Overture! Curtain, lights! – It’s the Missionaries of Mercy Hour!
It’s the launch day of the Missionaries of Mercy! Francis’ bright idea! A thousand priests will be dispatched from Rome to be sent out to “pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.” Golly! That sounds serious, don’t it? Wow! Even those reserved to the Holy See!
If you just took the word of the official propaganda of the regime (sorry Robert and Carol, but you know who you work for, right?) you would imagine pretty easily that there must be lots and lots of these fancy sins, and that until Perp Francers priests mostly just molested teenagers and extorted money out of little old widows in exchange for imaginary indulgences.
But once again, Francis blithers incomprehensibly and leaves the job of telling us what’s really going on to his chosen minions. Here’s buddy to give the whole game away in one phrase: “…to welcome those who have been hurt by the Church…”
There it is, the whole purpose of the affair. The Church is the bad guy. It’s not people who desecrate the Eucharist, or abort babies or vote for shiny new euthanasia laws. It’s the Church being mean. And it’s only been Pope Francis who has finally, finally begun to admit this and turn things around. Couldn’t you just feel the deeply felt feelings of these deeply feeling priests? Mmmboy, there’s some nice warm beta-feels! You can almost see them getting ready to cry.
Frankly, this video is pretty disingenuous, and about what we have come to expect from the official propaganda arm of the US bishops. It’s difficult to get past the impression that it was intended to give the unschooled the idea that priests have only just now been given any faculties to absolve sins. Except, they’ve been doing it since 33AD. Yeah. Whatever, dude.
(Here’s a helpful little dodge that I just found, offered by our good neo-buddies at Aleteia, “We should keep in mind that Misericordiae Vultus was intended as a primarily pastoral document rather than a strictly legal one.”… Yeah, seriously. Remember all that? That whole “pastoral/doctrinal” thing with the Vatican II documents has been pretty useful… better throw that in.
Miss Jenna M. Cooper helpfully adds: “Because of this, in Misericodiae Vultus Pope Francis addresses the Catholic faithful in general using popular and easily understood terms. “primarily pastoral document rather than a strictly legal one.” … Um… Honey? The legal terms are the ones with clear definitions. You use “legal terms” instead of “popular terms” so that the things the pope says can actually be understood, and we don’t have to spend the next 50 years guessing and making shit up.)
But that’s the propaganda. Meanwhile let’s take a look, shall we, at what’s really going on. What does the Bull of Indiction actually say? Here’s the relevant paragraph on the MoMs:
18. During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy. They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon. They will be missionaries of mercy because they will be facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again. They will be led in their mission by the words of the Apostle: “For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all” (Rom 11:32). Everyone, in fact, without exception, is called to embrace the call to mercy. May these Missionaries live this call with the assurance that they can fix their eyes on Jesus, “the merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God” (Heb 2:17).
I ask my brother Bishops to invite and welcome these Missionaries so that they can be, above all, persuasive preachers of mercy. May individual dioceses organize “missions to the people” in such a way that these Missionaries may be heralds of joy and forgiveness. Bishops are asked to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with their people so that the time of grace made possible by the Jubilee year makes it possible for many of God’s sons and daughters to take up once again the journey to the Father’s house. May pastors, especially during the liturgical season of Lent, be diligent in calling back the faithful “to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace” (Heb 4:16).
So, we’ve got about two or three sentences that aren’t just “verbiageverbiageverbiage…”
1) “There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See…”
2) “May individual dioceses organize ‘missions to the people’…”
3) “Bishops are asked to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with their people…”
2 and 3 are for the bishops to work out. Dioceses often have these sorts of paraliturgies these days. They have their uses, I guess. And “celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation” just means “make confession available” which is already done all over the world and has been the normal practice of the Catholic Faith for 2000 years. So…
But let’s talk about 1. What exactly are those sins “reserved to the Holy See?” Let’s review. Canons 1364-1399 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law discuss the offenses that merit latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See: “one who throws away the consecrated species or, for a sacrilegious purpose, takes them away or keeps them”; “a person who uses physical force against the Roman Pontiff”; “both the bishop who, without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him”; “a confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal”; and a confessor who absolves “an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue.”
