to ignore the needs of families and communities outside their own class. Thus, the federal government’s moving a few hundred jobs from DC to Kansas City has been extensively covered—see for instance, this long, sympathetic piece in the Washington Post. The travails of some families and communities merit more attention than others. A transgender federal employee taking early retirement rather than moving to Kansas City is a story of economic displacement that elite media want to tell. Reporters and editors are less concerned with the fates of those in logging towns in Oregon, mining towns in West Virginia, or factory towns all over the country.

We should not romanticize such places, but neither should we cheer their destruction for the cause of greater economic efficiency, offering them only the gospel of U-Haul (from the Right) and government handouts (from the Left). Efficient markets are not the only, or even the primary, human good, and the pursuit of maximal economic efficiency is harmful to full human flourishing. With our national wealth, we can afford to consider what a humane, family-friendly economy might require, rather than to accept familial and community breakdown as the price of riches.

Similarly, technological development ought to serve the common good. Our modern technology can accomplish deeds that were once in the province of the miraculous, such as preserving and restoring sight. But what is there to see?—family and friends, or Netflix and internet porn? The internet is a technological marvel, but it often encourages and enables base impulses, and thereby destroys human relationships and human goods.

Our modern technology can accomplish deeds that were once the province of the miraculous, such as preserving and restoring sight. But what is there to see: family and friends, or Netflix and internet porn?

Some problems are obviously dystopian, such as our increasing capability to create realistic fake porn, and the extent to which the internet is driven by bot traffic. People are getting plastic surgery to look more like their own filtered selfies. Tech giants have enormous power to suppress opinions they dislike, and they monitor our every online move in order to influence us. But technological dangers extend well beyond overt cases of abuse. As the digital world becomes integrated into the rest of our lives, Big Tech gains the power to direct how we see the world and ourselves, often without our notice. My cohort was among the last to make it through our teenage years before social media were ubiquitous, and I find the thought of junior high with social media horrifying. Our digital overlords know the dangers that the world they create for us holds, and they seek to preserve their own families from what they sell to the rest of us.

Our phones and other digital devices are becoming misery machines. It is possible to use our devices, apps, and social media responsibly, and many people do. But because of the financial incentives to themselves, companies encourage us to use technology irresponsibly. Facebook earns less from infrequent users who only log in for short times. It is much more profitable to be an ever-present digital community, assistant, news feed, photo album, and more. Big Tech is incentivized to encourage addiction, and to overlay the digital world onto reality. Thus, when relationships are not displaced by digital entertainment they are often subsumed by the simulacra of social media.

Social media offer connection, but also pervert it, encouraging both oversharing and the increased curation of one’s public image. Slight acquaintances, and even strangers, are given access to personal details; but everyone, including close friends and family, is presented with a cultivated digital façade. Interactions on social media mimic the relational connections that we crave, and digital society can provide us with easy affirmation and validation. Social media are the junk food of human interactions. Yet these narcissistic payoffs are offered in an exceptionally insecure form. The exponential expansion of connections exposes users to the caprice, comparisons, and indifference of the whole world. Online approval is ephemeral, but online hate endures. Likes fade and shares are forgotten, but screenshots endure forever.

Online approval is ephemeral, but online hate endures. Likes fade and shares are forgotten, but screenshots endure forever.

Thankfully, not everyone is subjected to the worst of online vendettas and mobs. However, social media are harmful even without those excesses. Not only is the business of social media to deliver eyeballs to advertisers—who often stoke our avarice, envy, and insecurity—but the environment of social media turbocharges the envy, insecurity, and status-seeking that always threaten healthy relationships and communities. All too many of us know people whose social media habits or internet addictions have catalyzed the destruction of relationships and families.

And it never ends. The internet never sleeps. There is always more content to consume, or to create, or to rage about. There are always more interactions and clicks to pursue, and more likes and retweets to give and receive. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, a chasing after the wind.

From children to the president, we would be better off if we logged off and spent more time with others in physical community, fellowship, and service. As a culture and polity, we should reflect on how our technological tools may be impeding human flourishing, and how we ought to respond. As citizens of the modern West, we have won the historical lottery in many ways, with unprecedented wealth, freedom, and technology. Yet we still struggle to be happy.

There is no national program for happiness to implement. But an emphasis on preserving and protecting family and community, even if it somewhat impedes economic efficiency, would be salutary. We ought also to be skeptical of the autonomous development and deployment of technology, especially what substitutes for authentic human relationships. We are rich and can give sight to the blind, but without love, it is nothing.

