Benedict’s Anniversary, Without Benedict (1)

On April 19, 2023, New Liturgical Movement published the following (in an article written by Gregory DiPippo) in memory of former Pope Benedict XVI:

“Today is the first time that we mark the anniversary of Benedict XVI’s election to the Papacy in 2005 without having him among us in this world: a good day to offer a prayer for his eternal repose.

Deus, qui inter summos sacerdótes fámulum tuum Benedictum ineffábili tua dispositióne connumerári voluisti: praesta, quáesumus; ut, qui Unigéniti Filii tui vices in terris gerébat, sanctórum tuórum Pontíficum consortio perpétuo aggregétur. Per eundem Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

God, Who in Thy ineffable providence, did will that Thy servant Benedict should be numbered among the high priests, grant, we beseech Thee, that he, who on earth held the place of Thine Only-begotten Son, may be joined forevermore to the fellowship of Thy holy pontiffs. Through the same Christ, Our Lord. Amen.”

The Resignation of Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI, who resigned from the Papacy on February 28, 2013, remained in the Vatican as Pope Emeritus, and passed to his eternal reward on December 31, 2022, at the age of 95. Therefore, this year will mark the first time since Benedict XVI became Pope that he will be absent from the Vatican.

Even after Benedict XVI’s unexpected resignation, it was thought by conservatives and traditionalists that Benedict XVI might still, in fact, be the Pope.

Benedict XVI: popular among traditionalists and conservatives.

Benedict XVI was one of the longest-lived popes in history. He was multilingual, able to read not only ecclesiastical Latin but also ancient Greek and classical Hebrew. Perhaps Benedict XVI’s mastery of Latin helped him to appreciate the importance of the traditional Latin Mass, which he safeguarded and encouraged with his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. He also left us many valuable books.

Benedict XVI’s sudden departure from office sent tremors through the Catholic Church and the faithful. It is no wonder that the unprepared faithful did not want him to step down. So, did some people want to believe that Benedict XVI was still Pope after the abdication drama, simply for sentimental reasons? Actually, the reasons are not so simple.

To an outsider unfamiliar with Catholicism, there would appear to be no doubt that Cardinal Bergoglio (Francis) is the current Pope. It would be hard for such an outsider to see how conservatives and traditionalists could arrive at any other conclusion. However, to one familiar with the details of Benedict XVI’s abdication, as well as the background behind it and the events surrounding it, things are not so simple. From the point of view of Catholic doctrine, canon law, and precedent, the precise meaning of Benedict XVI’s status as ” Pope Emeritus” is not at all clear.

Why did Benedict XVI step down?

First, the reasons for the Pope’s abrupt departure.
There are a number of factors that cannot be ignored that make one wonder if there was a reason for Benedict XVI’s abdication that could not be made public. On the other hand, it can be said that none of the various speculations about the reasons for the Pope’s departure are anything more than speculation.

Benedict XVI’s Retirement Announced on the Day of the Founding of Vatican City State

First, the official public announcement of Benedict XVI’s resignation was made on February 11. The statement reads (in part), “Due to my advanced age, I have come to believe that my strength is no longer adequate for the full exercise of the Papacy.”

February 11 was the date of the Lateran Treaty of 1929, by which the Vatican was recognized as an independent state. In other words, it is the day on which the Vatican City State was founded, with the Pope as its absolute monarch. Is it a coincidence that Benedict XVI announced his stepping down (or his forcible removal?) on such an important day?

I do not think it is a coincidence. It seems as if the Pope was signaling that his (theoretical) power as absolute monarch of the Vatican City State had been overthrown. If so, then who was really in charge? Could it have been someone involved in the Vatican banking scandal? If such was the case, it was the day that someone (or some group) involved in the Vatican banking scandal seized control of Vatican City and its king, the Pope.

The Vatican Bank Scandal and Benedict XVI

Power and corruption are inextricably linked, and the Vatican is no exception. Benedict XVI was the first pope to attempt to reform the Vatican Bank, which is rumored to have ties to criminal organizations. The Vatican Bank has been the subject of many dark rumors, including various theories about the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I, the Mafia, and the Freemasons. It is therefore believed by many that Benedict XVI’s reforms were stalled by people and organizations that were unfriendly to his intentions.

