The 30 Statements of the Joint Declaration Between Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill

By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

Listers, on February 12, 2016 His Holiness Pope Francis met with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba. The two leaders signed a joint declaration on several issues, which included overcoming historic antagonisms between the two Churches, the plight of Christians in the Middle East, the decline of the West, and a focus on the family and marriage. The following is the official English translation of the Joint Declaration.1




Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia


“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another’s foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!

Bishop of Rome
Pope of the Catholic Church

Patriarch of Moscow
and all Russia

  1. Patriarch Kirill characterized the private meeting as an open discussion “with full awareness of the responsibility of our Churches, for the future of Christianity, and for the future of human civilization.” He said the conversation “gave us the opportunity to understand and hear the positions of the other.” “The results of this allow me to assure you that the two Churches will continue to work closely together with Christians in all the world, and with full responsibility to work together against war, so that human life can develop in the entire world.” Their conversation also aimed to strengthen “the bases of personal and family morality” through “the participation of the Church in the life of modern human society, that glorifies the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Pope told Patriarch Kirill before their private meeting “we’re brothers. It’s clear that this is the will of God.” Catholic News Agency. []

20 Quote Graphics from the 2015 World of Meeting of Families in Philadelphia

Listers, the World Meeting of Families exists to strength and support family. According to the official site of the 2015 gathers: “Held every three years and sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. Each World Meeting of Families has a theme that energizes and enlivens the event while adding great depth of meaning to our understanding of families. The theme of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society.”1 The host of the meeting, Archbishop Chaput, wrote:

Saint John Paul II, hailed as the Pope of the Family, created the World Meeting of Families in 1994 in Rome to explore the critical role the family plays in society and to give families opportunities to talk about the challenges and blessings that all families have.

Our theme, “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive” was inspired by the early Church Father, St. Irenaeus, who wrote “the Glory of God is man fully alive.” The glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves – and no better means exists to teach the meaning of love than the family. His Holiness, Pope Francis also inspired the theme. He embodies the message of mercy, joy and love at the heart of the Gospel.2

After his visit to Washington D.C. and New York City, His Holiness Pope Francis gave several addresses – including a speech on religious liberty at Independence Hall, a spontaneous address at the Festival of Families, and a homily at the concluding Holy Mass. The following are quote graphics from various sources that were either inspired by the meeting or were taken from one of the Roman Pontiff’s speeches during the meeting.




  • 8:40  a.m.  Departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • 9:30  a.m.  Arrival at Atlantic Aviation, Philadelphia
  • 10:30 a.m. Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia
  • 4:45  p.m.  Visit to Independence Mall [sic]
  • 7:30  p.m.  Visit to the Festival of Families Benjamin Franklin Parkway


  • 9:15   a.m.  Meeting with bishops at St. Martin’s Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
  • 11:00  a.m. Visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
  • 4:00  p.m.   Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  • 7:00   p.m.  Visit with organizers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation
  • 8:00   p.m.  Departure for Rome





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  1. World Meeting of Families 2015, Official Website. []
  2. Archbishop Chaput, Welcome Letter. []

26 Quotes from Pope Francis’ Visit to Washington D.C. and New York City

Listers, Pope Francis’ visit to the United States is one marked with historic firsts. His Holiness Pope Francis was the first Roman Pontiff to address a full joint session of the U.S. Congress. Second, Pope Francis was the first Vicar of Christ to address the United Nations at the opening of a General Assembly. As expected, Pope Francis’ remarks were difficult to predict and the reactions to his words ranged from unrestrained praise to unadulterated criticism. The following graphics display how different sources highlighted different aspects of the pontiff’s speeches.




9:15 a.m. Welcome ceremony and meeting with President Obama at the White House
11:00 a.m. Papal Parade along the Ellipse and the National Mall (time approximate)
11:30 a.m. Midday Prayer with the bishops of the United States, St. Matthew’s Cathedral
4:15 p.m. Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


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9:20 a.m. Address to Joint Meeting of the United States Congress
11:15 a.m. Visit to St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
4:00 p.m. Depart from Joint Base Andrews
5:00 p.m. Arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport
6:45 p.m. Evening Prayer (Vespers) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral


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8:30 a.m. Visit to the United Nations and Address to the United Nations General Assembly
11:30 a.m. Multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center
4:00 p.m. Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem
5:00 p.m. Procession through Central Park (time approximate)
6:00 p.m. Mass at Madison Square Garden


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On the Privilege of Being a Woman: 7 Quotes on True Femininity

When the time has come, nothing which is man made will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness.

Click to view it on Amazon.
Click to view it on Amazon.

Listers, what is true femininity? In her excellent short work entitled The Privilege of Being a Woman, Alice von Hildebrand deftly describes true femininity. In history, women have either been “denigrated as lower than men” or “viewed as privileged.” In Privileged, “Dr. Alice von Hildebrand characterizes the difference between such views as based on whether man’s vision is secularistic or steeped in the supernatural. She shows that feminism’s attempts to gain equality with men by imitation of men is unnatural, foolish, destructive, and self-defeating. The Blessed Mother’s role in the Incarnation points to the true privilege of being a woman. Both virginity and maternity meet in Mary who exhibits the feminine gifts of purity, receptivity to God’s word, and life-giving nurturance at their highest.”1

Alice von Hilderbrand is a Catholic philosopher and theologian, whose late husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand, was also a Catholic intellectual giant. Alice has written many works, including The Privilege of Being a WomanThe Soul of a Lion: The Life of Dietrich von Hildebrand, and an autobiography, Memoirs of a Happy Failure. Alice von Hildebrand is also a member of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.2


1. Like Men

“Unwittingly, the feminists acknowledge the superiority of the male sex by wishing to become like men.”


2. Immortal Creation

“One thing is certain: When the time has come, nothing which is man made will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness. In this light, the assertion of de Beauvoir that ‘women produce nothing’ becomes particularly ludicrous.”


3. Way to Holiness

“A woman’s way to holiness is clearly to purify her God-given sensitivity and to direct it into the proper channels.”


4. Harmony in the Saints

“These Saints, masterpieces of God’s grace, combine all great male virtues with female gentleness. Great female saints, while keeping the perfume of female gentleness, can show a strength and courage that sociology usually reserves to the male sex. It is typical of the supernatural that such apparently contradictory features can be harmoniously united.”


5. Feelings in the Noble Heart

“It is unwarranted to regard women as inferior because feelings play a central role in their lives. If the feelings vibrating in their hearts are noble, appropriate, good, legitimate, sanctioned, and pleasing to God, then they are precious jewels in God’s sight.”


6. Purity

“Deep down, society understands that women’s purity is a linchpin of any Christian society; nay, of any civilized society. When she betrays her mission, not only is God offended but in wounding herself spiritually she wounds the Church and society at large.”


7. Suffering

“Just as Christ has suffered the agonizing pains of the crucifixion in order to reopen for us the gates of heaven, so the woman has received the costly privilege of suffering so that another child made to God’s image and likeness can enter into the world.”


  1. Quote taken from Amazon book description. []
  2. Order of St. Gregory the Great – Wiki. []

47 Questions & Answers on the Sacrament of Matrimony from the Late Nineteenth Century

The Sacrament of Matrimony is the Sacrament which unites a Christian man and woman in lawful marriage.

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism for teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and it simplifies even the most complex theological questions. All the lists taken from the Baltimore Catechism may be found here.



Baltimore Catechism No. 3
On Matrimony


Q. 1005. What is the Sacrament of Matrimony?

A. The Sacrament of Matrimony is the Sacrament which unites a Christian man and woman in lawful marriage.


Q. 1006. When are persons lawfully married?

A. Persons are lawfully married when they comply with all the laws of God and of the Church relating to marriage. To marry unlawfully is a mortal sin, and it deprives the souls of the grace of the Sacrament.


Q. 1007. When was marriage first instituted?

A. Marriage was first instituted in the Garden of Eden, when God created Adam and Eve and made them husband and wife, but it was not then a Sacrament, for their union did not confer any special grace.


Q. 1008. When was the contract of marriage raised to the dignity of a Sacrament?

A. The exact time at which the contract of marriages was raised to the dignity of a Sacrament is not known, but the fact that it was thus raised is certain from passages in the New Testament and from the constant teaching of the Church ever since the time of the apostles. Our Lord did not merely add grace to the contract, but He made the very contract a Sacrament, so that Christians cannot make this contract without receiving the Sacrament.


Q. 1009. What is the outward sign in the Sacrament of Matrimony, and in what does the whole essence of the marriage contract consist?

A. The outward sign in the Sacrament of matrimony is the mutual consent of the persons, expressed by words or signs in accordance with the laws of the Church. The whole essence of the marriage contract consists in the surrender by the persons of their bodies to each other and in declaring by word or sign that they make this surrender and take each other for husband and wife now and for life.


Q. 1010. What are the chief ends of the Sacrament of Matrimony?

A. The chief ends of the Sacrament of matrimony are:

To enable the husband and wife to aid each other in securing the salvation of their souls; To propagate or keep up the existence of the human race by bringing children into the world to serve God; To prevent sins against the holy virtue of purity by faithfully obeying the laws of the marriage state.


Q. 1011. Can a Christian man and woman be united in lawful marriage in any other way than by the Sacrament of Matrimony?

A. A Christian man and woman cannot be united in lawful marriage in any other way than by the Sacrament of Matrimony, because Christ raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.


Q. 1012. Were, then, all marriages before the coming of Christ unlawful and invalid?

A. All marriages before the coming of Christ were not unlawful and invalid. They were both lawful and valid when the persons contracting them followed the dictates of their conscience and the laws of God as they knew them; but such marriages were only contracts. Through their evil inclinations many forgot or neglected the true character of marriage till Our Lord restored it to its former unity and purity.


