In a recent blog post titled “The Numbers” Don’t Look Good—What Should the Church Do?, Msgr. Charles Pope reflected on the drop in Mass attendance and reception of the Sacraments over the past several decades. And the numbers don’t look good. One example: in 1970, 54.9% of Catholics went to Mass weekly; that percentage dropped to 21.1% by 2018. The other statistics are just as bad. For some, this decline may be shocking. But for most of us who work in ministry they come as no surprise.

What, then, does Msgr. Pope propose that the Church do? He says:

“We are to preach the truth….We must preach the full gospel, whether it is in season or out of season. And when it is out of season (as it certainly is today) it is all the more important that we reprove, encourage, and rebuke while patiently enduring any hardship or persecution that may result.”

This proposal, is woefully inadequate. Msgr. Pope’s solution to the mass exodus the Church has seen in past decades is that we just need to preach the truth regardless of how out of season it may be. (And the more it is out of season the more we need to reprove, encourage, and rebuke others.) This proposal falls flat.

The Apostles and the early Church should be the model for a solution here. Their evangelical efforts have three key pillars that we can emulate now.

The first is empowerment in the Holy Spirit. The Apostles, and really all baptized Christians for the first few centuries of the Church, evangelized with signs and wonders. Miraculous healings gave their message attention and credibility. If we want to evangelize we need to go out with the divine life we’ve received from our baptisms and confirmations and pray for signs and wonders.

The second pillar is the message itself. It wasn’t simply the idea of truth; but the kerygma, that is, “the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith” (Catechesi Tradendae 25). Pope Francis says:

“In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the centre of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal. The kerygma is trinitarian. The fire of the Spirit is given in the form of tongues and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection, reveals and communicates to us the Father’s infinite mercy. On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” This first proclamation is called “first” not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment” (Evangelii Gaudium 164).

This message is the heart of all truth. The power of the kerygma is in the message itself. Even if the Church has no credibility left due to abuse, clericalism, and corruption, the kerygma itself still has power.

There’s an order to how the gospel truth is proclaimed. Too often, as Bishop Barron likes to point out, we lead with the moral truth rather than with Jesus, the kerygma. So the particular truth we need to be preaching first isn’t what the Church says about the moral life, but about the love of the Father, the saving work of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Father puts it this way:

“All revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. In this sense, the Second Vatican Council explained, ‘in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith’. This holds true as much for the dogmas of faith as for the whole corpus of the Church’s teaching, including her moral teaching (Evangelii Gaudium 36).

The third pillar of Acts evangelization was care for the poor and those on the periphery of society. Again, the message being preached by the early Church was given credibility by their commitment to the poor. As Julian the Apostate famously wrote to another pagan in the 4th century, the Christians “support not only their poor, but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.” Few things are more attractive to the unevangelized than the Mother Teresas and Jean Vaniers in the Church.

Msgr. Pope seems especially concerned with not deviating from the truth of the Gospel. This is laudable, but mere adherence to doctrine isn’t enough. Pope Francis calls this preoccupation with pure doctrine above evangelisation a kind of “spiritual worldliness, saying:

“A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.

This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed, yet all have the same pretence of “taking over the space of the Church”. In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few” (Evangelii Gaudium 94-95).

Museum pieces. Isn’t that precisely what empty churches are? Faithfulness to the Church’s teaching is essential, but it’s the kerygma preached by those inflamed with love for the poor and walking in the power of the Spirit that will radically transform the Church and the world. That is what the Church should do.


[Photo credit: Marion Basilio at One Secret Mission]

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Paul Fahey is a husband, father of four, parish director of religious education, and co-founder of Where Peter Is.  He can be found at his website, Rejoice and be Glad: Catholicism in the Pope Francis Generation

What should the Church do?

43 Responses

  1. John says:

    He reminds me of Ian Paisley when he starts his fulminating.