In addition, none of the allegations of money laundering, ties to criminal organizations, unaccounted money, etc. that should have been investigated in the Vatican bank scandal have been properly investigated; or, if they have been investigated, the results have never been revealed. The following is a summary of the complex and difficult-to-understand case, summarized from an article in the Financial Times on December 6, 2013.

Stop doing business with the Vatican Bank

It all started when, in the wake of the Euro crisis, the EU banking investigative body decided to investigate Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan (also in Germany), and UniCredit Bank (in Italy), all of which had business with the Vatican.

Upon learning of the investigation, the European banks under investigation reportedly warned the Vatican Bank that they might find themselves no longer able to do business with it. Soon after, UniCredit Bank, which was suspected of money laundering, became the first major institution to stop doing business with the Vatican Bank.

European investigators suspected that there was corruption in the Vatican Bank, but they could not investigate it directly, because the Vatican City is an independent state, and not a member of the E.U. So, investigators began to put pressure on several EU banks that do business with the Vatican.

Action taken by Benedict XVI

To remedy the situation, in 2009 Benedict XVI appointed a new head of the Vatican Bank, the Italian Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. He also invited MoneyVal (an organization that investigates allegations of money laundering) to investigate the Vatican Bank.

Although Tedeschi was well-liked by the Italian banking community, he did not get along well with many of the Cardinals. In May 2012, the directors of the Vatican Bank expelled him and accused him of money laundering. The Italian government subsequently investigated Mr. Tedeschi but did not charge him with any crime.
In March 2012, Germany’s JP Morgan withdrew from doing business with the Vatican.
MoneyVal’s investigation found that the Vatican Bank had a rating of 9 out of 16.

Vatican ATM Suspension and Sudden Resignation of Benedict XVI

Then, on January 1, 2013, the Vatican ATMs shut down. This happened because the Bank of Italy put pressure on Deutsche Bank, which held the right to operate the Vatican ATMs. The Bank of Italy sent a letter to Deutsche Bank, saying that the Vatican Bank was not compliant with international law, and questioning whether Deutsche Bank, by cooperating with the Vatican Bank, was engaging in illegal activity. Alarmed by this crisis, Deutsche Bank decided to suspend the operation of Vatican ATMs.

To resolve the problem, Benedict XVI appointed a German, Ernst von Freyberg, as the new head of the bank and a Swiss, Rene Bruelhart, as the Vatican Finance Regulator. Mr. Bruelhart then asked the Aduno Group, a Swiss bank unaffiliated with the EU, to operate the ATMs. Then, On February 11, Benedict XVI abruptly announced his resignation. The next day, February 12, the contract with the Aduno Group was finalized, and the ATMs began functioning again.

Swiss banks are known for their extremely high level of secrecy. To this day, Aduno holds the right to operate the Vatican ATMs, keeping them out of the reach of the EU. In addition, a Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, was appointed by Pope Francis on July 9, 2014, as the head of the Vatican’s bank, a position he holds to this day.

Benedict XVI decides to step down after a mystical experience?

According to an article in the Guardian dated August 21, 2013, Benedict XVI decided to step down after a mystical experience, after which he decided to devote his life to prayer. According to the Guardian, the news was reported by the news agency Zenit. Zenit, which was said to be the source of the information, temporarily ceased operations in December 2020. It now appears to be back in business, but I was unable to find the article attributed to that source.

On the other hand, CNA (Catholic News Agency), in an August 27, 2013 article, denies that Benedict XVI stepped down due to a mystical experience. In the article, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, is quoted as saying that the story was “fabricated from alpha to omega.”

Compared to Archbishop Gänswein and CNA, an anonymous source and a missing Zenit article have little credibility. The story of Benedict XVI’s “mystical experience” is probably nothing more than a myth.

image of Benedict XVI from Turn back to God

The Risen Lord Jesus Christ: Savior of Souls (2)

Today, the place said to be the tomb of the resurrected Christ may be found in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. How did this church come to be?

The tomb of Christ where St. Helena made a pilgrimage.

