In the Beatitude, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God, St Gregory of Nyssa teaches us, “He who is given the riches of the soul in exchange for material wealth, who is poor for the sake of the spirit.” This commentary is referenced by the Catechism in Section 2546, which teaches us that “voluntary humility is poverty in spirit,” which guards us from soul-destroying envy. Section 2547 of the Catechism quotes St Augustine: Let the “proud seek after and love the kingdoms of the earth” while the poor in spirit possess the kingdom of heaven. Those who are poor in spirit guard their heart from the sin of envy and covetousness, and those who are poor live a life like that of Christ, the Christ whom St Paul reminds us became poor for our sakes. […]
The Catholic Catechism warns that coveting, or avarice, “is the root of theft, robbery, and fraud.” Both avarice and fornication are both sins of idolatry, when we stray from the love of our neighbor, we stray from the Love of our God, Love of God and love of neighbor are like two vines that twist around the same branch. Coveting “concerns the intentions of the heart, and summarizes all the precepts of the Law.” The commandment against coveting forbids the greed that gathers up earthly goods without limit, and the “avarice arising from the passion for riches.” “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” […]
“Be simple and guileless, be like the children who are ignorant of the wickedness that ruins the life of men. Speak evil of no-one, and do not revel to anyone who speaks evil of another.” You sin when you listen to slander, when you believe the slander you become a slanderer. “Slander is evil and an unsteady demon, never peaceful, always stirring up discord.” “Practice goodness,” “give to all,” “he who gives is guiltless.” […]
Surprisingly, the Catholic Catechism discusses concupiscence not when reflecting on the commandment prohibiting adultery but on the commandment forbidding coveting your neighbor’s wife. Concupiscence is not itself a sin, and although it is commonly thought of as a sexual sin, it can “refer to any intense form of human desire.” “Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man’s moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins.” The Catholic Catechism footnotes the decrees of the Council of Trent, which teaches that “concupiscence or the tinder of sin remains in the baptized. Since it is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.” This decree of Trent then confirms that concupiscence is not sin itself, but inclines us to sin. […]
St Gregory Palamas teaches us that the command not to covet is not only a negative THOU SHALT NOT command but is more a SHALL positive command, that we shall be generous and show charity and lend to our less fortunate neighbor, and to watch after our neighbor’s interests, returning to him lost items you may find. “Covetousness, conceived in the soul, produces sin; and sin, when committed, results in death (James 1:5). Refrain from coveting what belongs to others and avoid filching things out of greediness. Rather you should give from what you possess to whoever asks of you, and you should, as much as you can, be charitable to whoever is in need of charity, and you should not refuse whoever wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42). Should you find some lost article, you should keep it for its owner, even if the owner is hostile towards you, perhaps your kindness will change him and your kindness will overcome evil, as Christ commands.” […]
Was the Council of Trent a reactionary council? This is a common perception, that the Council of Trent initiated the Catholic Counter-Reformation to defend the Catholic Church from the influences of the Protestant Reformation started by Martin Luther, and that the Vatican II Council was a rejection of Trent, steering the Catholic Church in a more liberal direction. Father O’Malley’s history leads to a different conclusion, that the actual Council of Trent, as opposed to the later impressions of Trent, is really a progressive council that is a precursor to Vatican II. Indeed, the documents of Vatican II and the subsequent Catholic Catechism both cite the Council of Trent extensively.
The post Reformation polemics are to blame for this misunderstanding of the nature of the Council of Trent. In Father O’Malley’s words, “When Pope Pius IV confirmed the council’s decrees, he forbade the printing of commentaries or notes on them without explicit permission of the Holy See.” The Pope really had no choice, the Catholic Church was besieged, had the Pope not restricted access to the minutes of the Council of Trent, protestants would have taken out of context and distorted the debates to discredit the Church. But this prevented balanced scholarship on Trent for four hundred years, until Pope Leo XIII opened the Vatican Archives in 1880.
Also, when he confirmed the decrees of the Council of Trent, Pope Pius IV established the Congregation of the Council that functioned for four hundred years, until the time of Vatican II, 1966. Many of these interpretations of the Council of Trent were more reactionary than the Council itself, partly in response to the polemic pressures encountered by the Catholic Church. In Father O’Malley’s words, “the Congregation’s decision promoted the impression that the council answered all possible questions, even on subjects it in fact never addressed, and that is left little room for change or further development and local adaptation. This impression became an integral element in the myths about the council.” […]
Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development.”
Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty. […]
The Church Fathers of Vatican II believed that the Catholic guarantee of Religious Liberty was crucial for regaining the respect of many believers and the modern world. History had evolved so that the Catholic Church was not on the side of truth regarding religious liberty. From ancient times the Catholic Church was supported first by the Roman emperors starting with Constantine, and then the royalty of medieval Europe, but the absolute monarchies had all disappeared, giving way to dictators and republics, some of which were constitutional monarchies. The Jacobism of the French Revolution and its grandchild communism were the enemies of the church, and the church supported fascism to combat communism. World War II totally discredited fascism, now the Catholic Church saw democracy as the bulwark opposing communism, and religious liberty was a cornerstone for democracy. […]
Who should study the Catechism? Everyone! Everyone who is Catholic? No, everyone who wants to live a godly life should study the Catechism. The Catechism was reviewed by thousands of bishops before publication, many thousands of suggestions were pondered, more thought and care was invested in the editing of the Catholic Catechism than probably any modern book in print. You ignore this wisdom at your moral peril. These teachings are not merely preachings, they are annotated by thousands of footnotes to both Scripture verses and the writings of the Church Fathers and the decrees of Vatican II, Trent, and the other councils, so you can go back to the sources yourself. […]