Let us reform instead of complain


I missed the time window to edit my post above, so I’ll have to add this second thought as a new response: Could you comment on Catherine of Siena, and her life as a faithful Catholic and a reformer? I paste below one short bio (granted, a non-Catholic one) that interprets her example as both faithful yet bold before the hierarchy in need of reform.

In her day, the popes, officially Bishops of Rome, had been living for about seventy years, not at Rome but at Avignon in France, where they were under the political control of the King of France (the Avignon Papacy, sometimes called the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy, began when Philip the Fair, King of France, captured Rome and the Pope in 1303). Catherine visited Avignon in 1376 and told Pope Gregory XI that he had no business to live away from Rome. He heeded her advice, and moved to Rome. She then acted as his ambassador to Florence, and was able to reconcile a quarrel between the Pope and the leaders of that city. She then retired to Sienna, where she wrote a book called the Dialog, an account of her visions and other spiritual experiences, with advice on cultivating a life of prayer.

After Gregory’s death in 1378, the Cardinals, mostly French, elected an Italian Pope, Urban VI, who on attaining office turned out to be arrogant and abrasive and tyrannical, and perhaps to have other faults as well. The Cardinals met again elsewhere, declared that the first election had been under duress from the Roman mob and therefore invalid, and elected a new Pope, Clement VII, who established his residence at Avignon. Catherine worked tirelessly, both to persuade Urban to mend his ways (her letters to him are respectful but severe and uncompromising – as one historian has said, she perfected the art of kissing the Pope’s feet while simultaneously twisting his arm), and to persuade others that the peace and unity of the Church required the recognition of Urban as lawful Pope. Despite her efforts, the Papal Schism continued until 1417. It greatly weakened the prestige of the Bishops of Rome, and thus helped to pave the way for the Protestant Reformation a century later.

It goes without saying that interpretations of persons’ attitudes, approaches and motives who are distant in history require subjective judgment of us. History is not an exact and hard science. Different saints present different responses to God. St. John of the Cross, for example, did not submit to the prison he was cast into by his lawful superiors - rather, he took opportunity to escape when he could - I presume, so that he could continue to work in some active way for Carmelite reform, rather than to continue in obedience and in the inactivity which they desired and commanded.



St. John of the Cross was not bound by obedience to remain in a dungeon. Commands that are sinful are not binding. Any violation against human dignity is a sin. Therefore, the person is not bound to it.

As to St. Catherine, the writer of the article fails to mention one very important thing. Catherine was well known to the hierarchy as a holy woman and had earned their respect. She did not have to be abbrasive or disobedient. What people today are calling “tough” was not, given her position. She was a well known spiritual director to the laity and clergy. She was also well known for her holiness and her humility. When she spoke, people listened, because they knew that she was holy and wise. That is not a crossfire. She did not demand or impose her will on the Church and her superiors. She was asked for advice and she gave what she believed to be true. This is very clear in her writings.

Hope this helps.


JR :slight_smile:


I’m not sure if you’re asking for a contemporary one or one of that time period, so I’ll give one of each.

Francis wrote his rule based on the scriptures. In fact, each chapter of the rule was a collection of citations from sacred scripture calling us to be perfect. Pope Innocent III approved it in 1209. In 1221, Pope Honorius rejected it because he believed that the Gospel could not be lived literally. He asked Francis to make it more legislative (legal) and not so biblical. Francis worked on it for two years writing several editions of the rule. Finally, in 1223, Honorius was satisfied. No one really knows if the rule was written exactly as he wanted it, but he approved it, nonetheless and put a Papal Bull on it so that no one, not even Francis, could ever change it except another Pope.

Honorius’ position that one could not live the Gospel as it was preached by the Apostles was a rather interesting one. It was not heresy, but despite Honorius skepticism, Francis did live the Gospel as it was written, even though the rule mitigated some of the demands on the order. Clare also lived by the same spirit of literal application of the Gospels, without gloss as best she could, given Pope Gerogy IX’s limitations on the rule.

