ALERT: Pro-death politician refused Communion

A reader, PR of Adelaide, alerted me to the following from Ille Curator News Service.

I have a few qualms about the details in this report, but here is the story with my emphases and comments.

Western Emperor Excommunicated by Bishop of Milan over Massacre: Fellow Bishops Denounce "Extreme and Unpastoral" Move  [Weasels.  There is always a distinction, a false distinction, made between those who judge according to distinctions and principles and being "pastoral".]

By Hilaria Niveus

(To read an account of this notorious incident, click)

MEDIOLANUM, May 20, 390 (Ille Curator) – The Catholic bishop of Mediolanum has been accused of "political grandstanding" by some bishops and representatives of other Christian denominations, after he expelled the Western Emperor, Theodosius, from his cathedral on Friday – apparently a response to the recent alleged killing of 7,000 in Thessalonica.  [Interesting turning of the tables.  Usually the reportage says that Ambrose and his party are the "some", that is, the "few right-wing loudmouths" who don’t have a "nuanced" position.]

Eunomius of Cyzicus, a leader in the Arian school of Christianity, [I don’t want to say… well.. "read: Jesuits", but…] and bishop Palladius of Ratiaria have distanced themselves from Archbishop Ambrose, saying he has engaged in an unnecessary public clash at the cathedral that was ill-befitting his position as a Church leader. [No "common ground" there.  Can’t we all just get along?]  Palladius said that refusing to allow the Emperor to enter except as a barefoot penitent was an "extreme and unpastoral" approach, that it had been "hasty" and was tantamount to "using the Holy Eucharist as a political weapon." [Besides, resorting to misleading characterizations based on facts is just plain mean.]

Bishop Palladius said, "If the emperor had come to my cathedral, I would have greeted him with compassion, not condemnation. I would consider it my duty to dialogue with him first before making any dramatic public confrontations.

"I feel it is our business as bishops to teach and I do not believe that the Holy Eucharist should be wielded as a political weapon."

The criticism comes after an extraordinary confrontation between Emperor Theodosius and the bishop of Mediolanum at the cathedral late last week.

Eyewitnesses reported that when the bishop saw the emperor approaching for services he physically blocked the entrance[Welll… I am not sure about that.  But this is the spin that the left is giving the story.  Let’s just move on.]

The emperor has been the subject of controversy recently across the Empire since the alleged massacre, sanctioned by the emperor, of 7000 in the Greek city of Thessalonica.  [Look.  Either those people were innocent or they weren’t.  If they committed crimes  they can be sent ad metalla, or ad ramos.  There are options.  But we must defened the right of the innocent to life.] A media release from the Imperial Administration said the action had been a response to the assassination of the military governor in the city and was simply "an effort to reduce the threat to travelers and to the public peace."

Local reports say that Bishop Ambrose told the emperor, at the very door of the cathedral, "You do not reflect, it seems, O Emperor, on the guilt you have incurred by that great massacre; but now that your fury is appeased, do you not perceive the enormity of your crime?"

Ambrose said that the emperor must "not be dazzled by the splendor of the purple" he wore, and that he should not dare to "lift up hands in prayer" that were "steeped in the blood of so unjust a massacre." [Yep…. unpastoral mainly because he refers to facts.  It is hard to dispute that when so many are killed there is a great deal of blood and bodies to dispose of.]

"Depart then, and do not by a second crime add to the guilt of the first."
A leading theologian told Ille Curator that the incident typifies the hard-line theology that was the result of the recent Ecumenical Council in Bithynia. "Nicea has really hampered the efforts of the Church to come to reasonable accommodations with the public sphere," Auxentius of Durostorum said.

"To churchmen like Bishop Ambrose, there can only be one way to be a Christian and anyone who attempts to investigate a different faith-journey, is simply condemned out of hand," he added. [Those "single-issue" Catholics are giving the Catholic "brand" a bad name.]

Archbishop Ambrose responded briefly to Ille Curator by messenger-runner this week, saying he has no intention of heeding the criticisms and will continue to refuse entry to the emperor, and key staff members, until he has publicly repented of his action.

"The emperor is a man," Ambrose said, "and like all men, he is subject to the will and judgement of God and the Church for his actions. And in ‘Milan’, I am the Church.[What an outdated ecclesiology!  The idea that the bishop himself is the embodiment of the local Church.  That would have liturgical implications.  What an idea.  Har!]

To the accusation that he had used the Holy Eucharist as a "political weapon" and was engaging in secular politics, he responded, "The Church is interested in the salvation of souls, including that of Theodosius. To claim that because he is Emperor he may act against the will of God and of common justice, is to deny the very authority upon which his crown rests."

Since the confrontation, the Emperor has reduced his public appearances and is said to be considering his position.

