Thursday, December 15, 2016

Flannery O'Connor on Tenderness

[I would substitute the word "tenderness" with "compassion" or "mercy" since those seem to be the buzz words these days. With that in mind...]

One of the tendencies of our age is to use the suffering of children to discredit the goodness of God, and once you have discredited his goodness, you are done with him [....] Busy cutting down human imperfection, they are making headway also on the raw material of good.

Ivan Karamazov cannot believe, as long as one child is in torment; Camus’ hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ, because of the massacre of the innocents.

In this popular pity, we mark our gain in sensibility and our loss in vision. If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness.

It is a tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.


Source: Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1957), 226–227.

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin on Signs of a Vocation to the Priesthood


The Subject of the Sacrament of Orders

And here it is also necessary to distinguish within the subject the necessary conditions for validity and liceity.

A) For validity

Conclusion. A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly (CIC 1024).
428. We wish to explain the conclusion a little.

A MAN ALONE, not a woman. St. Paul expressly states, “Let women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject” (1 Cor. 14:34). And in another place: “Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection” (1 Tim. 2:11). The Holy Fathers explain these words in the sense of excluding women from the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and this has been the constant and universal practice of the Church.

In ancient church literature it is sometimes spoken of female bishops and priests, and St. Paul himself speaks with praise of the deaconess Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2) and gives to his disciple Timothy norms for choosing deaconesses from among the widows (1 Tim. 5:9-10). None of these women received ordination as such but a sacramental instituted by the Church, by way of a blessing of the virgins consecrated to the Lord, which enabled them to help the priests or deacons in the administration of baptism for women, in the catechesis of women, etc. Sometimes the actual spouses of the deacons, priests, or bishops simply received those titles before ecclesiastical celibacy was obligatorily imposed.

BAPTIZED, that is to say, he who has received the sacrament of baptism (the baptism of desire is not sufficient), which is the obligatory and indispensable door to be able to receive any other sacrament.

B) For liceity

Conclusion. In order to receive holy ordination licitly, it is required that the candidate meet the canonical conditions determined by the Church.

429. In addition to a divine vocation, the state of grace—which is the indispensable condition to receive licitly any sacrament of the living—and not having any irregularity or impediment, certain conditions are required by Canon Law, which we will examine in detail in the following article.


Prerequisites in order to receive sacred ordination

The prerequisites which the candidate must meet in order to receive Holy Orders are of two types: a) the possession of the positive qualities demanded by the Church; and b) the absence of irregularities or impediments. We will examine these separately.
I.                   POSITIVE QUALITIES

The essential qualities, those that we just finished citing in the previous conclusion, one naturally presupposes, are a divine vocation to the priesthood, the state of grace, and a right intention. We will examine these one by one.

A) The Divine Vocation

430. There is a great variety of opinions among theologians on the genuine and true concept of a vocation to the priesthood. All contain some essential core of truth, but the greater part of them fail from inadequacies because they do not examine the priestly vocation except from an incomplete and partial point of view: the theological or the canonical.

The priestly vocation, adequately considered, seems to us to consist of three elements:
a) A special calling from God.
b) Canonical suitability (idoneity).
c) Admission to the clerical state by the bishop.[1]
By this understanding, we might say that there is a true vocation to the priesthood for anyone who, feeling the call of God in a special way and possessing canonical suitability, is admitted to the clerical state by a legitimate bishop.

We are going to examine briefly each one of these three essential elements.

a) A Special Call from God

It is a theologically indisputable fact that divine Providence orders all things that exist towards the attainment of the final end of creation, namely, the divine glory.[2] This providence of God extends absolutely to everything, including the most insignificant—etiam minimorum, says St. Thomas Aquinas[3]—, even to the point that God has counted all the hairs of our head (Mt. 10:30), and the leaf of a tree does not move without the previous permission of God.

This being the case, one understands how great and excellent a thing is the Catholic priesthood, which ought to continue across the centuries the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the Son well-beloved of the Father, and it is not possible that God would abandon it to the free choice or caprice of men. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” expressly says the Lord in the Gospel (Jn. 15:16). That is why it seems to us that those make a great error of perspective, theologically unjustifiable, [542] who speak of choice of state to suggest to the possible candidate the excellent greatness of the priesthood. There is not, there should not be such a choice of state—as if the initiative of a decision of this magnitude was by man alone, and God was forced to accept what the creature has decided—but solely an examination of the depths of the inclination and the qualities which the candidate possesses in order to discover in those qualities, with greater or lesser clarity, the mysterious calling of God, which, theologically speaking, constitutes the heart of the vocation.

This call of God tends to take on many diverse forms. Sometimes it appears in the conscience of the candidate with complete clarity and evidence, a blessing that does not allow harboring the slightest doubt. At other times, it is obscure and mysterious yet at the same time very true and real. Again, sometimes it imposes itself upon the conscience in the form of a categorical imperative[4]; at other times it does not go beyond being a sweet invitation, quietly persuasive. But whatever form it adopts or with whatever force that it may impose itself, it never dominates human free will, which remains perfectly safe, even when efficacious grace falls upon it, producing its effect infallibly and is most freely accepted by the man.

The existence and necessity of a divine vocation to the priesthood, that is, of this call of God, can be fully demonstrated through traditional theological sources:

1.       SACRED SCRIPTURE. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain” (Jn. 15:16).
“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send laborers into his harvest” (Lk. 10:2). 
“And going up into a mountain, he called unto him whom he would himself, and they came to him. And he made that twelve should be with him, and that he might send them to preach. And he gave them power to seal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mk. 3:13-15). 
“Neither doth any man take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was. So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest, but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee” (Heb. 5:4-5). 
“And praying, (the apostles) said, “Thou, Lord, who knowest the heart of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas hath by transgression fallen, that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1:24-25).
The testimony of Sacred Scripture cannot be clearer or more conclusive.

2.       THE MAGISTERIUM OF THE CHURCH. This point of view, profoundly theological by having its immediate foundation in Sacred Scripture, has been fully confirmed through the magisterium of the Church by clarifying with total care and exactness some exaggerations regarding the priestly vocation that have remained obscured by some excessively amateur authors, who viewed this matter exclusively from a canonical point of view and downplayed its theological aspect, which is just as important if not more than the canonical.
In fact, in the Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Sacraments of December 27, 1930,[5] approved and confirmed by Pius XI, it says among other things the following:

1.       The priestly vocation should not be confused with admission to the ecclesiastical state made by the bishop since it is seriously warned that the latter will not allow candidates to receive orders if they are deprived of a divine vocation: “divina destituti vocatione” (§1, n.1). Therefore it is a clear thing that the divine vocation is distinct from and prior to the call of the bishop.

2.       This same idea is repeated constantly through the length of the instruction. Here are some texts:
“Those who have been chosen by the Holy Ghost to govern the Church of God, in order to avoid many and great evils against the Church and the faithful, must with the greatest caution block the path of those who through lack of a priestly vocation to such a high ministry should have applied to them the words of our Lord (Jn. 10:1): ‘Amen, amen I say to you: he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber’” (§1, n.1). 
“In order that things may not come to this result, there must be firmly impressed upon the souls of the bishops and local ordinaries an interest in a great means of immediately separating those who are to receive orders from those who are unworthy and not called” (§3, n. 4).
3.       Every candidate to Holy Orders must sign with his own hand and in his own handwriting a document in which he declares his desire to receive Holy Orders freely and spontaneously with all the responsibilities accompanying it, “since I experience and feel within me truly the call of God.”

c)    THE THEOLOGICAL REASON. It is a natural and immediate consequence of divine Providence, which extends itself to the smallest things as St. Thomas says.[6] It is absurd to think that one of the most excellent things, the priestly vocation, would have been abandoned to the arbitrary will and whim of man so that whether a man takes it or leaves it depends on if he has a desire for it.