  2. carn says:

    I do not get why there is division:

    Msgr. Pope:

    “The task is clear. We must preach the full gospel,” = preaching the full gospel is essentiell

    “Perhaps this decline should encourage us to be more earnest in our efforts and to look for various effective ways to reach this increasingly doubtful, skeptical, stubborn world.” = how we preach might be varied or adjusted


    “Faithfulness to the Church’s teaching is essential” = we must preach the full gospel

    “evangelical efforts have three key pillars” = suggestions for how to preach is …

    Where is the relevant difference, that is sufficient that Msgr. Pope’s article is effectively condemned with papal words as “spiritual wordliness”? Instead of “Hey, good idea to preach the full gospel and be faithful; we should especially mind … so that it’s really preaching of the full gospel”?


    “This is laudable,”

    It irritates that someone saying supposedly something laudable is then condemned.

    • ONG says:


      //I do not get why there is division//

      Did you read the linked post on Bishop Barron? Please do.

      • carn says:

        I did.

        Bishop Barron suggests a certain order for evangelization, in which the rule part is not upfront.

        Msgr. Pope suggest that evangelisation should take place/should be attempted without throwing out the rule part or watering it down.

        Doesn’t – just based on the articles – seem to be a contradiction.

        Of course – maybe – Msgr. Pope said between the lines that the way usually keeping the rules from upfront is done is a throwing out of the rules, while – maybe – Bishop Barron is of the opinion that keeping the rules from being upfront is too often interpreted as throwing out the rules and that therefore Msgr. Pope is wrong to have this concern.

        Then there would be different opinions about how and to what extent that keeping the rules from being upfront is to be done.

        Such different opinions still seem insufficient for condemnation of “spiritual wordliness”.

        Besides, i do not understand how the “Barron”-approach can avoid the rules problem. After all, people are not dumb and therefore often are aware that there are rules in the Church indicating that a homosexual wedding is not a purely joyful event from Catholic perspective.

        Therefore, it is not unusual that people getting aware that they are interacting with a Catholic do that nasty thing of “asking questions” about the rules; and sidestepping can go only so far; then the moment might come in which one either answers or doesn’t answer the question what e.g. the rules regarding homosexual wedding are.

      • M. says:

        It’s a good point. But I don’t think Bishop Barron was talking about that situation. I think he was talking about the type of situation where a person for example brings their children up in the faith, say “Baltimore Catechism” style, teaching all the tenets and rules of the faith explicitly, defining it all right down to whether or not sins will send you to eternal hellfire or not –as if a child could understand such a thing without learning only to be terrified of God– carefully and “by heart” so that all these rules and ideas are engraved on the child’s heart from a young age, but with no concept of who God really is and what His love actually is. In my opinion that type of “evangelizing” is tantamount to spiritual abuse and leads to widespread apostasy and atheism. If we treat those who have questions the same way, without focusing on love, the reason behind all the rules- then we fail that person.

      • carn says:

        “I think he was talking about the type of situation where a person for example brings their children up in the faith, say “Baltimore Catechism” style, teaching all the tenets and rules of the faith explicitly, defining it all right down to whether or not sins will send you to eternal hellfire or not –as if a child could understand such a thing without learning only to be terrified of God– carefully and “by heart” so that all these rules and ideas are engraved on the child’s heart from a young age, but with no concept of who God really is and what His love actually is.”

        If he was talking about that, i can with high likelihood ignore much of what he says regarding situation in my own country. Cause that type of upbringing has to my knowledge not been done in the last 50-60 years.

        If what Bishop Barron decries as a problem and regarding which his approach is to be a cure, then if the problem is completely absent, both his diagnosis as his cure is only of theoretical value where that problem is not present. Just as if someone had a good idea to cure cancer and the patient is close to dying from flu; nice to listen to and maybe another day of use, but not here and today.

        “In my opinion that type of “evangelizing” is tantamount to spiritual abuse and leads to widespread apostasy and atheism.”

        Maybe it might lead to apostasy and atheism; but it didn’t cause apostasy and atheism in Germany in the last decades; cause what is absent cannot cause anything.

        “If we treat those who have questions the same way, without focusing on love, the reason behind all the rules- then we fail that person.”

        I agree that treating someone having questions without love is failure.

        I would even say that when someone asks questions in a seemingly mean-spirited, ill-willed, demanding and/or accusatory way, that then one should still treat that person in a loving way and treating someone asking questions in a loving way in my opinion includes trying to provide answers to the questions. Regarding that i knowingly dissent from what Pope Francis suggests, as he suggests to ignore people asking questions out of ill will.