The action by Bishop Ambrose came as a shock to the Emperor’s staff, since the leader of the Western Empire is widely known as a "hardliner" on theological issues. On February 27, 380, Theodosius declared "Nicene Trinitarianism" as the standard of Christian theology throughout the Empire and "Catholic Christianity" the only legitimate imperial religion.

A spokesman for the administration said, "We were just attending the Mass in the local church as usual. This confrontation with the bishop has hurt the emperor deeply, I know. [Feelings count.] The emperor is a deeply committed Christian, [I think he did his CCD with Nancy Pelosi.] and does not believe that the bishop acted rightly in attempting to use his position as a Church leader to dictate public policy. The Emperor hopes that a more constructive dialogue can be entered in the near future."

"This kind of condemnatory action, and the unwillingness of the so-called ‘orthodox’ faction to enter into constructive dialogue," Auxentius of Durostorum said, "was the reason for the failure of the council." He said the incident indicates the kind of problems that can be created by "too great a dependence upon so-called ‘creeds’ and rigid formularies in the faith."

"It is a shame that the Emperor did not choose to attend services with his local Arian community, since we believe that the paramount choice in Christianity must always be forgiveness and openness to the individual Christian’s lived experience."  [At the expense even of really important teachings.]

Auxentius confirmed to Ille Curator that the Arian school was in communication with the Emperor’s staff to attempt to find a solution to the crisis.

Tip of the biretta to PR of Adelaide

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ahhh nice! Archbishop Burke a few thousand years back!!! :)

  2. Emilio III says:

    And now we know that the reporter’s fears were unjustified and the bishop’s hardline stance worked after all!

  3. Wow. Bring back the good ol’ days!

    Next I want to see what the reaction was to Saint Nicholas punching Arias at one of the Ecumenical Councils. LOL.

  4. Trevor says:


  5. Andrew, medievalist says:

    It’s nice to know that some things never change.

    History, I think, proved Ambrose correct because, since excommunication is medicinal, and the emperor did penance and repented, the good prelate’s course of actions worked. Hm. I wonder…

  6. josephus muris saliensis says:

    The contast, tragic for our time, between the article, steeped in the mores of our own age, and the facts from the 4th century, is that the emperor, being a man of Faith, albeit sometimes misplaced, in the end shewed true repentance and contrition, throwing himself on the ground in public view, and submitting to changing his laws to accord with the teaching of the Church.

    It is hard, with our worldly eyes, to see our present wayward leaders (Obama, Blair …et al) demonstrating such humble submission to the will of the Church. Let us hope we are wrong.

    Very clever post!

  7. Maureen says:

    IIRC, however, there was a long hard fight before the Emperor gave in, and a big part of it was his people backing him up, to the point of staying in the Cathedral all night, and St. Ambrose composing hymns for them to sing to keep their spirits up and their attitude properly prayerful.

    (Not “We Shall Overcome”, but somewhat the same idea.)

  8. chironomo says:

    VERY funny! And instructive…

    One of the hallmarks of our age is our insistence that all of the issues, problems and struggles we face are unique to our time, hence there is nothing that can be learned by “looking backwards” as some like to say. However, conflict comes about as a result of human nature, and as such it is ever new, but ever the same.

    I like how the “cast of characters” in the above drama is so easily transferable to our time. The one BIG difference is that the dissent today doesn’t identify itself as an opposition (i.e “Arian School”) but holds fast to the idea that it is the mainstream. The end result of this is that Tradition becomes dissent…

  9. ssoldie says:

    Very good Farther Z, you are blessed and so are we to have you as a shepherd. whats that quote ‘when one does not remember history one will relive it’, or something like that.

  10. Ann says:

    I enjoyed this, very refreshing. I wish our bishops would be solid in their stances like this one!

  11. Baron Korf says:

    Sigh… Another fruit of the “Spirit of Nicea”

  12. Patricia Gonzalez says:

    Oh wow, this was so cool — and unfortunately, “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”, as we say here in Quebec. Good to see satire put so well and so true to its source!

  13. Maureen says:

    I phoned my mother before work and read this to her. Sardonic laughter ensued.

  14. Cel says:

    “And in ‘Milan’, I am the Church.”

    Oh great, now I have this twisted vision of a cross between St Ambrose, Abp Burke and Judge Dredd stuck in my head. He stands there in an ancient forum decked out in titanium body armor in the shape of a roman chasuble, with flowing cope and an armor plated helmet shaped like a mitre. He says in a booming voice, with a Stalone accent:

    “I… am… the Church! Put down your rhetoric and prepare to be judged.”

    Fortunately, universal American Catholic confession time is only about a day away.

    St Ambrose, pray for me.

  15. irishgirl says:

    I should have read ‘the dateline’.

    Haha Fr. Z-that’s very funny!

