Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Organization, Regulations, and Penalties
New Concepts on the Catholic Lay Movement
If we analyze in depth the criticisms made in certain circles of Catholic Action regarding the organization and methods of formation and apostolate of religious sodalities existing up to now, we will notice they can be divided in two groups. Some address extrinsic defects, which do not exist because of but rather in spite of the purposes and bylaws of the associations: a certain routine in the activities, a certain superficiality of formation, and so on. Obviously, many of these criticisms are often true and have nothing censurable when made by an authorized person and in accordance with the demands of ecclesiastical decorum. Other criticisms, however, address the very structure and purposes of the association and, by attacking precisely that which the authority approved they implicitly attack the authority itself. What is particularly dangerous about this second form of criticism is that it implies the affirmation that Catholic Action must carefully avoid identical "errors." Now, these "errors" are often nothing more than highly salutary precautions, with which the wisdom of the Church surrounded associations prior to Catholic Action, and which the latter should retain if it does not wish to die torpedoed by modernism.
a) Regarding Various Devotions
It is a grievous mistake to claim that associations founded to venerate a given saint, such as Our Lady, for example, run the risk of instilling a fragmentary and stingy vision of piety, clouding the "Christ-centered" character that every spiritual life must obviously have. Yet, some claim that Catholic Action should be less insistent than other associations regarding the cult of the saints.
The argument given at times, that in certain associations the devotion to the patron saint leaves the adorable figure of Our Lord in the shadows is worthless. All things, even the best, can be subject to wrong interpretation or abuse, not because of an intrinsic defect, but as a consequence of defects in those who use them. No one, for example, would be against venerating statues only because hillbillies in the back country break them when their prayers go unanswered. Obviously, Holy Church, by approving, blessing and recommending the founding of such associations in the Code of Canon Law, in a thousand official acts of its Magisterium and government, and even recently in the Plenary Brazilian Council, foresaw abuses, and yet she did not retreat in her line of conduct precisely because of the reason we point out. Let us not fall into the utterly ridiculous position of claiming to be more "Christ-centered" than the Church, a new-fangled and unfortunate way of being "more Catholic than the Pope." Following this tune, we could end up by criticizing Our Lord Jesus Christ for having instituted the Holy Eucharist, which would become the object of so many sacrileges.
Contrary to the fraternities, Catholic Action does not exist only nor mainly for the veneration of a patron saint. But this does not prevent Catholic Action from having patron saints to whom its members can and should render most ardent, public and unabashed devotion, without thereby confusing Catholic Action with a fraternity.
Other criticisms frequently hurled at the associations address specifically their statutes, and particularly certain prescribed customs such as, for example, practicing acts of piety in common, periodically, etc. All coercion excluded, the practice of these acts was always praised by the Church for obvious reasons.
b) Regarding Periodical Acts of Piety in Common
In keeping with the divine promise, acts of piety practiced in common attract greater graces. On the other hand, the simultaneous presence of several persons, for the ostensive practice of these acts, serves as a mutual stimulus and edifies the public considerably. What a magnificent impression is caused in a parish, for example, when the associations of young men present themselves en masse at the Communion rail.
As for the periodicity of these acts, as long as it does not entail any violence to the rights of consciences, it bears the most fortunate results. In fact, it deepens the roots of salutary habits, which constitute a precious guarantee of perseverance and regularity in spiritual life. For all these reasons, no principle can invalidate these practices, most praiseworthy from all points of view. And we do not see why Catholic Action cannot adopt them. The Catholic University Youth of São Paulo adopted them from its foundation, and has always garnered, as a result, excellent fruits.
These reflections remind us of the factual case of a curious dialogue between a member of a religious order and a "progressive" member of Catholic Action. The latter maintained that subjection to obligatory acts in common, to a regulation of life, etc., meant a decrease of autonomy, and implicitly of human dignity. To which the religious answered that, to be consistent, he should consider as unworthy slaves all the religious of the world, subject as they are to a rule of life as well as periodical acts of piety in virtue of Rules approved by Holy Church. This, indeed, would be the ultimate consequence of such principles.
c) Regarding the Promotion of Intimate Sociability among Its Members and Having a Recreation Center
Nor is it true that it is wrong for an association to have a center for recreational purposes, where its members get together in their leisure hours. The principle justifying this practice is based, in final analysis, on man's natural sociability. Philosophy tells us that the nature of man leads him to live in the company of his fellow men. The tendency to frequent an ambience in keeping with one's tastes, inclinations and ideas is inherent to sociability, at least for the vast majority of men. Any elementary sociology has this rule; to demonstrate it, it is sufficient to observe the motives inspiring the establishment of most profane associations of any kind. Conversely, if man does not frequent an ambience in accordance with his convictions, sociability leads him to adapt himself to the milieu in which he finds himself, assimilating, as much as possible, the way of thinking and feeling, or at least, interiorly establishing certain "compromises" whose ultimate consequence will be a complete adaptation. Paraphrasing Pascal, it could be said that the immense majority has an imperative inclination "to conform one's ideas with the ambience when the ambience is not in accordance with one's ideas." Obliged by multiple necessities, domestic, economic, etc., to frequent the most varied ambiences, and to live most of their day in atmospheres more and more deeply infected with paganism, contemporary Catholics should not limit themselves to a merely defensive attitude; instead, they should proudly unfurl the standard of Christ everywhere. This is the "apostolate in one's environment" so insistently and vigorously preached by Pius XI. Only an absolutely naive person, for never having frequented certain professional or domestic circles of our times, or, because he never unfurled there, with sincere and courageous intrepidity, the standard of Christ, can ignore the more than human energy that such conduct requires. We know the actual case of a young man who had to resort to the use of physical force to keep his purity in an atmosphere which, in itself, would be harmless. Now, it is only human, natural and imperative that the enthusiasm worn out by the struggle and the energies exhausted in battle should be replenished by frequenting a good environment where souls can expand and recompose themselves in the shade of Holy Mother Church, where mutual edification can restore the strength of all.
It would be false to suppose that in so doing, Catholics turn away from the world and stop fulfilling their duty of apostolate. It is precisely so that they can better fulfill such duty, that these centers of relaxation and restoration of strength are organized.
Salt must certainly be mingled with the mass which it is to preserve from corruption, but it must at the same time defend itself against the mass under pain of losing all savor and becoming of no use except to be thrown out and trampled under foot (Matt. 5:13). (1)
This truth is so important that the Church, always wise, was not satisfied with giving her best approval to initiatives like this, but in a certain way took to the ultimate point her trust in the action of good environments and her fear of bad ones, when she removed completely from the sociability of the world those destined to the priestly militia. Canon Law even recommends that the bishop make his best effort to make sure that even secular priests will live together whenever possible. What is the reason for this measure except to protect priests from the dangers of bad or at least lukewarm environments? And if this precaution exists on behalf of souls so fervent and endowed with such a special grace of state, what about simple laymen?
