Category Archives: Examination of Conscience

Role of the Laity in the Church

There is a distinct confusion in the Church today as to the role of the laity. In an attempt to bring about “active participation” in the liturgy Vatican II supposedly called for (the original Latin actually reads “actualparticipation.” ), the Church has become navel-gazing in its mode of operation, forgetting to heed the words of Our Lord to “[g]o into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15), not to mention the urgency attached to it: “[w]hoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) Here are some some Vatican II quotes on the proper role of the laity, first from Apostolicam Actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity):

Chapter 1. The Vocation of the Laity to the Apostolate.
2. The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ… to enable all men to share in His saving redemption… All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate… [The laity] exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel.

Now from the principle document of the Council, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium:

10. “…[common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood] differ from one another in essence and not only in degree…”

31. “What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. …They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.”

32. “By divine institution Holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity. “For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another. …yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ.”

33. “Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land.”

Abortion Harmful to Women’s Mental Health – Study

From Family First (with my emphases):

The study, “Abortion and Mental health: Quantitative Synthesis and Analysis of Research Published 1995-2009” by Priscilla Coleman, Ph.D., took into account 22 studies and over 877,000 participants over the 14-year period. The study also reveals that as many as ten percent of all mental health problems are directly attributable to abortion.

“This confirms and is consistent with previous NZ research which showed that abortion harms women. Abortion harms women but pro-abortion groups refuse to acknowledge this, seeing the right to abortion more paramount than the long-term health and welfare of the women. We believe women have the right to the best independent information and advice before making a decision that could impact them later in life,” says Marina Young, Spokesperson for Family First NZ, who through her own abortion experience formed the Buttons Project.

A University of Otago study in 2008 found that women who had an abortion faced a 30% increase in the risk of developing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Other studies have found a link between abortion and psychiatric disorders ranging from anxiety to depression to substance abuse disorders. And the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK recommended updating abortion information leaflets to include details of the risks of depression. They said that consent could not be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information.

Case against Abortion: Fetal Development

15-week-old Fetus Thumb-Sucking
15-week-old Fetus Thumb-Sucking

In an issue as heated as abortion (or, ‘feticide’, to disrobe the politically-correct label for killing of the fetus), it’s important first to look at the hard cold facts.

Here’s a fetal development chart from the Voice For Life Fact Sheet on the Unborn (Keep in mind in reading this that most abortions [at least in the UK] happen around the 8-9-week period):

1st day the child’s conception takes place
7 day a tiny human implants in the mother’s uterus
10 days the mother’s menses stop
18 days the child’s heart begins to beat

21 days

the heart pumps own blood through separate closed circulatory system with own blood type.

28 days

the child’s eyes, ears and respiratory system begin to form

42 days

the brain waves can be recorded, skeleton is complete, reflexes are present, hiccoughs first occur.

7 weeks

thumbsucking has been photographed, startles first occur from 6-7 1/2 weeks

8 weeks

all body systems are present, isolated arm movements begin about 7 1/4 to 8 1/2 weeks after conception. Breathing movements begin during the eighth week. Stretches first occur during the eighth week.

9 weeks

the child squints, swallows, moves tongue and makes a fist. Rotations of the head also begin from the middle of the seventh week after conception to the middle of the tenth week.

10 weeks

Hand to face contacts first occur 8 to 10 1/2 weeks after conception.

11 weeks

spontaneous breathing movements, the child has fingernails and all body systems are operating. Jaw openings and forward head movement begin during 8 1/2 to 12 1/2 weeks after conception.

12 weeks

the child weighs one ounce

16 weeks

genital organs clearly differentiated, the child grasps with hands, swims, kicks, turns and somersaults (still not felt by the mother)

18 weeks

the vocal cords work and baby can cry

19 weeks

Kenya King’s birth, Florida, June 1985

20 weeks

the child has hair on its head, weighs one pound, 12 inches long

23 weeks

15% of babies survive premature birth

24 weeks

56% of babies survive premature birth

25 weeks

79% of babies survive premature birth

39-40 weeks

normal birth

Values v.s. Virtues

Many common errors today are the result of a failure to distinguish between values and virtues, or between things which are relative and things that are universal.

