Editor’s Note: Following up on a recent reply about the failure of Jesuit colleges and universities to uphold Catholic morality, the Cardinal Newman Society has reported that most members of Congress who graduated from Catholic institutions have pro-abortion voting records. Of the 56 Jesuit college alumni who hold seats in the new Congress, said Matt Archbold of the Cardinal Newman Society, only two senators and 12 representatives have pro-life voting records.
The two pro-life senators are John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) and Dan Sullivan (R., Alaska).
The dozen pro-life congressmen, all Republicans, are Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Barbara Comstock (Va.), Dan Donovan (N.Y.), John Faso (N.Y.), Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.), Mike Gallagher (Wis.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Trey Hollingsworth (Ind.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Timothy Murphy (Pa.), and Francis Rooney (Fla.).
“Those who defend and promote the abhorrent evil of abortion are not deserving of praise for ‘leadership’ nor of ‘service to others’,” said Archbold.
“One would think that the rejection of fundamental Catholic teachings on the dignity of life by alumni might cause Jesuits to reconsider how they’re educating their students.”
Unfortunately, he might have added, many alumni of Jesuit institutions are voting and living in exactly the way that their education pointed them.
Q. The Psalm response at Mass this morning said, “You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek,” but in his homily the priest said that there is no line of Melchizedek. Why then would the response contain those words? — T.H., Massachusetts.
A. Here is why. First of all, Melchizedek was the king of Salem (later Jerusalem) and is mentioned briefly in the Book of Genesis. After Abraham had returned from defeating four kings, it says that “Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High,/ the creator of heaven and earth;/ And blessed be God Most High,/ who delivered your foes into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Gen. 14:18-20).
Second, he is also mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews (7:1-3, 15-17):
“Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings and blessed him. And Abraham apportioned to him a tenth of everything. His name first means righteous king, and he was also ‘king of Salem,’ that is, king of peace. Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
“It is even more obvious if another priest is raised up after the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become so, not by a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent but the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. For it is testified: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Third, in his Dictionary of the Bible, Fr. John L. McKenzie, SJ, said that “the explanation of the Melchizedek-Christ relationship in Hebrews 7 is somewhat involved. Christ is like Melchizedek in having no human father, for no genealogy is given of Melchizedek. (Hebrews certainly did not intend to imply that Melchizedek was unbegotten, but seizes upon this external similarity as a point of illustration.) Therefore Christ, unlike priests of the line of Aaron, is priest by divine appointment and not by descent. But Abraham, the carnal ancestor of Aaron, recognized the priesthood of Melchizedek by giving him tithes and receiving his blessing; therefore the priesthood descended from Abraham had to await the greater priesthood which its ancestor had recognized. This priesthood is that of Christ” (p. 563).
Q. In a recent Wanderer article (November 24, 2016), Raymond Cardinal Burke is quoted as saying that if there is a conflict between Church Tradition and the Pope that the Tradition is binding. If the Pope is infallible, how can he be wrong in a matter of faith and morals? — E.G., Florida.
A. In the article, Cardinal Burke said that “ecclesial authority exists only in service of the Tradition. I think of that passage of St. Paul in [the Letter to the] Galatians (1:8), that if ‘even an angel should preach to you any Gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema’.” He said that in those rare cases where Popes have taught heresy, “it is the duty…and historically it has happened, of cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error and ask him to correct it.”
Burke is one of four cardinals who have asked Pope Francis to clarify remarks in Amoris Laetitia that are being interpreted as allowing couples living in adultery to receive Holy Communion. “For us to remain silent about these fundamental doubts, which have arisen as a result of the text of Amoris Laetitia,” he said, “would, on our part, be a grave lack of charity toward the Pope and a grave lack in fulfilling the duties of our own office in the Church.”
To answer your question, the word “Tradition” (capital T) means the transmission of the teachings of Christ and the apostles, whether expressed in writing or orally, through customs or liturgy, that have been passed down by the Church over the centuries. It is one leg of a three-legged stool — the other two are the Bible and the Magisterium or teaching office of the Church — upon which Catholics rely for the truth. These three elements, said Vatican II, “are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls” (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, n. 10).
Yes, the Pope is infallible when speaking authoritatively about a matter of faith or morals. But Pope Francis was not speaking infallibly in Amoris Laetitia, that is to say, he was not proclaiming a teaching that is binding on all Catholics for all time. He was instead using rather ambiguous language that has led some bishops to defend the long-held teaching of the Church that bars those in adulterous unions from receiving the Eucharist, and other bishops, such as those in Malta, to declare that divorced and remarried Catholics “cannot be precluded from participating in…the Eucharist.”
“This ability of Amoris simultaneously to sustain orthodox, noncommittal, and heterodox interpretations in matters of gravest ecclesiastical import,” said canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters, “is exactly why the Four Cardinals’ dubia [questions] so urgently needed answering — if not by Francis himself (and no one can force Francis’ hand) — then at least by Francis’ right-hand man in matters of faith and morals, Cardinal Mueller of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to whom the dubia was also (few seemed to have noticed) addressed.”
Peters said that the stakes were raised dramatically when L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, published the letter of the Maltese bishops, and he expressed the hope that Pope Francis will distance himself from the Maltese bishops, and that the bishops themselves will “repent of their failure to ‘exercise vigilance so that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline especially regarding…the celebration of the sacraments’ (canon 392 §2).”
On February 1, Gerhard Cardinal Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, criticized those bishops who use Amoris Laetitia to “justify situations against the will of God. Adultery is always a mortal sin and the bishops who create confusion about this must study the doctrine of the Church. We have to help the sinner overcome sin and convert.”
In an interview on an Italian TV channel, Cardinal Mueller, who had previously criticized the four cardinals who had asked Pope Francis for clarity on the issue, said that “it is impossible for there to be a contradiction of doctrine and personal conscience. For example, it cannot be said that there are circumstances according to which an act of adultery does not constitute a mortal sin. For Catholic doctrine it is impossible for mortal sin to coexist with sanctifying grace. In order to overcome this absurd contradiction, Christ has instituted for the faithful the Sacrament of Penance and reconciliation with God and with the Church.”
Mueller told those “who are talking too much…to study first the doctrine on the papacy and the episcopate of the two Vatican Councils.” He said that “the bishop, as teacher of the Word, must himself be the first to be well-formed so as not to fall into the risk of the blind leading the blind. The Church can never justify a situation which is not in accordance with the will of God.”