What Did The Pope Really Say… about Lutherans and Communion?

15_11_16_screenshotHere we go again.

Pope Francis has offered some confusing observations about the possibility of Lutherans receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.

I’m getting email… angry… alarmed… confused… sad… above all demoralized.

Edward Pentin has the best press breakdown I have seen so far. HERE  You can read the whole of the answer that the Pope gave to a Lutheran woman Anke de Bernardinis.  Here’s the video of the whole event in the original language, Italian.  The part under discussion here starts at 21:00:

Here below are the Pope’s comments in context (Pentin’s working translation):

Question: My name is Anke de Bernardinis and, like many people in our community, I’m married to an Italian, who is a Roman Catholic Christian. We’ve lived happily together for many years, sharing joys and sorrows. And so we greatly regret being divided in faith and not being able to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?

Pope Francis: The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper! I’m scared! [Meh. I wouldn’t worry about Kasper.]

I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this command to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper in the final banquet in the new Jerusalem will be there but that will be the last one. In the meantime, I ask myself — and don’t know how to respond — what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [provisions] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand. [Ummm… it’s not that hard.  It’s both.]

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand [“doctrine” is difficult to understand?  How about “That which is taught.  Christian doctrine ordinarily means that body of revealed and defined truth which a Catholic is bound to hold, but is often extended to include those teachings which are not of faith but are generally held and acted upon.  Occasionally the word indicates these last only, “the teachings of theologians,” as distinct from “the faith taught by the Church.” – The Catholic Dictionary – Is there more to say?  Sure.  But that’s a start.] — but I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? You’re a witness also of a profound journey, a journey of marriage: a journey really of the family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism.  [Yes, we have the same baptism.  I was baptized in the Lutheran Church.  My baptism was valid.  However, in order to receive Communion in the Catholic Church, to be admitted to the Catholic Communion, I had to repudiate the errors of my Lutheran background and publicly state that I embraced and accepted everything that the Holy Catholic Church teaches.    HERE  (“Moreover, without hesitation I accept and profess all that has been handed down, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and by the general councils, especially by the Sacred Council of Trent and by the Vatican General Council, and in special manner all that concerns the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. At the same time I condemn and reprove all that the Church has condemned and reproved.”) When I was ordained, I put my hand on Holy Writ and, publicly, said that I accepted what the Church teaches. Lutherans have valid baptism, but they do not believe in the effects of baptism in the same way that we Catholics in regard to justification and sanctification.  Furthermore, baptism, though foundational, is one sacrament. We have others, too.  But let’s go on.]

When you feel yourself to be a sinner – and I feel more of a sinner – when your husband feels a sinner, you go to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution. [The Sacrament of Penance is the means given to us by Christ Himself, the means by which HE desires for us to seek forigivness and reconciliation.] I’m healed to keep alive the Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who Jesus is, why Jesus came, what Jesus did for us, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same. [What Jesus did for us.. okay… but how we participate in what Jesus did for us is different.] The question: and the [Lord’s] Supper? There are questions that, only if one is sincere with oneself and with the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.

I once had a great friendship with an Episcopalian bishop who went a little wrong – he was 48 years old, married, two children. This was a discomfort to him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sunday, and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, [?!?] the Lord called him, a just man. To your question, I can only respond with a question: what can I do with my husband, because the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path?

It’s a problem each must answer, but a pastor-friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what’s the difference?” [While I don’t think that, in this phrase, Pope Francis is implying that there are no differences between what Lutherans and Catholics believe, allow me to state for the record that there are HUGE differences between what Catholics and Lutherans believe about how the Lord is present in the Eucharist.] — “Eh, there are explanations, interpretations.” Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. [We have more than one sacrament.] “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. [NB… really… Nota bene:] I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. [THAT’S RIGHT.  It is not his competence.] One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.  [And THIS is where the confusion comes in.]

First, Pope Francis clearly states that he cannot officially say that Lutherans can be admitted to Communion.  He doesn’t have the competence.  This has been settled clearly from the Council of Trent onward.  The Pope knows that he can’t change this.

However, “Talk to the Lord and then go forward.”  This is confusing.   Let me try to untangle it.

On the one hand, that’s what people of good will do any way.  (There are people of bad will, too, but leave them out for now.) In the end, Catholics and non-Catholics alike make up their own minds at the moment of Communion at Holy Mass in Catholic Churches.  No one is monitoring their thoughts.  We can’t paralyze them in their pew and constrain them not to go forward when they should not.  A lot of people – never mind non-Catholics – a great many Catholics go to Communion when they should not.

If there is a case of a public sinner, a well-known person who should not go to Communion, then the bishop, priest or deacon is obliged not to give that person Communion.  Sure, that’s not the practice of all bishops and priests, but that’s not my fault.

What we need to do is catechize Catholics and teach clearly as a Church what we believe about the Eucharist and the proper disposition to receive the Eucharist in Communion.

If we don’t, then we priests and bishops are also guilty of profaning the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord.  We are responsible.

A lot of people become angry and confused about some things that Pope Francis says… and doesn’t say… and then says and doesn’t say at the same time.  It’s frustrating to try to figure him out.  For example, he tends to speak in derogatory terms about doctrine and law, as if they are not important.  BUT… BUT… he doesn’t actually say that they aren’t.

There is the tone with which he speaks and there are the words with which he speaks.  We are left to untangle the knot.

That said, for this issue the Pope made a clear statement:

I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence.”

