As everyone is aware Pope Francis has ordered the insertion of a new section into the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.
Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.
Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.
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[1] Francis, Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 11 October 2017: L’Osservatore Romano, 13 October 2017, 5.
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As is also well known, scripture and the entire tradition of the Church teach the admissibility in principle of the death penalty. The admissibility in principle of the death penalty is thus a dogma. It rests upon Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:4 as unanimously interpreted by the fathers and the teaching office down to 2013.
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If the new 2267 denies the legitimacy in principle of the death penalty then it is heretical and Pope Francis must be forced to recant or be deposed.
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It is obvious, given Pope Francis’s other comments elsewhere, that what he means in this new passage is that bad rigid Catholics in the past held that the death penalty is licit in principle but now we understand the Gospel better and see that it neither is permissible nor ever was. The consideration about ‘more effective systems of detention’ simply removes a factor which mitigated the guilt of the preceding error and now does so no longer. ‘Human dignity’ is the reason for the inadmissibility in principle of the death penalty and more effective systems of detention are the occasion for our perception of this. This is clearly heretical on the material point and modernist in the nature of dogma.
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However, the passage does not have to be interpreted in this way. It could be read to mean that more effective systems of detention are the reason for the inadmissibility here and now (and only here and now) of the death penalty and a greater consciousness of human dignity (perhaps in reaction against the culture of death) is the occasion for our perception of this contingent inadmissibility.
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This second interpretation is quite licit for a Catholic to hold. However, it is quite wrong for this view (that the death penalty is illicit at this moment because of contingent circumstances) to be taught in a magisterial document. This is because the question of whether the death penalty is licit here and now is a contingent question of the application of principles to particular circumstances of the civil order and such questions are proper to the laity. While the pope is free to have opinions on such subjects he may not express them as pope for as pope he is forbidden to wield the temporal sword except in necessity. Sadly, St John Paul II’s 1997 text is also guilty of this misuse of the teaching office.
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Thus it is possible for a Catholic to hold that the view presented in the new CCC2267 is (if taken literally and in isolation and then interpreted in a very particular way) reconcilable with dogma. Nevertheless, the passage is not thereby acceptable as teaching because the expression of an opinion on this subject in an official capacity by the pope is ultra vires and, indeed, a usurpation.
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On the other hand, the only authority cited in the new section is “Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 11 October 2017” and in this address Pope Francis remarks:
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“It must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.  It is per se contrary to the Gospel, because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true judge and guarantor.”
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This statement is indeed heretical and it is the only ‘authority’ cited for the new CCC2267. Pope Francis personally must therefore be interpreted as denying the legitimacy in principle of the death penalty. It is consequently impossible to avoid the conclusion that Pope Francis must be forced to recant or deposed and any Cardinal who now omits to take this step sins gravely by omission.

Just before the year 1300, Blessed Mechtilde was asked by a certain brother to put this question to our Lord in prayer: “Where are the souls of Samson, Solomon, Origen and Trajan?” He answered her: “That which My love has done with the soul of Samson, I wish to be unknown, that men may fear to avenge themselves further upon their enemies. What My mercy has done with the soul of Solomon, I wish to be hidden from men, so that they may the rather shun carnal sins. What My kindness has done with the soul of Origen, I wish to be hidden, so that no one, trusting in his own science, should dare be lifted up. And what My generosity has commanded concerning the soul of Trajan, I wish men not to know, that the Catholic faith may thereby be the more extolled: for although he was excellent in all virtues, he lacked Christian faith and baptism” (quoted by Cornelius a Lapide, Commentary on Ecclesiasticus, 47:22).

Aelianus once suggested to me that the principal difference between the elves and the men in Tolkien is not their nature but their end: the elves are directed by God to a merely natural end, whereas the men are directed to a supernatural end. This is why the elves are destined to remain in Arda, that is, on earth, since they can find there all that is necessary for them to achieve their goal, whereas men by ‘the gift of Iluvatar’, that is, by death, go elsewhere, the elves know not whither.

Savonarola suggested – though Bellarmine didn’t like it – that the inhabitants of Limbo would after the resurrection have dealings with the saints, sharing at least some of the same space and speaking to them.

