Posts Tagged ‘God’

By: Thomas O’Neill

  • If women are just as capable as men, why won’t the Church allow women to be priests? 
  • Aren’t biblical stories like Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark obviously myths?
  • And if divorce allows couples to escape toxic, unhappy marriages, how can the Church forbid it?

Why is it important for us to play the Devil’s advocate, particularly in sensitive areas like morality and Church teaching? Because our interlocutors have some good points to make, especially if you look at things from a secular perspective. And every day that goes by, it seems like the world is looking at things more and more from that perspective. Thus, if we hope to proclaim the New Evangelization in earnest, we need to understand the arena we’re competing in.

Devil's Advocate Banner 4

I graduated from two secular universities, have attended hundreds of talks on the Church’s teachings, and had innumerable discussions with family and friends about God, morality, and the Church. Combining those experiences together, I became convinced of two things: (1) the Church has much stronger arguments for Her teachings than most people know; and (2) doing apologetics well – i.e. explaining those arguments effectively – is not an easy task.

One reason for this is that humans rise to the level of the challenge in front of us. Ask me to climb a flight of stairs, and I’m probably not going to lose much sleep over it. Ask me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro though, and I might spend a night or two at the gym beforehand.

Apologetics functions in much the same way. So long as we talk to people who already agree with us, who accept our arguments implicitly, our arguments never get any stronger. We get used to having an easy audience, and we fall back on arguments that only convince believers. However, when we engage with people who disagree with us – especially intelligent, learned people – we force ourselves to reassess our arguments, see the holes in our reasoning, and plumb the depths of the Church’s teaching for better answers.

This is the basic idea behind The Devil’s Advocate debate series. This series is designed as a dialogue between an antagonist and a proponent of the Church’s teachings. By having the Devil’s advocate ask the tough questions, the apologist is forced to offer solid answers or be held accountable. The upshot of this is that the Church’s teachings are actually illustrated better when the questions get tougher (c.f. Prv. 27:17).

If you’ve ever struggled to answer questions about your faith, or if you have some of these questions yourself, come to Bishop O’Connell High School this September to get answers. Last year was a great success, and saw hundreds of people come together to discuss these controversial topics.

See the event flyers for more information – “The Bible: Fact or Fiction?” “Adapting to the Modern Family” and “When Will the Church Get with the Times” – or visit the event website.

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By: Natalie Plumb

Mary in her earthly life attained holiness that I can only wish to begin to comprehend. God’s works are mysteries to our human understanding. One particularly astounding work we are commemorating in Masses throughout the world tomorrow: Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, before being crowned Queen of Heaven and of Earth.

Fresco_of_the_Assumption_of_Mary_-_Basílica_de_La_Macarena_-_Seville_(2)I can’t help but wonder, considering our human condition, the simple temptations she had to overcome in her earthly life. What would I have thought of first in the trials she faced? As a sinner, and as a human, it’s interesting what I believe I’d have thought of first, before my “yes” to all that he asked of me (we’re talking Nativity, Passion, the whole nine yards), if I would have even given a yes…

1. What about my reputation? Mary was young. A virgin birth? Impossible. What if she were killed, or scandalized? Mary was never concerned about how imperfect God’s plan seemed to human ears.

2. What if I lose my fiancé? After finding out, Joseph thought about leaving Mary. He was reassured later. But did Mary ever even ask if he would stay with her? No. She simply said yes.

3. What will it cost me? Agreeing to give birth to the Savior of the world isn’t exactly an everyday contract. But Mary never asked what she would have to give up in order to do it.

4. Can you wait a few more years? Maybe until after I’m married? Mary could have worried about public perception of the baby in her womb. Would they think her disgraceful? Was her conception reprehensible? But instead she simply said yes.

5. What if I can’t do it? We often ask God this, tuning in to our feelings of unworthiness. What we don’t realize, in our limited human understanding of God’s grace, is that God never looks at us as damaged goods. He takes the broken pieces of our lives, puts them together again, and creates good, with every crack and curve.