Before anyone gets out onto the ledge outside the window, read that again and repeat it to yourself.  The Pope is not saying that Lutherans can go to Communion.

The moderation queue is ON.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Why didn’t he invite her to become a Catholic? Maybe that was what she — along with a lot of other listeners — was waiting to hear.

  2. iPadre says:

    This is really very simple. “Talk to the Lord.” And if you accept His invitation, become a Catholic and you can receive Holy Communion. And, if you don’t, well…

  3. asophist says:

    The Holy Father sounds like he would allow it if THEY (Cdl. Kasper, el al.) would let him, and if there would not be a hue and cry if he did say he allowed it. Notice the personal pronoun, “I”, as in “I wouldn’t dare to allow this.” Rather than, “It is not (or cannot!) be allowed.” Or, “The Catholic faith does not allow it,” or any number of other, more objective ways of pointing out that it cannot be done. If I were the person who asked the pope this question, I would come away thinking that it would be OK if I “went forward” as long as no theologians caught me!

  4. Sri_Sriracha says:

    I read this as the Pope saying, well, there are rules about who can come receive communion, but if you feel ok with it, then who am I to judge?

    Presumably, this woman has never been to confession before- certainly there must be a mortal sin or two that she would need to confess, or is that just a matter of personal discretion as well?

    How about the parish priest who probably knows she is Lutheran? If he refuses is he going against the Pope?

    It’s getting harder to go on with stuff like this coming out every week or so…

  5. Tradster says:

    I’m sorry but, correctly or incorrectly, no reasonable person would hear, “One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.” and hear anything other than “I am not permitted to say Yes but I refuse to say No (wink, wink).”

  6. Pope John XXII taught heresy from the pulpit for years. Can you imagine if they’d have had twitter and the mass media in the 14th century?

    Listen to Fr. Z, and take a deep breath…

  7. Geoffrey says:

    “Talk to the Lord and then go forward.”

    This does seem to be rather open-ended. I would interpret it as “Talk to the Lord [pray] and then go forward [come home to Rome!]” But the Holy Father can’t say that to a room full of Lutherans. Optics and diplomacy and all that. I do agree that “I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence” is the most clear statement. Just my two cents.

  8. Ferde Rombola says:

    It seems to me, if it’s not his competence to allow it, it’s beyond his competence to comment on it as he did. Leaving a trail of musings almost impossible to follow is not a logical path to ‘it’s not my competence.’ This is the Pope speaking. Does he ever consider the consequences of what he says? If he thinks he’s not competent to say ‘absolutely NOT!’ then he’s not competent to be the Vicar of Christ. Which is nothing new.

    I got distinct the impression he wanted to say ‘yes, let’s do it’ but knows it starts the impeachment process by acclamation, so he backed away from it. Because he ‘s afraid of Kasper? That doesn’t scan.

  9. Andrew says:

    This entire discourse could be interpreted as a challenge from the Pope to this woman and to the entire Lutheran community: “why aren’t we all Catholic?” Ask yourselves what you believe! Pray and figure out what is the will of Christ! There is one baptism, one Lord, one Faith, so don’t challenge me about the division; challenge yourselves!

  10. mysticalrose says:

    It sounds like another “internal forum” solution to me — if your conscience says you can receive communion even though you are a Lutheran, go for it! If your conscience says I can dispense communion to a Lutheran, go for it! Apparently, this is Pope Francis’ favorite pastoral “solution.”

  11. Elizabeth M says:

    Wow. That went all over the place, and didn’t really answer anything at all.

  12. juergensen says:

    Can’t wait for Fr. Lombardi’s press conference to find out what the pope really said and meant.

  13. Pingback: Pope Francis stirs debate on Lutheran spouses of Catholics receiving Communion |

  14. Robbie says:

    Instead of the “Year of Mercy”, maybe it might be better if the Pope observed a “Year of Silence”.

  15. robtbrown says:

    Maybe the Vatican can start selling Official Pope Francis Decoder Rings.

  16. Gerard Plourde says:

    I concur with Andrew’s analysis. As Fr. Z points out, Catholics and Lutherans share one Baptism. And it is also true that we share one Lord, Jesus Christ. The stumbling block lies in the third criteria,one Faith. No devout Lutheran would accept that there are Seven Sacraments, that the Pope as the successor the St. Peter is the Vicar of Christ on Earth and has primacy and authority. So, even if a devout Lutheran were to reject the Lutheran heresy of Consubstantiation and accept the Catholic Dogma of Transubstantiation there would still be insurmountable hurdles. Pope Francis is inviting the questioner to examine these broader beliefs that separate us.

  17. ksking says:

    I’m with many of you who think that “move forward”–which, thank goodness, our Holy Father sees as a move upward and an improvement over Lutheranism–means to convert. He’s telling her to fully embrace the truth. She’s got baptism, she’s got a sense of the sacramental life of a Catholic . . . why not just embrace it? But of course, many people will simply see it as “Go do what you think is best.”

  18. Traductora says:

    Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to apply the St Robert Bellarmine test…except that Francis is so vague and nearly incoherent that it’s obviously going to be (intentionally) hard to pin him down for it. But anybody who defers to that great theologian Kasper should be presumed to have failed the test from the get-go.

  19. Elizabeth D says:

    I am looking forward to the fact that eventually there will be a different Pope.

