Rosie, Pope Benedict did not move the Church backwards

One of Toronto’s local newspapers, The Toronto Star, published a scathing editorial on the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI titled: Pope Benedict XVI pushed the Catholic Church backward. This particular author frustrates me so consistently that I am not sure I should respond out of fear of being uncharitable. She demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding (or even caring) how the Church functions or why it does what it does.

For example, she writes: “[He] has not always played nice with . . . Jews (Benedict lifted the excommunication of a bishop who openly denied the Holocaust)”

Rosie is conflating two unrelated issues here. She links this particular Bishop’s excommunication (Bishop Richard Williamson) with his denial of the holocaust. One had nothing to do with the other. He was excommunicated over 20 years ago for being illicitly made a Bishop without Papal approval. This was declared an act of schism. He is one of four Bishops with the traditionalist group Society of St. Pius X who were similarly censured.

The excommunication was lifted in 2009 in an attempt to bring them back into the fold. Unfortunately, just days prior, Williamson had made a statement on TV denying the holocaust. As unfortunate (and deplorable) as this is, it is unconnected with the reason for his excommunication. At the time, the Vatican clearly stated that:

Williamson’s views were “absolutely indefensible.” But he denied that rehabilitating Williamson implied that the Vatican shared them. “They are his personal ideas … that we certainly don’t share but they have nothing to do with the issue of the excommunication and the removal of the excommunication. . . (1)

I suppose, Rosie thinks only perfect people should be in the Church (by her definition of course). The Church is not a museum for saints, it’s a hospital for sinners. In any case, relations between SSPX and the Vatican are not all sunshine and roses and there still exists a lot of work to be done to regularize them. I do not know if Rosie made that connection out of ignorance or malice. Either way, she is demonstrating her lack of qualification to write this piece.

Someone I knew from Tyndale University, Wayne Veenstra, has penned an excellent rebuttal. Remarkably, Wayne is a Protestant but knows when to call a spade a spade and take a stand for theological correctness. I highly commend the article to your reading.

A (Rare) Protestant Defense of a Catholic Pope

Popes do not teach unpopular things because they’ve become a necessary part of their identity. The absence of divine revelation in her framework for understanding religion is again part of the fundamental worldview clash between a theologically liberal understanding of religion and historic Christianity. The recognition that God had spoken clearly in the Scriptures and through the person and work of Jesus Christ is essential to the Christian faith—both Catholic and Protestant—and so long as this is overlooked there will be very different rubrics for assessing the work of Church leaders.

Well said Wayne. Blessings.

(1) Pope lifts excommunication of 4 bishops

Papal Roundup

Hi all,

Three things that Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement shows me:

  1. The timing of the retirement, just before the Lenten/Easter season, seems to show that he felt great urgency to step aside. Perhaps his health is worse than is known.
  2. The high respect for the office he holds. I can only imagine how gruelling that job must be. His abdication demonstrates that rather than continue in a job he feels he can’t do to full effectiveness, it is better to make way for God to install someone better able.
  3. The manner in which both John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s Pontificate’s ended is/was inspiring and they serve as good examples, especially to those of us in any form of Church leadership. John Paul II chose to run the church as spiritual leader, leading through suffering, and this was greatly inspiring. But, the manner of Benedict XVI’s abdication demonstrates great humility and courage. How many world leaders knowingly step aside and give up power and status?

Also, he has one more encyclical in the works. It will apparently still be released but not as a Papal encyclical.

Here’s a roundup of some articles from around web. Some from Catholics, many not.

Pope Benedict XVI set to retire



I’m sure you’ve heard this already, but I thought it worth posting about. The text of his statement is here:

“Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”

Here’s the full article from one of Canada’s National Newspapers.

Not gonna lie… I love a good conclave.

