Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Questionnaire on Marriage for the Church

Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization

Pope Francis, our Holy Father, has called for an Extraordinary Meeting of the Synod of Bishops to discuss the Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.

In preparation for the Extraordinary Synod of 2014, the Pope has requested widespread support from the laity through their input on challenges facing families within the context of faith.

Before completing the questionnaire, please read this Preparatory Document that includes a beautiful description of Marriage and Family.

Click here for the Preparatory Document

Click for the English questionnaire

Click for the Spanish questionnaire

All responses must be complete by December 11, 2013

Christ the King

Cristo ReyThe Liturgy prayed today in the Ordinary Form of the Mass is that of Solemnity of Christ the King. (The Extraordinary Form offered this Mass on the last Sunday of October.)  How is it that Catholics and Americans speak of Christ as King? The secular analogue of kingship in the USA does not exist for us.  Yet, we are often fascinated by the activities of the British royal family and we often raise some political families to the rank of minor royalty.

For the Christian, our King is the Incarnate and Eternal Word of God who lived in history, not in a palace but in a humble setting. Jesus lived and work among the people; He taught forgiveness, justice, love, a life centered on God, modeled the work of building up His Father’s kingdom, exhorted us to be Eucharist for the Life of the Church, and He suffered, died on a cross, resurrected from the dead and ascended to life in the Trinity. The sole mission of Jesus was to show us the face of God the Father, that is, to bring us into communio with the Trinity. How is this possible? The feast of Christ the King ought to draw our attention and concrete activity to the sacraments of initiation whereby we are given our dignity as children of God; where we share by adoption where the Trinity lives by nature. From the the sacramental life of the Church we live.

I am reminded of our Catholic theology of Baptism we are given “The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop, signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who has become a Christian, that is, one “anointed” by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king” (CCC 1241).

And, “The baptized have become “living stones” to be “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers” (CCC 1268).

How is the royal mission and holy priesthood exercised? By living in grace; by living the Gospel, by attending to our conversion; by living the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. By personally being engaged in the building up of the  kingdom of God where we live: among family, friends, coworkers, in study, in prayer, and in work. This requires awareness. How awake are we in noticing the poor and those in genuine human need?

Yet, for this method to be effective, I think we have to ask ourselves, what and who is sovereign in our lives?  Sometimes, sin and dysfunction distract us.

Norbertine Father Andrew Ciferni of St Norbert Abbey and College preached this point today,

We celebrate this day with great solemnity. In some ways we mimic the rituals of the throne room. But the Scriptures will not let us rest too comfortably in solemn gesture and big sound – appropriate as they may be. The gospel we proclaim is that of the king whose throne is the tree of the Cross, a seat of forgiveness for the sinner. And what makes this king different from all others is that he enthrones and crowns all his subjects with him. We are a royal people. On the day of our baptism we are anointed as kings, priests and prophets. This means that sooner or later it will be revealed to us that we too reign from the Cross. That like King Jesus we can only bring reconciliation can only make peace in and through our own blood. As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews (9:22), “without blood there is no forgiveness.”

Cardinal Marx “consecrates” a dog cage for Mass

Cardinal Marx consecrating a dog cage

The Cardinal-archbishop of Munich, Reinhard Marx, 60, and a member of the Council of Cardinals, was motivated to “consecrate” this dog cage. I am using quotes because I really do not think this liturgical act is a true consecration of an altar upon which the eucharistic sacrifice may be offered. What the cardinal does is to offend a theological foundation of beauty, truth, goodness and unity. The sacramentality of the Church is wounded. Where is the lex orandi, lex credendi, lex agendi in this act? How would you explain this contraption to a child who wants to know about the Mass? Is this the fruit of the Second Vatican Council? Is this what we mean by a hermeneutic of continuity? My head hurts with this liturgical abuse…

All this silliness makes me think of J.R.R. Tolkien when he wrote,

“…the spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and many-headed in its incarnations that there seems nothing more to do than personally refuse to worship any of the hydras’ heads.”

Communion given to divorced and remarried Catholics?

Robert ZollitschThe former archbishop Freiburg im Breisgau Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, 75, tried to legislate a change in pastoral practice to allow remarried Catholics who have not received the required annulment from a previous marriage bond to receive Holy Communion. His resignation was accepted by the Holy Father on 17 September 2013. Archbishop Zollitsch, as the emeritus archbishop, has no authority to make such an allowance due to his canonical status but also because the proposal he was hoping to enact contradicted the theology of the Church. 

