Thursday 28th May 2015

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Pope Benedict XV . . . Poor Preaching Responsible For Fall Back Into Paganism

February 12, 2014 Frontpage No Comments
pope105

By PAUL LIKOUDIS

The horror of World War I, preoccupied with massive humanitarian projects on behalf of widows, orphans, and prisoners of war, engaged in intense diplomatic initiatives to defend the rights of the Church in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, Pope Benedict XV issued an encyclical Humani Generis Redemptionem on June 15, 1917, which blamed ineffective preaching by priests for the decline in morals and civilization’s backsliding into paganism.
Pope Benedict reminded bishops that their foremost duty is to ensure sound preaching in their parishes, and priests incapable of sound teaching should have their faculties to preach removed.
Poor preaching, today, is taken for granted by most Catholics, though the responsibility of bishops for it is often overlooked.
A Google search for “Catholics & bad homilies” will bring up some 717,000 entries in less than half a second, and a quick glance at the subject lines draws one to the fact that “bad homilies” are the number-one reason why Catholics stop attending Mass.
In his encyclical, now nearly 100 years old, Pope Benedict XV wrote that “it is evident that the preaching of the wisdom taught us by the Christian religion is the means Divinely employed to continue the work of eternal salvation, and that it must with just reason be looked upon as a matter of the greatest and most momentous concern.”
Along with the “other misfortunes of the times,” the saintly Pontiff observed that, while those who are engaged in preaching are, perhaps, more numerous than at any time in history, if “we examine the state of public and private morals, the constitutions and laws of nations, We shall find that there is a general disregard and forgetfulness of the supernatural, a gradual falling away from the strict standard of Christian virtue, and that men are slipping back more and more into the shameful practices of paganism.”
The “deplorable fact” for this state of affairs, Benedict XV stated, is that “ministers of the Word” have failed to handle the Word of God as a two-edged sword.
“If that weapon does not everywhere produce its effect, the blame certainly must be laid on those ministers of the Gospel who do not handle it as they should. For no one can maintain that the Apostles were living in better times than ours, that they found minds more readily disposed towards the Gospel or that they met with less opposition to the law of God,” Benedict XV wrote.
So, said Benedict, bishops “must look for the causes of our deviations from the right path in this matter. They may be reduced to three: for either the one chosen to preach is not the right person, or his office is not performed with the right intention, or in the right way.”
Citing the Council of Trent, Benedict reminded bishops that their primary duty is to preach, but “since it is impossible that they should always or everywhere be able to discharge it in person, distracted as they are by the many cares which they meet in the government of their churches, they must of necessity comply with this obligation through others.”
Lack of oversight over priests who preach under the authority of the bishop, Benedict observed, has led to a situation where too many priests find “easy access to the pulpits of our churches as to a drill-ground where any one may practice at will.”