Q. 1013. What do we mean by impediments to marriage?

A. By impediments to marriage we mean certain restrictions, imposed by the law of God or of the Church, that render the marriage invalid or unlawful when they are violated in entering into it. These restrictions regard age, health, relationship, intention, religion and other matters affecting the good of the Sacrament.


Q. 1014. Can the Church dispense from or remove these impediments to marriage?

A. The Church can dispense from or remove the impediments to marriage that arise from its own laws; but it cannot dispense from impediments that arise from the laws of God and nature. Every lawmaker can change or excuse from the laws made by himself or his equals, but he cannot, of his own authority, change or excuse from laws made by a higher power.


Q. 1015. What is required that the Church may grant, when it is able, dispensations from the impediments to marriage or from other laws?

A. That the Church may grant dispensations from the impediments to marriage or from other laws, there must be a good and urgent reason for granting such dispensations. The Church does not grant dispensations without cause and merely to satisfy the wishes of those who ask for them.


Q. 1016. Why does the Church sometimes require the persons to whom dispensations are granted to pay a tax or fee for the privilege?

A. The Church sometimes requires the persons to whom dispensations are granted to pay a tax or fee for the privilege: That persons on account of this tax be restrained from asking for dispensations and may comply with the general laws; That the Church may not have to bear the expense of supporting an office for granting privileges to a few.


Q. 1017. What should persons who are about to get married do?

A. Persons who are about to get married should give their pastor timely notice of their intention, make known to him privately whatever they suspect might be an impediment to the marriage, and make sure of all arrangements before inviting their friends.


Q. 1018. What timely notice of marriage should be given to the priest, and why?

A. At least three weeks notice of marriage should be given to the priest, because, according to the laws of the Church, the names of the persons about to get married must be announced and their intended marriage published at the principal Mass in their parish for three successive Sundays.


Q. 1019. Why are the banns of matrimony published in the Church?

A. The banns of matrimony are published in the Church that any person who might know of any impediment to the marriage may have an opportunity to declare it privately to the priest before the marriage takes place and thus prevent an invalid or unlawful marriage. Persons who know of such impediments and fail to declare them in due time are guilty of sin.


Q. 1020. What things in particular should persons arranging for their marriage make known to the priest?

A. Persons arranging for their marriage should make known to the priest whether both are Christians and Catholics; whether either has been solemnly engaged to another person; whether they have ever made any vow to God with regard to chastity or the like; whether they are related and in what degree; whether either was ever married to any member of the other’s family and whether either was ever godparent in baptism for the other.


Q. 1021. What else must they make known?

A. They must also make known whether either was married before and what proof can be given of the death of the former husband or wife; whether they really intend to get married, and do so of their own will; whether they are of lawful age; whether they are sound in body or suffering from any deformity that might prevent their marriage, and lastly, whether they live in the parish in which they ask to be married, and if so, how long they have lived in it.


Q. 1022. What is particularly necessary that persons may do their duty in the marriage state?

A. That persons may do their duty in the marriage state, it is particularly necessary that they should be well instructed, before entering it, in the truths and duties of their religion for how will they teach their children these things if they are ignorant of them themselves?


Q. 1023. Can the bond of Christian marriage be dissolved by any human power?

A. The bond of Christian marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power.


Q. 1024. Does not a divorce granted by courts of justice break the bond of marriage?

A. Divorce granted by courts of justice or by any human power does not break the bond of marriage, and one who makes use of such a divorce to marry again while the former husband or wife lives commits a sacrilege and lives in the sin of adultery. A civil divorce may give a sufficient reason for the persons to live apart and it may determine their rights with regard to support, the control of the children and other temporal things, but it has no effect whatever upon the bond and spiritual nature of the Sacrament.


Q. 1025. Does not the Church sometimes allow husband and wife to separate and live apart?

A. The Church sometimes, for very good reasons, does allow husband and wife to separate and live apart; but that is not dissolving the bond of marriage, or divorce as it is called, for though separated they are still husband and wife, and neither can marry again till the other dies.


Q. 1026. Has not the Church sometimes allowed Catholics once married to separate and marry again?

A. The Church has never allowed Catholics once really married to separate and marry again, but it has sometimes declared persons apparently married free to marry again, because their first marriage was null; that is, no marriage on account of some impediment not discovered till after the ceremony.


Q. 1027. What evils follow divorce so commonly claimed by those outside the true Church and granted by civil authority?

A. The evils that follow divorce so commonly claimed by those outside the true Church and granted by civil authority are very many; but chiefly: A disregard for the sacred character of the Sacrament and for the spiritual welfare of the children; The loss of the true idea of home and family followed by bad morals and sinful living.


Q. 1028. Which are the effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony?

A. The effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony are:

To sanctify the love of husband and wife;
To give them grace to bear with each other’s weaknesses;
To enable them to bring up their children in the fear and love of God.


Q. 1029. What do we mean by bearing with each other’s weaknesses?

A. By bearing with each other’s weaknesses we mean that the husband and wife must be patient with each other’s faults, bad habits or dispositions, pardon them easily, and aid each other in overcoming them.


Q. 1030. How are parents specially fitted to bring up their children in the fear and love of God?

A. Parents are specially fitted to bring up their children in the fear and love of God:

By the special grace they receive to advise and direct their children and to warn them against evil;
By the experience they have acquired in passing through life from childhood to the position of parents. Children should, therefore, conscientiously seek and accept the direction of good parents.


Q. 1031. To receive the Sacrament of Matrimony worthily is it necessary to be in the state of grace?

A. To receive the Sacrament of Matrimony worthily it is necessary to be in the state of grace, and it is necessary also to comply with the laws of the Church.


Q. 1032. With what laws of the Church are we bound to comply in receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony?

A. In receiving the Sacrament of matrimony we are bound to comply with whatever laws of the Church concern Matrimony; such as laws forbidding solemn marriage in Lent and Advent; or marriage with relatives or with persons of a different religion, and in general all laws that refer to any impediment to marriage.


Q. 1033. In how many ways may persons be related?

A. Persons may be related in four ways. When they are related by blood their relationship is called consanguinity; when they are related by marriage it is called affinity; when they are related by being god-parents in Baptism or Confirmation, it is called spiritual affinity; when they are related by adoption, it is called legal affinity.


Q. 1034. Who has the right to make laws concerning the Sacrament of marriage?

A. The Church alone has the right to make laws concerning the Sacrament of marriage, though the state also has the right to make laws concerning the civil effects of the marriage contract.


Q. 1035. What do we mean by laws concerning the civil effects of the marriage contract?

A. By laws concerning the civil effects of the marriage contract we mean laws with regard to the property or debts of the husband and wife, the inheritance of their children, or whatever pertains to their temporal affairs. All persons are bound to obey the laws of their country when these laws are not opposed to the laws of God.


Q. 1036. Does the Church forbid the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion or no religion at all?

A. The Church does forbid the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion or no religion at all.


Q. 1037. Why does the Church forbid the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion or no religion at all?

A. The Church forbids the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion, or no religion at all, because such marriages generally lead to indifference, loss of faith, and to the neglect of the religious education of the children.


Q. 1038. What are the marriages of Catholics with persons of a different religion called, and when does the Church permit them by dispensation?

A. The marriages of Catholics with persons of a different religion are called mixed marriages. The Church permits them by dispensation only under certain conditions and for urgent reasons; chiefly to prevent a greater evil.


Q. 1039. What are the conditions upon which the Church will permit a Catholic to marry one who is not a Catholic?

A. The conditions upon which the Church will permit a Catholic to marry one who is not a Catholic are:

That the Catholic be allowed the free exercise of his or her religion;
That the Catholic shall try by teaching and good example to lead the one who is not a Catholic to embrace the true faith;
That all the children born of the marriage shall be brought up in the Catholic religion. The marriage ceremony must not be repeated before a heretical minister. Without these promises, the Church will not consent to a mixed marriage, and if the Church does not consent the marriage is unlawful.


Q. 1040. What penalty does the Church impose on Catholics who marry before a Protestant minister?

A. Catholics who marry before a Protestant minister incur excommunication; that is, a censure of the Church or spiritual penalty which prevents them from receiving the Sacrament of Penance till the priest who hears their confession gets special faculties or permission from the bishop; because by such a marriage they make profession of a false religion in acknowledging as a priest one who has neither sacred power nor authority.


Q. 1041. How does the Church show its displeasure at mixed marriages?

A. The Church shows its displeasure at mixed marriages by the coldness with which it sanctions them, prohibiting all religious ceremony at them by forbidding the priest to use any sacred vestments, holy water or blessing of the ring at such marriages; by prohibiting them also from taking place in the Church or even in the sacristy. On the other hand, the Church shows its joy and approval at a true Catholic marriage by the Nuptial Mass and solemn ceremonies.


Q. 1042. Why should Catholics avoid mixed marriages?

A. Catholics should avoid mixed marriages:

Because they are displeasing to the Church and cannot bring with them the full measure of God’s grace and blessing;
Because the children should have the good example of both parents in the practice of their religion;
Because such marriages give rise to frequent disputes on religious questions between husband and wife and between their relatives;
Because the one not a Catholic, disregarding the sacred character of the Sacrament, may claim a divorce and marry again, leaving the Catholic married and abandoned.


Q. 1043. Does the Church seek to make converts by its laws concerning mixed marriages?

A. The Church does not seek to make converts by its laws concerning mixed marriages, but seeks only to keep its children from losing their faith and becoming perverts by constant company with persons not Catholics. The Church does not wish persons to become Catholics merely for the sake of marrying Catholics. Such conversions are, as a rule, not sincere, do no good, but rather make such converts hypocrites and guilty of greater sins, especially sins of sacrilege.


