The "Athanasian" Cardinals and Historicity of Correcting Pontiffs
It is a bit unnerving and not a little uncomfortable for the Church to be in the position it finds itself now. We have a situation where 4 cardinals have submitted questions to the Pope in the form of five "yes or no" questions. You hear these referred to as "dubia" - which is latin for "doubts". These questions are largely in response to Pope Francis' recent encyclical, Amoris Laetitia. There is precedent for this sort of format and questions put to the pope for clarification. Even saints in Church history have been persecuted and punished when they charitably questioned and challenged certain statements and teachings of the pope ... only later to be vindicated ... (click "Read More")
The Pope Will Never Answer the Dubia
The Pope's Council of 9 Cardinals met this week in the Vatican, from Monday, December 12th, to Wednesday, December 14th, according to the Vatican. Their report also noted there was no discussion of the dubia submitted by the four cardinals. This seems astonishing to me, as it is a matter of great division and question in the Church.
NCR reported: "Greg Burke, the head of the Holy See press office, said the nine-member Council of Cardinals focused particularly on the roles of the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Bishops, and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.Burke said the Council of Cardinals did not speak about a controversial November letter from four semi-retired cardinals challenging Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on family life, Amoris Laetitia.
Our Modern Day Athanasius of Alexandria: Bishop Athanasius Schneider Is A Voice Crying Out In the Wilderness...
Bishop Athanasius of Astana has spoken with charity, eloquence and charity regarding the four cardinals who have submitted dubia to Pope Francis for clarification. LifeSite News has posted an excellent article you can find here.
Bishop Athanasius stated: "An ecclesiastical authority that issues norms or pastoral guidance that provides for such admission, arrogates to itself a right that God has not given it. A pastoral accompaniment and discernment that does not communicate to the adulterous person, the so-called divorced and remarried, the divinely-established obligation to live in continence as a sine qua non condition for admission to the sacraments, exposes itself in reality as an arrogant clericalism, as there does not exist any clericalism so pharisaical as that which arrogates to itself rights reserved to God."
Let us pray for our Holy Father and our bishops and cardinals, that they may be docile to the Holy Spirit and uphold the Church's unchangeable teaching, entrusted to it by Christ Himself. Peace + DDG
Seek What Is Above... Not What Is On Earth... Detachment Reveals God to Us
All three readings address our attachment to the world and the need for what the catechism and doctors of the Church call detachment or renunciation. Jesus says: “one’s life does not consist of possessions… Paul says “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. [and to] Think of what is above, not of what is on earth…”
The “toil and anxiety of heart” our first reading calls “vanity”- the Hebrew word, hebel (“vanity”), has the sense of “emptiness, futility, absurdity” … we too often experience, is almost always caused by attachment to things, which are often possessions but also our own wills and how we want things to be rather than what reality God offers to us in the present moment.
The Cost of Discipleship
(Homily Notes - 13th Sunday)
What does following Jesus - in other words… discipleship… cost you? Are we ready to follow the Lord wherever he leads us? Today our Lord is teaching us the necessity of detachment from all that we put ahead of God’s will, His love and His truth in our lives. This is a call to live the Paschal Mystery - the center of our faith. Detachment means to not allow any created thing or person distract us from doing the will of God and making God the first priority in our lives. This is absolutely necessary for true discipleship.
(14th Sun - DDG Homily)
Let’s look at our readings in light of our celebrating Independence Day weekend -- What is freedom? Freedom certainly requires and implies the ability to choose – what we call “free will” but this is not the real meaning of the term “freedom”. There is much confusion about this term, often floated around along with terms like “individual rights”, “liberty”, “right to privacy” “autonomy” “self-determination” etc. The true meaning of freedom is not simply to “do whatever we want”. I have heard some even assert that freedom consists in the freedom to sin or not. But such a notion freedom is merely license, which leads to slavery and bondage to sin, which is contrary to the will of God and is disorder – deviating from God’s plan, path and will into nothingness, the absence of God, which we know to be Hell. So what is freedom? Perhaps another question first…
(DDG Homily Ascension 2015) In our first reading from Acts, we hear: “As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.”