A Terrible Charge

“Therefore, Venerable Brethren,” he added, “it is your duty to see that such a grave abuse should disappear, and since you will have to render to God and to His Church an account of the manner in which you feed your flock, allow no one to creep unbidden into the sheepfold and to feed the sheep of Christ according to his fancy. Therefore let no one henceforth preach in your dioceses except on your summons and with your approval.”
No priest, Benedict warned bishops, should be allowed to preach who is not “fit,” “i.e., those who ‘can exercise the ministry of preaching with profit to souls.’
“ ‘With profit to souls’,” Benedict emphasized, “well note that the word which expresses the rule does not mean eloquently or with popular applause, but with spiritual fruit. This is the end for which the ministry of the Divine Word is instituted. If now you would have Us define more exactly the qualifications of those who are really to be considered fit, We answer: those in whom you find the signs of a Divine vocation. Whatever is required for admission to the priesthood, is likewise needed if one is to be considered eligible and fit for the office of preaching. . . .
“Such is the meaning of the Council of Trent when it decrees that the Bishop is not to permit any to preach unless they are ‘of approved virtue and learning.’ Wherefore it is the duty of the Bishop long and thoroughly to examine those who are to be entrusted by him with the function of preaching that he may find out the nature and extent of their learning.
“If any one acts carelessly and negligently in this duty,” the Pontiff sternly reminded bishops, “he clearly offends in a grievous matter, and on him will fall the responsibility of the errors which the untrained preacher may spread or of the scandal and the bad example which the unworthy one may give.”
“To make your task easier in this matter,” Benedict wrote, “We desire that hereafter severe judgment be passed on these two points: on the character, namely, and learning of those who seek to obtain authority to preach, just as is done on the character and learning of those priests, who would hear Confessions. Whoever, therefore, is found defective in either regard must without any consideration whatever be debarred from a function for which he is not qualified. Your dignity demands this, since, as We have said, the preachers are your substitutes. The good of Holy Church demands it.”
The priest, as an ambassador of Christ, the Pontiff wrote, has no different mission than Christ Himself. Therefore, they “must diffuse the light of truth made known by God, and in those who hear them they must quicken and nourish the supernatural life. In a word, by seeking the salvation of souls they are to promote the glory of God.
“As it would,” he continued, “be wrong to call anyone a doctor who does not practice medicine, or to style anyone a professor of some art who does not teach that art, he who in his preaching neglects to lead men to a fuller knowledge of God and on the way of eternal salvation may be called an idle declaimer, but not a preacher of the Gospel. And would there were no such declaimers!
“What motive is it that sways them mostly. Some are moved by the desire of vainglory and to satisfy it: They ponder how they can express high rather than practical thoughts, causing weak minds to admire them, instead of working out the salvation of their hearers. They are ashamed of what is simple and plain, lest they be thought to know nothing else. They are ashamed to give milk to the little ones. . . .
“What efforts do such men make to acquire reputation by their sermons from the size and wealth of the cities and splendor of the great churches in which they preach? But since among the truths revealed by God there are some which frighten the weakness of our corrupt nature, and which therefore are not calculated to attract the multitude, they carefully avoid them, and treat themes, in which, the place accepted, there is nothing sacred.
“Not seldom it happens that in the very midst of a discourse upon the things of eternity, they turn to politics, particularly if any questions of this kind just then deeply engross the minds of their hearers. They seem to have only one aim, to please their hearers and curry favor with those whom St. Paul describes as ‘having itching ears.’
“Hence that unrestrained and undignified gesture such as may be seen on the stage or on the hustings, that effeminate lowering of the voice or those tragic outbursts; that diction peculiar to journalism; those frequent allusions to profane and non-Catholic literature, but not to the Sacred Scriptures or the Holy Fathers; finally that volubility of utterance often affected by them, wherewith they strike the ears and gain their hearers’ admiration, but give them no lesson to carry home. How sadly are those preachers deceived!
“Granted that they receive the applause of the uneducated, which they seek with such great favor, and not without sacrilege, is it really worthwhile when we consider that they are condemned by every prudent man, and, what is worse, have reason to fear the stern judgment of Christ?. . .
“Frequently the preachers who avail themselves of these devices do so to attain some other and even less honorable object. Forgetting the saying of Gregory: ‘The priest does not preach that he may eat, but should eat that he may preach,’ there are not a few who, because they think that they are unsuited for other labors by which they might be decently supported, take to preaching, not that they may worthily exercise the sacred ministry, but to make money.
“We therefore see them devoting all their attention not indeed to finding where greater fruit for souls may be hoped for, but where preaching reaps a more lucrative return.
“Now since nothing except harm and discredit can be expected for the Church from such as these, Venerable Brethren, you must exercise the greatest care, so that, if you detect any one for his own glory or for gain, abusing the office of preaching, you should at once remove him from that function. For the man who does not scruple to defile so holy an office by such an unworthy perversion of its end, surely will not hesitate to descend to any indignity, and will bring the stain of ignominy not merely upon himself, but upon the sacred office also which he so unworthily administers,” Benedict wrote.

The Model Preacher

mSt. Paul manifested the three types of knowledge the preacher must possess: “that is to say, the knowledge, to phrase it briefly, which consists of a knowledge of self, of God and his duties. For self-knowledge, We maintain, will lead a priest to renounce his own advantage. The knowledge of God will lead him to make everyone else know and love God, and the knowledge of his office will lead him to discharge his own duties and to teach others to do theirs. If he lacks these three kinds of knowledge, whatever other learning he has, will only puff him up, and will be useless,” Benedict XV wrote.
“[I]f we ask on what subjects [St. Paul] was wont to discourse when he preached, he condenses them all in these words: ‘For I judged not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ To make men know Jesus Christ better and better, and to make that knowledge have a bearing, moreover, not only on their faith, but on their lives as well, was the object of that apostolic man’s every endeavor. This was the object of every throb of his apostolic heart.
“Therefore all Christ’s doctrines and commands, even the sterner ones, were so proclaimed by St. Paul that he did not restrict, gloss over, or tone down what Christ taught regarding humility, self-denial, chastity, contempt of the world, obedience, forgiveness of enemies, and the like, nor was he afraid to tell his hearers that they had to make a choice between the service of God and the service of Belial, for they could not serve both, that when they leave this world, a dread judgment awaits them; that they cannot bargain with God; they may hope for life everlasting if they keep His entire law, but if they neglect their duty and indulge their passions, they will have nothing to expect but eternal fire.
“For our ‘Preacher of truth’,” Benedict declared, “never imagined that he should avoid such subjects, because, owing to the corruption of the age, they appeared too stern to his hearers.
“Therefore it is clear how unworthy of commendation are those preachers who are afraid to touch upon certain points of Christian doctrine lest they should give their hearers offense. Does a physician prescribe useless remedies to his patient, merely because the sick man rejects effective ones? The test of the orator’s power and skill is his success in making his hearers accept the stern truth he is preaching. How did the Apostle unfold the subjects of which he treated? ‘Not in the persuasive words of human wisdom.’
“It is perfectly plain, Venerable Brethren, how important for everybody it is that they should thoroughly realize this, since we see that not a few of our sacred preachers overlook in their sermons the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the arguments based on sacred theology, and for the most part, make their appeals only to reason. Unquestionably that is wrong, for in the supernatural order, merely human resources are of no help whatever.”