Q. 1044. Why do many marriages prove unhappy?

A. Many marriages prove unhappy because they are entered into hastily and without worthy motives.


Q. 1045. When are marriages entered into hastily?

A. Marriages are entered into hastily when persons do not sufficiently consider and investigate the character, habits and dispositions of the one they intend to marry. It is wise to look for lasting qualities and solid virtues in a life-long companion and not to be carried away with characteristics that please only for a time.


Q. 1046. When are motives for marriage worthy?

A. Motives for marriage are worthy when persons enter it for the sake of doing God’s will and fulfilling the end for which He instituted the Sacrament. Whatever is opposed to the true object of the Sacrament and the sanctification of the husband and wife must be an unworthy motive.


Q. 1047. How should Christians prepare for a holy and happy marriage?

A. Christians should prepare for a holy and happy marriage by receiving the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist; by begging God to grant them a pure intention and to direct their choice; and by seeking the advice of their parents and the blessing of their pastors.


Q. 1048. How may parents be guilty of great injustice to their children in case of marriage?

A. Parents may be guilty of great injustice to their children in case of marriage by seeking the gratification of their own aims and desires, rather than the good of their children, and thus for selfish and unreasonable motives forcing their children to marry persons they dislike or preventing them from marrying the persons chosen by the dictates of their conscience, or compelling them to marry when they have no vocation for such a life or no true knowledge of its obligations.


Q. 1049. May persons receive the Sacrament of Matrimony more than once?

A. Persons may receive the sacrament of Matrimony more than once, provided they are certain of the death of the former husband or wife and comply with the laws of the Church.


Q. 1050. Where and at what time of the day should Catholics be married?

A. Catholics should be married before the altar in the Church. They should be married in the morning, and with a Nuptial Mass if possible.


Q. 1051. What must never be forgotten by those who attend a marriage ceremony in the Church?

A. They who attend a marriage ceremony in the Church must never forget the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and that all laughing, talking, or irreverence is forbidden then as at other times. Women must never enter into the presence of the Blessed Sacrament with uncovered heads, and their dress must be in keeping with the strict modesty that Our Lord’s presence demands, no matter what worldly vanity or social manners may require.

15 Catholic Quotes in Response to the SCOTUS Rulings on DOMA and Prop 8

“It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.” – Justice Scalia

Recommended Reading



Scalia More hat
Justice Scalia wearing his St. Thomas More replica hat.

“But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual.”

“All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence— indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.” – Justice Scalia, U.S. v. Windsor, dissent. [Source]


“Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it…” – Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. [Source]


“Today’s decisions will also undoubtedly contribute to concerted efforts not just to redefine marriage but to dismantle it, efforts which represent a serious threat to religious liberty and conscience rights for countless people of faith. This threat to religious freedom is one of many, locally and nationally, that has prompted our current Fortnight for Freedom, which we hope will inspire people throughout the country to prayer, education, and action to preserve religious liberty.” – Archbishop William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore [Source]


“While today’s decision voids federal law it opens the doors to others: it allows the citizens of each state the opportunity to uphold the true definition of marriage by voting for representatives and legislation that defend the true definition of marriage. I call on all people of good will to make their voices heard through the democratic process by upholding marriage in their home states… This archdiocese remains resolved in the belief that no Catholic priest will ever be compelled to condone- even silently – same-sex “marriages.” – The Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA. [Source]


“The response of the Catholic Church is universal and unchanged. Marriage is not a societal construct, but is rather an institution given by God and written in the laws of nature, established at the creation of the world. With this in mind, no government power has the authority or ability to redefine the essence of marriage. Their redefinition only causes them to officially speak incorrectly about marriage.” – From the Office of the Bishop, the Diocese of Tulsa [Source]


“At this time, we as Catholics reaffirm that no court decision can recreate reality or change the truth about marriage, and we mourn for what will likely be lost for many as a result of this decision – the conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman and the freedom that comes from living in that conviction. We will continue to pray for a renewed respect for the complementarity of the sexes and the authentic goods of marriage.” – Archbishop Coakley of the Diocese of Oklahoma City [Source]


“Anthony McLeod Kennedy, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, authored today’s majority opinion striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. This was his third sodomy case at the Supreme Court where he authored the pro-sodomy opinion. He also authored a 1996 opinion overriding Colorado’s constitution, where Kennedy invented a federal right for practicing homosexuals to have special discrimination claim rights. And he authored the infamous 2003 decision inventing a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, overriding state laws… The bishop, the Most Reverend Paul Stephen Loverde, has stood firm in a position of Communion-on-Demand, no matter who presents himself at the altar rail (or missing rail, as the bishop has also banned the construction of altar rails). We shall see if Bishop Loverde is content with a three-time author of pro-sodomy decisions receiving Communion in his diocese this Sunday, or if the time is finally now to exert some nominal discipline. Sodomy is a sin that cries to Heaven for vengeance, even in the Diocese of Arlington, right?”  Adfero, Justice Anthony Kennedy: “full communion,” Rorate Caeli. [Source]


“Justice Kennedy wrote, ‘The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.’ This is only slightly less outrageously self-contradictory than his famous ‘mystery” utterance: ‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.'”That statement was written by Justice Kennedy (along with Justices Souter and O’Connor) in his opinion on the 1992 case, “Planned Parenthood v. Casey.”  Father Fessio, S.J. [Source]


“Catholic teaching protects the dignity of every human person, all deserving love and respect, including those who experience same-sex attraction. This is a reality that calls for compassion, sensitivity, and pastoral care. But no one –especially a child, is served by marriage redefinition.” – Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta [Source]


“While civil law establishes societal standards of conduct, we must also consider the natural law, moral law and divine revelation,” Bishop Wester said. “It is from these fonts of wisdom and grace that we Catholics understand that marriage between one man and one woman is a gift to humanity. The blessings of such a marriage cannot be legislated, litigated or changed by civil authorities.” – The Most Reverend John C. Wester, Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City [Source]


“The well-being of our society, our nation, and our families is intimately linked to the institution of marriage. These decisions by the United States Supreme Court will make significantly more difficult our work of upholding the truth that marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Such decisions, made by any civic authority, do not serve the common good.” – Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron [Source]


“The truth is that marriage is between a man and a woman… Court decisions may change, but the truth does not… The Catholic Church will be faithful to this truth whether it is convenient or not.” – Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Mobile [Source]


Updated 6-27-13

“As in the case of Roe v. Wade striking down abortion laws forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court has again usurped its legitimate prerogative through a raw exercise of judicial power by giving legal protection to an intrinsic evil… These hollow decisions are absolutely devoid of moral authority. It is becoming increasingly and abundantly clear that what secular law now calls “marriage” has no semblance to the sacred institution of Holy Matrimony. People of faith are called to reject the redefinition of marriage and bear witness to the truth of Holy Matrimony as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between one man and one woman.” – Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois [Source]


“The Bishops of Massachusetts are extremely disappointed that the Court has struck down DOMA. The Church continues to stand for the traditional definition of marriage, an institution which unites one man and one woman with any children who may come from that union. Marriage, as a natural institution, predates both religion and government and is grounded in the nature of the human person. Protecting the traditional definition of marriage affirms the basic rights and dignity of women and men while safeguarding the basic rights of children.” – Massachusetts Catholic Conference Statement on DOMA Ruling [Source]

Updated 7-1-13

How serious a threat to marriage and society is the Supreme Court decision on DOMA?

Without being able to go into the actual text of the decision, what the decision represents, sadly, for our society, is a loss of the sense of nature, and specifically human nature, and the continuation in the highest judicial decisions of the pretence to define, for instance, the meaning of human life, define marriage in a way other than nature herself defines marriage. So this is one more step down a path which is destructive. So it’s a very serious matter, and we have to, as citizens of the United States, reawaken and insist on the respect for human life and also for the integrity of the marital union.

Do you see it being reversed in any way?

I certainly hope so — I hope people of good will fight for the sake of saving marriage, because marriage and the family are the first cell of the whole life of society. This is not a particularly Catholic issue, and that should be made clear. Surely, the Catholic Church teaches the moral law, but this has to do with the moral law written on every human heart, and you can’t tell me the founders of the United States of America didn’t have a respect for nature and a profound sense of it. In any case, we must have it.

How should the Church best respond to this?

The Church should teach very effectively and also encourage her members to be active in politics, in education and every aspect of society to promote a sound understanding of marriage and the family.

– Interview with His Eminence Cardinal Burke, National Catholic Register [Source]


Listers, if you have a recommended quote share it in the comment box. We’ll be updating this list as this historical event unfolds. Keep Calm and Catholic On. 

5 Catholic Documents on Family, Sex, and Homosexuality

Listers, though not an exhaustive list, we want to bring several Catholic documents to the forefront 0f the discussion of family and marriage. One of the many reasons our society cannot have a thoughtful conversation on homosexuality is because we’ve lost our vocabulary to even discuss the family. Too often a conversation on family, sex, or homosexuality devolves to one side blindly tossing out Bible verses and the other presenting shallow hackneyed slogans, e.g., “love is love.” A direct problem with supporting the natural family on the flat basis of “the Bible says so” is it communicates to the pro-homosexuality camp that the sole argument against same-sex marriage is religious; therefore, if one simply interprets the Bible differently or does not care what the Bible says, there is no argument against same-sex marriage. Moreover, this common mistake of Christians of using the Bible alone paints their camp as a religiously tyrannical – attempting to use their religion to suppress those who are not in it.