The story goes that Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine (Reign 25 July 306 – 22 May 337), went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and asked the inhabitants of Jerusalem where Christ’s tomb was. They led her to a certain Roman temple of Venus, beneath which, according to a tradition that had been handed down through the centuries, lay the spot where Jesus had been buried. Because it was a pagan temple, neither the Christian nor Jewish inhabitants would enter it. Before the conversion of Emperor Constantine, Roman emperors were pagans, not Christians. It is likely that the Romans built a pagan temple over the tomb of Christ in order to prevent Christians from worshipping there. Hearing of this fact, Emperor Constantine ordered the pagan temple to be destroyed. Afterward, he caused a magnificent church to be built on the spot. A legend adds that Helena also found the remains of our Lord’s cross at that time.

Eusebius, the fourth-century church historian, wrote that Helena went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and built churches at the places of Christ’s birth, his ascension, and his resurrection. Other than that, we cannot be sure what really happened. However, to this day, pilgrims from all over the world visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to venerate what they believe to be the tomb of Jesus, the place where he rose again from the dead.

Mary Magdalene, the first to see the resurrected Jesus

Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene, ‘Noli me tangere’

Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the resurrected Jesus. Her encounter with the empty tomb and the risen Lord is described in the Gospel of John, chapter 20, vv. 1–18.

At the Easter Mass I attended, a priest spoke about faith, using the analogy of “Doubting” Thomas and Mary Magdalene. When the risen Jesus spoke to Mary, without hesitation she answered, “Rabboni” (Teacher). Thomas made it clear that he would not believe until he laid his hands on Jesus’ scars. The priest said that for modern people, Thomas’s reaction was easier to understand than Mary Magdalene’s.

I have always been impressed by the faith of Mary Magdalene. Although she did not even touch the risen Jesus, she had no doubt at all that he had bodily risen, and she immediately went to announce his resurrection to the rest of the disciples, as she had been told to do. I find myself tempted to want to know the scientific evidence for the resurrection, even though I know the Biblical story.

As I listened to the priest say, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing” (John 20: 29), I realized once again that I had been paying attention only to what I could see, in other words, the things of this world. I feel that I should pray more earnestly that I may become the kind of person who can believe in the unseen God, not only in the things that can be seen.

Easter Baptism

In my church, seven people were baptized on Easter. They ranged in age from young to old. They looked so happy and bright and shining. I think that Easter, symbolically, fits perfectly with baptism, and their baptism will be for them a memory that will last a lifetime.

When I was baptized, I felt as happy as they did. I felt as if I had been born anew, because my mind and body became lighter. Not only that, but the chronic feeling of depression and disappointment in life that I had been feeling was gone.

I don’t know the real reason, but think that before baptism, my soul was spiritually dead. I believe that through my baptism, I was brought back to life by the life of Christ. Even now, I sometimes feel depressed, but the feeling of total darkness in my heart that I used to feel has completely disappeared. I can be sad and yet still feel at peace with myself.

Regarding miracles, Rev. W. Wilmers, S.J., in his Handbook of the Christian Religion (Benzinger, 1891), writes as follows (p. 18): “If God can work miracles; if, as the Lord of the universe, He wishes to speak to us through miracles, He can also so dispose circumstances, and so influence our mind, that in many cases we may know with certainty that a miracle has taken place.” For me, the “resurrection” of my soul after baptism was that kind of miracle.

Image: Christ`s tomb, in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel

The Risen Lord Jesus Christ: Did Jesus die on the cross? (1)

Best Wishes for a Joyful Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord!

After Lent comes the most important feast day of all for Christians: Easter.
The liturgies of the Sacred Triduum and Easter celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection: a Divine Mystery

All liturgies are important, but Easter is special among them for Christians. We believe in the salvation of souls through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. I knew very little about Easter until I began studying Christianity in preparation for my baptism. Probably, for most non-Christians (such as I once was), it is just a day of Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny. Common sense tells us that the resurrection of a dead person ought to be simply impossible. How can anyone be expected to believe such a thing?

Well, if we believe that Jesus Christ is God, and that God is omnipotent, it follows that our Lord Jesus can perform any miracle he wants to, including the miracle of bringing himself back to life after having died. And the Church teaches that that is exactly what he did. For those of sufficient faith, that answer is enough. I suspect, however, that for most people, faith needs a little help from circumstantial evidence.