‘Values’ such as ‘open-mindedness’ and ‘tolerance’ are, unlike virtues, relative. While it would be good to be ‘open-minded’ with regards debatable or uncertain matters, it would be foolish not to decide on a matter after a thorough investigation. Likewise, being ‘tolerant’ is good in certain matters, but not in others (like abuse cases). Thus, such values are not universally applicable, and so should not always be held, but are relative to the circumstance. Virtues, on the other hand, are universal. It is always good to practice prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, no matter what the situation.

‘Liberals’ often take certain ‘values’ and apply them as if they were virtues, but they are not. This is why their namesake itself is a relative ‘value’ – one cannot equally liberalize economy and sexual abuse, for example. To be liberally ‘tolerant’ of these two areas equally is to be woefully irresponsible and unjust.

The same criticism can be applied to ‘conservatives’. Conservation, again, is a relative term; it is not universally a good thing. Again, to conserve the environment and chattel slavery equally would be an woeful injustice.

What applies to Catholics is to seek after its namesake – the things which are catholic, or universal; after ‘principles’, which are unchanging. This is what it means to be ‘ortho-dox’, to adhere to ‘right-speech’, to touch on what is true in all places and in all time. It does happen that ‘conservation’ touches on this, since Tradition (with capital “T”) is part of the revealed faith, alongside Scripture and the Magisterial teaching authority of the Church. However, the central concern is still to be ortho-dox – to think out of, and seek after, what is “right”, according to true and authentic faith and reason, rather than to be concerned about relative values – with the universality of the virtues mentioned above, and especially also of faith, hope and charity.

Liturgical Abuse & Sexual Abuse

One of the constant issues faced by an orthodox Catholic who is faithful to the magisterium (teaching authority of the Church) is that of liturgical abuses. I avoid going to the local parish, due to the abuses that take place there, including consecration of the precious blood in a decanter (which is then poured out onto the chalices like some common drink).

As noted by the present Pope – then Cardinal Ratzinger – the problem underlying such priestly abuses, and the accompanying lack of stern judgement by the bishops, is the over-emphasis of subsidiarity (the horizontal dimension) and in the disrespect for principles and authoritative jurisdiction (the vertical dimension). In such a case, a Catholic should be aware that the same mindset that accommodates liturgical abuse is the one that accommodated sexual abuse:

Ratzinger believed subsidiarity had allowed too much local interpretation, and failed to serve the interests of objective justice, both in allowing for due process and the right of defense for those accused, and in requiring just penalties for those found guilty.
…Until Ratzinger began to introduce reforms, Bishop Arrieta wrote, the norms of Canon Law were applied in local chanceries with “the constant fluidity that characterized the normative framework of the postconciliar period.”
…In a radio interview, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, the active homosexual poster-boy of the liberal “progressive” wing of the American Catholic Church, accused the Vatican and Ratzinger of having ignored the case until Murphy was too old to be tried.
After the secular media had taken up Weakland’s accusation against Ratzinger, however, it was revealed that Murphy’s victims had actually started complaining to authorities, including the Church, in the 1950s, but Weakland had waited until 1996 to inform the competent authorities in Rome.

The problem is traced back to ‘horizontalism’, and the accompanying over-emphasis of ‘local interpretation’ (over accountability to one’s superiors) and ‘constant fluidity’ (over proper exercise of principled jurisdiction). The fault, then, is due not to the proper magisterium of the Church, but to such abuse of subsidiary principles by the bishops:

But wasn’t Ratzinger in charge while all this was going on? Didn’t it happen on his watch? No. From 1981 to 2001 he was in charge of a department that dealt with defrocking, but not with suspensions and penalties for paedophile priests, which were the responsibility of local bishops. A number of bishops failed to suspend the abusive priests, some of whom continued to abuse. That is the scandal. It has been exposed and dealt with, and a number of bishops have, as a result, resigned. More important, guidelines are now in place to prevent it ever happening again.

The present Pope had consistently acted in accord with proper jurisdiction and authority, and worked to restore balance where there was inordinate emphasis on such subsidiarity, by reemphasizing the authority of the Holy See on these matters:

in the past 20 years, no one has done more to address the problem, to root out the corruption, than Pope Benedict XVI.

