Changes in the Roman Curia affecting catechesis and seminaries

I was busy yesterday and missed this at  The Holy Father changed the “competence” of some dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

He moved responsibility for Catechesis from the Congregation for the Clergy to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization by means of a Motu Proprio called Fides per doctrinam.  He also moved governance of seminaries from Congregation for Catholic Education to the Congregation for the Clergy by means of a Motu Proprio Ministrorum institutio.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    Do you have any commentary on either of these, Fr. Z? The Pope has done a lot of little shuffles in competence in the last half year or so. Granted the choices make sense (and that always is to be lauded in beaurocracy), but why spend so much “political capital” on getting these changes through when there are so many other things to be worrying about?

  2. MikeM says:

    What does the Congregation for Catholic Education do now? [Great question!]

  3. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    same questions…

  4. jacobi says:

    Catechesis has now become one of the priorities in the Church. Throughout the Western Church today we have a Faithful which is largely deficient in knowledge of, or simply ignorant of their Faith due to the fact that since the 1970s, catechesis has been widely abandoned in the Church.

    We worry so much about the catechesis of children, but if the parents are ignorant of the Faith, then what is the point?

    In my little part of the world there is an initiative to request parish priests, in this year of Faith, to give a series of sermons during Sunday Mass explaining the Faith, and in particular, the four Sacraments of Holy Communion, Confession, Holy Orders and Marriage. For example, I would suggest that it be explained that only those who are in a State of Grace and have observed the stipulated fast may receive. Clearly the common spectacle of 100% attendance at Communion and near zero at Confession indicates something gravely amiss.

    Having said that it is, in the last resort, up to you clergy out there, and not just us laity!

  5. acardnal says:

    jacobi wrote, ” Clearly the common spectacle of 100% attendance at Communion and near zero at Confession indicates something gravely amiss.”

    I remember something the Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, SJ said at a talk. Something to the effect, “This must be the holiest parish in the diocese. Everyone went to communion on Sunday and only a handful went to Confession on Saturday.”

  6. wmeyer says:

    We worry so much about the catechesis of children, but if the parents are ignorant of the Faith, then what is the point?

    Children are the future. If they know their faith, then they are equipped to practice it as adults, and to inculcate it in their children. Catechesis should always be–as it should always have been–a priority for the Church.

  7. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    Hey, just a curious question reading through the Motu Proprio, does the Pontificium Opus Vocationum Sacerdotalium have any relevance in today’s world? I’ve never even heard of it until now.

  8. Gratias says:

    Will the bishops now allow the the teaching of Latin in seminaries? Or will it remain forbidden?

  9. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    @Gratias, I don’t think it’s a matter of “allowing”. Latin was offered at my seminary, just as an elective. When these guys get serious enough to *require* Latin, that’s when I’ll pay attention. How some of these program directors can claim their students have “graduate degrees in theology” without being able to work in primary documents is beyond me.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Dear @jacobi and @acardnal,

    although the Confession attendance is an obvious striking problem…

    in normal circumstances you do not need to go to Confession before going to Communion. If there ever was a thinking that this was so, this also was … I do not want to say an abuse… but shows a highly problematic background thinking.

    Sin, truly speaking probably all of it, but very certainly and obviously grave sin, is an exceptional accident (by which I do not mean people are not responsible for it; this sort of accident consists precisely in that people are responsible for it; what I do not want to do I do). It is a crime. It is nothing like mere “not achieving enough” or “only following one’s daily routine” or whatever.
    It has been prophecied that any of us will always again commit some little sin at least; but we are not bound to sin as if by nature or what. There is no total depravity; and of exceptional and rare cases of people given over completely to the evil cause we do not speak here.

    Also, you certainly get a serious chance that you fulfil the fasting (I mean the one hour including alcohol allowance) requirement without any felt abnegation at all.

    Certainly, neglect of Confession is a very bad thing (for we know what a good thing Confession is). But silently to presume that whoever has not confessed for 4 months and still Communicates does so unworthily… no, we must not do that.

  11. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    @Imrahil. I don’t think one needs to fall into the sin of presumption to think that the entire congregation going to communion every week of the year is irregular.

  12. PA mom says:

    So, the Pope can’t get the wolves out of the pasture, so instead he is removing the sheep?
    Whatever gets the job done.

  13. acardnal says:

    Imrahil, I think mortal sin is common in the USA. One only has to consider the prevalent use of contraceptives and the pervasiveness of impurity on commercial television here which produces consensual lustful thoughts among other immoral actions. People think nothing of it. And that is just two areas of concern.

    I refer you toMt 5:27-28:
    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    and Mt. 7:13:
    13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy,[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

    More catechesis is needed! Especially regarding sin. No question.

  14. joan ellen says:

    PA mom says: 26 January 2013 at 4:29 pm
    “So, the Pope can’t get the wolves out of the pasture, so instead he is removing the sheep?
    Whatever gets the job done.”