Benedict: The presence of the cloud that "took him out of their sight", recalls a very ancient image of Old Testament theology and integrates the account of the Ascension into the history of God with Israel, from the cloud of Sinai and above the tent of the Covenant in the desert, to the luminous cloud on the mountain of the Transfiguration.
Pope Benedict notes, “The verb "to lift up" was originally used in the Old Testament and refers to royal enthronement. Thus Christ's Ascension means in the first place the enthronement of the Crucified and Risen Son of Man, the manifestation of God's kingship over the world.”
Pope Benedict XVI emeritus once wrote, “The meaning of Christ’s Ascension, expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and previously unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God.” “He took the human person with Him into the intimacy of the Father and thus revealed the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage.”
He continues: It would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as “the temporary absence of Christ from the world” … Rather, “we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into Him.”
Heaven is union with a PERSON… “Jesus Himself is what we call ‘heaven”! He is God.
The Ascension is a promise not a departure … a promise that we are destined, to dwell with and in …God. As Pope Benedict alludes to in my opening reflection on the meaning of the Ascension, we ‘go to heaven’ whenever we ascend to God in prayer -- turning to the divine presence of the Holy Trinity within us. St. John of the Cross in his spiritual writings calls this the ascent of Mount Carmel, that is our ascent to God within our souls.
Benedict: “The Ascension tells us that in Christ our humanity is brought to the heights of God; thus, every time we pray, earth is united to Heaven.” Christ has truly bridged the gap between God and man by ascending from earth to heaven! He is our mediator – true God and man, truly “descending” by taking on our humanity and “ascending”, transforming us and elevating us to a divine, supernatural life, which begins even now through grace – the seed of glory. Benedict notes in Spe Salvi that our hope to attain heaven – union with God … is something we already possess now through grace! The Father Son and Spirit dwelling with in us. We await this coming at Pentecost.
Jesus instructed the Apostles immediately before he Ascended to heaven, saying: “you will receive power when Holy Spirit comes upon you”. Christ ascended so He could send the Holy Spirit: The Apostles were instructed to wait for the Holy Spirit, whom we have received “power” in the grace of baptism confirmation and Eucharist.
Christ has Ascended to heaven … we should not grieve … He has not left us … the only thing better than Christ staying “with” us… is for Him to return to be “in” us through the Holy Spirit! … and this happens every time we receive grace, especially in Eucharist and reconciliation, prayer and in service. To what end? Jesus tells his followers: “you will receive power” and “you will be my witnesses”.
The sending of the Holy Spirit is the sending of the Trinity into our hearts and this unlocks the secret to OUR ascension with and in Christ! To be transformed into adopted sons and daughters – a supernatural life in God and to be witnesses to Christ in our daily lives.
We ascend to heaven when we descend in humility like Jesus and Mary … to do the will of the Father. Before Christ was lifted up to heaven in His glorious ascension, he had to be lifted up in the humiliation and suffering of the cross! Thus our call right now is to take up our cross in obedience, humility and love/truth so we might be lifted up to heaven with Christ when our time comes. There is no resurrection without the cross, there is no ascension without the descent in humility, acknowledging our sin and need for God and following Christ to calvary, witnessing in every moment of our lives… in order to follow Him to heavenly glory.
But for us to ascend to heaven, that is, experience God in our souls …. we must MAKE TIME for God in our lives! In daily prayer, exhortation and witness in our families, how we make decisions, how we deal with trials and sufferings, how we make use of our financial resources, how we use the talents and gifts given us. Do we pray together as a family? Is God central to your life in concrete ways that can be observed daily?