  3. Christopher Lake says:

    The Incarnation, Jesus Christ, and His life, His perfect, redeeming, sacrificial death on the Cross, and His Resurrection, and the soul-saving, life-changing effects of all of these truths– these are the amazing realities which I wish to share with people who have not yet heard them, and/or who have heard them, but have not yet been *personally changed* by them.

    With the above being said, I do strongly believe that there is a place, *at least at times*, before the explicit proclamation of Christ, for the proclamation of the realities that *God is holy, and we are sinners*. Now, not everyone needs to hear both of these truths, because some non-Christians already know– keenly, existentially– that they are sinners, and that somehow, someway, they desperately need redemption and salvation. However, it is a hard reality that in 2019, especially in the Western world, a great many people do not even believe themselves to be sinners at all, and thus, they feel no real need for redemption and salvation. For at least some of these people, the proclamation of Christ, before anything else, might well be interesting in some ways, but they are lacking a crucial context to understand *why* Christ is so important and why they, I, and everyone need Him so much. Those who are not aware they are, in any serious way, ill, usually have little sense they need a serious intervention (by and through Christ) which they cannot bring about though their own “self-healing” efforts.

    • Christopher Lake says:

      *through* their own self-healing efforts, that is, not “though”– typos!

  4. Ashpenaz says:

    I think Pope Francis gives us a clear direction forward in Christus Vivit:

    35. Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back or keep her at a standstill. But let us also ask him to free her from another temptation: that of thinking she is young because she accepts everything the world offers her, thinking that she is renewed because she sets her message aside and acts like everybody else. No! The Church is young when she is herself, when she receives ever anew the strength born of God’s word, the Eucharist, and the daily presence of Christ and the power of his Spirit in our lives. The Church is young when she shows herself capable of constantly returning to her source.

    Following Vatican II, I think this is a time for re-expressing the faith in words and practices which make sense in today’s world:

    81. Young people are aware that the body and sexuality have an essential importance for their lives and for their process of growth in identity. Yet in a world that constantly exalts sexuality, maintaining a healthy relationship with one’s body and a serene affective life is not easy. For this and other reasons, sexual morality often tends to be a source of “incomprehension and alienation from the Church, inasmuch as she is viewed as a place of judgment and condemnation”. Nonetheless, young people also express “an explicit desire to discuss questions concerning the difference between male and female identity, reciprocity between men and women, and homosexuality”.[34]

    This might mean giving up old interpretations of the deposit of faith for interpretations which more deeply reflect its meaning:

    296. When we listen to others in this way, at a certain moment we ourselves have to disappear in order to let the other person follow the path he or she has discovered. We have to vanish as the Lord did from the sight of his disciples in Emmaus, leaving them alone with burning hearts and an irresistible desire to set out immediately (cf. Lk 24:31-33). When they returned to the community, those disciples heard the good news that the Lord was indeed risen (cf. Lk 24:34).

    297. Because “time is greater than space”,[162] we need to encourage and accompany processes, without imposing our own roadmaps. For those processes have to do with persons who remain always unique and free. There are no easy recipes, even when all the signs seem positive, since “positive factors themselves need to be subjected to a careful work of discernment, so that they do not become isolated and contradict one another, becoming absolutes and at odds with one another. The same is true for the negative factors, which are not to be rejected en bloc and without distinction, because in each one there may lie hidden some value which awaits liberation and restoration to its full truth”.[163]

    • ONG says:


      This post does not seem to be on “sexuality”. Why the churches are getting more and more empty is better explained by the link on Bishop Barron. However, you still haven’t answered my comments in the other “long thread” and esp. about the book “Just love” by Sr. Margaret A. Farley, you said you were reading, and the reprimand notification she got from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Could you please answer on that there? Thanks.

      • Ashpenaz says:

        I think the arguments Farley presents make more sense than the arguments the Magisterium makes. Her guidelines are better in line with tradition, scripture, science, and experience than, say, Theology of the Body. I read the reprimand from the CDF, and I don’t agree with it.

