What Are the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Happy Pentecost! Today, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the other disciples as they awaited Him. When He arrived, He bestowed the gift of tongues upon them in the form of tongues of fire, and gave them the strength to go out and evangelize in the Name of Jesus Christ. (See Acts 2:1-4.)

The gift of tongues, however, is not one of the “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit” that the Spirit has shared with so many confirmation candidates over the past month. The gift of tongues is known as a charismatic grace, whereas the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Piety, Fortitude, and Fear of the Lord.

What are these gifts? What do they mean for those who receive them? How are they distinct from one another?

Following is something I had written up for my students this past term to help distinguish between the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, since they can seem very similar to one another other if read about quickly (which makes sense since they pertain to the same subject, namely God).

In addition to taking from the St. Joseph Confirmation Book‘s definitions, I actually used simple definitions from an online dictionary to help me to put these distinctions together. It’s worth noting that some of the more advanced/special vocabulary covered in subjects such as theology and philosophy can potentially be made easier to understand by looking at the everyday uses of the word(s) in question, and by using those simpler definitions to help determine the more special meanings in the given academic setting. (And in some cases, it’s a matter of theological language relating back to philosophical language.)

Wisdom: To be wise is to be able to respond sensibly or shrewdly. It’s very sensible to have God at the center of our lives, for our good and for the proper ordering of our lives–and this is what the Gift of Wisdom helps us to do.

Understanding: To understand something means to get or grasp how it works, what it is, etc. The Gift of Understanding enlightens us concerning the truths of the faith, to help us to grasp them and how we should love and apply them.

Counsel: To counsel is to give advice (think of like a counselor). The Gift of Counsel therefore kind of guides us like a counselor, perhaps in times of confusion where it might be unclear what God’s will is, to know it and do it prudently.

Fortitude: The word “fortitude” has the same root as “fortify,” which means to build up to make stronger (like how you might “fortify” a building by adding extra support, or like how an army encampment might have a strong “fortress” as their base). The Gift of Fortitude helps us to be strong and resilient against temptations towards sin and cowardliness, to stand firm in the face of difficulty when living out the faith.

Knowledge: To have knowledge is to have information concerning something–e.g., knowing what the Ten Commandments are as opposed to understanding the full implications of them. The Gift of Knowledge helps you to know right from wrong (so you can think of it as a kind of supplement, aid, or boost to your conscience).

Piety: To have piety is to be religious or reverent (like a pious person). This Gift helps you to be continuously reverent, or respectful, of the presence of God in your soul and in the souls of others (helping you to respect them as well).

Fear of the Lord: The Gift of Fear of the Lord, remember, is not like “Oh, no, don’t hit me!” kind of fear; it’s more like the “fear” of causing unhappiness to a close friend because you love them and don’t want to hurt them–so not something that you always live in fear and tremble over, but something that you are careful to avoid doing. This Gift helps you to have that kind of “fear” concerning separating yourself from God because you love Him and owe Him everything. (Of course, we should also fear this for our own sakes, because that would hurt our own souls as well.)

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The History of Moral Theology is Still Being Written

The following was a discussion post I wrote for the Fundamental Moral Theology 1 class I took this past fall at Holy Apostles College & Seminary.

By the title of this discussion, I am not intending to get across that Catholic theology’s understanding of morality ever changes. It never changes, because morality itself—i.e., right living as it is communicated through divine Revelation 1 —is unchanging. However, the Church’s understanding of morality does grow over time. This is due to the fact that Sacred Tradition itself “is a living reality, which ‘develop[s] in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit’”; and thanks to this development, “there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down.” 2 Such a “development of doctrine” was an idea originally formulated by St. John Henry Newman—and it was one of his major contributions to theology, in which “he taught us to think historically in theology and so to recognize the identity of faith in all developments.” 3

A perfect example of this development is found in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (i.e., her conception without Original Sin). Perhaps the most commonly-noted shortcoming in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa theologiae is the fact that he denied the Immaculate Conception. 4 Although this would be a heresy in the contemporary Church, at the time of Aquinas, the subject was open to debate. The fact now is simply that the debate has ended, and was definitively ended in 1854 with Pope Pius IX’s pronouncement of the Immaculate Conception as dogma. Moral theology has thus grown: for it now no longer contemplates whether the Immaculate Conception is a reality, but instead now considers it as a reality. This is not a matter of some changing of the deposit of faith, only of an improved understanding of it, as the Holy Spirit continues to lead the Church to all truth just as Our Lord told us He would (see Jn 16:13, NABRE).

1 Angel Rodriguez Luno and Enrique Colon, Chosen in Christ to be Saints: Fundamental Moral Theology (Rome, 2014), 1.3, The Sources of Moral Theology, Kindle.
2 Luno and Colon, Chosen in Christ, 1.3.1, Divine Revelation.
3 Joseph Ratzinger, Presentation by His Eminence Card. Joseph Ratzinger on the Occasion of the First Centenary of the Death of Card. John Henry Newman (28 April 1990).
4 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae III, q. 27, a. 2, r. 2, at New Advent, www.newadvent.org.