About the Author

NATHANAEL BLAKE

Nathanael Blake has a PhD in political theory and is a senior contributor to The Federalist. He lives in Missouri.he Age of Miracles and Misery Machines

Note on the Sacramental Seal

NOTE OF THE APOSTOLIC PENITENTIARY
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INTERNAL FORUM
AND THE INVIOLABILITY OF THE SACRAMENTAL SEAL

“By His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man”;[1] with his gestures and his words, he illuminated his highest and inviolable dignity; in himself, dead and risen, he restored fallen humanity, overcoming the darkness of sin and death; to those who believe in him he opened the relationship with his Father; with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he consecrated the Church, a community of believers, as his true body and participated in his own prophetic, royal and priestly power, so that he would be in the world as the extension of his own presence and mission, announcing to men of all times the truth, guiding them to the splendour of its light, allowing their life to be truly touched and transfigured………….

Given in Rome, from the seat of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 29 June, Year of the Lord 2019, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

1. Sacramental seal

Recently, speaking of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Father Francis wished to reaffirm the indispensability and the inaccessibility of the sacramental seal: “Reconciliation itself is a benefit that the wisdom of the Church has always safeguarded with all her moral and legal might, with the sacramental seal. Although it is not always understood by the modern mentality, it is indispensable for the sanctity of the sacrament and for the freedom of the conscience of the penitent, who must be certain, at any time, that the sacramental conversation will remain within the secrecy of the confessional, between one’s own conscience that opens to grace, and God, with the necessary mediation of the priest. The sacramental seal is indispensable and no human power has jurisdiction over it, nor lay any claim to it”.[3]

The inviolable secrecy of Confession comes directly from the revealed divine right and is rooted in the very nature of the Sacrament, to the point of not admitting any exception in the ecclesial sphere, nor, least of all, in the civil one. Indeed, it is as if the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation contained the very essence of Christianity and of the Church: the Son of God became man to save us and decided to involve the Church as a “necessary instrument”, and in her, those whom he chose, called and constituted as his ministers.

In order to express this truth, the Church has always taught that priests, in the celebration of the Sacraments, act “in persona Christi capitis”, that is, in the very person of Christ the Head: “Christ allows us to use his ‘I’, we speak in the ‘I’ of Christ, Christ is ‘drawing us into himself’ and allows us to be united. He unites us to his ‘I’. […] It is this union with his ‘I’ which is realized in the words of the consecration. Also in the ‘I absolve you’ because none of us could absolve from sins — it is the ‘I’ of Christ, of God, who alone can absolve”.[4]

Every penitent who humbly goes to the priest to confess his sins or her bears witness to the great mystery of the Incarnation and the supernatural essence of the Church and of the ministerial priesthood, through which the Risen Christ comes to meet men, sacramentally — that is, really — touches their life and saves them. For this reason, the defence of the sacramental seal by the confessor, if necessary usque ad sanguinis effusionem, represents not only an act of dutiful “allegiance” towards the penitent, but much more: a necessary testimony — a “martyrdom” — rendered directly to the uniqueness and salvific universality of Christ and the Church.[5]

The matter of the seal is currently expounded and regulated by cann. 983-984 and 1388, §1 of the cic, and can. 1456 of the cceo, as well as n. 1467 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where significantly, we read that the Church “establishes”, by virtue of her own authority, rather than that she “declares” — that is, recognizes as an irreducible datum, which derives precisely from the sanctity of the sacrament instituted by Christ — “that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him”.

The confessor is never allowed, for any reason whatsoever, “to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner” (cic can. 983, §1), just as “a confessor is prohibited completely from using knowledge acquired from confession to the detriment of the penitent even when any danger of revelation is excluded” (cic can. 984, §1). The doctrine also helped to further specify the content of the sacramental seal, which includes “all the sins of both the penitent and others known from the penitent’s confession, both mortal and venial, both occult and public, as manifested with regard to absolution and therefore known to the confessor by virtue of sacramental knowledge”.[6] The sacramental seal, therefore, concerns everything the penitent has admitted, even in the event that the confessor does not grant absolution: if the confession is invalid or for some reason the absolution is not given, the seal must be maintained in any case.