        I think Salzman’s book, Sexual Ethics, makes better arguments based on tradition, science, scripture, and experience than what I see in official documents. I also read the USCCB’s reprimand of Salzman’s book–I don’t agree with the USCCB. I suspect it would be hard to find a Catholic who agrees with everything the USCCB puts out.

        I can’t force myself to believe things that make no sense to me. I can’t follow badly structured arguments, even from the Pope. We’re not required to, as Catholics. I try to look at all sides and then use my prudential judgment to made a decision. Since the Church has made no infallible statements on these issues, I, following my conscience, choose to mold my sexual morality based on reputable theologians. You might want to look at Farley’s credentials and the response she’s gotten from her peers. Salzman is distinguished scholar at Creighton University.

      • Christopher Lake says:


        The Church does not teach that the only things which we are bound to believe, as Catholics, are those things which have been infallibly defined. Quite the opposite. The Catechism very clearly states that it is the Magisterium which, alone, is the authoritative interpreter of both Scripture and Tradition, *and* that both the infallible and the ordinary, non-infallibly-defined, teaching of the Magisterium must accepted by Catholics.

        For these two above reasons, when you, as a professing Catholic, state that a theologian whose writing has been strongly criticized by the CDF is “better in line with tradition, scripture, science, and experience” than the arguments of the Magisterium (arguments which have apostolic authority and are based on 2,ooo years’ worth of reflection on Scripture and Tradition), you are making a statement that, in Catholic terms, virtually cancels itself out logically speaking.

      • Ashpenaz says:

        Where does it say that the teaching of the Magisterium must be accepted by Catholics? I find this in the Catechism:

        1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

        1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

        1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55

        For me, “the witness and advice of others” include reputable theologians. I hope I am “guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church” but able to make decisions based on my own (I hope, well-formed) conscience.

        I think Farley and Salzman are helping us achieve the goal set out here:

        150. There are questions about the body, affectivity and sexuality that require deeper anthropological, theological and pastoral study, in whatever forms and at whatever level seems most appropriate, from local to universal. Among the questions that emerge are those regarding the difference and harmony between male and female identity and sexual inclinations. In this regard, the Synod stresses that God loves every person and the Church does the same, renewing her commitment against all discrimination and violence on sexual grounds. Equally, she reiterates the key anthropological relevance of the difference and reciprocity between men and women and believes it to be reductionist to define personal identity on the sole basis of the person’s “sexual orientation” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, 1 October 1986, 16).

        Many Christian communities already offer journeys of accompaniment in faith for homosexual persons: the Synod recommends that such initiatives be supported. In these journeys, people are helped to read their own history; to adhere with freedom and responsibility to their baptismal calling; to recognize the desire to belong and contribute to the life of the community; to discern the best ways of realizing this. Thus, all young people, without exception, are helped to integrate the sexual dimension of their personality more and more fully, as they grow in the quality of their relationships and move towards the gift of self.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        A component that is seldom mentioned in the conversation is the personal Holy Spirit discernment that we are supposed to have as Christians (Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium 12). This in addition to reason and the magisterium; and it also influences and informs our personal consciences. Grace comes to us from humility toward God (1Peter 5:5-7).

      • carn says:

        Questions are to be answered:

        “Where does it say that the teaching of the Magisterium must be accepted by Catholics?”

        “10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”

        “19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'”

        Accordingly, if Peter binds me to do something, it is the will of God for me to do that, and as His will shall be done, i shall do accordingly.

        E.g. if Peter binds me to kneel before something, that according to the best scientific analysis might be a piece of bread, i shall kneel, even if some scientifically minded parts of my brain consider it a bit strange to kneel before something, which the best scientific analysis and detection methods would identify as (only) a piece of bread.

        @rest: Before you pile on that to discuss why then i supposedly have issues with Pope Francis: If according to my perception one Peter bound me to kneel and another Peter according to my perception bound me to stand without ever discussing the prior requirement of kneeling and never indicating whether that is voided or not and according to my perception is unwilling to answer any clarifying questions and according to my perception sees the issue of standing and kneeling as irrelevant, i cannot clearly identify what i am bound to and cannot trust that my perception of the whole matter is not somehow faulty. Accordingly, i stick with kneeling, as to that i was surely bound and that binding has not yet been clearly revoked.