Therefore, we not only understand that Catholic Action can, but also that it should use this splendid process of formation that no one can attack without rashness.
d) Regarding Rules on Attire, Fashions, and the Like
Likewise there is not the least basis for affirming that Catholic Action should not subject its members to special rules for dress, fashions, etc. The argument alleged on behalf of this rash innovation is that these rules are incompatible with human dignity, because they constitute an imposition. Certain individuals conclude, as a result, that contrary to the auxiliary associations, Catholic Action should strive for an intransigent abolition of these rules. If, in opposition, it is alleged that it behooves Catholic Action to excel by its example, they respond, depending on the interlocutor, with two different arguments. At times they claim that Catholic Action must adapt to modern customs lest it should lose its influence in the ambiences in which it works and thus render its apostolate impossible. Other times they affirm that rules of conduct are superfluous and even irritating; that Catholic Action should have its members spontaneously wear proper attire as a consequence of deep convictions instilled in them but never through the action of merely exterior rules with only a coercive value. Hence, for them, the need to impose rules of modesty is a consequence of a failed formation. Analyzing, however, their first argument, we see that, on the contrary, these rules constitute a precious means of formation.
Saint Thomas clarifies this issue in a most luminous manner when he addresses, in the Summa Theologica, "Whether it was useful for laws to be framed by men?"
Let us examine the matter, leaving for another chapter the task of refuting the allegation that Catholic Action needs to capitulate before modern customs if it does not want to be barren. As for the usefulness and necessity of laws, the Angelic Doctor says:
Objection 1. It would seem that it was not useful for laws to be framed by men. Because the purpose of every law is that man be made good thereby, as stated above (q.92, art.1). But men are more to be induced to be good willingly by means of admonitions, than against their will, by means of laws. Therefore there was no need to frame laws…
I answer that, As stated above (q.63, art.1; q.94, art.3), man has a natural aptitude for virtue; but the perfection of virtue must be acquired by man by means of some kind of training. Thus we observe that man is helped by industry in his necessities, for instance, in food and clothing. Certain beginnings of these he has from nature, viz. his reason and his hands; but he has not the full complement, as other animals have, to whom nature has given sufficiency of clothing and food.
Now it is difficult to see how man could suffice for himself in the matter of this training: since the perfection of virtue consists chiefly in withdrawing man from undue pleasures, to which above all man is inclined, and especially the young, who are more capable of being trained. Consequently a man needs to receive this training from another, whereby to arrive at the perfection of virtue. And as to those young people who are inclined to acts of virtue, by their good natural disposition, or by custom, or rather by the gift of God, paternal training suffices, which is by admonitions. But since some are found to be depraved, and prone to vice, and not easily amenable to words, it was necessary for such to be restrained from evil by force and fear, in order that, at least, they might desist from evil-doing, and leave others in peace, and that they themselves, by being habituated in this way, might be brought to do willingly what hitherto they did from fear, and thus become virtuous. Now this kind of training, which compels through fear of punishment, is the discipline of laws. Therefore in order that man might have peace and virtue, it was necessary for laws to be framed: for, as the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 2), "as man is the most noble of animals if he be perfect in virtue, so is he the lowest of all, if he be severed from law and righteousness"; because man can use his reason to devise means of satisfying his lusts and evil passions, which other animals are unable to do. (2)
Obviously, the internal law or regulations of Catholic Action or any other association differs from civil law—the subject dealt with above by the Angelic Doctor—in that one cannot flee from the power of civil law, whereas anyone can escape from the action of regulations by resigning from the sodality.
Nevertheless, love for the sodality's ideals and the spiritual benefits provided by it, fear of the dangers to which the soul exposes itself when removed from a sound and edifying environment, fear of displeasing persons that are respectable and worthy of esteem, all this concurs to make such a resignation difficult and at times very difficult, so that Saint Thomas's argument, in this concrete case, retains a decisive value. Furthermore, if the Church were to think otherwise, it would be the case to burn the Code of Canon Law and the rules of all religious orders.
It is a fact that true virtue comes from interior dispositions, and so any association, and especially Catholic Action, must above all form souls interiorly, giving them the knowledge and means to train the willpower necessary for this. The existence of rules containing prohibitions of ways of behavior and dressing, powerfully helps this formation, not only as a consequence of what Saint Thomas says about the educating value of the law but even more because it clarifies concrete questions in regard to which even the most zealous souls would have difficulty at times in finding the just medium between scrupulosity and laxity.
Saint Thomas Aquinas deals indirectly with this question, when he says:
Objection 2. Further, As the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 4), "men have recourse to a judge as to animate justice." But animate justice is better than inanimate justice, which is contained in laws. Therefore it would have been better for the execution of justice to be entrusted to the decision of judges, than to frame laws in addition.…
Reply to Objection 2. As the Philosopher says (Rhet. i, 1), "it is better that all things be regulated by law, than left to be decided by judges": and this for three reasons. First, because it is easier to find a few wise men competent to frame right laws, than to find the many who would be necessary to judge aright of each single case. Secondly, because those who make laws consider long beforehand what laws to make; whereas judgment on each single case has to be pronounced as soon as it arises: and it is easier for man to see what is right, by taking many instances into consideration, than by considering one solitary fact. Thirdly, because lawgivers judge in the abstract and of future events; whereas those who sit in judgment of things present, towards which they are affected by love, hatred, or some kind of cupidity; wherefore their judgment is perverted.
Since then the animated justice of the judge is not found in every man, and since it can be deflected, therefore it was necessary, whenever possible, for the law to determine how to judge, and for very few matters to be left to the decision of men. (3)
Indeed, it is by virtue of the same principle that we should prevent in Catholic Action and other religious associations, through laws and regulations, decisions of very delicate questions from being left to each associate, who would thus be at the same time both litigant and judge.
Let us give a concrete example. The Feminine Marian Federation of São Paulo felt a need to prescribe rules of dress for the Daughters of Mary. It was moved to do so above all by a desire to settle complex questions that arise, in practice, from the adoption of appropriate garb. At that time the director of the Federation was Fr. José Gaspar D’Afonseca e Silva, afterward "ad maiora vocatus." (4) The establishing of these rules, which it is useful to transcribe, greatly absorbed the attention of their illustrious author, which proves well that the problems thus solved were not within just anyone's reach. From this work resulted a document of rare equilibrium and great usefulness. The Daughters of Mary were thus endowed with a means of sanctification that was necessary not because of a lack of interior formation, but which, on the contrary, was imperative as the only means to concretely fulfill the generous impulses raised by the interior formation.
