The problem is the inversion of “God is love” and “Love is God.”

I direct the readership to something I wrote before Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ was released.  HERE  The Pope quotes St. Francis’ song here and there.  But let us not forget how the song ends.

My friend Fr. Rutler in NYC makes some additional points in his pastor’s page this week.  Should should check it each week.  HERE

Thus, Rutler:

On September 13, 1224, on the mount of Verna, Saint Francis received the stigmata, the marks of Christ’s five wounds in his flesh. Several months later, he composed the “The Canticle of the Creatures,” now more commonly called “The Canticle of the Sun.” It is beautiful in its Umbrian dialect and enchants in any language. The seventh verse, which begins “Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre terra . . .” is the incipit of the recent encyclical on the dignity and duties of life in the created order.

Five other verses are quoted in paragraph 87 of the encyclical. They praise the Lord for the sun, moon, stars, wind, air, water and fire. I am inclined to think that St. Francis, who was a deacon, had in mind the Benedicite, which is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, conflating Daniel 3:57-88 and Psalm 148. St. Francis was a walking Bible, and his life was a canticle incarnate, [nice] so his inspiration was the same as Daniel’s and David’s. His canticle distinguishes the creature from the Creator who is the object of creation’s praise.

I found some verses in a Unitarian hymnal:

Nature shouts from earth and sky,
In the spring our spirits fly,
Join the resurrection cry,
Love is God and fears must die, Alleluia!

Such poésie may suit people who are vague about the Resurrection, and it really only works north of the equator. The problem is its inversion of “God is love” and “Love is God.” If Love is God, then it is a quick step to thinking of the sun and moon and stars and earth as divine, with earthly pastures as a pantheon. [I am reminded of the lunatic sloganing of some groups after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.  And we must have the discussion about what “love” is.  The word is being thrown about a great deal right now.]

This is why it is important that the “Canticle of the Sun” be invoked in its entirety. The first and last three verses do not appear in the encyclical. An uninformed reader might get the impression that the saint of Assisi did not sing his song in a transport of joy to God whose glory is ineffable. “Most High, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To You alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name” (verse 1). The last three verses praise the Lord for the strength he gives to forgive and to endure sickness and trial, for the mystery of death and fear of dying in mortal sin, and for serving him “with great humility.”

A satirist once described a trendy clergyman who “collects butterflies and considers the word ‘not’ to have been interpolated in several of the Commandments.” While Christ bid us to “consider the lilies of the field,” he did so not as a botanist but as the Lord who “is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). To redact the “Canticle of the Sun” risks being left with the Sun, but without the Son.

How does St. Francis’ hymn end?

Woe to those who die in mortal sin!

May God have mercy on those who have caused such vast scandal.

May God have mercy on those who will fall to their baser appetites.

Everyone… pray for the deeply confused and clean your own house!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, GO TO CONFESSION, HONORED GUESTS, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. monknoah says:

    Saint Augustine taught that “love is God” in his ninth homily on the First Letter of Saint John.

    Of necessity must you who lovest your brother, love Love itself: but Love is God: therefore of necessity must he love God, whoso loves his brother. But if you love not the brother whom you see, how can you love God whom you see not? Why does he not see God? Because he has not Love itself. That he does not see God, is, because he has not love: that he has not love, is, because he loves not his brother. The reason then why he does not see God, is, that he has not Love. For if he have Love, he sees God, for Love is God: and that eye is becoming more and more purged by love, to see that Unchangeable Substance, in the presence of which he shall always rejoice, which he shall enjoy to everlasting, when he is joined with the angels. Only, let him run now, that he may at last have gladness in his own country.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Well, these bishops understand God’s Love–and St. Francis has traditionally been the saint who most reminds us of Christ, even in reminding us of sin.

  3. Joseph-Mary says:

    Rom 1:24Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions…

    There will be no tolerance or freedom of speech nor conscience protection for those who will not go along with this intrinsic evil. We are at the end of an age and that is certain but the final chapter has yet to be written.