6. Will you protect my family? Mary could have easily been killed for perceived adultery. What if Joseph were killed, as was Bathsheba’s husband, after she had had an affair? Mary never asked. She simply said yes.

7. Will you provide food, shelter and warmth for my family? Mary was poor. Remember, Jesus was born in a stable. A stable. Not a palace, with glamorous displays of adornment. Mary simply trusted that God would provide.

8. Will you protect my son? Just like in her example during the Presentation of the Christ, just as she held “these things in her heart” after the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, Mary allowed God to take her son. She surrendered Jesus to God’s plan. This could have utterly destroyed any mother. At the foot of her son’s cross, Mary could have easily screamed at God to save humanity in another way. She could have asked so many “what-ifs.” But instead, she surrendered. Mary trusted and had peace. 

9. Can’t somebody else do this? I’m sure giving birth to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, wasn’t entirely a responsibility Mary thought she was ready for. But she said yes anyway.

10. Would you make it easy on me? Last but not least, she never asked God to take away her cross. She always persevered, allowing God’s will to simply happen to her.

I don’t think I would be brave enough to disregard every one of these questions, as Mary effectively did through her fiat, with consistency and constancy throughout her life.

And so we pray, in her honor, and in light of the Assumption of Mary that we celebrate tomorrow, steadily meditating on all that her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) proclaims:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Erin Healy

Today as I leave work and venture home to cook dinner, many Iraqi Christians will lie in fear, starved of food and water. Tonight, as I brush my teeth, wash my face, and snuggle under my covers, Iraqi Muslim minorities and non-Muslims will awake from another uneasy night, wondering, I’m sure, if it might have been their last.

Iraqi Christian WomenGenocide is taking place 6,200 miles away and many (myself included) are left feeling helpless. We can temporarily change our Facebook profile picture, repost the horrific media reports, and support our government’s decision to deploy airstrikes and aid. But at the end of the day, this tragedy does not have an immediate human solution. In these moments, as we should with all things, we must turn to the Divine.

As we pray and fast for the safety of our Christian brothers and sisters, and all those suffering persecution in Iraq, we must also remember to ask that God’s mercy be shown to their aggressors and all those who seek to destroy human life. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are reminded of the words of Our Lord: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, a great saint and Doctor of the Church, modeled this commandment at a young age. Upon hearing of the infamous French serial killer, Henri Pranzini, who was to be guillotined, she began to courageously pray for his conversion. The morning following his death, the paper reported that just moments before his execution, Pranzini grasped the crucifix held before him and kissed the wounds of Christ three times.

Following the words of Our Lord, let us not lose heart in tragedy, but take our prayers and sacrifices to Him, confident in His faithfulness and infinite mercy.

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By: Natalie Plumb

One weekday night, at a bar and out with friends, I was in the ladies room washing my hands. The woman at the sink adjacent to me let out a heaving sigh, looking downcast. I asked her what was wrong. She said “boys,” and left it at that.

She seemed like she needed someone to talk to her, and so I asked: “What do you mean?”

She relented: “Well, there’s this guy out there right now; we used to date; it’s really awkward right now.”

Knowing that it was likely awkward to her because she had experienced a long, drawn-out emotional and physical connection with him only meant for her future husband (later, she implied exactly that), I was about to cheerily encourage her and even offer advice. But before I could open my mouth, another woman (call her hand-washer for distinction) stepped up to the sink next to me and piped in, saying: “Yeah, they’re all jerks.”

smiling_coupleI uncomfortably crinkled my brow, thinking that they all certainly are not “jerks.” I know plenty of good men. So do lots of women. I quickly estimated that she was exaggerating, and decided that maybe she was looking in the wrong places, and at the wrong guys altogether.

“Just don’t give those types of guys the time of day,” I said. “You can’t do that to yourself; you’re worth more.”

The hand-washer girl waited no more than half a beat before saying something that I never expected to hear in response.

“I wish I were mature enough for that.”

The girl who had been downcast began frantically bobbing her head up and down in agreement. And with that, both of them had left.

The door slowly came to a close. I probably looked exasperated and confused. Did I hear correctly?

Gazing at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I thought… “What has become of us, ladies?”