We transcribe here the learned and prudent document:
a) fashion must be in absolute accordance with Christian modesty, every exaggeration excluded, even in regard to make-up;
b) For the reception of the sacraments, as well as whenever the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, long sleeves as far as the wrists, are required.
c) in all other circumstances short sleeves are tolerated, so long as they reach the elbow;
d) consequently, a Daughter of Mary will never be permitted to wear a sleeveless dress.
It behooves a Daughter of Mary as much as possible to appear at social functions only in the company of her family.
a) Balls and dances: in the conditions mentioned above, family balls are tolerated; dancing will be exclusively permitted at these, respecting the intrinsic rules of modesty.
b) Beaches: the Daughter of Mary must, at all swimming beaches, preserve the utmost distinction, as required by the title she is honored with. She will select her clothing sensibly, and under no circumstances will she abandon her bathrobe when out of the water. In no other occasion is she permitted to neglect the use of socks or to use short ones.
c) Swimming pools: It is expressly forbidden for a Daughter of Mary to take part in mixed bathing in swimming pools.
d) Yacht or swimming clubs: Given the unavoidable promiscuity of yacht and swimming clubs it is forbidden for a Daughter of Mary to join their social ranks.
e) Carnivals: It is expressly forbidden for a Daughter of Mary to participate in carnival dances and carnival street groups, as well as to wear male attire or any disguise which may offend even slightly, the rules of decency.
Only paragraph: Male attire is always forbidden to a Daughter of Mary, in all circumstances. The prohibition of pajamas extends also to swimming beaches.
Note: If a Daughter of Mary happens to find herself in the impossibility of fulfilling to the letter any of these regulations, after consulting her own confessor, she should present the case to the Very Reverend Director of her Pious Union, who will give the solution he considers best, taking care, however, to communicate such solution to the Federation of her diocese. On the contrary, the fault committed will result in the immediate dismissal of the Daughter of Mary from the Pious Union.
The Council, having been informed of the dismissal of a Daughter of Mary, must implement the same with great elevation of spirit, not permitting in any way that uncharitable comments be made in its regard. The directors should make an effort to develop an intense apostolate toward the guilty one, so that she can be led to better disposition, and possibly bring her back to the Marian flock after a new period of novitiate.
* * *
The usefulness of such rules is obvious. Indeed, the purpose of the law is not only to clarify, but also to put in order and to punish. It is just, praiseworthy and explainable that the members of a given association choose not to position themselves at the extreme limits suggested or tolerated by morals, but rather decide to react against pagan surroundings not only through the exclusive use of what is licit, but even going so far as to dress only in accordance with the most severe and rigorous purity of customs. Now, it is only natural for such an organization to have the right to demand from its members the fulfillment of the rules which constitute its very purpose. Only an oversensitive temperament could feel hurt over such a thing.
Finally, only by accepting a magical or mechanical action of the sacred liturgy can we conceive that no member of such associations will ever transgress the modesty of dress or conduct. How can an association defend itself except by punishing the guilty member? How can a punishment be established without a prior law? Then the Holy See exaggerated along with us. The Sacred Congregation of the Council, in the pontificate of Pius XI decreed by document of January 12, 1930, that:
I. Whenever an occasion presents itself parish priests and preachers should insist, reprimand, threaten and exhort the faithful, according to the words of Saint Paul, so that women will dress in a way that breathes modesty and be the adornment and safeguard of virtue;
III. Parents should forbid their daughters to participate in public exercises and contests of gymnastics and, if their daughters are forced to such a participation, they must take care that they dress in a way that respects decency and never tolerate immoral dress.
VII. Feminine associations, with the purpose of restraining with their advice, example and deeds, abuses contrary to Christian modesty in the way of dressing, and that propose for themselves the promotion of purity of customs and modesty of dress, should be established and propagated.
VIII. Women who dress without modesty should not be admitted in the pious associations for women; if members of such associations are found to be at fault in this point, they should be reprimanded, and if they do not repent, they should be dismissed."
As we can see, the Holy See itself believes that the statutes of associations should deal with fashions, etc., and to such an extent, that fearing they would not do so, it issued a truly supplementary regulation in the aforementioned Article VII. Now then, how can we expect these determinations to be efficacious without concrete and firm rules, which provide association directors with a uniform conduct and an evidently impartial means of action for every case that arises? Indeed, what else is there to assist a director with greater efficacy than an impersonal rule which he can apply impartially to every surfacing problem?
A Curious Contradiction
We do not want to conclude the matter without an observation. Through a curious coincidence, those amidst us who defend with greatest exaltation the doctrine of Catholic Action's incorporation to the Hierarchy, are often the same who fight hardest against the adoption by Catholic Action of the fashion rules enforced in certain Pious Unions. Now, reality should be altogether different. Indeed, the higher the function, the more severe the obligations. It would be a profanation of the mandate received to hold that any consequence could arise from it except an even greater and more radical withdrawal from everything evil and a more perfect practice of everything good. But if there is a contradiction, it is explainable: both attitudes share in a desire to diminish all authority and all restraint.
a) On Applying Penalties to Guilty Members
Since we are dealing with these thorny matters, let us not eschew the arduous duty of showing to what extremes of coherence in error, some passions can lead. We already saw the strange doctrine being upheld that it is not proper for Catholic Action to dismiss, suspend, or apply any penalty whatsoever to its guilty members. In the aforementioned document we ascertained how the Sacred Congregation of the Council instructed religious associations in the duty of applying such punishments; and the Congregation does it in such terms that Catholic Action could never exempt itself from this obligation. The Sacred Congregation of the Council indirectly condemned, therefore, the affirmation we now refute. Yet, to this argument of authority, which of itself should suffice, it is not superfluous to add others. The repudiation of punishment stems directly from a denial of the legitimacy or advisability of the existence of rules and regulations for religious associations and Catholic Action. Having proven above the legitimacy of such rules, the consequences resulting from the contrary thesis obviously collapse. Let us limit ourselves, then, to adding to what has been said a few notions from plain common sense supported in passages from Scripture.
Incidentally, resorting to arguments immediately accessible to solid common sense is the only means to counter this and many other errors refuted in this book. Indeed, these errors attack so many points of Catholic doctrine and collide in so many ways with Saint Thomas Aquinas, that an in-depth refutation would require writing a treatise against each one.
Meekness and Persuasion before Anything Else
Obviously, since the apostolate of the Church consists essentially in an action that strives at the same time to preach a doctrine and educate wills in the practice of this doctrine, every apostle, whether he be a bishop, priest or layman, should prefer above all else the processes that obtain a full enlightening of people’s intellects and a spontaneous and profound adhesion of their will. This is the end to which the best efforts of any person dedicated to the apostolate must concur. To reach the greatest perfection in using all methods capable of attaining such a desirable goal, the zeal of the apostles should know how to multiply indefinitely the devices of their industry; and their patience should extend with immense amplitude the action of charity and gentleness towards all those with whom the apostolate is done.