It is not valid, then, to say that the aspirant to the priesthood does not sometimes sense a small hint of the divine calling within his interior but rather that he has full consciousness of possessing the self-determination to choose the priesthood, having calmly considered the spiritual benefits that have been reported of such a state. Nothing that we have finished explaining goes against vocation in the sense of a divine initiative since this apparent self-determination, perhaps the product of a long, cold, and painful deliberation, is in reality one of the forms of the divine call, an effect of God’s free election, according to the words of Sacred Scripture: “As the divisions of waters, so the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, whithersoever he will he shall turn it” (Prov. 21:1).
This demonstration, so clear and evident, can be further confirmed with new and decisive arguments. It is worthwhile to explain some in order to restore fully the truth about this subject, so important and oftentimes so obscure. The arguments are:[7]

1.       The ecclesiastical ministry demands, by its very nature, a special help of grace in order to be able to exercise it conveniently. But God gives these special aids only, or at least principally, to those who were really called and not to those who contrary to the will of God have the audacity to consecrate themselves to the divine ministries.

2.       The priestly state cannot be worthily and laudably exercised without special qualities of soul and body. However, these talents are gifts of God, which He gives to those called precisely in virtue of their calling, and it is not given to the rest, at least according to the general norms of His ordinary providence.

3.       The priest holds the position of mediator between God and man, according to these words of St. Paul: “Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that the may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1); and these other words: “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20); and finally: “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). However, it would be absurd to think that someone, without being called by God, could have the audacity to chose the role of ambassador of Christ, dispenser of the divine mysteries, and mediator between God and man.

4.       The sacerdotal state carries with it the gravest obligations, which cannot morally be observed with fidelity for an entire lifetime without special helps from God. However, according to the ordinary norms of His divine Providence, God does not refuse any general graces and sufficient helps, but He grants special and efficacious graces only to those legitimately called by Him.

b) Canonical Suitability

In addition to a divine calling, it is required in the candidate those conditions or qualities that establish the aptitude or canonical suitability for the priesthood. Precisely the lack of this suitability will be the clear sign that God is not calling the candidate to the priesthood—even if the candidate believes otherwise—because in God there cannot be any contradiction. And to the contrary, the clear and manifest presence of that suitability in a man who willingly aspires to the priesthood is the clearest and most manifest proof of a divine vocation.

Canon Law emphatically expresses to bishops the gravest obligation not to promote to Holy Orders those candidates who lack this canonical suitability.

We will see in the following pages [545] what those qualities may be that constitute this canonical suitability. But first we must examine the last point of our discussion.

c) Admission on the Part of the Bishop

The final and authoritative judgment over the admission or denial to Holy Orders of the aspiring candidate rests solely with the bishop, who must not ordain any layman if it is not necessarily or useful for his diocese (cf. CIC 2025).

During the pontificate of St. Pius X, a commission of cardinals examined the work La vocation sacerdotale by Canon Lahitton—which had stirred up great commotion among authors—and had the following report issued regarding it:

“The book of the eminent Joseph Canon Lahitton, titled La vocation sacerdotale, is in no way to be condemned, but rather it is deserving of outstanding praise in the following points:
1. that no one has a right to ordination antecedently to the free choice of him by the bishop;

2. that the condition to which the Ordinary should look, and which is called a priestly vocation, by no means consists, at all events necessarily and as a general rule, in some interior aspiration of the subject or in impulses of the Holy Ghost to receive the priesthood;

3. but on the contrary nothing more is required in the candidate that he may rightly be invited by the bishop than a right intention together with a fitness based on those gifts of nature and grace, and confirmed by that goodness of life and sufficiency of learning, that afford a well-founded hope that he would be able rightly to fulfill the priestly duties and maintain its obligations holily.[8]
This teaching is of complete certitude. But it does not follow in any way that in order to be ordained a priest a prior divine vocation is not required—as some have affirmed, disproportionately exaggerating point 2 of the above declaration—but only that no one has a right to be ordained before the free choice of the bishop and that in order for the bishop to be able legitimately to invite him, it suffices that the candidate possess right intention together with a due suitability, that is, the unequivocal signs of a true and authentic divine vocation to the priesthood.

Without a doubt, because of the exaggerations of these authors to whom we have just alluded, it was seen that the Holy See was obliged to clarify the true import of point 2 of the previously mentioned declaration. And as we have seen above, in the instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Sacraments of December 27, 1930, approved and confirmed by Pius XI, there is a clear distinction made between a divine vocation to the priesthood and admission to the ecclesiastical state by the bishop. [546] We have already cited the texts and have nothing further to add here.

B) The State of Grace

431. The state of grace is an indispensable prerequisite in order to receive licitly the sacrament of Holy Orders. The reason is because it is a sacrament of the living, the reception of which presupposes a soul in possession of supernatural life (the state of grace). The reception of truly sacramental orders (diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopy) while conscious of mortal sin would constitute a grave sacrilege, apart from the mortal sin that would be committed by the unworthy reception of the Eucharist, which must be received together with major orders.

C) Right Intention

432. This is another indispensable condition demanded by the very nature of the sacrament.

This rectitude of intention means that the candidate by his ordination ought to strive exclusively, or at least principally, for the glory of God, the good of souls, and his own sanctification. If he would intend to obtain temporal goods, honors, or an easy life as his exclusive or principal goal, then he would commit a most serious mortal sin. It is not forbidden, however, that besides the primary supernatural end he may also seek after other secondary natural goods (e.g. in order to assist in the honest sustainment of his parents). But it must be understood that his intention would be more upright and purer the less it is influenced by these secondary, purely natural motives.

D) Holy Confirmation

433. It must be understood that the candidate set apart by the sacrament of Orders for the divine mysteries and the shepherding of the faithful must be fully confirmed in the Faith and strong in the practice of virtue. Moreover, it would not be good that a man, before reaching the status of a soldier in the military of Christ, should take on the responsibility of a chief or captain. Hence the necessity of receiving the sacrament of Confirmation before that of Orders.

Long ago this prerequisite was considered binding under pain of venial sin only. But modern moral theologians consider it to be binding under pain of mortal sin. The reason seems to come from canon 1033, which in order for ordination to be licit demands among other things that the ordinand “has received the sacrament of confirmation.” Since it deals with an intrinsically grave matter [547] and is necessary for liceity, it seems that its culpable omission would constitute a true mortal sin.[9]

E) Virtuous Life

434. Among the conditions required to bring the candidate to Holy Orders, the Code of Canon Law demands “qualities in keeping with the order to be received” (CIC 1029).

Not all the orders require the same sanctity of customs since they confer neither the same dignity nor the same powers. But it is evident that the candidate to any order ought to show clear signs of possessing a true and authentic priestly vocation through a solid piety and ought to be firmly resolved in completely renouncing, throughout his entire life, the empty promises of the world and of the flesh.

The more compromised case and that which might offer greater doubts regarding a legitimate priestly vocation in a young man is in relation to the virtue of chastity. Although in this as in all cases there may be exceptions, which must be determined, nevertheless as a general rule, the youth for whom it proves very difficult[10] to keep perfect chastity in the environment of the seminary or religious house—which is a kind of spiritual greenhouse, heated for piety and removed from all kinds of dangers—will find it almost impossible to keep custody when he must live “outdoors” in the midst of the storms of the world, which he will have to confront very closely.