What needs to be brought to the conversation is twofold. First, we do need a proper religious understanding of marriage. Protestants and Catholic communities are plagued with divorce and contraceptive use and this immediately undercuts any proper argument on sexuality or marriage. Second, we need a proper philosophical understanding of marriage’s role within the state as articulated by natural law. Reason and nature are common to all men. While Catholicism has assumed these principles into its theological understanding of marriage – for grace perfects nature and the sacramental marriage of the Church perfects the natural institution – we must have the philosophical understanding to explain the natural institution to non-Catholics. Marriage has always been viewed a the primary and foundational sub-political part of the state – with both marriage and the political body of the state being viewed as natural institutions of the rational and political animal, man; however, today marriage has been reduced to a shallow romance that is solely about feeling loved and has been divorced from procreation or really any civic responsibility. The conversation needs to be rebooted and Catholics need to lead the way.


The following documents are a sampling of the Church’s teachings and are presented in chronological order without commentary. What documents do you think should be added to this list? Tell us and we’ll add them on.


1. Casti Connubii by Pope Pius XI, 1930.

How great is the dignity of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, may be judged best from this that Christ Our Lord, Son of the Eternal Father, having assumed the nature of fallen man, not only, with His loving desire of compassing the redemption of our race, ordained it in an especial manner as the principle and foundation of domestic society and therefore of all human intercourse, but also raised it to the rank of a truly and great sacrament of the New Law, restored it to the original purity of its divine institution, and accordingly entrusted all its discipline and care to His spouse the Church…

Casti Connubii full text.


2. Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI, 1968.

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

Read Humanae Vitae in full.


3. Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II, 1981.

The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture. Many families are living this situation in fidelity to those values that constitute the foundation of the institution of the family. Others have become uncertain and bewildered over their role or even doubtful and almost unaware of the ultimate meaning and truth of conjugal and family life. Finally, there are others who are hindered by various situations of injustice in the realization of their fundamental rights.

Knowing that marriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values, the Church wishes to speak and offer her help to those who are already aware of the value of marriage and the family and seek to live it faithfully, to those who are uncertain and anxious and searching for the truth, and to those who are unjustly impeded from living freely their family lives. Supporting the first, illuminating the second and assisting the others, the Church offers her services to every person who wonders about the destiny of marriage and the family.(1)

In a particular way the Church addresses the young, who are beginning their journey towards marriage and family life, for the purpose of presenting them with new horizons, helping them to discover the beauty and grandeur of the vocation to love and the service of life…

Read Familiaris Consortio – full text.


4. CDF: On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986

The issue of homosexuality and the moral evaluation of homosexual acts have increasingly become a matter of public debate, even in Catholic circles. Since this debate often advances arguments and makes assertions inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church, it is quite rightly a cause for concern to all engaged in the pastoral ministry, and this Congregation has judged it to be of sufficiently grave and widespread importance to address to the Bishops of the Catholic Church this Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons…

Read the CDF letter in full.


 5. Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, USCCB, 2009.

Among the many blessings that God has showered upon us in Christ is the blessing of
marriage, a gift bestowed by the Creator from the creation of the human race. His hand has
inscribed the vocation to marriage in the very nature of man and woman (see Gn 1:27-28, 2:21-

Father, by your plan man and woman are united,
and married life has been established
as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin
or washed away by the flood.

Original Sin introduced evil and disorder into the world. As a consequence of the break
with God, this first sin ruptured the original communion between man and woman. Nonetheless,
the original blessing of marriage was never revoked.

Read the USCCB document in full.

Have a document you think should be added to this list? Provide it in the comment box below and we’ll add it. 

Lust and Our Common Good: 4 Observations by St. Thomas Aquinas

The question Is lust a sin? seems absurd, but by asking these questions and answering them in thomistic fullness the Angelic Doctor is able to lead us into profound observations.

Listers, a portion of St. Thomas Aquinas’ brilliance is attributed to his ability to state that which we all already know but struggle to articulate. The question Is lust a sin? seems absurd, but by asking these questions and answering them in thomistic fullness the Angelic Doctor is able to lead us into profound observations. Similar to his treatment on the capital vice of gluttony, the beloved “Dumb Ox” echoes the seriousness in which Christ took the reality of sin and how it perverts what is good and reasonable in humanity.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, whose virtue warms the world.

1. What is the proper matter of lust?

The Common Doctor begins his treatment of lust by discerning its “matter” or what properly composes the vice of lust.

As Isidore says (Etym. x), “a lustful man is one who is debauched with pleasures.” Now venereal pleasures above all debauch a man’s mind. Therefore lust is especially concerned with such like pleasures.

The Angelic Doctor turns to the authority of St. Isidore of Seville (d. AD 560)1 and agrees the lustful man is “debauched with pleasures.” However, exactly what pleasures compose the matter of lust? Lust is contrary to the virtue of temperance, which holds us to right reason in the midst of that which would lure us away – yet how is it different than greed or gluttony?

Even as temperance chiefly and properly applies to pleasures of touch, yet consequently and by a kind of likeness is referred to other matters, so too, lust applies chiefly to venereal pleasures, which more than anything else work the greatest havoc in a man’s mind, yet secondarily it applies to any other matters pertaining to excess. Hence a gloss on Galatians 5:19 says “lust is any kind of surfeit.”

To wit, lust applies primarily to venereal pleasures and secondarily to other pleasures.

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

2. Are all sexual acts lustful?

Listers, Aquinas commonly submits questions that seem strange or even absurd. Some questions seem superfluous and others seem so obvious that they need not be asked. However, the Summa Theologica is not an encyclopedia, but a pedagogical series of questions that build upon one another. This question’s official title is Whether no venereal act can be without sin? and it lays the groundwork to understand the more complex questions and answers.

A sin, in human acts, is that which is against the order of reason. Now the order of reason consists in its ordering everything to its end in a fitting manner. Wherefore it is no sin if one, by the dictate of reason, makes use of certain things in a fitting manner and order for the end to which they are adapted, provided this end be something truly good.

Virtue is a good habit or that which disposes us to good acts through the perfection of our powers. One such power is our reason and virtue perfects the power of our reason, e.g., temperance holds us to reason when faced with pleasures that would lure us from reason.2

Vices are those habits which would disorder our reason. If temperance is the virtue that holds us to right reason even in the midsts of allurement – in distinction to fortitude which holds us to reason in the midst of fear – the the vice of lust seeks to pervert that which is good and reasonable through venereal matters.3

Now just as the preservation of the bodily nature of one individual is a true good, so, too, is the preservation of the nature of the human species a very great good. And just as the use of food is directed to the preservation of life in the individual, so is the use of venereal acts directed to the preservation of the whole human race.

Hence Augustine says (De Bono Conjug. xvi): “What food is to a man’s well being, such is sexual intercourse to the welfare of the whole human race.” Wherefore just as the use of food can be without sin, if it be taken in due manner and order, as required for the welfare of the body, so also the use of venereal acts can be without sin, provided they be performed in due manner and order, in keeping with the end of human procreation.

Sex is good and serves a mighty and noble purpose within the human race. Lust however seeks to corrupt man’s reasoning toward sex and distort its goodness.


Lust in Dante’s Inferno by Gustave Dore

3. Why is lust a sin?

In his question Whether the lust that is about venereal acts can be a sin? the Common Doctor of the Church builds upon the foundation already laid.

The more necessary a thing is, the more it behooves one to observe the order of reason in its regard; wherefore the more sinful it becomes if the order of reason be forsaken. Now the use of venereal acts, as stated in the foregoing Article, is most necessary for the common good, namely the preservation of the human race.

Wherefore there is the greatest necessity for observing the order of reason in this matter: so that if anything be done in this connection against the dictate of reason’s ordering, it will be a sin. Now lust consists essentially in exceeding the order and mode of reason in the matter of venereal acts. Wherefore without any doubt lust is a sin.

Evil is not a thing in itself, but is rather a lack or an absence of what is good. Aquinas would say evil is the privation of the good. In that line of thinking, if right reason is a good and sin is an evil then being sinful is irrational and a strike against reason. Lust then carries a particular weightiness about it due to human sexuality’s strong connection with the common good. The seriousness imported by the corruption of lust is the basis of Aquinas’ next question.


Virtue perfects our reason and the vices incline humanity to the irrational and the disorder. It is humanity’s choice. Dante’s inferno – “Dante and Virgil in hell” (1850) by William Bouguereau.

4. Is lust a capital vice?

Flowing with the logical progression of St. Thomas’ previous questions, it is no surprise that Aquinas cites the authority of Pope St. Gregory the Great in naming lust a capital or “deadly” vice.

Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) places lust among the capital vices.

As stated above, a capital vice is one that has a very desirable end, so that through desire for that end, a man proceeds to commit many sins, all of which are said to arise from that vice as from a principal vice. Now the end of lust is venereal pleasure, which is very great. Wherefore this pleasure is very desirable as regards the sensitive appetite, both on account of the intensity of the pleasure, and because such like concupiscence is connatural to man. Therefore it is evident that lust is a capital vice.

Like virtues, vices are habits and habits are a quality that define who we are. As virtues produce in us many good works so too do vices become sordid sources of many sins. Lust is a capital vice because it manifests sins within the matter of man’s strong desire for venereal pleasures and that venereal pleasure in and of itself is a good when properly ordered to reason.