    Ooooo-I would have liked to see St. Nicholas punching Arius! The ‘Church Militant’ at work! Woo Hoo!

  16. Brian2 says:

    Cel: thanks for the Judge Dredd reference, now I will have that old Anthrax song stuck in my head all day

  17. Irish says:

    Excellent. Wonderful. Thank you for posting that, Father.

  18. Ricky Vines says:

    Re: “Bishop Palladius said, “If the emperor had come to my cathedral, I would have greeted him with compassion, not condemnation. I would consider it my duty to dialogue with him first before making any dramatic public confrontations.”

    Wouldn’t that be Bishop Palladius’ call to make just as Abp. Wuerl takes the same position with the pro-abort pols in DC. Does the bishop have the authority to not apply canon law because, acc. to Abp. Burke canon 915 is absolute i.e. not up to the discretion of the bishop.

  19. Richard says:

    “Pastoral” is buzz word meaning “permissive” of letting people do whatever they want to do without making them feel in any way morally responsible for it.

  20. Marvelous! You’ve just been linked!

  21. Ioannes Andreades says:

    VISR (Volvor in solo ridens=ROFL)

  22. Wow, that was perhaps one of the most creative pieces I’ve read. Had me hooked!

  23. Marcio says:

    I guess we can make the same analogy regarding the case here in Brazil where the bishop excommunicated the doctors who performed an abortion in a 9-year old girl.

  24. Mattk says:

    LOL! Fr. Z thank you for this, I needed it today!

  25. ROFL!

    Obviously, I spend too much time with ancient texts. Having skimmed the article quickly, I didn’t realize this was *not* happening for real (names, controversies seemed readily believable), and it took the comments to clue me in. Here I was, thinking to myself, “Wow, even the Greeks are having trouble. But why haven’t I heard of those 7000 in the news…?”

    Bravo, bravo!

  26. Parochus says:

    One slight editorial observation to Fr. Z: the punishment wasn’t “ad ramos” (“to the branches”), but “ad remos” (“to the oars”), i.e., to the imperial galleys.

  27. Paula says:

    Wonderful! I think I was in the middle of the second paragraph before I thought, “wait a minute” and looked back at the dateline.

  28. Diane says:

    St. Ambrose – ahhh, the honey-tongued doctor!

  29. Antiquarius says:

    Few issues spring to my mind here:

    1. Let us not forget that the times of Ambrose and Theodosius and, consequently, their sensibilities, viewpoints, stereotypes they harboured, and everything that informed them, is so far removed from our time that to draw any too far fetched parallels is simply at least risky. Ambrose and Theodosius lived in a world where faith and religion were the major determinants of political events and of daily life in general. People were persecuted and killed for what they believed in, \. God’s presence and intervention was taken for granted and actually BELIEVED IN, unlike now, when indifference prevails in most quarters., Bishops were one of the most important religious AND political figures in the city, indeed, they were nothing short of civil governors of cities. Without them, emperor’s rule in towns outside of Constantinople would certainly not have been possible. This was a society where regional networks of power and patronage were crucial to the very fabric of society. And bishops were probably the most powerful patrons of towns. Therefore, they had to constantly work on their status and public standing. To reduce this incident to purely theological dimension is to fail to understand how this world functioned – does anyone really think that this was the only time Theodosius resorted to killings? He must have had a few of greater or lesser massacres under his belt, (and rightly so, as the emperor he had the divine given duty to protect the people of God and punish the wicked) and yet only for this one he found himself in black books with Ambrose. What Ambrose really did in Milan was enhance his status as bishop and point out that bishops can and do decide who is admitted to or thrown out of the community.

    2. I like the idea of the bishop being the personification of the local Church. This is how it was then, and this is how it should be now; bishops protected, fed, clothed and preached to their flock, and they were not afraid to stand up to religious authority when fundamental faith principles were attacked.

    3. ‘typifies the hard-line theology that was the result of the recent Ecumenical Council in Bithynia’ – am I the only one who thinks that the ‘liberals’ want us to read: ‘council of Trent’ here?:)

    Peter Brown, great historian of Late Antiquity, says in one of his books: ‘The Pope was the city of Rome.’

  30. Antiquarius says:

    One thing, just remembered:

    I would have greeted him with compassion, not condemnation. I would consider it my duty to DIALOGUE with him first before making any dramatic public confrontation.

    The Lord said: ‘Go ye and TEACH all the nations, not: dialogue with all the nations.

  31. Bogna says:


  32. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: Weasels. There is always a distinction, a false distinction, made between those who judge according to distinctions and principles and being “pastoral”.