For this reason, we deem it highly censurable that for some lay apostles, their method of education consists only in punitive or coercive means. One never sees in them a serious and persistent effort to explain, clarify or define certain truths in order to solidify profound convictions and structure vigorous principles. One never sees in them any effort to solve through a personal action all made of sweetness and charity, moral problems that sometimes arise in a dramatic way in souls rebellious to the apostle's action. "A punishment, and that is the end of it," is what the simplistic pedagogy of many an apostle and educator is reduced to. No argument is necessary to prove to souls with common sense, how far removed these practices are from the Church's thinking and from the moral regime established with the law of grace in the most sweet atmosphere of the New Covenant. We would never be the ones to close ranks around these somber educating processes more appropriate to Jansenism than Catholicism.
This taciturn error has nothing in common with the doctrines we refute here, which sin precisely from the opposite extreme. We wanted, however, to declare explicitly our formal, categorical and resolute condemnation of a certain pedagogy and of certain methods of apostolate consisting exclusively of truculence, so that it may never be assumed that, because we condemn the opposite extreme, we advocate in any way, directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, the cause of this somber pedagogy, which has left adepts among us, but whose times, beyond doubt, have already passed.
In reality, however, and precisely because the times of this somber pedagogy have passed, the evil that is more in vogue today, more pressing and destructive in every environment where lay apostolate is done, is the extreme opposite. The new doctrines concerning Catholic Action have come to reinforce even more the highly accentuated exaggerations one could perceive in this line.
Is It a Lack of Charity to Punish?
Even before the founding of Catholic Action among us, one could perceive in general, in regard to this subject the idea that the rules and statutes of religious associations should mention punishments, such as, for instance, suspensions, dismissals, etc., much, much more for merely intimidating purposes, than to be put into practice through vigorous disciplinary actions. The great and essential reason given was that punishments cause suffering, and it is not proper to the Catholic religion, so completely imbued with suavity and sweetness, to cause suffering to anyone; and besides, punishment does not present any concrete usefulness, because it irritates the rule-breaker against the Church; and when the punishment consists in dismissal, it casts him into the ocean of perdition, with no advantage for him. To these reasons the new errors in regard to Catholic Action added yet some more. Catholic Action should not list punishments in its rules so as not to turn away persons interested in enrolling, and because it is humiliating and contrary to human dignity that man be led by fear rather than love. If Catholic Action is endowed with irresistible methods of apostolate—and this in the most strict and literal sense of the word—why use punishments that will always be useless?
The consequences of these errors are being noticed in our circles more and more, and so it is imperative to eliminate them as soon as possible. There was a time when the simple wearing of the lapel pin of certain religious associations was a guarantee of an ardent and vigorous piety, of a most solid formation and of absolute security. Who would dare say the same today? The number of members has multiplied, but their formation did not grow proportionally. The elites were drowned and diluted in the pell-mell of trivial souls without any upsurge in the quest for perfection and heroism. The bad example, the constitution of an environment opposed to any encouragement towards total virtue, all this became increasingly frequent. And, unfortunately, in more than a few sodalities, nowadays, “oves, boves...et serpentes" (sheep, oxen...and serpents) live side by side in the same peace. And all this, why? Simply because a false religious sentimentality often disarmed the lay leaders who, under the orders of ecclesiastical authority, should move to prevent "Jerusalem transforming itself into a hut to store fruit."
The Real Panorama
In order for us to understand well the necessity for having punishments listed in the bylaws of each branch of Catholic Action, as well as the need for these punishments to be applied in practice, above all we must convince ourselves profoundly that there are no irresistible methods of apostolate. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Model of the apostle, encountered the most cruel resistance; and it was from right next to Him, and after hearing for a long time His adorable instructions and contemplating His infinitely perfect examples, that a malefactor came forth, with a frozen heart and black soul, one who was no common criminal, but precisely the worst evil-doer in all History until the AntiChrist appears. We will develop this thesis more deeply in another chapter. For now, suffice it to remember that all of us will find souls hardened in error and in sin, who will show themselves opposed to all apostolate. If we were never to find souls like this, if we could have the certainty that our efforts would always and invariably meet with success, it is obvious that anyone dismissing an unworthy member from any religious sodality, and above all from Catholic Action, would act very badly. But reality, unfortunately, is very different. Unless we are filled with a refined pride, we cannot expect for ourselves a success that Our Lord did not obtain. Therefore, the scene we have before us is this: in any association or in Catholic Action, it is not surprising that once in a while a defector appear; but the rule-infringing associate, instead of leaving the association, remains in it with the bad doctrine and bad life he embraced. Having exhausted all persuasive means to return the wayward soul to the good path, one asks: what to do?
Systematic Impunity Is a Lack of Charity
a) Towards Society
The same situation exists, on a permanent basis, in temporal society, and indeed, no one would think of suggesting that, in the name of Christian charity, the penitentiaries be opened and the penal code shredded. Thanks be to God, the time of romanticism is gone wherein the public's antipathies were usually directed against the sheriff, the public prosecutor, and the judge, while their empathies were turned completely toward the criminal. This state of spirit produced dismal effects; and to it is due, in good measure, the generalized anarchy that causes so much alarm in our age. We do not know why it is that the vestiges of this erroneous mentality, frivolously sentimental and clearly anti-Catholic, banned as it is today from the spirit of all civil law, came to nest precisely in certain Catholic environments, at times producing as a consequence the maintenance within our organizations of an indolent ambience and methods, typically liberal, proscribed today in all nations including the democratic ones and from all properly structured private organizations with profane ends. Why did error seek refuge precisely in some circles where truth is fought for? The same reasons that lead us to see as reprehensible, absurd, and anarchical the absence in secular societies of effective punishments capable of inducing fear should lead us to recognize that they are also indispensable in religious sodalities. Nevertheless, this is not what is believed or practiced in certain sectors of our laity.
On the other hand, we should feel encouraged by the decisive example of Holy Church, which in her Code of Canon Law decrees, defines, and establishes most severe punishments, as she does when approving statutes, rules or constitutions of the various religious congregations or orders. If this is seen as necessary for the clergy and religious, what can one say about lay associations!
Saint Thomas Aquinas magnificently demonstrates the need for punishment. In the text we quote regarding the necessity of laws, the great Doctor implicitly manifests his opinion regarding the necessity of punishment by saying that one of the supports of the law is the prospect of due punishment for not fulfilling it. Frankly, we feel embarrassed having to demonstrate something so obvious.