Where the heart is there also is your treasure. We experience the joy and exaltation of the Ascension in our souls only if we commit to daily conversion and making acts of faith, invoking the Holy Spirit to come to our aid, for we do not know how to pray as we ought – but the Holy Spirit prays in us with inexpressible groanings.. we long to ascend to Christ.
Our ascension to heaven has already begun and continues now. Are we moving toward heaven or hovering at a standstill, in a lukewarm faith? Are we clinging to earthly cares and allowing them to dominate your thinking, your time, your heart – or are we ascending, rising above the earth with Christ, being in but not of the world, detaching from worldly things that replace God in our lives? Have you said “yes” to God in words but action?
No matter what your life is like right now, success, failure, family stress, personal addiction to sin, employment frustrations, anxiety and fear about the future – the answer is to ascend to Christ who is within you, the heaven of your immortal soul! If you can say you are striving to be holy, a saint, which is to say doing and accepting all for God and imitating Christ’s life of prayer, service and sacrificial love …then you are indeed successful in your life (not as the world judges success) and you have accomplished everything.
Our Lord desires faithfulness – which is to be His witness, not worldly success. For, in Christ, faithfulness itself is success in God’s eyes. Our confidence is not in self but in God! Let us turn to Jesus, who has given us hope through His Ascension… and the Holy Spirit to lift us up with Him. And experience the glory of the ascension here and now – which is none other than the rapturing merciful love of the Holy Trinity in the heaven of your soul. Peace+ DDG
(DDG Homily, 4th Sunday of Easter)
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for His sheep … He has power to lay it down and power to take it up again. What does this mean for us today? Is it just a consoling, comfortable metaphor we think of as a nice painting… or is it actually a challenging call to move us to courage, sacrifice and a deeper participation in Christ’s love and truth?
This is perhaps the most moving aspect of our Gospel. The Good Shepherd demonstrates the authenticity of His love by emptying Himself – giving His life for us by laying down His life for His sheep. This is not just a sweet metaphor without effect or power … He endured the worst torture and death to save us. But because He is God, He also takes it up again as He wills.
In laying down His life – He triumphs with the Resurrection!
If Christ is God, with plenary power over life and death, the Shepherd need not die … “no one takes it from me… I lay it down on my own.” Again, this reveals the Good Shepherd’s motivation for laying down His life … LOVE for His sheep. It also reveals the courage, confidence and determination the Shepherd puts into all that He does in service of His sheep, for He does so for His Father “who knows me and I know the Father… and “this is why the Father loves me.”
Hence, Christ manifests what a true leader, a true Shepherd is … one who teaches the truth to the sheep and lays down his life for them.. as Christ says, they will “hear my voice and there will be one flock, one Shepherd”. There is one truth, one source of truth – the Word… the voice that is heard by the sheep who know Him and they are “one flock”, united not in some vague concept but in Christ – who is absolute truth and absolute love.
Christ appointed Shepherds over His Church – Peter and the Apostles, and their successors, the Pope and bishops and priests and deacons. They are the “voice” of Christ and are called to “lay down” their lives in service of the sheep. They feed the sheep in Word and sacrament – fulfilling their office of service as a bridge between God and His People.
The sheepfold are the laity, who comprise with the clergy – the People of God. The sheep are called to listen to the voice of the shepherd – Christ – through the voice of the Church’s teaching authority (magisterium), and receive the power to act in obedience to the voice of the Shepherds and to be a leaven in the secular world, blending and witnessing supernatural faith in every day secular life, ordinary duties in civil society – like leaven transforming the culture and world and causing it to rise up in the service and glory of God.
We are all called to imitate the Good Shepherd, who is loved by the Father because he lays His life down for His sheep. We are therefore called to lay down our lives for the love of Christ and our neighbor.
What does is it mean to lay down one's life like the Good Shepherd?