      • Ashpenaz says:

        As I quoted in my first post, humility means not imposing our own roadmaps. Pope Francis has a great section on discernment in the last part of Christus Victor.

      • Marie says:


        I read with sadness the link to Sr. Farley’s ‘teachings’. Far too many nuns, entrusted to educate young women in their faith in the 1970s chose instead to indoctrinate us into their twisted ideology. While I recognize today that they too were perhaps victims of improper formation, they remain examples of an era of’ clericalism that allowed them to believe it was their right to undermine catholic teaching. In turn, they deprived a generation of young women an understanding of our faith. They took advantage of their teaching positions and caused confusion as their views were opposite of what we learned at home. As young teenagers, we were vulnerable. They abused their power. Thankfully, for some of us, a far better example of love and respect for women was witnessed at home. For others less fortunate however, their word was truth.

        Anytime we sway from the authority of the magisterium, we lose. The truth is exchanged for ideologies that seek to ‘fix’ dysfunction without knowing what the ideal is to be seeking.

      • Marie says:

        I must say that there were also many kind, loving and faithful nuns who were examples of devotion and commitment to their vows. They had a very positive influence on many young girls.

      • M. says:

        Tell me ONG, what you think of this interview with Monsignor Pope? How I used to love him, he seems so strange to me now. (My turn to do a test… 🙂

      • ONG says:

        I have to make this a little longer.
        Actually last night, before watching this Arroyo ‘Show’, I read the blog post linked here and I also browsed through many comments there – I found some interesting and others very poor… (was even tempted to respond there.)

        I had heard his name but couldn’t place him anywhere ’cause I had never followed with what he writes.

        Then today after I saw his face in the video, a bell rang, and I remembered of having seen a post in one of those “confused” groups on FB. That was from November last year, when Pope Francis had requested the U.S.’s bishops *not to vote* for any definitive procedures for handling the abuse cases until there had been the new global meeting in February in Rome. (That was also subject to misinterpretations in the media against the Holy Father = *not to vote* vs. *not having the meeting at all*.)

        I remember I had checked this Msgr.’s post on FB since I didn’t like what he had added on Pope Francis shared with an ncr.’s article. After that I couldn’t be bothered anymore of reading from him again nor from his followers.

        And to make the story short, I’ll paste his opening words + the article I just retrieved from searching in that group:

        //November 14, 2018 ·

        Well, despite the Pope’s desire to postpone (quash?) discussion, I am glad that many of the bishops are vigorously pushing back and seem to have (by a voice vote) called for a release of of all documents related to the McCarrick scandal. (See attached article) I suspect the Pope will vigorously resist them and lose what little credibility he has left. We are in a very awkward place here regarding this Pope. But I must say, he is 90% to blame and has forced many whose instinct is to support the Holy Father, to oppose him publicly. At some point conscience requires this all victims deserve it. The Church is in need of courageous men in the episcopacy to risk whatever the consequences to respectfully but firmly insist on what is right and needed. May God instill such courage and bless the Bishops, individually and collectively.//

        What do you think? Do I have to say more? Should someone invite him here?

      • M. says:

        Wow I don’t know how long he has been like this, I didn’t realize how against our holy Father Francis he is. Makes me very sad to see it because for long time I always had the impression that this priest for one “profressional Catholic” had stayed out of the debates and focused on preaching the gospel. Looks like I couldn’t have been more wrong. 🙁

      • Jane says:

        Dear ONG, Marie, Ashpenaz, Carn, M, Peter, Christopher Lake, Anne Lastman, and all my friends here on WPI,

        I have been vigorously going out to folks like Msgr. Pope and others to introduce them to the following:

        WherePeterIs, for a fresh, truthful, orthodox, humble and obedient reading and explanation of all things that Pope Francis is saying and writing

        AND the following article which explains very exactly and vividly how against virtue it is to openly criticize Our Holy Father: and that he needs to be merely understood.

        I have been to Church Militant, One Peter Five, LifeSite, and others. I’m on my way to pay our good Msgr Pope a visit, to introduce him to the above wonderful, profoundly Catholic and enlightening sources!