    What is disgusting is the approval of many who call themselves ‘c’atholic. From so called ‘c’atholic magazines and blogs (think America, Crux, Natl Distorter, etc) and also some in the clergy who nod and smile at the perversion…scandal within! A number of my life long Catholic relatives go with this movement. Indeed there will be a remnant and the evil one will not be satisfied with this victory in this skirmish for the plans have been carefully laid and it is to bring down the Church and to persecute her members, especially her priests. It has happened before under a different guise.

  4. anilwang says:


    If you do any study of the Church Father’s you’ll realize that most said things at one time or another that could be considered heretical. Cardinal Newman mentions this difficulty in his essay “On the development of Christian doctrine” when analysing the claim that you can answer any question on doctrine by looking at what the Church Fathers said. Fortunately what defines doctrine isn’t the precise wording of ever homily or writing, but the voice of the Magesterium; and what’s important isn’t 100% knowledge of all doctrines but the willingness to submit to those doctrines when one becomes aware of them and one’s attempt and learning.

  5. Auggie says:

    God is Love and Love is God.
    But luv is neither.
    And wuv, all the rage of the sentimental, what is wuv?
    Wuv is hell.

  6. Elizabeth D says:

    I found an article on the NC Register that is an interview with a synod consultor who is part of the JPII Institute on the Family, who makes a pertinent observation at the end of the article: “Isn’t to separate the theology of the body and the theology of love precisely to destroy the place where they are interwoven, the family?”

  7. THREEHEARTS says:

    St Francis was a deacon, never was proven I believe, even the Church could not find a record as such. Some claim a Pope diaconized him, but there is no record. But what he was was a victim soul or as his baron friend was told, “the Sacrifice of Mary and Jesus for the Church” As a victim soul as was Christ he was therefore a “Mystical Priest” Christ was both Sacrifice and Sacrificer, A sacrificial priest and a victim. Read The Little Flowers of St Francis by Raphael Brown, a collection of most of the publications through the years by various authors.

  8. Backward Medievalist says:

    C.S. Lewis talked about this in “The Four Loves”: the idea of all the problems that follow when one moves from saying God is love, to love is God.

    May I point to One Body: An Essay in Christian Sexual Ethics, here:

    He is an orthodox Catholic philosopher and much of his argument is devoted to this question of love. One point he makes is that we are obligated to love each other, BUT, love should take different forms depending on who we are loving. Hence love between a husband and wife takes a one form, but this would be an inappropriate form for love between a man and his daughter.

    An implication is that the real question is whether or not sexual love is an appropriate form for love between two men to take. And maybe there are some reasons why not.

  9. I have reminded my peers REPEATEDLY that the overplayed, misunderstood, and childish ***L*O*V*E*** argument is a very, very flimsy one.

    This argument has been thrown around willy nilly to rationalize gay marriage and declare themselves as having won the moral high ground in the war on words – using it like a get out of jail free card. It has been dumbed down and overused so much that the Walking Left don’t even understand it themselves.

    Take the two scenarios in Australia and Germany, where in each case, the father and his adult daughter claim to be “in love” and are pursuing rights to “marry.” Yet, SO FAR, society is telling them no. I imagine that for a short time, American society would be telling such “couples” no as well, until the minds of mush decision makers decide to fall back on their flimsy idea of their childish ***L*O*V*E *** argument again. Everybody I have brought these two Australian and German scenarios up to have never had a comeback to rationalize gay marriage pursuing the childish ***L*O*V*E*** defense. Incest and gay marriage alike, can not ever be about genuine love.

    Because even as “God is love” – God holds the trademark to love, God holds the rights to love, and as such, Love must be on GOD’S TERMS, not ours. The watering down of religion since Woodstock has developed this modern misguided incestual notion of love – a childish starry eyed notion that has replaced the true definition of God’s Love. When religious leaders drop the ball, it is going to be picked up by the opponent and ran with. The concept of love being misused today, is similar to the hijacking of our other sacred meanings such as the meaning of Christmas, Easter, Shrove Tuesday, St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day. The culture has done nothing less than hijack God’s Love and turn it into a monster. It is certainly satanic and if fair minded individuals would look at it objectively, they would understand that the Author Love – the One True God – is its lawful and only Interpreter.

