Monday, January 29, 2024

Human Origin


I have noticed a trend among Traditionalists (especially Gen Z) to take positions that seem traditional and Catholic, but are actually Protestant. To really understand what the Church teaches requires one to do the research and see what the Church actually pronounced on any given topic, and not what a person thinks the Church teaches. The way to do this is to investigate the teachings of the approved theologians, whose job it is to explain what the Church teaches, what tenets are permissible to hold, and what theological beliefs stand condemned. The fact that the Church promulgates catechisms is further proof that Magisterial documents are not self-evident in meaning. Why issue The Catechism of the Council of Trent when you could just read the canons and decrees of the Council? 

The Church uses technical terms in Latin and the true sense is not always apparent by just "reading  the document." There is also a danger inherent in reacting against what appears to be Modernist. The arch-heretic Leonard Feeney was right in condemning a false and un-Catholic notion of Baptism of Desire that some clergy were teaching in the 1940s. However, instead of correcting them by reaffirming the Catholic truth of Baptism of Desire, he heretically denied it existed. 

The subject of this post is the origin of the First Man, Adam. Many Traditionalist Catholics (and "conservative" Vatican II sect members) read the Bible literally in every verse, like a Fundamentalist Protestant. This is in reaction to the Modernist exegetes who reduce the Bible to little more than a collection of fairy tales stripped of any and all historical and supernatural character. This causes them to make false assertions, like claiming you must believe the universe was created in exactly six days, and each day lasting exactly 24 hours in duration. This is the position of the "conservative" Vatican II sect members who run the Kolbe Center. They also teach the body of Adam was not developed, geocentrism is true, and a 6,000 year-old Earth are all "dogma." (See

The point of contention to be addressed here concerns the denial that a Catholic may believe that the body of the First Man was the result of any type of development. Cries of "evolution," and "blasphemy" will abound. Yet what the Church teaches is not what these new "Catholic fundamentalists" insist you must believe. My purpose here is to show what may (not must) be believed, and what may not. I leave it to the reader to do further research and draw their own conclusion as to what their position will be within the limitations set forth by Holy Mother Church.  

The Role of Theologians

I have written about the role of theologians several times before. It is very important to understand, so I reproduce the role of the theologians once more. If your realize their importance, you can ship this section---Introibo

What, exactly, constitutes an approved theologian of the Church? 

The book by Fr. Reginald-Maria Schultes OP, De Ecclesia Catholica: Praelectiones Apologeticae [Apologetic Lectures on the Catholic Church], 2nd. ed., Paris: Lethielleux 1931, was used by priest-students studying for doctoral degrees at Pontifical Universities. Fr. Schultes himself taught at the world-renowned Angelicum University. A theologian is thus defined by him (and recognized by the Church) as "learned men who after the time of the Church Fathers scientifically taught sacred doctrine in the Church."

The pre-Vatican II theologians were all clerics (i.e., priests and bishops) who received either a Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) or a Doctorate in Canon Law (JCD). The latter are known as canonists and apply the proper theological principles to the Sacred Canons to ascertain the correct meaning and application of each Canon to each unique situation. Every theologian had to defend and publish a dissertation before the Board of Examiners of a Pontifical University, and it had to bear an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat declaring the work free from all error against faith and morals.  The breadth and depth of theological knowledge enjoyed by theologians was vastly superior to both laymen and the average priest or bishop because of the excellence of their training.

Theologians are said to be "approved" at least insofar as (a) they manifest a certain eminence in doctrine in their writings and (b) display orthodoxy at least to the extent recognized by the Church that their writings are used by the faithful and the theological schools, with the knowledge of (and with no opposition from) the Magisterium of the Church.  (See, e.g,. theologian Salaverri, Sacrae Theologiae Summa, IB, [1955]). The doctorate may only be dispensed by the Roman Pontiff if the cleric is found by the Vicar of Christ to be highly proficient in both Canon Law and Sacred Theology; such is the case with bishops as well (See 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 331; see also canonists Abbo and Hannon, The Sacred Canons, [1952], 1:357-358). 

Theologians demonstrate, and do not determine Catholic doctrine. Theologians do not determine whether some doctrine is de fide or some other theological note, like "certain."  They merely demonstrate, or manifest, or give witness, that a particular doctrine is Church teaching and to what degree. They prove their assertions with convincing arguments, so that when theologians reach an objective, morally unanimous consensus, we must accept such conclusions as belonging to the Faith. According to Schultes (cited above), theologians are witnesses not only to whether a doctrine is defined, but also to its meaning

Theologian Fenton's The Concept of Sacred Theology makes clear that Councils, encyclicals, etc., are the raw data the theologian uses for his work. Theology is not simply quoting Church documents, any more than law is not simply quoting the Supreme Court. 

The Teaching of the Church on Biblical Interpretation Regarding Genesis

When it comes to "the plain meaning" of Scripture, those untrained in Catholic exegesis fall into serious errors. According to the eminent theologian Van Noort:

Furthermore, even in those truths which the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium unmistakably inculcates, there is sometimes room for questioning whether all the elements of that teaching are meant to be inculcated with equal force. For example, the following doctrines have always been unmistakably proposed by the Ordinary Magisterium: that God created our first parents by forming their bodies from the slime of the Earth and from the rib of the man; that Adam sinned in tasting the forbidden fruit at the urging of the serpent; that God in punishment for mankind's sins caused a deluge over the entire Earth; that Christ will come one day as the Judge upon the clouds of Heaven, etc.

Do you think that the definitive intention of the Magisterium bears with equal force upon the mode of the bodily formation and on the very fact of creation? With equal force upon upon the external description of the sin of our first parents and upon the sin itself? With equal force upon the universality of the flood and upon the manifestation of Divine Justice? With equal force upon the circumstances of the heavenly spectacle and upon the actual return of the Judge? Even upon a priori grounds an affirmative answer would have little probability to it, seeing that the circumstances described contribute either nothing at all or very little to religion. Actually, if one checks history, he will find at least a number of the circumstances enumerated have been called into doubt by one or another of the Fathers of the Church, or by excellent theologians, without their teaching ever being considered in the slightest heretical...

Actually the immense flowering of Catholic biblical research during the past fifty years has done much to eliminate unnecessary bewilderment on the part of the ordinary Bible reader trying to reconcile his own reading of the "obvious" meaning of Scripture with the findings of modern science. This bewilderment has been caused by an almost total ignorance of what is meant by "scriptural inerrancy," "inspiration," and "revelation." 

It has been further nurtured by a failure to enter sympathetically into the mentality of the ancient Semitic world, a lack of knowledge of ancient languages and history, a total unawareness of literary genres, and a lack of theological insight into what in the Bible pertains to "matters of faith and morals" and what is merely "accidentally inspired." 

Such readers, lacking both biblical and theological training, when coming across ancient cosmological viewpoints, unconsciously reflected by the sacred writers, have taken such viewpoints to be revelation by God on matters of science. Hence, a whole rash of unnecessary problems, concordism and the like. (See Dogmatic Theology, 3:223-225 [1960 English edition]; Emphasis in bold and italics from the original text--bold, italicized, and underlined is mine. N.B. Theologian Van Noort died in 1946. His original Latin edition was published with full ecclesiastical approbation prior to his death). 

In reference to true biblical scholars, Pope Pius XII condemns those who would oppose them simply because they propose a new solution to a difficulty:

Let all other sons of the Church bear in mind that the efforts of these resolute laborers in the vineyard of the Lord should be judged not only with equity and justice, but also with the greatest charity; all, moreover, should abhor that intemperate zeal which imagines that whatever is new should for that very reason be opposed or suspected. (See Divino Afflante Spiritu [1943]; Emphasis mine). 

Several Principles of Interpretation

The Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1909, affirmed that Genesis teaches the following facts about creation which are to be accepted by all Catholics. The decree was promulgated by Pope St. Pius X.

...the creation of all things which was accomplished by God at the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from man; the unity of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in a state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the divine command laid upon man to prove his obedience; the transgression of that divine command at the instigation of the devil under the form of a serpent; the fall of our first parents from their primitive state of innocence; and the promise of a future Redeemer. (See Acta Apostolis Sedis, 1 [1909 Pontifical Biblical Commission], pages 567-69).