    Oh, levity! Thank you so very much. Nicely said. I sure did need the chuckle.

  15. acardnal says:

    Addendum: I would add that I am a product of the error-filled catechesis and catechetical materials of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. They promoted a faulty understanding of the conscience and its proper role in making moral judgments; also, they often taught that committing a mortal sin was a rare occurrence and difficult to do. (cf. the erroneous “fundamental option” theology). Thus, the mess we are in today.

    Mortal Sin: Serious matter (as determined by the Church), sufficient reflection and full consent. Or to put it in simpler terms, “it’s serious matter, you know it, and you choose to do it anyway.”

    Perhaps I misunderstood your comment above, but committing mortal sin is not difficult nor is it rare.

  16. joan ellen says:

    a cardnal: “I remember something the Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, SJ said at a talk. Something to the effect, “This must be the holiest parish in the diocese. Everyone went to communion on Sunday and only a handful went to Confession on Saturday.””

    I think this is on one of Fr. Hardon’s tapes also. Unless I heard it at a talk of his in Detroit. Fr. Hardon had a way that I can only wish or pray for…he was not -harsh and brittle with the Truth- paraphrasing PBXVI (another post). However, he spoke ever so softly and calmly, yet his zingers were beautiful as the one you cite above. My favorite non-zinger words of his: “Expect moral miracles.”

    I have noticed that you also often reference Fr. He was saintly.

  17. jhayes says:

    Well, it works both ways. Some people may be too casual in coming to Communion but others may be too scrupulous in not coming. In pre-Vatican II days, we usually went to Confession on Saturday afternoon or evening and then Communion the next morning but not again until we next went to Confession again. One Confession, one Communion.

    I have been impressed by the insight shown in the Book of Common Prayer which provided two versions of the Exhortation to be read by the priest on the Sunday before he celebrated the Eucharist. The first warned against receiving the Eucharist casually. The second warned against staying away because of scruples “Wherefore, most dearly beloved in Christ, take ye good heed, lest ye, withdrawing yourselves from this holy Supper, provoke God’s indignation against you”

    “When the Minister giveth warning for the celebration of the holy Communion, (which he shall always do upon the Sunday, or some Holy-day, immediately preceding,) after the Sermon or Homily ended, he shall read this Exhortation following.

    DEARLY beloved, on —– day next I purpose, through God’s assistance, to administer to all such as shall be religiously and devoutly disposed the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; to be by them received in remembrance of his meritorious Cross and Passion; whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are make partakers of the Kingdom of heaven. Wherefore it is our duty to render most humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God our heavenly Father, for that he hath given his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament. Which being so divine and comfortable a thing to them who receive it worthily, and so dangerous to them that will presume to receive it unworthily; my duty is to exhort you in the mean season to consider the dignity of that holy mystery, and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof; and so to search and examine your own consciences, (and that nor lightly, and after the manner of dissemblers with God; but so) that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table.
    The way and means thereto is; First, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God’s commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God, but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other; and being likewise ready to forgive others that have offended you, as ye would have forgiveness of your offences at God’s hand: for otherwise the receiving of the holy Communion doth nothing else but increase your damnation. Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer, or be in malice, or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that holy Table; lest, after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul.
    And because it is requisite, that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God’s mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Minister of God’s Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God’s holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.

    Or, in case he shall see the people negligent to come to the holy Communion, instead of the former, he shall use this Exhortation.

    DEARLY beloved brethren, on —– I intend, by God’s grace, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper: unto which, in God’s behalf, I bid you all that are here present; and beseech you, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, that ye will not refuse to come thereto, being so lovingly called and bidden by God himself. Ye know how grievous and unkind a thing it is, when a man hath prepared a rich feast, decked his table with all kind of provision, so that there lacketh nothing but the guests to sit down; and yet they who are called (without any cause) most unthankfully refuse to come. Which of you in such a case would not be moved? Who would not think a great injury and wrong done unto him? Wherefore, most dearly beloved in Christ, take ye good heed, lest ye, withdrawing yourselves from this holy Supper, provoke God’s indignation against you. It is an easy matter for a man to say, I will not communicate, because I am otherwise hindered with worldly business. But such excuses are not so easily accepted and allowed before God. If any man say, I am a grievous sinner, and therefore am afraid to come: wherefore then do ye not repent and amend? When God calleth you, are ye not ashamed to say ye will not come? When ye should return to God, will ye excuse yourselves, and say ye are not ready? Consider earnestly with yourselves how little such feigned excuses will avail before God. They that refused the feast in the Gospel, because they had bought a farm, or would try their yokes of oxen, or because they were married, were not so excused, but counted unworthy of the heavenly feast. 1, for my part, shall be ready; and, according to mine Office, I bid you in the Name of God, I call you in Christ’s behalf, I exhort you, as ye love your own salvation, that ye will be partakers of this holy Communion. And as the Son of God did vouchsafe to yield up his soul by death upon the Cross for your salvation; so it is your duty to receive the Communion in remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, as he himself hath commanded: which if ye shall neglect to do, consider with yourselves how great injury ye do unto God, and how sore punishment hangeth over your heads for the same; when ye wilfully abstain from the Lord’s Table, and separate from your brethren, who come to feed on the banquet of that most heavenly food. These things if ye earnestly consider, ye will by God’s grace return to a better mind: for the obtaining whereof we shall not cease to make our humble petitions unto Almighty God our heavenly Father.”