  20. AThomist, that is a dangerous, possibly uncharitable at the least, and possibly heretical statement itself in its own right. You are walking dangerous territory with yourself, having written that public ally.

    If it is the truth, then provide evidence for what you say that John XXII (or do you mean XXIII/Roncalli of Vatican II?) Said heretical things.

  21. tm30 says:

    There seem to be two conversations taking place at the same time.

    The first conversation is between the Holy Father and his own conscience, which seems to abhor ecclesial structure and rules.

    The second conversation is between the Holy Father and Lutherans, wondering why they don’t just become Catholics since we’re already “the same” in baptism. What’s the point of being separate?

    The outcome is that the pope realizes he can’t change this, but he just can’t help leaving things murky and “up to you”. I’m almost surprised he didn’t lash out at “the doctors” again, but the subtext here seems to indicate he knows he can’t implement mercy unfettered from justice. It seems like his cross to carry — and I’d rather not accuse the pope of spiritual pride — but perhaps it’s the very thing that defines his pontificate.

    If that’s the case, I suspect the post-synodal exhortation will end up a treatise on everything he wishes he could do, but can’t. And just maybe that’s enough to refortify the doctrines we’re concerned are being tinkered with — if the greatest proponent of change can’t do a thing about it, things may settle down for a long time, or at least until someone else comes along who thinks he can change what can’t be changed.

  22. dlmzdy says:

    Not much to do but pray for the confused Holy Father and hope the damage caused can be minimized. As a Practicing Catholic I would like to offer my advise to the members of next conclave, the ONLY job qualifications for the next Pope should be; preach Christ crucified, and clearly and consistently proclaim the teachings of Christ’s Church as found in the CCC. Nothing else! Hopeful the next Pope’s Motto might be something alone the lines of John 3:30, I am growing tired of the Rock Star Popes.

  23. MGL says:

    Agreed that this seems like a nod and a wink. Contrary to the suspicions of many Catholics, the pope is far shrewder than he often seems. As with the Scalfari conversations or the telephone calls to random laypeople, he knows that he can’t just come out and speak his mind outright, so he relies on deniability. If you want to effect radical change on the ground but are constrained from direct action, this is a very smart way to go about it.

    Also, note, once again, the strict wall of separation that the Holy Father is erecting between “difficult to understand” doctrines and “life”, presumably as experienced by ordinary believers. He really does seem to believe that doctrine gets in the way and complicates what should be a simple, direct relationship with God. This may be a big indicator of how he’s going to proceed with the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

    Third, isn’t there a word for a baptized Christian who takes one doctrine (say, Baptism) and elevates it to a position of undue importance?

    Finally, “the Lord’s Supper”? Do Catholics ever use this term to refer to the Eucharist? It’s troubling to me that the Holy Father appears to be adopting a Protestant term without qualifications. But maybe I’m mistaken on this.

  24. TheDude05 says:

    I took it as go forward in your one Baptism together in life as Christian witnesses to the things we do agree upon. That ties back in to his statement of what Christ did, who He was, etc. Also I agree if you are asking God for His guidance then it seems to be a subtle way of the Holy Father saying, come home, listen to the Lord and come to the table I am waiting for you there. I also start to wonder why Kasper is let within a 10 mile radius of the Pope. Shouldn’t he be kept in Germany?

  25. JKnott says:

    My comment was also going to be …. why not just invite her to become Catholic. Spouses used to do that fairly often in the past anyway. And additionally, I very much agree with most of the comments expressed here as well.
    However in the midst of a very wordy explanation there is an essence which seems lacking to me:
    “Zeal for your house consumes me, and the mockeries of those who insult you fall on me.” Psalm 69:9

  26. Andrew says: This entire discourse could be interpreted as a challenge from the Pope to this woman and to the entire Lutheran community: “why aren’t we all Catholic?” Ask yourselves what you believe! Pray and figure out what is the will of Christ! There is one baptism, one Lord, one Faith, so don’t challenge me about the division; challenge yourselves!

    I’m getting kind of tired of papal statements where the orthodox Catholic interpretation has to be supplied by the listener, which a listener most in need of hearing orthodoxy is not going to do.

  27. benedetta says:

    I think in the times such as they are we all should be asking ourselves how to better grow close to our Christian neighbors of whatever the tradition or expression, and do what is necessary to be united. Why shouldn’t we all be united together with the successor of St. Peter as our head as Christians who share a common baptism? If times have changed, the Church as headed by Pope Francis is different in many respects and in time and temporal space as compared to the one that the reformation reacted to, and yet in the essentials remains continuously as Christ established Her. We already share in these times and in this last century in an ecumenism of blood. Should we not take the next step and be united for all time supernaturally, speaking this yes with one voice?

  28. Eugene says:

    “Before anyone gets out onto the ledge outside the window, read that again and repeat it to yourself. The Pope is not saying that Lutherans can go to Communion.”…with all due respect Father it doesn’t matter the misinformation spin is already out there, check out the Schismatic reporter website…this is a result of a long winded and to this very simple Catholic very confusing statement by PF…God have mercy on us and to begin by saying he is afraid of the great theologian Kasper, is enough to make me gag

  29. LarryW2LJ says:

    Isn’t this though, a pretty typical Jesuit response?

  30. SanSan says:

    As Lucy would say to Charlie Brown….Aragh!

  31. Mariana2 says:

    “Go forward” is, in Scandinavia, Lutheran-speak for “approaching the altar for Communion”. Of course, I don’t know if the Pope speaks/is here speaking Lutheran.