There is a common agreement among authors in demonstrating that the candidate who has contracted a vice against chastity is not able to present himself to receive Holy Orders, and if he does so, sins mortally.

The length of time that he ought to remain in perfect chastity before approaching to receive Holy Orders cannot be mathematically determined since it depends greatly on the temperament, the energy of character, etc., of the candidate. In general authors tend to indicate a year before entering the priesthood. But the Holy Congregation of Seminaries [currently called the Congregation for Catholic Education] has given much more severe orders and desires that access to the priesthood be excluded not only from all those who have sinned with another person (even if this was only once), but also as a rule those who have fallen into external mortal sin after the penultimate year of philosophy.[11]

IN PRACTICE, the confessor or spiritual director must advise the candidate who has contracted an evil habit against purity to leave the seminary or religious house immediately in order [548] to choose another form of life more suitable for his weak virtue. And if the candidate obstinately persists on a path that is not his, absolution ought to be denied to his sins until he decides to leave or to postpone reception of orders until he has successfully achieved the total rectification of his habits.

F) Canonical Age

435. This is what Canon Law states:

Canon 1031. Ҥ1. The presbyterate is not to be conferred except on those who have completed the twenty-fifth year of age and possess sufficient maturity; an interval of at least six months is to be observed between the diaconate and the presbyterate. Those destined to the presbyterate are to be admitted to the order of deacon only after completing the twenty-third year of age.
“§2. A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married is not to be admitted until after completing at least the twenty-fifth year of age; one who is married, not until after completing at least the thirty-fifth year of age and with the consent of his wife. 
“§3. The conference of bishops is free to establish norms which require an older age for the presbyterate and the permanent diaconate. 
“§4. A dispensation of more than a year from the age required according to the norm of §§1 and 2 is reserved to the Apostolic See.”
G) Requisite Knowledge

436. Canon Law states the following:

Canon 1032. Ҥ1. Those aspiring to the presbyterate can be promoted to the diaconate only after they have completed the fifth year of the curriculum of philosophical and theological studies.
“§2. After a deacon has completed the curriculum of studies and before he is promoted to the presbyterate, he is to take part in pastoral care, exercising the diaconal order, for a suitable time defined by the bishop or competent major superior. 
“§3. A person aspiring to the permanent diaconate is not to be promoted to this order unless he has completed the time of formation.”
The episcopate requires a doctorate or a licentiate in sacred theology or canon law, or at least true competence in these disciplines (CIC 378 § 1, 5°).
H) Exercising the Minor Ministries and Keeping the Interstices[12]

437. Canon 1035 states the following:
“§1. Before any may be promoted to the diaconate, whether permanent or transitory, he must have received the ministries of lector and acolyte, and have exercised them for an appropriate time. 
“§2. Between the conferring of the ministry of acolyte and the diaconate there is to be an interval of at least six months.”
I) Other Requisites for Ordination

Canon Law indicates principally the following:

438. 1. Freedom to be Ordained. “For a person to be ordained, he must enjoy the requisite freedom. It is absolutely wrong to compel anyone, in any way or for any reason whatsoever, to receive orders, or to turn away from orders anyone who is canonically suitable” (CIC 1026).

439. 2. The Proper Declaration. “For a candidate to be promoted to the order of diaconate or priesthood, he must submit to the proper Bishop or to the competent major Superior a declaration written in his own hand and signed by him, in which he attests that he will spontaneously and freely receive the sacred order and will devote himself permanently to the ecclesiastical ministry, asking at the same time that he be admitted to receive the order” (CIC 1036).

440. 3. Acceptance of Celibacy. “A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married and likewise a candidate for the priesthood, is not to be admitted to the order of diaconate unless he has, in the prescribed rite, publicly before God and the Church undertaken the obligation of celibacy, or unless he has taken perpetual vows in a religious institute” (CIC 1037).

441. 4. Spiritual Exercises [i.e. a Retreat]. “All who are to be promoted to any order must make a retreat for at least five days, in a place and in the manner determined by the Ordinary. Before he proceeds to the ordination, the Bishop must have assured himself that the candidates have duly made the retreat” (CIC 1039).


In addition to the positive qualities or conditions which we have finished examining, the candidate for orders must possess certain negative qualities, [550] that is, must be free from so-called irregularities and from simple impediments that prohibit the reception of orders. We will examine each of these separately.

A) Irregularities in General

441.2. 1. The Notion. In ecclesiastical law, an irregularity is understood to be a perpetual, canonical impediment that prohibits the reception of orders or the exercise of those orders already received.

We will briefly explain the terms of the definition:

AN IMPEDIMENT, that is, a certain inability for the clerical state, either culpable or by no fault of the one who has it.

CANONICAL, that is, established by the Church in view of the dignity and honor of the priestly ministry and the reverence owed to Holy Orders. No irregularity can be incurred except from this viewpoint and which has been expressly defined by Canon Law.

PERPETUAL, at least, intrinsically; that is, it does not cease with the simple passage of time, but may be overlooked only by a dispensation or a provision of ecclesiastical law. This is distinguished from a simple impediment, which ends, as we shall see, when the cause that produces it disappears.

THAT PROHIBITS THE RECEPTION OF ORDERS. This is the primary and direct effect of an irregularity. Note, however, that an irregularity does not affect the validity of ordination but only its liceity; although in itself, it binds the person gravely.

OR THE EXERCISE OF THOSE RECEIVED, even though the irregularity was contracted after ordination. This is the secondary and indirect effect of an irregularity.

442. 2. Foundation. The remote foundation of irregularities is found in natural law and in divine positive law, which demand due reverence and honor for the sacred ministries. The proximate foundation is in ecclesiastical law as we have already said.

443. 3. Division. The following summary chart shows the different classes of irregularities recognized by Canon Law:
a) By defect. These stem from some physical defect or moral incompatibility that is not fitting to the sacred ministry.

b) By delict. These proceed from a personal sin that is grave, external, completed with full deliberation, and committed after baptism.

c) Antecedent, if it is contracted before ordination.

d) Consequent, if committed after.

e) Total, if it impedes the reception or exercise of any order.

f) Partial, if it impedes only the ascent to a higher order or the exercise of some order (e.g. the priest that lacks a thumb is irregular with respect to celebrating the Holy Mass but not with respect to hearing confessions).

g) Public, if it has been made known among the faithful.

h) Occult, if it isn’t and probably will never be known by the faithful.
444. 4. Subject. Irregularities affect only the baptized male; and if it is a matter of irregularity from a crime, the subject must be able to commit it (in other words, he has matured out of childhood).

The unbaptized are neither the subject of irregularities nor of the sacrament of orders. But they can become the subject of each after receiving baptism (for instance, if they receive baptism from a non-Catholic as in the case of extreme necessity), or if the defect can remain after baptism, affecting the person who still has it.

445. 5. Conditions. In order to incur an irregularity, the following are required:

a)       IT IS CERTAIN, that is, the crime or defect on which the irregularity is based exists or can be certainly verified. With this condition, the irregularity is contracted by the mere fact that what it is based on is verified, without the need for any declaration from the Church.

A doubtful irregularity is null. The reason is that in the case of something hateful, it should be interpreted strictly, and in the case of something doubtful, it should not be presumed but must be proven.

b)      THE ACTION that brings the attached irregularity by delict must be a personal, mortal sin, external, completed deliberately, and committed after baptism. Everything that excuses a grave sin (e.g. lack of grave matter, a fault of advertence, good faith, etc.) will also excuse from the irregularity.

However, an occult sin with all the characteristics that we have just indicated is sufficient to contract an irregularity.

