A History of the Church to 1500 A.D.
Theology for the Laity Series
Altar Girls / Franciscan Spirituality and the 13th Century
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In speaking with Father Downeywe have agreed then, Father, Id have class
on the 22nd and 29th of May22nd and 29th of Mayto make up for the two classes
that were missed earlier in the year.
Then, since Im sure this is on everyones mind, Id like to briefly read to
you from a communiqué I received from Rome yesterday regarding the altar serverswomen,
therefore, serving at the altar. I have been asked to make public comment which
I have not made, and Id rather not make any public commentary now too, except
to state certain facts.
It seems that the official newspaper of the Holy See, Observitore Romano,
has still even to mention the fact that altar girls have been approved. It would
seem, my informant tells me, that the policy of the Holy See is to downplay
the significance of the event. It is based on an interpretation of Canon 230
in the Code of Canon Law. It is said that the Holy Father personally reviewed
the decision already back in JulyJuly the11th, 1992, and ordered it to be promulgated.
It is not clear why the issue is being kept, you might say, so quiet and secretive
except that there has been an uproar. The official decision on Canon 230 made
by the Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, as approved by the
Holy Father, it is due to be published in the next new volume of the Actsa
Apostoli Dulcedis. Until it appears there it is not yet official.
All the evidence indicates that the reason for the approval of altar girls
came from a strong representation by bishops in the United States. Now I have
the document here in Italian. It is signed by the Prefect for the Congregation
for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and is dated March the15th
of this year. And its in answer to a question whether both men and women can
participate in assisting in the liturgy, and the answer is in the affirmative
according to instructions given by the Holy See. In other words, the document
approving women altar servers stands here approved by this Congregation for
Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It does not, at least what
I have; it does not include a formal statement by the pope.
Among other questions that this raises, so my Roman informant tells me, is
the age of the women who participate as altar servers, which is not a minor
matter. In any case, this letter states, as far back, therefore, as 1992 there
had been a formal approval for altar servers being women given, first by this
congregation, and then, about two weeks later, by the Holy Father approving
the decision of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. It is,
however, to be voted on, and voted on by the bishopsConference of Bishops in
the different countriesand it says they can, they need not, however, as Conference
of Bishops, give the approval, they can give the approval. Indeed, this is not
only dependent on the Conference of Bishops but on each individual bishop in
his diocese. And the question then remains what will, say, the Council of Bishops
in the United States do, having been, according to this information, been behind,
pressuring, urging that women altar servers be approved by Rome? What then will
the Conference of American Bishops vote on and will they vote on collectively
the approval of altar servers as girls, whether each individual bishop, apparently
not, would not be bound by the decision of the Conference of Bishops. We may
say, therefore, that this only the beginning of what I firmly believe will be
a highly controversial issue for months, maybe even years to come. No question
that bishops have tremendous power, and as we know, and this is a pattern for
over thirty years, in one country after another, the bishops take it upon themselves
to jump the gun, to approve what is not approved by general law for the Church,
and then, post factum, after a practice has become widespread, then they
appeal to the Holy See to approve what they had been doing without even consulting
the Holy See, as, for example, Communion in the hand.
This is what I would like to share with you as we begin our second class. Would
you mind passing these on?
You should all have copies of the Analysis of Franciscan Spirituality.
Over the years, I have taught Franciscan Spirituality as a regular course of
two semesters. Two Franciscans who wanted to better understand the spirituality
of their founderbesides, Im sure Ive told you, my mother was for years a
Franciscan tertiary and buried in a Franciscan habit.
The outline in nine parts I would like cover in class today are the dominant
features of the spirit of St. Francis for today. Remember the origin of St.
Francis. He lived at the dawn of the modern age where economicsthe money dimension
of western societybecame so prominent historians speak of the dawn of capitalism
being in the early thirteenth century when St. Francis of Assisi lived.
First, His Prayer Of Praise
St. Francis did not leave us many authentic writingshis Rule of Life, his
Last Will and Testament, and some prayers. So many of St. Francis writings,
though identified with his name, cannot be proved to be authentically his composition.
In general, for Francis, the focus of his paraphrase, as he calls it, was adoration
of Gods greatness as reflected in His creatures. In this St. Francis has been
done a great injustice. He is pictured so often with animalsbirds, other animalsas
though he loved animals somehow for their own sake. That is not true. For St.