Another example of that time was the tabernacle. The practice of the time was that the tabernacle was always on a side altar, not on the main alter. Francis put it on the main altar of his friaries and Clare on the main altar of her monasteries. Later, the Church adopted that custom. That’s an example of a change in tradition. For 1200 years the tabernacle did not have a fixed place. It was either on the side or the main altar, depending on who was in charge.

These side chapels were not the same as the Blessed Sacrament Chapels that we have today. They were more open and in the front of the larger churches, where they could easily be seen. Some say that the Benedictines had introduced this. Not being a Benedictine historian, I’m not sure if this is true or not.

An example of today would be female altar servers. Male altar boys came into existence when adult permanent acolytes disappeared. Young boys were recruited and trained to perform the functions of the acoylytes. The only adult acolytes were those who were studying for the priesthood. This ministry was a minor order and was temporary.

Today, we have female altar servers. Many people do not know that the altar boys are not the original acolytes. The liturgical tradition calls for adult men who are instituted as acolytes. That tradition has never been abrogated. It was simply lost over the centuries. It has been such a long time that those of us alive today have probably never seen a permanent adult acolyte. After Vatican II there was an attempt to bring the tradition back, but it never really took root again. Altar boys continued to serve in that capacity until the role was opened up to girls.

Neither of these are a sin, but are no perfectly consistent with scripture or tradition. There are other elements in scripture that are not considered binding, though they are true, such as the Beatitudes or some of Jesus’ sayings, for example: “Give what you have to the poor and come follow me.” This is what Francis and Clare did and wanted their followers to do, but Pope Honorius mitigated it. They were allowed to give their property to the poor, but they were also ordered to accept living in religious houses instead of being homeless. The scripture says, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Francis and Clare took this very literally. Mother Teresa also took this very literally.

However, Francis, Clare, Mother Teresa, and Padre Pio insisted on obedience obedience obedience.

Today, Francis and Clare would not have been allowed to found the Franciscan Order the way they did. The rule of the Church is that every religious community has to prove that it can provide for its members. Very few religious communities are given what is known as “the privilege of literal poverty”. But men and women who are obedient to the Church accept these limitations as a form of poverty, not being able to have one’s will all the time.

I hope this helps.


JR :slight_smile:


I think I would have been more comfortable with your original post and point, if you had included the elements of the matter illustrated by my examples. That is, there are limits to “obedience”, and to submission. (1) Obedience to God is required absolutely; obedience to religious superiors is not. Conscience, rightly formed, must be followed. (2) Even given the hierarchical structure of the Church, ultimately submission is required to one another in truth - submission is not a dictatorial one-way street. Baptismal dignity and obligations (as priest, prophet and king) are not to be lost under the rightful authority of hierarchy.

I wanted to point this out because I think your post and point, while important and good, are incomplete without further development along the lines I outline. Yes we need individual, personal, interior spiritual reform first of all. We cannot give or share what we do not have, and our great need is holiness. The Church as Church is holy - but her mission is impeded by the sins and imperfections of her members. When each and any of us advance toward the holiness of our vocation in Christ, the whole Body is edified!

That said, sometimes a voice of correction is needed. Bishops and priests are neither infallible nor impeccable - and sometimes they need to hear it. Yes they and we need to see saints! But sometimes they and we need to hear a word of correction, even from the laity.

I hear your post advocating the first part of this portion from Canon Law, Canon 212, but (it seemed to me) not balancing it with the additional provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3:

Can. 212 §1 Christ’s faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church.

§2 Christ’s faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church.

§3 They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

How wonderful it is when the people are taught and led by holy pastors! But we groan under others who subvert true doctrine with personal agendas, and whose life-style mocks the Gospel. How is a faithful Christian to respond to such trials! It is not easy.