  32. AVL says:

    Here’s an idea…let’s just live out our faith, do our work in the vineyard of the Lord and stop paying so much attention to what Pope Francis is saying and doing. Its not like we can understand him anyway. Do we have to listen to all these things he is saying and commenting on in order to be good Catholics? Yes, he is the valid Successor of Peter. But unless he is speaking ex cathedra, maybe we should just stop listening and worrying about it.

  33. SanSan says:

    On another note, but really same topic……I recently learned that our Church, our Faith is not “tribal”. We’re an “evangelical” Church/Faith. Makes a lot of sense……We have the fullness of the Faith and Yes, all should come to the fullness of faith, but if you don’t, it doesn’t mean that Jesus loves you any less. The main thing to realize is if your Catholic that you and I are held to a higher “bar” and thus, more is expected from us.

  34. David in T.O. says:

    Mr. Barkin, John XXII. Not Pope Roncalli.

  35. JARay says:

    Well I think that the concrete result from this is that the Pope realises that there are things which he cannot say. Perhaps that also includes Kasper’s thesis that divorcees can receive Holy Communion. If the Pope realises that, then there is hope yet that the predicted schism is not going to happen.

  36. Jeannie_C says:

    R.C.I.A. as simple as that. Rather than ask why the Church won’t give up doctrine why not ask why she won’t give up her attachment to heresy?

  37. newportson says:

    Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Pray for the Church!

  38. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks for your analysis Fr. Z.

    I agree with the others, this was an opportunity to extend an invitation to Full Communion.

  39. dhgyapong says:

    When the Pope refers to the Episcopalian bishop I think he means Bishop Tony Palmer of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches an Anglican-styled group. And when he says “going forward” I think he’s referring to Tony Palmer’s untimely death a year and a half ago in a motorcycle crash.

  40. tufty says:

    Not only do Lutherans deny the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, they also strongly deny the true meaning ie. the sacrificial and propitiatory nature of the Catholic Mass. Of course based on the nonstop repetition for 50 years that the Mass is a meal, in order to pander to the Protestants, most
    Catholics probably don’t know the true meaning and purpose of the Mass either. So go ahead all you Novus Ordo lovers….”mangia…bon appetit!!”

  41. organistjason says:

    If the BOR considers Cardinal Kasper a Theologian of any relevance……that says all one needs to say about the present BOR. Nothing more need be said. Read what the Church teaches…..not the clarification from Fr. Lombardi about what the BOR meant to say……

  42. donato2 says:

    I’ve completely given up on the pope. Early on the hope (which I never really had) was that he would get better with time. It is now evident that the opposite is true. All we can do is wait and pray that the damage is contained. In the glory years of the JPII and B16 pontificates I always had a feeling that we would have to endure a leftist/liberal “rivincita.” I hate to say so, but my feeling was well founded.

  43. @Julian Barkin:

    It’s been pretty well documented that John XXII taught that the faithful departed (i.e. the saints) do not enjoy the vision of God until the end of time at the final judgment, something which is contrary to the faith of the Church:

    “In the last years of John’s pontificate there arose a dogmatic conflict about the Beatific Vision, which was brought on by himself, and which his enemies made use of to discredit him. Before his elevation to the Holy See, he had written a work on this question, in which he stated that the souls of the blessed departed do not see God until after the Last Judgment. After becoming pope, he advanced the same teaching in his sermons. In this he met with strong opposition, many theologians, who adhered to the usual opinion that the blessed departed did see God before the Resurrection of the Body and the Last Judgment, even calling his view heretical.” – New Advent

    On his death-bed, he recanted, but that still leaves many years where he promulgated a teaching that was contrary to the faith. Also, though I’ve got a mild allergy to Rorate at times, Roberto de Mattei’s got a piece on the matter.

  44. DanW says:

    Julian Barkin : To answer your question, please read the following about Pope John XXII (JACQUES D’EUSE)


  45. greenlight says:

    On the plus side, most of the Lutheran churches in my area are extraordinarily beautiful so if we can now just go wherever we want I’ll have a lot more options.

    Also, I nominate Robbie’s comment for a Fr. Z Gold Star.

  46. hilltop says:

    The 592 word response from His Excellency the Bishop of Rome (Q: canonically, is Rome a “diocese”? Q: If it is, ought it not be an Archdiocese? Q: If it is an Archdiocese, ain’t he the Archbishop of Rome?) contains precisely 4 words that purport to explicitly conform to Church teaching and that are directly responsive to the question put to him. These are the words Father Z, in his authentic, noble, Christian zeal for charity towards the Pope wants us to hone in on: “…it’s not my competence.” Charitably rounding the figure up, this indicates that while our truly heroic blogger asks that we focus on 7 tenths of 1 percent of the pope’s response, the pope has delivered his own conscience’s confusing answer to the Luthern wife, and to all else ‘who have ears to hear’. The other 99.3 percent of his answer is clearly his message.
    Gasoline has 10% ethanol. We still call it gasoline. And it works just like gasoline too. Just sayin’.

    I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence

  47. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Sicut erat in principio, et nunc…

  48. Dave N. says:

    Two observations. First, it’s interesting that the repudiations of one’s prior beliefs are no longer required in the RCIA. Second, I’m sure that the Pope is well aware that what he’s potentially describing is already widely practiced in many places—that is, Lutheran or Anglican spouses receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church without first being required to be formally received into the faith.