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Text Analysis of 𝐿𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝐴𝑛𝑡𝑜𝑛𝑦

Holy Apostles College & Seminary

Text Analysis Worksheet of St. Athanasius of Alexandria’s Life of Antony


Cameron Daly

Dr. Andrew Blaski

CHH 270: Patristics

27 March 2020

  1. Who is the author of this text? Provide some basic details.
    St. Athanasius of Alexandria, a bishop in the fourth century, led a complicated life. He was ordained a bishop in 328 at the age of twenty-nine, putting him one year under the common minimum age limit for ordination to the episcopate (Lecture 15). For reasons such as this and such as the accusation that his ordination took place in secret, Athanasius was exiled five times for a total of seventeen years out of his forty-six-year bishopric (Lecture 15). He made good use of this time, however, by making connections with the pope and with certain monks (Lecture 15); perhaps they are the source of his knowledge of St Antony.

    2.  When and why was the text written? What were the historical/theological circumstances?
                Writing in his third period of exile, Athanasius wanted to share the extraordinary account of Antony’s life with those monks who desired to a) know if what they had heard of Antony was true, and b) if it was true, know his story fully so that they could properly learn from and imitate him (Lecture 15). There may have been some amount of questioning at the time as to whether all the great things said to have happened through Antony were really believable; for Athanasius made sure his readers knew that they should “not be incredulous at what you hear of him from those who make reports. Consider, rather, that from them only a few of his feats have been learned, for these hardly gave full description of so much” (Athanasius, q. from Lecture 15).
    Though Athanasius does not mention this directly in Life of Antony, the heresy of Arianism was going strong at the time he was writing (Lecture 15). Some question whether “Athanasius [is] ‘using’ Antony’s name to bolster his position” against the Arians, seeing that he implicitly condemns the Arians through making note of Antony’s driving out “Arian madmen” from his mountain (Life of Antony, 68, New Advent’s version) and Antony’s public denunciation of Arianism (LA, 69), also adding near the end of the biography a very strict warning by the desert monk to his followers that they should not get caught up in Arianism (LA, 91).

    3.  What are the central ideas and arguments in this text (perhaps two or three)? Explain.
    The work is a biography, so the most central idea is, of course, to give an account of the “life of Antony.” However, in giving his account both of the witness of Antony’s life and the content of Antony’s teachings, Athanasius clearly hopes (as noted above) to inspire his readers to grow in wisdom and to improve themselves in the monastic life.
    The witness of Antony’s life is truly remarkable. From seemingly early on in his monastic practice, he is beset by relentless demonic harassment, starting from temptations to sin or to stray from his lifestyle (LA, 5), and progressing to scare-tactics and even physical tortures (such as tearing Antony almost to death)—all of which failed to overcome him and his faith (LA, 8-9). We hear much later on that the cacophony of the demons screaming at Antony, and physical battles between the saint and invisible beings, continued to be witnessed by Antony’s caretakers in his later years (LA, 51; see also 13 for earlier mention of the yelling voices), with Antony himself even mentioning that he had to contend with more demons on the mountain than there were people who were surrounding him in the town (LA, 70). Antony held that the demons never truly had any power over him, since they had no real power in and of themselves; if they did, they could simply destroy him as a normal angel could, and they would have no need of coming in large numbers to try it (LA, 9). One can see upon reading between the lines that the only power the devil has over man is to accuse him of sin—to hold man accountable to it as if man had somehow borrowed his sins from the devil and owes him a payment in return for them (LA, 65). Of course, the demons who tried proved unable to accuse Antony himself of any such thing—and so they had no power over him even in that regard (LA, 65). Antony insisted on the fact that none of the power behind his great deeds came from him, but rather that it all came from God. For example, when a man came to him seeking his daughter’s healing, Antony said: “’Man, why do you call on me? I also am a man even as you. But if you believe in Christ whom I serve, go, and according as you believe, pray to God, and it shall come to pass” (LA, 48; see also 58).
    Two of the main themes of Antony’s moral teaching were renunciation of the world and perseverance in doing God’s will (see LA, 16-17). He taught that one should not get wrapped up in that which he would lose at his death, but should instead seek out that which he could hang onto even after this life—namely, his virtues (LA, 17). He also believed that persevering in these virtues to the very end was crucial, seeing that “if we are careless for a single day the Lord will not pardon us, for the sake of the past, but will be wrath against us for our neglect” (LA, 18). This is very much in keeping with legitimate Church teaching; for God does not judge one ultimately for how he’s lived his life overall, but for whether he is repentant of his sins and has his heart set on doing God’s will (viz., on whether he’s in a state of grace) at the hour of his death.[1] Hence, one should live out each day as if expecting to die before the next sunrise (see LA, 19).
    Antony was also an excellent evangelizer, as Athanasius recorded in discussions between Antony and some Greek philosophers. Seeing that one pair of philosophers had come to Antony seeking wisdom, he pointed out to them that they were ultimately wasting their time if they thought him ridiculous, but should themselves become like him if they thought him wise (LA, 72). Another time, he defended Christianity against the Greeks’ mockery of the cross, in pointing out how much “more beautiful” it was to believe in a God Who would become one of us and die for us, then in gods who behaved like animals and unrestrainedly immoral human beings (LA, 74); for these things the Greeks worshipped were really creatures, no greater than the demons that could be driven out by the very Name of the true Creator (LA, 76). He furthermore proved to them the superiority of faith to “demonstrative arguments”:

[F]or faith arises from disposition of soul, but dialectic from the skill of its inventors. Wherefore to those who have the inworking through faith, demonstrative argument is needless, or even superfluous. For what we know through faith this you attempt to prove through words, and often you are not even able to express what we understand. So the inworking through faith is better and stronger than your professional arguments (LA, 77).