        God Bless you 🙂

      • ONG says:

        Well done, Jane! 😇
        Let us know of any positive results.

        Pope St. John XXIII wrote in “Pacem in Terris”,1963:

      • ONG says:

        (The missing line of Pope St. John XXIII, wouldn’t post because of these “”:

        Pope St. John XXIII wrote in “Pacem in Terris”,1963:

        “… Everyone who has joined the ranks of Christ must be a glowing point of light in the world, a nucleus of love, a leaven of the whole mass. He will be so in proportion to his degree of spiritual union with God….”

      • carn says:


        While trying to bridge the chasm is not wrong, i do not think the WPI would be convincing for many.

        Also, the article about openly criticizing the Pope seems to perfectly fit cardinals asking him dubia and cardinals criticizing him for supposedly not clarifying issues. The same would be true for to some extent bishops and the best experts in a specific field.

        Accordingly, that article is unlikely to convince many that the actions of dubia Cardinals, Bishop Schneider and various scholars (Weinandy, Fezer) were against virtue.

  5. M. says:

    I think something happened to him. He’s different in his writing than he used to be.

    • M. says:

      Hi Jane- That is great- how are you doing it, in comboxes? Any results? Good luck and God bless your efforts! Those comboxes are mostly echo chamber good for you for stepping up!

  6. M. says:

    I think something happened to the Monsignor. He’s different in his writing than he used to be.

    • ONG says:

      He’s been “infected”… 😟

      • M. says:

        He always seemed ultimately charitable to me, i used to read him regularly. He write a brilliant post on the real Jesus some years ago, that helped me a lot. I think he served African American community and love gospel music. He had suffered with depression and mental illness and wrote about his healing from that. And most importantly, for a priest, he stayed out of it in order to focus on preaching the gospel. But I never read the comments section in his blog. Then, one day, I did, and I noticed a harsh retort from him to a non-believer who took issue with what he said. After that I notice a change, and stopped reading, he became more political, and when he writes for the register, it is just terrible.

  7. Pablo says:

    As I see it, there are three dysfunctional movements which are constantly attacking the church, and each, at times, gets traction, depending on the milieu:
    – which are toxic distortions of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, and Lex Vivendi.
    To me, the advocates of these movements – however brilliantly intellectual, humanitarian, or superspiritually pious – come across as spiritual teenagers and emotional runts (pusilla anima). In classical terms, incontinent and riddled with vice.

    • Anthony Fisher says:

      I think it is important to show where it is coming from. “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 25) and “Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them.” (CCC 783)

      The Church exists in order to perpetuate the Incarnation, to be the Body of Christ, continue the Mission of Jesus in the world. The Missions of Jesus are Priest (offering worship/sacrifice to God in the Sacraments), Prophet (Preaching the Gospel/Announcing the Victory of God), and King (Doing the Works of Mercy/Establishing the Reign of God in the world). In order to be the Church, we need to do those three things, not setting one over another.

      When you do end up emphasizing one over another, you end up with one of the three movements you mentioned: Evangelically/Charismatic=emphasis on “the Gospel” over liturgy or mercy, Traddies=Liturgy over mercy or preaching the Gospel, and Social Justicey/Progressive=emphasis on the Works of Mercy over liturgy or evangelization. These movements, as weird and misguided they can become on their extremes, are just attempts by people to latch on to/over emphasize one of the missions of the Church. Their hearts are in the right place, but they just need to broaden their focus/see the bigger picture.

      (And a side note: it is perfectly possible for people to have different and very legitimate emphases in regard to this. To look at 3 figures from near the 1900s: G.K. Chesterton is a beautiful example of Preaching the Gospel/Prophet, St. Therese of Lisieux of Offering a life of Sacrifice/Priest, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati of Doing the Works of Mercy/King. But, in all of those figures, while they certainly leaned toward one of those missions of Christ, they had aspects of all of them in them: Chesterton, in his work of evangelization, defended the poor/worked for a more just society in his writings; St. Therese is the patroness of Missionaries because she offered all those prayers and sacrifices for evangelization; Pier Giorgio did the works of Mercy because “In Communion He visits me, and I visit Him in the poor”)

  8. Sr. Dorcee Clarey says:


  9. Peter Aiello says:

    The devil is in the details. Where is the source of the information that produces kerygma? The source is Scripture; but, do we dare read it for ourselves, or must we receive it filtered through developed doctrine. I see a marked difference in the content of the message between the two approaches.