  1. Isidore: Born at Cartagena, Spain, about 560; died 4 April, 636. Isidore was the son of Severianus and Theodora. His elder brother Leander was his immediate predecessor in the Metropolitan See of Seville; whilst a younger brother St. Fulgentius presided over the Bishopric of Astigi. His sister Florentina was a nun, and is said to have ruled over forty convents and one thousand religious. Source []
  2. What is a habit? –  The Philosopher (Aristotle) “defines habit, a ‘disposition whereby someone is disposed, well or ill;’ and he says that by ‘habits we are directed well or ill in reference to the passions.’ For when a the mode is suitable to the thing’s nature, it has the aspect of good: and when it is unsuitable, it has the aspect of evil.” (I-II.49)

    A Habit or Act? –  Virtue “denotes a certain perfection of a power. Now a thing’s perfection is considered chiefly in regard to its end. But the end of power is act. Wherefore power is said to be perfect, according as it is determinate to its act.” Power (potential) finds its end in an act. Virtue perfects the power; thus, the act is perfected. Justice is not an act, but by the habit of justice one may act justly. – More on Virtue from Aquinas []

  3. Temperance v. Fortitude: In clarification by contrast, temperance would be the virtue that keeps us from adultery, masturbation, and any disordered sexual pleasure, while fortitude holds us to reason in the midst of fear, e.g., on the battlefield, when scared to do what is right and good, etc. []

Pre-Cana with St. John Chrysostom: 7 Tips to a Successful Marriage

In this stream of thought, I am going to list 7 quotes from the man who possibly saved my marriage before I even met my husband.

Listers, next to converting to Catholicism, the second best choice of my life was marrying my husband. Before I converted and before I met my husband, I did not believe that marriage was a sacrament. Not recognizing this great mysterious gift as one of the major sources of grace caused me to think all sorts of other errant nonsense. For example, I believed that divorce was okay and that contraception was not only permissible but essential to a happy marriage. Fortunately I met St. John Chrysostom before I met my husband.

There was a stat floating around on the internet that said that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Whether that is true I am not sure. However, it got me thinking. If this stat is true, then why is this the case? I think that part and maybe the whole problem of it is most people don’t understand how serious marriage is. We see youtube videos of these kind of goofy weddings where people are dancing hamfistedly down the aisles, but as cute and adorable and unique as that may be it’s not serious enough for what the occasion is all about. Marriage is a sacrament. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about what that means.

In this stream of thought, I am going to list 7 quotes from the man who possibly saved my marriage before I even met my husband.1

1. Pick Virtue Rather than Riches When Selecting a Good Husband

First, look for a husband who will really be a husband and a protector; remember that you are placing a head on a body. When your daughter is to be married, don’t look for how much money a man has. Don’t worry about his nationality or his family’s social position […] When you are satisfied that the man is virtuous and decide what day they will be married, beseech Christ to be present at the wedding. He is not ashamed to come for marriage is an image of His presence in the Church. Even better than this: pray that your children will each find such a virtuous spouse; entrust this concern of yours into His hands. If you honor Him in this way, He will return honor for honor. — Sermon on Marriage

2. Advice on How to Pick a Wife

Since we know all this, let us seek just one thing in a wife, virtue of soul and nobility of character, so that we may enjoy tranquility, so that we may luxuriate in harmony and lasting love. The man who takes a rich wife takes a boss rather than a wife. If even without wealth women are with pride and prone to the love of fame, if they have wealth in addition, how will their husbands be able to stand them? The man, however, who takes a wife of equal position or poorer than himself takes a helper and ally and brings every blessing into his house. Her own poverty forces her to care for her husband with great concern, to yield to him and obey him in everything. It removes every occasion of strife, battle, presumption, and pride. It binds the couple in peace, harmony, love, and concord. Let us not, therefore, seek to have money, but to have peace, in order to enjoy happiness. Marriage does not exist to fill our houses with war and battles, to give us strife and contention, to pit us against each other and make our life unliveable. It exists in order that we may enjoy another’s help, that we may have a harbor, a refuge, and a consolation in troubles which hang over us, and that we may converse happily with our wife. How many wealthy men who have taken rich wives and increased their substance have yet destroyed their happiness and harmony, as they contend in daily battles at table?How many poor men who have taken poorer wives now enjoy peace and look upon each day’s  sun with joy? –How to Choose a Wife

3. The Two-Fold Purpose of Marriage

Marriage was not instituted for wantonness or fornication, but for chastity. Listen to what Paul says: “Because of the temptation of immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her husband.” There are two purposes for which marriage was instituted: to make us chaster, and to make us parents. Of these two, the reason of chastity takes precedence. — Sermon on Marriage

4. Weddings Should Be Christ-Focused

Marriage is not an evil thing. It is adultery that is evil, it is fornication that is evil. Marriage is a remedy to eliminate fornication. Let us not, therefore, dishonor marriage by the pomp of the devil. Instead, let those who take wives now do as they did at Cana in Galilee. Let them have Christ in their midst. “How can they do this?” someone asks. By inviting the clergy. “He who receives you,” the Lord says, “receives Me.” So drive away the devil. Throw out the lewd songs, the corrupt melodies, the disorderly dances, the shameful words, the diabolical display, the uproar, the unrestrained laughter, and the rest of the impropriety. Bring in instead the holy servants of Christ, and through them Christ will certainly be present along with His mother and His brothers. For He says, “Whoever does the will of My Father is My brother and sister and mother.” — Sermon on Marriage

5. Fidelity Is an Equal Responibility in a Marriage

In this passage [1 Corinthians 7:1-2], however, there is no mention of greater or lesser authority. Why does he speak here in terms of equality? Because his subject is conjugal fidelity. He intends for the husband to have greater responsiblity in nearly every concern, but fidelity is an exception. “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does.” Husband and wife are equally responsible for the honor of their marriage bed. — Homily on 1 Corinthians 7

6. Love is More Powerful than Fear

Notice, however, that Paul explains love in detail, comparing it to Christ’s love for the Church and our love for our own flesh, saying for this reason a man leaves his father and mother but he does not elaborate concerning fear. Why so? He would much prefer love to prevail, because where there is love, everything else follows, but where love is absent, fear will be of no use. If a man loves his wife, he will bear with her even when she isn’t very obedient. How difficult it is to have harmony when husband and wife are not bound together by the power of love! Fear is no substitute for this. That is why he speaks at greater length about the stronger force. So if you think that the wife is the loser because she is told to fear her husband, remember that the principal duty of love is assigned to the husband, and you will see that it is her gain. “And what if my wife refuses to obey me?” a husband will ask. Never mind! Your obligation is to love her; do your duty! Even when we don’t receive our due from others, we must always do our duty. –Homily on Ephesians 5:22-23

7. The Love between a Husband and Wife is a Vital to the Success of Humanity

The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. Men will take up arms and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of this love. St. Paul would not speak so earnestly about this subject without serious reason; why else would he say, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord?” Because when harmony prevails, the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down. –Homily on Ephesians 5:22-23

For all married couples, St. John Chrysostom, pray for us!

N.B. Keep in mind that St. John Chrysostom lived from 347-407 AD, so this was clearly a different age and different part of the world. Arranged marriages were a more common place occurrence. Also, the structure of marriages were different in those days. So, please hear out all of what St. John Chrysostom has to say because his intent is not misogyny but to help married couples flourish in their vocation.


More from SPL:
Splendor of the East: 5 Byzantine Hymns All Catholics Should Know
8 Quotes from St. John Chrysostom on How to Raise Children
6 Things You Should Know About the Melkite Catholic Church
Lists referencing “Holy Matrimony”
More lists with recourse to the Early Church Fathers

  1. All quotes were taken from the following compilation of Chrysostom writings:
    Chrysostom, St. John. On Marriage and Family Life. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986. []

The Character Imprinted on the Soul: 12 More Questions About the Sacraments

“This character remains in the soul even after death; for the honor and glory of those who are saved; for the shame and punishment of those who are lost.”

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions.

SPL and the Sacraments
4 Questions on the Sacraments from Aquinas
Part I: 11 Questions on the Sacraments
Part II: What Grace is Given in the Sacraments and 10 Other Questions
Part III: Sacraments of the Dead – 12 Questions on Sacrilege and Grace


On the Sacraments in General
Part IV: Questions 608-619


Q. 608. Can we receive the Sacraments more than once?

A. We can receive the Sacraments more than once, except Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.


Q. 609. Why can we not receive Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders more than once?

A. We cannot receive Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders more than once, because they imprint a character in the soul.


Q. 610. What is the character which these Sacraments imprint in the soul?

A. The character which these Sacraments imprint in the soul is a spiritual mark which remains forever.


Q. 611. Does this character remain in the soul even after death?

A. This character remains in the soul even after death; for the honor and glory of those who are saved; for the shame and punishment of those who are lost.


Q. 612. Can the Sacraments be given conditionally?

A. The Sacraments can be given conditionally as often as we doubt whether they were properly given before, or whether they can be validly given now.


Q. 613. What do we mean by giving a Sacrament conditionally?

A. By giving a Sacrament conditionally we mean that the person administering the Sacrament intends to give it only in case it has not been given already or in case the person has the right dispositions for receiving it, though the dispositions cannot be discovered.


Q. 614. Give an example of how a Sacrament is given conditionally.

A. In giving Baptism, for instance, conditionally — or what we call conditional Baptism — the priest, instead of saying absolutely, as he does in ordinary Baptism: “I baptize thee,” etc., says: “If you are not already baptized, or if you are capable of being baptized, I baptize thee,” etc., thus stating the sole condition on which he intends to administer the Sacrament.


Q. 615. Which of the Sacraments are most frequently given conditionally?

A. The Sacraments most frequently given conditionally are Baptism, Penance and Extreme Unction; because in some cases it is difficult to ascertain whether these Sacraments have been given before or whether they have been validly given, or whether the person about to receive them has the right dispositions for them.


Q. 616. Name some of the more common circumstances in which a priest is obliged to administer the Sacraments conditionally.