So, three of the five can only be committed by priests; consecrating a bishop (or being the bishop consecrated) without approval of the Holy See, breaking the seal of confession and offering to absolve an “accomplice” in adultery (this means the priest in the confessional offers absolution to his own mistress for the sin of fornicating with him…). Of the two that can be committed by a layman, one hasn’t happened since Mehmet Ali Agca took a shot at JPII, and since then we’ve had better security.
So, that leaves us with the one and only sin reserved to the Holy See that can be committed by a layman without going to Rome and fighting a Swiss Guard:
desecrating the most holy Eucharist.
Now, the pope can do or say anything he wants, but he can’t change the meaning of words or, you know, actual reality. What his Bull of Indiction declaring the Extraordinary Jubilee didn’t say was that these sins are actually already lawfully dealt with through a well established process with the Apostolic Penitentiary. How well established? Well, it’s the curial office that has been dealing with this kind of stuff since it was founded in the early 13th century.
So, let’s take a look at pretty much the only situation we can think of that these MoMs would be of any use to a layman. A Black Mass stanist, stealing the Eucharist for his evening basement activities, has a sudden, miraculous change of heart and goes to his local parish priest and confesses that he’s been desecrating the Eucharist but wants to be a good Catholic from now on. The priest would contact the office in Rome that has been set up to deal with this. (BTW: if the guy hadn’t committed that sin, but had been guilty of all the other stuff associated with stanism, the priest would be able to offer absolution for every other sin the man admits to having committed throughout his entire life – even the ones he can’t specifically remember if he says he has the intention of confessing all his past sins. That’s how confession works.)
The man of course would be able to start attending Mass and would be strongly encouraged to do so at the earliest opportunity. The problem is not his sin, per se, but the automatic excommunication this particular sin brings with it. Sins are dealt with in confession. Full stop. Excommunication is a disciplinary matter, most of which can be dealt with at the local level by the bishop. Only these five need to go to Rome.
Meanwhile the priest, or the bishop if the priest didn’t know what to do – all while maintaining the utmost secrecy about the man’s identity – would apply, through the post, (or maybe they even do it by email nowadays) to the Apostolic Penitentiary (yes, the have a website, but it’s really crappy and useless because, the Vatican) for the “dispensation from excommunication” giving the relevant details of the case. The AP tribunal would meet or the head of the office, called the “Major Penitentiary” would decide the case himself. The AP would write him back with the necessary dispensations, and presto-change-o! The man can start receiving the Eucharist and launch a holy Catholic life, on his way to sainthood.
The pope can also, through his apostolic authority, simply waive the canonical penalty of excommunication, or grant the ability to any priest to do so.
Oh and, as the Catholic Encyclopaedia tells us, even without any of the procedures: “If a penitent be in danger of death, any priest can absolve him, both from reserved censures and reserved sins.”
But you won’t get any hint of any of that from Francis or from the fawning press, because truth and reality – still less the salvation of souls – have nothing to do with any of this.
(By the by, I happen to have made the acquaintance of the current holder of that august office, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, and I know that he’s a perfectly nice fellow who knows that it’s actually his job to do the stuff that Pope Francis is taking all the credit for. Cardinal Piacenza is good and faithful Catholic and a conscientious priest whose first interest is the salvation of souls, and the reason you’ve never heard of him is that he spends all his time minding his work. Please spare a prayer or two for this fine prelate and authentic prince of the Church, who was one of the first “conservatives” in the Curia to get punished for his adherence to the Faith by the new regime. He had been Prefect of Clergy under Benedict and was instantly kicked down to AP – just down the marble hall from Cardinal Burke in the Cancelleria – an office that is well outside the Vatican walls, out of sight and out of mind in what amounts to a paper-pushing job. I don’t know what he did to raise the ire of the new pope so quickly, maybe it was something in the Conclave, but he’s been pretty darn quiet since then.)