Of course, if we take into consideration only the interest of the person to whom the punishment is destined, it would sometimes be better to delay the punishment indefinitely. There are souls that turn from good even more under the severe action of punishment. It is certain, therefore, that punishment should be applied with much discernment, avoiding the excesses both of never forgiving or never punishing. In this matter it is necessary, above all, to take into due account that every disciplinary transgression is foremost an attempt against the purposes of the association and, secondly, a violation of the collectivity's rights. When two values of such elevated nature are at stake, even certain legitimate individual interests should be sacrificed. If administration of punishment hardens some souls, they nevertheless suffer a just punishment that should in no way disarm the defense of the collectivity's rights. The Holy Ghost admirably described the perverse conduct of souls who despise the just punishments they deserve, and He did so in a way that clearly indicates that such hardening is a consequence in face of which the judge must not systematically retreat. Thus, He says: "Poverty and shame to him that refuseth instruction." (5) And He adds:
The ear that heareth the reproofs of life, shall abide in the midst of the wise. He that rejecteth instruction, despiseth his own soul: but he that yieldeth to reproof possesseth understanding. The fear of the Lord is the lesson of wisdom: and humility goeth before glory. (6)
It is natural that "a corrupt man loveth not one that reproveth him." (7) Because of this, "blessed is the man that is always fearful; but he that is hardened in mind, shall fall into evil." (8) This one can not legitimately complain of the punishment he deserves, for "a whip for a horse, and a snaffle for an ass, and a rod for the back of fools." (9)
Besides, what advantage can a religious association gain from keeping such members in its midst? In what way can they be useful? The Holy Ghost says: "A man that is an apostate, an unprofitable man, walketh with a perverse mouth." (10) And He adds: "With a wicked heart he deviseth evil, and at all times he soweth discord." (11) His apostolate is barren: "In the fruits of the wicked is trouble." (12)
On the other hand, it is worthwhile to mention, as we have already done, that there are souls opposed to the apostolate because of the profound malice in which they find themselves, as Wisdom says:
For wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins. For the Holy Spirit of discipline flees from the deceitful, and will withdraw himself from thoughts that are without understanding, and he shall not abide when iniquity cometh in. (13)
Regarding these malicious souls, Wisdom further says:
But the wicked with works and words have called it [death] to them: and esteeming it a friend have fallen away, and have made a covenant with it: because they are worthy to be of the part thereof. (14)
Scripture says of these souls: "The heart of a fool is like a broken vessel, and no wisdom at all shall it hold." (15) And also: "As a house that is destroyed, so is wisdom to a fool: and the knowledge of the unwise is as words without sense." (16) What is the purpose of keeping souls of this ilk at any price, with risk for the good and with general disedification and danger for discipline?
He that teacheth a fool is like one that glueth a potsherd together….He speaketh with one that is asleep, who uttereth wisdom to a fool: and in the end of the discourse he saith: Who is this? (17)
Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turning upon you, they tear you. (18)
This invulnerability to apostolate is at times a punishment from God, and by keeping such a member in its midst, Catholic Action has within it a root of sin that only a great and rare miracle of grace can lead back to good will.
Sometimes this blindness is the action of the devil. Scripture refers more than once to this blindness:
And if our gospel be also hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them. (19)
b) For Those Who Merit Punishment
The eventual evil that punishment may cause to certain souls is at times nothing more than a just and deserved chastisement whose imminence should not prejudice the defense of higher rights like those of the Church and of other members of the association. On the other hand, punishment is at times a salutary medicine to the guilty one himself. Thus, to spare from punishment would be robbing from the miscreant his access to the only way that could still lead him to amendment. Hence it is a true lack of charity to reduce the penal articles of the statutes to complete or almost complete inefficacy.
The prodigal son only returned to his father's home after being severely punished by the consequences of his action. In general, Divine Providence has brought back to the good path, by means of penance and punishment, the greatest sinners. This is true to such an extent, that we can rightly regard the greatest misfortunes as the most precious graces God grants a sinner. The just souls themselves only progress at the cost of spiritual purgation—at times frightful—of their defects. The pious soul who called suffering the eighth sacrament was most correct indeed.
So, when we establish as a rule the perpetual non-application of punishment, we should ask ourselves if we are not stealing from guilty souls a precious means of amendment. The answer cannot but be affirmative. "He that spareth the rod hateth his son," (20) Scripture says. A president who systematically and without discernment, refuses to apply punishments deserved by his subjects, hates them. We recall a certain president who lamented the general decadence of his sodality. The rules were no longer observed, attendance was falling and the general attitude, day by day gave new signs of torpor. "I recognize," he used to tell us, "that some expulsions would remedy the evil, but—and he turned his eyes obliquely towards heaven, smiling with visible satisfaction—I am too good for that." Too good? Is he who, out of laziness, witnesses the collapse of an initiative on the success of which the salvation of so many souls depends, too good? Without any hesitation I say that this person was harming the Church more than all the spiritist sects, Protestant churches and so on, functioning in that same place.
Actually, the effect of the punishment upon the delinquent is so precious that "he that spareth the rod hateth his son" (21) as Proverbs say. If Catholic Action spares its members punishments that are really indispensable, it hates them. On the contrary, "he that loveth him correcteth him betimes." (22) Why? "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, and the rod of correction shall drive it away." (23) Of a child…and of so many adults! There are souls who need punishment so that they not damn themselves eternally: "Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell." (24) Now this is tantamount to saying: "if you do not beat him with the rod, you will expose his soul to hell." How right the Holy Ghost is, therefore, when He says: "Open rebuke is better than hidden love. Better are the wounds of a friend, than the deceitful kisses of an enemy." (25) So we should not fear to fail in charity when making resolute and effective use of punishment. Indeed, we have as a model God Himself, Who "hath mercy, and teacheth, and correcteth, as a shepherd doth his flock." (26)
It would be ridiculous to argue in the opposite sense, using the most beautiful words of Ecclesiasticus: "It is good that thou shouldst hold up the just, yea and from him withdraw not thy hand: for he that feareth God, neglecteth nothing." (27) Indeed, "withdraw thy hand" means not to help; and if, as we have just seen, punishment is an authentic help, he who does not punish when necessary "withdraws his hand" from the sinner and "neglects him."
Others will argue that the severities of the Old Testament were repealed by the Law of Grace? Foolishness! Let us listen to Saint Paul:
you have forgotten the consolation, which speaketh to you, as unto children, saying: “My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord; neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by him. For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not correct? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons. Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh, for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits, and live? And they indeed for a few days, according to their own pleasure, instructed us: but he, for our profit, that we might receive his sanctification. Now all chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring with it joy, but sorrow: but afterwards it will yield, to them that are exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice. (28)
Much has been said about the selfishness of teachers who, because they do not want to restrain their bad temper, punish their students excessively. On the day of the Last Judgment we will see that the number of souls who were lost because selfish teachers did not want to force on themselves the annoyance of punishing a student, is much greater than what is generally thought.