  1. Reflect upon the broader significance of the text for Christian theology (why does it matter? Which “big questions” does it raise, even for Catholics today?)
    I think that Life of Antony is very important, not only for monks, but also for everyday Christians simply trying to follow the “constricted … road that leads to life” (Mt 7:14, NABRE). The witness and teachings of Antony encourage us in our own fights against demons and temptations, and they remind us to persevere to the very end in the Christian life and of the primacy of faith in God over our own intellectual power. Relevant especially to current events surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, however, I would say that this text reminds us to trust in the Name of Jesus Christ. Whereas we lock ourselves at home and practice “social distancing” to the extreme, Antony never even bathed for many years and yet lived to be about 105 in consistent great health (see LA 89, 93); and while doctors struggle to find a cure for the virus, Antony showed that God could cure the sick through faith and prayer (see LA, 58). Such wonders have their source in God, not man. We need to have the faith of Antony that God can and will get us through this crisis. He may work through man to do it; but ultimately, the gift of an end to the virus will come from Him, in His own time and in response to our faith in Him.

[1] see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (United States of America: Doubleday, 1997), 1035.

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Is the Opposition of some Catholics to the Catholic Church’s Opposition to the Death Penalty Legitimate?–by Cameron Daly

Holy Apostles College & Seminary

Is the Opposition of some Catholics to the Catholic Church’s Opposition to the Death Penalty Legitimate?

Cameron Daly

Prof. Jacob Torbeck
MTH 300: Introduction to Moral Theology

19 April 2019


Introduction and Objections
In 2018, it appears to some that the Pope of the Catholic Church said something to change infallible Catholic teaching. He changed the text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “a sure norm for teaching the faith,”[1] to say that the death penalty is strictly “inadmissable,” [sic] whereas the Catechism used to say that it was just seldom “an absolute necessity.”[2] Some have taken great issue with this change, considering it erroneous and contrary to genuine Church teaching. One person, a former classmate of mine from Holy Apostles, gave some specific reasons as to why they took issue with it:

A. The new wording is dated, because it uses the word today. What about tomorrow. B. The CCC is supposed to be more theological rather than pastoral. The new statement sounds pastoral, like a guideline. C. It oversteps the natural authority of the state to condemn someone, according to Sts Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo. The teachings of the Church are meant to be interpreted in light of tradition, scripture, and the Church Fathers. This completely contradicts the Scriptures according to Fr. Hardin and his defense of the death penalty, the laws of Moses, the passage in which Jesus says “it would be better that a mill stone be wrapped around his neck”, the 5th commandment is properly interpreted as thou shall not murder unjustly, it contradicts the teachings on self-defense. It could be in a homily, but not in the CCC.[3]

In this paper, I hope to offer my own answer as to whether or not this revision was acceptable for Pope Francis to make and to alleviate the very-much valid concerns raised by my former classmate.

The Text in Question

The full text of the revised section of the Catechism reads as follows:

Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.  In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.  Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.[4]

Whereas the previous version reads:

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”[5]

My Own Explanation
I am inclined to hold to a position similar to the thinking of Brugger, who holds that the “implication of the shift for Catholic moral teaching is that the death penalty precisely as punishment is no longer being defended, but rather the death penalty as collective self defense.”[6] It should be noted that Pope Francis, in his revision, did nothing to deny the principle of double-effect in regard to self-defense, even when this involves killing an aggressor.[7] Therefore, the revision would seem to be saying that man should not consider death to be a “punishment” that he is qualified to administer as such, at least without the simultaneous motivation of legitimate concern for “collective self defense” (which the revision presupposes is not now a valid concern, hence why the death penalty is considered inadmissible).[8]
To me, this seems to bear little difference from the previous wording of 2267. Even in that previous wording, it was held (as quoted) that the death penalty was legitimate only when it involves the continued defense of human lives (i.e., when the person continues to pose a deadly threat to his fellow men), and that even this was becoming quite a rare, “if not practically non-existent,” necessity due to modern methods of prisoner constraint.
One could be thrown by Francis’s point that the death penalty is no longer legitimate for the sake of the common good. This seems to go against what I just said above about the doctrine of double-effect, with the indirect result of killing of an aggressor being legitimate in order to prevent him from killing another. However, Francis is presupposing the adequacy of containment methods in his saying that, as can be seen from later in his revision. Thus, it can be presumed to remain true that “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others”;[9] and so, what Francis is really speaking against is death as a penalty, strictly, solely, and contemporarily speaking. St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out that “[it is not] necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”[10] In light of today’s means of containment, the death penalty as such should no longer be considered “moderate self-defense,” and therefore can be classified as inadmissible.