I mean to insult no one. But to say what she had said, effectively dismissing the idea that any woman should try to uphold any form of “mature” standard when it comes to going out with a man, and to just take him as he comes, is appalling.

Men will want to live up to the standards of women who have them if they are good men, and not “boys” looking for something “cheaper.” As women, we can ask for what we deserve. In turn, you end up encouraging yet another man to be a man, one who deserves you. And the rest of the “boys” in the field are not your problem.

I mean, think about natural selection – May only the good men win! I’m jesting, but it’s basically true. By marrying a good man, you’re not stealing someone else’s good man; you’re actually creating more good men in the children you choose to have or adopt. Those good sons of yours will (likely) respect the women they eventually marry. It’s cyclical.

I’m here to shout what Wendy Shalit says in “Return to Modesty.” I’d love to echo the voices of Stasi and John Eldredge in their book, “Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul,” when they call for us to “to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty.”

That is what you are made to be, Daughter of God. Beautiful, irreplaceable, inspiring, romanced… All of these things are written on our hearts.

What has become of us that we cannot stand up for the dignity we deserve by holding the men in our lives accountable, and refusing to make excuses? What has become of us when we decide to wear skimpy clothing and encourage our sisters to do the same?

Who are we becoming when we call our girlfriends expletives? Who are we becoming if we if we compete for another woman’s husband, rather than respecting the dignity of what is truly ours, not someone else’s, and then still expect the husband we stole to be faithful to us? (Fool me once….)

Why will we not stand up for what matters? Why do we not call every single man to action, to confront the problem of pornography, and defeat it?

I’m here to speak to you, ladies. Ladies, I want you to know that you are not alone. A man of God is out there for you, God willing. Do not settle. Advice, support, teaching and encouragement are here. That’s what this intermittent series “Dating 101” aims to do, through both lighthearted and heavy topics – abuse, dating advice and experiences, etiquette, divorce, transgender issues, marriage, egg freezing, Natural Family Planning, seduction – all and more are relevant.

Comments are wholly encouraged! Let the discussion begin.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Deacon Marques Silva

There is something profound about the sound of the breaking waves of an ocean upon the seashore. I really cannot explain why it is except to say that I sense that if I had “ears to hear,” I would be able to perceive the voice of our Lord.

J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Silmarillion seemed to infer the same when he wrote:

“It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.”

Sacred Scripture provides a number of references relating to either the voice of the Lord or His coming:

“When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightnings for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses” (Jer 10:13).

“And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of a host; when they stood still, they let down their wings” (Ez 1:24).

“And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the east; and the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory” (Ez 43:2).

“And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps” (Rev 14:2).

When on vacation in the Outer Banks, my family has a tradition of every beach (2)evening walking up to the pier and listening to the breaking of the waves. We just stand there for about an hour just watching and listening. It is peaceful. It is calming. It is awe-filled. There is power and gentility. There is the swell of a wave that bellows with a mighty roar as it begins to break and then ends in a gentle trickle of the sea foam upon the sand.

What is it about the sound of the ocean that refreshes us and seems to fill us with joy? Why do we quiet down to listen so intently? I think we are built to recognize the voice of the Lord or even its echoes; sometimes in the roar of the mighty waters (Ps 93:4) and at other times in a gentle whisper (1 Kgs 19:12). Maybe it is another way in which the Lord draws us to Himself though creation (CCC 32) in order to open us to the possibility of hearing His voice in the depths of our souls.

We are now in August and fall is quickly approaching. The summer has been busy, and not necessarily with work but play. Are we taking regular time to listen for the voice of He “who has measured the waters in the hallow of his hand…” (Is 40:12)? He desires so much to speak us. Do we have ears to hear? May we answer like Samuel when we perceive His voice in the depths of our hearts: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sm 3:9).

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By: Natalie Plumb

Sometimes saying that everything happens for a reason, that prayer solves it all and that dryness, discernmentdoubt and despair are normal prayer periods to experience sounds a bit jaded. We often have situations that don’t merit what we may interpret as masking or an explain-away. In those situations in particular, we all need to have faith in the cross and Resurrection. Consider the thoughts of “Footprints in the Sand” in these toughest of times:


Carry me, my Lord, my God.