Darkness is growing in the world, and in this country. America needs light, and the Church is sent to be light. The light of Christ is not radiated from the mediocre or the lukewarm, but from those on fire for Jesus. Yes, “preach the Gospel always; sometimes use words.” But also, sometimes silence is golden, and sometimes it is merely yellow.

God help us live Christ in our time.



JR - I have read parts of some of your other threads and admire your writing, and I must say you always seem to hit things right on the mark, like the statement above. Yes, the work must always begin with ourselves. More interior reflection is necessary and ardent prayer that we, ourselves, will recognize our personal sins. I need to remember this because I have an “activist” personality and want to make everything right. I desire to identify the problem and get rid of it. I am very compulsive this way, when what is needed is a letting go of the need to place blame and channel the energy toward amending my attitudes and opinions. Right now, during Lent, I am making a concerted effort to free my mind of those things that have a tendency to control me and focus more on abiding with the Lord. That’s why I have not been posting much to the forums.

I believe the Lord has given me this insight and catchy little phrase, “No criticism, no complaint, no condemnation.” NOW, if I could only put this into practice…:wink:


I agree with what you have written above. I do not believe that the saints or the Church use the term “blind obedience” to mean thoughtless. Rather, it means “loving” as Christ’s obedience.

My post focusses on the individual instead of the hierarchy of the Church, not because it is wrong to offer fraternal correction, but because of the audience that I am posting for. Browsing through the threads on CAF one sees an abundance of threads and posts that are critical,condemnatory and even slanderous when it comes to Church leadership.

The starting point of many of these threads and posts is usually a fact. It is usually something that has happened or not happened and posters feel strongly about it. The way that these veer off is the problem. It usually veers off to finger pointing at everyone, including other posters, not just Church leaders.

Often pain and disappointment can and does obscure our perception of matters. When we do not acknowledge that we need to heal outselves (reform) but pursue a track of blaming and complainig, we poison our spirit by increasing the intensity of anger and frustration. This is the point and the target of my post.

To bring peace into our lives, we must begin with reform of our own lives. Blaiming and complaining clergy, religious, and lay ministers does nothing to heal our soul. He who is not in the process of healing has a very difficult time bringing healing into the world.

The Holy Father’s rescent letter explaining to the bishops why he lifted the excommunication of the SSPX is a wonderful example. He remark on how he was hurt by the hatred and anger that was thrust at him. But his decision to write the letter is an excellent example of how a spiritual person heals within and takes that balm to the Church and the world.

I’m trying to draw attention to the self and give the clergy and hierarchy a rest, because true union with God is achieved within the silence of the soul. Then, like Benedict XVI, we take our words to the Church and the world in a tone that is fraternal and without complaints or anger.

A soul at rest is a dynamic soul. An agitated soul is divisive.


JR :slight_smile:


Thank you for your explanation, and further thoughts. Of course I agree that bitter vengeance against clergy, as reaction to being hurt, is not worthy of a Christian and can yield only bitter fruit. And we must understand the human frailties in us all, including clergy. Many clergy seem to have retreated into a clerical “bunker mentality” where the laity can’t hurt them. Such clericalism is a poison in the Body. How sad! If only we could truly be brother and sister to one another, helping one another toward our common vocation - holiness.

Christ can enable in us - among us - a true and beautiful brotherhood where there is none lording it over another. But it takes two, to be brother for one another.


While I agree that some clerics and religious have retreated into the bunkers as you say, there are more who are not in those bunkers. Some have been hurt by the bite of many lay persons. It is this bite that we are trying to address in this thread.

The laity can do much good for them and for the Universal Church as the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity from Vatican II lays it out and canon law as well.