    • Christopher Lake says:


      You appear to pose two options with the Bible: 1. We can *either* read Scripture for ourselves, *or,* 2. We can “receive it filtered through developed doctrine.” Why does the choice have to be “either/or” here?

      As Catholics, we are certainly free to read Scripture for ourselves. In fact, the Magisterium *encourages* us to read Scripture for ourselves. In order to read it without *possibly following into heresy* though, it is important to read Scripture with the interpretive guidance of the apostolic teaching authority that Christ Himself established (as documented in the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 16) for us before He died.

      I have noticed, in your comments at WPI, that you repeatedly write, in a negative way, about “later developments in doctrine.” The understanding of the Trinity that is found in the Nicene Creed is an expression of a Magisterial development in doctrine that was formulated and codified from the Church’s reflections on Scripture. I know of some non-Catholic professing believers in Christ who have actually come to reject the Trinity, because they believe the doctrine to be “unBiblical.”

      It’s good to read the Scripture for ourselves, but when we do it outside of the Magisterium’s authoritative guidance, heresy can be one very unfortunate result. Reading the Scriptures for ourselves, with the mentality that we understand the Scriptures *better than the teaching authority which canonized it*, can actually be harmful to our faith.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        When we read Scripture, there is also the Holy Spirit discernment that we are supposed to have when we read it. This is separate from the interpretative guidance of the magisterium; and this is why we have primary obligations to our personal conscience (Dignitatis Humanae 2 and 3). We are also personally guided by the Spirit of Truth when He resides within us.
        Parts of Vatican II are also doctrine that developed from when I was growing up, and which I found to be an improvement over what I grew up with.
        The Trinity is development of doctrine which no one is supposed to understand according to what the nuns told me. It is a supernatural mystery. I believe that the concepts of person and nature come from Greek philosophy. I can understand why no one understands the formulation of the Trinity in the Council of Nicaea. We are not supposed to.
        How would we know that it is unbiblical if we don’t understand it? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are parts of the one Godhead. This is as much as I can understand.

      • Christopher Lake says:


        As a former Protestant of many years, I have personal experience with the often-claimed “Holy Spirit discernment” which you mention that we are supposed to have in the reading of Scripture. Baptists claim to have this Holy Spirit discernment when reading Scripture, and they understand the Bible to teach that the salvation of believers cannot be lost. Methodists claim to have this very same Holy Spirit discernment in reading Scripture, and they understand the Bible to teach that believers can, in fact, turn away from God and lose our salvation.

        Here we have clearly contradicting interpretations of Scripture on a most serious issue, with each interpretation sincerely claiming to have “Holy Spirit discernment.” How are we to know who has the true, accurate, “Holy Spirit discernment” in reading Scripture, when there are serious disagreements, among Christians, on how to correctly interpret Scripture?

        The “Holy Spirit discernment” that is claimed by Catholics who read Scripture in ways which dissent from the Magisterium is strangely similar to the “Holy Spirit discernment” which leads to contradictory interpretations and conflicts among various Protestants. In my experience of many years, with both Catholics and Protestants, this dissenting, anti-Magisterial “Holy Spirit discernment” of Scripture is based on private interpretation of Scripture (and Tradition)– which both Scripture and Tradition *explicitly teach against*.

      • ONG says:

        Thank you Christopher.
        The other component that had been missing is *The People of God*, as ONE Body, and not as only single individuals, each with one’s own beliefs.
        That’s the other characteristic that has apparently faded more and more into oblivion.

        It was taken up in the new post “Sentire cum Ecclesia”.

        As also “Mysterium Ecclesiae” clearly stated, the above mentioned book of Sr. Farley and the two other author’s writings, contradict Catholic doctrine, and therefore conflict with the unity of faith guarded and preserved by the Magisterium.