Carry me in times of trouble.

Carry me in times of pain.

Carry me so that I know that nothing that I do is in vain.


This is an addendum to Natalie’s mini-series on prayer in drynessdoubt and discernment.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Natalie Plumb

When it rains, it pours.

Sometimes multiple opportunities are thrown at you at the same time. Sometimes zero are. But when you have more than one option, decision-making becomes overwhelming. You begin to think that God is testing you. There has to be a “right” answer, doesn’t there? What is His will? What’s the right choice, and what’s the wrong choice?

A lesson I’ve started to learn as my years add up is that God gives us options; each comes with a unique price. The consequences for each choice will be different, and you have to deal with those consequences. Neither will be all good or all bad.

prayer-2When I’m in the midst of discernment, and considering two positive choices (neither is sinful, nor is an occasion of sin), one against the other, I choose.

That’s it: I choose.

It’s difficult to understand, but as long as you pick one and act on it, God’s will is there. After all, nothing can happen unless it is His will. Don’t make one of those wishy-washy half choices – just pick one. It won’t hurt.

It sounds crazy, but after a while of balancing the pros and cons of each, asking multiple people their opinion, and going through mid-life-crisis mode, indecision starts to become not only unhelpful, but unhealthy.

A priest at Theology on Tap a few years ago in the Archdiocese of Washington said something like this about deciding between two positives: “Choose. Act on that choice in your mind; acting in reality isn’t necessary yet. If your choice was actually wrong, your conscience will tell you because you’ll start to panic and feel uneasy.”

It sounds a bit like the flip-a-coin rule, doesn’t it? Each choice is a head or a tail. When you flip it, you might find that you’re wishing for it to land on one side or the other – there go your heart’s true desire.

When we follow this rule, and quit worrying so much, the question then becomes, ever increasingly, more about your conscience, and less about whether choice A is more “right” than choice B for you.

You should check your boxes: Ask for advice. Weigh the pros and cons. Pray. But when nothing seems to tip the balance after a while, do what the priest suggested and just choose. It makes life a lot simpler.

Jesus, my Light and my Guide,

You are Creator of the universe. You, above all, understand the little actions I make, and how each will affect me and my future.

Guide my footsteps, and mold my conscience. Replace my heart with Yours. Help me to desire what You desire. Help me to see as You see. Help me to know my circumstances. Shine light on all that I need to know to make a prudent decision.

Reveal to me Your will. And if you don’t, grant me the patience and wisdom to make a choice, and discern whether it is good in my heart. Settle my soul when the choice is right. Shake it when it isn’t.

Supreme Power of the Universe, I trust in You. I trust You to guide me. Be my Guide, now and forever.


This is the final installment of Natalie’s mini-series on prayer in dryness, doubt and discernment.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Erin Healy

When I was a child, my greatest fear was the darkness. I could not walk through a dimly lit room or fall asleep without the comfort of light. Now, when my prayer life falters, I often experience similar feelings and that is when I know I need to set apart more time for the Lord.

There are many distractions in the world that keep us from turning to God. Yet, we know that God is the only One who can fulfill our deepest longings. During these summer months, if you find that you’re too busy to pray and your focus is no longer on God… Take time to reconnect: Consider attending the young adult silent retreat weekend on August 1-3 at San Damiano Spiritual Life Center.

Led by Fr. Rich Dyer, Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament in Alexandria, this weekend retreat will offer talks (guided by the spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux), time for Adoration, Confession and spiritual direction. The weekend will address suffering, how to distinguish and carry our crosses, pride, how to truly pray for humility, and more.


The cost for the weekend is $285. This will cover your materials, room, and board. The retreat is filling quickly! Register online at: www.arlingtondiocese.org/yamretreat. Questions? Contact Erin at (703) 841-2549 or yam@arlingtondiocese.org. Scholarships are available.