My own community is a branch of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO). We were a group of Secular Franciscans who began to live in community. Eventually, we made vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience and were “incorporated” as a religious group of Franciscan Brothers (OSF). We never broke from the Franciscan Order. We evolved from within. The mission is to bring the Gospel into the secular world. Instead of the complaints and the negativity, we commit ourselves to go into the secular sphere and expose ourselves as faithful Catholics who defend the Church, while admitting that human beings are always fallible in any domain.

When others attack the Church or the clergy or religious for some sin of commission or ommission, we always respond with our motto: Love always forgives.

We make it the object of our life to help the laity forgive, learn, and lead with patience and trust in Divine Providence.

Thus, our brothers continue the mission of St. Francis, to bring peace to the Church at the bank, the hospital, the school, the retail store and everywhere we work. Most people do not know that we are Franciscan Brothers until they ask us why we wear the Tau and why we always wear the same white shirt and gray slacks. This opens the door to speak about our life of conversion and how we are all called to a constant conversion.

It is through this constant process of conversion that our holy father Francis renewed the Church in his time and that we can renew the Church today.


JR :slight_smile:


Honestly, I think pessimism and “negativity” get a bad rap. You need both sunshine and rain. You can’t live without either one.


Ahhhhhhhhhh, but negativity and pessimism are not Christian virtues. If you are talking about critical thinking, that’s another story. The most influential Catholic thinkers have been masters at critical thinking. Even when their conclusions have been wrong, they have served a purpose. They have managed to get others to think

Learning to think critically instead of negatively is part of conversion. We need to think critically, especially about our own worldview. We need to ask ourselves the hard questions about our response to life’s difficulties and think about the way we think. Sometimes we need fine tuning in the way that we think. Unless we are critical thinkers, we go about with holding the same perspective, which may be incorrect or slightly out of focus.


JR :slight_smile:


To me, all this sounds like a doctor trying to give an aspirin to someone who has malaria


Dear Benedict

Very good:) Why don’t you do it? If you can , plan it and go. It could make you a saint? Then when your a saint you can pray for me so I can be a saint.
My motives are not perfect but what would you expect from me?

God bless you future saint:thumbsup::slight_smile:


Altar Girls. So I guess in the future you will not find fault in having women priests!. You know change tradition.! Men are the only ones that should be allowed around the Holy Altar!. It’s called unchanging tradition!. Which is what I like about the Orthodox churches. As for Padre Pio. He to did not care at all for the changing of the Holy Mass. He was a traditional Catholic!. Hence why he got a dispensation to celebrate the Tridentine Mass only. Sorry JR but you will never convince me that the changes today, brought about by Vatican 2 and liberalism and progressivism are all ok. There NOT!. You should be defending tradition, not progressivism. What do you think of this Franciscan community.



Dear brother

Can you explain the red hilited parts please? I’m wondering about the top part as to your exact meaning if you can elaborate.

I’m wondering about the lower part as to whether you think SSPX was wrongly excommunicated and why on earth are bishops and others upset about the lifting of the excommunication.

On a separate note do you know the best audio book or cd on St Francis’ life and teachings for a layman? I’ve been wanting to learn more for a good while.

My post is never one aimed at causing division or dissent or one of opposition to the pope or church. So please don’t take me the wrong way with these questions. I don’t have the learning or knowledge you do. That is why it can be hard to understand my intention.

Thank you dear brother:thumbsup::slight_smile:


JR you should read this article. It talks about many of the Franciscans and Dominicans today at the end of the article.


I’d be happy to try to explain it. Let’s begin with the concept of blind obedience. The concept is actually a Benedictine concept that was adopted by many other religious and secular families in the Church. Unfortunately, in modern society the term has taken a very nagative meaning, which is far from the meaning that it has in Church tradition. Our obedience is blind in the sense that it is based on faith. We believe that Christ speaks to us through the Church and through those in authority. We believe that those in authority are not perfect, but that nothing is impossible for God and unless we are called to sin. We believe that God can bring good out of anything. We believe that like Mary, there are many things that we do not understand and there are reasons behind things that are unknown to us, sometimes unknown to the person in authority. Like Mary we hold in our heart the knowledge that God is merciful and God is always present among his people. We obey because we want to be united to the loving obedience of Jesus and Mary, even when in the eyes of the rest, everything looks like foolishness. That is a loving obedience.