A. Some of the more common circumstances in which a priest is obliged to administer the Sacraments conditionally are:

When he receives converts into the Church and is not certain of their previous baptism, he must baptize them conditionally.
When he is called — as in cases of accident or sudden illness — and doubts whether the person be alive or dead, or whether he should be given the Sacraments, he must give absolution and administer Extreme Unction conditionally.


Q. 617. What is the use and effect of giving the Sacraments conditionally?

A. The use of giving the Sacraments conditionally is that there may be no irreverence to the Sacraments in giving them to persons incapable or unworthy of receiving them; and yet that no one who is capable or worthy may be deprived of them. The effect is to supply the Sacrament where it is needed or can be given, and to withhold it where it is not needed or cannot be given.


Q. 618. What is the difference between the powers of a bishop and of a priest with regard to the administration of the Sacraments?

A. The difference between the powers of a bishop and of a priest with regard to the administration of the Sacraments is that a bishop can give all the Sacraments, while a priest cannot give Confirmation or Holy Orders.


Q. 619. Can a person receive all the Sacraments?

A. A person cannot, as a rule, receive all the Sacraments; for a woman cannot receive Holy Orders, and a man who receives priesthood is forbidden to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.


Listers, Part IV concludes the Baltimore Catechism’s treatment of the Sacraments in General.

Sacraments of the Dead: 12 Questions on Sacrilege and Grace

“Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony are called Sacraments of the living because those who receive them worthily are already living the life of grace.”

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions.

SPL and the Sacraments
4 Questions on the Sacraments from Aquinas
Part I: 11 Questions on the Sacraments
Part II: What Grace is Given in the Sacraments and 10 Other Questions


On the Sacraments in General
Part III: Questions 596-607

Q. 596. Which are the Sacraments that increase sanctifying grace in our soul?

A. The Sacraments that increase sanctifying grace in our souls are: Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony; and they are called Sacraments of the living.


Q. 597. What do we mean by Sacraments of the dead and Sacraments of the living?

A. By the Sacraments of the dead we mean those Sacraments that may be lawfully received while the soul is in a state of mortal sin. By the Sacraments of the living we mean those Sacraments that can be lawfully received only while the soul is in a state of grace — i.e., free from mortal sin. Living and dead do not refer here to the persons, but to the condition of the souls; for none of the Sacraments can be given to a dead person.


Q. 598. Why are Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony called Sacraments of the living?

A. Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony are called Sacraments of the living because those who receive them worthily are already living the life of grace.


Q. 599. What sin does he commit who receives the Sacraments of the living in mortal sin?

A. He who receives the Sacraments of the living in mortal sin commits a sacrilege, which is a great sin, because it is an abuse of a sacred thing.


Q. 600. In what other ways besides the unworthy reception of the Sacraments may persons commit sacrilege?

A. Besides the unworthy reception of the Sacraments, persons may commit sacrilege by the abuse of a sacred person, place or thing; for example, by willfully wounding a person consecrated to God; by robbing or destroying a Church; by using the sacred vessels of the Altar for unlawful purposes, etc.


Q. 601. Besides sanctifying grace do the Sacraments give any other grace?

A. Besides sanctifying grace the Sacraments give another grace, called sacramental grace.


Q. 602. What is sacramental grace?

A. Sacramental grace is a special help which God gives, to attain the end for which He instituted each Sacrament.


Q. 603. Is the Sacramental grace independent of the sanctifying grace given in the Sacraments?

A. The Sacramental grace is not independent of the sanctifying grace given in the Sacraments; for it is the sanctifying grace that gives us a certain right to special helps — called Sacramental grace — in each Sacrament, as often as we have to fulfill the end of the Sacrament or are tempted against it.


Q. 604. Give an example of how the Sacramental grace aids us, for instance, in Confirmation and Penance.

A. The end of Confirmation is to strengthen us in our faith. When we are tempted to deny our religion by word or deed, the Sacramental Grace of Confirmation is given to us and helps us to cling to our faith and firmly profess it. The end of Penance is to destroy actual sin. When we are tempted to sin, the Sacramental Grace of Penance is given to us and helps us to overcome the temptation and persevere in a state of grace. The sacramental grace in each of the other Sacraments is given in the same manner, and aids us in attaining the end for which each Sacrament was instituted and for which we receive it.


Q. 605. Do the Sacraments always give grace?

A. The Sacraments always give grace, if we receive them with the right dispositions.


Q. 606. What do we mean by the “right dispositions” for the reception of the Sacraments?

A. By the right dispositions for the reception of the Sacraments we mean the proper motives and the fulfillment of all the conditions required by God and the Church for the worthy reception of the Sacraments.


Q. 607. Give an example of the “right dispositions” for Penance and for the Holy Eucharist.

A. The right dispositions for Penance are:

To confess all our mortal sins as we know them;
To be sorry for them, and
To have the determination never to commit them or others again.
The right dispositions for the Holy Eucharist are:

To know what the Holy Eucharist is;
To be in a state of grace, and
— except in special cases of sickness — to be fasting from midnight.

What Grace Is Given in the Sacraments? – And 10 Other Questions

“There is a great likeness between the thing used in the outward sign and the grace given in each Sacrament; thus water is used for cleansing; Baptism cleanses the soul; Oil gives strength and light; Confirmation strengthens and enlightens the soul; Bread and wine nourish; the Holy Eucharist nourishes the soul.”

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions.

SPL and the Sacraments
4 Questions on the Sacraments from Aquinas
Part I: 11 Questions on the Sacraments


On the Sacraments in General
Part II: Questions 585-595


Q. 585. What do we mean by the “right intention” for the administration of the Sacraments?

A. By the right intention for the administration of the Sacraments we mean that whoever administers a Sacrament must have the intention of doing what Christ intended when He instituted the Sacrament and what the Church intends when it administers the Sacrament.


Q. 586. Is there any likeness between the thing used in the outward sign and the grace given in each Sacrament?

A. There is a great likeness between the thing used in the outward sign and the grace given in each Sacrament; thus water is used for cleansing; Baptism cleanses the soul; Oil gives strength and light; Confirmation strengthens and enlightens the soul; Bread and wine nourish; the Holy Eucharist nourishes the soul.


Q. 587. What do we mean by the “matter and form” of the Sacraments?

A. By the “matter” of the Sacraments we mean the visible things, such as water, oil, bread, wine, etc., used for the Sacraments. By the “form” we mean the words, such as “I baptize thee,” “I confirm thee,” etc., used in giving or administering the Sacraments.


Q. 588. Do the needs of the soul resemble the needs of the body?

A. The needs of the soul do resemble the needs of the body; for the body must be born, strengthened, nourished, healed in affliction, helped at the hour of death, guided by authority, and given a place in which to dwell. The soul is brought into spiritual life by Baptism; it is strengthened by Confirmation; nourished by the Holy Eucharist; healed by Penance; helped at the hour of our death by Extreme Unction; guided by God’s ministers through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and it is given a body in which to dwell by the Sacrament of Matrimony.


Q. 589. Whence have the Sacraments the power of giving grace?

A. The Sacraments have the power of giving grace from the merits of Jesus Christ.


Q. 590. Does the effect of the Sacraments depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of the one who administers them?

A. The effect of the Sacraments does not depend on the worthiness or unworthiness of the one who administers them, but on the merits of Jesus Christ, who instituted them, and on the worthy dispositions of those who receive them.


Q. 591. What grace do the Sacraments give?

A. Some of the Sacraments give sanctifying grace, and others increase it in our souls.


Q. 592. When is a Sacrament said to give, and when is it said to increase, grace in our souls?

A. A Sacrament is said to give grace when there is no grace whatever in the soul, or in other words, when the soul is in mortal sin. A Sacrament is said to increase grace when there is already grace in the soul, to which more is added by the Sacrament received.


Q. 593. Which are the Sacraments that give sanctifying grace?

A. The Sacraments that give sanctifying grace are Baptism and Penance; and they are called Sacraments of the dead.


Q. 594. Why are Baptism and Penance called Sacraments of the dead?

A. Baptism and Penance are called Sacraments of the dead because they take away sin, which is the death of the soul, and give grace, which is its life.


Q. 595. May not the Sacrament of Penance be received by one who is in a state of grace?

A. The Sacrament of Penance may be and very often is received by one who is in a state of grace, and when thus received it increases — as the Sacraments of the living do — the grace already in the soul.

11 Basic Questions Over the Sacraments

“A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.”

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions. For a more philosophical treatment, read SPL’s list: St. Thomas Aquinas – “What is a sacrament?”


On the Sacraments in General
Questions 574-584


Q. 574. What is a Sacrament?

A. A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.


Q. 575. Are these three things, namely: An outward or visible sign, the institution of that sign by Christ, and the giving of grace through the use of that sign, always necessary for the existence of a Sacrament?

A. These three things, namely: 1.An outward or visible sign, the institution of that sign by Christ, and the giving of grace through the use of that sign, are always necessary for the existence of a Sacrament, and if any of the three be wanting there can be no Sacrament.


Q. 576. Why does the Church use numerous ceremonies or actions in applying the outward signs of the Sacraments?

A. The Church uses numerous ceremonies or actions in applying the outward signs of the Sacraments to increase our reverence and devotion for the Sacraments, and to explain their meaning and effects.


Q. 577. How many Sacraments are there?

A. There are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.


Q. 578. Were all the Sacraments instituted by Our Lord?

A. All the Sacraments were instituted by Our Lord, for God alone has power to attach the gift of grace to the use of an outward or visible sign. The Church, however, can institute the ceremonies to be used in administering or giving the Sacraments.