Heed His Warnings

Over the past five decades, bishops have taken a lot of criticism for their negligence or malfeasance in their duties, particularly on the never-ending revelations concerning abusive priests.
If the warnings of Pope Benedict XV on the bishops’ grave duty of overseeing the preaching in his diocese, as well as the lifestyles of his priests, had been heeded, so many modern crises in the Church could have been avoided.
Perhaps it is time for bishops — and laity, too — to rediscover this great encyclical.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

UN Official Reports on Islamic State’s “War on Women”

A United Nations official has painted a chilling picture of how the Islamic State group oversees a vast network of sexual slavery, including an elaborate pricing system, violent treatment by slave masters and casual branding of female bodies and reselling…Continue Reading

Confidential Meeting Seeks to Sway Synod to Accept Same-Sex Unions

ROME — A one-day study meeting — open only to a select group of individuals — took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Monday with the aim of urging “pastoral innovations” at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the…Continue Reading

Ireland has voted to legalize gay marriage, both sides say

DUBLIN (AP) — Irish voters have resoundingly backed amending the constitution to legalize gay marriage, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared Saturday after the world’s first national vote on the issue. As the official ballot counting continued,…Continue Reading

Vatican’s eco guru champions Occupy Wall Street thugs

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Jeffrey Sachs wears many hats. He is known as the architect of the UN Millennium Development Goals, and the proponent of the upcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). His new book, entitled, (what else) The…Continue Reading

Boy Scouts president: We need to allow open homosexual leaders

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates says the youth organization must change with the times and allow open homosexual men to serve as Scout leaders. Gates, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA…Continue Reading

Federal Court Forces University of Notre Dame to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

A federal appeals court has denied a request by the University of Notre Dame to get out of having to comply with the pro-abortion HHS mandate that is a part of Obamacare and requires businesses and church groups to pay…Continue Reading

The Reception of Holy Communion in the United States

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis has decided to mark the occasion with the “Year of Mercy.” Despite much happy-talk and positive papal press, it is a time of foreboding in…Continue Reading

‘Eleven Christians Killed Every Hour,’ Says Irish Bishop

According to Bishop John McAreavey, the Chair of the Council for Justice & Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, statistics show that the situation of Christian persecution in the world is far more dire than most people understand. The…Continue Reading

Africa’s experience of family life must be heard at synod, Pope tells Togo’s bishops

Pope Francis received Togo’s bishops in audience on May 11 as part of their quinquennial ad limina visit to Rome. The West African nation of 6.8 million is 20% Muslim, 15% Protestant, and 14% Catholic, with approximately half of the…Continue Reading

The eco-encyclical won’t commit the Church to unsettled science

By the time the environment encyclical of Pope Francis is released, it will be anti-climactic. Not anti-climate change to be sure, as the Holy See is certainly enthusiastic about the issue. Actually, it is against climate change, but enthusiastic about…Continue Reading

“America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”

The Pew Research Center just released its latest study on “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” The subtitle tells the story: “Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow.” For our purposes, I want to focus…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal sees no change in family teachings at synod

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A senior Vatican cardinal predicted Saturday that there will be no change in the Catholic Church‘s practice and teaching about marriage, divorce and the reception of Communion at an upcoming meeting of bishops on family issues. Cardinal…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope speaks with open heart to Argentinean newspaper

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says that being with people does him good. In a long and very personal interview with Juan Beretta, a reporter from the Argentinean newspaper “La Voz Del Pueblo”, the Pope speaks of his feelings of when he was elected Pope, of how he misses walking the streets, using public transport and sitting down for a pizza, of how he feels moved and sad when he meets sick children, prison inmates and…Continue Reading