It is important to add that punishment is often the only way to make reparation to the principles one offended and to the authority one contested. To renounce it implies the introduction into the sodality of an atmosphere of doctrinal indifferentism or laxity with most harmful consequences.
c) Toward Those in Danger
It is also necessary to note that punishment offers the great advantage, out of fear, of turning hesitant members away from the seduction of evil which solicits them.
The Holy Ghost says "them that sin reprove before all: that the rest also may have fear." (29) And this is because "when a pestilent man is punished, the little one will be wiser." (30) Indeed, the foreboding of punishment is always very useful: "by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil," (31) and punishments by Catholic Action or auxiliary associations are excellent means to make wayward members see that they deceive themselves if they think they are still pleasing to the Lord. Indeed, "the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to decline from the ruin of death." (32) Thus, when we spare the wicked the punishment they deserve, we unjustly expose to risk the perseverance of the lukewarm, of those who hesitate and who doubt, that is, the bruised reed and the smoking flax, that the Lord does not want to see completely broken or quenched, but that they recover new vigor and persevere. "For because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evils without any fear." (33)
d) Toward the Good
Lastly, we fail with charity in yet another way when keeping inside Catholic Action or the auxiliary associations an atmosphere of perpetual impunity. To keep evil members inside an association is to transform it from a means of sanctification into one of perdition, by exposing to spiritual dangers those who took refuge in the shade of the association precisely to flee from them. The Holy Ghost makes a severe admonition in this regard: “He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled with it: and he that hath fellowship with the proud, shall put on pride." (34) The danger of evil friendships is always great: "An unjust man allureth his friend: and leadeth him into a way that is not good." (35)
And because of this Scripture warns us "Who will pity an enchanter struck by a serpent, or any that come near wild beasts? So is it with him that keepeth company with a wicked man, and is involved in his sins." (36) Now, it is precisely this dangerous company of fools which, under the pretext of charity, would be imposed upon all the members of Catholic Action! In this way Saint Paul's observation that "a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump" is forgotten. (37) Let us not allow any "root of bitterness springing up do hinder, and by it many be defiled" to remain in the most fertile flowerbeds of the Church. (38) To do otherwise would be to sin against charity.
Besides, the most rudimentary prudence should lead us to an identical consequence. How many internal crises, how much disorder, how much division of souls it would be possible sometimes to prevent, if an astute blow would free certain atmospheres from individuals who should have already left spontaneously, as they are people of whom Scripture says: "a man that is an apostate, an unprofitable man, walketh with a perverse mouth." (39) These are the people who "with a wicked heart he deviseth evil, and at all times he soweth discord." (40)
Moreover, these discords are often brought about by the contact between different mentalities, one, orthodox, upright, the friend of Truth and Good, and another, heterodox, disguisedly in league with all errors, and disposed a priori to accept every complacency, retreat and compromise with evil. How can one avoid a clash in this case? Indeed, the presence of such individuals should bother those that are wholesome and whom they threaten to corrupt: "The fear of the Lord hateth evil," and hates “arrogance, and pride, and every wicked way, and a mouth with a double tongue." (41) "If the wolf shall at any time have fellowship with the lamb, so the sinner with the just." (42) In such cases, any effort toward concord will be in vain: they will end, inevitably, in the defeat of the representatives of the good mentality, if the sodality is not delivered from the influence of the evil ones.
Punishment Does Not Deprive Catholic Action of Useful Auxiliaries
Furthermore, what advantage can Catholic Action expect from the cooperation of such members in its work? They will always render the service of an inconsistent instruction or an incomplete apostolate: "As a lame man hath fair legs in vain: so a parable is unseemly in the mouth of fools." (43)
It will be useless to object that, if elements foreign to Catholic Action perceive that it is organized with so much discipline they will be frightened and will not join. The rigor of the law does not even frighten those with a simple "initium sapientiae," let alone those who have wisdom. For this reason, Saint Benedict, a profound and perhaps inspired legislator, thought to make the monastic rule he composed attractive by inscribing on its first page this invitation: "Come, O sons, listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord."
It is, consequently, most appropriate to fear a lack of energy: "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, BOTH are abominable before God." (44) And, certainly, "it is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to decline from the truth of judgment." (45)
How right was Saint Ignatius when he said that both the day of admission…and the day of expulsion of an individual from the Society of Jesus were, for him, days of joy.
Nor Does It Harm the Ambience of Catholic Action
One could argue that fear of punishment might fill any environment with shadows; that my statements are such as to create an atmosphere of apprehension and fear, of melancholy and anxious expectancy, singularly out of step with the enthusiastic joviality and the trusting and enterprising spirit that should prevail in Catholic Action. We do not agree with this opinion. Holy fear is the door through which one must pass to arrive at wisdom. (46) This is the magnificent reward promised to those who cross through this severe threshold:
If wisdom shall enter into thy heart,
and knowledge please thy soul:
Counsel shall keep thee,
and prudence shall preserve thee,
that thou mayest be delivered from the evil way,
and from the man that speaketh perverse things:
Who leave the right way,
and walk by dark ways:
Who are glad when they have done evil,
and rejoice in most wicked things:
Whose ways are perverse, and their steps infamous. (47)
Ecclesiasticus is most right, therefore, when it says that
The fear of the Lord is honor, and glory, and gladness, and a crown of joy. The fear of the Lord shall delight the heart, and shall give joy, and gladness, and length of days. (48)
The fear of the Lord is the religiousness of knowledge. Religiousness shall keep and justify the heart, it shall give joy and gladness. It shall go well with him that feareth the Lord, and in the days of his end he shall be blessed. To fear God is the fullness of wisdom. (49)
The fear of the Lord is a crown of wisdom, filling up peace and the fruit of salvation. (50)
How great is he that findeth wisdom and knowledge! but there is none above him that feareth the Lord. The fear of God hath set itself above all things: Blessed is the man, to whom it is given to have the fear of God: he that holdeth it, to whom shall he be likened? The fear of God is the beginning of his love: and the beginning of faith is to be fast joined unto it. (51)
The fear of the Lord is like a paradise of blessing, and they have covered it above all glory. (52)
One understands perfectly well, therefore, why Saint Paul wrote: "(As you have always obeyed me, not as in my presence only, but more now in my absence), with fear and trembling work out your salvation." (53) And that in the Epistle to the Hebrews he should say, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," emphasizing, in this way, the holy fear that should constantly inspire. (54) The Apostle insisted more than once on this thought: "Therefore receiving an immoveable kingdom, we have grace; whereby let us serve, pleasing God, with fear and reverence. For our God is a consuming fire." (55) And writing to the Romans he develops the same thought, referring simultaneously to God's love and severity:
For if God hath not spared the natural branches, fear lest perhaps he also spare not thee. See then the goodness and the severity of God: towards them indeed that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (56)
Also in the Apocalypse we find the repetition of what the Holy Ghost had said in the Old Testament: "Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and magnify Thy name?" (57)