Reply to Objection A

My former classmate took issue with the fact that the new version made use of the word “today.” I can see this concern, since the wrong interpretation of “today” could make Church teaching seem unstable and morality changeable. However, as can be seen, the original text also uses the word “today”; and if you ask me, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The Church’s recognition in her moral teaching of present-day circumstances is not automatically a sign that her teaching is changing with the times, so to speak, but could instead be seen as her being dynamic in nature. First and foremost, it should be noted that Our Lord told us that the Holy Spirit would guide us “to all truth” (Jn 16:13, NABRE). There is no reason that this guidance should be viewed as something immediate; for some aspects of knowledge, including some that pertain to moral knowledge, come to man with time. One might consider in this regard Our Lord’s fulfillment of the law, or (e.g.) the fact that “the past did not know either the entire reality and development of the human person or its individual elements hidden in human biology and psychology”[11]—hence why “one cannot take what Augustine or the philosophers of the Middle Ages knew about sexuality as the exclusive basis of a moral reflection.”[12]
Another facet of Church teaching that could be considered in this regard is the Church’s approach to bioethics, which is personalistic. Personalism, while still recognizing the legitimacy of the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas on the nature of man, can nonetheless be described as a “Dynamically thinking enterprise.”[13] This is so because it employs multiple different kinds of knowledge, including both inductive and deductive reasoning and ever-progressing scientific knowledge, in its approach to bioethical questions.[14] This does not make it opposed in the least to Thomistic ideas, or that intends to change them; it only means that such ideas are enabled to be applied and maintained properly in respect to contemporary issues—something that is necessary for the Church to be truly universal in a temporal as well as spatial sense. Therefore, the “today” of the new revision could very well be seen as the “tomorrow” of the previous version.

Reply to Objection B
            My former classmate’s second objection concerned the manner of presentation of the new version, as pastoral rather than theological (by which I will assume they mean doctrinal, since the Catechism’s point is to be doctrinal more than theological[15]). I can see the concern here, since the revised teaching is presented very argumentatively, i.e., with premises and a conclusion rather than just a statement, and this is done within the context of the main text rather than in one of the supplementary block quotes.[16] However, this is not the only place in which the Catechism does this. In section 470, e.g., it gives a reasoned explanation of why the Church holds that Christ had a human soul.[17] Of course, this might bring up the question of why the Catechism does this at all, if it’s supposed to be a doctrinal rather than argumentative document.
The Catechism was constructed, not just as a compilation of doctrine, but also as a teaching tool; this is why it features such things as cross-references and more easily-memorized summaries at its teachings at the end of its “paragraphs.”[18] Some amount of explanation of its teachings, then, is necessary in order to properly fulfill the work’s catechetical end.

