Join our e-mail list


Shahbaz Bhatti
Shahbaz Bhatti

Modern Day Martyrs?

Fifth Sunday of May 2011:
Fifth Sunday after Easter

Pakistani bishops have asked the Holy See to declare an assassinated layman a martyr.1 Bhatti, who served as the Federal Minister of Minorities, was assassinated on March 2 for his opposition to the nation’s “blasphemy” law written by Muslims. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Pakistan has decided to formally request the Holy See to proclaim murdered Catholic Minister Shahbaz Bhatti a “martyr and patron of religious freedom”. They recalled his authentic testimony of faith, down to giving his life for his mission. In the second week of April, the bishops and Catholic faithful will gather in Islamabad to commemorate Bhatti, 40 days after his death. (Agenzia Fides, 3-26-2011)

We may ask whether a martyr dying for religious freedom belongs in the same category as the pre-Vatican II martyr? If we pursue our enquiry, we shall examine some texts of Pope John Paul II, which give a peculiar twist to the traditional term of martyr, as in the following homily:

Besides the three Martyrs of Kosice, many other people, also belonging to Christian confessions, were subjected to torture and suffered heavy punishment; some were even put to death. How can we fail to acknowledge for example, the spiritual greatness of the 24 members of the Evangelical Churches who were killed at Presov? To them and to all who accepted suffering and death out of fidelity to the dictates of their conscience the Church gives praise and expresses admiration.2

Such use of the term martyr is equivocal. The traditional notion meant that someone was voluntarily accepting to die at the hand of persecutors for hatred of the Catholic faith or moral principles. Martyrdom was death of one as a witness to the True Faith, which presupposes an eminent degree of charity. However, one cannot speak of martyrs in a false religion because of the interdependence of truth and charity; thus someone who bears witness to a false religion cannot be, objectively, a martyr. This is particularly true of heresiarchs like John Huss dying on the scaffold in defiance of the Catholic Church. As for those living in good faith outside the true Church, their personal merits are certainly not taken away. They might even be real martyrs if they died defending a point of the Catholic Faith. Yet, the Church cannot declare them martyrs as She cannot be judge on the internal forum which is left to God’s mercy.

The concept of martyrdom has shifted to the witness of religious liberty because the concept of holiness has shifted to mean the fullness of human dignity. St. Thomas explains that holiness is best expressed in the worship by which man renders to God His due. To the new concept of holiness there logically corresponds a new worship, the worship of man and his liberty (Pope Paul VI’s closing discourse of Vatican II). The new “holy” man is one who is tolerant. Tolerance, and not true charity, becomes the basis of the new holiness, according to Vatican II and Dignitatis Humanae. So now, the door is open to all churches in a gesture of fraternal ecumenism and union which is “enriching” the new “Church of Christ”. A few other citations illustrate the ubiquity of the ecumenical theme mixed with that of holiness:

The witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, as Pope Paul VI pointed out in his Homily for the Canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs.3

In the memorandum already cited, on the theme of preparation for the great Jubilee [of 2000—Ed.], I underlined the opportunity it presents to constitute a contemporary martyrology that takes into account all the local Churches, this also in an ecumenical dimension and perspective. There are so many martyrs in the non-Catholic Churches: the Orthodox in the East, but also the Protestants.4

Perhaps the most convincing form of ecumenism is the ecumenism of the saints and of the martyrs. The communio sanctorum speaks louder than the things which divide us.5

In the radiance of the “heritage of the saints” belonging to all Communities, the “dialogue of conversion” towards full and visible unity thus appears as a source of hope. This universal presence of the Saints is in fact a proof of the transcendent power of the Spirit. It is the sign and proof of God's victory over the forces of evil which divide humanity.6

Needless to say, there are quite a few hoops to go through before one can receive the wished for title of “sainthood” or “martyrdom”, the main hoop is that of tolerance and “ecumenism” as set by the Secretariat of Christian Unity. This has barred, among others, Isabella of Spain, found too zealous—and jealous—of God’s honor and His Church. But this has proved quite generous to many unexpected people as John Paul II expanded martyrdom to ecumenical dimensions. Today in Argentina the process of “martyrdom” is open to Marxist bishops and guerilleros. If such titles to sanctity might turn out bogus on Judgment day, it certainly opens a few doors—and newspaper acclaims—here on earth!


1.Excerpted from (March 23, 2011).
2 Homely given at Kosice (Slovakia) in 1995.
3 Tertio Millennio Adveniente, §37.
4 Allocution to the Extraordinary Consistory of June 13, 1994.
5 Tertio Millennio Adveniente, §37.
6 Ut Unum Sint, §84.

Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Kurt Koch
Pope Benedict XVI
and Cardinal Kurt Koch

What Reconciliation?

