Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Capital Punishment

This summer has seen some interesting reactions to Pope Francis’s instruction to revise the teaching on capital punishment in the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that it declares the “inadmissibility” of the death penalty in criminal justice.  Much of the media treated this revision as a kind of bombshell.  The Pope had changed a teaching of the Church! (So what else couldn’t a Pope change then if he really wanted to!)

Needless to say, this was media hype.  The Pope hardly imposed a “new teaching”.  As it stood, the teaching in the Catechism already practically closed the door to capital punishment.  This current entry had been revised once before since the Catechism’s original publication in 1994 in order to make the practical prohibition stronger.  Anyone who has followed debates on the death penalty over the last few decades knows how consistently the Catholic Church has been opposing it.  It would be more accurate to describe Pope Francis’s revision as a logical end-point, bringing the Church’s official teaching into line with the development of its stance on a particular public policy issue.

How unwarranted, therefore, is the reaction among some of those in the “watchdog” Catholic media who have accused Pope Francis of recklessly changing “unchangeable” Church teaching, darkly hinting that the Pope’s latest action may even constitute “heresy”.  What arrant nonsense from people who should know better!

One can trace the development of the Church’s present total opposition to the use of capital punishment in criminal justice systems all the way back to the seminal work of the man who is considered the founder of the abolition movement for torture and capital punishment, Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794).  Here is an example of his writing as we find it in the article on Punishment (capital) in the 1911 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia.

“The punishment of death is not authorized by any right; for I have demonstrated that no such right exists.  It is, therefore, a war of a whole nation against a citizen, whose destruction they consider as necessary or useful to the general good.  But, if I can further demonstrate that it is neither necessary nor useful to the general good, I shall have gained the cause of humanity.  The death of a citizen can be necessary in one case only: when, though deprived of his liberty, he has such power and connexions as may endanger the security of the nation; when his existence may produce a dangerous revolution in the established form of government.  But even in this case , it can only become necessary when a nation is on the verge of recovering or losing its liberty; or in times of absolute anarchy, when the disorders themselves hold the place of laws.  But in a reign of tranquility; in a form of government approved by the united wishes of the nation; in a state fortified from enemies without, and supported by strength within; …where all power is lodged in the hands of the true sovereign; where riches can purchase pleasure and not authority, there can be no necessity for taking the away the life of a subject….The punishment of death is pernicious to society, from the example of barbarity it affords.  If the passions, or necessity of war, have taught men to shed the blood of their fellow creatures, the laws which are intended to moderate the ferocity of mankind should not increase it by examples of barbarity, the more horrible as this punishment is usually attended with formal pageantry Is it not absurd that the laws, which detect and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves?” (On Crimes and Punishments, 1764)

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for August 19, 2018)

Vocation and the Universal Call to Holiness

Pope Francis chose to begin his Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy on the 50th Anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council (December 8th, 1965).   In doing so he clearly wished to link the course of his Papacy to the legacy of that ecumenical Council.   Pope Francis, it may be noted, is the first Pope who was ordained to the priesthood after Vatican II.   His own personal chronology crosses the divide of the before-and-after, the pre-conciliar and the post-conciliar Church.

Broadly speaking, two “schools of thought” have emerged from within the Church over the past half-century on the meaning of that Council.   One school argues for the “hermeneutic (i.e., the interpretation) of continuity” with regard to the Council.   However much Catholicism seems to have changed, it continues on as before, Vatican II having been a catalyst for legitimate reforms.   The turmoil in the Church is blamed on abuses of the conciliar reforms, and on the influence of secularism which undermines all religious belief.

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, who was one of the theological advisers present at the Second Vatican Council, was a proponent of the “hermeneutic of continuity”.   We may see in his 2007 Motu Propio “Summorum Pontificum an example of this.   He granted liberty to the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in the Church—the “Extraordinary Form”—while still maintaining the liturgical reforms of Pope Paul VI as the “Ordinary Form” of the Roman Rite.

The other school of thought, the so-called “Bologna School”, has the opposite view of the legacy of the Second Vatican Council.   They see not continuity in the Roman Catholic Church, but rupture—and they think of that as a good thing.   A very good thing.   The three year event of that 1960s Council freed the Church, as they see it, from the hide-bound attachment to Tradition which had been “stifling the Spirit” for so long and turning the Catholic Church into a Fortress instead of allowing it to move out into the world, the better to engage it.   For the advocates of the “Bologna School”, Pope Francis is their man.

The Angelus
The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet

One of the chief themes of the Second Vatican Council, perhaps the chief theme, however, was the “universal call to holiness”.   This was explicitly addressed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, approved by the Council Fathers in 1964:

“The Church, whose mystery is set forth by this sacred Council, is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy.   This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as His Bride, giving Himself up for her so as to sanctify her (cf. Eph. 5:25-26); He joined her to Himself as His body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.   Therefore all in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness, according to the Apostle’s saying: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’ (I Thess. 4:3; cf Ep. 1:4) (LG 39)”

“It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society. (LG 40)”

This therefore is the primary and necessary vocation for every Christian person: the “universal call to holiness”, which is another way of saying the fulfillment of our baptismal vows.   All other vocations and courses in life must follow from it and draw refreshment for it as water from a deep and inexhaustible well.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for January 3, 2016

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for November 1, 2015

The Feast of All Saints – This week’s bulletin for Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, Newton:

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for the week of November 1, 2015
Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for the week of November 1, 2015

MaryImmaculate-2015-11-01.pdf

Front cover: The tapestry of Saints Zelie and Louis Martin, displayed in St. Peter’s Square at their Mass of Canonization on October 18th, 2015.  They are the first married couple canonized together in the history of the Church.  They were the parents of nine children, the youngest of whom became St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.”