Francis the whole world and, with emphasis, the animal world was a reflection
of the greatness, the beauty, and the variety of Gods own perfections.
Then, his love of Gods goodness. For Francis, Gods goodness was Gods sharing
with His creatures what He, as God, possessed from all eternity. He never had
toif no single creature had been made, God would not have deprived anyone of
anything they had a right to. The single most important premise in Franciscan
spirituality is we have a right to nothing from God. And the word is nothing.
And the word is nothing. We can claim nothing from God as though we had a right
even to come into existence. We go on
Devotion To Christs Passion
St. Francis, as we know, is one of the few saints whose stigmata, that is,
carrying the Wounds of Jesus Crucified, in his hands, feet, head, and side,
have been not only approved by the Church, but there is an annual feast day
to honor the stigmata of St. Francis. And Ive told you this on some occasions.
Would anybody rememberanybody rememberthe feast day of the Stigmata of St.
Francis? What day is it? Anybody remember?
October? October 4th? October 4th? Was it some time
What did she say?
17th? You say 17th? Multo bene!
In the 16th and early 17 centuries there were some cardinals in the Vatican
who thought we have, thought we have too many feast days has dropped some. And
one of the feast days they dropped or wanted to drop was the feast day of the
Stigmata of St. Francis. A Jesuit by the name of Robert Bellarmine was a cardinal
at the time. He said, Over my dead body! Nobody drops the Feast of the Stigmata
of St. Francis! He fought for retaining that feast and he won. The feast remained
on the books. And then, when Robert Bellarmine died, he died on the feast of
the Stigmata of St. Francis. That shows how appreciative Francis could be.
He had a great devotion to Christs Passion. Why? Because it is Christs Passion
that especially manifests Gods love for us. God became man out of love for
us so He might be able to suffer, and the more often I say it afterwards, people
either get tired of hearing it or maybe in some little teeny weenie bit they
get the idea! God became man so He would be able to suffer!
Well, we dont have to go through any process of incarnation. We are human
beings. But the secret is to choose to suffer in order to then love God the
way He loved us an assimilation to Christs sufferings. And the holier God wants
us to becomehear it, and dont close your ears, hear itthe more you will have
to suffer. Oh no! Sorry, oh yes! But I dont like to suffer! Silly, who does?
But we can love what we dont like!
Number Three, The Holy Eucharist
Francis never was ordained a priest, considered himself unworthy of the priesthood.
But he had a great respect for the priesthood and that grew out of his deep
faith in the Holy Eucharist. My priestly vocation began at my mothers knee
when shed read The Little Flowers of St. Francis and his great
devotion to the Holy Eucharist. No question, not a shred of doubt in Francis
mind, that Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the same identical Jesus who lived
in Palestine, died on Calvary, and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Christ, therefore, is now on earth. He is present so that we would be present
too and that is why, again, over the centuries, the great religious orders and
communities with special devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament trace
their origin to St. Francis, Francis profound insight into the Real Presence.
And its well to know that in his day, as you read, well, about how callous
and indifferent so many Catholics were in Francis day of reverence for the
Blessed Sacrament, about not worshipping Our Lord. Well, Francis was told, remember,
to rebuild His Church. Christ telling Francis. He took that literally. Remember?
What was really meant was rebuild the Church which is in desperate need of
Amen, the Catholic Church today is in desperate need of reform, and the word
is desperate need, of reform from top down. And that reformation is to especially
reform the episcopate and the priesthood.
Section Four, The Practice Of Poverty
In most peoples minds St. Francis is the model of living a life of poverty.
Remember he was the son of a wealthy Italian merchant.
Suppose I read from this book, say a prayer we get it back into print. Number
19 is St. Francis of Assisi. I like to read from this book: The Founder of
the Franciscan Order, St. Francis of Assisi, 1181 to 1226. He didnt live very
long, did he?
and left a very little of his deep spirituality in writing.
Yet few men in the Churchs history have more widely influenced the literature
of Christianity than he. Born in Assisi in Umbria, the son of a prosperous merchant,
Pietro Bernardoni, he was named after France, if you please, where his father
was on business at the time his son was born. While taking part in an attack
on Perugia in 1201, Francis made a prisoner and kept in hostage there for a
year. This experience with a grave illness started the process of his conversion.
