Is the Novus Ordo Even Valid?

There is a certain segment of the Catholic population that has nothing but negative things to say about Vatican II. Personally, I think that this group is extremely small and isolated, their voices amplified by the internet far beyond their actual relevance, but that’s me. The internet definitely has a way of building silos and organizing fringe ideas, so maybe that’s the case. In any event, regardless of its actual size, opposition to Vatican II is a prevalent topic online that needs addressing.

On Monday, I did a general video defending the very idea of Vatican II, calling for people to stop with their logical fallacies and to see that the problems of our world have complex causes beyond our control. Today, I’d like to look at a specific issue that needs addressing: the reform of the liturgy. While I’ve addressed the specifics of the reform before, there are some that believe in the idea of a reform is flawed because of a strict interpretation of Pope Pius V’s words back in 1570.

If this video seems oddly specific and completely unnecessary, it’s because it is. The very fact that I made a video addressing this topic is absurd. And yet, such is the world we live in. If we don’t want fringe groups to take over, we must speak the truth and respond to their ridiculous claims so that, as a well-informed Church, no one will be left confused or led astray.

 

When you think someone who is a saint and doctor of the Church, you probably think of someone who lived a long, holy life, who was groomed from a young age in the teachings of the Church, who never held heretical beliefs or committed terrible sins.

You probably don’t think of someone who spent 33 years as a heretic, had a child out of wedlock, and who’s most famous prayer is “Lord, make me chaste—just not yet.”

And yet, that is our St. Augustine, one of the most important theologians and leaders in Church history. He lived a tumultuous early life, but ended up saving the Church from two major controversies, and is certainly a saint you should know.

Did Catholics Make Up Purgatory?

Purgatory is one of those things that everyone is familiar with but few people actually know what it means. The word purgatory has entered into the popular parlance of western english as a way to describe a painful period of waiting, of a holding cell with no end in sight.

This is not what the word means for Catholics.

Not only is it completely untrue that those in purgatory are unaware of their fate (all people in purgatory are saved), it is entirely untrue that it is a boring or passive place. Purgatory is about purification, not waiting.

In this week’s Catholicism In Focus, I look at the teaching as described by the Catholic Church and see where the theology comes from in the Bible.

Do I Have to Obey?

One of the biggest problems with theological debates online is that many people fail to understand the concept of the “hierarchy of truths.”

Sometimes it’s a matter of treating everything the Church teaches as equally important. When this is the case, well-meaning Christians will call other Christians heretics because they don’t fast on Fridays or because they have a problem with the Church’s teaching on contraception. While both of these teachings are important, neither of them are dogmatic in nature, meaning that disobedience of either does not result in excommunication or heresy.

Far more commonly seen, unfortunately, is the confusion of the hierarchy, elevating a non-authoritative teaching over dogmatic principles. This is seen when people quote the theological writings of a pope, saint, or prominent theologian as proof of something, forcing people to obey. Maybe it’s even a line from an ecumenical council many years ago. Just because a pope, saint, or theologian writes something, doesn’t mean that it is a binding teaching for all the faithful. We must have an understanding of the difference between private opinions and the ordinary magisterial teaching of the Church, and then within that ordinary teaching, where it all fits together.

Hence, this week’s video. It is by no means a comprehensive work and will need a few more followup videos to even cover all of the basics, but it’s a start: what is the hierarchy of truths? What must a Catholic obey?

When you hear someone mention the Book of Revelation, what is your first thought? Mine… is to run away as quickly as possible. The reality is that the vast majority of people who quote passages from this book don’t entirely know what they’re talking about and are use its words to promote conspiracy theories, doomsday predictions, and condemnations against the Catholic Church.

Hard pass.

But that doesn’t mean that the book itself is wrong or problematic. In fact, it’s a great book. Surprisingly hopeful. Kind of the exact thing we need in our day. In this episode of Catholicism in Focus, I offer a few keys to approaching the book in the correct way, as well as a brief overview of its contents.

Everyone knows that there are seven sacraments in the Catholic Church. Not everyone knows, or receives, the fullness of each sacrament.

Of particular importance today, I think, is an appropriate understanding of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. As I discuss in this week’s Catholicism In Focus, it is not one that many people quite understand, and their misunderstanding is among my largest pet peeves in the Church.