The priest, in fact, becomes aware of the sins of the penitent “non ut homo, sed ut Deus — not as man, but as God”,[7] to such an extent that he simply “does not know” what he was told during confession, because he did not listen to him as a man but, precisely, in the name of God. The confessor could therefore also “swear”, without any prejudice to his conscience, to “not know” what he knows only as a minister of God. Because of its peculiar nature, the sacramental seal manages to bind the confessor also “interiorly”, to the point that he is forbidden to remember voluntarily the confession and he is obliged to suppress any involuntary recollection of it. The secrecy deriving from the seal also binds those who, in any way, have become aware of the sins during confession: “The interpreter, if there is one, and all others who in any way have knowledge of sins from confession are also obliged to observe secrecy” (cic can. 983, §2).

The absolute prohibition imposed by the sacramental seal is such as to prevent the priest from speaking of the content of the confession to the penitent himself, outside of the sacrament, without the “explicit (and all the more so if not requested) permission” of the penitent.[8] The seal therefore lies beyond the reach of the volition of the penitent who, once the sacrament has been celebrated, does not have the power to relieve the confessor of the obligation to secrecy, because this duty comes directly from God.

Defence of the sacramental seal and the sanctity of Confession can never constitute any form of connivance with . On the contrary they represent the only true antidote to the evil that threatens man and the whole world; they constitute the real possibility of surrendering to the love of God, of allowing oneself to be converted and transformed by this love, learning to correspond to it concretely in one’s life. In the presence of sins that involve criminal offenses, it is never permissible, as a condition for absolution, to place on the penitent the obligation to turn himself in to civil justice, by virtue of the natural principle, incorporated in every system, according to which “nemo tenetur se detegere”. At the same time, however, belonging to the very “structure” of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as a condition for its validity, is sincere repentance, together with the firm intention to reform and not repeat the evil committed. Should there be a penitent who has been a victim of the evil of others, it will be the concern of the confessor to instruct him regarding his rights as well as about the practical juridical instruments to refer to in order to report the fact in a civil and/or ecclesiastical forum to invoke justice.

Any political action or legislative initiative aimed at “breaching” the inviolability of the sacramental seal would constitute an unacceptable offense against libertas Ecclesiae, which does not receive its legitimacy from individual States, but from God; it would also constitute a violation of religious freedom, legally fundamental to all other freedoms, including the freedom of conscience of individual citizens, both penitents and confessors. Breaking the seal would be tantamount to violating the wretched man within the sinner.

2. Internal extra-sacramental forum and spiritual direction

The juridical-moral sphere of the internal forum also includes the so-called “extra-sacramental internal forum”, always concealed but external to the Sacrament of Penance. In it too the Church exercises her mission and saving authority: not by forgiving sins, but by giving graces, breaking juridical constraints (such as censures) and caring for all that concerns the sanctification of souls and, therefore, the proper, intimate and personal sphere of each believer.

In a particular way, the spiritual direction in which the individual faithful entrusts his own path of conversion and sanctification to a specific priest, consecrated or lay person belongs to the internal extra-sacramental forum.

The priest exercises this ministry by virtue of his mission to represent Christ, conferred upon him by the Sacrament of Orders and exercised in the hierarchical communion of the Church, through the so-called tria munera: the task of teaching, sanctifying and governing the laity by virtue of the baptismal priesthood and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the spiritual direction, the believer freely reveals his conscience’s secret to the spiritual director/guide, in order to be oriented and supported in listening and in fulfilling the will of God.

Thus, this particular area also demands a certain secrecy ad extra, inherent to the content of spiritual colloquies and deriving from each person’s right to the respect of his or her own privacy (cf. cic can. 220). Although in a merely “analogous” way to what happens in the Sacrament of Confession, the spiritual director becomes aware of the individual believer’s conscience by virtue of his “special” relationship with Christ, which derives from holiness of life and — if a cleric — from the received sacred order itself.

As evidence of the special confidentiality accorded to spiritual direction, consider the proscription, sanctioned by law, against asking not only the opinion of the confessor, but also that of the spiritual director, on the occasion of admission to sacred Orders or, vice versa, for the dismissal of candidates to the priesthood from the seminary (cf. cic can. 240, §2; cceo can. 339, §2 ). In the same way, the 2007 Sanctorum Mater instruction, concerning the carrying out of diocesan or eparchial inquiries in the Causes of Saints, forbids the admission of testimony not only of confessors, in defence of the sacramental seal, but also that of the Servant of God’s spiritual directors, as well as all they learned in the forum of conscience, outside sacramental confession.[9]

This necessary confidentiality will be all the more “natural” for the spiritual director, the more he learns to recognize and “be moved” before the mystery of the freedom of the faithful who, through him, turn to Christ; the spiritual director must understand his own mission and his own life exclusively before God, in the service of His glory, for the good of the person, of the Church and for the salvation of the whole world.