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By: Natalie Plumb

I thank God every day that He is truly a God of justice. And I thank God every day for Purgatory, too: I like to believe that He will not base your fate on what you did at the very moment you die. He loves to give us one million second chances. I think His justice will prevail above all, and your whole life will be laid out before you as you knock on the gates of Heaven. I firmly believe that.

Allow that to be encouragement when you doubt His sovereignty, will, justice, love, peace…. Doubt can be an overwhelming emotion. It can quickly lead to despair.

Despair is quite possibly the most dangerous emotion to have. It lacks hope. It lacks trust. It lacks faith. It completely lacks virtue. It digs, deep into your feelings, and comes out with “I doubt,” and never “So be it.”

Ben1Though I am a naturally optimistic person who believes all things are foreseen by our Creator, I have had many moments in my life when I’ve doubted that, and Him. And I’ve acted on that doubt frivolously. Do yourself a favor: Try not to change your mind concerning a decision when you doubt His goodness. Do not change the course of your actions when you are in the midst of despair. Pray to get out of the hole first, so that you can see light shedding on your circumstances in order for you to discern – something we will talk about next week.

Most recently, I’ve struggled with doubt in the form of having faith in God’s divine providence. I am an ocean away from the man I love. He lives in France, and I in Washington, D.C.

Long distance relationships are naturally at risk of being full of doubt and despair. That’s a pretty common reason for their not working: Where is your hope? In seeing the person soon? In moving eventually? It is a hard question to answer in the moment, when your fullest emotions – love, desire, hope, and so many more – mercilessly insert themselves into your will.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize how much stronger the distance we’ve experienced as a couple has strengthened our relationship more than I think it could have been strengthened had we been in the same country for the last half year (and then some).

Astonishingly, we haven’t grown further apart, but closer, because we rely on God to move us and to change us. In getting closer to Christ, we are closer to each other. When we can’t talk to each other (you know, that silly 6-hour delay thing) we must talk to God.

lovetriangleThink of the triangle: Each of you and God is at one of the intersections. As each of you grows closer to God (and His point on the triangle), the closer you as a couple get to each other. Your segment gets shorter. Amazingly (and oh so joyfully!), the sins we had before, both individually and as a couple, in the same country, are no more.

God knew that all along. He knew that distance would help us to grow spiritually on an individual level. We needed to be apart long enough (seven months, and counting) to become better persons for the other.

Cliché statements like “There is light at the end of the tunnel” and “The darkest hour is just before the dawn” are really not cliché at all, but true. Periods of doubt, as with periods of dryness, which we discussed last week, are there to form you into the person God wants you to be.

The truest version of you as a Child of God is waiting to be formed. And you will never stop growing, even if your circumstances make you doubt His plan. That is exciting, not despairing.

Dearest Jesus,

We know in our heads and in our hearts that You are here and that Your will is just. We know that You wish the best for us, and that nothing comes to be before being filtered through Your hands. But our circumstances are pulling at us to lose faith and to make unwise choices.

Pull us back, Christ Jesus. Pull us back into Your arms. Pull at the strings of our hearts to trust you again. Give us the virtues that we need to honor Your will, trust in Your providence, and have faith in Your works.

Grant us faith, and no more doubt. But if it be Your will, grant that the doubt that we do have might change us and form us, and inspire us to grow only deeper in the carrying of our crosses. Let this journey be speedy and light, if you will it. And never leave our side.

Praise be to You, for every cross we bear! We know it is no heavier than the one you carried for us.


Next week, I’ll write about discernment, my final post on prayer in dryness, doubt and discernment.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Mark Herrmann, Staff Spotlight

Practicing law in Virginia, in the course of mundane legal research, one occasionally runs across a historical gem. Reprinted below, from the 1855 case of Commonwealth v. Cronin (2 Va. Cir. 488), is the statement read into the court record by a Richmond priest, Fr. John Theeling, explaining his refusal to testify about matters disclosed to him in the confession of a dying woman:

