Sunday, July 26, 2009

Father John Catoir: Only half the truth

In his Catholic News Service column Spirituality For Today, in a piece entitled "Free from needless guilt," Fr. John Catoir laments that, "The church was poisoned by heresies over the centuries. The better you understand these errors, the better you will be able to cope with the problem of needless guilt." Fr. Catoir then cites various heresies [all of which were condemned by the Church, so it is inaccurate to suggest that "the Church was poisoned" by them; Rather, some Catholics were influenced by them] including Manichaeism, Albigensianism and Jansenism.

To be sure, the "needless guilt" Fr. Catoir refers to has been a problem for some members of the Church past and present. Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to all the Bishops of the Church on the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist (Dominicae Cenae) says that: "..our Catholic communities certainly do not lack people who could participate in Eucharistic Communion and do not, even though they have no serious sin on their conscience as an obstacle. To tell the truth, this attitude, which in some people is linked with an exaggerated severity, has changed in the present century, though it is still to be found here and there. In fact what one finds most often is not so much a feeling of unworthiness as a certain lack of interior willingness, if one may use this expression, a lack of Eucharistic 'hunger' and 'thirst,' which is also a sign of lack of adequate sensitivity towards the great sacrament of love and a lack of understanding of its nature." (No. 11). But His Holiness then addresses a more serious problem and one which is much more prevalent today:

"However, we also find in recent years another phenomenon. Sometimes, indeed quite frequently, everybody participating in the eucharistic assembly goes to Communion; and on some such occasions, as experienced pastors confirm, there has not been due care to approach the sacrament of Penance so as to purify one's conscience. This can of course mean that those approaching the Lord's table find nothing on their conscience, according to the objective law of God, to keep them from this sublime and joyful act of being sacramentally united with Christ. But there can also be, at least at times, another idea behind this: the life of our communities to lose the good quality of sensitiveness of Christian conscience, guided solely by respect for Christ, who, when He is received in the Eucharist, should find in the heart of each of us a worthy abode. This question is closely linked not only with the practice of the sacrament of Penance but also with a correct sense of responsibility for the whole deposit of moral teaching and for the precise distinction between good and evil, a distinction which then becomes for each person sharing in the Eucharist the basis for a correct judgment of self to be made in the depths of the personal conscience. St. Paul's words, 'Let a man examine himself,' are well known; this judgment is an indispensable condition for a personal decision whether to approach Eucharistic Communion or to abstain." (No. 11).

The worthy reception of Holy Communion requires a clear conscience. Because of this, someone in the state of mortal sin is not eligible to receive: "Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1415).

Fr. Catoir writes, "For centuries, the fear of eternal damnation, even for petty offenses, was taught in the name of religion. George Carlin, the late comedian, abandoned his faith because he saw the absurdity of believing in a God who would send you to hell for all eternity for eating meat on Friday. Many Catholics left the Church for the same reason. Winning them back will take a massive re-education process."

But as Dr. Germain Grisez explains, "Traditionally, the eucharistic fast,required by the Church for the sake of reverence, was considered a grave responsibility which did not admit of parvity. Now, since the requirement is more easily fulfilled, its violation is even harder to excuse...someone who deliberately disregards the eucharistic fast out of irreverence for Jesus or contempt for the Church's law plainly is guilty of grave sin. And, knowing that the fast has been broken , whether by accident or on purpose, in a significant way, anyone as reverent and obedient as he or she should be, will not receive Holy Communion except for a reason sufficient to justify an exception to the Church's law (see CMP. 11.G. 6-7)."

Did George Carlin really leave the Church because he had a problem with the Church's traditional teaching regarding the Eucharistic fast or might not there have been other factors involved in his decision to abandon the Church of Christ? I seem to recall a troubled man who had serious personal problems and who celebrated the use of profanity with a levity which was just disturbing.

Pope John Paul II, in the same Dominicae Cenae, No. 7 writes, "I have already drawn attention to the close link between the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is not only that Penance leads to the Eucharist, but that the Eucharist also leads to Penance. For when we realize who it is that we receive in Eucharistic communion, there springs up in us almost spontaneously a sense of unworthiness, together with sorrow for our sins and an interior need for purification.."

This is not the result of "needless guilt." It is the result of reverence before Our Eucharistic Lord. Fr. Catoir needs to present the full truth to his readers.


John Ansley said...

Father Catoir writes, "The truth is that the holiest Catholic is the one who is most loving and kind." He then cites John 15:11 in which Jesus says, "I have told you this so that...your joy may be complete." Told us what? Father Catoir omits the previous verse which supplies us with context: "If you keep My commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and remain in his love."

In other words, we will have complete joy only if we keep His commandments. Then we will remain in His love and we will possess complete joy.

Father Catoir is on the wrong track. "Needless guilt" is not the problem today. Today, as John Paul II reminded us regularly, there has been a loss of the sense of sin.

I read where something like 80 percent of Catholic couples practice contraception. We have couples in the Church living in sin - fornication -others who are engaging in homosexuality, and still others who abort or who vote for politicians who promote abortion.