Yet four years later he was another military exposition, this time in Apulia.
In a dream Christ called him to His service. Francis returned and gave himself
to the care of the sick. In another vision on April the 16th,
1206, Christ told him to rebuild the Church at San Damiano. The result
was that Francis completely abandoned his old life while his father first imprisoned
him and then hauled him before the bishop. He gave up all his possessions. In
1209 he was joined by two companions to whom he gave, as a rule, three gospel
texts, Matthew 10:9, Matthew 20:21, and Luke 9:23. When his companions numbered
eleven, he wrote a short rule and led them to Rome to obtain the approval of
Pope Innocent III.
What a thrill I had, talking to my Vatican superior this morning which I want
to share with you before we break up today. For me, Gods will is what the Holy
Father and the Holy See tell me to do. And theyre not about getting orders.
Thats Francis. In 1212 his ideas were accepted by a noble lady of Assisi, the
future St. Clare. Meanwhile, Francis was able to inspire so many followers,
and by 1217, they had to be organized into provinces with ministers, they
were called, appointed as supervisors. Gradually, Francis direction of the
order passed into the hands of other friars. In 1221 he formed the tertiaries,
or faithful living in the world, who agreed to adopt Francis spirit as far
as they could in their state of life. The formal rule was authorized by Honorius
III in 1223. A year later, Francis received the gift of the stigmata. He died
in the Chapel of the Portuncula on October the 3rd, 1226 and was
canonizedthe shortest period between death and canonization in the history
of the Churchhe was canonized less than two years later by Pope Gregory IX.
One reason for the foregoing sketch is that the most eloquent biography of
St Francis was his own personal life. Yet he did write and there are more authentic
writings than most people realize. The best one volume work that identifies
Francis written and spoken words is titled The Words of St. Francis,
by James Meyer, M-E-Y-E-R, O.F.M. The best collection of writings by and about
St. Francis is The English Omnibus of the Sources,
English Omnibus of the Sources.
The testament of St. Francis, his two rules for the Friars, his rule for the
Poor Clares, and his final rule for the third order encapsulate the legacy that
St. Francis left to posterity.
Are the writings of St. Francis, including his letters, canticles, and admonitions,
give out the portrait of a man whom posterity has called, quote: the most lovable
of the saints, unquote. What may be overlooked from the writings of the pavrabello, as he is called, or little poor one is his simple
and total commitment to the Catholic Church. The following quotations from his
first rule illustrate the depth of his commitment. Quote:
That Brother Francis and whoever will be head of this order promise obedience
and reverence to the Lord, Pope Innocent, and the rest of the brothers are bound
to obey Brother Francis and his successors. Nobody is to be received contrary
to the matter and form of Holy Church. All the brothers shall be Catholic and
live and speak like Catholics. Should anyone, however, stray from the Catholic
faith in life, in speech, or fact, and not amend, he shall be expelled from
the brotherhood. All who in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church wish to serve
God and Lord, all we lesser brothers and useless servants beg and entreat them
to persevere in the true faith and in repentance, for there is no other way
for anybody to be saved.
So, now the Practice of Poverty
The first practice of poverty of St. Francis
was the Incarnation. The Incarnation is Gods impoverishment, and then, literally,
Francis wanted to be poor like Christ down to the fact that like Jesus was born
in a stable, and lived a poor life, and died a stranger, is that we then might
imitate Our Lord and love poverty.
Then The Source Of Spiritual Joy
There are two kinds of happiness that Francis talks aboutthe interior happiness
of possessing God, and the exterior cheerfulness of conduct. May I recommend
to all of you to look to your practice of happiness? We have a duty to show
ourselves happy because our practice of the faith should be appealing. People
must see us happy in loving Christ and enjoyingenjoying this cross. Thats
real. And then, of course, we show this also externally by our cheerfulness.
Number Six, The Attitude To Gods Creatures
Indications of Gods presence
My favorite definition of nothing: Nothing
is where God is absent. Where any creatures exist, God is present. Thats the
theological definition of presence, of existence. Again, creatures,
for Francis are the expressions of the Divine Will. That is one way God manifests
His Will. How does He do that? Through the creatures that enter our lives. Some
are pleasantthat is one way God manifests His Presence. Some are unpleasant.