Reply to Objection C

To consider this objection in chronological order, I will begin with St. Augustine’s position on the death penalty. He “wrote many letters to civil magistrates urging them not to carry out the scheduled executions, but that did not mean that he denied the legitimacy of the death penalty.”[19] Yet, I would not say it was quite so simple; for “though he accepted the moral lawfulness of the death penalty justly applied, he worked assiduously at minimizing its application through the application of clemency.”[20] One might say, then, that Augustine “[worked] with determination for its abolition,” to use Francis’s wording. I will certainly not deny that Augustine recognized the state’s authority to pronounce a death sentence; the fact that he asked Donatus to “forget that you have the power of capital punishment” clearly implies that Donatus did indeed have that power.[21] Yet, even in Augustine’s understanding, the death penalty should be used only as a last resort: “If, then, there were no other means established to curb the malice of the wicked, extreme necessity might perhaps urge that such men be put to death.”[22]
This is the train of thought that I believe St. Thomas Aquinas likewise held to. Now some, like my former classmate, think quite differently on this matter. Proctor references Aquinas’ Summa contra gentiles to note that, “Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), the greatest Doctor of the Church, expressed little ambivalence about the death penalty, calling arguments against its use ‘frivolous,’”[23] which would seem to sufficiently elucidate Aquinas’ position. And even though he features a direct and accurate quote from Aquinas, I don’t think that even Proctor sees the whole picture. For in each instance of his mention of the permissibility of the death penalty, both in the Summa theologiae and the Summa contra gentiles, Aquinas generally does so with qualifiers such as “the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement,”[24] or “if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community.”[25] Granted, in another part of the ST, he advocates killing sinners in as a deterrent to sin, by taking from man what he loves most; but even then, his overarching point is that vengeful punishment “tends to the prevention of evil,”[26] and has a “medicinal character; wherefore the punishment of death is inflicted on those sins alone which conduce to the grave undoing of others.”[27] It seems to me that, with the arrival of significantly more efficient prison containment than would have existed in Aquinas’ age and in the context of Aquinas’ general teaching on killing sinners both in the ST and the SCG, it could be seen as a logical progression that “the prevention of evil” going forward from the initial crime can now be sufficiently exercised without the use of capital punishment—and that at least the future “grave undoing of others” can likewise be sufficiently prevented.
I will also grant, however, that Aquinas’ point seems that it was not to avoid the continued “grave undoing of others” after it had initially taken place (or at least, this was not his exclusive aim), but to deter man from so undoing others in the first place “through fear of losing those things which they love more than those they obtain by sinning.” Again, though, such a capital punishment is intended to be, as is all vindictive punishment, “medicinal”; yet it would not truly be healing any concrete person at all,[28] if the “grave undoing of others” had already been done, and the guilty party was already rendered incapable of doing it again (such as by effective containment). To again use Aquinas’ wording from the SCG, capital punishment makes sense if “the danger which threatens from their [the criminals’] way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement”; but if such criminals were to pose no further danger, no one would truly be healed by their being killed. In a sense, one could even say that man has his “life” taken from him by lifelong, inescapable imprisonment.
There is no question that Fr. John Hardon is an adamant proponent of the death penalty, and he makes a very strong case for it. He does mention Aquinas’ point concerning the need for it to be carried out in accordance with the protection of others: “Certainly the crime had to be very serious and the welfare of society was at stake” for it to be permissible.[29] Yet, he also holds that the New Testament Scriptures affirm the state’s authority to enact the death penalty (and that the Old Testament establishes it), that it is necessary for the state to punish sin proportionately in order to maintain the moral order, and the state’s right to carry this proportionate punishment (including the death penalty) out without circumstantial condition is established by Sacred Scripture and Tradition.[30]
Regarding the New Testament, it should be noted that it does not directly state that the death penalty as such is a right of the state. To use Fr. Hardon’s own quotations, St. Paul says that the state has the right to punish evildoers generally speaking (see Rom 13:14), and Christ tells us to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”[31] (though this is meant in terms of taxes—to say that it applies specifically to the right to carry out the death penalty unequivocally would be begging the question). As for my classmate’s mention of the millstone, I would say that the wording used in the Gospel According to Luke can be used to clarify the true meaning here: “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk 17:2). I would say that this could be viewed in the same way that it would have been better for Judas Iscariot had he never been born (see Mt 26:24): the post-death punishment was to be so bad that it would be better to suffer a horrible death by drowning than to commit the sin and face such eternal recompense. “It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire” (Mt 18:8).[32]
Regarding the Old Testament, though God does give the public Israelite authorities the command to kill those who commit certain sins,[33] this is an authority specifically established by Himself, and the punishment is to be administered to a person who specifically broke a covenant with Him. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that God also gave the Israelites the authority to drive out various pagan peoples from their homes (see Dt 9:3-5)—and I doubt much of anyone would say that the state in general has the unequivocal authority to do that.
I would say that Fr. Hardon’s very strongest point is that which he utilizes from Pope Pius XII: “Equally important is the Pope’s insistence that capital punishment is morally defensible in every age and culture of Christianity. Why? Because the Church’s teaching on ‘the coercive power of legitimate human authority’ is based on ‘the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine.’ It is wrong, therefore, ‘to say that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances.’ On the contrary, they have ‘a general and abiding validity.’”[34] Upon reviewing the document in question, however, I have noticed that the pope did not mention specifically the death penalty in the immediate context of these words, but rather vindictive punishment as a whole.[35] Furthermore, directly after the section from which Hardon quoted, Pius XII mentioned that “the inherent purpose of the penalty [even, “with certain limits, vindictive penalty]” is “the true interior conversion of the guilty person, and a serious guarantee of its lasting character.”[36] If this is the true purpose, the death penalty solely as a penalty would be missing the point, which is similar to what I noted regarding Aquinas’ words in the SCG.


In writing this paper, I have not attempted to say whether I think Pope Francis was acting prudently or necessarily in making this revision to the Catechism. That is entirely another consideration. My purpose here, rather, has been to consider whether or not there was anything inherently wrong with the revision or his having made it, such as whether there was any true discontinuity in Church teaching involved, and thus whether it was acceptable for him to make it. My considered—and argued—opinion is that there is no such discontinuity, and that there is nothing inherently wrong with his having made the revision. While I believe that the concerns of my former classmate are well-founded and well worth consideration, I believe that they can be alleviated, ultimately by the understanding that the revision is a logical and realistic progression of the teaching of the living Tradition and Magisterium of the Church, and also such a progression toward ever more perfect truth thanks to the active guidance of the Holy Spirit.



Augustine of Hippo. Letter 100. Trans. J. G. Cunningham. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887. At New Advent, http://www.newadvent.org.

Babarsky, Judith. Class notes on Epistemological Justification, Philosophical Foundations and Research Methods in Bioethics. Cromwell, CT: Holy Apostles College & Seminary, distributed 21 January 2019.

Bordoni, Linda. “Pope Franis: ‘Death Penalty Inadmissable.’” [sic] At Vatican News, 2 August 2018, at http://www.vaticannews.va.

Brugger, E. Christian. “Rejecting the Death Penalty: Change and Continuity in the Tradition.” In Haythrop Journal 49, no. 3 (2008): 388-404.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. New York, New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Chutikorn, Paul. Facebook post. 3 August 2018. At https://www.facebook.com.

Curran, Charles E. “Catholic Social Teaching.” The Good Society 10, no. 1 (2001): 1, 4-6.

Former Holy Apostles student, to Cameron Daly. Facebook message of 19 September 2018.

Greenwell, Andrew M. “Church Fathers and Capital Punishment: St. Augustine—Mercy and the Death Penalty.” Lex Christianorum (blog). 5 March 2012. At lexchristianorum.blogspot.com.

Hardon, S. J., John A. “The Legitimacy of Capital Punishment.” At The Real Presence Association, 19 November 1995, at http://www.therealpresence.org.

Holy Bible: New American Bible, revised ed. 2011. At USCCB, at http://www.usccb.org.

Lawler, Michael G. and Todd A. Salzman. “Virtue Ethics: Natural and Christian.” Theological Studies 74 (2013): 442-473.