Needless guilt or that guilt which is justified?

Michelle said...

Loss of Sense of Sin Needs Urgent Attention, Says Pope

Appeals to U.S. Bishops to Promote Sacrament of Penance

VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2004 ( John Paul II lamented the loss of the sense of sin in the world as he urged a group of U.S. bishops to promote the sacrament of penance.

Addressing the bishops of California, Nevada and Hawaii, who are on their five-yearly visit to Rome, the Pope said that the "courage to face the crisis of the loss of the sense of sin, to which I alerted the whole Church early in my pontificate, must be addressed today with particular urgency."

In his 1984 apostolic exhortation "Reconciliatio et Paenitentia," the Holy Father warned that "the loss of the sense of sin is a form or fruit of the negation of God: not only of the atheist, but also of the secularist."

This phenomenon implies a paradox. "While the effects of sin abound -- greed, dishonesty and corruption, broken relationships and exploitation of persons, pornography and violence -- the recognition of individual sinfulness has waned," he said.

"In its place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness has arisen which speaks more of revenge than justice and fails to acknowledge that in every man and woman there is a wound which, in the light of faith, we call original sin," John Paul II lamented.

"Sin is an integral part of the truth about the human person. To recognize oneself as a sinner is the first and essential step in returning to the healing love of God," he said.

"Given this reality, the bishop's duty to indicate the sad and destructive presence of sin, both in individuals and in communities, is in fact a service of hope," the Pope said.

"Far from being something negative, it strengthens believers to abandon evil and embrace the perfection of love and the fullness of Christian life," he added..."

Full article at Zenit.

I too am concerned that Fr. John Catoir is really doing a disservice to Catholics. We have heard enough from pop-psychology gurus telling us that the notion of guilt is "medieval" or "archaic." We don't need more New Ageish philosophy from a Catholic priest. Catholics and others are hungry for truth. Thank you Paul for promoting and defending the perennial truths of Catholicism.

Marie Tremblay said...

This week's Catholic Free Press features an article by Patricia Keating Clark titled "Untimely death of a superstar" in which she compares Michael Jackson to Jesus the Christ: "'He reminds me of Jesus,' I said to my husband."

Ms. Clark writes, "The C.C.D. teacher in me sees another comparison to Jesus here. In Catholicism we recall at every Mass what is referred to as the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. This is when Jesus rides on a donkey into the big city at the peak of his public life to the happy noise from throngs of screaming fans. After making a few unpopular public comments, however, days later the same crowd is shouting 'crucify him!' When I heard the news of Jackson's untimely death I thought about this. How, through our insatiable appetites for entertainment to invigorate our insufferably boring lives, we had all participated in the public killing of Michael Jackson. The stunningly beautiful photo in the paper the next day sent a chill up my spine. Before a stadium of spectators, there he stands, dressed in white, arms outstretched. There's no cross behind him, but he appears to be crucified. And where else but on the front page of the newspaper."

There you have it folks. This is what is presented as "Catholicism" in the Catholic Free Press. Michael Jackson, a sad pop-star with a huge drug habit who was accused of molesting children (and who paid 20 million to one alleged victim) is compared to Jesus the Christ. Michael Jackson is portrayed as a crucified one who was killed because we ordinary folk who live boring lives have an insatiable appetite for entertainment.

I won't bother to explain why comparing Michael Jackson to Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, is a rank obscenity. If you cannot see that for yourself, you are in all likelihood already lost.

But how sad that so many solid Catholic writers do not appear in the CFP but such chaff is offered on a regular basis.

This is a real tragedy.

Ellen Wironken said...

News Briefs
Nigerian cardinal blasts laxity of American culture, priesthood
July 27, 2009

In an interview in which he defended the discipline of priestly celibacy, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie of Lagos condemned the laxity of American culture and some American priests.

Contrasting the priesthood shortage in the US with the more positive Nigerian vocation picture, Cardinal Okogie said that “those people there [in the US]…they don’t value anything any more. And how do you want priests to come from a place like that?”

When the interviewer referred to “an American priest [who] was caught smooching and kissing his girlfriend at a Miami beach,” the prelate interjected:

I am happy you said America. This is Nigeria. Whatever happens there; it is still the universal Church. It pains me. We are all the same body of Christ. It pains me. It shouldn’t be …but I am here in Nigeria and I can speak of Nigeria. If any stupid priest or bishop in Nigeria feels he wants to copy the American model, then there is something wrong with his head.

Cardinal Okogie, now 73, has served as Archbishop of Lagos since he was 36. Pope John Paul II created him a cardinal in the consistory of 2003.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

The following comment was emailed to me today and was written by Tom Syseskey:

"On its website ( this week's Catholic Free Press
has a good article ('Patron of Priest's') but a bad photo to accompany it.

'One picture is worth a thousand words.' The picture of the priest with two altar servers (one definitely female and the other androgynous) undermines the idea of a masculine priesthood - in one way or another."

Tom served as librarian at Thomas More College in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Site Meter