  18. acardnal says:

    Better to be a Catholic than an Anglican, I guess, after that! ;-)

    Communion received worthily by someone in a state of grace remits venial sin. But to receive in a state of mortal sin is a sacrilege – and another mortal sin. Everyone should examine their conscience before receiving.

    In fact, I wish that outside of every confessional was a pamphlet with an orthodox examination of conscience. I have rarely observed this but would be pleased to supply them.

  19. Imrahil says:

    Dear @acardnal,

    I know how mortal sin is defined, I know that committing it is certainly not difficult, I know things that are of grave matter happen often. I do not know – by which I do not wish to imply anything; i simply do not know – whether subjective grave sin (which is the thing of importance here) is rare. [On an aside which is an aside: For his sin to be grave the sinner must not only know that the Church counts something as grave, but that it is grave per se. If in a certain person there is a difference between the two, then he is likelily no full believer of course… but that again can theoretically go without grave sin.] But then be that as it may, that does not enter the question here.

    What I do say is that, if any thoughts on its prevalence are to be tolerated at all, then we must say that mortal sin just happens to happen rarely in an orthodox Christian who has not positively decided not to care about the commendments.
    [Note again that by this I do not mean that in many or at least some cases it does not happen at all but that in many cases is happens rarely.]

    The Church herself allows us to Communicate 364 times (excluding Holy Saturday) on one Confession, including 60 Sundays and HDOs. The Church grants full indulgences if we communicate once a month, and then we can have 30 Communions on one Confession, including 5 Sundays and HDOs.

    On that other thing concerning some particular sorts of sins,

    one thing, who tells me that the lustful thoughts are consensual? Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, for all I know. That’s difficult to decern even in one’s own thoughts, and, as also traditional moralist say, mostly venial matter if sinful at all (which grantedly might happen most of the time).

    And if People think nothing of it then they are excused. They might bring themselves in danger of consenting to things they do think of, but if you don’t think (and if that’s not a phrase but reality) then there is no mortal sin. That danger thing is, of course, objectively sinful too, but if you did not think of it… etc.

    The first quote of Our Lord should have had its bold characters in the word lustful. It is a grave sin to wish to commit a grave sin with a woman. It is no grave sin – indeed, no sin – to look at a woman.

    The second quote refers, indeed, to the prevalence of sin. It does not however even remotely suggest that a person must Confess as often as Communicate. St. Francis de Sales said people should approach Communion, and if anyone asked them how they dared presume they are so saintly they should say they needed the medicine (against venial sins, of course). I do hate to say it but weren’t it the Jansenists that suggested otherwise?

    I agree that people need more catechesis. However, even here, it seems to be necessariy to distinguish what catechesis.

    Maybe it is indeed the case in America that you can just scare and punish people into stopping to sin. The thing is that I do feel in Europe you could only scare and punish them into giving up the Faith altogether. Or, worse, into despair of salvation.

    What they must be taught is
    1. that sin is not – as they previously had been thinking – a weird and deplorable state of mankind altogether, but a specific offense against God, which the sinner need not have committed but still has,
    2. that each and every commandment [after the expulsion from paradise that is] has its reason not only in God’s will to test our obedience, but also in natural reasons (I hardly see a situation, except desperate need of arguments, where “that’s wrong because the Church forbids it” is an argument that would not soon backfire),
    3. that all that is not sin is not sin (which, despite its triviality in formulation, was a very refreshing and edifying thought of myself after composing my confession summary after long years of abstinence),
    4. that sin really can be forgiven (which is the less similar to “does not matter” even than punishment).

  20. Imrahil says:

    [On my first parenthesis: when I said “without grave sin” I meant “without subjective grave sin”.]

  21. Imrahil says:

    Besides, I think I read somewhere (I thought it was in the Code, but I can’t find it there now; anyway it is logical) that, despite it might probably not be a sin not to do so, I’m quite strongly supposed to Communicate whenever I’m in a Holy Mass, provided there is no grave reason to the contrary.

  22. anilwang says:


    While I agree children’s catechesis is important there are a few things to point out:
    (1) Children’s catechisms are necessarily limited. Adults can learn a whole lot more.

    (2) Too many Catholics treat confirmation as “Catholic Graduation” and give up trying to learn or even practice the faith afterwards. Formation must continue to grow into adulthood.

    (3) People forget the basics if it’s not constantly re-enforced throughout their lives.