It means to witness to God’s truth and love as Christ and the saints and martyrs did. To put the love and truth of God above all things, even above our physical lives, if necessary. For us in this moment, it does not now mean an actual shedding of blood for Christ but we must remember this is exactly what it means today for our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq who are being put to death and driven from their homelands and Churches by Islamic extremists at levels surpassing early Christian martyrs. Pope Francis has forcefully addressed this in recent homilies and speeches.
In the Beatitudes, which are a portrait of Christ’s attributes and His New Law of love … our model for living … he says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” If we live our faith authentically as witnesses, we will find ourselves persecuted in some manner, for not giving in to the pressure of political correctness and modernism and conformity to modern culture and values.
So in our country, “laying down our lives” means firstly standing up for human life – against abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide which is now being debated in MN and for marriage as established by God between man and a woman. These are the pressing, critical issues of our age. If we don’t get these right, then all else is lost.
For the sheepfold too, are leaders and in the image of Shepherd with regard to their witness to the world. All of us must be willing to be countercultural and be the voice of Christ the Good Shepherd to those around us in our words and actions that must reflect not the secular culture but Christ’s Gospel. This is a laying down of one’s life because it requires love, courage and will entail persecution, being called names.
But for both shepherds and sheep in our country “laying down our lives” for Christ means when a bishop is attacked for simply requiring Catholic schools to teach the faith as given in the CCC and for staff/faculty to exemplify the faith in their lives… and draws intense criticism and persecution from both within and outside the sheepfold .… this is a good example of “laying down one's life” for Christ and the sheep, a selfless emptying and humility to endure ridicule for the sake of authentic truth and love of the Gospel.
· When we stand up for the authentic meaning of marriage between a man and a woman and condemn the sin – of same gender impurity as we do any unchastity and disordered use of sexuality – this is laying down one’s life.
· When married couples remain open to life by refusing to use contraception - this is laying down one's life in witness.
· Spouses resisting infidelity and remaining faithful – is laying down ones life
· When Bishops speak out against pro-abortion, Catholic politicians...
· When we serve the dignity of every human person unborn in the womb, vulnerable at the end of life or in need of food, clothing and shelter – we lay down our lives.
· When we speak out against government intrusion on religious liberty...
· When we resist negative talk and backbiting at home and in the workplace...
· When we set aside our own time and agendas to serve the church and those in need it around us – this is to lay down one's life.
· When we take time to pray for those in our families and those in most need, when we live the corporal/spiritual works of mercy: clothe the naked, feed the hungry, instruct the ignorant, encourage and counsel the doubtful, visit the sick, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently – this is to lay down one’s life.
To follow the Good Shepherd and imitate Him, requires the recognition of our sin and need for His forgiveness, the sacramental, especially Eucharistic grace and power to do His will, the faith and courage to speak and act as witnesses to the truth, always in charity, and the deep and committed prayer life of dialogue with God, always in communion with the Catholic Church and her teaching.
May we truly listen to and follow the voice and example of the Good Shepherd, so that with Him … we too may lay down our lives for Him.
(DDG Homily, Good Friday 2015)
The Holy Shroud of Christ, reserved in Turin, Italy, reveals the horrific reality of what Christ suffered this day for us. The blood stains, bruises and stigmata of crucifixion wounds are embedded in the burial shroud as supporting testimony to the Apostles of what Our Lord endured to restore us to eternal friendship with God. The shroud reveals a 6’man with scourge marks consistent with the Roman flagrum, which was a leather whip with 2/3 lead dumbbell shaped endings, which often included small barbs. There were over 120 of these wounds on his backside from his shoulders to his heels and also on the front from his chest to his feet. We see blood stains and piercing wounds all over his head and blood matted in his hair. Swelling and contusions are evident on his cheek and nose. Wounds on both shoulders suggests the carrying of a very heavy object. The shroud further reveals massive wounds at the base of his hands near the wrists where six inch spikes were driven to support his body weight and also through the arches of his feet. Blood streams are evident on the arms consistent with the position of crucifixion. We know the most sensitive nerves of the body run through these points of the hands and feet, and would have caused excruciating, shock inducing pain as the crucified one struggled to breathe by alternating between pushing on his feet to breathe and pulling himself up by his arms … each causing new firey shocks of pain… for hours. He died from cardiopulmonary failure and asphyxiation. The shroud reveals a three-inch wound in his side sustained after death in a shape consistent with the Roman lance used at that time and evidence of large flow of blood serum that scientists determine included separate components of blood cells and clear serum drained from the lesion.