    Given that to be the case, what the Pope DIDN’T say is probably more revealing that what he did say. He could have said, “I know that what you ask for is already going on all over the place but it really shouldn’t be.” However, he didn’t say that–thus in a sense maybe even hinting that Anke de Bernardinis (I think) should pursue this route? That is, plenty of other people don’t see this as a problem?

  49. arga says:

    Taken as a whole, the pope’s discourse was deeply embarrassing to any faithful Catholic for its shocking incoherence as well as its ignorance of basic doctrines that certainly don’t require a degree in theology. But just because of the incoherence, it has given the green light to anyone who wants to proclaim that the Church has amended its doctrine. So I disagree with Fr. Z that the pope actually rejected the idea.

  50. Midwest St. Michael says:

    What Elizabeth D said.

    Yes, LarryW, from my experience it is.


  51. Cantor says:

    I’m actually a bit confused now. When the Pope said “When you feel yourself to be a sinner – and I feel more of a sinner – when your husband feels a sinner, you go to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution” does this mean that Lutherans are forgiven their sins directly by God? Is the power of absolution granted to the Apostles and their successors not really necessary?

  52. slcath says:

    Did the Pope state that the Lutheran was free to receive Holy Communion?

    Imagine a lawyer advising his client before trial. The lawyer says: “As a lawyer I can’t counsel you to commit perjury, but I will say that your chances for acquittal would be a lot higher if you would testify to that false alibi we’ve been discussing.”

    Did the lawyer advise the client to commit perjury? Maybe not. But his advise was unethical as heck.

  53. Aquinas Gal says:

    Frankly I’m tired of this, and at the point where I don’t much care what Pope Francis says about anything. Soon enough his papacy will be over, and I’m looking forward to that day. I hope it’s not sinful to say that; I pray for him and wish him well, but I’m so tired of listening to his confused and confusing statements. The next pope will have a lot of messes to clean up (hagan lio!)

  54. Rachel K says:

    Does he mean “and then go forward” , as in go forward in your spiritual journey (ie towards the Catholic faith)??
    That’s the only good interpretation I can see. The trouble is always in what is not said. The devil in the detail.

  55. Patti Day says:

    Was Pope Francis going for the laugh saying he was scared of Kasper? I found his saying that he didn’t have the competence to answer the woman’s question to be embarrassing. This is a question that most serious Catholics would feel competent to answer without offending a Lutheran audience. It was as if the woman was a plant to enable Francis to launch a trial balloon.

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  58. I recall a line from Band of Brothers that went: Lt. Dike wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions, he was a bad leader because he made NO DECISIONS.

    I would think, as Pope, as the Vicar of Christ, as the Supreme Pontiff and Chief Bishop that this IS HIS COMPETENCE. After all, we hear every year from our very own parish priests reminding the Faithful during Christmas and Easter liturgies, that non-Catholics can approach for a blessing but not for Holy Communion. They are very clear about this. They remind us that Catholics in the state of mortal sin cannot come to receive Communion, adding that non-Catholics must profess the same belief as Catholics to receive Holy Communion (a loose description by our priest, but yet clear direction to the Faithful – at least it’s something).

  59. Nicolas Bellord says:

    I suppose the remark about Cardinal Kasper was said jokingly but then who was Pope Francis afraid of when he said he did not dare? Is he conflicted between being pressurised by the St Gallen group and Kasper on one side and the Holy Ghost on the other?

  60. xsosdid says:

    IF you wanted to change doctrine, but knew you couldn’t, and IF you knew that you had a media willing to play ball with you, AND you had a laity who was uncatechized and often indifferent to the reasons for the rules…it would be easy enough to irreparably change Church practice without ever writing a word about it. To me this is the only explanation for certain behaviors. In politics it’s not uunusual to have such a question planted as well when it serves the purpose.

  61. Markus says:

    Why does it appear that Pope Francis and Pres. Obama never answer a direct question?

    It seems to be Monte Pythonesque. “Nudge, nudge.” Wink, wink.” ” You know what I mean.” “You know what I mean.”

  62. Laura says:

    Robbie says:
    16 November 2015 at 1:39 PM
    Instead of the “Year of Mercy”, maybe it might be better if the Pope observed a “Year of Silence”.

    Robbie, I almost spit out my coffee! That is brilliant, yes. I have a feeling a Year of Silence would be very difficult for this pope. He cannot keep his mouth shut. Every single day it is something new that must be deciphered and most of us here consider ourselves somewhat informed Catholics. I pray for the low information Catholics who only hear a snippet and assume he’s changed things. Ugh. The damage that is being done. It will take decades to undue.

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  64. DonL says:

    The profoundly sad part of all this is that once again the sheep need an intermediary to explain what their own shepherd said? That doesn’t exactly reek of even adequate teaching in my book.

  65. laurel says:

    soooo, is this it ?
    1. There’s an issue, a problem
    2. I (the Pope) don’t have an answer and don’t even have authority to answer
    3. Think it about it; it’s up to you
    4. Except , of course, where I DO have expertise and authority and where it’s NOT up to you as in Climate Change and minimum wage
    4. Sounds like a perfect set up for ‘liberal protestantizing’ of the Faith


  66. Gabriel Syme says:

    Saying one thing, then saying the exact opposite is classic modernism – and indeed classic Pope Francis*.

    (*Bishop Fellay was right to characterise Francis as a “genuine modernist”).