    (4) The best formation comes from the home, though it doesn’t hurt if it happens in schools and home. After Vatican II, too many parents assumed “the Catholic schools will teach their children the faith” and were shocked to find out out that it didn’t happen.

  23. joan ellen says:


    b) promuovere nei diversi ambiti l’uso del latino, sia come lingua scritta, sia parlata.
    (Article 2. b. Promote the use in different areas of Latin as the language is written and spoken. (Google Translate) Motu Proprio Link:

    It would be wonderful if this gift to the Church was promoted/implemented via the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Catholic Education, and the Pontifical Council for The New Evangelization so as many as possible in the Church could benefit from this gift.

    Mere observation shows that those schooled well in Latin have a decided advantage…intellectually, not only in the secular sense, but, also in the sacred sense. In piety, especially, and in understanding the faith, and in both senses, clarity of thought. This blog attests to that observation. Also worth revisiting is Fr. Z’s blog Motu Proprio discussion link:

    Increased piety and understanding of the faith can help those who are trying to discern their sins and non sins in an examination of conscience (EOC) because of clarity of thought. The intellect has to be informed to inform the blind will. But then, my own experience tells me that there still has to be a certain discipline in the thoughts (slothful thinking does not cut it) and in the will for that firm purpose of amendment to be effective in practice. Holy Mother the Church has got the program so right! If we would just follow it. However, there is a problem. Sin is so easy. Virtue is so not so easy. It is those two things that we must get right in order to enjoy Our Blessed Lord in our next life. And so then the need for our prayer life. And the need for the prayers of others.
    Deo Gratias.

  24. joan ellen says:

    anilwang says: 26 January 2013 at 7:19 pm

    “(4) The best formation comes from the home, though it doesn’t hurt if it happens in schools and home. After Vatican II, too many parents assumed “the Catholic schools will teach their children the faith” and were shocked to find out out that it didn’t happen.”

    Our experience exactly with the Catechism Classes. Thanks.

  25. Well gosh, if a priest knows Latin, then he’d be able to read all the good stuff the Church wrote before the infection by Secret Societies, Modernism, etc [as prophesied innumerable times by mystics and saints, and even vehemently warned about by many Popes in succinct, detailed Encyclicals].
    We can’t have that! An informed clergy is harder to manipulate.

    For instance a great example is the Bull Auctorem Fidei by Pius VI, 1794, referred to by other Popes in their Encyclicals it is so important. Its hard to find a translation but it is a must-read. Typically described as a condemnation of Jansenism and Gallicanism, its way more than that. The Bull forbids Bishops creating disciplines contrary to Church practices, and assuming authority that is not rightfully theirs. Read that Bull and you will see why quoting the Book of Common Prayer, or de Chardin for example, is condemned, or any other work of heretics. This Bull states very clearly that any document or person who repeats any error, no matter how sweet or true their other words should be utterly ignored, since this is the way all dangerous error are introduced in the Church. In great detail, this work condemns in no uncertain terms ambiguity…yes ambiguity in teaching. Too rich to simply paraphrase, every Catholic should read this–but gosh, what priest can introduce this Bull to his charges if he can’t even read Latin?

    Circling back to the discussion on bypassing bad parents and teaching the children the Faith, there is no doubt that this must be done. But unfortunately, most children shape themselves to example and their upbringing, easily absorbing hypocritical behavior. Same goes for priests – if we don’t have clergy acting like Catholics, how much harder is it to know and live the Faith?

  26. joan ellen says:

    Tina in Ashburn says: 26 January 2013 at 8:35 pm

    “Well gosh, if a priest knows Latin, then he’d be able to read all the good stuff the Church wrote before the infection by Secret Societies, Modernism, etc [as prophesied innumerable times by mystics and saints, and even vehemently warned about by many Popes in succinct, detailed Encyclicals].
    We can’t have that! An informed clergy is harder to manipulate.”

    These words especially “Well gosh, if a priest knows Latin, then he’d be able to read all the good stuff the Church wrote…”. “An informed clergy is harder to manipulate.” would be good to pass around to any Seminarians we know.

  27. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    @Imrahil: I think you’re missing part of the point here. It is not disputed that in the USA, anyhow, in the vast majority of parishes, the entire congregation comes up every week, every single individual who has been admitted to communion. If you think that every single one of these individuals–1) never commit any mortal sins on any days of the year 2) has been vigilant in going to confession after mortal sin before the next Sunday mass in which they receive communion 3) has followed the marriage laws of the Church in regards to divorce with remarriage and living with non-familial members of the opposite sex–then I think you are not very much understanding the pastoral situation in the US (at least). Confessional attendance in general is low (which no one again disputes). The studies & polls keep telling us things like internet porn is pervasive across all age groups. For the first time in recorded history here, more children were born out of wedlock than in. Average age of marriage keeps rising along with concubinage and Catholics do not typically show any difference in the studies versus the rest of the population (except perhaps in the group of Catholics who attend mass “frequently” (different definitions in different studies)). This is a serious pastoral problem.