    Perhaps the most pastoral priest I’ve ever known is frequently branded as “unpastoral” by some of his fellow priests. Although he surely spends more time in the confessional than any of them. Undoubtedly celebrates more Masses in more languages in more locations than any of them; indeed, offers more substitute Masses for them than does any other priest they know, including Spanish Masses for those who can’t. Offers more public worship in his own parish — not only Mass but Liturgy of the Hours, Benediction, parish rosaries, Sacred Heart devotions and First Fridays, etc. Frequently travels to other parishes for sick visits to home and hospital, anointings, house blessings and the like at the request of parishioners who call him rather than their own parish priests (alleging they’re unavailable), and hence is admired and respected by Catholics in numerous parishes who know of his reputation for never failing to respond. Gives a topical sermon at every Mass he celebrates, always touching on both the readings and the saint or observance of the day, with pertinent moral applications. Devotes conspicuous time and effort to numerous Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus, both within and without his own parish.

    It sometimes occurs to me to wonder whether the fact — that this exemplar of a truly pastoral priest is alleged “unpastoral” by certain fellow priests — has anything to do with his reverent celebration of liturgy by the book, his unfailing but not unspoken loyalty to Pope and Church, his conspicuous knowledge of the history and theology and liturgy of the Church, his unflagging teaching by word and example of the fullness of the Faith, his unstinting availability to those he serves so joyfully.

  33. L.T. says:

    This creative post definitely bolsters the prolifer in me, but it seems completely vulnerable to easy dismissal by accommodationist Catholics. The analogy between a massacre authorized by an emperor and advocacy/support of laws guaranteeing an individual, private right to destroy embryonic and fetal life seems like apples and oranges (though both are fruit).

    As evil as Obama, Pelosi, et al can be in their pro-choice arguments, they are not directing anyone to abort or be aborted. Unlike Theodosius, they are indifferent (ostensibly and callously) to whether anyone actually chooses to kill or not; they can even say that they’d prefer that no one aborted (and I recognize how morally mushy that statement is).

    Are Obama, Pelosi, et al, guilty of directly intending the killing of the unborn in the same way Theodosius was guilty of directly intending the killing of Thessalonians? If most people on the fence would answer no, then this analogy is not very effective. Doesn’t the distinction between explicit formal cooperation (Theodosius) and immediate material cooperation (Obama/Pelosi) warrant different responses from bishops? Close enough for most prolifers like me, but not convincing to people on the fence. Am I missing something?

  34. Jordanes says:

    L.T., I think the key is found in St. Ambrose’s words, “The Church is interested in the salvation of souls, including that of Theodosius. To claim that because he is Emperor he may act against the will of God and of common justice, is to deny the very authority upon which his crown rests.”

    As Pope John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, elected officials are obliged to support and work toward the legal abolition of abortion. Not to do so — to act to make or keep abortion legal, or to act to support it or fund it in any way — would be to act against the will of God and of common justice, and thus to deny the very authority upon which all human government rests. Consequently the analogy between Theodosius and Obam/Biden/Pelosi/whoever is quite apt, even though the assaults they choose to commit upon innocent human life are of a different nature.

  35. The Nyssan says:

    What disturbs me is how many Catholics would insist that this satiric article is the correct viewpoint on the heroism of St. Ambrose of Milan. I find that disheartening.

  36. L.T. says:

    Jordanes, I agree with your point about the Church’s intent. I just don’t think it will appeal to anyone outside the choir since “moderates” are so easily distracted by the “offensive” and now politically-incorrect insinuation that pro-choicers are advocates of massacres against innocent (postnatal) civilians. It’s too suggestive, so strictly as a strategic matter of changing “hearts and minds,” it’s practically counterproductive. I don’t think appeals to reason will get us very far anyway when an entire civilization has so thoroughly and cynically stripped reason of any objective authority, but I’m just saying.

  37. Phil Steinacker says:


    Please elaborate. Are we to understand you fault Ambrose taking such a tough stand with a political leader of his day for ordering the deaths of such a lage number of innocents?

  38. The Nyssan says:

    You have it backwards, Phil. I know any number of Catholics who sadly would take the satire not as satire, but as better reporting of what happened. -They- would fault Ambrose for taking his stand against the emperor and assume that some story much like this amusing one stands behind our hagiographical account (Probably the ambiguity in my first post is the double referent of the original article and the one marked up by Fr. Z).

    Personally I think Ambrose is one of the greatest saints of all time and nothing makes me want to run around a building in excitement more than watching a saint crush an emperor with sanctity.

  39. The Nyssan says:

    Argh, what a silly strikethrough. Accidental; ignore.

  40. birdfeeder says:

    May God raise up many like Saint Ambrose to keep us poor head strong sinners in check.

    Saint Ambrose cooperated with Grace to build upon his human manliness to be a man more specifically a father to his child the wayward emperor.

    A true father acts to save the life of his family even if the action might result in his own death. To me Saint Ambrose acted as a father with love and firmness and in the Communion of Saints it seems clear that he is still acting in this role.

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