Confessional“It is due to this honorable Court to state briefly my reasons for not answering the question proposed by the Counsel for the defense and to hesitate to do so, would argue a contempt for the majesty of the law and the dignity of this Court, the dispenser of the law.  Were I asked any question which I could answer from knowledge obtained in my civil capacity or as a private individual and citizen, I should not for a moment hesitate, nay more, I would consider it my duty, to lay before this honorable Court all the evidence I was in possession of, being mindful of the precept of the apostle, ‘Let every soul be subject to higher powers, for there is no power but from God and those that are ordained of God; therefore he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation,’ Rom. 13, chap. 1 and 2, v.  But if required to answer any question in the quality of a Catholic Minister of the sacrament of penance, when I believe God himself has imposed an inviolable and eternal secrecy, I am bound to be silent, although instant death were to be the penalty of my refusal.  The question proposed by the counsel for the defense affects me in the latter capacity and hence I must decline to answer it.  Whilst in so doing, I must respectfully disclaim any intention of contempt or disrespect directly or indirectly to this honorable Court.  Is a Catholic priest ever justified under any circumstances in revealing the secrets of the sacramental confession?  I answer, No. That no power on earth civil or ecclesiastical, spiritual or temporal can ever, under any circumstances, dispense with this perpetual obligation of secrecy, so that were pope Pius the IX in this Court, and if I can suppose for a moment, he should so far abuse his sacred authority and in the plenitude of that authority, as my first spiritual superior on earth, should request, admonish and command me to answer the question proposed, my answer would be to him what it was to the prisoner’s counsel.

“I can say nothing about the matter.  The law which prohibits me from revealing what I learn in the sacramental confession, Catholics believe to be divine and emanates from our Lord himself.  It is a tenet of the Catholic Church, that Christ instituted seven sacraments, neither more nor less. Con. Florent. in Decret’s ad Armenos. Con. Trident., Sess. 7, Can 1.

“It is also an article of Catholic faith that penance is one of those sacraments instituted by Christ for the remission of sins committed after baptism. Con. Trident., Sess. 14, Can. 1.

“And that sacramental confession forms an essential and component part of this sacrament.  Further, that the obligation of secrecy is especially connected with the divine institution of confession.  For if it would be lawful to a catholic priest in any case to reveal what was certified to him in confession, the divine precept of confession would become merely nugatory, and there is no person who would be willing to disclose to a priest an occult sin, which could be made public and blacken his fair name.  Such a revelation, if permitted, would be destructive of the divine precept of confession.

“But as we cannot suppose that Christ, the eternal Wisdom of the eternal Father, would pull down with one hand what he had erected with the other, and as we Catholics believe he instituted sacramental confession; and for the practice of confession, secrecy is absolutely necessary, we conclude that inviolable secrecy is commanded by our Lord in the obligation of confessing our sins.  If then, I were so forgetful of the solemn obligations not arising simply from ecclesiastical but from the divine law, not from man but directly from God – as to answer the question proposed, I should be forever degraded, rendered infamous in the eye of the Catholic church, shunned by every Catholic, and I believe by every honorable man; no matter how far his religious opinions and mine might differ.  Shunned and rendered infamous as a sacrilegious wretch, who had trampled on his most holy and solemn obligations and violated the sacred laws of nature, of his God and of man.  I would be forever deposed from the sacred ministry and where the Canon law forms part of the civil law, be condemned to perpetual imprisonment in a monastery, there to repent during my life the horrid crime I would have committed. 4 Con. Lateran., Can. 21.  But what is still more than all, I would violate the dictates of my conscience, that stubborn monitor whose voice would forever whisper to my soul black and dire sacrilege.  I might endeavor to smother its cry, but all my attempts would only add strength to its terrible reproaches and warnings.  You have committed sacrilege of the deepest dye – sacrilege to be punished forever, by the eternal vengeance of a just and offended Deity.  I have endeavored thus to state my reasons as clearly as I could for not answering the question proposed.  I thank this honorable Court for the kind and patient hearing which it has extended to me.  Whatever may be its decision, I shall receive it with respect.”

The judge in the case, the Hon. John A. Meredith, ruled that Father Theeling did not have to answer the question.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Mark Herrmann is the Chancellor and General Counsel of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

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