Pope John Paul II. Apostolic Constitution on the Publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church Fidei depositum (11 October 1992).

Pope Pius XII. Address to the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists (3 October 1955). In “Addresses of Pius XII on Purposes of Punishment and the Death Penalty,” ed. Andrew Guersney. At A Medium Corporation, 15 October 2017, at medium.com.

Proctor, Ryan M. “Catholic Judges Have No Obligation to Recuse Themselves in Capital Cases.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 42, no. 1 (2019): 310-350.

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal, and Christoph Shonborn. Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994.

Sgreccia, Elio. Personalist Bioethics: Foundations and Applications. Trans. John A Di Camillo and Michael J. Miller. Philadelphia: The National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2012.

Thomas Aquinas. Summa contra gentiles. Trans. Vernon J. Bourke. At DHS Priory, at http://www.dhspriory.org.

Thomas Aquinas. Summa theologiae. 2nd ed. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. At New Advent, http://www.newadvent.org.

Willey, Ph.D., S.T.L., Petroc, Pierre de Cointet, and Barbara Morgan. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Craft of Catechesis. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008.



[1] Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution on the Publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church Fidei depositum (11 October 1992), §3.

[2] Linda Bordoni, “Pope Francis: ‘Death Penalty Inadmissable,’” [sic] at Vatican News (2 August 2018), at http://www.vaticannews.va.

[3] Former Holy Apostles student to Cameron Daly, Facebook message (19 September 2018).

[4] Bordoni, “Death Penalty Inadmissable,” [sic] q. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2267 (new version).

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (New York, New York: Doubleday, 1997), 2267.

[6] E. Christian Brugger, “Rejecting the Death Penalty: Change and Continuity in the Tradition,” in Heythrop Journal 49, no. 3 (2008), 388.

[7] see CCC, 2264-2265, and Paul Chutikorn, Facebook post, 3 August 2018, at https://www.facebook.com.

[8] cf. Chutikorn, Facebook post, 3 August 2018 (though this basic point will come in as supported by other articles through the paper).

[9] CCC, 2265.

[10] Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 64, a. 7, at New Advent, at http://www.newadvent.org.

[11] Michael G. Lawler and Todd A. Salzman, “Virtue Ethics: Natural and Christian,” Theological Studies 74 (2013), 462.

[12] Lawler and Salzman, “Virtue Ethics,” 462, q. Josef Fuchs, S.J., Moral Demands and Personal Obligations (Washington: Georgetown University, 1993) 36.

[13] Judith Babarsky, class notes on Epistemological Justification, Philosophical Foundations and Research Methods in Bioethics (Cromwell, CT: Holy Apostles College & Seminary, distributed 21 January 2019).

[14] Babarsky, notes (21 January 2019), and Elio Sgreccia, Personalist Bioethics: Foundations and Applications, trans. John A. Di Camillo and Michael J. Miner (Philadelphia: The National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2012), 74.

[15] see Petroc Willey, Ph.D., S.T.L., Pierre de Cointet, and Barbara Morgan, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Craft of Catechesis (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), xxxi.

[16] cf. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Christoph Schonborn, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994),

[17] see CCC, 470.

[18] see Willey et al., Craft of Catechesis, ix, and Ratzinger and Schonborn, Introduction, 63.

[19] Ryan M. Proctor, “Catholic Judges Have No Obligation to Recuse Themselves in Capital Cases,” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 42, no. 1 (2019), 322.

[20] Andrew M. Greenwell, “Church Fathers and Capital Punishment: St. Augustine—Mercy and the Death Penalty,” Lex Christianorum (blog), 5 March 2012, at lexchristianorum.blogspot.com.

[21] Augustine of Hippo, Letter 100, II, trans. J. G. Cunningham, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 1 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887), at New Advent, at http://www.newadvent.org.

[22] Greenwell, “St. Augustine,” q. St. Augustine, Letter 134 to Apringius, IV.

[23] Proctor, “Catholic Judges,” 323, q. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, bk. III, pt. 2, ch. 146, ¶ 9 (Vernon J. Burke trans., Univ. Notre Dame Press 1975) (1259–1265).

[24] Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, III, 146, at DHS Priory, at http://www.dhspriory.org.

[25] ST, II-II, q. 64, a. 2.

[26] ST, II-II, q. 108, a. 3.

[27] ST, II-II, q. 108, a. 3, r. 2.

[28] It might serve to “heal” society itself in a way, but society as a larger whole is supposed to help work for the good of individual persons. Cf. Charles E. Curran, “Catholic Social Teaching,” The Good Society 10, no. 1 (2001), 4.

[29] John A. Hardon, S. J., “The Legitimacy of Capital Punishment,” at The Real Presence Association (19 November 1995), at http://www.therealpresence.org.

[30] Hardon, “Capital Punishment.”

[31] Hardon, “Capital Punishment.”

[32] This is part of the immediately-following context of basically the same saying of Jesus’, albeit with rearranged wording, in the Gospel According to Matthew.

[33] see Hardon, “Capital Punishment.”

[34] Hardon, “Death Penalty,” q.  Pope Pius XII, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, pp. 81-2.

