When “NO!” is PASTORAL! Wherein Fr. Z rants.

“Pastoral charity”… note the phrase!

His Eminence, Raymond Card. Burke, gave an interview to Polonia Christiana magazine.  Lifesite rendered it into English HERE.

In one of his responses, the Cardinal said:

In the case of a politician or other public figure who acts against the moral law in a grave matter and yet presents himself to receive Holy Communion, the priest should admonish the person in question and then, if he or she persists in approaching to receive Holy Communion, the priest should refuse to give the Body of Christ to the person. The priest’s refusal to give Holy Communion is a prime act of pastoral charity, helping the person in question to avoid sacrilege and safeguarding the other faithful from scandal.

I would add, that we must prod the person to reflect more deeply about his actions.  The same applies to censures such as excommunication: they are medicine.

Mercy, on this side of heaven, is always medicinal.  It is never final and absolute.

Obviously a person who is absolved, is truly absolved.  But the absolution is opened out to the rest of life and the life beyond.  It is medicinal.  The sacrament of penance isn’t the ultimate judgment.

All mercy, on this side of the grass, is medicinal.

When Our Lord showed the woman caught in adultery His mercy, He told her “Go and sin no more”.  His mercy was medicinal.  His Mercy was the drawing of the scalpel, the excision of the tumor, the debridement of the wound.

Augustine spoke and wrote of Christ as Medicus, the Physician.  In terms understood well in the ancient world, by the state of medicine at the time, the doctor doesn’t stop cutting just because the patient is screaming for him to stop.   For the mommy bloggers out there, it is the prick of the needle at the doctor’s office, even though little stupor mundi is writhing away from the white coat.

It is not charitable to lie to the sinner, or to ignore their sin.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Recently, I have seen that the seminaries have turned from true spiritual direction to psychology. One sem told me that the discussions in spiritual direction involve to much “understanding” sin but not dealing with repentance.

    Are we raising another generation of priests who do not know how to deal with sin because they themselves are not taught the road to holiness in the seminaries? I have seen this here in the Midwest, where some directors do not lead the young men into prayer or fasting, leading to metanoia, but merely to the so-called “pastoral”. This type of direction depends on the seminary.

    To find an excellent confessor is rare because of the lack of sensitivity towards sin and repentance not being emphasized in some seminaries. We need to pray for holy priests in training. Without that, more mediocre priests will be leading the laity astray.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. Tradster says:

    Am I understanding the quote correctly that for the first occurrence the priest should admonish the public figure but give him Holy Eucharist anyway?

  3. Ray says:

    In a book by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “Those Mysterious Priest”, he states the priest to be effective has to be both priest and victim. This whole concept has been lost in our seminaries. Until we can get back to the true understanding of this concept as stated by Sheen, we will continue to wander in the wilderness, or continue waiting in the rectory for the converts to come ring the bell.

  4. Sonshine135 says:

    Perfect post for a Bible verse, and one that people forget about often:

    For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives -Hebrews 12:6. Hebrews 12:8 then proceeds to tell us, “if you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children.

    Given the choice of being a son of the living God or a bastard, I’ll take all of the chastisement I can get please.

  5. Rich says:

    Some use the word “pastoral” interchangeably with “permissive”. Such verbiage reminds me of when I used to be a teacher of emotionally disturbed adolescent boys. Mental health and behavioral professionals had come into my classroom a year before I got there and set up a supposedly “therapeutic” behavioral management system in the classroom which was a joke. The boys just got talked at for everything they did, and there were zero real consequences in place. After watching the unending cycles of undesired behaviors, I began taking matters into my own hands and made it to where the last period of the day was free time which each boy earned if he had gotten all his work done throughout the day and if he had displayed minimal if no undesired behaviors throughout the day. When it became clear to the boys that I was holding them to a certain level of expectations, as some of them did indeed at times not earn their free time, there was a suddenly marked decrease in their behaviors. The professionals who had prior set up the behavior management system in my room became aware that I had stolen their thunder and began complaining that my system was not “therapeutic” enough. My response was that my system at least worked to help the boys change their behavior. I have the same feeling about such “pastoral” approaches: they seem to just not work in helping people improve their lives.