Day of Rest (Genesis 2:3): Moses employed a period of a week for the Creation to impress upon the Jews the fact that the seventh day of the week was holy and a day of rest. Catholic exegetes [interpreters] are unanimous in rejecting the old theory that God accomplished everything in the space of six twenty-four hour periods. (See theologian Cevetello, Getting to Know the Bible, [1957], pg. 64).

On June 30, 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission (as above) issued a decree answering eight (8) questions about the Book of Genesis. The decree was approved by His Holiness, Pope St. Pius X, Foe of Modernism. The answers to the first three questions upholds the overall historical character of the first three chapters of Genesis, however the last two questions are instructive as to the mind of the Church in Biblical exegesis ("interpretation").  

Question # 7: "Whether, since it was not the intention of the sacred author, when writing the first chapter of Genesis, to teach us in a scientific manner the innermost nature of visible things, and to present the complete order of creation but rather to furnish his people with a popular account, such as the common parlance of that age allowed, one, namely, adopted to the senses and to man's intelligence, we are strictly and always bound, when interpreting these chapters to seek for scientific exactitude of expression?"  Answer: In the negative.

Question # 8: "Whether the word yom ('day'), which is used in the first chapter of Genesis to describe and distinguish the six days, may be taken in its strict sense as the natural day, or in a less strict sense as signifying a certain space of time; and whether free discussion of this question is permitted to interpreters?"  Answer: In the affirmative.

We see that in the response to question # 7, we are not bound to treat Genesis as some sort of science textbook. Question # 8 clearly shows that we are not bound to believe in six literal days of 24 hours each in the creation account as theologian Cevetello notes. God created the universe in six yom, or time periods, the exact duration of which may be much more than 24 hours. Nor is it necessary to believe in a 6,000 year old Earth. Modern science and Genesis do not contradict each other.

Formation of Eve (Genesis 2:21-22): According to a decree of the [Pontifical] Biblical Commission, the doctrine of the formation of the first Woman from Man must be maintained. However, the exact way in which it took place remains a mystery about which you are able to say nothing; for only that One knows who was responsible for Creation. (See Cevetello, Ibid, pgs. 65-66). 

From the above we can know the Church teaches us as truth:

  • the Creation of the world ex nihil (out of nothing) by God at the beginning of space-time
  • the special creation of the First Man
  • the special creation of the First Woman from the First Man
  • the souls of human beings are created immediately ex nihil by God
  • the entire human race descends from a single man and a single woman; our First Parents
  • our First Parents were in a state of Original Justice and by disobedience brought us Original Sin
  • Original Sin is passed down by being a descendant of the First Man (Adam)
  • Original Sin came about at the instigation of Satan
  • God promised to send a Redeemer Who is the Lord Jesus Christ

Did Pope Pius XII Make a Mistake in Allowing Study on the Possible Evolution of the Human Body of Adam?

Those who think the idea that the body of Adam was formed from pre-existing living matter and developed to receive a soul is heretical, denounce Pope Pius XII for allowing it to be studied, as he wrote in his encyclical Humani Generis of 1950. They usually advance three lines of argumentation:

1. His Holiness was wrong to allow the study of a subject that was settled, much like Montini (Paul VI) was wrong to allow study on the morality of artificial contraception; The Church Fathers were unanimous against the idea of evolution of the body.

2. It was only permitting study, and in no way gives any real credence to the idea of the evolution of the body, which is from godless Darwinian scientists.

3. The idea of evolution of the first human body is of recent development under the influence of Modernism. It would necessitate death existing before the Fall of Adam which is absurd.

On The Contrary:

Response to #1: The subject was NOT settled, the Church never having pronounced on the subject, and there was vigorous debate between theologians. The Kolbe Center, run by "conservative" members of the Vatican II sect, will twist the decisions on the Pontifical Biblical Commission to make it fit their Protestant interpretation of every word of Genesis being literal.

The Kolbe Center claims none of the Fathers held that the universe is ancient, so that opinion is not permissible. (Tell that to Pope St. Pius X!). The Pontifical Biblical Commission, in question six of its decision of 1909, says that we should follow the example of the Fathers in making allegorical and prophetical interpretations, after having determined the literal and historical sense. This means that it is perfectly acceptable to make allegorical interpretations, not that we have to follow the Fathers in all of their interpretations. The Commission declared: interpreting those passages of these chapters [of Genesis] that the Fathers and Doctors have interpreted in divers ways without leaving anything definite or certain, it is permitted, subject to the judgment of the Church and the analogy of faith, to follow and defend that opinion which each one has prudently found correct. 

There is Magisterial authority that the Fathers do not present a doctrinally-binding, unanimous consensus on the first chapters of Genesis. The Kolbe Center and like-minded Traditionalists claim  a binding consensus of the Fathers on a plethora of  biblical teachings. Yet, in his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, Pope Pius XII taught:

...there are but few texts whose sense has been defined by the authority of the Church, nor are those more numerous about which the teaching of the Holy Fathers is unanimous. There remain therefore many things, and of the greatest importance, in the discussion and exposition of which the skill and genius of Catholic commentators may and ought to be freely exercised, so that each may contribute his part to the advantage of all, to the continued progress of the sacred doctrine and to the defense and honor of the Church. (para. #47; Emphasis mine).

Pope Pius XII also teaches that the first chapters of Genesis are not among those "few texts" settled by the Fathers of the Church:

Moreover we may rightly and deservedly hope that our time also can contribute something towards the deeper and more accurate interpretation of Sacred Scripture. For not a few things, especially in matters pertaining to history, were scarcely at all or not fully explained by the commentators of past ages, since they lacked almost all the information which was needed for their clearer exposition. How difficult for the Fathers themselves, and indeed well nigh unintelligible, were certain passages is shown, among other things, by the oft-repeated efforts of many of them to explain the first chapters of Genesis;...(Ibid, para. #31; Emphasis mine). 

Therefore, to analogize the study of the development of the first human body to Montini's allowing study on the subject of birth control is fallacious because birth control is settled, but not the mode of the production of Adam's body. 

Response to #2:

We must first distinguish and reject Darwinian evolution ("DE"). DE assumes as its dogma that change must be unguided and without purpose. It rules out a priori the existence of God. It also excludes in principle the idea of a sudden origin of a new kind of living thing through non-living material (slime of the Earth), or through multiple simultaneous mutation, or through large-scale reorganizations of cells, or any other event that could take place only through the presence of a Designer/Creator God. God can choose to work gradually or instantaneously, it is up to Him. Romans 11:34 reminds us: "For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor?" DE is to be rejected. That is godless, not the idea that God permitted and guided the development of the first human body. 

The study was permitted because it is an open question. There is no definitive teaching. Pope Pius XII does not endorse the development of the human body, butt neither does he censure it or disapprove of it in any way. Hence, the study of the question. 

Response to #3:

The idea of the development of the human body is by no means recent, as the teachings of the theologians will demonstrate. Does the Church forbid the idea that death of animals and plants only happened after the Fall? No. The argument against bodily development is that there would be death involved with plants and brutes prior to Original Sin. Original Sin brought human death, conceded; that it brought death of plants and animals; denied.

Going back as far as 1847, a Protestant geologist, Edward Hitchcock, wisely saw nothing wrong with positing non-human death before Adam and Eve. He wrote:

Not only geology,but zoology and comparative anatomy, teach us that death among the inferior animals did not result from the Fall of Man, but from the original constitution given them by their Creator. One large class of animals, the carnivores, have organs expressly intended for destroying other classes for food. [Even herbivores] must have destroyed a multitude of insects, of which several species inhabit almost every species of plant, [not to mention the destruction of]  millions of animalcula [microscopic organisms], which abound in many of the fluids which animals drink, and even in the air which they breathe.

In short, death could not be excluded from the world, without an entire change in the constitution and course of nature; and such a change we have no reason to suppose, from the Mosaic [Genesis] account, took place when man fell. (See Hitchcock, Elementary Geology, 8th edition [1847], p. 299ff). 

What Pope Pius XII actually taught:

...the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter -- for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.  However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church…

When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty.  For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.  Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own. (See Humani Generis para. #36 & 37; Emphasis mine).