I do not believe that the bishops were wrongly excommunicated. They disobeyed the Holy Father on an issue that is grave. As our Holy Father Benedict explained, the excommunication was meant as a disciplinary action in the hope that it would bring about a change of heart and mind in the persons who were excommunicated. The disciplinary action did not have the desired effect, which was a confession of repentance on the part of the bishops involved.

When a disciplinary action fails to have the desired effect, then the Church tries something else. The act of lifting the excommunication in another attempt on the part of the Holy Father to bring the bishops of the SSPX into full communion with him through a show of mercy. He said this himelf. He said that this as an act of mercy on his part, because he cannot see the value of having these men out there when they could be an asset to the Church, if they accept what the Church is today and help to heal what needs healing. I believe that the Holy Father’s action is a very appropriate one and hope that it has the desired effect, full union of the SSPX with the Bishop of Rome.

Part of reform is to bring back those who are away, whether it is through discipline or through mercy. It is also important not to make the SSPX a scapegoat of those who disagree with them. That would be a violation of charity and a serious sin on our part. Those of us who disagree with their actions 20 years ago, must also remember that we too are sinners. “Let him who has no sin throw the first stone.”

The concern of many bishops has less to do with the lifting of the excommunication and more to do with what the Holy Father explained in his letter to the bishops. The SSPX did make some very arrogant and disrespectful statements about the bishops, the Council and the popes of rescent times. This caused a lot of resentment. Some bishops feel that an apology is warranted. Then there is the issue of Bishop Williamson’s statements about the Shoah, which the Church condemns.

Now the Holy Father has moved the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which has been charged with the responsibility of helping the SSPX bishops reform and come into full communion with the Church. He has placed the Commission under the Sacred Congregation of the Faith, his former congregation. He has raised the issue of the Shoah and the acceptance of Vatican II to an issue of doctrine.

This action certainly complicates matters for the SSPX bishops and the other bishops, because we are no longer speaking about the disciplines that regulate the mass. We are speaking about the acceptance of the Council and the Holy Father’s position on the Shoah as an acceptance of Papal Authority, which is doctrine. In other words, the Pope has raised the bar. If one wants to be in communion with the Church, one has to accept Papal Authority. He has made the issue of obedience to the Pope an issue of compliance with the doctrine on the Primacy of Peter.

We cannot reform the SSPX or any group. We can only reform us. We have to accept that the SSPX and its members are our brothers and sisters. They are not our scapegoats. They are not bad people, even if they are mistaken on some issues. They have a contribution to make and they deserve to be heard. The Sacred Congregation whose responsibility it will be to determine if they get faculties or not has a grave duty ahead. We should not be cheerleaders for or against, but contemplatives who pray that the Holy Spirit will guide all those involved.

As to Bishop Williamson’s statements on the Shoah, we must pray that the damage done is reperable and that he finds it in his heart to obey the Holy Father and recant so that he can come into full communion with the Holy Father and his brother bishops and serve the Church, which needs him. He is not to be a target of disdain or defense. He is to be a target of prayer.

I hope this helps.


JR :slight_smile:


This does nothing to foster reconciliatoiin and individual reform. On the contrary, it is bitter and defensive.

The true reformers on Catholic history always believed that Love forgives everything. That their mission was not to attack, but to live the Gospel. There is no call to the individual Catholic to live the Gospel in this article. Even his comment at the end about the Franciscans and Dominicans is a broad swipe at two communities that number over two million members. It is rather interesting that the tradition for hundreds of years is that a Dominican is the official papal theologian and a Franciscan is the official papal spiritual director and confessor. The current friars who occupy these offices are very holy men.