    Love must always be on the One True God’s terms or otherwise we fling it wide open to mean absolutely ANYTHING as an excuse to “marry” it – “I love my Corvette, I love my Aunt Judy, I love my sister – incest, beastiality, the most monstrous behaviors would fall under the Walking Left’s childish flimsy misperception of ***L*O*V*E***. Our 1970’s “theology” has caused this. The word Love, needs to be restored back to the One True God for He alone is its Author. This is the only saving of our culture.

  10. Imrahil says:

    How does St. Francis’s hymn end?

    “Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
    Happy those who find into Thy most holy will,
    for the second death shall hold them in no way afflicted.
    Do ye laud and praise the Lord my master!
    and thank him and serve him in great humility!”

    The warning is present, but it is not precisely the end, I’d say.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Augustine, first let’s go to the Latin. The given title is correct for the public domain Church Fathers translations; but the Latin title is much different. It’s “In epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos tractatus decem” (Ten Treatises to Parthos, on a Letter of John).

    In his first homily/treatise, Augustine quotes two different Latin translations for the verse “God is love:” those being “Deus caritas est” and “Deus dilectio est.” He’s pretty unfussy about which one he uses, because there really isn’t a bad side to either “caritas” or “dilectio,” whereas you have to be careful with “amor” because it can also mean “passion.”

    The other thing is that, in Latin sentence construction, if you use nominative for both “Deus”
    and “caritas” or “dilectio”, they’re really both the subject. They are exactly equal. Whereas if you’re speaking English, word order usually determines which word is the object, and which is the subject. So if St. Augustine quotes “Deus caritas est,” he’s not saying “Love is God” any more than he’s saying “God is love.”

    So if you go to Homily/Treatise 9, section 10, you will find that the bit translated as “Love is God” is actually just plain old “Deus dilectio est.” Again.

    This means that the translator translated the verse in a way which could be correct for Latin, but which was different than the plain sense for English, given that the Bible verse is always translated “God is love.” Why did he do this? I don’t know.

    So no, Augustine didn’t say that Love is God. His translator, H. Browne, said it.

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Handy definition thing from John W. Rettig, translator of St. Augustine’s Tractates on the Gospel of John:

    “Tractate (tractatus) was the technical term in Christian Latin for a specific type of sermon, one which combined scriptural exegesis, preaching, spiritual commentary, and theological reflection. The Greeks called this kind of sermon a homily.”

    You can also find the word translated as “treatise,” “treatment,” “tract,” and so on.

  13. The Masked Chicken says:

    Quick question (sorry to threadjack): can anyone recommend an orthodox Roman Catholic Church in Oakland, CA? My conference is there, this week.


    The Chicken

  14. drohan says:


    I would go to St. Margaret Mary. Run by the ICKSP in Oakland. I don’t know specifically how to get there (I was driven there by friends a few years ago), but it is a pretty church with the Extraordinary Form of the mass.

  15. drohan says:

    In the end, I think this all falls under the whole “Jesuit” thing. I know it is wrong to criticize an entire religious order, but nearly all the wacky nut-ball stuff I have ever heard came directly from the mouths of the Jesuits. They tend to free-think themselves out of all judgment to the detriment of all the faithful in their care.

    However, the Holy Father has put a lot of emphasis on Confession, more so than JPII or Benedict XVI, so that is positive. I do not like the prancing around the concept of Hell though. The reality of the four last things seems to be avoided in recent encyclicals and to our detriment as faithful people.

    Fr. Rutler is a treasure. A man who knows the truth and unashamedly pronounces it to the community and the world. I have just read his recent book on Christ’s parables. Very insightful.