Since those in Limbo have the same nature as the saints, but only attain a natural end, they would be after the resurrection rather similar to Tolkien’s elves. It is true that those in Limbo had a supernatural end insofar as they are members of the human race, but they were never personally proportioned to the beatific vision by receiving any actual grace, and so they would not experience any longing for it, or have any sense that their natural fulfilment was insufficient for them.

(Garrigou-Lagrange claims in various places that those in Limbo have a will that is averted from God as their supernatural end, and that by this fact that their will is also averted from God as their natural end. If this were true then their lot would seem to be very unpleasant, but I don’t know why he says it. Original sin implies an absence of charity in the will, but not a state of ‘having turned away from God’ in it.)

We can be tempted to imagine the inhabitants of Limbo after the resurrection as being like over-grown children, or like the adults on earth who have Down’s syndrome. But this would be quite wrong. Their intellects would function excellently, and their wills would love God with a natural love, and each other with noble friendship, and their emotions would be in complete harmony with reason. God might even give them certain natural gifts that the saints would not possess, such as the gift of writing beautiful poetry or singing beautiful songs in honour of creation. Or even if the saints could do the same, their would surely be a style of speech and song unique to those who live by nature alone, in a natural purity of heart, yet without desire of friendship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; just as the saints  have no desire, for example, to be higher in glory than they are, or to have been the redeemer of the world.

If we put, then, Aelianus’s and Savonarola’s suggestion together, we come up with the question of this post: shall we see elves?

“….to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practised the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to the discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”

 

Transgender people should not have to go through an “invasive” medical process to prove their change in gender, the Prime Minister has said.

Theresa May also apologised for her voting record on gay rights, admitting: “There are some things that I voted for in the past that I shouldn’t have done.”

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The Prime Minister said: “Last year, I committed to carrying out a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act and I’m pleased to be able to launch that today. What was vert clear from our survey is that transgender people across the UK find the process of legally changing their gender overly bureaucratic and invasive. I want to see a process that is more streamlined and de-medicalised – because being trans should never be treated as an illness.”

The 16-week public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in England and Wales came after the launch of a new £4.5 million LGBT action plan, including a ban on so-called “gay-cure” conversion therapies.

The recent furore over the Polish supreme court brought to mind the general question of  Denazification. One of the justifications offered by PiS  for the clean-out of the court is the fact that this process was not properly undertaken in the early nineteen nineties. If a general restoration were to occur in a given country what measures would be necessary? It seems essential (and many people privately agree) that on the Nuremberg principle abortionists should be prosecuted and, where appropriate, given the death sentence for their crimes. This would not exclude the possibility of commutations or pardons for those who have renounced ‘choice’ in favour of life. What is less often observed is that those who have advocated abortion need to be disqualified from holding public office and the advocacy of abortion, euthanasia etc. in future must be prosecuted as incitement to murder. The procuring of an abortion by a mother cannot coherently not be recognised as a criminal offence but given the social pressures and evidential difficulties this should not (unlike the surgical act itself) be prosecuted retrospectively. Those who have performed ‘sex-change’ operations should be prosecuted even retrospectively for GBH.

Sr Mechtilde

Resurrectio et Vita

Solemn Profession of Sr Mechtilde

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, 2018

We choose a motto and an emblem at final Profession, and Sister Mechtilde’s was “Resurrectio et Vita” as a motto and the sun as emblem. In her conference, Mother has explored these in terms of the spiritual journey and the monastic life.

“As a light upon a lampstand He was extinguished on the Cross and like the sun He rose from the tomb … the day darkened when Christ was crucified and at His resurrection night shone like the day” (Asterius of Amasenus).

This text from Easter Tuesday Vigils tells us that something totally new happened on Easter morning.  The invisible world broke in upon the visible; a man conquered death; light dawned in darkness and shone brilliantly, toto solo clarior.  We subscribe, however, not to an idea but to a Person, Jesus Christ, who is forever alive at the right hand of His Father, but who lives also with us and in us through His Holy Spirit.  He is this sun of righteousness, with “healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2), transcendent, yet infusing his life and joy and warmth into our hearts.  By water and the word, by the Bread of life, we become sharers in His substance.  We lay aside the old and become conformed to Him in newness of life.  By the gift of our self, the doing of which is itself gift, we hope with confidence to become one with the prayer Christ makes to His Father in the Spirit.