The pope did not rule out the creation of the body through evolution and he upheld the necessity of the belief in the immediate creation of the soul by God, as well as the necessary rejection of polygenism.

The Teaching of the Church

The approved theologians are clear that the opinion of a human body that developed and was not created immediately can be (not must be) held:

Theologian Sagues:

But whether with regard to his [Adam] body he is in some way from a brute (but not without the special intervention of God) is an open question, which has not yet been clearly and certainly explained by the investigations of natural science, and which will have to be solved with certainty perhaps in the future with the help of faith and guided by revelation. (See Sacrae Theologiae Summa IIB, [1955], pg.236; Emphasis in original). 

Theologian Hunter (d. 1896):

Others think it possible that close study of the visible world, which we have called a divinely composed commentary upon the Written Word may possibly give good ground for believing that the apparent meaning of the Mosaic narrative is not the true meaning, and that the body of the first Man was prepared by the operation of natural causes, without any extraordinary action of God. These therefore suspend their judgement, and await further light upon the subject, whether it come to them by a pronouncement of the Church, or by the progress of natural science. (See Outlines of Dogmatic Theology, [1895], pg. 420; Emphasis mine). 

According to theologian Tanquerey (d.1932):

It is de fide that our first parents in regard to body and in regard to soul were created by God: it is certain that their souls were created immediately by God; the opinion, once common, which asserts that even man’s body was formed immediately by God has now fallen into controversy…As long as the spiritual origin of the human soul is correctly preserved, the differences of body between man and ape do not oppose the origin of the human body from animality…

The reasons for and against it[development of the body of Adam], we shall explain.

The obvious meaning of the narrative in Genesis is that Adam's body was formed from the slime of the Earth, that is, from inorganic matter, but not from the body of some brute...

On the contrary, if the nature of the narrative is considered to be popular historic, employing metaphors then in use among the Semites, slime can thus be metaphorically understood to signify only the material or or physico-chemical elements from which Man's body is constituted, whether they still be inanimate and inorganic, or whether they be already ordered and living in an animal organism. In other words, the sacred author intended only to teach this: Man has been created by God of matter and of spirit--without affirming anything concerning the form or the manner of being of this matter. 

This interpretation seems to be entirely in conformity with the principles set forth by Leo XIII in the Encyclical Providentissimus, and repeated by Pius XII in the Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, namely: the sacred authors do not give a properly or peculiarly scientific teaching, but "they describe and treat these very things either according to a certain manner of translation, or as the common speech reported them in those times."

The nearly unanimous interpretation of the Fathers and of the ancient Theologians, excepting Origen, Cajetan, and a few others, favors the opinion of the immediate production of the human body.

On the contrary, we must understand that the Fathers and ancient Theologians only repeat the words of Sacred Scripture. A dispute had not arisen regarding the manner of forming the human body; this dispute they had no intentions in any way of settling. Wherefore it is apparent that they do not propose as a doctrine of faith the immediate formation of the body by God from the slime of the Earth in opposition to the mediate formation. (See A Manual of Dogmatic Theology, [1959] English edition, 1:394-398; Emphasis in original).

Theologian Ott says similarly:
The soul of the first man was created immediately by God out of nothing.  As regards the body, its immediate formation from inorganic stuff by God cannot be maintained with certainty.  Fundamentally, the possibility exists that God breathed the spiritual soul into an organic stuff, that is, into an originally animal body…

The Encyclical Humani Generis of Pius XII (1950) lays down that the question of the origin of the human body is open to free research by natural scientists and theologians…

Against… the view of certain modern scientists, according to which the various races are derived from several separated stems (polygenism), the Church teaches that the first human beings, Adam and Eve, are the progenitors of the whole human race (monogenism).  The teaching of the unity of the human race is not, indeed, a dogma, but it is a necessary pre-supposition of the dogma of Original Sin and Redemption (See Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, [1955], pgs. 94-96; Emphasis mine).

It has been demonstrated that the formation of the human body by God through the development of pre-existing living matter may be believed. You need not believe it, but you can. If you want to believe in geocentrism, a 6,000 year-old Earth, a literal Creation of six days lasting twenty-four hours each, and the formation of Adam's body from slime--you certainly can believe that. The problem arises when the Kolbe Center, and certain Traditionalists maintain these beliefs are "dogma" which must be believed.  The formation of Adam's body through progressive development  is possible. The approved theologians explain how there is no unanimous consent of the Fathers on this matter, and it was never settled by the Magisterium.

The Kolbe Center would have us believe that the approved theologians taught open heresy in their theological manuals, written under the careful watch of the Magisterium, and they were never censured or corrected in any way. Those who maintain only a literal interpretation  of Genesis is possible, are either culpably ignorant of Church teaching, or fall into the same error as the  "recognize and resist" movement. Who decides what is permitted to be believed? Ultimately, each individual. The individual decides when there is unanimous consent of the Fathers and what Scripture means, not the Magisterium (unless the individual happens to agree). Like Protestants, everyone picks and chooses what to believe by private interpretation. A true Traditionalist realizes that the Church tells us what is permissible to believe, for "He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me." (St. Luke 10:16). 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Beware Of "Smudging"


Recently, a colleague of mine was placing an order for sage.  According to several online and book sources, sage; Salvia officinalis, the common sage or sage, is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region, though it has been naturalized in many places throughout the world.

Sage has an impressive list of medicinal uses, all backed up by medical and scientific research. According to the Medical News Today website, sage can:

1. Improve cognitive function and protect against dementia.

[Sage can]positively impact cognitive skills and protect against neurological disorders.

The study author maintains that:

“In vitro, animal and preliminary human studies have supported the evidence of Salvia plants to enhance cognitive skills and guard against neurodegenerative disorders.”

2. Reduce blood sugar levels and bad cholesterol.

One study saw 40 people with diabetes and high cholesterol take sage leaf extract for 3 months.

At the end of the trial, the participants had lower fasting glucose, lower average glucose levels over a 3-month period, and lower total cholesterol, triglyceride, and levels of harmful cholesterol. However, the participants had increased levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.

The researchers concluded:

“[Sage] leaves may be safe and have anti-hyperglycemic and lipid-profile-improving effects in hyperlipidemic type 2 diabetic patients.”

3. Acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Although more evidence is needed to confirm this benefit, certain compounds in sage appear to have an anti-inflammatory action. One study investigated the effects of a range of these compounds on the inflammatory response in gingival fibroblasts. These are a common type of cell found in the connective tissue of the gums.

4. Helps maintain good nutrition and health overall. 

Sage contains a wealth of nutrients and vitamins. However, since it is normally consumed in such small amounts, sage does not provide significant amounts of calories, carbohydrate, protein, or fiber.

I asked my colleague if he drank sage tea, and what benefits he experienced. He gushed about all the health and wellness benefits especially if you use it to "smudge."  He would burn the sage and inhale the fumes to "focus his good energy," and dispel "negative energies" from his house. I immediately knew that it was used for an occult purpose (so-called "life-energy" is a sure sign of the occult). 

This post is the result of my research, and a warning to those who would use something legitimate (sage) for an illegitimate (occult) purpose, that is poison to the soul. 

What is Smudging?
Smudging is an occult practice, often not seen as one because: (a) there are many good and legitimate uses of sage, and (b) it appears in many otherwise reputable places not in connection with the occult.

A wellness resort and spa endorses smudging and has written the following:
The art of smudging is an ancient spiritual ritual for purification, dispelling negative energy and improving mood and can easily be incorporated into your weekly routine or meditative practice.

Sage: The Latin word for sage, salvia, stems from the word, heal. Other qualities believed to be associated with sage when burned are wisdom, clarity, and increased spiritual awareness.

Palo Santo: Spanish for “holy wood”, Palo Santo is a sacred tree which grows in select parts of South America and is a natural insect repellant. It has been used for centuries by shamans in ritual prayer, ceremonies and healing, known for its grounding and focusing effect which can enhance creativity, productivity and increase good fortune.