    Granted that rigorist tendencies (whether formally Jansenistic or otherwise) are not helpful in the Church, since it is the Truth that sets us free, neither is putting aside the grave situation here. People’s souls are in peril. We dare not entertain a hope that these grave problems do not cling to our parishioners when there is so much evidence to the contrary. The explanation that makes the most sense for the universal reception of communion is not that people here are not committing mortal sins, but rather that there is a relaxed attitude and even a positive pressure on individuals to approach because everyone else is.

    Don’t get me wrong. I wish that you were right. I wish I could have a founded belief that our congregations here were following the Precepts and were being more influenced by the Church’s teaching than the cultural forces around us. One year’s experience as a priest was enough to convince me otherwise, and that first year seems like an eternity ago.

  28. StWinefride says:

    Tina in Ashburn, JoanEllen: These words especially “Well gosh, if a priest knows Latin, then he’d be able to read all the good stuff the Church wrote…”. “An informed clergy is harder to manipulate.” would be good to pass around to any Seminarians we know.


    From the very fact that the editio typica (source text) of any official document of the Catholic Church is in Latin, it goes without saying that all priests should know Latin, so that they can truly know the mind of the Church and also be capable of recognising faulty translations into the vernacular.

  29. StWinefride says:

    Dear Imrahil you say: Besides, I think I read somewhere (I thought it was in the Code, but I can’t find it there now; anyway it is logical) that, despite it might probably not be a sin not to do so, I’m quite strongly supposed to Communicate whenever I’m in a Holy Mass, provided there is no grave reason to the contrary.

    What you are saying reminds me of this from Padre Pio to a spiritual son/daughter. However, I bear in mind that this is a translation, and I would like one day to see it in its original Italian. I also do not know the context.

    Continue to receive Communion, and don’t worry about not being able to receive the sacrament of penance. Jesus will prize your goodwill. Remember what I have told you so often: as long as we are not certain of being in serious sin, we need not abstain from Communion.

    (Padre Pio – In My Own Words. Compiled and Edited by Anthony F. Chiffolo, Hodder & Staughton).

  30. anilwang says:


    Assuming the quote is authentic and in context, the translation “serious sin” is likely “mortal sin”. I suspect Padre Pio was speaking to someone suffering from scrupulosity. Also keep in mind that. even Saints may occasionally give bad advice.

    That being said, when was the last time you’ve heard a priest give a homily on the necessity of confession? Without occasional reminders, especially for C and E Catholics (or even W, B and F Catholics), won’t think confession is serious and just go up. I remember as a child in the 70s that about 30% of the people stayed in their pews during communion. Now the number is closer to 5% at the parish of my weekly mass and at the parish of my daily mass. At my daily mass, confession is before mass and generally has at least 15 people in line, so the 5% number matches with the 30% of my youth. But at my weekly mass, confession is half an hour on Sunday and few people go, so there is a discrepancy.

    Personally, I think the solution to the problem of confession is rather simple. In many Protestant Churches before the 1960s, the words of institution consisted of a quote from “1 Corinthians 11:23-32” which states the Church’s teaching on the need for being free of serious sin (confession) before communion or you drink condemnation on yourself. If the N.O. liturgy added words such as these to the liturgy, there would not be a problem with confession.

  31. Imrahil says:

    Dear Rev. Fr. @Paul L. Vasquez,

    thank you very much for your kind answer.

    What brings me to my attitude and, maybe, to miss part of the point here is an instinct of mine to always feel meant. If someone says in irony, “this parish must be very holy: all Communicating, few confessing” (first thing I realize is that there are confessions at all btw), I do not so much hear the accusation that among the congregation maybe a grave sinner (which is likely enough). I hear an accusation to each single member of the community, myself included in thought, of being a grave sinner (and this, I think we agree, we would not do: we would not positively suspect a specific person to be a grave sinner, without evidence).

    “But I’m not conscious of grave sin… well, since my last Confession, let’s be silent about the rest of my life…” – “Then, of course, you may Communicate.” – “But if that is so why does the Reverend Father always keep rebuking me for not Confessing before? I guess I had better only Communicate once after Confession. Then I won’t be among those the Reverend Father reproaches.”

    I’m not proud of that but such would be my first emotional reaction.

  32. ljc says:

    As a seminarian I’m thrilled to be under Cardinal Piacenza!

  33. jhayes says:

    Imrahil wrote: “Besides, I think I read somewhere (I thought it was in the Code, but I can’t find it there now; anyway it is logical) that, despite it might probably not be a sin not to do so, I’m quite strongly supposed to Communicate whenever I’m in a Holy Mass, provided there is no grave reason to the contrary.”