I, too, used to be skeptical with regard to the resurrection. I thought that perhaps Jesus was in a state of suspended animation—a kind of swoon, or coma—when He was taken down from the cross, and that He recovered from his “swoon” in the sepulcher. However, I found out that this was almost impossible. The Roman soldiers of the time were well versed in how to execute criminals. It would have taken a miracle to survive a Roman crucifixion.

The Fate of Spartacus and his 6,000 Companions

So, what exactly was the punishment of crucifixion? Crucifixion was a method of execution intended especially for the lower classes and slaves who tried to rebel against the Roman government. It was not used on Roman citizens.

One well-known crucifixion figure is the story of Spartacus and his 6,000 companions.

Between 73 and 71 B.C., the gladiator Spartacus led a slave revolt (gladiators were members of the slave class in Roman society). However, the rebel slaves were defeated by the Roman army. The Roman soldiers made a long line of crosses along the road connecting Rome and Capua, and crucified Spartacus and 6,000 of his companions on these crosses.

Crucifixion was chosen because it was torture and execution combined in one simple device. Also, the simplicity of the method made it convenient for executing a large number of criminals at once.

Since the Romans had already successfully crucified Spartacus and 6,000 of his companions, it would have been a simple task to execute Jesus and two other criminals. No record of a criminal surviving a Roman execution has ever been found. The most likely reason is that no one survived.

Was it Possible to Survive a Crucifixion?

During a Roman Crucifixion, there was always a soldier on guard at the cross until the criminal was dead. It generally took about two or three days for the criminal to die. If the Romans were in a hurry, and the criminal did not die quickly enough, an iron club was sometimes used to break his legs, so that his body would lose support and he would die quickly from suffocation.

Also, to make him an example, the criminal was crucified in full view of the passersby and of the people. It is said that sometimes, as the criminals were hanging helplessly on their crosses, vultures and crows would fly down and peck at their eyeballs.

Roman law stated clearly that if the criminal survived or escaped, the soldier on guard was to be crucified in the criminal’s place. This ensured that the soldier did not fail in his duty.

In the case of Jesus, he died only three hours after being nailed to the cross. That was a shorter time than usual, so the soldier on guard had to make sure that Jesus was actually dead. To that end, he drove a spear through Jesus’ side and into his heart. Even if Jesus had survived the massive blood loss from his scourging, the crown of thorns, and the nail wounds, a spear through the heart would surely have killed him. John was standing by the cross, and watched the whole thing. John’s Gospel describes what was undoubtedly a piercing of the heart.

The Heart of Jesus Pierced by a Spear

Here is how St. John describes the piercing of our Lord’s side:

“But one of the soldiers pierced [Jesus’] side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness” (John 19:34–35).

My question here is, what was the “water” that John saw? According to a joint paper by William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AM, the water that flowed from Jesus’ body was probably serous pleural fluid and pericardial fluid. The paper is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

However, this theory would be true only if Jesus had been impaled from the right side. The Gospel says nothing about whether Jesus was pierced on the right side or on the left side. What is interesting, however, is that the man whose image is on the Shroud of Turin, thought to be Jesus, was pierced on the right side.

Is this a coincidence? There is more than one curious fact about this cloth. The Shroud of Turin has many mysterious characteristics that cannot be explained scientifically.

At any rate, given the thoroughness of Roman executions, it is impossible to believe that the Roman soldiers could have failed to execute our Lord. The idea that Jesus, after having been tortured and crucified by the Romans, was not dead, but only swooning, does not stand up to scrutiny.

There are also other theories designed to explain away the Resurrection, such as that what the Apostles saw on Easter was not a resurrected body, but rather a hallucination or a ghost, or that the Apostles simply invented the story of the Resurrection, and perpetrated a massive fraud. I have examined these theories as well; I do not have time to explain all the results of my research in this post, but suffice it to say: all of the other rationalizing theories also do not stand up to scrutiny.

The more one knows, the more difficult it seems to be to doubt the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

Image: Two sheep by fsHH

Continued in part two.