In short, the sacrament is meant for the sick, not just the dying. Don’t wait until the last moment, when someone is already unconscious, to receive this wonderful gift from God.

Five years ago, Pope Francis promulgated Laudato Si, the first ever encyclical devoted to the environment. It is a fantastic work of theology, looking to the signs of the times and offering a comprehensive approach to the ills facing our world.

If you haven’t read it yet, I cannot encourage you enough. It is really good. And incredibly important. And about more than just the environment.

Beyond this week’s Catholicism in Focus, which offers and overview, here are some of my favorite passages:

The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature”. (#6)

If we approach nature and the environment without…openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. (#11)

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. (#23)

There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. (#25)

The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet… The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor. (#48)

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?” (#120)

“There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development.” (#136)

Where are Catholic Teachings in the Bible?

It is often said by fundamentalist Christians that Catholic doctrines are made up, that we’ve disregarded God’s Word to follow the laws of man. It’s utterly ridiculous. Catholics were the first Christians, and we were the ones who compiled the Bible. Anyone who has ever read a papal encyclical or official document of the Church knows that there are references to Scripture in every paragraph.

Everything we do finds its foundation in Scripture.

But that doesn’t mean that everything exists today just as it did 2000 years ago. The Church grows and develops. Implicit or minor teachings in the Bible took on flesh as the Church became greater aware of its mission. To suggest that every detail of what we do now is found in Scripture is not a fair claim—no Christian community could live up to that standard.

The problem, unfortunately, is that many Catholics (or other Christians) don’t know where the foundation is for many of our doctrines. In this week’s Catholicism In Focus, I offer the biblical foundation for some of our most contested beliefs, showing exactly where and why we believe what we do.

The question of ordaining women to the priesthood is not open to debate. At least, not according to John Paul II. In his 1994 letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he states, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

In other words, the Church will not and cannot ordain women to be priests.

The point of this week’s Catholicism In Focus is not to spark a debate. I have no interest in sharing my own opinions or hearing others’. What one thinks about a doctrine is of no consequence, really, especially when few people know what the doctrine actually says.

The purpose of this video, then, is to look at the rationale given in this definitive statement and to understand its limits. Why can women not be ordained priests, according to the Catholic magisterium? How does this limit their scope of leadership in the Church? In what ways has this doctrine been inappropriately applied to prevent women from active participation? These are the questions I seek to answer, particularly the final one.

Women may not be able to be ordained priests, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for them to have legitimate influence. Until those ways become the norm and not the exception, we’ve got some work to do.

What is a Mortal Sin?

Do you know what really grinds my gears? Finding parish or youth group websites posting lists of mortal sins. Not only does no such list exist in the magisterial teaching of Catholic Church, it would be impossible to make one.

For starters, as I discussed in a previous video, there is no such thing as an act that always bears culpability. The act itself is important, but one must always consider the intent of the actor and the circumstances in which they acted.

On top of that, for something to be a mortal sin, it must have more than just “grave matter.” Simply being serious (or what these homemade lists believe to be serious) isn’t enough. There must also be full knowledge and complete consent on the part of the actor. If they don’t know what they’re doing or are not completely free to say no, it cannot be a mortal sin.

Again, for those sitting in the back. Just because someone has done something grave doesn’t make it a mortal sin. In fact, there are many times in which it isn’t.

So when you see a list suggesting that illegal drug use, theft, gossip, anger without justification, superstition, and pride are all mortal sins, without any reference to intent, circumstances, knowledge, or freedom, please remember what the Church actually teaches. There is no such thing as something that is always a mortal sin no matter the circumstances. There are things that consist of grave matter, yes, but that’s not the same as being sinful, and it most certainly isn’t the same as culpability.

Are Marian Apparitions Real?

It is not an uncommon experience for me to get a message from someone asking about the prophecy of Mary or some saint. Generally, they’re terrifying. Mary is nothing like the docile, “do unto me according to your will” mother that we find in the Bible, but is much more a tyrant usurping her son’s throne to inflict some harm.

It’s easy for most of us to dismiss these things as fabrications or the work of the paranoid, but how do we respond to these things? Surely, there must be an objective way to evaluate such apparitions for some semblance of authenticity.

In fact, there is! In this week’s Catholicism in Focus, I look at the Church’s standards to evaluating miraculous encounters and what they mean for us.