Q. 579. How do we know there are seven Sacraments and no more or less?

A. We know there are seven Sacraments and no more or less because the Church always taught that truth. The number of the Sacraments is a matter of faith, and the Church cannot be mistaken in matters of faith.


Q. 580. Why have the Sacraments been instituted?

A. The Sacraments have been instituted as a special means through which we are to receive the grace merited for us by Christ. As Christ is the giver of the grace, He has the right to determine the manner in which it shall be given, and one who refuses to make use of the Sacraments will not receive God’s grace.


Q. 581. Do the Sacraments recall in any way the means by which Our Lord merited the graces we receive through them?

A. The Sacraments recall in many ways the means by which Our Lord merited the graces we receive through them. Baptism recalls His profound humility; Confirmation His ceaseless prayer; Holy Eucharist His care of the needy; Penance His mortified life; Extreme Unction His model death; Holy Orders His establishment of the priesthood, and Matrimony His close union with the Church.


Q. 582. Give, for example, the outward sign in Baptism and Confirmation.

A. The outward sign in Baptism is the pouring of the water and the saying of the words of Baptism. The outward sign in Confirmation is the anointing with oil, the saying of the words of Confirmation and the placing of the bishop’s hands over the person he confirms.


Q. 583. What is the use of the outward signs in the Sacraments?

A. Without the outward signs in the Sacraments we could not know when or with what effect the grace of the Sacraments enters into our souls.


Q. 584. Does the outward sign merely indicate that grace has been given, or does the use of the outward sign with the proper intention also give the grace of the Sacrament?

A. The outward sign is not used merely to indicate that grace has been given, for the use of the outward sign with the proper intention also gives the grace of the Sacrament. Hence the right application of the outward sign is always followed by the gift of internal grace if the Sacrament be administered with the right intention and received with the right dispositions.

4 Questions that Help Explain “What is a Sacrament?”

The Sacraments of Holy Mother Church are visible signs of invisible grace.

Listers, what is a sacrament? The following list explores the relationship of signs and grace in order to better understand the sacraments of Holy Mother Church. The list has taken its structure from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica III, Question 60, Articles 1-3 over the sacraments


1. Is a sacrament a kind of sign?

Yes, a sacrament is a kind of sign. If we take sign as a group or genus, then a sacrament would be particular type of sign or a species of sign. The Baltimore Catechism teaches, “a Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.”1


2. What kind of sign is a sacrament?

St. Augustine says : “The visible sacrifice is the sacrament, i.e. the sacred sign, of the invisible sacrifice.”2

To paraphrase St. Augustine, a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible grace. A sacrament is a sign that actually is what it signifies. If we consider traffic signs, like a Stop Sign, the sign signifies “stop,” but the sign itself has no “stopness” or power to actually stop. It is not “stopness.” A sacrament on the other hand is a holy and causal sign – meaning it causes that which it also signifies.

The sacrament of Baptism is a sign of our rebirth in Christ, but it is also the holy causal sign that wipes away original sin and makes us a new creature in Our Lord. Confirmation is a sign of our maturity in Christ, but is also the holy causal sign that grants us strength in Christ through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic life, because it is not only a sign of Christ’s sacrifice, but is Christ himself. Each sacrament is a sign instituted by Christ to convey an actual grace to the Catholic that relates to the sign shown. As the Baltimore Catechism teaches, “There is a great likeness between the thing used in the outward sign and the grace given in each Sacrament; thus water is used for cleansing; Baptism cleanses the soul; Oil gives strength and light; Confirmation strengthens and enlightens the soul; Bread and wine nourish; the Holy Eucharist nourishes the soul.”

Pertaining to the seven sacraments properly, there is a species of a holy causal sign under the genus of sign. St. Thomas Aquinas defines them as, “the sign of a holy thing so far as it makes men holy.” The Angelic Doctor states:

Signs are given to men, to whom it is proper to discover the unknown by means of the known. Consequently a sacrament properly so called is that which is the sign of some sacred thing pertaining to man; so that properly speaking a sacrament, as considered by us now, is defined as being the “sign of a holy thing so far as it makes men holy.”


3. How are sacraments related to sanctification?

Since the sacraments exist to make men holy as visible signs of invisible grace, Aquinas addresses the question of how the sacraments are related to our sanctification. The cause of our sanctification and of all the sacraments is Jesus Christ and his Passion. The form sanctification takes in our own lives is the grace we receive and the virtues that are our habits. In this we hope to live a Christ-centered life as articulated by his one Church, the Catholic Church, and attain the end of sanctification, Eternal Life.

1. Cause of Sanctification – Christ’s Passion
2. Form of Sanctification – Grace and Virtues
3. End of Sanctification – Eternal Life

In Aquinas’ own words:

As stated above (Article 2) a sacrament properly speaking is that which is ordained to signify our sanctification. In which three things may be considered; viz. the very cause of our sanctification, which is Christ’s passion; the form of our sanctification, which is grace and the virtues; and the ultimate end of our sanctification, which is eternal life.

4. How are the sacraments related to time?

All the sacraments recall something from the past, give grace in our present time and point us toward the future glory of Heaven.

1. Reminder of the Past – Christ’s Passion
2. Indication of that which is effected – Grace
3. Foretelling of Future Glory – Eternal Life

In Aquinas’ own words:

And all these are signified by the sacraments. Consequently a sacrament is a sign that is both a reminder of the past, i.e. the passion of Christ; and an indication of that which is effected in us by Christ’s passion, i.e. grace; and a prognostic, that is, a foretelling of future glory.

  1. Baltimore Catechism Q574 []
  2. De Civ. Dei x []

6 Quotes from the Church Fathers on Mourning the Loss of a Child or Loved One

“Recently, a couple members of my extended family lost not one child but two in the span of one year, so I felt like words were not enough. I decided to seek out the wisdom of the Church Fathers, who always know the right thing to say.”

Listers, when there is a death in the family, it is always very hard to find the right words to say. I always struggle with this and end up bumbling through my condolences. In the end, I always feel that whatever I say is trite even though my attempts were heartfelt and well-meaning. It is especially hard to console a family when they are grieving the loss of a child. Recently, a couple members of my extended family lost not one child but two in the span of one year, so I felt like words were not enough. I decided to seek out the wisdom of the Church Fathers, who always know the right thing to say. What I found was not only uplifting but shed some light on how Catholics ought to view death. Whether it is you who might have lost a child or someone you might know, these quotes from the Church Fathers might be of some consolation. This list is a compilation of my findings:

1. Dwell on the wonderful company your child must be keeping

Well, your child may have departed from you, but he has gone to Christ the Lord. For you his eyes have been shut, but they are opened to the eternal light: he is gone from your table, but is now added to the table of angels. The plant was uprooted from here, but planted in paradise . From the earthly kingdom he was transferred to the heavenly kingdom. You see what was exchanged for what. Are you sad because you no longer see the beauty of the face of your child? But this happens, because you do not see the real beauty of the soul with which he rejoices in the heavenly feast. How beautiful indeed is the eye that sees God!  How sweet indeed is the mouth that is adorned with divine melodies!
St. Gregory of Nyssa from A Homily of Consolation Concerning Pulcheria


2. Remember that you remain united to your child through Christ

For why should I weep for thee, my most loving brother, who wast thus torn from me that thou mightest be the brother of all? For I have not lost but changed my intercourse with thee; before we were inseparable in body, now we are undivided in affection; for thou remainst with me and ever wilt remain. And indeed, whilst thou wast living with me, our country never tore thee from me, nor didst thou thyself ever prefer our country to me; and now thou art become surety for that other country, for I begin to be no stranger there where the better portion of myself already is. I was never wholly engrossed in myself, but the greater part of each of us was in the other, yet we were each of us in Christ, in Whom is the whole sum of all and the portion of each severally. This grace is more pleasing to me than thy natal soil, in which is the fruit not of nature but of grace, for in that body which lies lifeless lies the better work of my life, since in this body, too, which I bear is the richer portion of thyself.
St. Ambrose Book 1 of “On the Decease of Satyrus



3.Remember to love God above all things
(Warning! This is one is a bit harsh, but it is something you ought to remind yourself)

Wherefore dost thou lament thy child? Wherefore thine husband? The former , because I had not enjoyed him, you say; the latter, because I expected that I should have enjoyed him longer. And this very thing, what want of faith does it argue, to suppose that thy husband or thy son constitutes thy safety, and not God! How dost thou not think to provoke Him? For often on this account He takes them away, that thou mayest not be so bound to them, so that it may withdraw thy hopes from them. For God is jealous, and wills to be loved by us most of all things: and that, because He loves us exceedingly[…]Love not thy husband more than God, and thou shalt not ever experience widowhood. Or rather, even if it should happen, thou shalt not have the feeling of it. Why? Because  thou hast an immortal Protector who loves thee better. If thou lovest God more, mourn not: For He who is more beloved is immortal, and does not suffer thee to feel the loss of him who is less beloved. This I will make manifest to thee by an example. Tell me, if thou hast a husband, complying with thee in all things, one that is respected amongst all, intelligent and wise, and loving thee, thou being esteemed happy on his account, and in conjunction with him shouldest thou bring forth a child, and then before it has arrived at the age of maturity, that child should depart; wilt thou then feel the affliction? By no means. For he that is more beloved makes it disappear. And now if thou love God more than thy husband assuredly He will not soon take him away. But even if He should take him, thou wilt not be sensible of the affliction. For this reason the blessed Job felt no severe suffering, when he heard of the death of his children all at once, because he loved God more than them…
St. John Chrysostom Homily 6 in his Homilies of 1 Thessalonians

4. Your child is in a better place, as cliche as that may sound.

And sayest thou, How is it possible for one that is man not to mourn? I reply if thou wilt reflect how neither the Patriarch nor Job, who both were men, gave way to any thing of the kind; and this too in either case before the Law , and Grace, and the excellent wisdom of the laws [we have]: if thou wilt account that the deceased has removed into a better country, and bounded away to a happier inheritance, and that thou hast not lost thy son but bestowed him henceforward in an inviolable spot. Say not then, I pray thee, I am no longer called “father,” for why art thou no longer called so when thy son abideth? For surely thou didst not part with thy child nor lost thy son? Rather thou hast gotten him, and hast him in greater safety. Wherefore, no longer shalt thou be called “father” here only, but also in heaven; so that thou hast not lost the title “father,” but hast gained it in a nobler sense; for henceforth thou shalt be called father not of a mortal child, but of an immortal; of a noble soldier; on duty continually within [the palace]. For think not because he is not present that therefore he is lost; for had he been absent in a foreign land, the title of thy relationship had not gone from thee with his body […]
St. John Chrysostom Homily 1 of his Homilies on Second Corinthians


5. Honor your child through acts of penance and alms-giving. (This is essential!)

For the honor to the dead is, not wailings and lamentings, but hymns and psalmodies and an excellent life. The good man when he departheth, shall depart with angels, though no man be near his remains; but the corrupt, though he have a city to attend his funeral, shall be nothing profited. Wilt thou honor him who is gone? Honor him in another way, by alms-deeds, by acts of beneficence and public service.
St. John Chrysostom Homily 57 of his Homilies on the Gospel of Saint John.