Fourth Sunday of May 2011:
Fourth Sunday after Easter

" least it is a recognition that, in the minds of the faithful, there is a real problem with the Novus Ordo. This is what we have said all along! The problem of the new liturgy is a doctrinal rupture."


Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in an address given to a congress held on Summorum Pontificum on May 15, 2011, admitted that “the post-conciliar liturgical reform is considered in large circles of the Catholic Church as a rupture with tradition and as a new creation” and that, in the Novus Ordo, “that sacredness that attracts many to the old use must manifest itself more forcefully.” (ZENIT, 5-17-2011)

This is an understatement, but at least it is a recognition that, in the minds of the faithful, there is a real problem with the Novus Ordo. This is what we have said all along! The problem of the new liturgy is a doctrinal rupture.

Cardinal Koch explained that it is the Pope’s wish for the traditional Mass to be an “ecumenical bridge”, for, by it, the Pope “wished to contribute to the resolution of this dispute and to reconciliation within the Church: the Motu Proprio promotes, so to speak, intra-Catholic ecumenism... if the intra-Catholic ecumenism fails, the Catholic controversy over the liturgy will also extend to ecumenism, and the old liturgy will not be able to carry out its ecumenical function of bridge-building.” (Op. Cit.) The purpose of the Instruction on the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum would be consequently to force all Catholics to accept one another’s liturgy, so as to end all disputes. Surprising as it may seem, it is the same ecumenical spirit emanating from Vatican II that has produced the reform of the liturgy and that pretends to grant the use of a rite which has never been abrogated.

Cardinal Koch was even more explicit in his analysis of the ultimate goal of this initiative, namely that the traditional and new Masses will eventually evolve together into a common rite, namely, that both are to disappear: “Benedict XVI knows well that in the long term we cannot remain with a coexistence between the ordinary and extraordinary forms in the Roman rite, but that the Church will again need in the future a common rite... However, given that a new liturgical form cannot be decided in an office, as it requires a process of growth and purification, for the time being the Pope stresses above all that the two forms of use of the Roman rite can and must enrich one another mutually.” (Ibid.) According to Cardinal Koch, Rome’s permission of a Mass that needs no permission would be that it might ultimately disappear!

Neither diplomacy nor ecumenism can solve a doctrinal problem. Affirming that there is doctrinal continuity between the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo Missae does not make this continuity a reality. The study of both rites, as well as the fruits they have produced, prove that they have contradictory principles and effects. Reconciliation needs to be based on doctrinal discussions for the triumph of the truth. It is not so much a reconciliation between Catholics which is at stake today, but more a reconciliation of the pastors with their own mission of defending and teaching the Faith. It is all about reconciling Catholics with the Catholic Faith. Indeed the “divergence is not so much between the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See, as between the Traditional Mass and the Novus Ordo Missae1; as between the conciliar spirit and the Faith of all time. 


1Commentary on the Instruction, DICI 235

Related articles on the topic

A Brief Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae
Commonly referred to as the Ottaviani Intervention, this excellent and well-known study on the Novus Ordo Missae was chaired by Archbishop Lefebvre

The Theology and Spirituality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Summarizes what the battle over the Mass is about: the purity of the Catholic doctrine


Catholic Contraception?

Third Sunday of May 2011:
Third Sunday after Easter

YouCat, a version of the New Catechism designed for the youth, was intended as a major tool in the Church’s approach to the secular world. It was touted on Vatican Radio recently as a “young and user-friendly” way for young people to learn how to answer common secular objections to unpopular Catholic teaching on topics such as contraception, abortion, and euthanasia.


The problem is that YouCat, originally written in German, has been poorly translated. The Italian version contains errors on the Church’s teachings about euthanasia and contraception, and the French edition has other errors. On the specific matter of contraception, the Italian edition answers “yes” to the question: "Can a Christian couple have recourse to contraceptive methods?"

The Italian publisher will be recalling the book and correcting the error. But are we dealing only with a mere translation error or are we pursuing a slippery road which the Roman authorities started long ago? A Roman document, in 1997, directed to confessors on matters of conjugal morality, shows a weakening of positions since Humanae Vitae in practical advice given to penitents who use contraception. Not only does it favor personal conscience and “good faith” over the Church's teaching, but it advises giving absolution to those who contracept without repentance.

Then, the papal book Light of the World sent different vibes from what has always understood on the same subject of contraception. It maintains the prohibitions of Humanae Vitae, “but finding ways allowing to live by them today is another story… expressing all this on the pastoral, theological and intellectual context of the present research on sexuality and anthropology, in such a way that it will become more comprehensible.” Here we simply understand nothing, except that the Church seems afraid to tell the truth!