The several at the Holy See were clearly unhappy at Zollitsch’s bold (wreckless?) attempt to change a practice without thinking through the theology. Not that the happiness of the authorities Church is the goal of anything. Heaven is the goal and we get there by correct teaching, sacraments and compassionate leadership. The chief shepherd of a diocese, even he is the former shepherd, cannot on his own authority, make a change in theology. The transcentals (the beautiful, the good, the true and the one) can’t be ignored; neither can clear teaching based on Scripture.

Does something need to be done? Very likely. We do have a problem that needs sensitive guidance. But there we have to see to it that a few things are done: First, start giving good human, spiritual and catechetical formation to couples engaged to be married. Second, seek to walk with all married couples. Third, help to bring reconciliation to couples whose marriages are no longer sacramental. But Zollitsch created a chaos.

Recently, Archbishop Müller wrote an article outlining the Church’s  teaching about marriage, divorce and the sacraments in L’Osservatore Romano.

Today, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote a letter to Archbishop Zollitsch, who now serves as the Apostolic Administrator of his former diocese. The following translation of Archbishop Müller is the work of Mark de Vries.

Archbishop Müller’s letter:

MüllerWith the Document Prot. N. 2922/13, of 8 October 2013, the Apostolic Nuncio has communicated the draft of the guidelines for the pastoral care of separated, divorced and civilly remarried people in the Archdiocese of Freiburg, as well as your newsletter to the members of the German Bishops’ Conference prior to the publication of this letter, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A careful reading of the draft text reveals that it does contain very correct and important pastoral teachings, but is unclear in its terminology and does not correspond with Church teaching in two points:

“Remarried divorced people themselves stand in the way of their access to the Eucharist”

1. Regarding the reception of the sacraments by divorced and remarried faithful the proposal from the bishops of the Oberrhein area is recommended anew as a pastoral direction: after a process of discussion with the parish priests, people concerned can either reach the conclusion to participate much in the life of the Church, but to deliberately refrain from receiving the Sacraments, while others can in their concrete situations achieve a “responsibly reached decision of conscience” and be able to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, and this decision is “to be respected” by the priest and the community.

Contrary to this assumption the Magisterium of the Church emphasises that the pastors must recognise the various situations well and must invite the affected faithful to participation in the life of the Church, but also “reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have  remarried” (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, of 22 November 1981, N. 84; also compare the Letter of this Congregation of 14 September 1994 about the reception of Communion by remarried divorced faithful, which rejects the proposal from the Oberrhein bishops; and Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of 22 February 2009, N. 29).

This position of the Magisterium is well-founded. Remarried divorcees stand in the way of their access to the Eucharist, insofar as their state of life is an objective contradiction to the relationship of love between Christ and the Church, which is made visible and present in the Eucharist (doctrinal reason). If these people were allowed to receive the Eucharist this would cause confusion among the faithful about the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage (pastoral reason).

2. In addition to this a prayer service is suggested for divorced faithful who enter into a new civil marriage. Although it is explicitly stated that this is not some “semi-marriage” and the ceremony should be simple. but it would still be a sort of “Rite” with an entrance, reading from the Word of God, blessing and giving of a candle, prayer and conclusion.

Such celebrations were expressly forbidden by John Paul II and Benedict XVI: “The respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples  themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful,  forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to  perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies  would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid  marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility  of a validly contracted marriage” (Familiaris Consortio, n. 84).

The affected faithful are to be offered support, but it must be avoided that “confusion arise among the faithful  concerning the value of marriage” (Sacramentum Caritatis, N. 29).

Due to the aforementioned discrepancies, the draft text is to be withdrawn and revised, so that no pastoral directions are sanctioned which are in opposition to Church teaching. Because the tekst has raised questions not only in Germany, but in many parts of the world as well, and has led to uncertainties in a delicate pastoral issue, I felt obliged to inform Pope Francis about it.

“Going paths which fully agree with the doctrine of the faith of the Church”

After consultation with the Holy Father, an article from my hand was published in L’Osservatore Romano on 23 October 2013, which sumarises the binding teaching of the Church on these questions. This contribution was also published in the weekly edition of the Vatican newspaper.

Since a number of bishops have turned to me and a working group of the German Bishops’ Conference is dealing with the topic, I would like to inform you that I will send a copy of this letter to all the diocesan bishops of Germany. Hoping that on this delicate issue we are going pastoral paths, which are in full agreement with the doctrine of the faith of the Church, I remain with heartfelt greeting and blessings in the Lord.

Catholic priesthood: Beyond the crisis towards renewal

Gerhard Ludwig MüllerIf the Catholic priesthood and its renewal is very important to you, then today’s brief essay by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller is an extremely important piece to keep in mind. The essay by Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith, Archbishop Müller, “Beyond the crisis towards renewal” (L’Osservatore Romano) reveals a point the Church has to attend to with a certain degree of seriousness. Pay close attention to the proposal Müller makes to us. What the archbishop is doing, I think, is opening the door to genuine dialogue on some very important issues, and I think within the purview of the Holy Father.