  16. Mike says:

    Chicken: Ditto Drohan on St. Margaret Mary, a beautiful church where Holy Mass is offered reverently. Google Maps shows it being a block from the Park Boulevard & Kingsley Street stop of the 18 busline (destination Montclair) which runs from, among other stops, 12th Street BART station.

  17. monknoah says:

    So no, Augustine didn’t say that Love is God. His translator, H. Browne, said it.

    Check paragraph ten: Diligendo dilectionem, Deum diligit. Saint Augustine argues that if you love love, than you love God. This argument is coherent if and only if love is God. The translation is accurate.

  18. Veritatis Splendor says:

    Father(s), how should one respond to this craziness? We must resist of course, but how can we resist so that we still are accepted enough to be heeded?

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Veritatis Splendor,

    We can love and speak the truth in love. But we shall be marginalized and not accepted. This has always been the way of saints in times like these. Pray for courage. Find strength with like-minded Christians.

    I am not a Father, but as a mother, I shall answer you like another mother. And I hope I am given the courage by God to say these words if necessary. From 2 Maccabees 7:22-23

    “She said to them: I know not how you were formed in my womb: for I neither gave you breath, nor soul, nor life, neither did I frame the limbs of every one of you.
    23 But the Creator of the world, that formed the nativity of man, and that found out the origin of all, he will restore to you again in his mercy, both breath and life, as now you despise yourselves for the sake of his laws.”

  20. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    At the risk of rabbit-holing . . . In fact, if there is anything about Francis we can have some certainty about it is his ordination as a deacon. It is known from, among other witnesses, from the story of the Creche at Greccia, where we are told that he acted at deacon (levita) at the Midnight Mass. This story is preserved a part of the Assisi Compliation that can be traced with great certainty to the circle of Brother Leo, Francis’s companion in his last years. So it is eyewitness testimony. That were is no “certificate of ordination” is of no importance as they did not exist at that time.

    If one wants to read sources with a good claim to authenticity, read his own writings or the life written two years after his death by Thomas of Celano. The Fioretti are charming stories but they date to over a century after the saint’s death. And they come from a circle of Spiritual Franciscans in the Italian Marche who were alienated from the Church, if not excommunicated. Thus their relentlessly hostile tone toward the hierarchy and most of the clergy, including St. Bonaventure, who the authors view as a laxist and betrayer of Francis’s ideals.

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The argument is just as coherent if you quote the Bible quote correctly, like Augustine did. I’m not going to take over the combox to prove this, so I’ll just link to my blog, where I translated the whole thing myself as a demonstration. (Yeah, cut and paste would have worked too, but it seemed lazy.)

    The only thing that sounds even vaguely like a reverse quote is that at one point, Augustine says “dilectio autem Deus est.” But it’s Latin. The case is still the same if you move the words around, and the Bible quote is still the same.

    And he only says it once. One single time. Reversing it all through the paragraph on that basis is a bit over the top.

  22. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear drohan and Mike,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I will be going there for daily Mass, but I got in too late for Sunday Mass. I will have to take my chances with another Church for late Sunday Mass (possibly, in Spanish). How do you know if the consecration is valid of you don’t speak the language? Can we, please, go back to Latin, at least for the consecration, please (I ‘m batting my eyelashes, pouting, and crossing my hands, er wings, if you can’t see me).

    The Chicken

  23. Veritatis Splendor says:

    Thank you Supertradmum,

    Part of the difficulty is that half of those who until recently I believed to be like-minded Christians swallowed the rainbow colored cool aid. That is the most grievous part of this to me, all of the erstwhile faithful catholics who follow the culture on this matter.

    The other difficulty is the love bit. I do not know how to love them, or what that would entail, partially as a result of the utter destruction of the meaning of that word, and partially because I don’t want to cause them to more greatly sin. Specifically, I don’t know when to just keep my mouth shut, versus when to actually intervene with the Truth.

    I’m not actually afraid. I would welcome martyrdom, physical or social. However, I do not know when martyrdom is right, and when it is better to avoid the issue in order to live to fight another day.

    Thank you.