Pope: worldly Christians can’t have both heaven and earth

pope787

(Vatican Radio)  It’s sad to see a Christian who wants to “follow Jesus and the things of this world.” That’s what Pope Francis said at Tuesday morning’s Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, stressing that a Christian is called to make a radical choice in life:  you can’t be “half” Christian or have both “heaven and earth.” In his homily Pope Francis reflects on Peter’s query to Jesus:  what would he and the disciples get…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: the gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth

pope786

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis against the backdrop of St Peter’s Basilica and dressed in scarlet vestments, celebrated Mass on Pentecost Sunday. In his homily, the Holy Father began by focusing on Sunday’s readings saying that, “the word of God, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with the Spirit. Expanding on this theme of the Spirit, Pope Francis said that, in the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Labour must be free, creative, participatory, and mutually-supportive

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis spoke to the Italian Christian Workers Associations (ACLI) on Saturday in the Vatican on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Association. In his speech to the Italian Christian Workers Associations – also known as the ACLI – Pope Francis exhorted those present to support a culture of dignified labour. He denounced the ‘god of money’ at the heart of our global economic system, promoting a culture of…Continue Reading

It Is A Christian Country: At Least It Used To Be

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK I realize that there are intelligent commentators on the right who are convinced that homosexual activists are pushing for the day when Christian churches will be compelled by law to perform same-sex marriages. I may be wrong, but I do not think that we will see that dictate anytime soon. It…Continue Reading

Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth

By DONALD DeMARCO Commutative justice demands that we repay what we owe. If I owe my brother $10, I should pay him $10. Justice in this sense is a proportion between the debt and the repayment. It is morally and often legally binding. There is a similar proportion on a higher level though it does…Continue Reading

Intense Conflicts . . . Is The Catholic Church In Germany In Danger Of Apostasy?

By MAIKE HICKSON For several weeks now, the German Catholics — bishops and laymen alike — have been in debate and disagreement over Catholic moral teaching and its continuing validity for Catholics today. After the German Bishops’ Conference came out on April 16 with its report to be sent to Rome for the upcoming October…Continue Reading

The Obama-Boehner-McConnell “Fast Track” To A Poorer America

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSnews.com. Creators Syndicate provided this column. All rights reserved.) + + + President Barack Obama is negotiating a multilateral trade agreement with the governments of 11 nations. These include Malaysia and Vietnam — as well as Japan, Brunei, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand,…Continue Reading

What If We Didn’t Have A Constitution?

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO What if we didn’t have a Constitution? What if the government were elected by custom and tradition, but not by law? What if election procedures and official titles and government responsibilities merely followed those that preceded them, and not because any of this was compelled by law, but because that’s what…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Archbishop Martin In Lourdes . . . In Defending Marriage, We Are Not Trying To Hurt Or Offend

LOURDES (ZENIT) — Here is a homily given May 13, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, by Archbishop Eamon Martin at Mass in Lourdes on his first pilgrimage to the Marian shrine as archbishop of Armagh, Ireland. + + + At Mass in Lourdes, Archbishop Martin remembered and acknowledged the faithful in Ireland, and around the world, who…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Social Networks, Addiction To Images, And Custody Of The Eyes

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK A follower on my Facebook page recently messaged me about a sordid situation arising from an association based on a Facebook “friendship.” She “friended” a man who then used her account to gain access to her daughter. What started out as a hope to meet someone who may become a real friend ended in inappropriate…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course… The Order Of The Universe Proves God’s Existence

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 3 Let us put our thinking cap on, and reason: Whenever you see something whose parts are arranged in order, following a specific logical pattern, you know that someone did it. Furniture in a living room, chess pieces on a board, books in a library. Orderly arrangement cannot be explained except as being due to…Continue Reading

The Church — Body Of Christ

By DON FIER As we considered “People of God” as an image of the Church last week, an important and underlying principle inherent to its biblical symbolism emerged: God wills to make us holy and save us not as separated, isolated individuals, but as a people. He wills to sanctify and redeem mankind “by making them into one people gathered…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Writing in the Sunday bulletin of the Church of St. Michael in New York City, Fr. George W. Rutler talked of the “web of contradiction [that] becomes more entangled in our day when politics are complicated by moral inconsistencies.” He cited three examples: “First, the birth of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana occasioned celebrations, as the birth of any…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . St. Ephrem

By CAROLE BRESLIN For centuries — no, for millennia — the Mideast has been the center of tragedy and unrest. Particularly significant in this historical conflict sits the city of Nisibis, now named Nusaybin. Nusaybin is an ancient city which sits on the border between Syria and Turkey. In ancient times this fertile land, located between the Tigris and Euphrates…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Charles Lwanga And Companions

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church in Africa has experienced unprecedented growth in the past century. In 1900, shortly after the martyrdom of Charles Lwanga and companions, there were two million Catholics in Africa. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa in 2009, the Catholic population was 158 million. Once again the Church has witnessed that the blood of martyrs is…Continue Reading