  6. Eugene says:

    Father Z. would you be agreeable to starting a prayer campaign, that this great Shepherd, Raymond Cardinal Burke, be voted Pope in the next Conclave.
    ad multos annos to him

  7. Gregg the Obscure says:

    The other day our diocese had a “The Light Is On For You” campaign where confessions were available at most area parishes during afternoon drive time. Terrific idea! Oddly enough it excluded the place I normally confess, so I went to the next parish over. This parish – which has only one priest assigned – had two priests hearing confessions. There was a line for one, but not for the other, so I took what seemed to be the logical direction. Part way through I had a coughing fit because of how musty the space was. Perhaps it wasn’t just habit or favoring a particular priest that moved people to line up on one side and not the other. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, as this sacrament is a magnificent gift, but it might be helpful to see to a bit of basic housekeeping before opening up rarely-used spaces. One nifty thing they did: they had a recording of Chant playing throughout the church to help people feel less fearful of being overheard in the echoing space.

    On a completely different note. In my current job I have supervisory responsibility for a half-a-dozen folks who have very specialized responsibilities. I’ve recently had to give some intensive direction to one of them due to unacceptable job performance. It isn’t meant to be punitive, but that’s how it’s being received. It strikes me as being a little similar to the mercy of the confessional, though on a much smaller scale. We do not like being called to set aside pride, anger, gluttony, sloth, lust, envy and greed, but it is necessary for us to do so in order that we can do what we ought.

  8. anilwang says:

    Not only does pastoral sometimes mean NO, the pastor is held accountable for not saying no.

    Ezekiel 3:18-19 “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die ford his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”

    With Bible passages like that, it’s hard to imagine how any priest can sleep at night.

    But getting back to pastoral NOs, there are pastoral ways to say NO. It just takes a bit more skill. The classic humorous definition of a diplomat is someone that can tell you to go to hell and have you look forward to the trip. But that definition isn’t too far from the true definition of a good pastor. A good pastor should be able to help you go through hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip. Breaking with some sins is sometimes crushing, especially when it would require you to fundamentally change your world and sacrifice more than you think is possible, but the sinner is not alone and graces are available. With God all things are possible, and not a drop of suffering is ever wasted unless you let it.

  9. joan ellen says:

    Supertradmum says:
    25 March 2014 at 12:45 pm
    “Recently, I have seen that the seminaries have turned from true spiritual direction to psychology.”

    Supertradmum…you have succinctly pinpointed my most favorite topic…modern psychology vs. Thomistic psychology found in Summa Theologica part 1, #s 75-85. Until we return to Thomistic psychology…”modern psychology is a competing religion”, as has been written.

    All of us, including our priests who administer the words of Absolution and give counsel and spiritual direction, can ask ourselves do I have 2 souls…one for modern psychology and it’s secular based permitting/named by others/victimized thoughts, words and deeds, and one for God and His limiting/named by me/responsible thoughts, words and deeds. Sorry for not articulating what I am trying to convey in a more clear way.

    Every other person is now acting as a psychologist…naming family members, friends and other associates according to modern psychology labels. Interestingly, I rarely see any of them in line with me, the sinner, for the Confessional. Sorry for ranting Fr. Z.

  10. joan ellen says:

    p.s. Fr. Z. maybe I can be more clear with these words …again I “Consider…The Greatest Life Elements…The Greatest Gifts: The Eucharist, et al, Free Will, DIGNITY, Gifts/Talents.”

    It seems modern psychology deprives me of free will, dignity, and may even frustrate the use of my gifts and talents. Modern psychology may have me pay so much attention to the modern psychology aspect of me that the Eucharist and the other Sacraments are the farthest things from my mind. God’s Law and His Mercy are not needed since modern psychology has explained me. The value of me…increases or decreases…and my natural self, does not need God and His Church, since my spiritual self has been trivialized with modern psychology explanations and terms.

  11. DisturbedMary says:

    I’m a lay person but I’ve already told my catholic NY State Senator 100% loyal to the Party of Death that if he is ever in front of me on the communion line, I intend to poke him in the arm and ask that he get off the line and go make a spiritual communion.

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