The written decrees of the various Church Councils provide us with some of the most reliable Magisterial guidance.

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by Doug Lawrence

Pope’s sometimes act or teach in error.

Bishops sometimes act or teach in error.

Priests and Deacons sometimes act or teach in error.

Lay persons sometimes act or teach in error.

But duly called and properly constituted Church Councils rarely act or teach in error … even the Council infamously known as Vatican II.

Beginning with the 1st century Council of Jerusalem, with the original Apostles in attendance and St. Peter officiating … a pattern (probably borrowed from the practices of the old Levitical Priesthood/Temple Worship System) emerged that would serve the Church well for (at least) the next 21 Councils, and 2000 years.

All the Bishops, along with the Pope, get together.

All the Bishops, along with the Pope, deliberate on the question(s) of the day.

All the Bishops, along with the Pope, agree.
(Unanimous agreement among the Bishops is desired,
but not absolutely necessary.)

The official decree/constitution is set down in writing.

The Pope “signs off” on everything.

Everybody goes home to properly disseminate information on all the latest development(s).

The Church preserves the document(s) in perpetuity.

Because the sacred deposit of faith is “built” much like a brick wall … with interlocking divine truths stacked one on top of another, from the ground, up … with Tradition acting as the mortar … it’s no easy matter for anyone to “slip in” any abject heresy. (Tradition may be defined as the method by which the Holy Spirit infallibly guides the Church, from age to age.)

Heresy and the adoption of illicit practices usually result from later, false interpretations and other types of unfortunate human biases and sin … but because such things fail to fit the established pattern of Catholic truth … they usually stick out like the proverbial “sore thumb” … at least, to those “in the know”.

That’s why it’s important for every Catholic to know the authentic teachings of the Church, along with the genuine Catholic philosophy of life that springs from them.

The Pope, along with the Bishops, received the teaching authority (Magisterium) of their holy offices directly from Jesus Christ:

And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Matthew 28:18-20)

You’ll notice that Jesus never specified any particular list of written documents, and he never mentioned the Bible or the Catechism, probably because neither existed at the time. But today, we have the written decrees of 21 Church Councils, the infallible (Ex Cathedra) declarations of at least two Popes, and scores of Papal Bulls, Encyclicals, Catechisms, and other official written works … along with the Bible.

Surprisingly, not all of the Bishops (or even the Pope) agree with all that is contained in the above sources, so many of them seem to think they have the authority to preach a slightly altered Gospel, and practice a slightly altered Divine Liturgy.  And that’s typically where all the trouble begins!

Since the members of the Church’s Magisterium (the Pope and the Bishops) have a sacred duty to practice, preach and teach the authentic Catholic faith, just as they received it from Jesus, the Apostles, the Holy Spirit and the Church, introducing personal novelties and abuses is no small matter. It’s also worth mentioning that priests, deacons, consecrated religious and catechists operate under the authority of the Pope and the Bishops, so they all have similar obligations and responsibilities.

So what is a faithful Catholic to do when something begins to smell “fishy”?

You could ask your diocesan priest or bishop, but if corruption truly exists there (and when it does, it usually exists on a wide scale) the chances of receiving a proper answer … or any answer at all … may be slim to none. Instead, you simply go back and study/research the applicable Magisterial/Conciliar documents, along with earlier versions of the Catholic Catechism, etc. Once you find what you need, seek out a trustworthy source to help verify what you think you have.

What was true way back then is still true today, and if what is currently being promoted and taught in your diocese fails to match up, there is a problem, indeed!  (Do I have your attention, Rochester, NY and Los Angeles, CA?)

Here’s some links to dependable Catholic source documents and teachings:

All 21 Church Councils

Catholic Catechisms

Major Papal Encyclicals

The Holy Bible

Other excellent source documents

The Catholic Treasure Chest

This Week’s Ask Alice: Why don’t we hear more preaching at Mass about the evils of birth control and abortion?



Send A Question To Alice

She’ll answer your Catholic questions
right here, every Thursday.

Email responses will also be provided, as time permits.

Rob K. asks: Why is it our clerics (bishops, priests, deacons) are so soft on birth control and ultimately, abortion?

We hardly ever, especially at weekend masses, hear any mention of the evils of birth control and abortion. Sitting in attendance are millions of Catholic women using artificial birth control, many with their spouses approval, and possibly even teen age children using contraception. Almost without exception, they all march up to receive the body and blood of Jesus.

Does the pastor or priest believe all these women are not participating in the evil of birth control? How can the continued silence on this matter be justified?

(Rob goes on to mention the lack of modest dress, along with other problems.)

Who and/or what is responsible for all this?

Alice Answers: You’ve raised 3 separate questions, which frequently are asked by other Catholics.