Same thing. God wants to manifest His divine attributes and show us what He
wants us to do. And thus, for example, if there are people in our lives that
we find difficult to accept or live with, what is that except God telling us,
Look. Ive put this person into your life so you may show how much you love
But she is cruel! She doesnt like me. Doesnt even talk to me.
Look! How often do I have to put it through yourthrough your thick skull?
The colder she is, the more uncouth and unkind, the more I want you to love
her because by going out to her you are showing your love for Me.
But I dont like her.
How long do I have to tell you? This has nothing to do with whether you like
her or not. Do you love Me?
Yes, Lord, I do.
All right. Stop the nonsense.
Then, creatures that enter our livesthis is Francisare invitations to gratitude.
And there are different kind of creatures. Now pleasant creatures that we are
to enjoy Oh Lord more of those, please, more of thoseand there are painful
creatures that we have to endure. Same thing. They are opportunities for showing
our gratitude to God. There are still othersOh, no! You mean God puts into
our lives creatures He wants us to throw out? Yes! To get rid of? Yes!
Im sure Ive said more than once Ill be giving a retreat in May, to men before
Mothers Day, and quite a few executives, almost every retreat, theyve got
problems with their secretaries. So I can see their problem. Shes a temptation.
But if shes a temptation, youve got to remove her from your life.
But Father! Ive never had a secretary as faithful as this one.
So what? Out!
But Father! Shes so efficient!
Stop it. Get rid of her.
All right, all right,
And the more pleasant a creature is, if it is Gods Will that we remove that
creature from our lives, its Gods Will, dont ask. Well, whether you like
it or not, that has nothing to do with it. Whether you should
Then Number Seven, Fraternal Charity
This is Francis. He himself just loved the solitary life. Oh, how he loved
to be all alone! And yet, he knew that if he was going to follow in the footsteps
of the Master, then he and his brethren would have to live together, would work
together, and do all of that in peaceful generosity. And, as we know, to practice
charity toward strangers is one thing, but, day after day, week after week,
to practice charity toward the same characters that God puts into our lives
no! Oh yes!
Id like to repeat this. Over years of speaking to many religiousfor many
religious to live together in peaceful harmony is difficult. For women religious
to live together in peaceful harmony is impossible. No question. Impossible
without special, extraordinary, supernatural grace from God! Yet, as He told
His followers, they were to live together in community.
Then, Number Eight, Loyalty To The Church
First, obedience to the pope
As weve said beforeand this, as you know, is
being tested to the breaking point todayobedience to the Vicar of Christ is
the acid test of being a bona fide Catholic today. And respect for the bishopsnote
the difference between being obedient to the pope and respectful for the bishops.
And the distinction, of course, is that living in the diocese we are under the
jurisdiction of what we call the local ordinary. However, the bishops authority
in a diocese is conditioned on what rights the Pope gives him. And thislets
be clearthe pope allows the bishops to rule the diocese, but these bishops
must themselves be obedient to the Bishop of Rome. And as long as the bishop
is kept in a diocese by the pope, we owe him obedience. But I repeat, maybe
the tenth time, but our obedience to the bishop is conditioned by the bishops
own obedience to the Bishop of Rome, then, fidelity to the Churchs teaching.
Francis himself was not a very learned man. He was very intelligent, but not
very academically trained. Over the centuries, many Franciscans have been highly
intellectual trained theologians, the most outstanding of whom was St. Bonaventure,
one of the first ministers general of the Franciscan Order. And its most important
to know that even the Franciscans, inspired by Francis himself, who had such
a great devotion to Our Ladyexcept for the Franciscans, I doubt if Our Ladys
either Immaculate Conception or Assumption would yet be defined. A great devotion
to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
And Finally, The Universal Apostolate
Not unlike St. Ignatius, centuries later, for Francis, the whole world needed
to be evangelized. Francis, as we know, did the unheard of thing of going to
the Moslem sultan, presenting himself in person. He could have been, well, hacked
down in the presence of the sultan. And to this day the Franciscan Order has
custody of the Holy Land, and to this day, the Franciscans are the ones who
have the faculty, given them by the pope, to bless the Way of the Cross. There
is an association in the Churchs history between the Franciscans and both the
Holy Land and Christs Passion. One of the great desires of Francis was for
martyrdom; poor man, he died a natural death, deeply disappointed.