Ignorance of irregularities, whether from a crime or defect, does not exempt one from them. The same may be said of impediments (CIC 1045). The reason is because irregularities are not properly speaking a penalty or a punishment (as it is with excommunication for instance), but they are rather an obstacle or an impediment that prohibits the reception or exercise of orders.

446. 6. Multiplication. “Irregularities and impediments are multiplied if they arise from different causes, not however from the repetition [552] of the same cause, unless it is a question of the irregularity arising from the commission of willful homicide or from having actually procured an abortion” (CIC 1046).

From this principle it may be inferred that a priest who is suspended from exercising orders contracts only one irregularity if he celebrates Mass several times. On the other hand, the man who commits ten homicides has ten irregularities.

447. 7. Cessation. Irregularities cease only by a dispensation from a legitimate superior granted in the internal or external forum. Simple impediments cease when the cause for them disappears (e.g. by the termination of military service) or through a dispensation from a superior.

448. 8. Author of a Dispensation. 1. THE APOSTOLIC SEE can dispense from all classes of irregularities and impediments. This faculty is exercised by means of the Sacred Congregation of Sacraments (or of Religious) for these if they are not public; through the Sacred Penitentiary if they are occult; by the Holy Office [the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], if it deals with irregularities or defects relative to the Faith.

2. ORDINARIES can dispense those under their jurisdiction as well as religious in the same place, either by themselves or by means of another, from all irregularities that proceed from an occult delict (except one motivated by voluntary homicide or by the procuring and carrying out of an abortion) or from any other which has led to a judicial forum.[13]

They are also able to dispense from those which may be doubtful, provided that they are those that the Roman Pontiff usually dispenses from. They can also grant a dispensation when it might be difficult to appeal to the Holy See or when there may be a grave danger in the delay.

3. ANY CONFESSOR has, with respect to those persons who can have their confession heard, the same faculties as those of the ordinary that we explained in the first paragraph of number 2 above in more urgent occult cases if they cannot go to the ordinary and if there may be a danger of grave harm or infamy but only so that the penitent can exercise licitly the orders already received (CIC 1048).

449. 9. Manner of Petitioning for a Dispensation. The following is set out by Canon Law (CIC 1049):
Ҥ1. Petitions to obtain a dispensation from irregularities or impediments must indicate all the irregularities and impediments. Nevertheless, a general dispensation is valid even for those omitted in good faith, except [553] for the irregularities mentioned in can. 1041, n. 4, and for others brought to the judicial forum, but not for those omitted in bad faith.

Ҥ2. If it is a question of the irregularity from voluntary homicide or a procured abortion, the number of the delicts also must be mentioned for the validity of the dispensation.

“§3. A general dispensation from irregularities and impediments to receive orders is valid for all the orders.”
B) Irregularities in Particular

450. As it has been stated, irregularities can be through delict or through defect. The former always suppose a grave fault in the one who has committed it; the latter can affect innocent persons. Here is a complete list of each of the irregularities according to the new Code of Canon Law:

Canon 1040. “Those affected by any impediment, whether perpetual, which is called an irregularity, or simple, are prevented from receiving orders. The only impediments incurred, however, are those contained in the following canons.”

Canon 1041. “The following are irregular for receiving orders:
1. A person who labors under some form of amentia or other psychic illness due to which, after experts have been consulted, he is judged unqualified to fulfill the ministry properly;

2. A person who has committed the delict of apostasy, heresy, or schism;

3. A person who has attempted marriage, even only civilly, while either impeded personally from entering marriage by a matrimonial bond, sacred orders, or a public perpetual vow of chastity, or with a woman bound by a valid marriage or restricted by the same type of vow;

4. A person who has committed voluntary homicide or procured a completed abortion and all those who positively cooperated in either;

5. A person who has mutilated himself or another gravely and maliciously or who has attempted suicide;

6. A person who has placed an act of orders reserved to those in the order of episcopate or presbyterate while either lacking that order or prohibited from its exercise by some declared or imposed canonical penalty.”
Canon 1042. “The following are simply impeded from receiving orders:
1. A man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconate;

2. A person who exercises an office or administration forbidden to clerics according to the norm of cann. 285 and 286 for which he must render an account, until he becomes free by having relinquished the office or administration and rendered the account; [554] 
3. A neophyte unless he has been proven sufficiently in the judgment of the ordinary.”
Canon 1043. “If the Christian faithful are aware of impediments to sacred orders, they are obliged to reveal them to the ordinary or pastor before the ordination.”

Canon 1044. “The following are irregular for the exercise of orders received:
1. A person who has received orders illegitimately while affected by an irregularity to receive them;

2. A person who has committed a delict mentioned in can. 1041, n. 2, if the delict is public;

3. A person who has committed a delict mentioned in can. 1041, nn. 3, 4, 5, 6.
“The following are impeded from the exercise of orders:
1. A person who has received orders illegitimately while prevented by an impediment from receiving them;

2. A person who is affected by amentia or some other psychic illness mentioned in can. 1041, n. 1 until the ordinary, after consulting an expert, permits the exercise of the order.”

[1] Cf. CAPPELLO, De sacramentis vol. 4, n. 363. We follow this author closely in the following pages.
[2] Cf. 1,22,104.
[3] 1,22,3.
[4] I.e., an absolute moral obligation binding upon the person, regardless of their personal inclinations.—Translator’s note.
[5] AAS 23,120 ff.
[6] 1,22,3.
[7] Cf. CAPPELLO, S.I., op. cit., n. 370, with whom we are in total agreement in this matter.
[8] Circular Letter of the Secretariat of State to the Bishops of July 2, 1912 (AAS 4.485).
[9] Cf. CAPPELLO, op. cit., n. 405.
[10] This does not mean to say that it is necessary that the candidate does not experience temptations, even if they may be very vehement, but that they can be overcome, and in fact that he does conquer them with the help of divine grace and by employing the appropriate means.
[11] Cf. ARREGUI, Compendio de teología moral (Bilbao 1945) n. 680.
[12] The space of time that must pass between receiving different orders according to Canon Law.
[13] Actually, bishops and religious superiors enjoy wider faculties with respect to dispensing from irregularities.


Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marin, OP, Moral Theology for Laity, Volume II: The Sacraments, trans. by Richard Grablin (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 2006), 539–554.

This translation is from a reprint of the 5th Spanish edition, published originally in November 1994. The Spanish title is Teología moral para seglares, II: Los sacramentos.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Repost: "To Scale: The Solar System"

This is really cool.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Repost: Steven Pinker debate excerpt "The Truth Cannot Be Sexist"

Full debate (S. Pinker vs. Elizabeth Spelke):

Repost: NRK Documentary "The Gender Equality Paradox" (2010)

Wikipedia page on the series:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

St. Augustine on Sin as Preference for the Private Good

[69] In the way we know all things of which we have knowledge by reason, and yet reason itself is also counted among the things we know by reason. Or did you forget that when we asked what is known by reason, you conceded that reason is also known by reason? [1] So do not be surprised that even if we use other things by free will, we are able to use free will through free will itself. The will that uses other things somehow uses itself, the same way as reason, which knows other things, knows itself too. Memory does not only embrace all the other things we remember. Since we do not forget that we have memory, memory also somehow grasps memory itself in us, and it remembers not only other things but also itself – or, rather, we remember other things as well as memory itself through it.