And let’s take a closer look at the little bit of sleight of hand in the Bull itself. Once again, in his Bull the pope has played fast and loose with the terminology and made sure to make it look like he’s personally the font of all mercy that had been wickedly stoppered up by 2000 years of his illustrious predecessors.
The Bull says, “There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See…”
Ummm… no. Ok, this is just me talking and even I know that what priests do in confession is NOT to “pardon” sin. First, a confessor, any confessor, does not “pardon” sins. There is no such thing as a sacrament that “pardons” sin. Next, what the Apostolic Penitentiary does is not offer absolution for serious sin. That’s what priests do in confession. And even a brisk little trot through Google will tell anyone who wants to find out that the procedure for the reserved “delicts” (that’s the actual canon law word) reserved to the Holy See also does not touch upon sacramental absolution for the sins, but upon the lifting of excommunications and other “impediments” to the reception of the other sacraments, including Confession and the Eucharist.
The actual terminology for what the AP does is to offer “absolution of excommunications latæ sententiæ reserved to the Holy See,” – that’s automatic excommunication incurred by the nature of the sinful act itself (< cough>voting to legalize abortion < /cough>) – and the “dispensation of sacramental impediments reserved to the Holy See.” It is a disciplinary matter. The AP lifts the censure of excommunication so that the priest or bishop can offer sacramental absolution for the sin. That’s it.
But of course, the impression given, obviously aimed at the pig-ignorant secular press, is that in the Bad Old Days Before Pope Francis (BODBPF) someone who had committed one of these unnamed offenses had to come struggling over to Rome, probably barefoot, and try, somehow, to get to see the pope and beg his personal forgiveness, perhaps offering substantial gifts of gold ducats and a rose window or two.
But yay Pope Francis!! All that nasty old medieval stuff is gone! Swept away by the BEST POPE EVAH! [insert pope-selfie here] We always knew, didn’t we? that all that old stuff was just being kept around by popes who wanted to pretend that the Middle Ages never ended…amirite?
Our buddy Chris says here:
So, what is all this – let’s be the first to call it – bullshit actually about?
Well, it’s really what the tag on this post says:
The Vatican’s Year of Mercy go-to guy, Archbishop “abortion is mercy” Fisichella, kind of gave the game away didn’t he?
Why, a reporter asked, only 1000 MoMs?
Well, so we can retain the “symbolic sign value” of the whole enterprise.
Ah, so what does “sign value” mean in plain, non-Vatican-bureaucrat English?
Like all the rest of Bergoglio’s narcissistic pontificate. The entire massive – and hugely expensive – affair since March 13, 2013 has been for Bergoglio, by Bergoglio and most especially about Bergoglio.
Of course, as with everything else, it’s wise to take a look at the thing in the context of everything else Bergoglio is doing… (synod, synod, synod.)
Chris put it plainly: Bergoglio wants to find a way to grant a get-out-of-hell-free card to public adulterer or other sexual sinner who wants to receive Holy Communion without going to the trouble of repenting and changing.
And what does that mean?
“I had another vision of the great tribulation. It seems to me that a concession was demanded from the clergy which could not be granted. I saw many older priests, especially one, who wept bitterly. A few younger ones were also weeping. But others, and the lukewarm among them, readily did what was demanded. It was as if people were splitting into two camps…”
May 13, 1820
“I saw also the relationship between the two popes. . .
I saw how baleful (harmful) would be the consequences of this false church. I saw it increase in size; heretics of every kind came into the city (of Rome). The local clergy grew lukewarm, and I saw a great darkness…”
“Then the vision seemed to extend on every side. Whole Catholic communities were being oppressed, harassed, confined, and deprived of their freedom. I saw many churches closed down, great miseries everywhere, wars and bloodshed. A wild and ignorant mob took violent action. But it did not last long…”
“Once more I saw that the Church of Peter was undermined by a plan evolved by the secret sect [Freemasons], while storms were damaging it. But I saw also that help was coming when distress had reached its peak. I saw again the Blessed Virgin ascend on the Church and spread her mantle [over it].”