Good Friday and the Passion of the Lord

The Friday of the Passion, or, Good Friday

Maundy Thursday, the day of our commemoration of the “Last Supper,” is over; The Friday of the Passion is upon us. The Friday of the Passion, the day of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, is the most solemn day of the Holy Triduum (the last three days of Lent, consisting of Maundy Thursday, The Friday of the Passion, and Holy Saturday). In English it is called “Good Friday;” there are many theories as to the origin of this name. It commemorates the Crucifixion of our Lord, the day of salvation, when, as we Christians believe, Christ, who is perfectly good, became obedient unto death, in order to atone for the sins of all mankind.

Good Friday Liturgy

Good Friday is a day of prayer and fasting. Below is a small sampling of what the Catholic Church around the world looks like on Good Friday.

Christians In Jerusalem Walk In A procession To Mark Good Friday | Good Friday 2023 LIVE | News18

In Jerusalem

In Jerusalem, many Christian clergy and laypeople gather each year to pray and walk in procession along the Via Dolorosa, or Way of the Cross, the path which, according to legend, Jesus followed on his way to the Crucifixion. The fourteen “Stations,” where the procession stops for special prayers and meditations, are places associated with Jesus either in the Bible or in unwritten tradition. The procession along the Via Dolorosa was begun in Jerusalem by Franciscan friars. Since then, Franciscans have been walking the Way of the Cross every Friday. A live news broadcast shows many people participating in this year’s event. I could also see many Franciscan friars walking the Way of the Cross.

In the Vatican

April 7, 2023, Celebration of the Passion of the Lord Pope Francis

In the Vatican, the Good Friday Mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, a priest and theologian of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins, delivered the homily. Using Nietzsche as an example, Cardinal Cantalamessa explained that if God is “dead,” it is usually man himself that is enthroned in the central place formerly occupied by God. He also noted how dangerous it is to be ruled by an imperfect man rather than by God, who is perfectly good. In particular, he warned that Western countries, which have become de-Christianized, are in danger of losing their souls in the black hole of relativism and nihilism, which is the end result of atheism.

In Washington, D.C., U.S.A

At the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., the liturgy was conducted by the Most Reverend Walter R. Rossi. Fr. Rossi described the history of the Way of the Cross, and talked about his favorite book of meditations on it (the one written by St. Alphonsus Liguori). He also sang two verses (in English translation) from the Stabat Mater, the traditional 14th-century chant often sung during the Way of the Cross. He also used the Virgin Mary’s grief as an analogy, referring to the grief of mothers who lost their children in violent crimes and wars. He also emphasized that the Virgin Mary is our protector. He concluded by asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us remain close to Christ until the end.

In Tokyo, Japan

At St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo, Japan, Archbishop Isao Kikuchi said that the Lord’s Passion Day, where we find the cross of the Lord, is the starting point of our faith. He also spoke of aligning our hearts with the Passion of the Lord, who suffered for us. He encouraged us to follow the example of the Virgin Mary, who remained by the cross, and found the way to the true glory and hope that lies beyond suffering. Finally, he prayed for the Pope, for all those who serve the Church, for the victims of the earthquake in southeastern Turkey, for medical personnel, and for all those suffering from war.

Praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

When I pray the Rosary, I find that I have always been least fond of the Sorrowful Mysteries (usually prayed on Tuesday and Friday), which end with the death of Christ on the cross. The “realness” of the story of our Lord’s cruel treatment and execution makes me feel uncomfortable.

When I feel that way, I continue praying the rosary, while trying to focus on the thought that Christ died for love of us, and brought salvation to us all. I am a little surprised at myself, because even when I watch movies that are somewhat violent, etc., they seem fake to me, and they don’t bother me. Maybe it is the weight of my sins that I find so horrible and disgusting.

I often wonder if I am conscious enough of my sins. Am I able to think like the “good thief” who, being crucified to one side of Christ, could say to the thief on the other side, “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (Luke 23:41)? Our Lord tells us, “Take up your cross and follow me.” I pray that Christ will grant me the forgiveness of my sins, and the courage to carry my own cross.

Image: Reproduction of painting Pieta of Villeneuve les Avignon. The author is probably Enguerrand Quarton. 15. century, Louvre, Paris.

Holy Thursday, the Day of the Last Supper

Only three days left until Easter on Sunday.

Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, is the commemoration of the Last Supper. The “Last Supper” is the name given to the meal (probably a Passover meal) that Jesus ate with his disciples before his Passion. It is one of the oldest Christian feasts; it is not known when it began. Perhaps the twelve Apostles celebrated some version of the Maundy Thursday liturgy in the earliest years of the Church.

The exact date of the Last Supper, and whether or not it was a Passover meal, is the subject of much debate, and theologians and researchers hold many competing theories on the topic. I will not discuss those theories here. Suffice it to say that the Last Supper, and the commemoration of it on Maundy Thursday, are important in almost all Christian denominations.

“The Last Supper,” as Painted by a Genius Artist

The Last Supper. 1495- 1498, Leonard da Vinci

Numerous artists have depicted the Last Supper. However, one of the most famous paintings in the world is Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” (1495-1498), in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The painting is so poorly preserved that it is said to be a miracle that it still exists.

In Leonardo’s painting, Judas, who later betrays Jesus, can be seen holding a bag of money. Although this is not the traditional method of portraying the story as the Bible describes it, it is instantly understood as “Judas the betrayer,” creating a more dramatic effect. And then there is John. Traditionally, John’s head is depicted facing Jesus. In Leonardo’s painting, however, John’s head is facing away from Jesus. This creates a space between Jesus and John, and the visual effect is to draw more attention to Jesus in the center. What is interesting is that only Jesus is depicted with a halo, not his disciples.

Unlike the more traditional work painted by the nun Neri (introduced below), Leonardo’s painting is one in which the human drama between the apostle and Jesus is conveyed with great feeling. While the disciples of Jesus and Jesus are depicted realistically, the painting as a whole gives us a sense of holiness and mystery. The genius of Leonardo da Vinci is truly amazing.

“The Last Supper”, as Painted by a Nun

The Last Supper. 1550s, Plautilla Neri

In a composition very similar to Leonardo’s painting, Plautilla Neri (1524-1588), a Dominican nun, also painted a version of the Last Supper, in Santa Maria Novella in Florence; it is the only surviving painting that bears her signature.

Judas in Neri’s painting is depicted as the biblical figure “who has dipped his hand in the dish” (Matthew 26:23). Also, Judas is the only person depicted in the painting without a haloNeri’s depiction does not emphasize the originality of the artist, as Leonardo’s does, but is traditional and based on the Bible.

While nuns of the time (if they were artists) usually made only small works, such as book illustrations, this is a large 7m x 2m oil painting. I suspect that Neri may have been inspired by Leonardo’s “Last Supper.” Maybe it was the example of Leonardo’s painting that inspired her to make her own painting so large.

The Meaning of Lamentations

Traditionally, on Holy Thursday morning, we sing some verses from the beginning of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (“Lamentationes” in Latin, “Threnoi” in Greek, “Kinoth” in Hebrew). Symbolically, the Lamentations relate to the condition of the world after the murder of the Messiah, and to the condition of a soul that has fallen into sin.

According to Haydock’s Bible commentary, the prophet Jeremiah spoke the words of God relating to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Whether the Lamentations were written before or after the destruction of Jerusalem is unknown.

St. Jerome states that the Lamentations were written before the destruction of Jerusalem, at the time of the death of King Josiah. If so, of course, the same Lamentations could also have been sung again at the time of the death of King Zechariah and the destruction of Jerusalem. Symbolically, the Lamentations relate to the condition of the world after the murder of the Messiah, and to the condition of a soul that has fallen into sin.

Ancient Chant for Maundy Thursday

Gregorian chant began in Rome, and spread throughout the Western world, but Spain and Portugal have their own unique kind of chant, called Mozarabic chant. Like Gregorian chant, Mozarabic chant is sung in Latin. Its melody, perhaps influenced by Arabic music, is a melody of deep sadness befitting a lament. When I listen to the rich spiritual sound of the Mozarabic chanting of the Lamentations, I can feel the close connection between music, prayer, and faith.

Mozarabic Lamentations | Holy Thursday, Lectio 1/Gregorian Chant Academy

Here is the content of the chant, in English (King James Version):





1 (Aleph) How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! 

How is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, 

And princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! 

2 (Beth) She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: 

Among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: 

All her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. 

3 (Gimel) Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: 

She dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: 

All her persecutors overtook her between the straits. 