Desert Rose: A symbol of clarity of the mind and excellent meditation stone. (Emphasis mine)

It continues describing a Smudging Ritual:

Smudging is the ritual of cleaning the energy of a physical space, object or person. If you have a meditation ritual, you can burn Sage or Palo Santo before your practice. This will help prepare your energy and mind for meditation and allow you to more easily connect.

Other items are burned, but almost always, it's sage. What "energy" is there and how is it "cleaned"? Occultic mumbo-jumbo. The meditation is occult also, like yoga, which the spa has at different times.

• First you start with a simple intention of focusing on clearing the negative energy out of your space and mind.
More nonsense on "energy."

• Once you have your intention in mind, light the Sage or Palo Santo and hold at a 45 degree angle pointing the tip down towards the flame. Allow it to burn for 30 seconds and then blow it out.
Like "make a wish and blow out the candle" but with an occult intention.

• Place it on any heat-proof burning surface like an abalone shell, a traditional vessel used by Indigenous American people that represents the element of water.
Here there is reference to the pagan practices of Native American Indian shamanic practices.

• If left to rest the stick will smoulder and release smoke for approximately 5 mins. If used for smudging, walk around the room, space, object or person, fanning the smoke over its entirety, whilst focusing on cleansing and clearing negative energy.
Exactly what is being cleansed, and how is burning sage accomplishing it?

• Once you’ve finished smudging and removed the negative energy, you must push positive energy into the space to maintain balance. To do this, declare your intention out loud or silently in your head.
You must "push positive energy" by declaring your intention to...who??

The pagan/occult concept should be clear. The spa ends with advice on "when to smudge:"

Before you go to bed after a long day around people

• Before and after a you’ve had guests at your home

• When you move into a new home

• When you begin a new job

• When you start your own business

• Before and after a healing session

• Before meditation

• After any illness

• After an argument / conflict

It's an occult panacea! (See

Smudging: A Pagan/Occult Ritual That Invites Evil

Smudging, is shamanic; that is, it has been practiced by pagan shamans ("medicine men" who practice divination and sorcery) especially among Native American tribes for spiritual or supernatural purposes, and it is common in the modern Wicca (witchcraft). 

According to one source:

Smudging is the common name given to the indigenous American tradition known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing.  This is a powerful spiritual cleansing technique which calls upon the spirits of various sacred plants to drive away negative energy and to restore balance to an individual, a group, a space, or all three.  This tradition has been a part of the spirituality of indigenous Americans for thousands of years, and now this cleansing ritual is available to anyone who is willing to give it a try.  The ritual is very simple and very empowering, and you don't need a lot of expensive equipment to start doing it in your own home.

Perhaps you are wondering why smudging is effective?  It is because it allows you to effect the world of subtle spiritual energies using the spirits of various powerful, healing plants.  If you have ever worked with yoga or meditation, you will understand that your body, and indeed, the spaces that you occupy, vibrate with invisible energy currents that can be strongly effected by outside forces, both physical and spiritual.

Smudging allows you to wash away all the emotional and spiritual negativity that gathers in your body and your space over time.  It's a little bit like taking a spiritual shower!  The effects of smudging can be very effective, often banishing stress almost instantly and providing energy and peace.  Smudging can also help your body and space to adjust to the healing rhythms of the seasonal cycle.  More than anything, though, smudging can turn your space, and your body, into a peaceful, beautiful temple in which you can rejuvenate yourself and fine happiness. (See; Emphasis mine). 

It therefore calls on spirits. These spirits are not the good angels. The belief that there is negative energy affecting us that can be cleansed or cleared away is part of the pagan view of unnamed and unquantifiable energy, a core occult principle. Diagnosing health and emotional problems is usually done by tuning in to (or feeling) a person’s “energy,” and treating such problems is through affecting the “energy” or “energy field” of the subtle body with various pagan/occult methods, or by applying a supposed "healing energy" from an outside source (however, these methods and explanations are often disguised with scientific sounding language). There is no credible basis for these beliefs; they are absolutely occult and medicinal quackery. 

An Occult Mockery of Incense

From an article in The American Ecclesiastical Review, an article by Andrew W. Case (1944; pgs. 451-458) has this to say about the Church's use of incense (and which smudging is an occult mockery): 

The use of incense is connected primarily with the physical aspects of the sense of smell. Perfumes, pleasant odors of any sort, are agreeable to men. In ancient times they were offered to important individuals and often diffused over the roads on which they journeyed, or, as an accompaniment of food and wine, used at banquets. It was only natural to suppose that the same delectable odors would be acceptable to gods on the same principle as that by which foods which men preferred were offered to them. As men were honored with incense, to the Deity a similar honor was paid. Thus it is quite understandable that the rising smoke should be regarded as the vehicle of prayer.

As God commanded Moses to place incense "before the tabernacle of the testimony," so, as a sacramental, the Church prescribes its use in her ceremonials, although, as previously stated, its use was unknown during the first four centuries. Protestants, excepting the high church Anglicans who use it, declare that since the old laws were abrogated by Christ and that since the use of incense was not a primitive Christian practice, its use in Christian worship is invalidated. Then too they frequently contend that the Church in using incense has copied a pagan practice.

At first glance it does seem strange that the early Christians did not burn incense, particularly in light of the prophecy in Malachias which seems to point to its continued use in the new dispensation. "For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 1:11). Furthermore it might seem strange, this neglect of the use of incense among the early Christians, when one recalls that it was one of the three offerings of the Magi at the birth of our Lord.

The fact that it was a Jewish usage may have tended to cause Christians to neglect it for so long, but what was probably a more powerful deterrent was its use among pagans and the common practice during the persecutions, particularly of the first century, of insisting that Christians should offer a few grains of incense on the altar of the Emperor as a mark of their renunciation of their faith. When apostates yielded in this way they were called Thurificati. Thus incense was anathema to the early Christians because of its association with paganism as well as Judaism and was not adopted into the Church's liturgy until paganism was dying out in Rome. In the light of the foregoing it is illogical to contend that the Church has copied a pagan practice.

It is not definitely known when this sacramental was introduced into the services of the Church. Its common employment in the Jewish temple and the New Testament references would suggest an early familiarity with it. St. Luke wrote: "And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared to them an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense" (Luke 1: 10). In Apocalypse 8: 4 we read: "And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel's hand."

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that "the earliest authentic reference to its use in the service of the Church is found in Pseudo-Dionysius," and Brightman's Eastern Liturgies says that its use is referred to in the Liturgies of Sts. James and Mark which, in their present form, are not older than the 5th century. Indeed, almost all the venerable Eastern liturgies attest to its use in the Mass, especially at the Offeratory. A seventh century Roman Ordo mentions that it was employed on Good Friday and in the procession of the bishop to the altar. A church in Antioch was presented with a thurible by a Persian king about the year 594.

During the later persecutions incense was used to honor the martyrs. As their bodies were carried to the catacombs or the crypts of the early churches for burial, small urns of incense burned in niches along the way. Later the gums and spices were burned in vessels suspended from chains and it is thought that from these evolved the swinging censers as we know them today. This custom may account for the practice of placing a few grains of frankincense with the relics of martyrs when they are entombed in altars.

In the Roman rite incense is burned at solemn high Mass, solemn blessings, functions, choral offices, processions and absolutions for the dead. There are two cases when it is used but not burned — the five grains put into the Pascal candle and, as mentioned before, the grains put into the sepulchre of consecrated altars.

At Mass it is blessed before it is burned. Before the Introit the priest blesses it, saying: "Mayest thou be blessed by Him in Whose honor thou art to be burnt. Amen." Between the Offering of the Chalice and the Lavabo the priest again blesses the incense, saying: "By the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel, who standeth at the right hand of the altar of incense, and of all His elect, may the Lord vouchsafe to bless this incense, and to receive it for an odor of sweetness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen." The sweet odor of the burning confection rising heavenward is a natural symbol of prayer ascending to God. "Let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice," sings David (Psalm 140: 2). Indeed these words form a portion of the prayer said by the priest as he incenses the altar...

In all the years man has discovered no finer odor for our Lord than that which emanates from the substance of the incense tree. "Mayest thou be blessed by Him in Whose honor thou art to be burned," says the priest. The tears of a wounded tree are twice blessed in the Mass. Twice blessed therefore is the creature of nature which, being wounded, gives up its fragrant tears in honor of Him who wept over Jerusalem; in honor of Him who was wounded and shed His precious blood for the whole world; in honor of Him whose unbounded love extends to all nature. All nature in turn serves Him, but the tears of olibanum are twice blessed.