Newness is a source of wonder, even amazement.  “Fear and great joy” seized the women, who ran from the tomb on Easter morning, only to meet Jesus on the way and to fall at His feet and worship Him (Mt 28:8).  The disciples in Luke (24:41) “disbelieved for joy and wondered.”  We can think that even Jesus was astonished at His Resurrection and had to adapt to joy.  The Resurrection appearances, however, are quiet, mysterious events, often taking place at the break of day.  The Gospels place the encounter of Mary Magdalene with Jesus just before or at sunrise: Matthew (28:1), “toward the dawn”, Luke, “at early dawn” (24:1), John, “while it was still dark”, (20:1) and Mark (16:2), “very early on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.”  The Magdalen is recognised before she recognises.  His recognition brings her knowledge of her own identity, that she is, in fact, alive after numbing grief.  All her powers of love come to life and focus on Him whom she knows with the heart to be the Risen Lord.

Although the fact of the Resurrection made no sense to the disciples at first, there was no denying it.  The Risen Christ was overwhelmingly present to them, palpable and warm, their friend and still desirous of their friendship.  Under His guidance, they sought fresh insight from Scripture and began to understand.  They grasped that a new covenant had been inaugurated.  Luke, writing in Acts (1:3-4) speaks of the Risen Lord “eating salt” with His followers after the Resurrection.  In the Old Testament, explains Pope Benedict, eating salt served to establish lasting covenants.  He writes: “The eating of salt by Jesus after the Resurrection, which we encounter as a sign of new and everlasting life, points to the Risen Lord’s banquet with His followers.  It is a covenant event … eating salt expresses an inner bond between the meal on the eve of Jesus’ Passion and the Risen Lord’s new table fellowship: He gives Himself to His followers as food and this makes them sharers in His life, in Life itself.”  Salt also purifies, preserves and adds spice to food.  “So the different meanings come together here: covenant renewal, the gift of life and the purification of one’s being for self-offering for God.”

Such things, such a new relationship with Christ, imply a new direction which is first of all interior.  Closeness to God in Christ is no longer an inaccessible reality.  “If I go away”, He promised, “I will come to you” (Jn 14:28).  And He does.  He has not gone into outer space or to some material place, but into the mystery of God; and that communion with the living God has become open to all humanity, of all times and all places (cf Pope Benedict: Jesus of Nazareth, vol 2).  His continuing presence is available and mediated to us, primarily in the Sacraments, whereby He still touches us and enters into the centre of our being.  From another perspective, He draws us into the centre of His Heart.  Cor Jesu, rex et centrum omnium cordium, as we sing in the Litany of the Sacred Heart.  He is the love which attracts us.

New direction interiorly, but always given outward expression.  Renewed moral vision certainly, exteriorised perhaps only in simple ways: a new charity, a new renunciation, but also a testimony.  For the early disciples, this often meant proclamation of the new event, a witness to the point of death.  Peter received his commission by the Sea of Tiberias after a night of toil and failure, as the sun was coming up: “just as the day was breaking” (Jn 21:4).  “Follow me” (v 22).

It is possible to see Profession, that is, not only the blessed day of public commitment but the whole monastic conversatio, in the light of the Resurrection event.  The monk, the nun lives the paschal mystery.  St Bernard writes: “By this holy intention, which is a second regeneration, we pass from the darkness of all our actual sins into the light of the virtues and we renew in ourselves the words of the Apostle: The night is advanced, the day is at hand” (On Precept and Dispensation, Ch 17).

The grain of self-love is sown in the dark.  The dying takes a lifetime, so that the nun must know how to remain, in stability of intent, waiting for the slow transformation into the One who called her.  She trusts her expectations, with a holy instinct; her eyes are trained on the dawning light.  Even if, as in the psalm, the sun in full vigour will stride across the sky from rising to setting (Ps 18), its origins are small.  Although the Woman of the Apocalypse is clothed splendidly with the sun, Our Lord at the Incarnation comes silently sicut sol et descendet in uterum Virginis sicut imber super gramen, “like the sun and descends into the Virgin’s womb, like rain upon the grass.”