4 (Daleth) The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: 

All her gates are desolate: her priests sigh: 

Her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. 

5 (He) Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; 

For the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: 

Her children are gone into captivity before the enemy. 

Traditionally, Holy Thursday Mass was celebrated in the morning, like other Masses, but since Vatican II, it has been celebrated in the evening. In the church, we prayed for families, priests, the sick, the dead, and for the United States to respect all human life (from conception to natural death).

The end of the Lenten season is now only two days away.

Should the Seal of the Confessional be protected by law?

Some stories in the news recently have led to a controversy over the confidentiality of information divulged during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Such confidentiality is known as “the seal of the confessional,” or “clergy-penitent privilege.” The controversy concerns whether it is advisable, or even constitutional, to legally require priests to report to the police any information they have heard in the confessional, if that information relates to the sexual abuse of children.

The states of Washington and Vermont are deliberating on whether to repeal their civil laws that protect the seal of the confessional. In response, Bishop Thomas Daly of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, told the Washington Examiner, in an interview this week, that Catholic clergy would refuse to comply if the bill (HB 1098) proposed in the state legislature is enacted –LifeSite News, March 3.

The Confidentiality of the Confessions is non-negotiable

Bishop Thomas Daly’s declared that, if such legislation were enacted, he would go to jail rather than break the seal of the confessional. He added that he was confident that his fellow Catholic clergymen would all do the same. Furthermore, Bishop Daly affirmed that “the integrity of the sacraments is non-negotiable.”

According to the March 8 edition of America Magazine, the States of Washington and Delaware will decide within a few weeks whether the bill will become law.

Also, in Wilmington, Delaware, Bishop Koenig of Wilmington stated that the seal of the confessional will not be broken “under any circumstances,” despite the proposed legislation against the sacraments. – LifeSite News, Mar 9.

The Delaware News (March 8) says a decision will be made within a few weeks on whether this bill will become law.

In both cases, it appears that the information has not yet been updated since March 8.

In 2019, the California legislature attempted to enact a law that would have required priests to become mandatory reporters of certain kinds of information heard in the confessional. That attempt failed. Based on precedent, I expect this year’s attempts to fail as well, but I am not convinced that somebody will not try the same thing again someday. There is a strong possibility that similar attempts to hinder the work of priests will find their way into legislatures in the future.

A Church Interior with Women at the Confessional 1863
Ludwig Passini

Is the Seal of the Confessional Unnecessary?

On the other hand, a certain priest supported the idea of revoking the clergy-penitent privilege. The following is a summary of the story:

Fr. James E. Connell, a retired Catholic priest from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wrote an editorial in which he supported the idea of revoking clergy-client privilege. Wisconsin Archbishop Jerome Listecki lamented the disturbing words of Fr. Connell, and stripped him of all faculties to administer the sacrament of reconciliation.- LifeSite, Mar 23.

The right to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation comes from a priest’s archbishop or bishop; therefore, Fr. Connell will no longer be able to hear confessions in any Catholic diocese in the world. If Fr. Connell (or any other priest) were to break the seal of the confessional, he would incur automatic excommunication.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession), in which one confesses one’s sins to God through a priest, is different from what the world considers “confession” to a person. Forgiveness of sins involves the salvation of a soul. Some priests have been martyred for not revealing the sins of penitents. And any priest who, under any circumstances whatsoever, reveals information heard during a confession, incurs automatic excommunication.

I believe that Archbishop Listecki’s revocation of the faculties of Fr. Connell was also intended to eliminate the risk of his excommunication. And I hope that the confidence of the faithful that the content of their confessions will remain secret will encourage them to receive more frequently the sacrament that is the salvation of their souls.

Lawyers Consider Legislation to Mandate Reporting of Confessions

In an article published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Eric Kniffin, an outstanding First Amendment lawyer who has defended the rights of over 300 religious and other groups, points out three major problems with the proposed laws in Washington State, Vermont, and Delaware, namely:

1) The proposed laws incorrectly presume that the government could coerce priests to break the seal of the confessional. In reality, if these laws were passed, the result would not be priests “turning State’s evidence;” the result would be priests in jail.