The satisfaction with which Saint Paul praises the Corinthians for “their zeal” in punishing the offenses made to the Church, is evident for he recognized the obvious advantages of this disposition for the church of Corinth. (58)
Also in the second Epistle to the Corinthians, Saint Paul showed how necessary he deemed it for one to act severely:
Behold, this is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word stand. I have told before, and foretell, as present, and now absent, to them that sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again, I will not spare. Do you seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me, who towards you is not weak, but is mighty in you? (59)
Saint Paul says of temporal authority: "he is God's minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God's minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil." (60) Now, in this case, what is said so adroitly of the temporal power can be understood also in regard to the spiritual power and even of its least representative agents, such as presidents of religious sodalities. And how ardently Saint Paul performed that avenging function of the spiritual power! Let us listen to him addressing the Corinthians:
As if I would not come to you, so some are puffed up. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will: and will know, not the speech of them that are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in speech, but in power. What will you? Shall I come to you with a rod; or in charity, and in the spirit of meekness? (61)
It is absolutely heard, that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as the like is not among the heathens; that one should have his father's wife. And you are puffed up; and have not rather mourned, that he might be taken away from among you, that hath done this deed. I indeed, absent in body, but present in spirit, have already judged, as though I were present, him that hath so done, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of Our Lord Jesus; to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump? (62)
I wrote to you in an epistle, not to keep company with fornicators. I mean not with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or the extortioners, or the servers of idols; otherwise you must needs go out of this world. But now I have written to you, not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a server of idols, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one, not so much as to eat. For what have I to do to judge them that are without? Do not you judge them that are within? For them that are without, God will judge. Put away the evil one from among yourselves. (63)
Passages of Saint Paul could be cited in even greater number. Let us retain only a few: "For the rest, brethren, pray for us, that the word of God may run, and may be glorified, even as among you; and that we may be delivered from importunate and evil men; for all men have not faith." (64) And in the same Epistle the Apostle adds:
And we charge you, brethren, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us. (65)
And further ahead:
But you, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed: Yet do not esteem him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (66)
Let Us Avoid Any Kind of One-sidedness
While advocating such austere principles, we would never want to be one-sided. God forbid that we forget evangelical meekness! The Holy Ghost Himself sets limits to the action of justice, when He warns in the Old Testament: "Chastise thy son, despair not: but to the killing of him set not thy soul." (67)
But if we do not want to forget the limits outside of which justice would be hateful, so also God forbid we should forget the limits outside of which tolerance would be no less hateful. Does perfection not lie in the observance of both limits?
How difficult is this balance between kindness and fidelity to the law: "Many men are called merciful: but who shall find a faithful man?" (68)
Holy Mother Church, always faithful to revealed doctrine, consecrated the same principles in her legislation. In this line, the situation in which excommunicates “vitandus" find themselves, is typical. Besides being deprived of spiritual goods as are all excommunicated persons, they must be avoided by the faithful even in worldly affairs, conversations, greetings, etc., excepted only such as would be indispensable, as well as employees, relatives and next of kin. (69) For the purpose of seeing the situation of horror in which the Church throws the excommunicate "vitandus," note the following: if an individual who has incurred this punishment, enters a church where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being celebrated, the celebrant should stop until the excommunicate is expelled from the place. But if it is not possible to interrupt the Sacrifice, in case he has not reached the Canon or the Consecration, and if he has consecrated, he should continue the Mass until the second ablution, finishing the last prayers in some other decent place. (70)
Is it not because of the aforementioned unfaithfulness to the obligation of justice, so frequent nowadays, that to many associations and sectors of Catholic Action can be applied this description:
I passed by the field of the slothful man, and by the vineyard of the foolish man and behold it was all filled with nettles, and thorns had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall was broken down? (71)
Oh! The fallen stone wall which no longer defends the field against the sowing of the "inimicus homo!" Oh! the nettles and thorns which should be uprooted, but that flourish suffocating the wheat and the flowers! If at least we could say, as Scripture does immediately afterwards: "When I had seen, I laid it up in my heart, and by the example I received instruction." (72) If at least in this way we would understand that "the rod and reproof give wisdom: but the child that is left to his own will bringeth his mother to shame." (73)
When confronted with the arrogance and rebelliousness of a sinner, who boasts of his sin, the natural and spontaneous attitude of any noble and upright soul is energetic. Scripture says of the just man that his "mouth shall meditate truth," in other words, he will not remain silent or fade, but rather his "lips shall hate wickedness." (74)
Indeed, in Proverbs, the just man says, "the fear of the Lord hateth evil: I hate arrogance, and pride, and every wicked way, and a mouth with a double tongue." (75)
Because of this, in dealing with enemies of the Church, and foremost internal ones, without ever violating charity, "a wise man is strong: and a knowing man, stout and valiant." (76)
On the contrary, what a painful impression is caused by certain "strategic retreats" of the good, retreats that are almost always less strategic than what is imagined: "A just man falling down before the wicked, is as a fountain troubled with the foot, and a corrupted spring." (77)
In this way they scandalously invert the roles, for according to God's designs, "the wicked man fleeth... but the just, bold as a lion, shall be without dread." (78)
What excellent apostolate would be done if only the designs of God were followed! "When the wicked… perish, the just shall be multiplied." (79) And, on the contrary, "when the wicked are multiplied, crimes shall be multiplied." (80)
It is not in vain, therefore, that when all other resources are lovingly exhausted, the wise leader should "scatter the wicked and bring over them the wheel." (81) He who persists by actions or words in transgressing the law of God or the rules of Catholic Action, deep down mocks authority. And Scripture says: "Cast out the scoffer, and contention shall go out with him, and quarrels and reproaches shall cease." (82)
Let us conclude, then, affirming together with the angelic and sweet Pope Pius X that he who fails in his duty to warn or punish his neighbor, far from showing true charity, shows that he possesses only a caricature thereof, namely sentimentalism; because the transgression of this duty is an offense to God and to one's neighbor: "Whenever I hear anything of you displeasing to God and unbecoming to yourselves, and fail to admonish you, I do not fear God nor love you as I ought." (83)
The illustrious Bishop Antonio Joaquim de Melo, one of the greatest shepherds Brazil has ever seen, made this remarkable affirmation, with the full authority of his great name: "the mercy of God has sent more souls to hell than His justice." In other words, the great prelate stated that the rash hope of salvation damns a greater number of souls than the excessive fear of God's justice. It is likewise unquestionable that excessive benignity in applying punishment, as observed now in many religious associations, and the complete lack of it in certain sectors of Catholic Action, has thinned out the ranks of the children of light much more than the inconsiderate and perhaps excessively vigorous actions eventually carried out.