Im sure you know the story of St. Anthony of Padua, who was a monk, not a
Franciscan, but he heard about Franciscans getting martyred. As Anthony, he
figured, Id better join them, then Ill become a martyr. Again, poor Anthony
became a Franciscan, but he too died a natural death.
I think Ive told you, being brought up in the spirit of St. Francis, from
my first Mass which I celebrated on June the 21st, 1947. Ever since,
having Mass, I pray for the gift of martyrdom. Im still waiting.
Preaching, and this is as we said during the homily, we are all called upon
to proclaim Christs word to others and convert people. Can I get aan agreement
from you people to make at least one convert in a year, the next year? Can I
do that? What was the date? Now lookjust to make sure, someone could write
it down so we dont forget
Today is the 17th of April. Am I correct?
Is it? Okay. 1994. Right? So, by September, by April the 17th, 1995,
Lord spares me, Im here, well have class, Im going to get from all of you
a report. And, of course, dont be satisfied with one convert, the morebut
as least one. I want every able bodied person attending these classes to bring
at least one person either back to the Church or to the Catholic faith by April
the 17th, 1995. Is that a deal? So we have no choice.
There is work to be done. And that to the whole world! What Id like to do
now, it is 3:36 and I think the usual procedure, is it 3:40 or is it 3:45 that
we start answering questions? Well, let me make a very important announcement.
As I mentioned earlier, I spoke to Cardinal Sanchez, my Vatican superior, this
morning by telephone, he was in the United States during Easter week for less
than two days. He spoke on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He has given
us two assignments, and I assured him, in my phone conversation today, that
we would carry through.
One of the two assignments, and theyre not just a one job dealthey are two
publicationsone for the formation of priests. Holy Father is deeply concerned
over the need that priests have for ongoing spiritual and doctrinal formation.
By November of this year we promised the Congregation for the Clergy we would
have the first issue of this publication in print. Next week I plan to give
you more data.
Second publication is to be called The Catholic Catechist. And
behind The Catholic Catechist, as a publicationand this is to
be monthly, and to start publication as soon as we can, hopefully this summer.
Behind the publication we plan on an association which the Holy See is involved
in. I want to make absolutely, absolutely surethats why I called Cardinal
Sanchez up this morningso I could then share this with you. Yes, he does want
an Association of Catholic Catechists or Catholic Catechists
Association whose organ of publication that would be this publication
called The Catholic Catechist. We are necessitating funds,
this will cost money
Within a week my hope is to provide you with, at least, with a basic outline
of both forthcoming publications. And, of course, I would like to have all of
you somehow involved and others you can suborn into service, to cooperate. The
Holy SeeI have said it more than onceis desperately poor. The budget of the
American bishops is higher than that of the Pope for whole Church. The Faith
must be preserved. And the Holy Father has no illusions, even as so many of
the mistaken and bad ideas emanating from America, so correspondingly, the Holy
Father and those who work with him depend on the United States to help the rest
of the world.
Here, I repeat, are the two grievous needs which the Catholic Church has to
strengthen the spiritual and doctrine formation of her priests and to motivate
the Catholics, especially the laity, in not just, say, receiving the forthcoming
Catechism, but to become catalysts for catechizing in a way that by ourselves
wed never dream of doingthat I wouldnt dream of doingI dont have the authority.
But Rome does. Youll be provided with further information already by next Sunday.
And now, some of your question. Given the number of questions Ill have to
make the answers rather short.
Is there a good reason why churches are removing the tabernacle from in
the front of the church to a side or back of the church?
There is no good reason.
St. Johns image of the woman and her offspring pursued by the dragon and
fleeing into the desert is usually applied to the end times. Ive heard that
Scott Hahn, though not denying its application to the end of times, sees this
as a story told to St. John by Our Lady of the flight of the Holy Family into
the desert to Egypt to escape Herod the Edomite. He says Edom means red.
Herod is the first red dragon. What do you think?
Oh, you can say that, but you dont stopyou dont stop with Herod and Christs
flight into Egypt. Oh, no! Its going on right now.
How do I explain why it is necessary to go to a priest to Confession? I
spoke with a convert and this was something she didnt quite accept.