        The several referring to Lumen Gentium 12, where it says the faithful *cannot err in matters of beliefs*, has been taken out of context as to imply they had the personal spiritual charism to alter the teachings arbitrarily. A closer reading of the paragraph instead shows that the reason why “they cannot err” is precisely proved by the fact of the same beliefs universally, sustained and “under the guidance of the Magisterium”.

        Excerpt from Mysterium Ecclesiae:
        But by divine institution it is the exclusive task of these pastors alone, the successors of Peter and the other Apostles, to teach the faithful authentically, that is with the authority of Christ shared in different ways; so that the faithful, who may not simply listen to them as experts in Catholic doctrine, must accept their teaching given in Christ’s name, with an assent that is proportionate to the authority that they possess and that they mean to exercise.(20) For this reason the Second Vatican Council, in harmony with the first Vatican Council, teaches that Christ made Peter “a perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity of the faith and of communion”(21); and the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI has declared: “The teaching office of the bishops is for the believer the sign and channel which enable him to receive and recognize the Word of God.”(22) Thus, however much the Sacred Magisterium avails itself of the contemplation, life and study of the faithful, its office is not reduced merely to ratifying the assent already expressed by the latter; indeed, in the interpretation and explanation of the written or transmitted Word of God, the Magisterium can anticipate or demand their assent.(23) The People of God has particular need of the intervention and assistance of the Magisterium when internal disagreements arise and spread concerning a doctrine that must be believed or held, lest it lose the communion of the one faith in the one Body of the Lord (cf. Eph 4:4, 5).
        20. Cf. Vatican Council II: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 25; Const. Decr. Decl., p. 138ff.

        21. Ibid., 18; Const. Decr. Decl., p. 124ff. Cf. Vatican Council I: Dogmatic Constitution, Pastor aeternus, Prologue; Conciliorum Ecumenicorum Decreta 3, ed. Istituto per le Scienze Religiose di Bologna, Herder, 1973, p. 8. (DS 3051).

        22. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Quinque iam anni, AAS 63 (1971), p. 100.

        23. Cf. Vatican Council I: Dogmatic Consitution, Pastor aeternus, ch. 4; Conc. Oec. Dec. (3), p. 815ff. (DS 3069, 3074); Decree of the Holy Office Lamentabili, 6, AAS 40 (1907), p.471 (DS 3406).//

      • Peter Aiello says:

        Paul speaks of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and he does speak of a spiritual discernment the Christians are supposed to have that others do not have. If any of this is lacking, then the Holy Spirit is lacking in people’s lives. Just because people in denominations claim to have the Holy Spirit does not mean that they do. Vatican II also speaks of the ‘whole peoples’ supernatural discernment’ (Lumen Gentium 12). It’s not just the Protestants. Just because everyone is supposed to have it does not make it anti-magisterial. The magisterium is supposed to have it too. Clericalism wants to deny it to the rest of us.
        The Holy Spirit is still available. Those that have the Holy Spirit, and yield to God, will have peace and discernment. If the Holy Spirit is lacking in much of Christianity, it does not take away from those who have it. They themselves will know if they have it or not. “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1John 3:24).

  10. Andreas says:

    Interesting comment Pablo. I wish you could develop more!

  11. Christopher Lake says:


    I’m replying to your question for me down here, because there was no reply button, above, for me to use to reply to you there. You asked me: “Where does it say that the teaching of the Magisterium must be accepted by Catholics?”

    The Catechism describes the authoritative teaching role of the Magisterium, and the need for the faithful to accept its teachings with a spirit of docility, in these passages:

    The Magisterium of the Church

    85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

    86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”48

    87 Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”,49 the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.

    The Catechism makes still more clear, in the following passages, that Catholics must accept *both* the infallibly defined teachings *and* those teachings which are an expression of the “ordinary Magisterium” (this is explicit in #892):

    890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

    891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

    892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent”422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

  12. Peter Aiello says:

    How many of us who grew up pre-Vatican II, with the Baltimore Catechism and the Latin mass are still practicing their Catholicism. At 20 years old I drifted away into agnosticism. At 30, when I got into the Bible, I found a Christianity that made sense to me. It taught me to cast all of my care on the Lord and to be anxious for nothing (see 1Peter 5:5-7 and Philippians 4:6-7). This opens us up to Divine inner peace and strength. This is what I needed.

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