The Spirit of "Masonified" Fraternities
During a conversation with a person of preponderant and even decisive influence in certain circles of Catholic Action, she told us that in five years she had never excluded anyone, no matter how removed, from the sector under her direction. When someone completely ceased showing up, her card would be transferred to a special drawer, from which it would be easily returned to the file of active members whenever she reappeared, be it five, ten or twenty years later. And this without the slightest novitiate, examination or act of penance.
This fact reminds us of the most authentic case of an old confraternity in which a pious lady once registered her 9-year old son, to fulfill a promise. After enrollment the young member never reappeared. He became a man, lost his faith, and is today an old man advanced in years. This person relates with obvious hilarity, how during all this time he never failed to receive invitations to all of the confraternity's events. He will probably continue to receive them for some years after his death. Readers who have not been forced by romanticism to completely forsake their common sense, will understand well how this procedure of the confraternity drags the Church to the lowest possible degree of discredit. This is a curious point of convergence, to be added to so many others, showing that under the guise of innovations in Catholic Action, what is really intended is the restoration, in all their spirit, of the errors of "masonified" fraternities of the time of Bishop Vital Maria Gonçalves de Oliveira. We do not deny that this insistent invitation might have done good to the soul thus called upon. But is it worthwhile to harm the Church's prestige, which involves the salvation of thousands of souls, in exchange for the minute probability of bringing this wayward soul back to the life of grace? Who does not perceive that this thought can be upheld only by a person whose common sense has been smothered?
"Time Jesum transeuntem et non revertentem," Abbot Chautard reminds us. (84) How salutary is the fear that Jesus might not return having once knocked at a heart's door! And how these rancid practices vilify the call of Jesus!
Punishment Is a Harsh Necessity
If such reasoning were not to prevail one could argue that Holy Mother Church should strike all penal chapters from her Code of Canon Law and that the Holy See, true "Mater misericordiae" failed in charity when it fulminated several modernist leaders with the tremendous punishment of excommunication "vitandus." Certainly, being a Mother, the Church will always strive to govern her children preferably with the law of love, as in this law she finds the best fecundity of her apostolate.
Saint Francis de Sales was right when saying that "more flies are caught with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar." It would be a blasphemy to believe that the holy Doctor was thus recommending some kind of liberalism. Indeed, the Holy Ghost warns that "dying flies spoil the sweetness of the ointment. Wisdom and glory are more precious than a small and short-lived folly." (85) We want mercy yes, a lot of it and always; but we should not forget that mercy and justice must never be without each other.
1) Leo XIII, Encyclical Depuis le jour, Sept. 8, 1899, no. 38, at www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13depui.htm
2) St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, q.95, a.1 at www.newadvent.org/summa/209501.htm
4) [Trans.: Fr. José Gaspar D’Afonseca e Silva was later made Archbishop of São Paulo, a position he still held in 1943 when In Defense of Catholic Action was first published.]
5) Prov. 13:18.
6) Prov. 15:31-33.
7) Prov. 15:12.
8) Prov. 28:14.
9) Prov. 26:3.
10) Prov. 6:12.
11) Prov. 6:14.
12) Prov. 15:6.
13) Wis. 1:4-5.
14) Wis. 1:16.
15) Ecclus. 21:17.
16) Ecclus. 21:21.
17) Ecclus. 22:7,9.
18) Matt. 7:6.
19) 2 Cor. 4:3-4.
20) Prov. 13:24
21) Prov. 13:24.
22) Prov. 13:24.
23) Prov. 22:15.
24) Prov. 23:13-14.
25) Prov. 27:5-6.
26) Ecclus. 18:13.
27) Eccles. 7:19.
28) Heb. 12:5-11.
29) 1 Tim. 5:20.
30) Prov. 21:11.
31) Prov. 16:6.
32) Prov. 14:27.
33) Eccles. 8:11.
34) Ecclus. 13:1.
35) Prov. 16:29.
36) Ecclus. 12:13.
37) Gal. 5:9.
38) Heb. 12:15.
39) Prov. 6:12.
40) Prov. 6:14.
41) Prov. 8:13.
42) Ecclus. 13:21.
43) Prov. 26:7.
44) Prov. 17:15. (Our emphasis.)
45) Prov. 18:5.
46) Cf. Prov. 1:7.
47) Prov. 2:10-15.
48) Ecclus. 1:11-12.
49) Ecclus. 1:17-20.
50) Ecclus. 1:22.
51) Ecclus. 25:13-16.
52) Ecclus. 40:28.
53) Phil. 2:12.
54) Heb. 10:31.
55) Heb. 12:28-29.
56) Rom. 11:21-22.
57) Apoc. 15:4.
58) Cf. 2 Cor. 7:8-11.
59) 2 Cor. 13:1-3.
60) Rom. 13:4.
61) 1 Cor. 4:18-21.
62) 1 Cor. 5:1-6.
63) 1 Cor. 5:9-13.
64) 2 Thess. 3:1-2.
65) 2 Thess. 3:6.
66) 2 Thess. 3:13-15.
67) Prov. 19:18.
68) Prov. 20:6.
69) Cf. Can. 2257.
70) Such is the wise teaching of Vermeersh-Creusen, in his Epitome Juris Canonici, vol. III, no. 469 - 1:
"The excommunicate ‘vitandus’ should be expelled, if he choose to assist passively or actively in the divine office, except the preaching of the divine word. - If he cannot be expelled, the office should cease as long as this can be done without grave inconvenience" (c. 2259).
“If the ‘vitandus’ does not want to leave or cannot be expelled, the priest should interrupt the Mass, so long as he has not begun the Canon; if he has already begun the Canon but not the Consecration, he may continue but should not do so; after the Consecration, he should continue until the second ablution and then finish the rest of the office in a decent place contiguous to the church. The other assistants, with the exception of the minister, should retire as soon as the insistence of the ‘vitandus in remaining present has become manifest."
71) Prov. 24:30-31.
72) Prov. 24:32.
73) Prov. 29:15.
74) Prov. 8:7.
75) Prov. 8:13.
76) Prov. 24:5.
77) Prov. 25:26.
78) Prov. 28:1.
79) Prov. 28:28.
80) Prov. 29:16.
81) Prov. 20:26.
82) Prov. 22:10.
83) St. Pius X, Encyclical Communium Rerum, Apr. 21, 1909, no. 26, at www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_x/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_21041909_communium-rerum_en.html
84) “Dread the passage of Jesus, for he does not return.”
85) Eccles. 10:1.