Pastor’s Note:  ALL SAINTS DAY AND SAINTS OF MATRIMONY

Weekly Scripture Study on Luke 23:44-56; Parish Fellowship; Parish Religious Education; Ladies Sodality Retreat this coming weekend; Music Program; Mass Propers; Calendar of Masses and more.

Please visit the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes website and
facebook page for more information.

Mary Immaculate bulletins are currently available at www.maryimmaculatenewton.com.

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for October 11, 2015

20th Sunday after Pentecost/28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – This week’s bulletin for Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, Newton:

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for the week of October 11, 2015
Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for the week of October 11, 2015

MaryImmaculate10112015.pdf

Includes Pastor’s Note on The Rosary and the Power of Prayer; Pastoral Associate’s article on his trip to Philadelphia during Pope Francis‘ papal visit, Weekly Bible Study, Music Program, Mass Propers for Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Parish groups and activities, Calendar of Masses and more.

Please visit the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes website and
facebook page for more information.

Mary Immaculate bulletins are available at www.maryimmaculatenewton.com.

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for October 4, 2015

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost and the 27th of the year – This week’s bulletin for Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, Newton:

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for the week of October 4, 2015
Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for the week of October 4, 2015

Mary-Immaculate-of-Lourdes-Bulletin-2015-10-04

Front cover is banner of a newly canonized saint. Pastor’s Note on Pope Francis‘ visit to the United States; Weekly Scripture Study on Luke 23:1-12; Adult Education Formation course; Parish Announcements; Music Program; Mass Propers; Calendar of Masses and more.

Please visit the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes website and
facebook page for more information.

Mary Immaculate bulletins are available at www.maryimmaculatenewton.com.

The Holy Shroud of Turin: Icon of Christ

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for April 26, 2015)

On my 16th birthday (April 13th, 1977) my parents gave me a “Lifting the Veil” Face of Christ, a picture of the Holy Face from the image on the Shroud of Turin which, when you lifted a thin piece of cardboard from inside the plastic, revealed a second image of Christ as He would have appeared in His living likeness. It was from the Confraternity of the Precious Blood.

Icon of Christ

The instructions on the back were to use this as a home shrine to unite with daily Mass.  As I read it today, I quote: “The Mass is two things: a meeting and a memory, points out Orate Fratres [a liturgical magazine], 1: it commemorates the Death of Christ…2.: we meet Christ in person. It is necessary to keep the two well distinct, if the essence of the Mass is to be seen clearly. Your ‘Lifting the Veil’ Face of Christ enables you to see these two things clearly as you unite with Mass daily (1) by contemplating the True Face of the Dead Christ… and (2) meeting with Christ in Person, as His Living Likeness appears through the ‘Veil’.

I found this image very compelling as a youth, and it has indeed been a stimulus to prayer and thoughts of the encounter with Christ in person.  (I have kept this “Lifting the Veil” image with me all these years, and it has added poignancy now as a memento of my deceased parents.)

The image of the Holy Shroud as the True Face of Christ is a great gift of God to His Church: to affirm our faith, without taking away either the necessity for it or the merit of it.  For nearly 20 centuries the real facts about this Shroud-relic were unknown, because the scientific means to discover and measure them were unknown.  It is very good for us to inform ourselves about some of the scientific discoveries surrounding the Shroud in recent times.  Do not be deterred by dismissive and irreverent coverage in the media.

At present, the Holy Shroud is being shown to the public in the city of Turin, Italy, through June.  The occasion is the bicentennial of the birth of St. John Bosco, “Don Bosco”, in 1815, who was from that region of Italy, the Piedmont. Pope Francis—whose grandparents emigrated from Piedmont to Argentina—is scheduled to make pilgrimage to the Shroud exhibition on June 21st.

In 2010, during the last public exhibition of the Shroud, Pope Benedict XVI made pilgrimage.  It was the Fourth Sunday after Easter, May 2nd. In his remarks there, describing himself as a pilgrim, he said:

How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood, and blood is life! The Shroud is an Icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and whose right side was pierced. The Image impressed upon the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the blood speaks of his life. Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. Especially that huge stain near his rib, made by the blood and water that flowed copiously from a great wound inflicted by the tip of a Roman spear. That blood and that water speak of life. It is like a spring that murmurs in the silence, and we can hear it, we can listen to it in the silence of Holy Saturday. Dear friends, let us always praise the Lord for his faithful and merciful love. When we leave this holy place, may we carry in our eyes the image of the Shroud, may we carry in our hearts this word of love and praise God with a life full of faith, hope and charity.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)