The use of incense in the occult smudging ritual is completely different, since it allegedly has properties that can clear or cleanse supposed negative energies (or evil spirits) and/or bring “balance.” This is ascribing supernatural powers to a substance and/or to the ritual involved using it, but the basis for this belief rests on beliefs in unverified, unseen “energies" and "spirits." To burn sage, believing it has power to actually effect a change beyond fragrance, is to enter an occult worldview and call upon demons ("energies;" "spirits"). 


Smudging is usually done with smudge sticks, bundles of herbs that can be purchased or made with sage, cedar, sweetgrass, lavender, etc. During the smudging ceremony of a home, the person smudging is encouraged to focus his or her energy and control breathing. After the smudge stick is lit with a candle, the person waves the smudge stick in the air, often wafting the smoke with a feather, and walks around the house starting at the front door and moving clockwise. Extra attention is paid to the corners of rooms (which supposedly accumulate stagnant energy). Once the entire house has been ritually cleansed, the smudge stick is extinguished at the front door. Some people leave the smudge stick outside the front door, thinking it has protective power.

Some people also smudge themselves by directing the smoke around their body and through their aura. This is thought to cleanse them of negative or stagnant energy. Auras are the occult concept that human beings and other living things emanate subtle energy fields or fields of light, surrounding us like bubbles of power.

There is nothing inherently wrong with burning incense or using herbs to beautify the fragrance of one’s home, but that is not what smudging is about. As with all occult teachings, there is no medical or scientific evidence for its use, and it contradicts Church teaching. God is the one to whom we turn for help and protection, not spirits and energies. Want to be protected from evil? Use the approved sacramentals of the Church, like Holy Water, the St. Benedict crucifix medal, the Five-Fold Scapular, etc. Pray the rosary, pray to St. Michael the Archangel, and stay close to the Mass and sacraments.

"Be subject therefore to God, but resist the devil, and he will fly from you." (St. James 4:7). 

Monday, January 15, 2024

St. Anthony's Shrine


To My Readers: This week, my guest poster Lee, tells about a magnificent shrine here in the United States! I thank him for giving me a chance to catch up on my work, while providing high quality material for this blog. Feel free to ask questions and make comments for Lee to answer. If you have a comment or question specifically for me, I will answer as always, but it will take me longer to do so this week.

God bless you all, my dear readers---Introibo

St. Anthony's Shrine

By Lee

Throughout history, relics have carefully been preserved to commemorate those who came before us. Relics, whether they be that of saints or instruments of Christ's passion are not just used as tokens of honor, but in many cases, objects that produce miraculous effects. In the Old Testament we read in 2 Kings 13:20-21 that when Elisha died and was buried that some people burying another dead man cast the body into the grave of Elisha for fear of being raided by the Moabites. As soon as the body touched the bones of Elisha, the dead man came back to life and rose to his feet. In the New Testament, we also read in the gospel of St. Matthew 9:20-22 where a woman had a hemorrhage problem, touched the hem of Christ's garment, and was healed and in Acts 19:11-12 how God worked extraordinary miracles through St. Paul by the use of his handkerchiefs or cloths which had touched his skin, which when applied to the sick cured them of their diseases and evil spirits departed from them.

In the Holy Mass when a priest completes the prayers at the foot of the altar, the first prayers that come out of his mouth as he ascends to the altar are: Aufer a nobis, quaesumus, Domine, iniquitates nostras ut ad Sancta sanctorum puris mereamur mentibus introire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.Oramus te. Domine, per merita Sanctorum tuorum, quorum reliquiae hic sunt, et omnium Sanctorum: ut indulgere digneris omnia peccata mea. Translation: Take away from us our iniquities, O Lord, we beseech You, that we may enter with pure minds into the Holy of Holies. Through Christ our Lord. We beseech You, O Lord, by the merits of Your Saints whose relics lie here, and of all the Saints, deign in your mercy to pardon me all my sins.

The Man Who Made It Possible

Recognizing the historical and spiritual importance of relics, Fr. Suitbert Mollinger, a priest from the Civil War era, had a goal to start a shrine in the once industrious city of Pittsburgh PA, where he was stationed as a priest for three local churches.

Fr. Mollinger was the sixth of eight children born of Francois and Dorothea Mollinger in the Netherlands in 1828. The children were all raised Catholic because of their devout mother despite their father being Protestant. Having a vocation to the priesthood, Suitbert moved to the United States for his studies before being ordained in the 1850's.

Bishop Young of Erie PA incardinated him into his diocese on April 20th 1859 and assigned him to Brookville in Jefferson County as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish. Because of extensive duties in the mission churches, Father was not in agreement with Bishop Young on some matters up for question and consequently made the decision to join the Diocese of Pittsburgh PA with granted permission.

He was made the first pastor of St. Alphonsus Church in Wexford, founded by the Redemptorists. The parish was composed of Irish and German farmers. Additionally, he also served a mission church a short distance away in Perrysville. Construction was begun on a church building there, and the cornerstone for the new St. Teresa’s was laid by Bishop Domenec. Father worked at St. Alphonsus and Perrysville for over two years before his assignment as pastor of Most Holy Name Parish on Troy Hill. During this time Most Holy Name of Jesus, as well as St. Joseph’s Church in Manchester, was a mission of St. Mary’s, the Benedictine Parish on the North Side. Here he continued his duties starting in 1868.

Father Mollinger's Relics and Chapel

When Father Mollinger arrived in 1868, he brought with him from his earlier years his own collection of relics. Later his collection grew due to the European politics of his time. Italy and Germany were fighting for unification. The Italian resurgence attempted to unify Italy when the Papal States were annexed. Under the anti-Catholic revolutionaries Giuseppi Mazzini, Count Cavour, and Giuseppi Garibaldi this was accomplished. Over a period of 10 years between 1860 and 1870, the pontifical soldiers were defeated and the Church lost the Papal States. Monasteries were destroyed and relics were lost, later appearing in pawn shops and other obscure places. 

Father Mollinger was able to recover many of them on his own, as well as through contacts such as Father Hyacinth Epp, a Franciscan provincial who traveled to Europe. Meanwhile, in Germany, the Kulturkampf (cultural struggle) began under Otto Van Bismarck. Distrust towards Roman Catholics was a common doctrine among the liberals of the 19th century. The Kulturkampf was a political struggle between the Catholic Church and the Imperial German government. The main concern was state control of educational and ecclesiastical appointments. Bishops and priests were imprisoned and sees were left vacant. Many felt that precious reliquaries were insecure and thus were sent away from Germany from desecration. Father Mollinger was able to obtain many of them.

Father Mollinger had traveled to Europe in 1880 to bring back more relics. When he returned, he approached the Church committee with a proposal to build s bigger church where his relics would be kept. Realizing that the parish could not afford the expense of a new building, the committee voted against his proposal. Father Mollinger decided that he would finance a chapel with his private funds. The cornerstone was laid on the feast of St. Anthony, June 13, 1882, and exactly one year later the chapel was dedicated. As it stands, there are more than 5,000 relics in Saint Anthony Chapel, with 800 encased with 525 accompanying documents.

The Chapel Draws Attention

Many visitors came to Troy Hill and Most Holy Name Parish during the late 1870s because of Father Mollinger’s work. As his collection kept increasing, crowds of people constantly came to Troy Hill for different reasons, and especially for the Corpus Christi processions and the feast of St. Anthony. The Pittsburgh Catholic reported that on June 13, 1888, a crowd estimated around 6,000 gathered around the chapel in the morning for the 10:30 a.m. Solemn High Mass. From 1888 until 1892 crowds of people continued to inundate Troy Hill. The August 31, 1889, edition of the Pittsburgh Catholic states there was an astoundingly large crowd. In June of 1892, the work of the enlargement of the chapel was completed. It now measured 125 feet long and 50 feet wide. Inside which are still seen to this day, beautiful wood-carved life-size stations were imported from Germany; new stained-glass windows were put in; the marble for the altar was imported from Rome; a new organ and new bells were installed, and additional fresco work was done by Adolph Steubner.