    Perhaps it was “Sacra Tridentina” in which Pius X wrote:

    “The Holy Council of Trent, having in view the ineffable riches of grace which are offered to the faithful who receive the Most Holy Eucharist, makes the following declaration: “The Holy Council wishes indeed that at each Mass the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but sacramentally, by the actual reception of the Eucharist.” These words declare plainly enough the wish of the Church that all Christians should be daily nourished by this heavenly banquet and should derive therefrom more abundant fruit for their sanctification”

    In his Catechism (1880), he wrote:

    “80 Q. If a penitent is not certain of having committed a sin must he confess it?
    A. If a penitent is not certain of having committed a sin he is not bound to confess it; and if he does confess it, he should add that he is not certain of having committed it.”

    Which I learned as “a doubtful sin is no sin”

    Although Pius X issued Sacra Tridentina in 1905, in the area in which I grew up it was still the custom of many people to go to Confession before each Communion. It was only after Vatican II that most people here accepted going to Communion as a normal part of each Mass for those not conscious of mortal sin.

  34. StWinefride says:


    I think you’re right about Padre Pio meaning mortal sin for serious sin and the fact that this was written to a son/daughter who suffered from scrupulosity. I checked online to see if I could gather any more info, nothing on this, however I came across a quote from a book I have, Padre Pio, The True Story by C. Bernard Ruffin, on page 138 (so am able to quote) where the translation has Padre Pio use the term “mortal sin”:

    Padre Pio established five rules for spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation and examination of conscience.

    Nina Campanile’s father questioned her about making her confession with such frequency. When she questioned the padre about it, he replied: “A room needs to be dusted once a week, even if nobody is there”. Some of the ladies were afraid they were unworthy of receiving Communion so often. “Unless you are positive that you are in mortal sin,” Padre Pio told them, “you ought to take Communion every day”.

    I agree completely on the lack of preaching on Confession (apart from Father Z and other good priests!) and that there are no doubt too many who receive Communion when they shouldn’t, and that probably includes me at times!

  35. catholicmidwest says:

    Mike M,
    Apparently pretty much what they were doing before–not much of anything that anyone can identify.

    I’m glad to see catechesis being put under New Evangelization, because that’s where it really belongs. Catholics have to understand their faith well enough to live it before they can do anything to teach the culture. What we have now is very fragmentary and broken and Catholics and non-Catholics alike often get completely wrong ideas about what Catholicism is about, unfortunately. That needs to change and it’s going to be a big job to make that happen.

  36. catholicmidwest says:

    We also have huge numbers of people who’ve left the Church out of ignorance here in the States and also in Europe. What often happens is that they’re born in Catholic families and baptized, but then due to ignorance, poor teaching and misunderstandings, end up outside the Church by the time they’re 25. They know just enough to think they know it all, but not enough to really get the point of Christianity. It’s a sad situation. And the things they say and do really affect the general public’s perception of who we are. It’s affected politics and cultural life too, because many people who are prominent in those spheres are “ex-Catholics” like this. As a case in point, the present administration is full of them.

    About 10% of the general population in the US has been Catholic at some point, but is no longer practicing. That’s a crazy turnover rate, and it can’t but help to have affected what people think of Catholicism in a negative way. Statistics on all these things and more are readily available for free from Pew Research and CARA.

  37. robtbrown says:

    Reestablishment of the study of Latin and two year philosophy programs in US seminaries has simply not happened. The former is not required by USCCB guidelines, the latter is required.

    1. Re Latin: Liberals understand that it is tied to Latin liturgy. Mandate the study of Latin in seminaries (cf VatII and the CIC), and seminarians will want Latin liturgy. Mandating Latin liturgy requires mandating the study of Latin.

    IMHO, Rome has taken the correct initial step with the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, which freed those priests who wanted to use the 1962 Missal. What followed was no surprise. In some chanceries Spirit of Vat II ideologues tried to preempt the papal document with their own opinion by sending letters to priests with misleading interpretations of SP. In many cases these letters were faxed to blogs like WDTPRS, their dishonesty was exposed, and they tried to walk back their letters, using their prior SP hermeneutic: What the letter (and SP) actually said, it didn’t actually say.

    2. Re Philosophy: In the early 90’s during my Roman years I was told by someone in the know that after the implementation of the catechism the next project would be reestablishment of the comprehensive philosophy programs (during which two years Latin could be studied). The Roman MO was to be followed: First issue a document that would note the importance of the study of philosophy for candidates for the priesthood, then follow with implementation.

    What happened then was squabbling over the importance of Phenomenology, whose advocates had leverage because of JPII. After a few years of fighting a compromise was reached, and Fides et Ratio was promulgated. It is a document that advocates the intellectual life but cannot be used as a foundation for re-instituting the philosophy programs.

  38. JKnott says:

    It was announced at Mass today that the Archbishop is requiring every priest in the archdiocese to hear confessions every Monday this Lent from 6PM to 7PM in addition to the regular schedule for the Year of Faith.