    This contradictory stuff about the Eucharist is just the latest example. My favourite example previously was when Francis said (i) You dont need to breed like rabbits, and then he said (ii) large families are a good thing.

    By giving people a choice of opposing quotes, what he is really saying is “Take your pick. Make up your own religion”

    For a long while I thought he was just a rambling old man, with nothing to teach us. Now I see what is he trying to teach and its “Make up your own religion. Catholicism is whatever you want it to be”.

    That is his teaching: that is why he is never clear and why he constantly appears to contradict himself.

  67. Augustine says:

    Pope John XXII denied that the holy souls enjoyed the beatific vision until the Last Judgement. Arguably, this notion terribly weakens the perennial teaching on the Communion of Saints. This was such a vital point that his successor, Benedict XII, declared the right belief dogmatic.

    Now, some will argue from a legalistic perspective and say that John XXII did not have a heretical belief because it would be so only after Benedict XII said so. However, the truth is outside of time and does not depend on the declaration by a man, even the Vicar of Christ, to become true. So, either this belief by John XXII has always been false or it was true at one time and false at another. It just cannot be so. We have to deal with the fact of John XXII holding a false teaching as true.

    The question is whether he taught this falsehood as pope or not. This I cannot say, for I could not find evidence. Apparently, John XXII somehow expressed his views to others in private gatherings, but probably not from the pulpit. Yet, I’m not sure of the evidence.

    I do believe that the Holy Spirit protects the Church. However, in my own musings, perhaps the dogma of papal infallibility is poorly formulated and is in for further development of understanding. As in the case of John XXII and of Francis, it’s so much that the pope is protected from error, but that the Church is protected from papal errors.

  68. Bruce says:

    “I’m scared!”

    With all due love and respect for the office of Peter I find Pope Francis’ humility a little forced.

  69. Sandy says:

    What Elizabeth M. says! Also as another said, I’m so tired of all this. I’ve lived through a few popes and never in my life has there been all this confusion about what the Holy Father says. My strong faith protects me, but what about so many who don’t have proper catechesis. I know, I know, the Lord is in control. One very positive thing is that the Pope is so devoted to Mother Mary. I’ve never heard of a priest who loves Mama dearly who has gone off track. Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!

  70. SimonR says:

    Edward Pentin has this on his twitter page:

    Senior Vatican official speaking anon: “This pontificate poses serious risks for the integrity of Catholic teaching in faith and morals.”


  71. The Masked Chicken says:

    While many people who read this blog are fairly well catechized, there may be some who are not and would appreciate some background in Eucharistic theology, especially as it relates to the differences between Catholic and Lutheran views of the Eucharist. Heck, let’s turn this into a positive teaching moment. I am about to start class in ten minutes, so I won’t have time to get into things, but I would like to comment on the application of Ephesians 4:5 – “One Lord, one faith, one baptism…” Earlier, in Ephesians 3:10, St. Paul wrote:

    “…that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

    It is clear that the, “one faith,” St. Paul mentions is exactly the Faith of the Catholic Church. As such, Lutherans do not share in the one Faith, having denied certain portions of it. There are as many portions of a shattered Faith present as there are ecclesial communities of Protestants. As such, using the quote of, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” is clearly, a half-truth: the one baptism is a CATHOLIC baptism – there is no Lutheran baptism, the one Lord is clearly perceived differently by the two groups, since, to Catholics, Christ founded a visible Church, and the one Faith idea is refuted by the anathemas of Trent.

    Anyone care to flesh out the Eucharistic theology?

    The Chicken

  72. MGL says:

    On the meaning of “forward”:

    First, we have this, about Tony Palmer:

    He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sunday, and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, the Lord called him, a just man.

    Now, as far as we know, Tony Palmer died without entering the Catholic Church. (Remember the claims that Archbishop Bergoglio actually discouraged him from doing so, because he would a better symbol of Christian unity by remaining outside it?) And even if he did convert before his death, we know from the context that the Holy Father is speaking of the time when he was still active in his protestant community.

    In other words, “forward” in this context cannot be referring to conversion.

    Then, to the Lutheran woman:

    Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.

    This is clearly a callback to his Tony Palmer story, so we can assume that he is using “forward in the same way; i.e. not referring to the necessity of entering the Catholic Church.

    But there is some ambiguity in the Palmer story. On one hand, it might mean that Palmer received Communion in the Catholic Church along with his family; the alternative explanation is that “the Lord called him” to receive in his protestant church when “he went to worship with his community”. But neither of these interpretations leads anywhere good. If he received in the Catholic Church, we face the prospect of a pope who believes non-Catholics can receive the Eucharist without the carefully delineated conditions listed in the Catechism. If, on the other hand, the pope is urging the Lutheran woman to go “forward” for the Lord’s Supper in her own church as Tony Palmer did, then we face the prospect of a pope who (at the very least) minimizes the differences between the protestant “Lord’s Supper” and the Holy Eucharist. Go here, go there, what’s the difference?

  73. avecrux says:

    For those of us who teach theology, things just keep getting worse. I am getting good at deflecting “But Pope Francis said…”.

    For the first time in years I have seriously considered resigning. As if it wasn’t hard enough to teach the Faith due to the culture… this pontificate has exhausted me.

    I am hanging on for now. Let’s pray for each other.

  74. LarryW2LJ says:


    Were it that simple! But that darn reflex action makes most of us do double takes and utter, “Huh?”