The article does not fit into the scope of this thread. Sorry.

My intention on starting this thread was to establish a point where people can come and learn from each other how to reform our lives so that we can have unity with each other and ultimately with the Divine Bridegroom.

Reform never begins with anger. It begins with love.


JR :slight_smile:


Altar girls are not ordained ministers. Clerics are. There is a very big difference. In the interest of personal reform, we must come to an acceptance of the fact that the altar servers are not ordained ministers. We must remember that they were adopted, because we did not have enough commissioned male acolytes. Altar servers are not acolytes. The ministry of acolyte still remains a ministry reserved for males. As we come to a better understanding of this, we will feel more peaceful within ourselves.

You know change tradition.! Men are the only ones that should be allowed around the Holy Altar!.

We do not need to change tradition. We need to change our hearts. There was never a dogma on this issue. As long as we cling to it as dogma, we will feel hurt and betrayed by the change. When we accept it as a custom or discipline that the Church has the authority to change, then we can humbly submit to her. As we submit to the Church, we can let go of these issues and make room in our hearts and mind for contemplation, ministry and the acquisition of virtue.

It’s called unchanging tradition!. Which is what I like about the Orthodox churches.

You’re very right. The Orthodox have a very strong adherence to tradition. However, even their strong adherence to tradition has not protected them from making some grave doctrinal mistakes, which they are now trying to repair. They too are in a prossess of reform.

As for Padre Pio. He to did not care at all for the changing of the Holy Mass. He was a traditional Catholic!. Hence why he got a dispensation to celebrate the Tridentine Mass only.

This is true. Padre Pio did get a indult to celebrate the Gregorian mass actually. But he submitted to his Brother Superior to get that indult. It was his Capuchin superior who autorized it. Don’t forget that Padre Pio was a Capuchin Brother. The Capuchin Francicans have their own Ordianries. Each province has a Brother who serves as the Ordinary of the Province, he may be a priest or a lay brother. Regardless, he has the authority of a bishop when it comes to such matters. The Provincial Superior granted the indult. Padre Pio was very humble. He asked and he waited. There was no anger or ressentment in his request. There was only a loving sincerity of his love for the Extraordinary Form of the mass. His love was rewarded with love.

As we move toward our own reform, we must learn from Padre Pio to love as he loved his Order and the Church and wait and trust as he trusted his Order and the Church. Finally, to be open to whatever the answer may be to our requests, as he was open.

Sorry JR but you will never convince me that the changes today, brought about by Vatican 2 and liberalism and progressivism are all ok. There NOT!. You should be defending tradition, not progressivism.

I’m not trying to convince you of anything. As St. Francis and St. Bernadette said, “It is my job to tell you about the spiritual life, not to convince you.” As to what I should be defending, there is only one thing that my vows demand and that is enough, that I live the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the manner of St. Francis and in obedience to his canonically elected successors. I defend the Gospel’s call to conversion of all men.

What do you think of this Franciscan community.


The Franciscans of the Immaculate are a wonderful branch of our order. They are obedient to the Holy Father, to our holy Father Francis and to the inspiration of St. Maximilian Kolbe. You can’t get more Catholic than that. They are a wonderful example of spiritual reform and interior conversion. I wish more people would follow their example.


JR :slight_smile:


Men are the only ones that should be allowed around the Holy Altar!. And my opinion will never change.


Now you have stated it correctly and it can be respected for what it is. It is your opinion and it is not a sinful opinion. Therefore, it deserves to be heard, affirmed and not attacked by anyone. Those who would attack a peronsal opinion that is not a sin, are passing judgment on something that need not be judged.

If your opinion led you to be uncharitable toward those who do not share it, then your lack of charity would be deserving of fraternal correction. But as it is stated in this post, I see no reason to discuss it any longer.

I respect that you hold your opinion and trust that you are charitable toward those who differ from it.


JR :slight_smile:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.