This concretely evidences the physical suffering Christ, the Son of God endured for our salvation and this nothing compared to the spiritual anguish He endured by taking upon Himself the sins of the world, including all of those who would willingly reject His love in favor of self and passing pleasures and distractions.
What is our response? I’d like to focus on just one simple meditation for this solemn day – and it is the response of GRATITUDE. Recognizing our salvation as an undeserved gift of God is the necessary starting point to our deeper conversion and response to God’s self-emptying love.
The saving work of Christ on Good Friday is the greatest gift God offers to us – the question is: do we recognize and receive this gift of God in a spirit of gratitude? The gift is His very self … and a participation in His life. Just because it is offered does not mean we have received it – at least not as fully as God desires us to receive it. He does not force his love and salvation on us. God desires an ongoing, depending process of conversion, which is Jesus’ opening line in the Gospel – “Repent!”
Good Friday is a day of deep reflection in gratitude for God’s love for each of us personally. Gratitude is our first response to the love we see proven to us on the cross. If we do not feel that gratitude keenly, then we are not recognizing our need (sin) and dependency on God sufficiently.
In a very simple and practical way, we can foster this spirit of gratitude by taking time every day to reflect on the occasions and persons in our (daily) lives where God has blessed and given gifts to us. Where and in what has God bestowed his gifts and blessings upon you? Perhaps someone spoke an encouraging word to you; Perhaps God's majesty was evident in a beautiful sunrise or starry night; Perhaps you experienced his gift in family time together; Perhaps you have the blessing of employment or health; Perhaps someone helped you today or you had the opportunity to help someone in need... etc.
You will begin to recognize that God is constantly showering blessings and graces upon you. This will lift your hearts and spirits and enkindle a response … of love from us back to God, which leads to our self-emptying and desire to return love for love. . . and this is the response God desires from us today:
Gratitude for His ultimate gift of love on the cross; gratitude for the many gifts He gives us in our ordinary, daily lives; and our returning that love to God in:
1) Obedience, which was the sacrifice of Christ on the cross - ““Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (Jn 14:23) – this is the gift God desires to give us in the cross – His very indwelling presence!
2) Service – of God and those around us. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
*Let us show gratitude to God for His gift of love, which is stronger than death… revealed in the cross, which leads to resurrection & eternal life.
(DDG Homily - 6th Sun)
Have you been touched by Jesus? We are all have spiritual leprosy … in that we are all sinners. The leper in our moving Gospel passage today is a model of faith, prayer and our human condition of sin.
Under Mosaic law, lepers were declared unclean after diagnosed by the priest. They were considered ritually unclean, couldn’t participate in worship and became social outcasts, living separated and in isolation outside the community. They were regarded as “already dead”. Imagine yourself in this scene. Picture yourself as the leper. How would you feel, approaching the popular Jesus with the fawning crowd as an outcast from society and doomed – stinking, ruffled hair, torn garments. Do we have similar people in our midst today? Surely we do - the homeless, the extremely poor in our country and throughout the world. Imagine the embarrassment, extreme need, desperation, and humiliation you would experience, as this man did. Imagine the incredible joy to be touched – and healed, by Jesus! A new body! A new life!