Well the poor dear! Work on her so she will accept it. Because being a Catholic
means you believe, believe on faith that Christ gave the apostles the power
to forgive sins and forgive sins after they are manifested. Auricular confessionthat
means earful confessionsauricular. That auricular confession of sins is a divine
mandate. Why is it necessary? Because Christ said so. Period.
Three of us are secular Franciscans. Our fraternity is, by Gods grace,
copying the orthodox, now to study the friars we have had as advisors. Well
be starting a new formation class next month. Would you like us to give a name
and number, would you like us to give a name and a number?
Oh, yes, by all means.
With altar girlsor will altar girlsbe allowed to serve the Latin Tridentine
An interesting question! That would surely a really [Lost text due to mechanical
Please explain in laymans terms what the Fundamental Option is. I could
not understand what the Holy Father was driving at.
I would not use the verb driving at. What the Holy Father is saying is there
is a very basic error regarding sin called the Fundamental Option which claims
that every human being, at least once in his or her life, is faced with a fundamental
option to either accept or reject God. But then they go further and they claim
that Fundamental Option is the only mortal sin you can commit. No single sin
is ever mortal. No adultery is ever mortal. No single abortion is ever mortal
sin. What constitutes a mortal sin and therefore should be confessed is the
habit of what we call mortal sins, the person has rejected God. On those premises
almost no one, except of course the devil, would be committing mortal sins.
A main single reason for so many empty confessions or confessionals in the western
world. And the genius behind that error is the Jesuit Karl Rahner.
We are redeemed by Christs sacrifice that is grace, a preternatural gift
becomes available to us. We see Our Lady was saved in anticipation of Christs
merits at the first instant of her life. Must we not say that all the grace
given to our first parents, not only after the fall, but even at the first instant
of their lives, was given also in anticipation of Christs sake sacrifice?
You could say that, but thats not the way the Church teaches. In other words,
it isso the Church teachesit is only because the human race fell and then
the Incarnation took place, and therefore, the grace given since the fall is
the grace either in anticipation or subsequent to the Incarnation. So we do
not, strictly speaking, speak of the grace to our first parents being in anticipation
of Christs sacrifice.
What book beside the Bible is a good or best source of theological knowledge
of God? Where in the Churchs teachings are official teachings about God Himself?
Is it Vatican I? How or where can I get it? Priests almost never teach about
Well I would say Ludwig Ott. O-double-t. Ludwig Ott. Translation from the Germangiven
titlesFundamentals of Dogma is one title Im familiar withSir
Ludwig Ott, O-double-t, is a synthesis of the Churchs teaching over the centuries,
organized in the form of theses, a very compact book but extremely useful. Where
are the Churchs official teachings about God? It is found in many places but
especially in Vatican I. The Divine Attributes are spelled out
in detail in the decisions and defined doctrines of the First Vatican
Council. And the text of the First Vatican Council can
be found. The TAN Publishers has a book called The Teachings
of the Church which include all the decisions and decrees of the First
We are located near many Catholic churches that are convenient for us to
attend, but every Mass is loaded with abuses. Should we go out of our way, 100
miles round trip at an inconvenient time5 a.m., to attend the Tridentine Mass
which is approved by the bishop? Or is it acceptable to keep going to our local
Well I would say this depends on you. You certainly are free to go even 50
miles each way. On the other hand, you surely may also attend even these abused
Masses, but watch it! Be careful that out of your understandableshall I call
it charity or sympathyyou do not imbibe some of the ideas. We are living in
a revolutionary world! Dioceses have been hit by a theological hurricane!
In Chicago, for example, they are now going to turn over parishes to womento
be run by women! Just for today! And one, a nun who did not wear any garb, now
is going around dolled up in a clerical collar, the recently appointed pastor.
Lord, help us! These are very, comma, very serious. The revolution will pass.
This cannot go on. The Catholic Church cannot survive on these conditions! But
somebody had better keep the faith intact.
Is it an obligation to avoid abusive masses or is it more important to go
to any mass on a daily basis?
Well I would say to go to any Mass on a daily basis. But be prudent, be careful,
and do not unnecessarily expose yourselves to ideas that some of these abusive
masses will practice.