  75. DJAR says:

    “It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine, underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand…”

    This statement, by a reigning Roman Pontiff, shows the depth of the crisis the Catholic Church presently faces. The fact that a pope would publicly state that the word “doctrine” is difficult to understand is rather shocking, to say the least.

  76. aj87220 says:

    Did any of you happen to catch what the Holy Father had to say in his homily today? Quoting from an article…

    “The Bible readings for the day recount the heroic witness of the scribe Eleazar, a 90-year-old man who was killed for his refusal to eat pork. Some of his elderly friends suggested he only pretend to eat the forbidden meat to save his life, but he rejected their logic.

    He said:

    At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.

    “Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty,” he said.

    The Pope called Eleazar’s witness “a clear example of consistency of life” that frees us from spiritual worldliness. All of us are tempted, Francis said, to pretend to be one thing outwardly while living in a different way.

    This worldliness, Francis said, is like “putting our Christian identity up for auction” to the highest bidder, and if we sell it, we become “just like everybody else.”

    The king, Francis remarked, was looking for a one-world, secular order, with each abandoning his own customs and beliefs to fit in with the rest. This, he said, led many of the Jews “to apostasy.”

    In this sort of totalitarian world, Francis said, “no differences are permitted: everyone is the same.””

    I wish he’d take his own advice. It almost reads as him rebuking his own actions.

    He’s right, of course. We must preserve our faith, and we must preserve our Catholic identity! I just wish he’d remember that when he is about to give a muddled response rather than firmly standing behind what the Church teaches.

    Saint John Paul II, pray for us.

  77. Maldon says:

    I made a comment on Andrea Gagliarducci’s blog a couple of weeks ago, in which I asked him why he does not simply conclude that the Pope is on the same side as what Gagliarducci calls “the adapters.” Gagliarducci explained that the Pope acts and speaks differently at different times. Sometimes he sounds very doctrinal, he refers a great deal to the devil, and to the secular world and its attacks that must be rejected. At other times, such as in the case of the Lutheran question, he makes Kasper out to be conservative compared to him. Wow. My conclusion is the same I told to Gagliarducci: at some point in the future, there will be articles written in peer-reviewed journals of psychiatry on the subject of Pope Francis, the Mad Pope.

  78. clare joseph says:

    The day after reading Fr. Z.’s post, I happened to read then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay ‘Communion: Eucharist – Fellowship – Mission’ in the book called ‘Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith’. In a sub-section of this essay titled ‘The Problem of the Excommunicated’ (i.e., those not admitted to Communion), pp. 83-88, he offers a wonderful reflection on the possible benefits of not being able to receive. This sounds somehow contradictory, I know, but it’s a magnificent reflection that contains truth and wisdom regarding our topic here. I’m happy to refer interested readers to this passage of ‘vintage’ Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI.

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  81. St. Moses the Jacked says:

    Very difficult question. I’m going to say….Become Catholic?

  82. Susan G says:

    I’ve heard this term quite frequently, in homilies, in texts used for religious education, in my first communion prep in the 1990s. Properly explained, it’s not a bad term, and one the Church should reclaim from Protestantism. That said, it can also be very poorly used, as much of our folksy liturgical music can attest to- verses about coming to the table, breaking bread and sharing wine do very little to encourage us to dwell on thoughts of the Real Presence.

  83. Maggie45 says:

    Clare Joseph,
    I am so glad that you posted about “Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith.” I no sooner finished reading your comment than I ordered the book. It was his writings and demeanor, our dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, that brought me back to our Holy Catholic Church after 40 years away. That was in July of 2008.

    I should be receiving the book this coming Monday and have written down the particular essay that you mentioned, and will read that first. Thank you so much.

  84. WYMiriam says:

    This is yet another one of Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff remarks that clearly hightlight his inability to speak off-the-cuff. One wonders why there is no one close enough to him who is not willing to say anything to him about the confusion he causes when he does so . . .

    The question that was posed to Francis was, “What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?”

    Why should that be “not easy” to answer? To “achieve communion on this point” of “being divided in faith and not being able to participate in the Lord’s Supper together”, it seems that one of four things must happen:

    1. Anke de Bernardinis and her husband need to discuss how they can be united in faith: either they both join a third church, and participate in whatever rite that church has for “the Lord’s Supper”, or

    2. Her husband disavows his faith and they both participate in Anke’s church’s “Lord’s Supper”; or

    3. Anke becomes a Catholic and receives Holy Communion under the same rules all Catholics receive It; or

    4. Anke and her husband continue to be members in good standing of their respective religions, and they accept the pain of that separation, offering it up for the intention of the reunion of all Christians. In other words, Anke would have to accept the Church’s doctrine concerning the reception of the Holy Eucharist by Catholics only (with the few clearly defined exceptions delineated in Canon Law). And if she accepts that doctrine, then maybe she would be drawn to accept all the rest of Catholic doctrine, too, over time, and realize option 3.

    What is so hard about that as an answer? We OUGHT to feel pain over the centuries’-old separation of the Body of Christ! But we also ought, ought we not, to try to reunite the Body of Christ?