1) Your first question concerns priests’ homilies. Many parish priests preach eloquent, prolife homilies on a regular basis. If your priest does not, consider these suggestions. Please pray for your priest(s). After Sunday Mass shake his hand and say, “Thank you for preaching a good homily, Father. I was wondering if you could give a homily about the sacredness of life, chastity or the sanctity of marriage?” (Mention only ONE of these topics). You must be respectful and polite. No priest wants to feel that he is being commanded or manipulated into preaching about a particular issue.

2) Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is an intimate experience between the Communicant and Jesus. We are not called by God to be Communion Cops. Only God can judge the heart. Many years ago my dear friend, Fr. Dan Cambra, M.I.C., Assistant Rector at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge said, “Of all the people who come to receive Holy Communion on a given Sunday there probably are some who haven’t gone to Confession in 20 years, others who don’t believe in the Real Presence, divorced Catholics remarried outside the Church, parents committing child abuse, a non-Catholic attending Mass, and someone who has stolen money from a corporate employer. There is neither a Sin Detector nor screening process available to weed out people who are in a state of mortal sin. However, if Communion was given only to people who had gone to Confession right before Mass, there still would be no one, not even me, who is worthy to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.”

Before receiving Communion we pray, “Oh Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

And St. Paul reminds us, “All men have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

3) Your third question addresses the Dress Code at Mass. Should the ushers tell everyone who is not well-dressed to get out of church? Would it be better for Catholic churches to have 10 pews filled with perfectly attired parishioners or 40 pews filled with worshipers wearing a variety of clothing?

On August 31, my husband and I attended the funeral of Robert Gowyrlowf, who died at age 74, after a four year battle with cancer. A parishioner at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago for 38 years, Robert lived alone. He arranged altar flowers and served as an usher and greeter at Holy Name Masses. Called “The Cookie Man,” Robert baked and brought cookies to sick and disabled patients at the Jesse Brown Veterans’ Hospital in Chicago. As his age and illness progressed Robert’s attire wouldn’t have earned a spot on any Best-Dressed List.

In June we were attending devotions with Robert, when a member of the Rosary group approached me and asked, “Who is that man and why is he dressed that way?” Later, another member of the Rosary group approached my husband and made unkind comments about Robert’s clothing to him as well.

Robert’s funeral Mass was concelebrated by three priests and a deacon. Present were mourners in wheelchairs whom Robert had visited at Jesse Brown Hospital, homeless people who sold “Streetwise” newspapers near the church, and teens clad in grocery store uniforms whose boss had excused them from work to pay their last respects to Robert. More than 80 people filled the Cathedral to attend Mass for the kind-hearted, little man with the unusual wardrobe.

Military Chaplain Fr. Christopher Myers’ eulogy brought tears to many eyes when he said,

“Few people knew that Robert had always wanted to be a priest. The reason he never went to the seminary is because he felt he was unworthy. How wrong he was. No one is worthy to be ordained a priest, only Jesus. Robert was a good man, a holy man. I know because I’ve heard his Confessions. When Robert confessed his small sins, all I could think of was my own sinfulness.”

Who should receive Holy Communion? What is the perfect dress code for every parish? Although we can’t dictate what worshipers wear to Mass, we can make certain that we are on God’s Best Dressed List.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

Finally, please pray each day for our priests. Theirs is one of the loneliest, most difficult vocations on Earth. Every priest is called to be another Jesus in a sinful world. Do you want holy, faithful, kind-hearted priests serving at your parish? Then pray each day for your priest(s) by name. Every priest needs our prayers, love, support, and encouragement!

In Christ’s love,

Alice

Click here to see all of Alice’s other columns

Homosexual Priests OK. Homosexual Marriage Is Not. A Catholic Double Standard?

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Q: If I understand things correctly, according to the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders, priests are called to be “other Christs” giving their lives for the Church, just as Jesus laid down his life for us, while bishops are supposed to be the living images of God the Father. 

Women (of any persuasion)  and homosexual men (chaste or not) can’t possibly conform to these images of God.

Why does the Catholic Church continue to permit homosexual men to be deacons, priests, and bishops, even at the same time that it denies the sacrament of matrimony to homosexuals? Is this not a double standard and a continuing scandal?

A: Two wrongs certainly would not make a right. Homosexual marriage and/or homosexual priests are two sides of the same abominable “coin”.  Both are seriously disordered and sinful, and neither conforms to the image that God has ordained for them.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1548In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:23

It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).24 Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.25    

1549 Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers.26 In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop istypos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.27 

I suggest you forward a copyof this post to your bishop, to the USCCB, and to the Vatican, along with your questions and your concerns.

While you’re at it, mention the fact that, in light of all the confusion and demagoguery that went on during the last election cycle, the Church needs the Pope to issue a comprehensive, explicit, and dogmatic “Ex Cathedra” statement on the evils of both homosexuality and abortion.    

Nothing less will do.