Müller wants to challenge our “Protestant” conceptions of priesthood that’s found its way into the reality of Catholic priesthood. Some will be offended by the archbishop’s use of the adjective of protestant but in reality there is much to research here to overcome perceived prejudicial reactions. Protestants are not the same as Catholics; they were there wouldn’t be a so-called “Protestant Church.” Catholics ought to be better formed and have certitude in this fact.

Based at least on the level of experience, and not only academic theology, men are ordained Catholic priests to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, to forgive sins, and to concern itself: that is, cult (worship of the One Triune God) and mediatorship, theological points rejected in Lutheranism, Anglicanism and other ecclesial communities. Do we have to remind ourselves that a Catholic priest acts in persona Christi capitis? That he does indeed consecrate, through prayer and the actions of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ? That the laity consecrate the whole world (marriage, work, play, etc.) to Jesus Christ. The local Lutheran minister does not hold the same, so not teach the distinctions with clarity?

The matter is not centrally located in the question of a married priesthood because the discernment of ordination and celibacy is not the same. The Catholic Church has a married priesthood with former Anglican ministers coming into full communion with the Catholic Church and being ordained, and there are married Eastern Catholic priests. Hence, believe that Catholic priests are not the same as Protestant ministers, even if those of other ecclesial communions use the word “priest” to speak of their ministers.

Additionally, Catholic priests belong to the Royal Priesthood of Jesus Christ, as the laity are, each being anointed priest, prophet and king, yet lived and oriented differently. To refine the point a little more, the global priesthood, that is, the priesthood of the laity, and the ministerial priesthood have their respective vocations given by the Holy Spirit for the good of the world.  Admittedly, the priesthood of the laity (priesthood of the faithful) is still maturing and only now coming into its own but not against the ministerial priesthood.

The Church’s theology is based on sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition. Catholic theology has its own determinative lens and other communities have theirs. In a more precise way, we have a theology prima that’s not found in the protestant communities. I use the plural communities because the what is understood as a priest is different depending which group you follow.

The publication of Müller’s  brief essay today is not to be lost on us: on this date in 1517 Augustinian Father Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses, in Latin, on the Wittenburg Church door according to custom.

What we have are excerpts from a speech the Prefect delivered on Wednesday in Palermo for the introduction of the 12-volume collected writings of Joseph Ratzinger (scheduled for publication first in Italian). The editor was just given the now-famed Ratzinger prize.

Müller’s point is the Catholic priesthood started to develop a “Protestant” of the image/manner of serving when Catholics uncritically started to use Protestant scripture scholarship since the 1950s without noting essential theological differences. Ratzinger’s phrase “culture of relativism” entered into Catholic teaching dismissing the eschatalogical, soteriological and liturgical facts.

What we’ve inherited, and what we see in the priesthood today, at least here in the USA, is indeed a crisis of priesthood which leads to a “radical disorientation of Christian identity” and a manner of knowing that lacks a “transcendental horizon.”

The following is an excerpt of a longer piece.

If Christ, by his Resurrection, has overcome the greatest crisis of faith  –the pre-Easter crisis of the disciples– and more particularly the crisis of the apostolic mission and authority, and therefore also of the Catholic priesthood, then it is precisely and only by turning our gaze to the Lord that we may also overcome the crises which have befallen the priesthood over the course of history.

By turning our gaze to him, by meeting his gaze as he looks upon us and upon our priesthood, and by fixing our eyes on those of the crucified and risen High Priest, we can overcome every obstacle and difficulty.

I am thinking especially of the crisis of the doctrine on the priesthood that occurred during the protestant Reformation. It was a crisis at the dogmatic level which reduced the priest to a mere representative of the community by eliminating the essential difference between the ordained priest and the common priesthood of the faithful. Then there was the existential and spiritual crisis that occurred during the second half of the 20th century and exploded after the Second Vatican Council, and from whose consequences we are still suffering today.

In Joseph Ratzinger’s extensive work Proclaimers of the Word and Servants of Your Joy – volume XII in his opera omnia – he proposed a way of overcoming these crises by advancing a high-level theological approach, thereby giving us a guide for fostering a renewal of the sacramental priesthood instituted by Christ.

The scientific studies, meditations and homilies on the service of bishops, priests and deacons contained in this volume span almost fifty years, beginning with the years immediately preceding the beginning of Vatican II.

Many people, depending on their respective positions, associate this event, which has marked the recent history of the Church more than any other, with the starting point of a transformation in keeping with the spirit of the times, or rather with the beginning of a profound crisis in the Church and in particular in the priesthood.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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