  • It was then-Cardinal Ratzinger who recognized that individual bishops (and other Vatican officials) were not taking the abuse problem seriously enough, and called for a new policy putting the Vatican in charge of discipline for priests accused of abuse.
  • It was Cardinal Ratzinger who pressed for tough investigations of a powerful Austrian cardinal accused of abuse, and for dismissal of an abuser who had founded one of the most influential religious orders in the Church.
  • It was Cardinal Ratzinger who spoke passionately about the urgent need to purge the Church, to remove the “filth” from the priestly ranks.
  • It was Pope Ratzinger who told Irish bishops that they would be held accountable for their failures to correct the abuse problem.

In the local lack of jurisdiction and ‘tolerant’ modus operandi that accepts priestly abuse but disregards the true good and the rights of the faithful (RS. 18), there is a natural link between liturgical and sexual abuse, and this is recognized by a Bishop, formerly a priest in one of the most orthodox dioceses in America; Lincoln, Nebraska:

…Bishop Vasa said he connected the scandal of clerical child abuse with the widespread legitimisation of dissent from Catholic teaching: “I have become increasing convinced that there may be another much more subtle form of episcopal negligence which also has the potential to harm children, not only emotionally and physically, but primarily spiritually.” This could occur when “those commissioned by the Church to be witnesses to and examples for them give witness to values or beliefs incompatible with the authentic teachings of the Church.”

It is evident in dissenters such as Charles Curran, who actively promote sexual deviancy, including homosexuality (which constituted majority of the abuses):

…”clashes with church authorities finally culminated in a decision by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI], that Curran was neither suitable nor eligible to be a professor of Catholic theology.”[2] The areas of dispute included publishing articles that debated theological and ethical views regarding divorce, “artificial contraception”, “masturbation, pre-marital intercourse and homosexual acts.“[3]

If such thinking is what underlies ‘local interpretation’ and ‘constant fluidity’, which often allows for tolerance of dissent and disregard for the rights of the faithful, the abuse cases would be the logical consequence and follow-through of such dissident thinking. If sexual abuse was to be stumped out in the Church, the same underlying mindset present in liturgical abuse must also be eliminated.

Who needs enemies with self-refuting statements like these…

“It is true that there is no truth, and it is absolutely the case that everything is relative.”

These are the kinds of underlying premise and thought-patterns underlying the contemporary cultural milieu. Yet, there is something very strange going on behind the veil… yes, the strangeness of a madman, even.

It is often the case that evil is self-defeating. A cheater compromises his own integrity before he does the system; a murderer kills his own soul before he does his victim, and; Satan is defeated by his own act of crucifying the God-man.

What evil does for goodness, error does for truth; before undermining other truths, it defeats its own foundation, be it the statement itself or the very basis for rationality. If everything is relative, then so is that statement. If there is no truth, then such a truth-claim is also impossible.


This post is a reflection on the Once Upon an A Priori…. post over at theMandM ‘blog.

Can We Abort the Abortionist?

This is adapted from a comment I made in ‘The Modern Holocaust‘ post.

If abortion is the modern holocaust, can one do what the Americans did to the Nazis, and abort the abortionist? Weelll, let’s see…

When I equate abortion to the holocaust, it comes with the broadened correlation normal in a comparison, but I think it’s a fair analogy. When judging a moral act, there are three aspects in consideration, all of which contribute to the morality of it: object (the objective act itself), end (subjective intent) and circumstance (context and factors which situate it in degree and quality). Objectively speaking, yes, the acts involved are comparable; it involves, like the Nazi holocaust, the killing of innocent human beings. Subjectively speaking, it can vary to an extent; women who choose abortion are often taught to think of the baby as part of her body (which is scientifically erroneous, as you are aware from the difference in DNA, blood type, etc.). Circumstance does not play such a great part here, since it deals with an intrinsically evil act in its object – it’s always wrong no matter how, when, or where it’s done.

Now, in relation to the use of violence, the use of violence is always the last resort, usually in the form of self-defence, in order to preserve innocent life in face of an unjust aggressor. Even though abortion would qualify in the self-defence category, it would not seem to fulfill others that the Nazi case would have. These can be enumerated under the ‘just war’ theory (CCC #2309):

– The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

– the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

– all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

– there must be serious prospects of success;

– the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

So, can one abort an abortionist? Although it is not intrinsically impermissible (for the sake of defending the innocent life of the child – not for the sake of wanting the abortionist abortion!), there are no present situations in which this would be ethical.

In any case, the exhortation for Christians remains, as always: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21)