A response from the Women’s Ordination Conference

Fair is fair so here is a FAQ of answers to questions people have posed about the Ordain a Lady video. When I wrote about it I mentioned my biggest concern was the lyric “Don’t listen to St. Paul…”. Their response is:

The phrase in the video refers very specifically to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, in which Paul wrote: “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church”

Opponents of women’s ordination often use this one misogynistic quote to try and validate the male-only priesthood and why women shouldn’t preach. We are constantly up against this quote. However, in the great words of St. Theresa of Avila, “about the injunction of the Apostle Paul that women should keep silent in church? Don’t go by one text only.” So true. St. Paul also has many wonderful quotes, including being attributed to, “there is no free nor, slave, and no woman nor man, no Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28).

 And quite honestly, “Paul” easily rhymed with “call.”


There you go.

Clarifying Purgatory

My friend Ryan who blogs over at has written a great article on the various definitions of words that you need to know when discussing Hell. He divides the definitions into four categories: ‘The Purpose of Hell’, ‘Who Goes to Hell’, ‘Who Decides Who Goes to Hell’, and ‘The Nature of the Soul’.

I just wanted to make a quick addition to the discussion to hopefully prevent some confusion surrounding one idea. Under ‘The Purpose of Hell’ Ryan lists three common purposes: “Torture, Extinction, and Purification/Purgatory”.

Under Purification/Purgatory, Ryan provides the following explanation:

Purification/Purgatory: This understanding comes largely from Scripture’s fire metaphor almost always being about purification. It’s painful purification, but the end-result is to be shaped into something better, much like suffering in this life can shape us into something better if we let it.

My main concern here is the notion of equating purgatory with an understanding of hell. I venture to say that when most people hear the word “purgatory” they think of the Catholic Church. In the Catholic understanding purgatory is not a substitute for Hell, nor is it a place per se. It is a process, an intermediate state of being between the now and heaven – the holy car wash. It is where purification takes place, but the only people who are eligible to enter purgatory are those already destined for Heaven. Hell still very much exists but this is not it. Purgatory then is not understood to be a replacement for Hell, nor is it Limbo (a holding place for souls with no known destination – originally conceived of to deal with the question of children who died before they were baptized. This theology was dumped years ago and the word does not appear in the Catechism).

With regards to Purgatory paragraph 1030-1031 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.

Does it hurt? As Pope Benedict XVI explains in his Encyclical Spe Salvi, yes, but it’s pain with a purpose:

His gaze, the touch of his heart, heals us through an undeniably painful transformation ‘as through fire.’ But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the interrelation between justice and grace also becomes clear: The way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us forever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth, and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion. At the moment of judgment we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.

So, in the Catholic understanding it would be untrue to connect purgatory with Hell except that those in purgatory aren’t going there. Hell still very much exists as the place where those who do not die in God’s grace go.

As the Catechism states:

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

This is not an argument against Ryan’s fine article (nor an affirmation of purgatory), but a point of clarification. Purgatory is a contentious issue for non-Catholics and is often misunderstood. It is important to know what something is if we are going to discuss it. If you haven’t yet, go read Ryan’s original article, it’s great for giving us a common language from which to have discussion.

The wrong approach to women’s ordination [video]

I fully support the ordination of woman to the clergy, but this video from the Women’s Ordination Conference is the wrong way to go about it. It’s too bad too because this could have been done so well to such great effect. They discredit themselves in the first 20 seconds when they sing “Don’t listen to St. Paul ’cause I can lead they way”? Seriously, don’t listen to Scripture? Now, I happen to think Scripture can be faithfully read to support women’s ordination, but this is not the way to promote your position.

So, take a look and leave a comment below.

Vatican II & Year of Faith

For my Catholic readers, today is the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). Here are some articles from around the internet, for, against, and possibly neutral.

Pope Marks 50th Anniversary of Vatican II (Associated Press)

Vatican II at 50 (Washington Post)

Vatican II changed The Catholic Church  – And the World (Huffington Post)

What Happened at Vatican II (And How to Pray 50 years later) (desiring God)

The Second Vatican Council What Was it and why is it important today (CCCB)

Also, today marks the start of the Year of Faith. This is a great initiative that I think other churches or denomination might do well to emulate.


Annus Fidei