6. When all other outlets of consolation fail, look to the Resurrection for comfort.

Say not then, “He is perished and shall no more be;” for these be the words of unbelievers; but say, “He sleepth and will rise again,” He is gone on a journey and will return with the King.” Who sayeth this? He that hath Christ speaking in him. “For,” saith he, “if revived, “even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (1 Thess. iv.14.) If then thou seek thy son, there seek him where the King is, where is the army of the Angels; not in the grace; not in the earth; lest whilst he is so highly exalted, thyself remain groveling on the ground […] If we have this true wisdom, we shall easily repel all this kind of distress; and “the God of mercies and Father of all comfort” comfort all our hearts both those who are oppressed with such grief and those held down with any other sorrow; and grant us deliverance from all despair and increase of spiritual joy; and to all we attain, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom unto the Father, together with the Holy Spirit be glory, power, honor,  now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
St. John Chrysostom Homily 1 of his Homilies on 2 Corinthians 

Listers, if you have any more quotes to add to this list let us know.

Natural Sex: 11 Points on Unity and Life

“Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact,” Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. “From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God.”

Listers, the following list reproduces Humanae Vitae paragraphs 11-13 in full. The main titles in red are from the encyclical and the individual quote titles in black are provided by SPL. The list is part of St. Peter’s List’s ongoing catalogue and commentary on the long neglected papal document.

Humanae Vitae: 
#1 – 3 Reasons the Church Can Rule on Sexuality
#2 – 12 Quotes on Marital Love and Parenthood


Observing the Natural Law

1. Marital Sex Is “Noble & Worthy”

“The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, ‘noble and worthy.'”

2. Infertility Does Not Degrade Sex

“It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed.”

3. Order of Natural Law: Fertile & Infertile

“The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws.”

4. Obedience to Natural Law

“The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”


Union and Procreation

5. The Dual Significance of Sex

“This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.”

6. The Very Nature of Sex

“The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life — and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman.”

7. Supreme Responsibility of Parenthood

“And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. We believe that our contemporaries are particularly capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason.”


Faithfulness to God’s Design

8. There Is An Innate Moral Order Within Sex

“Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one’s partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife.”

9. Artificial Birth Control

“If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will.”

10. Minister Not Master

“But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator.”

11. Man Does Not Have Unlimited Dominion

“Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. “Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact,” Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. “From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God.”

Humanae Vitae: 12 Quotes on On Marital Love and Parenthood

“The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.”

Listers, the following quotes represent in full Humanae Vitae paragraphs 8-10 by Pope Paul VI. The pope has laid down the groundwork for understanding the family as natural and sacramental institution. Marriage is unique among the sacraments, because it is the only sacrament that is also a natural institution among the peoples of the earth. Resounding within the following quotes and echoing throughout the Sacred Doctrine of the Church is the principle that grace perfects nature. Regarding Holy Matrimony, the invisible grace given at the visible sign of marriage perfects the natural institution of marriage. The Church is the guardian of all moral law – both natural and revealed – and thus the authority and the duty to articulate the true nature of marriage.

God’s Loving Design

 1. Love Designed the Family

“Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”

2. A Natural Institution Crafted by God

“Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.”

3. Sacramental Grace Perfects the Natural Institution

“The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.”

Married Love

4. Of Sense and Spirit

“In the light of these facts the characteristic features and exigencies of married love are clearly indicated, and it is of the highest importance to evaluate them exactly. This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.”

 5. Love for the Partner’s Own Sake

“It is a love which is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.”

6. Livelong Love

“Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.”

7. Procreation and Education

“Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”

Responsible Parenthood

8. The Obligation of Parenthood

“Married love, therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood, which today, rightly enough, is much insisted upon, but which at the same time should be rightly understood. Thus, we do well to consider responsible parenthood in the light of its varied legitimate and interrelated aspects.”

Pregnancy Is Not A Disease 9. Biological Laws and Innate Drives

“With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person. With regard to man’s innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man’s reason and will must exert control over them.”

10. The Factors of Having Children

“With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

11. The Catholic Order of the Household

“Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.”

12. Man Cannot Recreate Marriage to His Will

“From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out.”

5 Questions About the Eastern Catholic Churches

There are 20 different Eastern Catholic Churches with 16 million members.

Listers, let us consider the simple but much needed work of Deacon Ed Faulk: 101 Questions and Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches. Deacon Faulk has dual faculties: Roman Catholic and Melkite-Greek Catholic, and has produced a wondrous primer to understanding our Eastern brothers and sisters.

The following is a very basic introduction to the topic.

1. What is the difference between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Church?

Many are aware that in AD 1054 the Church suffered a “Great Schism,” and the churches in the East became known as the “Orthodox Churches” and the Church in the West retained the name “Catholic.” Over the years, certain orthodox churches – for various reasons – began to “petition Rome for union.” The Deacon explains “the first of these was the Chaldean Church and, later, the Union of Brest (1595), which led to a long period of “Uniatism.” In time, every single tradition within the orthodox church came to have a counterpart that had returned to Rome. These returned Orthodox churches are known as “Eastern Catholics Churches.”

Two “Eastern Catholic Churches” do not have an orthodox equivalent: the Maronites and the Italo-Albanians.

2. So we are not all Roman Catholics?

The deacon explains: “Yes, that’s true, the term Roman Catholic was first coined by the Church of England (Anglican Church) as a way of distinguishing between themselves (Anglican Catholics) and the Catholics who followed the pope in Rome (Roman Catholics).”

All Catholics are in communion with Rome and the Pope. However, Roman Catholics are those who pull from a Western tradition – Latin Rite – while Eastern Catholics have various eastern traditions.

3. How many Eastern Catholic Churches are there?

There are 20 different Eastern Catholic Churches, and they total about 16 million members.

4. What is the relationship between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches?

As stated, two of the Catholic Churches do not have Orthodox counterparts. The reason is that neither the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church nor the Maronite Catholic Church ever broke communion with Rome.

All the other Eastern Catholic Churches follow a similar pattern: they broke communion with Rome at the Great Schism, then at some point broke away from their Orthodox Churches, and returned to full communion with Rome.

In general, Catholics generally see the Eastern Catholics as a bridge between Rome and the Orthodox East; however, the Orthodox have a very negative view of these “break away” churches – “they are no longer ‘graced,’ meaning they have separated themselves from the source of grace, the Orthodox Church.”

The Melkite Catholics actually proposed at one point to have communion with both Rome and Moscow, but that was rejected by both Rome and Moscow. They do however see themselves as a bridge between the two, and they are often the “voice of the Orthodox in Rome.”1

5. Can Eastern Catholic priests be married?

Yes. The answer is a bit more complicated, as different traditions have different standards, but overall the answer is yes. “Once a man has been ordained to the diaconate,” says the Deacon, “he may not marry. However, a married man may be ordained to the priesthood.”

The Eastern Churches pull this tradition from Scripture, where it is clearly stated that St. Peter had a mother-in-law. Moreover, St. Paul specifies that “a man who is being considered for ecclesial office (bishop, priest, deacon) should not have been married more than once. Eventually, the office of bishop was reserved to monastics, which, by definition, meant men who were not married.”

The Latin Church – Roman – “enacted several different laws that, from the latter fourth century, created a celibate priesthood.”

“The basic teaching of the church is that marriage is not an impediment (block) to orders, but rather, that orders is an impediment to marriage.”

The topic of Eastern Catholic Church is a very complicated one with a history of triumph and tragedy. I can assure the Listers that we will be returning to this excellent primer to explore many of the more complex issues.

In the mean time, pray for Christian Unity and learn more about our Eastern brothers and sisters.

  1. Rome & the Eastern Catholic Churches: Though a different question, I do not want to present the Orthodox as the only side that has had problems with the Eastern Catholics. The Eastern Catholics have suffered a “Latinization” over the centuries, which at times was forced. Though their traditions were valid, they were forced into abandoning them for Roman/Latin practices. Moreover, America was one of the worst agents in this tragedy, and the Eastern Catholic Churches in America have a tragic history due to several unfortunate choices by Roman bishops.

    I am happy however to note that Vatican II exhorted the Eastern Catholic Churches to reclaim their own traditions. The call of the council has led to a renewal in many Eastern Catholic Churches – including those in the United States. []