    Dear Father Vasquez , thank you for your comment @Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:
    27 January 2013 at 12:38 am

    Our Holy Father is “blunt” about a loss of the sense of sin.

    Oct. 09 ( – Pope Benedict XVI cited the “loss of a sense of sin” in modern society, and spoke about the value of sacramental Confession, in an October 9 meeting with visiting bishops from western Canada.

    Speaking to 20 Canadian bishops who were making their ad limina visits, the Holy Father said that the recovery of a sense of sin must be a “pastoral priority.” Bishops, he said, must work to stir recognition of the destructive effects of sin, and call believers to make use of the sacrament of Penance.

    The Pope’s blunt speech was his second strong statement to visiting Canadian bishops. A month earlier, speaking to another group of Canadian bishops making their ad limina visit to Rome, Pope Benedict had delivered a stern message about the effects of moral relativism in that country.

    Confession, the Pope said, “is often considered with indifference,” particularly in societies where it is needed most. He spoke about ‘those who sadly distance themselves from the Church,” and remain “trapped within envy and pride, detached from God.”

    The absence of an awareness of sin reflects “a weakening of our relationship with God,” the Pope observed. And when God is not present in society, he added, proper standards of ethical life deteriorate and “the categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility.”

    Pope Benedict went on to say that when individuals no longer recognize their own objective moral faults, “a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness arises.” The antidote, he repeated, is for Church leaders to encourage recognition of sin and its effects, and call the people to repentance and Confession.

  39. acardnal says:

    JKnott, Fr Vasquez: you are right on target – and so is the Holy Father, of course!

    Catholics are definitely desensitized to sin in America. I am concerned they do not recognize or understand what mortal sin – as defined by the Church (not one’s conscience) – is anymore. Mortal sin is common – even among practicing Catholics. They are too lax in their understanding of sin. They need to be re-catechized by their pastors.

    The sins of the flesh are ubiquitous here especially regarding contraception and sterilization and pre-marital sex, impure entertainment, etc. Even masturbation is considered by some Catholics to be “normative” and not an objectively grave sin.

    Leaving sins of the flesh aside for a moment, just examine the sin of gossip, backbiting, talking behind one’s back (calumny and detraction). Reportedly one of the most frequent sins committed but very infrequently confessed. And it can be a mortal sin! I carry examination of conscience pamphlets from various sources in my wallet . A Catholic coworker once asked to see one. Soon after she began reading it, she laughed. I asked her what was so humorous. She said how can gossiping be sinful? She was a middle aged, practicing Catholic.

    Now it’s homosexual behavior and “marriage” that society is focusing on and saying it is “normal.” But the Church does not. We had a male musician in the parish who was living with another man in a homosexual relationship. A number of folks in the parish were aware of this. When our new pastor arrived, he relieved him of his duties. The pastor did not want to give even the perception that the Church condones such gravely sinful behavior. Some parishioners left. Thanks be to God for our new pastor.

    Desensitization to sin. Absence of an awareness to sin. Lack of understanding.

    Re-catechizing Catholics by pastors is absolutely necessary and that include teaching them what the Church considers to be mortal sin. Perhaps reviewing an orthodox examination of conscience or, at least, making them available during Lent would be appropriate. I can’t say it any better than the Holy Father did in the above article. The last sentence above says it all.
    “The antidote, he (the Pope) repeated, is for Church leaders to encourage recognition of sin and its effects, and call the people to repentance and Confession.”

  40. Imrahil says:

    Catholics are definitely desensitized to sin in America.

    I would not say they are desensitized to sin. If not perhaps the situation in America is so very much different from other countries of Western culture.

    Or perhaps, due to some happy-clappyism, precisely the praciticing Catholics are desensitized to sin.

    But Western culture as such is not desensitized to sin as such. Rather it is oversensitized to sin. It even thinks that eating a banana is sinful because of economic oppressive structures, etc.

    Its problem is more specific, to wit
    1. in the distinction of venial and mortal sin (hence, they are desensitized to mortal sin),
    2. in the acceptance of some sins, which the Church teaches, as sins – which belongs properly to the “tenets of faith/apology of the true religion” sector and not “sensibility for sin”,
    3. in the feeling to have a chance to not sin – and consequently, of real forgiveness.

    It would be wrong to say that sin does not exist for modern culture. It does; but it is an inevitable state of affairs to it; not so to the Christian.

    As for the woman who liked to gossip, I do have the feeling that your examination meant “lies and telling truths in a way as to sow discord or to denigrate a person” while she meant “friendly talk of light nature which seeks occasions for amusement, also in funny behaviors of third people”. The later can cross over moral borders too, especially if stubbornness is attached to it, that’s why it is sometimes justly problematicized, but it is in itself not sinful, and mortal sin is far away.

  41. acardnal says:

    James the Apostle said, Chapter 3:6-8
    6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.
    7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind,
    8 but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

    Better catechesis is needed.