He came in response to Mary’s fiat.  In pronouncing her own fiat on her profession day, the nun is recognised and accepted by Christ, the Church and the community.  A new dimension to existence comes into being, in which she finds deeper interior silence and a further call to praise and worship.

Worship belongs to sacrifice.  The nun lays her chart on the altar.  Since He gives her very being to her, she returns it to Him, as her rational service.  She chooses life, gives a life for Life, has thankfulness in her heart for the beloved people who brought her to life.  The sacrifice is thus given with joy, seems like nothing at all, so great is the prize.  The covenant is renewed, the self given, the purification embraced.

She renews her pledge of obedience, ready for whatever it may ask of her.  Already obedient in purpose, there is a fresh impulse at Profession, just as a new obedience was asked even of the Son to the Father at the moment of Resurrection.  Christ has a different attitude to her from now on.  He no longer needs to pay suit for her obedience; He knows that she sees it as a bonum.  He understands our sensibilities and does not ask what we cannot as yet give, but it is true to say that, at our Profession, He allows Himself a new freedom in using us.  We are henceforth disponible, trusting in the Person who commands.

As a result, a new relationship, a new nearness emerges with the divine Spouse of the Profession ceremony.  The gift she makes of herself is opened, so to speak, in front of her eyes.  The sacrifice, the fruit of her choice, is accepted and will bear further fruit in fidelity.  Other noble loves are not diminished by this central love but are ordered in charity.  There arises the possibility of a friendship with Christ, since we have sought to follow the commandment of love, not only in a single, generous gesture, but in the sanctum propositumof a daily service.  Since, in the case of Christ, we cannot aspire to the usual equality between friends, we believe in His desire to cross the infinite distance to exercise His right of friendship over us.  We, for our part, understand the need for complete donation of the will, the merging of our poor, human love with His perfect love for us.  He rejoices at this friendship.  “His heart,” writes Augustine Roberts, “is the first to overflow with the inexpressible sweetness of love” (Centred on Christ).  Through this shared friendship, we come to resemble Him.  Our desire to become spiritually and morally beautiful is being fulfilled day by day, so that we can claim for ourselves the astonishing text from 2Cor 3:18, used as a lectio brevis at Vigils for monks and nuns: “And we all, with unveiled face, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  A claritate in claritatem.  It is not our own beauty, but His.  We know that, when we contemplate our faults, but we may rejoice even in them.  St Mechtilde ascribes these words to the Lord: “Even if thou were perfectly faithful to me, thou shouldst infinitely prefer that my love should repair thy negligences rather than that thou shouldst do it, so that my love may have all the honour.”

The Risen Christ is being formed in us, we are being conformed to Him.  He begins to live His own life more completely in us, which is the life of the Blessed Trinity.  Put differently we embody, in our own life in the Risen Christ, the nature of Trinitarian love (cf Roberts op cit).  It is already here and now, though the awareness of the reality is often obscured.  We are forever being recalled from reverie to ready charity and constant prayer, to embrace dura et aspera with a “quiet consciousness”, tacite conscientia (RB 7).  In other words, we have to give effect to what has happened in our resurrected life.  Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, nonetheless, we begin to see with the eyes of the Beloved and to understand with His mind.  Our prayer to Him and in Him is increasingly drawn into the movement of the Holy Spirit towards the Father.  Thus, the nun who is “brought over” into the substance of the Risen Lord, reflects Him more and more.  This is her joy and her mission on earth, yet her goal is heaven, where the reflection becomes the fullness of reality.  Cardinal Journet writes: “It is in heaven, in the world beyond time, that our Saviour’s prayer … will be fully heard.  Having been completely conformed to the Christ of glory, interiorly and ontologically transformed by the light of glory … the blessed will see reflected in themselves, as in a pure and living mirror, the infinite and limitless unity that the Father, Son and Spirit together eternally form.  They will be one, not only by the transformation of grace and glory, but still more … because they will see reflected in the most hidden depths of their being, completely in each one of them and completely in the entire ensemble – as the sun is completely reflected in a mirror and completely in each of its fragments – the inexpressible adorable super-unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus says again, ‘The glory which you have given me, I have given to them, that they may become perfectly one’ (Jn 17:22-23)” (Theology of the Church).