[35] Pope Pius XII, Address to the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists (3 October 1953), in “Addresses of Pius XII on Purposes of Punishment and the Death Penalty,” ed. Andrew Guersney, at A Medium Corporation (15 October 2017), at medium.com. This was the source of what seems to be the English translation of the 1955 edition of A.A.S., after having used Google Translate on the Italian translation of this A.A.S. article found on the Vatican website (with the translation provided here being more thorough than that of Google Translate).

[36] Italian Catholic Jurists.

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Respecting the Real Presence through Silence and the Obligation to Stay for the Whole Mass

Here are two great tips/reminders for when you go to Mass this Sunday concerning proper reverence for the Real Presence of Our Lord and how to properly fulfill your Sunday obligation:


Many people view time after Mass as a good time to socialize with fellow Catholic Mass attendants. This in itself is true enough, but a Catholic Church is the House of God, not a social gathering place–so the Church is not the proper place for this socializing. The following is a great reminder from St. Jacinta Marto, one of the Fátima visionaries visited by Our Lady, of the reverence and respect we should have when in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Tabernacle:

“Noticing that many visitors chatted and laughed in the chapel, Jacinta asked Mother Godinho to warn them of the lack of respect for the Real Presence this represented. When this measure did not bring about satisfactory results, she asked that the cardinal be advised that ‘Our Lady does not want people to talk in church.’”

(I am unable to find the original written source for this, but based on a couple of the places that have used this basic quotation and the valuable point it makes, it seems probably worth sharing.)

Staying for the Whole Mass

A number of people are also mistaken as to what exactly the Sunday Mass obligation entails, thinking it’s fine to leave after receiving Communion or arrive late. “In reality, we’re obligated to attend Mass, which means all of Mass, unless we have a good reason otherwise” (article’s paraphrase of canon lawyer Ed Peters–with my emphasis).

Please STOP Leaving Mass Early Right After Communion!

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The Mystical Body of Christ Bears the Cross of Christ

I think this reflection on the fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary explains well how the sufferings of the Mystical Body of Christ (those of us who belong to the Catholic Church) can be united with those of Christ Himself. As His own Body, we bear His own cross, when we willingly allow ourselves to suffer as God asks of us in order to accomplish God’s will and man’s salvation:

4. Jesus Carries the Cross

“Let us meditate upon Jesus Christ on the way to Calvary laden with His cross. He falls under the weight of this burden. To expiate sin, He wills to experience in His own flesh the oppression of sin. Fearing that Jesus will not reach the place of crucifixion alive, the Jews force Simon of Cyrene to help Christ to carry His cross, and Jesus accepts this assistance.

“In this Simon represents all of us. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we should all help Jesus to carry His Cross. This is the one sure sign that we belong to Christ[ ]if we carry our cross with Him.

“But while Jesus carried His cross, He merited for us the strength to bear our trials with generosity. He has placed in His cross a sweetness which makes ours bearable, for when we carry our cross it is really His that we receive. For Christ unites with His own the sufferings, sorrows, pains and burdens which we accept with love from His hand, and by this union He gives them an inestimable value, and they become a source of great merit for us.

“It is above all His love for His Father which impels Christ to accept the sufferings of His Passion, but it is also the love which He bears us.”

(q. from Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B., Abbott of Maredsous, “The Mysteries of the Rosary,” at http://www.ewtn.com/library/Prayer/MYSTROSA.HTM)

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Ash Wednesday & Lent

Wishing you all a blessed Ash Wednesday and season of Lent!

Please remember that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of required fasting and abstinence, and that all Lenten Fridays are days of required abstinence. To explain these concepts more in-depth, I will quote as follows from Colin B. Donovan at EWTN (and would recommend the rest of the article at https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/fast_and_abstinence.htm):

“Abstinence  The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

“On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. They must do some penitential/charitable practice on these Fridays. For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere.

“Fasting The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th to the 59th birthday to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem to be contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

“Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment,  manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.”

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A Reflection on St. Francis de Sales’ “On Creation”—by Cameron Daly

In my Natural Theology class last semester, I was blessed to get to read and reflect on an excerpt from St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life concerning God’s act of creation (included as a link). I have thought de Sales an excellent writer, and was not disappointed in reading this article prayerfully like he had described. I wish you a happy and blessed New Year, and I hope that de Sales’ words and maybe even mine can give you some good food for thought in starting out 2019.


St. Francis de Sales reminds us of how we once were nothing, and of how we could very easily have remained nothing. It is only because of God’s goodness and mercy that we were created—not because of anything we ourselves are or have done. That said, we owe God the very deepest gratitude, and should live our entire lives in a spirit of this gratitude. Of course, we often fail at this, forgetting the love of our Creator and how we ought to return that love. De Sales prescribes resolutions to do better at remembering and respecting He Who is our true source, our true reason for being, along with prayers to this end. (See “First Meditation: On Creation.”)

It really struck me to be reminded of how, were it not for God’s choice to create me out of love for me, I would truly be nothing. At one point in time—actually for many points in time—I did not exist. During that time, I had nothing—no existence, no capacity to love or feel joy, no spiritual graces, no family or friends, no enjoyable possessions. I was nothing, I had nothing—and I could have so easily remained that way. The wonderful life I would have missed out on, had I remained that way!—had God not chosen to will my existence! And as if that weren’t enough, if that same God had not suffered and died for me, I would have no hope of eternal life, but would know that death really would be the end of life for me. And yet, as de Sales pointed out—I often forget about all of this. I do what I want; I refuse my Creator the love He shows me by His creating and sustaining me and offering me salvation. I refuse to return this love, both to Him directly, and also to Him through His creatures—whether it be just myself or also others—by hurting them through sin, even though I owe God absolutely everything.