  24. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Father(s), how should one respond to this craziness? We must resist of course, but how can we resist so that we still are accepted enough to be heeded?”

    If you are accepted, you aren’t going to be heeded. You will only be accepted after you are heeded. How can you smile at someone and tell them that everything they believe is a lie? Show, don’t tell. Explain, don’t condemn. You must not be accepting. Personally, I like to wander down the hallways talking to myself, as if I am arguing the point to an imaginary same-sex couple. Some same-sex person might get captivated by the spectacle. Yeah, that’s right, come a little close, you know you want to hear what the crazy person is saying. You know you want to. You can’t look away…

    Of course, it would help to have a Catholic psychiatrist friend, just so you can claim to be under their care, so the police won’t arrest you, but these are advanced tactics. What you really want to know is how to fight guerrilla warfare with marshmallows.

    In the end, you want to be subversive, but, subtle. How to confound the person? These are advanced topics. I might write a book called, Tactical Catholicism. What do you think?

    The Chicken

    P. S. Or, you could just take a deep breath, say a prayer for guidance and then see what God gives you to say. In any case, know the faith and learn the arguments on both sides. There is no one-size-fits-all way to convert the mind and heart.

  25. Supertradmum says:

    Chicken, The problem is that the pro-gay rights people, including some Christians, are not playing fair. They only want to work on the feeling level. One of my best friends was told by her Lutheran sister yesterday that she and her family were ok with the ruling because, “There needs to be more love in the world.” Well, this is really confusing and practically ends conversation unless one asks. “What do you think love is?”

    Already, the gay-rights side has become open about destroying the Church and Christianity-this is the problem. Religion to them is a non-entity.

    Sadly, two generations do not know how to argue rationally, and sadly, many of us are practically isolated without Catholics who are orthodox in our daily lives. That is a huge difficulty

    I pray for endurance as well as love. One of my dear friends is gay. I truly love him and pray for his soul. We have agreed to disagree and talk about other issues, as he is not rabid about ssm.

    The rabid ones seem to be increasing in what I call the arrogance of evil, which we see in the passage about S and G in the Bible, when the men actually wanted to have relations with the Angel of God, with the Trinity. Galling arrogance which brought down punishment…

  26. SKAY says:

    None celebrating this tragic decision have any idea what this means for our children. This is all about selfish adults and their desires.

  27. DD says:

    So glad to have learned here of Dr. Rutler. I’ve signed up for his weekly email.

  28. DD says:

    That should be Fr. Rutler.

  29. quamquam says:

    The difficulty isn’t primarily the inversion of the terms, as the failure to distinguish between Infinite Love (the Source and the Archetype, Love in its purest essence), and finite created love (a participation in divine love). If when someone says, ‘Love is God’, it is meant that Infinite Archetypal Love is God, this is true. If it is meant that finite created love is God, it is false.

    However, a similar ambiguity can be found even in the statement: ‘God is love’. If we understand by that, ‘God is Infinite Love, the Source and Archetype of all love’, we have the correct interpretation, and there is no difficulty. But if we understand by it, ‘God is finite created love’, we get the false idea.

    Mentioning ‘Love’ first in the sentence rather than ‘God’ perhaps makes us more readily think that it is finite created love being referred to, but rightly understood it is a legitimate statement. So we can say that Love is God, but might need to make doubly sure there is no misunderstanding . (The capital L helps.)

    Probably some people really do (in effect) deny the real God, and deify human acts of love. But the more prevalent problem, that Fr Z and others are also mentioning, is our culture’s corruption of the right idea of even finite created love.

    Christian love is primarily an act of the will. Emotion is desirably also involved, but is not decisive (Catechism 1767-1770). At its heart, true love must include willing / choosing / acting for the true good of the one loved. This true good is above all spiritual good and its fulfilment in eternal good.

    Often enough in real life, it is a loving thing to try to make another person ‘feel good’ – but not necessarily, as their feelings might not be a right indication of their true good. So, to approve the sin of another is to will their evil, not their good. To treat a person’s body as a sexual object, as occurs in sins of lust by their very nature (since we override and treat as nothing the body’s procreative and unitive potentiality), is likewise to degrade and disrespect their true selves, not to love them.