    The Chicken asked, “Anyone care to flesh out the Eucharistic theology?” I am reminded of a story a dear priest friend told me long ago about a discussion he had had with several Protestant pastors who insisted that Jesus’ words in John 6 about eating His Body and drinking His Blood were simply symbolic. Father couldn’t change their minds, so he invited them all to dinner at the rectory a week or two later.* He was a good cook, so when they got there, delicious smells were all around them. The table had been set, all were shown to their seats, and then (being rather theatrical at times) Father clapped his hands, and some of the ladies in the parish came forth from the kitchen bearing plates for dinner. Father himself got a plate laden with all the good things that had been prepared, and all the others got plates with . . . . . pictures of food, cut from magazines, on them! Father dug in with gusto, and after a couple of mouthfuls looked up and said, “What? Why aren’t you eating? This is wonderful!”

    Well, the pastors were pretty irate! But Father referred them back to the words of Jesus: “My flesh is real food, and my blood real drink”, and told them that he was doing exactly what they had said Jesus did: he had given them symbolic food.

    He had the real food brought out then, and they ate. Later one of them came back, and begged Father for Holy Communion! He had been touched so deeply by what Father had done that he had come to believe that Jesus’ words in John 6 were, indeed, to be taken literally, and he believed them!

    * When in doubt, eat! — for the Scriptural reference, see Lk. 24:36-42, esp. v. 41

    It seems to me that someone who thinks that Jesus was just talking “metaphorically” or “symbolically” at the Last Supper when He said, over bread, “THIS IS MY BODY, which will be given for you”, and, over the chalice of wine, “THIS IS MY BLOOD, which will be shed for you” — it seems to me that person is guilty of holding either to the heresy that says that Jesus really didn’t die, or to the heresy that Jesus didn’t really have a human body, but just an imitation body. Isn’t it logical that if what happened at the Last Supper was just symbolic, that His death was also just symbolic?

    And if it all was just symbolic, then wasn’t St. Paul overly harsh (if not outright lying) in 1 Cor. 27-29 when he speaks of eating and drinking damnation unto ourselves without correctly discerning the Body of Christ?

    Maybe there’s not much theology there, “Chicken”, but that’s my thoughts on it. Food for thought; something to chew on!

  85. robtbrown says:

    Catholic Sacramental theology is governed by the principal of ex opere operato, which means that Sacraments themselves cause grace. Protestant theology considers the Sacraments to be occasions of grace–which is much like the Catholic theology of Sacramentals.

    Traditional Jesuit Sacramental theology, which goes back to Francisco Suarez in the 16th century, is IMHO a compromise between the two theologies. It is not Protestant because it invokes the legislative power of the Church.

    BTW, Rahner’s Sacramental theology, is little else than that of Suarez dressed up in the language of German Existentialism and mostly lacking in the factor of the Church’s legislative power.

  86. The Cobbler says:

    Normally when I look up what Francis actually said, either the context or the details gives me enough infer an orthodox interpretation (e.g. we shouldn’t literally breed like rabbits, which are irrational animals, and “who am I to judge” was said to *contrast* a sinner trying to follow Christ with someone lobbying to change His Church!)… In this case, I don’t see where people are getting that he means that she should become Catholic. On the contrary, he seems pretty clearly to be dismissing the theological issues with separation of Catholic and non-Catholic (we all share one Baptism, doctrine is hard, everyone has to decide for himself…). I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt and more for years now, but I’m afraid doubt just ran out: I’m totally stumped on how this one can be read other than as a rejection either of the need for Catholicism for Communion or of the difference between Catholicism and anything else, claims to lack of competence notwithstanding (and when the best way to interpret that claim is that he would, but he can’t, I’m not sure it’s much of a concession to orthodoxy).

    Oh well. I was getting used to not caring anyway. Whoever’s got the next parenthesis has had his work cut out for him for some time now.

  87. The Cobbler says:

    (Also, did anyone else notice that there was more red fire on this than on the average fishwrap article?)

  88. The Masked Chicken says:

    Thanks to WYMiriam and robtbrown for their comments on Eucharistic theology. Fr. Z did a separate comment on it.

    Everything being said, there are a few classes of Lutherans and other validly baptized Christians (because without valid Baptism, no other sacraments can be received) I think who, possibly, could benefit from the Eucharist, right now: terminally sick children and the developmentally disabled . Hear me out…

    Canon 844 says:

    Ҥ4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments [Confession, Eucharist, etc. Рmy comment] licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.

    Terminally ill young children just above the age of reason might not have been too screwed up by their parents into holding an heretical position about the Eucharist yet (especially if their parents are really lax Christmas/Easter Christians who rarely talk about the Eucharist) and they are not likely to have mortal sins on their souls. Thus, such kids, or even people with severe developmental disabilities, who could not understand Eucharistic theology to any great degree, but can understand that the Eucharist is Christ (because God can do anything), might be able to innocently receive Communion, if they or their parents can, somehow, let them know it is available. Unlike Protestant adults, who often have a mistaken understanding of the Eucharist or mortal sins on their souls, kid, especially terminally ill children, could benefit from the graces of the Sacraments without much preparation. Would this make them de facto Catholics? I don’t know, but hey, if we can sneak them in by the window…

    I’m just throwing this out there for consideration.

    The Chicken

  89. WYMiriam says:

    Dear Chicken, that is a most interesting proposition. (It also has a lot of mercy in it.) Which theologians and/or canon lawyers can we run that by?

  90. Daria says:

    “We are ;eft to untangle the knot.”
    How appropriate–maybe a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of knots is in order! :)

  91. Daria says:

    “We are ;eft to untangle the knot.”
    How appropriate–maybe a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of knots is in order! :)

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