If you have the choice, which Mass would you prefer to celebratenumber
one, Novus Ordo in English, two, Novus Ordo in Latin, third,
the old Latin Tridentine? Thank you.
Well, I like to celebrate all three. What I do back home is a matter of policy,
is regularly celebrate the Novus Ordo in English. But Im very
happy saying the Novus Ordo in Latin and I deliberately, though
I could, I abstain from offering Mass in the Tridentine Latin, though I deeply,
highly, appreciate and approve. Why do I do that? To maintain my freedom that
I will have the leverage and no one can tell me that I am, say, fathering the
Tridentine ritual out of emotion. No!
I may have told you that we are planning, a priest friend of mine, we are planning,
to start a movement among priests who will have both Latin Masses as part of
their practicethe Novus Ordo Mass and the Tridentine
Mass, and priests who are strongly in favor of the Latin be authorized to say
both Masses. And we so far have about eighty priests committed to that practice,
and we further have a bishop backing the venture.
Can a priest improvise his way of baptizing? Question: Can a priest improvise
his own way of baptizing? I heard about one who baptizes in the name of the
Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier. Was the infant validly baptized?
Answer: There might be some question whether it is licit, but as long as the
intention is to do what the Church intends, its validsorry, dear Father, sorry,
dear Father, sorryyou are wrong! You are wrong!
It continuesthe old traditional formula, In the name of the Father, and
so onis not difficult to learn and should be used. It is much better, of course,
when the baptism is both valid and licit as the liturgy and the parents expect.
Spontaneous improvisations are a sign of talent among musicians and Dixieland
jazz bands, but it signifies nothing in the conferral of sacraments. Not so
fast, Father! Not so fast! It may be, may possibly be a valid Baptism. I dont
And this is a problem that were facing. Improvisations, my eye! All kinds
of introductionswords removed, words addedwhich have nothing do with the licitly
but the validity!
We videotaped our Tuesday evening daily Mass for rebroadcast for next week,
weekend on cable TV, and even CTND. That Tuesday Mass is the next Sunday liturgy.
My question is do people who view and partake in our Mass broadcast receive
the same graces, except for receiving Communion, as they would if they went
to the Mass at Church?
No! Lower case, no.
You mention that not all annulments are right. What criteria does one use
to know whether an annulment is right or is suspectespecially if you are granted
Well this has been my policy over the yearsI tell people who have had an annulment
granted by the Church to trust God that their annulment is valid. Trust God,
it is valid.
Having said that, are there norms for determining whether a given annulment
is valid or not? There sure are!
All of those normsthe three basic normshave been gone over more than once
for there being a sacramental indissoluble marriage: Condition number one, both
validly baptized before marriage. Secondly, both enter into a valid contract,
which is they want to remain faithful to one other for life. They intend a lifetime
commitment, and they want to accept the children that God will send them. And
then thirdly, that the marriage is naturally consummated, even one natural act
of intercourse after marriage.
Now most the annulments that are granted are on condition number two, that
the people either dont believe or dont realize that marriage is a lifetime
commitment. Remember what happens after the marriage has nothing to do with
affecting the validity. Once married, youre married. Period. What are called
annulments is really a misnomer. De facto, what they should be
called is declarations of nullity if there had not been a sacramental, consummated,
and valid contractual marriage in the first place.
In unstable country like ours therere so many peoplethey marry, all right,
with that verb in quotation marks. They have no sincere idea of remaining faithful
to one another for life. And that is why, as Ive said how many times, the Catholic
Church will survive in only those dioceses in which the bishop and the people
in that diocese still believe that Christs teaching on sacramental, valid,
consummated marriage stands. The main reason, as Ive said so oftennot just
herebut by now a thousand times in lectures and classes over the years, the
main single reason for the breakdown of the Catholic Church in one country after
another is right here!
And, unless we in America wake up to the crisis which we are facing, then what
Im saying is no prophecy, just common sense. The days of American Catholicism
are numbered! Unless and where and when and in so far as there are those who
are in charge of the Church who still believe that under the conditions described
sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power.
Could an unknown but preexisting psychiatric diagnosis invalidate a marriage?
Well, no. Just because there was a diagnosis, that would not invalidate a marriage.