Thus when the will, which is an intermediate good, holds fast to the unchangeable good as something common rather than private – like the truth, which we have discussed at length without saying anything adequate – a person grasps the happy life. And the happy life, i.e. the [70] attachment of the mind holding fast to the unchangeable good, is the proper and fundamental good for a human being. It also includes all the virtues, which no one can use for evil. Although the virtues are great and fundamental goods in human beings, we thoroughly understand that they are proper to each person, not that they are common. Truth and wisdom, however, are common to all, and people become wise and happy by holding fast to them. Of course, one person does not become happy by the happiness of another. Even if you emulate another in order to be happy, you seek to become happy by means of what you saw made the other person happy, namely through the unchangeable and common truth. Nor does anyone become prudent by another person’s prudence, or is made courageous by another’s courage, or moderate by another’s moderateness, or just by another’s justice. Instead, you conform your mind to those unchangeable rules and beacons of the virtues,[2] which live uncorruptibly in the truth itself and in the wisdom that is common, to which the person furnished with virtues whom you put forward as a model for your emulation has conformed and directed his mind.

Therefore, when the will adheres to the common and unchangeable good, it achieves the great and fundamental goods of a human being, despite being an intermediate good. But the will sins when it is turned away from the unchangeable and common good, towards its private good, or towards something external, or towards something lower. The will is turned to its private good when it wants to be in its own power; it is turned to something external when it is eager to know the personal affairs of other people, or anything that is not its business; it is turned to something lower when it takes delight in bodily pleasures. And thus someone who is made proud or curious or lascivious is captured by another life that, in comparison to the higher life, is death.[3]


1. See
2. See–
3. See


Source: St. Augustine, On the Free Choice of the Will, in On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice, and Other Writings, ed. by Peter King (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010),–, 69–70.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pope St. Leo on the Common Priesthood

[Originally preached on September 29, 444:]

Although the Church of God as a whole has a hierarchical structure, so that the completeness of the sacred body consists in a diversity of members, “we are,” nevertheless, as the Apostle says, “one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). No one functions so independently of another that even the lowliest part does not have some relationship with the Head to which it is connected. In the unity of faith and Baptism, we have an undifferentiated fellowship, dearly beloved, and a uniform dignity.

So proclaims the most blessed apostle Peter when he says with these most sacred words: “And you yourselves should be built up like living stones into spiritual dwellings, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt. 2:5). And later on he says: “You, however, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart" (1 Pt. 2:9). All who have been regenerated in Christ are made kings by the sign of the cross and consecrated priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Apart from the particular service that our ministry entails, all Christians who live spiritual lives according to reason recognize that they have a part in the royal race and the priestly office. What could be more royal than the soul in subjection to God ruling over its own body? What could be more priestly than dedicating a pure conscience to the Lord and offering spotless sacrifices of devotion from the altar of the heart? Since this has been given to everyone alike through the grace of God, it is a devout and praiseworthy thing for you to take joy in the day of our elevation as if in your own honor. Let the episcopacy be celebrated in the entire body of the Church as one single mystery. When the oil of benediction has been poured out, the mystery flows, though more abundantly onto the higher parts, yet not ungenerously down to the lower ones as well.


Source: Pope St. Leo the Great, "Sermon 4," in Leo the Great: Sermons (The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation), trans. by Jane Patricia Freeland and Agnes Josephine Conway (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996), 25–26.

Repost: St. Gregory on Envy and the Communicability of the Divine Good

Reposted from:

But why do we say so much about envy if we do not also suggest how to get rid of it? It is indeed hard for people not to envy someone who has what they want to acquire. Concerning any material good that is acquired, the more it is divided among many owners, the less of it does any single person have. And that is why the mind of the one who wants it suffers so much from spite: one person who has what that one wants has either bought up the whole supply or has made it scarcer. The one, therefore, who wishes to be rid of the plague of spite for good must fall in love with that inheritance that is not used up by the number of coheirs. It is one for all and all for each one. The more abundant it is, the greater the multitude of those who receive it. (Moralia 5.XLVI.86)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Jonathan Snow: Creating a Self Identity in a Social Media World - Some Thoughts

Some thoughts on the above excellent article.

If I have any criticisms, they would mostly pertain to the ambiguous use of the notions of identity, self, and human nature. A consistent point of Snow's essay is that technology "fundamentally changes" humans, leading to or, more weakly put, encouraging a "cyborgian form of being and self-identification." The exact extent of this modification on the level of being isn't explained although its influence on the level of action and reaction is, especially in the areas of "human emotions and traditional forms of communication" as well as the action of "autobiographical self-writing." Snow repeats several times throughout his essay that "our very human nature is fundamentally shifted through" our use of various social media technologies into "a cyborgian form of being," but the demonstration is not clearly made.

The notion of identity isn't explicated. Snow jumps immediately into the psychological effects of Facebook's algorithms on constructing a "coherent narrative" that presents certain bits of information for the user instead of others. The precise effect is that the range of possible identity formation is inhibited or directed by those algorithms in such a way as to prevent deep thought and more extensive forms of self-expression, reflection, and discursive thought characteristic of humans. The permanent effect of these technologies is not argued for; in fact, Snow gives an anecdotal account of how he was able to personally reverse some of the effects after limiting his own use of those technologies. His essay ends with a call to be more wary regarding the use, implying that the shift into a cyborgian mode of living is not permanent. This lack of permanence only raises the further question of what Snow means by saying that human nature is "fundamentally changed."

Part of the inhibition occurs through the use of templates either in the form of the message (text, pictures with a single line of text as in Snapchat) or in terms of length (Twitter's 140 characters, Vine's 6 seconds).

Traditional natural philosophy (and metaphysics) distinguishes between the orders of being and the orders of action, or between the entitative and the operative. The traditional axiom is that action follows or flows from being. In other words, the very essence or form of a being delineates the range of actions of which it is capable. If we wonder why a rock cannot see or fly or speak, we can answer simply that its nature or form prevents it from doing so. Furthermore, the range of actions that may flow from a being may be hindered in various ways from being exercised, either externally as from some violence or internally as from some defect within the subject.

A claim that human nature is fundamentally changed must ultimately be intelligible metaphysically, that is, explained with respect to a modification in human being or doing. My criticism is that Snow's essay shows only changes on the level of doing, of actions characteristic of humans yet not so fundamental as to change the very essence of humans. It would be hard to see how a person could undo the effects of such technology if his very essence were changed, if he were no longer the same kind of being.

The effects of habits on human action are thoroughly explained in traditional natural philosophy. Examples of communication, human emotion, and the ability to focus or reason in an extended, discursive fashion are all examples of operations that flow from human nature. The argument of the essay is that the changes in these activities indicate a change at the level of being. It is not clear, however, that these changes cannot be explained as the formation of certain habits, which are accidental or non-essential changes, that inhibit the full operations of human nature as mentioned above, hindrances coming either externally from some form of violence (whether physical or perhaps in the case of Facebook algorithms on the level of sensory and intellectual input) or some defect.

We know from a growing number of psychological studies that attention and reasoning abilities require training to improve and can deteriorate over time either through misuse or lack of use. It seems more reasonable to say that social media fosters this deterioration and encourages the formation of habits that inhibit the full functioning of actions proper to human nature, rather than effecting any change in human nature on the level of being. In other words, the cyborgian form of living is not an essential or fundamental change but rather an accidental and secondary change, one that admits of degrees and can even be reversed by a change in one's actions.

This criticism brings us to a second possible criticism of the essay, namely, a confusion between the orders of being and operation. For example, Snow writes, "Furthermore, technology inhibits the deep thought and work that makes humans unique." If action flows from being and is determined by being, then the above quotation gets things in the opposite order. Deep thought and work do not make humans unique but are manifestations of a fundamental nature, and it is the nature that makes humans unique, and from this nature flows certain actions, namely, deep thought and work. Deep thought is a work that only humans can do because of their nature and not because of their environments. Their environments either help or hinder the exercise of this form of activity but do not cause them. To suggest so could imply that humans don't have a proper, stable nature to themselves but are constituted wholly by environmental factors, at which point it no longer makes sense to speak of a collective human race but only individuals that reflect certain actions at some points that can be called "human" for an otherwise arbitrary reason.