3. Secrets and other limits inherent to communication

Different in nature from the internal sacramental and extra-sacramental forum, are the confidences shared under the seal of secrecy, as well as the so-called “professional secrets” belonging to certain types of people, both in civil society and in the ecclesial structure as a whole, by virtue of a special office that they carry out for individuals or for the community.

Such secrets, by virtue of natural law, must always be preserved “save” — the Catechism of the Catholic Church states at n. 2491 — “in exceptional cases where keeping the secret is bound to cause very great harm to the one who confided it, to the one who received it or to a third party, and where the very grave harm can be avoided only by divulging the truth”.

A special case of secrecy is that of the “pontifical secret”, which is binding by virtue of the oath connected to the exercise of certain offices in the service of the Apostolic See. If the oath of secrecy always binds coram Deo the one who issued it, the oath connected to the “pontifical secret” has as its ultimate ratio the public good of the Church and the salus animarum. It presupposes that this good is the very requirement of the salus animarum, thus including the use of information that does not fall under the seal, can and must be correctly interpreted by the Apostolic See alone, in the person of the Roman Pontiff, whom Christ the Lord constituted and placed as the visible principle and foundation of the unity of faith and of the communion of the whole Church.[10]

With regard to the other areas of communication, both public and private, in all its forms and expressions, Church wisdom has always indicated as a fundamental criterion the “golden rule” pronounced by the Lord and contained in the Gospel of Luke: “as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Lk 6:31). In this way, in the communication of truth as in the silence that pertains to it, when one who seeks it does not have the right to know it, one must always conform one’s life to the precept of fraternal love, keeping before one’s eyes the good and safety of others, respect for private life and the common good.[11]

As a particular duty of communicating the truth, dictated by fraternal charity, one cannot fail to mention the “fraternal correction”, in its various degrees, taught by the Lord. It remains the horizon of reference, where necessary and according to what the concrete circumstances allow and require: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnessesIf he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church” (Mt 18:15-17).

In a time of the “massification” of communication, in which all information is “frittered away” and with it, unfortunately, also a part of people’s lives, it is necessary to re-learn the power of speech, its constructive power, but also its destructive potential; we must be vigilant so that the sacramental seal is never violated by anyone, and the necessary confidentiality connected to the exercise of the ecclesial ministry is always jealously guarded, having as its sole horizon truth and the integral good of persons.

Let us invoke from the Holy Spirit, for the whole Church, an ardent love for truth in every area and circumstance of life; the ability to preserve it in its entirety in the proclamation of the Gospel to every being, openness to martyrdom in order to defend the inviolability of the sacramental seal, as well as the prudence and wisdom necessary to avoid any instrumental and erroneous use of that information proper to private, social and ecclesial life, which can turn into an offense against the dignity of the person and the Truth itself, which is always Christ, Lord and Head of the Church.

In the careful safekeeping of the sacramental seal and the necessary discretion linked to the internal extra-sacramental forum and to the other acts of ministry shines a particular synthesis of the Petrine and Marian dimensions in the Church.

With Peter, the Bride of Christ guards, until the end of history, the institutional ministry of the “power of the keys”; like Mary Most Holy, the Church keeps “all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51b), knowing that in them the light that illuminates every man is reverberated and that, in the sacred space between personal conscience and God, it must be preserved, defended and safeguarded.

The Supreme Pontiff Francis, on 21 June 2019, approved the present Note, and ordered its publication.

Card. Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary
Mons. Krzysztof Nykiel, Regent


[1] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Contemporary World Gaudium et Spes (7 December 1965), n. 22.

[2] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi (30 November, 2007), n. 22.

[3] Francis, Address to the participants in the xxx Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary (29 March, 2019).

[4] Benedict XVIColloquium with the priests (10 June 2010).

[5] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus on the uniqueness and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church (6 August 2000).

[6] V. De Paolis – D. Cito, Le sanzioni nella Chiesa. Commento al Codice di Diritto Canonico. Libro VI, Vatican City, Urbaniana University Press, 2000, p. 345.

[7] Thomas Aquinas, Summa TheologiaeSuppl., 11, 1, ad 2.

[8] John Paul IIAddress to the Apostolic Penitentiary, 12 March 1994.

[9] Cf. Congregation for the Causes of SaintsSanctorum Mater. Instruction for conducting diocesan or eparchial inquiries in the causes of saints (17 May 2007), art. 101, §2.

[10] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (21 November 1964), n. 18.

[11] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2489.