    Herewith a very good examination of conscience (see below) attributed to Fr. Robert Altier of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. Fr. Z considers him a friend and has written favorably about him many times before, for example, here:

    Fr. Altier first lists examples of mortal sin and then venial sin with respect to the Ten Commandments:

  42. acardnal says:

    Fr. Altier’s EofC above is also available from Leaflet Missal:

  43. Pingback: Book Release: Thomas Kocik, The Fullness of Truth | Big Pulpit

  44. Imrahil says:

    Dear @acardnal,

    In which St. James was warning against a danger noone dreams of denying, and not enacting a ban.

    And if you mean myself with the better catechesis, I’d very much prefer if you say so openly.

    Though, although I do need better catechesis, I think this simply boils down to disagreement.

  45. Imrahil says:

    And whatever may be said about the danger of the tongue (and there surely many things may be said),

    for those outside religious orders, the usual chit-chatting is a necessity of everyday life. Not, of course, because of the things said (which, were it only about them, might well be called idle and thus, according to Scripture, sinful), but to uphold communication.

    Does this necessarily contain things commonly known as gossip? No, but it often will.

    Does this allow things known in moral theology as gossip? No, it does not.

  46. Imrahil says:

    Is there a difference between the latter two? Yes, it is.

  47. VexillaRegis says:

    Relax and have a beer. Lass Dir raten, trinke Spaten! ;-)

  48. acardnal says:

    Imrahil, wrote, “And if you mean myself with the better catechesis, I’d very much prefer if you say so openly.”

    No. Please do not understand my posts as an attack or criticism of you or your character. They are not. I try my best never, ever to make ad hominem attacks on commentators; I only discuss the issue at hand so that we all can learn from each other. Your comments are always important contributions here.

    The EofC I attached above discusses the venial and mortal nature of gossip.

  49. acardnal says:

    My posts are for all readers (unless specifically addressed otherwise) because I welcome all readers’ responses. I often learn new things!

  50. Imrahil says:

    Coming to think of it St. James is quite mysterious here: first he says, “no man can tame the tongue, this restless evil”, but then he goes on to say (3,10) “my brethren, it is not supposed to be like this”.

    If we want to stick to the letter, we must interpret that although no human being can tame the tongue, God’s grace can. The alternative is to see a rhethoric figure which does state the undoubted thing that the tongue is dangerous.

    If the tongue were both untameable and a restless evil, the natural reaction would be to cut it off. If it did not show disbelief in the possibility that God’s grace can mend wrong inclinations, Origin would have been quite right to cut off some other part of his.

    Yet this measure has never been taken by Christianity, showing that Christianity did feel the tongue mendable, by God’s grace at least. (And I, for one, thank God for this.)

  51. Imrahil says:

    Dear @acardnal,

    thank you very much for your kind answer, and also all your comments.

    Dear @VexillaRegis, thank you! but… Spaten? Seriously? ^^

  52. VexillaRegis says:

    Lieber Imrahil!
    Na denn, hmm, Paulaner, Weissbier oder was Du am liebsten trinkst!

  53. LisaP. says:

    St. Winefred,

    That’s a helpful quote. My daughter (9) has sometimes had trouble right before Communion, there’ll be a flurry of excitement as she leans past her sisters to whisper at me, she’s worried that this sin she remembered might be mortal and if it is should she not go up. She goes to confession every couple months. My first answer was to “play it safe”, but it’s come up several times now and I think she’s having a hard time distinguishing between mortal and venial sins (don’t we all, sometimes) and getting anxious. She certainly has absolutely no intention of taking Communion outside of a state of grace, and I realized that this in itself would make taking Communion not a mortal sin, she would not be intending to go against God. She might be making a mistake by going up, but not committing a mortal sin. It’s so hard, because you worry about your child’s soul more than your own and I want to keep her on the “safe side” — if you think it might be a sin, don’t do it; if you’ve done it and you think it might be mortal, get to a confessional asap, etc. I never want to teach her to downplay her wrong choices. But she inclines to scrupulosity anyway and so this approach actually is making it harder for her to use discernment. Your quote (with explanation) may be very helpful for her. Thank you.

  54. acardnal says:

    I am very grateful to our distinguished host of this blog because I have learned so much from him and from many of the commentators/posts here, too. I especially recall posts made by Supertradmum, robtbrown, jvhale, et al, where I have learned new things. It’s great!

    Imrahil, I will be happy to buy you that bier! Well, . . . the first one.

  55. LisaP. says:

    I found your thoughts on moderns and sin really, really interesting. Very different take from what I’ve seen before, lot of useful stuff to think about there.

  56. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I found your thoughts on moderns and sin really, really interesting.”

    I misread that as: I found your thoughts on MODEMS and sin really, really interesting.

    Maybe I’m spending too much time on the Internet?

    The Chicken

  57. LisaP. says:

    Ah, Chicken, I’m pretty sure we’re all clear about the strong relationship between modems and sin!

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