The opposition between deep work and mindless boredom is interesting but again ambiguous. Strictly, boredom is a lack of interest, and deep work is more than interest but an application of rational activity on some object. Perhaps it would be more precise to say that boredom is a symptom of a person who does not engage regularly in deep work or lacks the opportunities or environments to do so. Our attraction to novel distraction is not strictly correlated with the lack of opportunities for deep work but may also reflect a profound crisis in the modern notion of one's self-identity being in contrast with the demands of reality, even on the unconscious level.

The relationship between characteristically human activities and existential boredom is not clearly explained either. The need to have a certain self-identity is certainly a contemporary dilemma, but the importance of identity was not stressed in the past when certainly much deep work was done by plenty of humans.

On the other hand, digital technologies afford a certain distraction that can legitimately be used as a form of leisure. The same cautions that St. Thomas gives to leisure in general certainly apply to modern technologies and even more so by their ability to stimulate our nervous system in ways that traditional, physical forms of leisure could not. Above all, the need for self-control in the use and engagement of these technologies stands at the forefront. So while one may not be able to "effect a fundamental change in existential temporality" while playing Doodle Jump, on the other hand there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with Doodle Jump in itself when certain restrictions are kept in mind and it is remembered that Doodle Jump (hopefully) isn't trying to effect such a fundamental, existential change or at least prevent it from happening in the rest of the user's life.

It is not clear the extent to which technology cannot aid us in participating in or entering into "something beautiful, powerful, or peaceful." Social media technologies don't claim to try to do this although they do try to provide a platform in which we can share such experiences with each other, such as sending a photograph or video of a sunset or sharing a poem that was particularly moving to us. The Internet is a polymorphous technology with many possibilities of action, but at the end of the day, it is only one form of technology. We have to remember that writing is a technology, and so are pianos and musical instruments, yet these latter certainly are regularly part of many beautiful, powerful, and peaceful experiences. Is it conceivable that digital technology might provide a similar experience? Perhaps we can find something close in movies that contain noble themes and artful craftsmanship.

An interesting counterpoint to Snow's essay is that it is precisely through the Internet that more and more people are being exposed to the findings of psychological studies stressing the need to relax and to strengthen our natural ability to focus through regular self-discipline, such as mindfulness practices. In other words, the very technologies that have been destroying the exercise of our natural capacities have also been the vehicle to warn us of that fact.

It is further unclear what the effects of networked and fragmented thinking are on human nature itself. Such broad statements as "what does this lost ability mean for our humanity" are too vague to give much of a response to. As indicated earlier, it is perfectly explicable that intrinsic actions flowing from an essence or nature may be inhibited by habits that deform the natural exercise of those activities, and although habits have a certain semi-permanent quality, they are reversible and do not alter a subject on the order of essence. It is uncertain that networked thinking is really possible without a linear process in the mind on the level of consciousness and that the ability to shift rapidly between multiple elements is really anything different than what humans have always done in discursive reasoning.

Speculative questions about the potential future of human thinking and evolution and the "hive mind" are almost always too ambiguous to respond to.

The importance or even nature of a self-identity are left without the needed explanation to understand their relationship to existing and living in our world. Snow's invoking of Crawford's autonomy/heteronomy distinction is confusing because its contribution to his thesis is unclear. It remains unclear why whether a subject "flits about" or pursues "settled purposes and ongoing projects" is a problem to be solved. The notion of a sense of self can occur on multiple levels of discourse, psychologically, philosophically, socially, etc. What sense Snow is using isn't clear.

Finally, the actual danger of technology-guided or aided self-reflection also remains unclear. While an unquestioning reliance on algorithms that we have no understanding of may strike a note of fear in those desiring to construct an autonomous identity, perhaps on the other hand we should recall that many forms of modern identity are constituted precisely by the intersection between the false individualism and the totalitarian consumerism existing in a social-media soaked culture, and the very attempt to preserve any notion of coherence to this sort of identity is merely an unconscious fantasy desire to continue promoting what is at its very root in opposition to the full demands of reality and human nature itself. Perhaps an embrace of human nature rather than the non-essentialism so prevalent in academia and now popular culture would remind us of the basic need for restraint in the leisurely use of our technologies, whether digital or mechanical, and that identity formation must firstly run the way of reality and not virtual reality before it can lead to any genuine promotion of human flourishing. Technologies can certainly aid us in the exercise of properly human operation, for technology in its traditional understanding falls under art, which is simply the production of things according to right reason (recta ratio factibilium), and as such technology ought already to be a reflection of the right order of things, extending and aiding our natural faculties and operations, the way a telescope aids our natural sight to see what is truly there but without which we could never discover, or a simple organization schema can put into order the jumbled and quasi-related elements of our thought as we try to form coherent discourse.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Traditionalism as Therapy for Late Capitalism

On the issue of politics, the article only discusses churches that take "leftwing" political stances, but at least anecdotally, it seems to me that many young people--even those with an interest in traditional liturgy and the like--are even more hostile to churches with "rightwing" politics. So, sure, they like the bells and smells, but that doesn't mean that they are all going to accept orthodox Christian positions on, say, homosexuality or contraception.

To be a little pessimistic, this sort of thing makes me wonder if for many of these people traditional liturgies and devotions are anything more than isolated, "authentic" aesthetic experiences like eating ethnic food or listening to indie music rather than practices that shape one's life in any sort of meaningful way.

In this case, traditional churches serve a sort of hygienic or therapeutic function, providing people with temporary relief from the pressures and unreality of late capitalism, but people who rely on traditional religious practices for these functions do not accept the idea that they have political and social consequences. Christopher Lasch had it right, I think: "A society that has made nostalgia a marketable commodity on the cultural exchange quickly repudiates the suggestion that life in the past was in any important way better than life today. Having trivialized the past by equating it with outmoded styles of consumption, discarded fashions and attitudes, people today resent anyone who draws on the past in serious discussions of contemporary conditions or attempts to use the past as a standard by which to judge the present." Thus, we have people who are fascinated with past styles but who nevertheless angrily reject the idea that the societies in which those styles emerged might have anything meaningful to teach us.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pius XI and Media in Christian Education

89. It is no less necessary to direct and watch the education of the adolescent, "soft as wax to be moulded into vice,"[58] in whatever other environment he may happen to be, removing occasions of evil and providing occasions for good in his recreations and social intercourse; for "evil communications corrupt good manners."[59]

90. More than ever nowadays an extended and careful vigilance is necessary, inasmuch as the dangers of moral and religious shipwreck are greater for inexperienced youth. Especially is this true of impious and immoral books, often diabolically circulated at low prices; of the cinema, which multiplies every kind of exhibition; and now also of the radio, which facilitates every kind of communications. These most powerful means of publicity, which can be of great utility for instruction and education when directed by sound principles, are only too often used as an incentive to evil passions and greed for gain. St. Augustine deplored the passion for the shows of the circus which possessed even some Christians of his time, and he dramatically narrates the infatuation for them, fortunately only temporary, of his disciple and friend Alipius.[60] How often today must parents and educators bewail the corruption of youth brought about by the modern theater and the vile book!

91. Worthy of all praise and encouragement therefore are those educational associations which have for their object to point out to parents and educators, by means of suitable books and periodicals, the dangers to morals and religion that are often cunningly disguised in books and theatrical representations. In their spirit of zeal for the souls of the young, they endeavor at the same time to circulate good literature and to promote plays that are really instructive, going so far as to put up at the cost of great sacrifices, theaters and cinemas, in which virtue will have nothing to suffer and much to gain.