2) The proposed laws incorrectly presume that breaking the seal of the confessional would make children safer. In reality, if these laws were passed, abusers (and other sinners as well) would tend to stay away from confession. Children would be less safe as a result.

3) The proposed laws discriminate against religion. The proposed laws attack clergy-penitent privilege (i.e. the seal of the confessional), but they make no mention of attorney-client privilege (lawyers do not reveal what their clients tell them). In other words, according to the proposed laws, secrecy is OK if it is for secular reasons, but it is not OK if it is for religious reasons. That is discrimination against religion, which is unconstitutional.

Kniffin concludes by quoting Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who recently wrote, “Protecting children is a matter of crucial importance. Protecting religious faith is too. It isn’t the job of lawmakers to privilege one of those worthy aims over the other. It is to strive, with care and respect, to do both.”

Freedom of religion is important for everyone. In a society that forces priests to choose between excommunication and arrest, no one is truly free.

Revealing the Content of Confessions

As mentioned earlier, what is said in the confessional is strictly confidential.

Two years ago, a book was published that comes close to exposing such confessional confidentiality, namely: Je Vous Pardonne Tous vos Péchés (I Forgive All Your Sins) by Vincent Mongaillard, France. The book is a collection of true stories, provided by 40 priests, about confessions that they have heard. Both priests and penitents remain anonymous; one priest who was interviewed for the book explained that, in order to avoid violating Church law, all personal details of the confessions were changed.

Some excerpts were translated and published by Harper’s Magazine; they range from the comical confessions of a couple in their fifties to the regret one priest felt after giving absolution to a criminal. My impression (based solely on the excerpts I read) is that most of the confessions seem to be about common errors people make (many of them, for example, involve marital infidelity).

Even if the book does not violate Church law, I still feel that the dignity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be better served by concealing such stories than by revealing them.

A point made by a priest about the Sacrament of Reconciliation

In an interview on LifeSite News, Michel Rodrigue, a priest also known as a mystic, was talking about the Spiritual War are facing. He emphasized the importance of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation along with prayer. Regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Fr. Rodriguez gave the following advice:

1) Confess both mortal and venial sins.
2) Confess sins of omission, that is, the things that you should have done but did not do.

Until now, I have not paid much attention to 2), the things I should have done but did not do. However, it occurred to me that the simple fact that I didn’t do some things — things that might be considered duties, or things merely advisable — could be a sign of sloth, which is one of the seven deadly sins.

I realized that just because I am working and keeping myself busy, that does not mean that I am free from sloth. Sloth is the sin of spiritual laziness, which is difficult to become aware of, and troublesome to deal with, without the grace of God.

It is said that, since Vatican II, the number of people going to confession has decreased. I have experienced many times that my mind and body have become lighter after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am not the only one. A formerly Protestant acquaintance of mine told me that after he converted and made his first confession, when he received sacramental absolution the first time, he felt a sense of exhilaration and lightness, as if a huge load had literally been lifted from his back.

Mother T. always told me how important it was to pray and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We should not miss out on the benefit of being offered such a powerful sacrament.

The Seal of the Confessional and Religious Freedom

In the United States, the rift between State and Church is growing ever larger. As mentioned earlier, the biggest problem is the pressure that threatens the religious freedom of the Church. Pressures include laws that would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, laws that would make Church-affiliated organizations pay for contraceptives used by their employees, laws that would force Catholic adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples, and (now) proposed laws that would revoke clergy-penitent privilege.

When people talk about requiring priests to break the seal of the confessional, it reminds of me of people who support the “ordination” of women; in both cases, they are talking about something that is quite simply impossible. Just as, in 1994, Pope John Paul II declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,” so it is in this case, with respect to the revoking of clergy-penitent privilege: the Church has no authority to do it. The seal of the confessional is not only Church law, it is “God’s teaching;” even if the Pope himself wanted to change it, he could not.

The secular state, however, is not going to readily accept the fact that the Church has rights independent of it.

The real purpose of bringing up the language of “child sexual abuse” in regard to this issue is to sway people’s emotions, and blind their eyes to the fact that the proposed laws seek to change a thing that cannot, in fact, be changed. The proposed laws are not really about preventing child abuse. They are nothing less than an attack on freedom of religion, an attack on the sacraments, and an attack on the Church.

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