Returning to YouCat, the English language version says that Catholic couples are entitled to plan the size of their families by “regulating conception” and that the Church “recommends Natural Family Planning. With this seemingly innocent question, we find raised the spectrum of the modern ideal “Catholic” family: two kids, two cars, two houses, two dogs! Sounds like the good old life of the Protestant couple of 40 years ago! So what has happened since then?

It is no mystery that the modern Catholic pastoral approach to couples is to force Natural Family Planning literature on them as soon as possible. The couples are told that they have to be responsible in raising a family and consider the size, etc. We are told that this is quite legitimate in God’s eyes and that there is absolutely nothing wrong about a couple using their marital rights “responsibly.” Is this not in line with the inversion of the marriage ends, between procreation and mutual help, which was made official with the new Code of Canon Law in 1983?

Yet things are not so simple. In fact, the marriage act is licit only if, in the couple's intention, it is open to new life. The practice of NFP can beget a mentality which is foreign to the Catholic outlook on life and the spirit of sacrifice. The Church has universally and constantly encouraged the growth of large families, which are the gardens of many vocations. Indeed, the crisis in vocations is due in great part to the dwindling of the Catholic family spirit. There may certainly be hard times in a couple’s life, which tempts one to limit the burden of mouths to feed, but there is also the alternative of abstinence, always the surest and best way, which one must acquire by a proper education even from puberty.

The main magisterial document to be used as a reference here is the Address to Midwives, given by Pope Pius XII on October 29, 1951. Here are a few principles he establishes:

1.      The Pope warns married people who are able to have children against the habitual practice of sensual self-gratification with the intention of excluding offspring. Marriage grants rights to spouses to satisfy natural inclinations but also imposes the function of providing for the conservation of the human race. Hence, young people who are unwilling to have children should not marry.

2.      There are four conditions which must be met before one may consider the moral possibility of periodic continence, or Natural Family Planning: 

a.      It must be done for serious reasons;

b.      Both parties need to mutually and freely agree to use it;

c.      The danger of sin must be avoided for both parties;

d.      It can only be practiced for the duration of these serious reasons.

3.      These serious reasons given by the Pope are medical (e.g., the mother’s health is at risk), eugenic (e.g., the health of the child), economical (e.g., if the family can't afford to feed another child, as may be the case in third world countries) or social (e.g., the prolonged absence of one parent).

One should remember that Pope Pius XII warned the medical world and priests of the danger of falling into an “unjust and inappropriate” propaganda in favor of these so-called “methods.” Perhaps the Pope said this because the prolonged regulating of private life by the calendar engenders a sort of contraceptive mentality, where children are not really welcomed and where parents can do away with their natural responsibilities and turn to pleasure. Christian couples would gain tranquility of conscience by seeking the advice of a prudent confessor in doubtful cases or hard circumstances since nemo judex in causa sua; no man is the judge of his own case. A priest can provide an objective perspective about the reality of one's circumstances. Also, in all medical questions, which frequently involve the psychological fragility of the parents, the advice of a competent medical professional seems both mandatory and wise.

In any event, one must remember that the rule is a large family, and exceptions are only that. Of course, the modern world has made certain things more difficult than they were in previous times, but let us remember the advice of Pius XII: 

This teaching of Ours has nothing to do with Manichaeism and Jansenism, as some would have people believe in order to justify themselves. It is only a defense of the honor of Christian matrimony and of the personal dignity of the married couple.

Other related articles

Rhythm: the Unhappy Compromise
Written in 1948 for Integrity magazine, Fr. Hugh Calkins discusses the problems of NFP, then known as the "Rhythm" method

Marital Love and Fidelity
Translated from the January 1988 French edition of Courrier de Rome, this article takes a somber look at the dangers NFP poses for Catholic marriages

Light of the World... a follow up (official Vatican clarification)
The Note from the Generalate of the Society of St. Pius X dated November 26 hoped that the pope’s remarks would be clarified and corrected. It is done... 


Restoring or
opening up?

Second Sunday of May 2011:
Second Sunday after Easter

In the panegyrics of his predecessor, Benedict XVI claims: “society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titana strength which came to him from Goda tide which appeared irreversible.”


The inversion he is speaking of here is that of a relation of strength between Christianity on the one hand, and Marxism and the ideology of progress on the other. Indeed, for Benedict XVI, “he (John Paul II) rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress.” In other words, the hope that had been laicized in favor of a political messianism, was once again turned to the service of Christianity by John Paul II, who gave it back its authentic physiognomy. Is this really the theological virtue of hope? Fr. Patrick de La Rocque, in his recently published study, John Paul II, Doubts on a Beatification (Clovis Editions),1 shows that the Polish Pope's hope is centered on what he has himself “called the human element of the Redemption, this hope that has for object the edification of the civilization of love; for means, prayer considered as religious sentimentand consequently religions taken in all their plurality and religious liberty; and for motif, hope in man.”