92. This necessary vigilance does not demand that young people be removed from the society in which they must live and save their souls; but that today more than ever they should be forewarned and forearmed as Christians against the seductions and the errors of the world, which, as Holy Writ admonishes us, is all "concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes and pride of life."[61] Let them be what Tertullian wrote of the first Christians, and what Christians of all times ought to be, "sharers in the possession of the world, not of its error."[62]


58. Horat., Art. poet., v. 163: cereus in vitium flecti.59. I Cor. XV, 33: corrumpunt mores bonos colloquia mala.

60. Conf., VI, 8.

61. I lo., II, 16: concupiscentia carnis, concupiscentia oculorum et superbia vitae.
62. De Idololatria, 14: compossessores mundi, non erroris.


Source: Pius XI, "Divini Illius Magistri."

Pius XI, Vigilanti Cura, "On the Motion Picture": Notes and Quotations

Vigilanti Cura was published on June 29, 1936, on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Consider the date, the nature of films, and its evolution to the present day. With that in mind, let us look at the Holy Father's words on this important matter.

Pius XI describes motion pictures as "a matter which touches intimately the moral and religious life of the entire Christian people."

He recalls the warning he gave in his previous encyclical on Christian education:
In the Encyclical "Divini illius Magistri" [n. 90], We had already deplored that "potent instrumentalities of publicity (such as the cinema) which might be of great advantage to learning and to education were they properly directed by healthy principles, often unfortunately serve as an incentive to evil passions and are subordinated to sordid gain".
He continues to insist that film is not a trifle, morally neutral matter but one of great importance, to be guided above all by the essential purpose of art from a Catholic point of view, namely, the formation of good morals:
In August 1934, addressing Ourselves to a delegation of the International Federation of the Motion Picture Press, We pointed out the very great importance which the motion picture has acquired in our days and its vast influence alike in the promotion of good and in the insinuation of evil, and We called to mind that it is necessary to apply to the cinema the supreme rule which must direct and regulate the great gift of art in order that it may not find itself in continual conflict with Christian morality or even with simple human morality based upon the natural law. The essential purpose of art, its raison d'être, is to assist in the perfection of the moral personality, which is man, and for this reason it must itself be moral.
The Holy Father speaks especially of the urgency in these times (i.e. the 1930s!) to establish clear norms so that modern arts and sciences may help establish the kingdom of God.

In the next section, Pius XI begins with this correlation:
[...] it is a certainty which can readily be verified that the more marvelous the progress of the motion picture art and industry, the more pernicious and deadly has it shown itself to morality and to religion and even to the very decencies of human society.
He draws attention to the fact that the producers of film have a global and even a political influence. Films affect morals and the very fabric of society.

He then discusses the history of the "Legion of Decency" and its pledge that many American Catholics took, promising to avoid films that went against Catholic morals and human decency. It's interesting to note that the Holy Father called this movement a "holy crusade" and that even non-Catholics participated in it. He discusses the noticeable positive changes in the production of films after this movement gained traction: sin and false ideals were not depicted as much as they previously were.

Today, isn't it true to say sadly that Catholic money is as good as the filth it wallows in? Imagine if every Catholic refused to pay for movies that contained blasphemy! But now our moral authority is as good as the next heathen.

The Holy Father begins the second section "The Power of the Cinema" by noting that the harsh conditions of the Industrial Age have caused an increased need for recreation, and recreation since it is a moral action must itself support good morals. Youth are especially endangered by the proliferation of immoral recreation. Hence films are especially important for our consideration today.

He draws attention to the fact that motion pictures are now easily the most popular form of entertainment, yet such a form of media is quite apt for educational and moral purposes because of its very nature.

He then comes to the essential nature and effects of film:
The power of the motion picture consists in this, that it speaks by means of vivid and concrete imagery which the mind takes in with enjoyment and without fatigue. Even the crudest and most primitive minds which have neither the capacity nor the desire to make the efforts necessary for abstraction or deductive reasoning are captivated by the cinema. In place of the effort which reading or listening demands, there is the continued pleasure of a succession of concrete and, so to speak, living pictures. 
This power is still greater in the talking picture for the reason that interpretation becomes even easier and the charm of music is added to the action of the drama. Dances and variety acts which are sometimes introduced between the films serve to increase the stimulation of the passions.
This recalls St. Thomas Aquinas's summary of the principal effect of music: "For such like musical instruments move the soul to pleasure rather than create a good disposition within it" (Summa Th., 2a2ae.91.2 ad 4).

The Holy Father continues with the application of this essential nature of film to its moral implications:
Since then the cinema is in reality a sort of object lesson which, for good or for evil, teaches the majority of men more effectively than abstract reasoning, it must be elevated to conformity with the aims of a Christian conscience and saved from depraving and demoralizing effects.
He summarizes some of the evil and beneficial effects of film:
Everyone knows what damage is done to the soul by bad motion pictures. They are occasions of sin; they seduce young people along the ways of evil by glorifying the passions; they show life under a false light; they cloud ideals; they destroy pure love, respect for marriage, affection for the family. They are capable also of creating prejudices among individuals and misunderstandings among nations, among social classes, among entire races. 
On the other hand, good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart a better knowledge of the history and the beauties of the Fatherland and of other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create, or at least to favor understanding among nations, social classes, and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue, and to contribute positively to the genesis of a just social order in the world.
He then reminds us of an important essential aspect to film: its viewership is the multitudes, of all ages. The young, who are still being formed in their notions of upright morals and justice, are especially under the influence of the messages and values that films communicate:
These considerations take on greater seriousness from the fact that the cinema speaks not to individuals but to multitudes, and that it does so in circumstances of time and place and surroundings which are most apt to arouse unusual enthusiasm for the good as well as for the bad and to conduce to that collective exaltation which, as experience teaches us, may assume the most morbid forms.
He expands on this line of reasoning a few paragraphs later when he writes:
Their [i.e. the bishops] sacred calling constrains them to proclaim clearly and openly that unhealthy and impure entertainment destroys the moral fibre [sic] of a nation. They will likewise remind the motion picture industry that the demands which they make regard not only the Catholics but all who patronize the cinema.
The Holy Father concludes this philosophical-theological reflection by explicitly linking the production of cinema of whatever sort to moral purposes, to the contemplation of the truly good and elevated, for education. He says it is an obligation incumbent upon both clergy and laity:

It is therefore one of the supreme necessities, of our times to watch and to labour [sic] to the end that the motion picture be no longer a school of corruption but that it be transformed into an effectual instrument for the education and the elevation of mankind. [...]
This is an obligation which binds not only the Bishops but also the faithful and all decent men who are solicitous for the decorum and moral health of the family, of the nation, and of human society in general.
The problem of the production of moral films would be solved radically if it were possible for us to have production wholly inspired by the principles of Christian morality. We can never sufficiently praise all those who have dedicated themselves or who are to dedicate themselves to the noble cause of raising the standard of the motion picture to meet the needs of education and the requirements of the Christian conscience. 
Pius XI therefore exhorts the bishops of the world to be careful and vigilant of the films being produced in the lands they govern and to place those films on ban that go against Christian principles.

In his final section "A Work for Catholic Action," the Pope laments that the problem of motion pictures would be instantly solved if all films produced were able to be conformed to Catholic principles, yet the best films must be both morally sound and artistically beautiful. It's not enough to produce a moral film that is amateur.