Father Mollinger's Last Years

Father Mollinger suffered chronic rheumatism during the 1880s. He also suffered from edema and had to contend with an old rupture, which gave him much trouble. Two prominent physicians, Dr. King and Dr. Peach, attended him frequently. During the last two years of his life, he had great difficulty sleeping. Those close to him knew that he did not have long to live. (The following material comes from the journal kept by the School Sisters of Notre Dame at Most Holy Name Convent. We are not sure which sister wrote this account.)

On June 13, 1890, on the feast of Saint Anthony, there was an extraordinary number of people here. Six thousand, as some newspapers reported, attended on that day. Already several days before, all places of lodging were overcrowded. On the eve of the feast, no more rooms, public or private, were available even for great sums of money. People who came from far away had to spend the night in our schoolyard and on the church steps. Rev. Suitbert G. Mollinger, for longer periods of time, had half the church filled with the sick, whom he blessed daily, and spoke to each one individually and recommended medicine for them. 

On the day before the feast, and already some days before, the rooms downstairs, where he usually received the sick, were too small, so that he took them to the classrooms where he tended to them not only during the day but into the night until eleven and twelve o’clock. In consequence of this exertion, Rev. S.G. Mollinger became very ill. He had an attack of the dropsy. The doctors feared for his life. On July 14, he traveled to Atlantic City in hopes of being cured by the ocean air. But he improved only very slowly. When, however, he felt a little better, he pursued even there, in Atlantic City, his favorite occupation, blessing the sick in the same church where he celebrated holy Mass. 

On August 18, 1890, Rev. S.G. Mollinger returned home, but his health had not improved. He was so weak, that he could not even walk by himself from the carriage into the house. On August 31, we celebrated First Holy Communion for 41 girls and 39 boys, a greater number than ever before in our parish, Rev. S.G. Mollinger did not attend the celebration, he was too ill. In the afternoon, after the services the Communicants went to the rectory where they received their Communion pictures. On Sept. 2, our school started again. On the first day, nearly 60 children entered. The magnificent Saint Anthony Chapel had just been completed, but not yet consecrated. On June 11, 1892, our Rev. S.G. Mollinger had been with the Most Rev. Bishop to ask permission for celebrating Holy Mass on the Feast. Since the existing altar of the chapel had been consecrated many years ago permission was granted. Rev. S.G. Mollinger was overjoyed. 

On June 12, he asked for two Sisters to help him with the decoration of the chapel and the altars. All afternoon, he and the Sisters and several men were busy decorating. He sent for the most beautiful natural flowers and green plants. Rev. S.G. Mollinger did most himself. In the evening, the chapel was most beautiful. Rev. Mollinger couldn't sleep all night. Finally, at 4 o’clock, he arose and at 5 o’clock he celebrated Holy Mass and gave Holy Communion to several of the sick. At 8 o’clock, he was still sitting in OU1" yard when he called me to himself and said to me, how beautiful his chapel was, and that during Holy Mass he had seen St. Anthony who told him to take good care of himself. Several times he called me over and had something to tell me. It seemed as if he had a premonition that he should see me for the last time. 

At 9 o’clock, he felt already very ill. As every year, very many sick people were here from all over. Hundreds stood in front of the church and in the street, as the crowd was too large to fit into the church. As every year, Rev. Mollinger wanted to bless the sick after the High Mass. But because he felt already very ill, he took along Rev. C. Laengst, his best and faithful friend. While he was blessing the sick, he felt worse. After he had finished, he had to be assisted into the house. They had to let him lie on the floor, so intense were his pains. On June 14, they called Dr. King who diagnosed his condition as very dangerous, and consulted with three other doctors. On June 15, the doctors decided on one last means to save his life, an operation. But it was too late. Rev. S.G. Mollinger died at 2:00 p.m. on June 15,1892. His burial took place on June 18 at Most Holy Name Cemetery. 

Father Mollinger died peacefully with a crucifix in his hand on June 15, 1892. His earthly remains were laid to rest on June 18, 1892, at Most Holy Name of Jesus Cemetery, on Mt. Troy Road; his chapel stands to this day as a monument to his devotion and good works.

Church Teaching on Relics

The remains of a saint or a belonging of Christ or His holy mother are divided into three categories:

1. First-class relics are parts of the body of a saint or an instrument of Christ's passion.

2. Second-class relics are objects sanctified by close contact with saints, such as articles of clothing, objects used in life or in the case of a martyr, the instruments of his torture.

3. Third-class relics are objects or cloths touched to either a first or second class relic.

The veneration of relics goes back to the early Church, even since Apostolic times. By the fourth century, when Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, putting an end to the persecution of Christians, the monuments built over the graves of the martyrs were transformed into magnificent sanctuaries and basilicas. When churches were erected apart from the tombs of martyrs, the remains of one or the other of the martyrs were transferred and enshrined within the altars. This gave rise this practice even unto modern times where a saint's relic is enclosed on a flat stone in the center of the altar. 

Even Constantine's own mother St. Helen was well known for identifying the relics of the true cross by applying a sick woman to all three crosses and once the woman touched the true cross, was healed. While relics have demonstrated miracles and are associated with profound veneration, St. Jerome instructed that, "We do not worship, we do not adore for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate relics of the martyrs in order the better adore Him whose martyrs they are." Adding to that St. Cyril of Alexandria writes, "We by no means consider the holy martyrs to be gods, nor are we wont to bow down before them adoringly, but only relatively and reverentially."

During the Crusades relics were marketed and rated for there value. In 1204, with the taking of Constantinople, a great number of relics were captured and Antioch, Jerusalem, and Edessa were successfully sacked. Relics were sent back to enrich the churches and cathedrals. Crusaders were more interested in the possession of relics, than their commercial value. Fake relics were also multiplied in increasing numbers, both by enterprising charlatans along with theft for an exchange of those captured. In 1274, the Second Council of Lyons prohibited the veneration of new relics without the permission of the Roman Pontiff. Shortly after the Council's declarations, Bishop Quivil of Exeter wrote this: "We command the prohibition to be carefully observed by all, and decree that no person shall expose relics for sale, and that neither stones, nor fountains, trees, wood, or garments shall in any way be venerated on account of dreams or on fictitious grounds."

From there to a couple centuries later, the Protestant revolters, such as John Wycliffe to Martin Luther made their criticisms of relics, making the claims that it was idolatry or that it was an invention of the Church to detract from Sacred Scripture. 

In response to such nonsense, the Council of Trent later declared:

The holy council commands all bishops and others who hold the office of teaching and have charge of the cura animarum, that in accordance with the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times of the Christian religion, and with the unanimous teaching of the holy Fathers and the decrees of sacred councils, they above all instruct the faithful diligently in matters relating to intercession and invocation of the saints, the veneration of relics, and the legitimate use of images, teaching them that the saints who reign together with Christ offer up their prayers to God for men, that it is good and beneficial suppliantly to invoke them and to have recourse to their prayers, assistance and support in order to obtain favors from God through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our redeemer and savior; and that they think impiously who deny that the saints who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven are to be invoked, or who assert that they do not pray for men, or that our invocation of them to pray for each of us individually is idolatry, or that it is opposed to the word of God and inconsistent with the honor of the one mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ, or that it is foolish to pray vocally or mentally to those who reign in heaven. 

Also, that the holy bodies of the holy martyrs and of others living with Christ, which were the living members of Christ and the temple the Holy Ghost, to be awakened by Him to eternal life and to be glorified, are to be venerated by the faithful, through which many benefits are bestowed by God on men, so that those who maintain that veneration and honor are not due to the relics of the saints, or that these and other memorials are honored by the faithful without profit, and that the places dedicated to the memory of the saints for the purpose of obtaining their aid are visited in vain, are to be utterly condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned and now again condemns them.

 Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints are to be placed and retained especially in the churches, and that due honor and veneration is to be given them; not, however, that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them by reason of which they are to be venerated, or that something is to be asked of them, or that trust is to be placed in images, as was done of old by the Gentiles who placed their hope in idols; but because the honor which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which they represent, so that by means of the images which we kiss and before which we uncover the head and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likeness they bear. That is what was defined by the decrees of the councils, especially of the Second Council of Nicaea, against the opponents of images.