Remember Who it is Who gives you existence, Who, as de Sales put it, “brought you out of … nothingness, in order to make you what you are, not because He had any need of you, but solely out of His Goodness.” Remember also all the joys—even the smallest ones—you have received in this life, joys you never could have experienced were it not for God’s will to create you. God has not created an infinite number of people, every possible person there could be. He created you, and He created you “what you are” because He loves you and He loves “what you are.” Never fail to appreciate that. Strive always to be what He created you to be.

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What do you Find at the Foot of a Christmas Tree?—by Cameron Daly

What did you find around the foot of your Christmas tree this year?

I imagine you may have found any number of things. I found a robot called “Vector” that reminds me of the old Irish song “Marvelous Toy.” (https://youtu.be/047P7U5ev_E) My dad found (from me) a prank puzzle box claiming to boast a 12,000 1/4-inch-piece puzzle of the moon in an otherwise clear, blue sky.

Included is a picture of my tree. As you can see, we have a lighted star on top, with many (MANY) ornaments and colored lights throughout the rest of it, and of course presents at the base. While all of this may be beautiful in and of itself, it should also be seen symbolically. The star can represent the Star of Bethlehem, with the lights upon the tree signifying the star’s light streaming down onto the first Christmas “Present”—Our Lord Jesus Christ—beneath it.

What does this symbolism mean for us today? Is this just something to remember, think fondly of, and forget in the glory of our robots and 12,000-piece puzzles? Quite the contrary.

Imagine if, rather than wrapped boxes, one were to find the Infant Jesus under his tree. Now I have a sad habit of getting a present, being very happy about it, but then not doing anything with it; and I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. Could someone do this if he found Baby Jesus under his tree? Of course not! Christ is a baby, He’d beed to be nurtured and cared for.

The truth is, we have all been given Jesus as our Christmas present by God the Father. Another truth, less fortunate, is that we often accept this gift and forget about it. Like with the example of Baby Jesus, however, we cannot do this if we want anything to come of this gift. We can’t accept Christ into ourselves and then forget about Him. We need to “nurture” Him within our own hearts if His life is to thrive within us. How do we do this? Through prayer, through the cultivation of virtues and good habits, through showing love to our neighbors, and—most relevant here—through remembering this wonderful Gift God has given us, the Reason for the Season, the Reason for our hope, the Reason for our perseverance in goodness and our resistance to sin.

Wishing you a merry and blessed Christmas season!

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Entertaining Angels

angel“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2

What does it mean to entertain angels? Despite the title of this post, I cannot guarantee a satisfactory answer to this question. These next few paragraphs simply seek to provide a brief glance into what can come about when one is open to the whisperings of the non-corporeal finite pure spirits which God in His infinite goodness has specifically assigned to His children as guardians, protectors, and guides from the very beginning. In short, where does an angel take you when it comes to visit?

Angels, though beyond the comprehension of our minds, are very real beings. As Catholics we believe this on faith. Nevertheless, many have some form of experience on which to base this as well. Be it a car accident narrowly avoided, the feeling of being protected by a heavenly power, or a simple star that gives comfort in the face of loneliness, many are not limited to depictions of chubby cherubim when considering their heavenly protector and guide. Yet, such moments are like road signs, they let you know you are on the right path and give you a marker to remember, but the final map will not be laid out until you and your angel stand in God’s Throne room together in eternal life.

What does this have to do with hospitality, you might be asking? If our angels are road signs, what need is there for companions – particularly companions we have never met before and likely will never meet again – on the journey? Here perhaps a short story will help. A few days ago I was rushing around at work with my head in the clouds and my feet barely touching the floor. No, I was not floating away on a song or some poetry, I was attempting to serve the pilgrims at the local Basilica, counting down the minutes until lunch time, and meditating on what a crazy idea it had been to wear high heels. In the thick of this all a man appeared at my side – I say appeared only because there were so many people bustling around it was impossible to see across the room – and with him was a weeping child. From what I gathered in twelve seconds the child was lost. Through his tears I discovered what group he belonged to, and recalling that his pilgrimage was to begin their celebration of the Divine Liturgy at any moment, I quickly hustled him up to the Church. Side by side we pressed to the elevators, ascended to the top floor, rushed across the platform, and entered the church just in time for the deacon to start swinging the censer and the choir to begin. The boy quickly found his parents and I rushed down to my job. When my lunch finally came I walked back up to the basilica church and sat in on the Divine Liturgy to do some good hard thinking (after all the homily was in Ukrainian), thinking I have not quite finished. Who was the little boy? No one in particular. He did not vanish into thin air back to the heavenly courts. I saw him changing pews during the Offertory so he could sit with his young friends. Yet, like the angels, he lead me on a journey, one that began in my footsore selfish self and ended in the presence of God at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. From there it was my choice whether to go back or to stay and rest awhile.

When entertaining angels it does not matter who they are but where you let them lead you.

  • Grace Marie Urlakis


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