Therefore the Holy Father tells the bishops to exhort those Catholics who hold positions of power in the film industry to begin shifting the content of production towards good morals. It is a matter of Catholic duty in fact. Further, this field provides ample opportunity for those in Catholic Action who possess the talents and means to become involved in order to steer film production in the right direction.

The Holy Father summarizes his discussion:
Why indeed should there be question merely of avoiding what is evil? The motion picture should not be simply a means of diversion, a light relaxation to occupy an idle hour; with its magnificent power, it can and must be a bearer of light and a positive guide to what is good.
In other words, film is not a neutral matter, and leisure activities must be directed according to reason enlightened by supernatural faith. Leisure is a moral activity and is therefore always to be guided by objective principles and directed to the betterment of participants.

The Holy Father recommends the use of a yearly pledge for Catholics to stay away from bad films. He exhorts pastors to encourage the faithful to take these pledges, especially for the youth in schools. The Holy Father then demands that lists classifying the moral content of films be created to guide the faithful. But the Pope notes that a single, global list would be impossible because there is room for flexibility in some aspects of the moral judgment of a film due to its wide audience with different cultural and intellectual backgrounds.

Therefore, it is up to the bishops of nations to create organizations to publish lists that classify the morality of films based on their regions and cultural norms.

Fr. Jordan Aumann on the Contemplative and Active Lives Compared

[87] Active Life

5. As the contemplative life consists essentially in the operations of the speculative intellect, which has knowledge of truth as its proper object, so the active life consists essentially in the operations of the practical intellect, which controls and directs the lower faculties in view of the means to an end. The practical intellect is not a distinct faculty from the speculative intellect, but a distinct operation of one and the same intellect, so far as the intellect is able to consider truth as such (speculative operation) or truth as ordained to action—something to be done or made—(practical operations).[1] The immediately eliciting principle of contemplative activity is the speculative intellect, while the activity of the will is antecedent, concomitant or consequent. In the operations of the active life, however, the immediately eliciting faculty is not the speculative intellect, but for prudence the practical intellect, for justice, the will, for courage and temperance the sensitive appetite.

6. As with contemplation, so with the operations of the active life, it is possible to consider them as purely natural or as supernatural. According to ethics the acquired moral virtue of justice is the primary eliciting virtue in the active life, although the moral virtues of temperance and courage likewise are part of the active life, but as removing impediments to the virtue of justice. According to Christian theology, the active life depends on a working and instructed faith, the infused virtue of prudence, enhanced by the Gift of Counsel, the infused virtues of justice and mercy and the Gift of Piety first of all, and then on the infused virtues of courage and temperance and the Gifts of Courage and Fear of the Lord.

The active life is essentially related to the performance of the acts of the moral virtues and its first fruits should be the perfection of the individual through the practice of virtue. But since the active life consists principally in the acts of justice and the Gift of Piety, it follows that it not only performs the works of justice but it is ordained directly to the love of neighbour [sic].[2] For that reason the virtue of mercy, under the direction of charity, forms part of the supernatural active life. For St [sic] Thomas, the good active life is a disposition or preparation for the contemplative life; it is also a consequence of the contemplative life, as being ordained to love of neighbour. In its perfection the active life looks to the supernatural society of the Church and seeks to extend the kingdom of God on earth. As the interior life, rectified by the moral and theological virtues, is a source of the good done to others in the works of mercy and justice, so the contemplative activity is a source of preaching and teaching in the apostolate.

[88] Active and Contemplative Life Compared

7. Both the contemplative and the active life can be considered in their interior operations and in their external acts. As regards the interior or immanent acts of the virtues characteristic of the contemplative life, the following supernatural powers will predominate: the theological virtues (including the interior act of love of neighbour), the speculative Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the virtue of religion (especially in the worship of God). The contemplative acts of the Christian are therefore designated as constituting the 'interior life' or the 'life of prayer'.

The active life, on the other hand, calls into play the interior acts of the virtues and Gifts which pertain to self and neighbour, mainly the moral virtues (especially justice), prudence and the practical Gifts of the Holy Spirit. For that reason the active life is also called the 'moral life', the 'life of the moral virtues' or the 'ascetical life'.

Both of these lives are aspects or phases of the one and the same spiritual life of an individual person, though they will vary with the individual. And since the spiritual life necessarily involves the interior acts of the theological and the moral virtues as well as the gifts which perfect them, every Christian should cultivate both the interior or contemplative aspect of life and the moral or active aspect. In practice, however, because of dispositions flowing from temperament and character, some persons will be more inclined to contemplative acts, even if they are in an active state of life, while others may be more inclined to the moral and ascetical acts, even if they are in a contemplative state. According to the teaching of the early Fathers it was to be expected that contemplatives would at the beginning be concerned primarily with the ascetical practices of the moral virtues, since the active life was considered a preparation for the contemplative phase. On the other hand, although there have been 'contemplative types' who remained in the active life (St Ignatius of Loyola was called a 'contemplative in action'),[3] the person who has this inclination would normally be expected to seek a contemplative state of life. Judging from the history of spirituality, it would seem that women are generally more disposed to the contemplative state than men, because they usually have more of an inclination to prayer and are more devout and receptive than men.

The person who is active by disposition is usually characterized by a strong sense of duty to God and neighbour, a desire to prove his love by actions and great facility in the practice of the moral virtues. The active type is much more common than the contemplative type and the reason given by St Thomas is that 'the contemplative life is not properly human but superhuman',[4] while 'the properly human life is the active life, which consists in the practice of the moral virtues'.[5]

[89] 8. Considering the external acts or spiritual exercises proper to the contemplative and the active life, the former is manifested predominantly by the practice of prayer, both liturgical and private, while the latter is expressed by the works of mercy in some type of apostolate. This does not mean, of course, that prayer as a spiritual exercise is restricted to those who are contemplative by profession, for St Thomas says that 'although all who are in the active life do not arrive at the perfect state of contemplation, nevertheless every Christian should engage in contemplation to some degree'.[6] There is, however, this opposition between the exercise of set prayer and the performance of the works of mercy: both activities require time and it is impossible to give one's attention to both at the same time. Nor does it solve the problem to state that work can be made prayer, for the two are distinct. What can be done is to supernaturalize one's external action by proper motivation and to restrict one's external occupations so that time for genuine prayer can be provided. This is more necessary for those who are engaged in study, teaching, preaching—what we may call a doctrinal or intellectual apostolate—because those engaged in the manual or mechanical tasks can usually remain recollected in God and even pray as they work.

The most important thing is charity, and this should motivate the activities of both the contemplative and the active types of life. In the supernatural order what matters most is not what one does, but the love with which he does it. As St Thomas says 'The root of merit is charity'.[7] Consequently, the truly spiritual man will strive with all his power for the perfection of charity, and as he grows in charity he will feel compelled to manifest it in his actions. The person who is inclined to external works will manifest his charity especially in the works of mercy, out of love of neighbour; the person who is more inclined to the interior life and its practices will manifest his charity in the practice of prayer, which is the language of the love of God.


1. cf. Ia. 79, 11

2. cf. 2a2ae. 182, 2

3. cf Nadal, H., S.J., Epistolae, Monumenta Historiae S.J., IV, Madrid, 1905, p. 651

4. De virtutibus cardinalibus 1. In Ethic. X, lect. 11 & 12, he calls the contemplative life 'divine'

5. De virtutibus cardinalibus 1

6. III Sent. 36, 3, 5

7. 2a2ae. 182, 2


Source: Jordan Aumann, Appendix 1: Active and Contemplative Life," in Summa Theologiæ: Volume 46: Action and Contemplation, trans. by Jordan Aumann (Cambridge: Blackfriars, 1966), 87-89.