Moreover, let the bishops diligently teach that by means of the stories of the mysteries of our redemption portrayed in paintings and other representations the people are instructed and confirmed in the articles of faith, which ought to be borne in mind and constantly reflected upon; also that great profit is derived from all holy images, not only because the people are thereby reminded of the benefits and gifts bestowed on them by Christ, but also because through the saints the miracles of God and salutary examples are set before the eyes of the faithful, so that they may give God thanks for those things, may fashion their own life and conduct in imitation of the saints and be moved to adore and love God and cultivate piety. 

But if anyone should teach or maintain anything contrary to these decrees, let him be anathema. If any abuses shall have found their way into these holy and salutary observances, the holy council desires earnestly that they be completely removed, so that no representation of false doctrines and such as might be the occasion of grave error to the uneducated be exhibited. And if at times it happens, when this is beneficial to the illiterate, that the stories and narratives of the Holy Scriptures are portrayed and exhibited, the people should be instructed that not for that reason is the divinity represented in picture as if it can be seen with bodily eyes or expressed in colors or figures. Furthermore, in the invocation of the saints, the veneration of relics, and the sacred use of images, all superstition shall be removed, all filthy quest for gain eliminated, and all lasciviousness avoided, so that images shall not be painted and adorned with a seductive charm, or the celebration of saints and the visitation of relics be perverted by the people into boisterous festivities and drunkenness, as if the festivals in honor of the saints are to be celebrated with revelry and with no sense of decency.

Finally, such zeal and care should be exhibited by the bishops with regard to these things that nothing may appear that is disorderly or unbecoming and confusedly arranged, nothing that is profane, nothing disrespectful, since holiness becometh the house of God. That these things may be the more faithfully observed, the holy council decrees that no one is permitted to erect or cause to be erected in any place or church, howsoever exempt, any unusual image unless it has been approved by the bishop; also that no new miracles be accepted and no relics recognized unless they have been investigated and approved by the same bishop, who, as soon as he has obtained any knowledge of such matters, shall, after consulting theologians and other pious men, act thereon as he shall judge consonant with truth and piety.

But if any doubtful or grave abuse is to be eradicated, or if indeed any graver question concerning these matters should arise, the bishop, before he settles the controversy, shall await the decision of the metropolitan and of the bishops of the province in a provincial synod; so, however, that nothing new or anything that has not hitherto been in use in the Church, shall be decided upon without having first consulted the most holy Roman pontiff.


If anybody ever happens to be passing through Pittsburgh PA, St. Anthony's chapel is a must stop. Be forewarned that when visiting, hours are limited from 12-3 every day except Friday, so plan accordingly. Its unique history, along with its enormous collection should be an inspiration to Catholics and hopefully the conversion of non-Catholics. Despite being in the hands of the Vatican II religion, I would still consider this place very holy.

On another note, while this article was specifically about St. Anthony's shrine, the neighboring state of Ohio also can boast of a shrine like it. Having the second largest shrine of relics in America is that of Mariah Stine, located in the central western corner of the state. It has 1,200 relics, with an addition of 5 relics of the true cross. Instead of being located in the middle of the city such as St. Anthony's this place is tucked away in a farming area. The hours of operation are normal business hours (generally speaking) along with a gift shop, museum, outdoor stations with a small chapel. 

Monday, January 8, 2024

Severity Isn't Sanctity


One of the most unusual saints of the Church was St. Simeon Stylites the Elder. The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 has this to say about him:

 Simeon the Elder, was born about 388 at Sisan, near the northern border of Syria. After beginning life as a shepherd boy, he entered a monastery before the age of sixteen, and from the first gave himself up to the practice of an austerity so extreme and to all appearance so extravagant, that his brethren judged him, perhaps not unwisely, to be unsuited to any form of community life. Being forced to quit them he shut himself up for three years in a hut at Tell-Neschin, where for the first time he passed the whole of Lent without eating or drinking. 

This afterwards became his regular practice, and he combined it with the mortification of standing continually upright so long as his limbs would sustain him. In his later days he was able to stand thus on his column without support for the whole period of the fast. After three years in his hut, Simeon sought a rocky eminence in the desert and compelled himself to remain a prisoner within a narrow space less than twenty yards in diameter. But crowds of pilgrims invaded the desert to seek him out, asking his counsel or his prayers, and leaving him insufficient time for his own devotions. 

This at last determined him to adopt a new way of life. Simeon had a pillar erected with a small platform at the top, and upon this he determined to take up his abode until death released him. At first the pillar was little more than nine feet high, but it was subsequently replaced by others, the last in the series being apparently over fifty feet from the ground.

Many Traditionalists make the mistake of equating severity of mortification with holiness. They believe that more austere your live your life, the more holy you become; this is false. Certain Catholics of certain temperaments may reach sanctity with such mortification, but only very rarely and usually under strict supervision by a spiritual director.   

This idea equating being holy with being strict has another dangerous consequence. Some people of the "recognize and resist" (R&R) crowd will use this notion to "prove" past popes were "liberal" and introduced practices harmful to the Church. The reason these practices were allegedly "harmful" was because they were not as strict as before.

I came across a blog entitled A Catholic Life, run by a man named Matthew who is a "conservative" member of the Vatican II sect and a a Third Order Dominican from Chicago who considers himself "an expert on Catholicism." The post was entitled, How St. Pius X & the 1917 Code of Canon Law Liberalized Fasting, Abstinence, and Holy Days of Obligation. It may be read in full here:

In his conclusion to that post, he writes:
Saints are not perfect. While we can certainly praise many of St. Pius X's actions, it would be imprudent to endorse all of them - and conversely to always dismiss any modern churchmen by the fact that they are not from before Vatican II. Discernment and critical thinking is necessary with anything. As it concerns Holy Days of Obligation, fasting, and abstinence, St. Pius X introduced liberal practices that only accelerated the collapse of Catholic practices. The practices in place under St. Pius X are shadows of former times, and those practices were weakened quickly so that by 1962 they were even weaker! (Emphasis mine). 

That saints are not perfect, I concede. That a true pope can "introduce practices that accelerate the collapse of Catholic practices," I deny.  It would mean that Pope St. Pius X, introduced "liberal" practices that were not truly Catholic. However, this is impossible. 

According to theologian Van Noort, "The Church's infallibility extends to the general discipline of the can never sanction a universal law which would be at odds with faith or morality or would by its very nature conducive to the injury of souls...The Church's infallibility extends to the general discipline of the Church...By the term "general discipline of the Church" are meant those ecclesiastical laws passed for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living." (See Dogmatic Theology, 2: 114-115; Emphasis mine).

According to theologian Hermann, "The Church is infallible in her general discipline. By the term general discipline is understood the laws and practices which belong to the external ordering of the whole Church. Such things would be those which concern either external worship, such as liturgy and rubrics, or the administration of the sacraments…" ( See Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae 1:258; Emphasis mine).

Therefore, to be infallible in this sense means that the Church cannot give that which is erroneous, evil, or an incentive to impiety. It does not mean that once a certain ceremony or practice has been adopted by the Church it cannot change; rather, the new ceremony or practice will also be infallibly guaranteed to be free from error, evil, and impiety. Logical corollary: If the Pian changes involving Holy Days of Obligation, fasting, and abstinence were approved by a true pope (Pope St. Pius X), then it must be just good, holy, and Catholic as it was prior to those changes. 

The logical corollary to Matthew's position is that, if a true pope can introduce things in the Church that lead to/accelerate the "collapse of Catholic practices," and can still be a true pope (and a saint), the same would hold for Roncalli (John XXIII) through Bergoglio (Francis). 

This post will address the error that "severity = sanctity."

In Defense of Pope St. Pius X
Matthew's post opens thus:
Pope St. Pius X is regarded as a champion by traditionalists for good reasons. There is no doubting his personal sanctity and the motivations that inspired some of his actions (e.g., lowering the age for First Holy Communion and recommending frequent - even daily - reception of our Lord in Holy Communion). His crusade against modernism and his actions for the liberty of the Church and for the spread of Christ's reign are certainly praiseworthy.