Every story, every event in the Bible is meant to teach us about ourselves and about who God really is. The Church Fathers, such as St. Augustine, have regarded Jesus healing of the leper as a sign of our healing from sin – where we too are touched by Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are all spiritual lepers! This leper provides a spiritual model for us – his faith and confidence in Jesus is evident in his statement, “if you will, you can make me clean”. What a beautiful prayer for us to say daily! He recognized Jesus’ divinity, for he was asking for a miracle. We too must have faith in Jesus to be healed of our sins in confession. Jesus always required an act of faith from the person he was about to heal. The leper trusted in God’s mercy and the Lord’s mercy is evident, as Jesus was “moved with pity”. The Lord takes pity on us and saves us through Jesus victorious suffering on the cross. The leper obviously confessed his own condition of need for healing (he couldn’t heal himself) as we must recognize we have sinned and need forgiveness. How many spiritual lepers today do not recognize their condition! How many could be healed, as the leper, in confession to a priest, whom Christ acts through today! Such an act of faith and confession of need requires humility on our part, which is that honest self-knowledge of our weakness, sinfulness and also God’s omnipotence and love. It is only through the humble admission of our need that Jesus will reach out and touch us. The leper’s humility is evident from the fact he knelt and even “fell on his face”, before Jesus and acknowledged his brokenness. (Cf. Lk. 5:12) Finally, we see Jesus, “stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’” Is this not what happens to us when Christ touches us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? (Just as lepers were considered “already dead” – their condition was terminal … so too we can be alive bodily but “spiritually dead” in serious sins.) It was unthinkable for a Jew to touch a leper, yet Jesus does so here to manifest His authority, power and holiness, as the source of life and healing. What must it have been like to be TOUCHED? This leper had probably not felt a human hand in years.
While we must receive the healing touch of Christ, we are also called to be “another Christ” to those around us and touch their lives with love and compassion and kindness. How many in our midst today require our “touch”… our making Christ present through our genuine compassion, encouragement, enlightenment and welcoming support? The inner reality of cleansing from sin is manifested in the outward healings of Christ. This should encourage us, because if Jesus can heal leprosy, he can certainly heal our souls from sin! This is the “good news”, that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Sin separates us from our true selves and from one another. The leper wanted to thank God and spread the word to others… so should we also! As the leper ran off to be restored to the Israelite community, so too are we restored to our true selves and united to the Body of Christ, the Church, when we repent of our sins, like the leper. Sin is spiritual leprosy. Both sin and leprosy separate from the community of life and destroy us from within. Both are contagious and spread to others – the more we sin, the less sensitive we are to it! Who do we know, who are separated from the Church? Are there divisions in our families? Jesus comes to heal the spiritual leprosy of greed, lust, violence, isolation, neglect of the poor, broken families, and the rejection of morality and God’s love and truth. Once we experience this healing touch of Christ, we are called to be “another Christ” to effect healing in the world around us.
Fr. Damian of Molokai, missionary to the lepers of Hawaii in the late 19th century, descended into the lepers' colony of Molokai -- then considered, "the cemetery and hell of the living" -- and from the first sermon embraced all those unfortunate people saying simply: "We lepers." And to the first sick person who said, "Be careful, Father, you might get my disease" he replied, "I am my own, if the sickness takes my body away God will give me another one." Fr. Damian understood well that we are all spiritual lepers, in need of God’s merciful, healing love. He died, contracting the deadly disease in the course of his sacrificial love and service of others. Fr. Damian died as His Master, Christ died – in sacrificial love for us. May we allow ourselves to be touched by Our Lord, so we may be healed of our spiritual leprosy, and so touch others with that same healing love that only comes from God. Peace+ DDG
Deacon Dan Gannon JD, MA
Welcome! I am a Catholic deacon ordained for the Diocese of La Crosse. I am Director of The Saint Paul Seminary Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation and adjunct professor of theology. I am an instructor with the SPS Catechetical Institute and in diaconal formation programs for three dioceses. I am a retreat and spiritual director and serve the Church as a biomedical ethicist, certified by the NCBC. I am also an attorney. Find more info about this site and my background. The views expressed on this site are my own and always in accord with the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.