Ive talked to enough psychiatrists to help them understand the realities of
life. If there is one fallible profession in this world it is the profession
Is it, however, possible that there is a diagnosis which giventhe testing
giventhat the validity of the marriage is called into question because of the
psychotic condition which the person had shown, but the diagnosis has nothing
to do with the validity of the marriage.
Why cant the permanent deacons be pastors instead of women?
You ask! You ask the deacons! Guess who is running the Church!
Although I must say this
I received enough invitations to the ordination of
deacons to be able to say this. And every invitation Ive ever receivedthe
left side, the left side of the invitation had a list of the wives of the deacons.
Right side are the deacons themselves to be ordained. In other words, if the
deacon is married, knowing human nature, the deacons wife is not above exercising
her influence on her dear husband, the Reverend Deacon.
Is it true man has an immortal soul and animals have a mortal soul which
dies when they die, but mans immortal soul, of course, lives on?
Thats right. In other words, our soul, our soul is immortal while having certain
qualities, animal properties which we would say are mortal. Yes.
A Catholic at work has related the following to me. While traveling he went
to confession in London, England. At a travel station of a Catholic church,
he received the following absolution: I absolve you of all your sins, past,
present, and future sins. I explained to him that this seemed to exceed the
authority of the priest in Confession, as each major sin needs to be confessed.
The future sins cannot be said yet. What should I have said?
Well, what you told the priest was good. He needs instruction. But, I would
say, dont raise a red flag, especially for a stranger and most especially in
England. So. I think you spoke well. I hope the priest learned from your exhortation.
At this point would it do any good to object to altar girls? Would it have
Oh yes! Respecting the Popes authority, nevertheless, pointing out simply
but firmly what consequence you foresee as a result of altar girls. Mother Teresa
spoke to the Holy Father. She told himshe told me she told himthat the consequences
would be devastating.
Did your mother express surprise that you did not become a Franciscan?
Oh yes! Not only surprise but objection! Best I could tell her, Mother I did
the next best thing. Im not sure I convinced her.
I was told by someone that their parish priest reads from the document of
the Vatican II on the renovation of churches. Is this information in the documents?
It really depends on what is meant by renovation of churches. I would say
it would not be the documents of Vatican II as such, but there are several thousand
supporting documents besides those of Vatican II issued by the Holy See among
which would be some touching on churches.
In saying Mass, is it necessary for the priest to put water in the wine
and also to wash his hands? This priest never washes his hands at Mass and he
already put the water in the cup before Mass.
Well, he should do bothboth pour the water into the wine during Mass and wash
Can you recommend a missal?
Well there are missals on the market. All the existing missals for the Novus
Ordoas you know the translation has been approved by the ICEL which
leaves much to be desired.
Why does not the Church hierarchy in Rome discipline bishops, priests, who
stray from the true dogma? Our Catholic faith keeps getting watered down. By
backing down it weakens Church faithful, priesthood, and leaves them in confusion.
Well as you see the document we are reading and going over is one way in which
the pope is trying to cope with the situation. Each pope thinks differently.
There arebishops are removed, bishops are reprimanded. And over the years Ive
had the dubious privilege of reprimanding bishops. So I know its done. The
problem is not just reprimanding a bishop but what he does after being duly
Why did not Jesus become incarnate 2000 years sooner? It would have avoided
much killing, bloodshed between the different groups of people. At this
time why did God approve of such brutality in this area?
Oh no! He didnt approve it. Why did He wait this long? Till we get to heaven
we wont really know the answer.
The bottom line is why does God permit evil? Why does allow sin? That, needless
to say, is a mystery. But one reason we can say is that the more evil the more
sin, the more grace God will give. Where sin abounds, there grace will even
What pope tried the experiment of having First Communion before First Confession?
How long before he changed it back?
No pope tried the experiment of First Communion before First Confession. Zero.
During Paul the VI, in many parts of the world they took it upon themselves
the liberty of giving communion before confession, but never with Romes backing.
If teenagers dont want to go to daily Mass is it all right if a parent
gently but firmly takes them anyway, winter and summer?
All I know, being brought up by a loving mother less than five foot tallgently
but firmly. Wed better start early, real early, real, real early. So many modern
Copyright © 2005 by Institute on Religious Life
Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon gave to the
Institute on Religious Life
Institute on Religious Life, Inc.
P.O. Box 410007
Chicago, Illinois 60641