But we who have the luxury of seeing how history unfolded can observe how this holy pope's actions in regards to holy days of obligation, fasting, and abstinence sadly led to a collapse of Catholic practice. We would do well to keep the practices before St. Pius X, which had already been eroded by dispensations and changes for several centuries. St. Pius X merely helped accelerate this erosion.

At issue in "accelerating the collapse of Catholic practice" (allegedly going on for centuries under many preceding true popes), is Pope St. Pius X's Supremi disciplin√¶ in 1911 which reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation in the Universal Church, and relaxed the laws of abstinence and fasting. The 1917 Code of Canon Law (begun under St. Pius and promulgated when finished under Pope Benedict XV) is also a universal disciplinary law of the Church and protected by the Holy Ghost from giving anything evil or erroneous to the Church. It incorporated changes to those same topics and is also the subject of Matthew's scorn.

Why did Pope St. Pius X make such changes? Were the changes non-Catholic, or a danger to the Faith? There is a book written by theologian Hilling in German that addresses these questions. Published in 1912, it is entitled  The Reforms of Pope Pius X : In the Field of Canon Law Legislation. (I had it translated from German to English). Here's what he wrote regarding these reforms just one year after they were made:

The Church's ordinance of feast days is an important subject of religious duties, which, like annual confession and communion, are included in the catalog of the commandments of the Church. It was therefore to be expected from the outset that the general revision of canon law would also deal with the question of feast days. A well-founded reason to improve the existing ordinance of feast days was given in particular by the fact that (1) the great differences in the ecclesiastical disciplinary regulations in the individual countries were felt to be increasingly burdensome as a result of modern transportation conditions and (2) the industrial and economic situation of the present day, namely the increase in prices for living expenses, made it desirable in many regions to reduce the number of feast days. As a result, the Holy See has repeatedly received requests to reduce the number of official feasts, especially in recent years.

Pope Pius X therefore felt compelled to take account of the needs of the times and the wishes of the bishops in the motu proprio "Supremi disciplinae" of July 2, 1911, and to reduce the number of feast days. Having previously sought the advice of the Congregation of Cardinals for the Codification of Canon Law, he made the following provisions...

The most important provision of the motu proprio "Supremi disciplinae" is undoubtedly the reduction of the ecclesiastical order of feast days to the eight feast days mentioned... In my opinion, it cannot be denied that the selection of the feasts which will henceforth be valid according to universal law has been made with a careful and happy hand. Of the feast days of the Lord, of course, Holy Easter (Sunday), Ascension Day and Pentecost (Sunday) form the iron foundation of the ecclesiastical year, which has probably never been thought to be diminished. In addition, the feasts of the Circumcision and the Transfiguration of the Lord were retained. Presumably, civic reasons were decisive for the preservation of the first and historical reasons for the second. Both motives are important enough to be approved by everyone....

It is probably the fate of all great reform undertakings that they arouse fierce opposition from their enemies, but are sometimes received with some astonishment by their friends and supporters, and sometimes celebrated with exaggerated enthusiasm. This experience was also confirmed anew with the reform laws of Pius X. The battle that has been waged by the faithless sons of the Catholic Church and the outside representatives of unbelief and religious liberalism against the powerful proclamations of the Apostolic See is still raging with all its strength. On the other hand, the antagonisms among Catholics, who, although all on the ground of the papal decrees, have nevertheless criticized some of the practical measures, have fortunately been mitigated

In the interest of a happy implementation of the papal reform provisions, it is to be hoped that all fearful and anxious minds will regard the new regulations of our Holy Father with love and benevolence. (pgs. 196-198; Emphasis mine). 

Theologian Hilling outlines all the changes decreed by Pope St. Pius. He includes the following principles to fully understand the import of papal decrees:

Bishop Adolf Bertram of Hildesheim recommended the following rules of conduct to his diocese, which also apply to other dioceses, and deserve to be heeded. "When new noise arises about papal decrees, keep the following rules in future. First: above all, we must have the sure, correct text in faithful translation. Secondly, we must know what prompted the Holy Father to issue new decrees, and what the purpose of his decree is when interpreted intelligently. Thirdly, wait and see what practical application your bishops give to the decrees. - Act according to these sound principles. Refuse to believe all inflammatory attacks. Confront them with the awareness of your Christian dignity...Above all this, keep your confident trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whose assistance is promised to the pastoral office of our Church for all times!"(Ibid; Emphasis mine).

We see that the pope, after careful deliberation and consultation with cardinals/theologians, amended the Holy Days and fasting/abstinence rules to comport with the spiritual and civil needs of Catholics. Needing to work more due to secularization, and needing strength to work, His Holiness did what was needed under the protection of the Holy Ghost. Remember too, that the pope was not forbidding anyone from attending Mass on any given day, nor was he prohibiting anyone from voluntarily fasting and abstaining from meat.  If I were able to go to Mass daily, I would do so out of love of my Lord Jesus Christ and to receive Him in Holy Communion, not because it is a sin. Imagine the problems and burdening of consciences if the Church had required daily Mass attendance under pain of mortal sin. 

The wisdom of Bishop Bertram can likewise be seen in applying those wise principles to a true pope (exonerating any charges of error or evil) and a false pope like Bergoglio, which serves to prove his non-papacy. 

Pope Pius XII on Fasting
Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958) bore the brunt of  unjust criticism of his reforms in the 1950s. While this was the first time I saw Pope St. Pius X excoriated, Pope Pius XII is routinely on the receiving end of harsh criticism for his Holy Week changes and shortening of the Eucharistic fast from midnight before Communion, to three hours. Hopefully, everyone can now see how unfounded those charges are, and how absurd is the allegation that the reforms of Pope St. Pius X "led to" the changes that became Vatican II. 

Pope Pius XII allowed for evening Mass to accommodate those needing to work in an ever more secularized world. To keep the Eucharistic Fast from midnight until Mass at 8pm, would require someone to go without food for approximately 21 hours. Most people could not sustain such a fast without serious hardship on their daily work and causing physical health issues. That wise mitigated fast is there to be used, but if someone wants to fast from midnight (and can physically do so) they certainly can. To suggest this "led to" Montini's one hour "fast" where you can walk up to the Vatican II sect "Eucharistic minister" on a Saturday evening (while belching up your dinner) to get a cracker placed in your hand and chew it like cud is absurd. 

The correct view on fasting was given by Pope Pius XII on Nov. 2, 1950, in an address to the Cardinals and Bishops present in Rome for the solemn proclamation of the Assumption.

In order to react against this lack of restraint [lack of the spirit of sacrifice and mortification], We exhort and urge all and every one to freely take up the spiritual warfare under the banner of Christian mortification and of the generous desire to go beyond what is strictly prescribed by the moral law—each one according to his strength, according to the invitations of God’s grace, according to what his work allows him to do. (Emphasis mine). 

Fasting is only a means of sanctification when united to the spirit of charity. If you're only fasting because it is a sin not to do so, you are lukewarm in the practice of the Faith. What did Jesus Christ say about being lukewarm? So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to vomit you out of my mouth. (Apocalypse 3:16). 

Here's what the Church Fathers said about fasting:
St. Cesariaus of Arles wrote:
Fasting is good, almsgiving is better… If one cannot fast, almsgiving is sufficient… But fasting without almsgiving is no good, unless one be too poor to give; in which case the good will suffices

Pope St. Gregory the Great writes in his Regula pastoralis:
Fasting is recommended only because of the other virtues which accompany it; hence Joel says: "sanctify your fast"… Those who fast, therefore, should be warned that their abstinence will be pleasing to God, only if they give to the poor the food of which they deprive themselves.

It is against both Catholic teaching (and common sense) to attack the reforms of a true pope. When fasting and abstaining, always do it with charity. Severity is not sanctity. As a matter of fact, Pope St. Pius X recommended to us the easiest way to get to Heaven:

Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven. There are others: innocence, but that is for little children; penance, but we are afraid of it; generous endurance of trials of life, but when they come we weep and ask to be delivered. The surest, easiest, shortest way is the Eucharist. (Emphasis mine).