My dear friend, the great Fr. George Welzbacher (Class of 1951!), on my list of the smartest men I’ve ever known, has one of the best “Pastor’s Page” weekly offerings you’ll find in any parish bulletin.
Before you read what I posted below, you should know that very soon Father’s parish is going to be closed, thus rendering him “retired”, though he would have liked to keep going. He accepted the decision with a serene attitude. He is 62 years a priest, well into his 80′s, and he writes things like the following every week.
By Fr. George Welzbacher, Church of St. John of St. Paul, MN
May 19, 2013
The technical term Catholic, whose first known use occurs in the letters of the bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, writing very early in the second century of the Christian era (in what is known as the sub-Apostolic age) is a term derived from the ancient Greek adverbial phrase kath holon, meaning “according to the WHOLE“. This new adjective – perhaps his coinage – was used by St. Ignatius to differentiate, on the one hand, the Church that preaches the whole revelation of Christ to the whole world to all generations to come until the end of time, in contrast with those transitory sects that, like bargain hunters at a rummage sale, pick and choose only such items as happen to have a passing appeal. The authentic Catholic is therefore one who accepts the whole doctrine of Christ, intact and untrimmed, and (with special relevance to our day) not revised with respect to the proper use of the sexual power. The authentic Catholic recognizes that Christ’s teachings are eternal and absolute, not subject to revision, inasmuch as not even Christ Himself was at liberty to change them, since, as He explained: “The word that I have spoken to you is not mine; it is the word of Him Who sent Me” (John 14: 24). So it was that the Apostles were to convey Christ’s revelation, exactly as they had received it, with no addition or loss. And those whom they in turn ordained through the laying on of hands together with prayer to the Holy Spirit were instructed to transmit the Christian doctrine exactly as they had received it from the Apostles. Thus St. Paul writes to Timothy:…”rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands …. Follow the pattern of the SOUND words which you have heard from me … guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us …. what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also …. Preach the word, be urgent in season and OUT of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when men will not endure SOUND teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth …. (II Timothy 1:6; 1:13-14; 2:1 4:2-4). And so the transmission of a teaching and sacramental authority would continue till the end of time, within the Church in which the Holy Spirit dwells, Whose presence makes the Church to be indeed “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. (I Timothy 3:15).
St. Paul could speak with such confidence about the Church as “the pillar and bulwark of truth,” within which “the Holy Spirit dwells, ” precisely because at the Last Supper Christ had promised the Apostles that, as He was about return to the Father, He would not leave them “desolate”. Instead He would send another Counselor, another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to dwell with them “forever” and to guide them “to the whole truth.” “I will pray the Father,” Christ said “and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth …. the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you …. But when the Counselor comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to me, and you also are witnesses …. When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth … and He will declare to you the things that are to come …. He will take what is mine and declare it to you “(John 14:16-17; 14;26; 15:26 16:13-14).
The Catholic, therefore, is not dependent on his own very fallible opinions as to what must be done and what must be avoided in order to gain eternal life. Within a Church that traces itself back in unbroken continuity to the Apostles themselves the Catholic possesses the full doctrine taught by the Apostles, which is in turn the doctrine of Christ. And he possesses that doctrine in its fullness, without corruption, not because of the human intelligence of the intervening generations between the present and the apostolic age but because within that Church, in fulfillment of Christ’s promise, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Spirit of Truth, speaks clearly and forever.
Those who reject that Voice cannot call themselves authentically Catholic; rather, they are sectaries who pick and choose as passion and caprice dictate. The Catholic in truth is one who accepts the whole teaching of the Church because that teaching is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. Even the Catholic sinner – and who among Catholics, apart from Christ’s Blessed Mother, is not? – is Catholic to the extent that his mind accepts the teaching of the Church in its entirety, precisely because Christ and the Holy Spirit guarantee that teaching in its full content forever.
Thus those who publicly and persistently promote abortion, contraception and homosexual behavior as things good and worthy of praise, in flat-out contradiction to the Voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the teaching of the Church, a teaching reflected in the Scriptures, have in all honesty forfeited the right to receive Holy Communion, the supreme sign of unity with Christ’s Church. In their public and impenitent promotion of what is in fact intrinsic disorder, and as such gravely sinful, they fall under the prohibition against receiving the Eucharist as expressed in Canon 915 of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, a Canon that forbids giving the Eucharist to public, grave and impenitent sinners.
A recent instruction of Pope Francis to the Catholic bishops of Argentina has therefore quite properly aroused great interest. Let us pray that it will prove to have been the harbinger of a more insistent and widespread enforcement of Canon 915.
Fr. Z kudos to Fr. W.