    Thus we see the contrary of true love both in homosexual activity and in the approval thereof.

  30. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Veritatis Splendor,

    I would like to apologize for my snarky remark, above. I would like to say that it is the result of having just gotten off a 2 1/2 day bus trip, but it is because of something that happened as a part of the bus trip that has thrown me off my game and made me a bit more aggressive than normal. It is frustrating me to no end.


    You are right about love being improperly defined as an emotion, nowadays. The liberal Protestants did that back in the 1960’s as a way to sell the free love movement and contraception. We will never change the prevailing idea of love until we take away their toys – i.e., contraceptive, abortion, and the idea that sex is, “recreational”. I have talked to good-hearted students who are clueless about what real love is, but when you define it for them, their eyes widen in comprehension. The thought that love engages the mind and the will is foreign to them. One of the most frustrating things is to have a conversation with someone where there is no commonly accepted definition of terms. That is where the conversation has to begin. It is an easy demonstration that love is not an emotion, but the emotions are, rather by-products of actions, either conceived of or done. It is, likewise, an easy demonstration that the Bible cannot be the sole rule of Faith, so allowing your interlocutor to get away with these starting points is to doom these sorts of discussions to failure from the start. Clear away the underpinning assumptions, first (60% of the conversation should be this), and then get onto the topic at hand. If you take away emotionalism from your interlocutor, it is much easier to show that love means to will the highest good of the other both for their sake (love of neighbor) and God’s sake (love of God through one’s neighbor). Take away sola Scriptura and the hierarchy of obedience within the Church becomes much more reasonable.

    Although I was talking to Supertradmum, I hope that this is a better answer for Veritatis Splendor, as well. The ideas that God is Love Love is God is, of course, the fallacy of affirming the consequent. God is love is a predicate of God, but God is pure existence and nothing is predicated of him so as to break Him into parts, which saying Love is God does, in a subtle way. God is simple; love is not, in that love can be applied to more than one thing, but God cannot be.

    My body clock is completely screwed up, so I’m off to bed and I still don’t have my conference slides finished. Lots of work to do.

    The Chicken

  31. Gratias says:

    Saint Francis for contemporary Man/Woman is abridged. Long term the problem is that the Airconditioning Encyclical is based on a lie, which is that the sister Earth is warming because of US. This is a scientific falsehood. There has been no warming for 16 years. As with Galileo the Chuch tries to get into science and gets it exactly wrong.

  32. Supertradmum says:

    I am putting every bishop’s or joint statements I can find on my blog, if people want to send me links. This will encourage us all and show us the real pastors in our midst.

    Again, Father Z.. thank you for being so faithful and courageous. I am sure most people do not realize how you put your life and career on the line on this blog daily.

  33. robtbrown says:

    DD says:

    So glad to have learned here of Dr. Rutler. I’ve signed up for his weekly email.
    . . .

    That should be Fr. Rutler.

    Both are correct.

  34. SanSan says:

    Not one mention of the life changing decision of SOTUS June 26th at Sunday Mass or any Mass leading up to this tragic error that will effect children, families and marriage. So disheartenting. Makes me tremble to think that America, the once shining beacon on the hill, has had it’s light distinguished. Everyone in to the Ark! Help as many in as you can. October’s Synod will put the last nail in our Country’s coffin. May God have Mercy.

  35. robtbrown says:

    God is Love, and Love is God. There are, however, grades of love because there is a hierarchy of goods. And so it is proper for someone to love, say, a frog, but improper to love it as one loves a person.

    God’s love is perfect, and so it is perfectly proportioned to the object of His love. He loves a man more than an animal. He loves someone who is in the state of grace more than someone who is not (Supernatural charity is a species of love different from, and higher than, natural love).

    And there is an order within charity–God loves the great saints more than the lesser ones.

    The problem occurs when love is improperly applied, and this is the case with all sin.

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