On this point, it is particularly instructive to refer to the first encyclical of the last canonized Pope. In E supremi apostolatus, St. Pius X explained his motto “Instaurare omnia in Christo, to restore all things in Christ” (Ep. 1:10): “It is a question of bringing human societies, that have strayed far from the wisdom of Christ, back to obedience to the Church; the Church in turn will submit them to Christ, and Christ to God”, for “to restore things in Christ and to bring men back to divine obedience are one and the same thing.”

Whereas St. Pius X wanted to restore all things in Jesus Christ (according to the original in Greek: to recapitulate, to place Christ at the head), John Paul II only wanted to open things up to Christ, by simply proposing Him to society, to culture, to political and economical systems,and that in the name of a religious liberty paradoxically conceived as a dogma by an officially pastoral council.

In an attempt to justify this mutationwhich is a rupture, one might present a pastoral objection, saying that with the heirs of the revolutions of these last two centuries, it is illusory to pretend to restore a hierarchical relation between Christ and society, and that consequently it is more efficacious to content oneself with exercising a certain influence. St. Pius X, who was not unaware of the difficulties of apostolate today, did not for all that diminish the exigencies of the faith, but he explained in the same encyclical: “in order for this zeal for teaching to produce the fruits that we hope from it and to serve to form Christ in all, nothing is more efficacious than charity (…). In vain would one hope to draw souls to God by a zeal borrowed from bitterness; reproaching errors harshly and correcting vices with bitterness very often causes more harm than profit.” In other words, pastoral care in the service of the dogmas of the faith, and not the other way around.

DICI #234, May 7, 2011: Commentary of Benedict XVI's Homily for the Beatification of John Paul II


1 Fr. Patrick de La Rocque, John Paul II: Doubts About a Beatification, Angelus Press. The book will be available in English in June. See



Our Lady of Walsingham
Our Lady of Walsingham

Shadows behind the Sunny Reconciliation of Anglicans

First Sunday of May 2011:
Low Sunday (Dominica in Albis)

Pope Benedict XVI issued in November 2009 a document, Anglicanorum coetibus which creates a juridical ordinariate for Anglicans converting to the Catholic Church. This means that these Anglican parishes are turning Catholic as a whole, and these specific parishes are de facto constituting an ordinariate (centralized government equivalent in rank to a local diocese) as an integral part of the Catholic institution.


This situation has been propelled by the ultra liberalism of the official Anglican Church which opened the way to accepting women as priests and bishops, its blatant permissiveness of homosexuality, divorce and abortion, and the abandonment of the Book of Common Prayer (compiled by Cranmer in the 16th century).

This document is a follow-up on a 1980 Pastoral Provision which had already made approaches in the sense of facilitating their wholesale introduction into the Catholic Church. They were already allowed to preserve what Anglican traditions were compatible with the Catholic Church’s liturgy; they could use their former Anglican parish assets and structures; they were given in 1984 a new book of worship, a hybrid derived from the New Mass and the Book of Common Prayer; whoever converted had to make a personal profession of the faith; finally, married Anglican priests could, after conversion, be ordained Catholic priests and retain their married status, although the episcopacy was closed to them.

The document issued by Benedict XVI assumes these changes but becomes more daring even for the purpose of easing the conversion of whole Anglican parishes into the Catholic fold.

  1. The main aspect is that they are given a singular status. They are converted into a state within a state as this ordinariate (created within the English Episcopal Conference), enjoys a semi-independent situation, unlike any other in the Latin Catholic hierarchy. This is so much the more dangerous as the subjects are former Anglicans who always took the Church of Christ to be an invisible reality.

  2. It is a whole parish which becomes Catholic together with its Anglican pastor and even if individual profession of the faith is required, everyone needs to submit to a text, and not to a living authority who interprets the text, promoting the erroneous sola scriptura mentality.

  3. The law of celibacy is softened as we may soon see a multiplication of legitimately married priests in the Western rite. But also, the papal document leaves the door open to raise married laymen to the priesthood.

There is little doubt that the return to the fold of High Church Anglicans will be proclaimed as an ecumenical victory and a sign of great hope for bewildered Anglicans, but, at the same time, the Latin Church is venturing into new avenues, potentially creating separatist groups which could be detrimental to the unity she formerly enjoyed.

Related article:
Good News: 900 Anglicans become Catholic at Easter
While celebrating the Paschal season’s glad tidings of joy, it is appropriate that we relay the good news of 900 Anglicans converting to Catholicism on Easter

< click to read June 2011 letters

click to read April 2011 letters >

  © 2013                    home                    contact