Abuse of God’s Mercy: An Insult To God

merciful-god

On the Abuse of Divine Mercy 
Sermon by St. Alphonsus Liguori
 

In this day’s gospel we read, that a certain man fell into the hands of robbers, who, after having taken his money, wounded him, and left him half dead. A Samaritan who passed by, saw him, and taking pity on him, bound up his wounds, brought him to an inn, and left him to the care of the host, saying: “Take care of him.” These words I this day address to those, if there be any such among you, who, though their souls are wounded by sin, instead of attending to the care of them, continually aggravate the wounds by new sins, and thus abuse the mercy of God, who preserves their lives, that they may repent, and not be lost forever. I say to you: Brethren, take care of your souls, which are in a very bad state; have compassion on them. “Have pity on thy own soul (Eccl. xxx. 24).” Your souls are sick, and what is worse they are near the eternal death of hell; for he who abuses to excess the divine mercy, is on the point of being abandoned by the mercy of God. This shall be the subject of the present discourse. 

St. Augustine says that the devil deludes Christians in two ways “by despair and hope.” After a person has committed sin, the enemy, by placing before his eyes the rigour of divine justice, tempts him to despair of the mercy of God. But, before he sins, the devil by representing to him the divine mercy, labours to make him fearless of the chastisement due to sin. Hence the saint gives the following advice: “After sin, hope for mercy; before sin, fear justice.” If, after sin, you despair of God’s pardon, you offend him by a new and more grievous sin. Have recourse to His mercy, and He will pardon you. But, before sin, fear God’s justice, and trust not to His mercy; for, they who abuse the mercy of God to offend him, do not deserve to be treated with mercy. Abulensis says, that the man who offends justice may have recourse to mercy; but to whom can they have recourse, who offend and provoke mercy against themselves? 

When you intend to commit sin, who, I ask, promises you mercy from God? Certainly God does not promise it. It is the devil that promises it, that you may lose God and be damned. “Beware,” says St. John Chrysostom, “never to attend to that dog that promises thee mercy from God (Hom. 50, ad Pop).”

If, beloved sinners, you have hitherto offended God, hope and tremble: if you desire to give up sin, and if you detest it, hope; because God promises pardon to all who repent of the evil they have done. But if you intend to continue in your sinful course, tremble lest God should wait no longer for you, but cast you into hell.

Why does God wait for sinners? Is it that they may continue to insult Him? No; He waits for them that they may renounce sin, and that thus He may have pity on them, and forgive them. “Therefore the Lord waiteth, that he may have mercy on you.” (Isa. xxx. 1, 8.) But when He sees that the time which he gave them to weep over their past iniquities is spent in multiplying their sins, He begins to inflict chastisement, and He cuts them off in the state of sin, that, by dying, they may cease to offend Him. Then He calls against them the very time He had given them for repentance. “He hath called against me the time (Lam. i. 15).” “The very time,” says St. Gregory, “comes to judge.” 

O common illusion of so many damned Christians! We seldom find a sinner so abandoned to despair as to say: I will damn myself. Christians sin, and endeavour to save their souls. They say: “God is merciful: I will commit this sin, and will afterwards confess it.” Behold the illusion, or rather the snare, by which Satan draws so many souls to hell. “Commit sin,” he says, “and confess it afterwards.” But listen to what the Lord says: “And say not, the mercy of the Lord is great; He will have mercy on the multitude of my sins (Eccl. v. 6.).” Why does He tell you not to say, that the mercy of God is great? Attend to the words contained in the following verse: “For mercy and wrath come quickly from Him, and His wrath looketh upon sinners (Ibid., ver. 7).” The mercy of God is different from the acts of His mercy; the former is infinite, the latter are finite. God is merciful, but He is also just. St. Basil says, that sinners only consider God as merciful and ready to pardon, but not as just and prepared to inflict punishment. Of this the Lord complained one day to St. Bridget: “I am just and merciful: sinners regard Me only as merciful.” St. Basil’s words are: “Bonus est Dominus sed etiam Justus, nolimus Deum ex dimidia parte cogitare.” God is just, and, being just, he must punish the ungrateful. Father John Avila used to say, that to bear with those who avail themselves of the mercy of God to offend Him, would not be mercy, but a want of justice.

Mercy, as the divine mother said, is promised to those who fear, and not to those who insult the Lord. “And His mercy to them that fear Him (Luke i 50).”

Some rash sinners will say: God has hitherto shown me so many mercies; why should He not here after treat me with the same mercy? I answer: He will show you mercy, if you wish to change your life; but if you intend to continue to offend Him, He tells you that He will take vengeance on your sins by casting you into hell. “Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time, that their foot may slide (Deut. xxxii. 35).” David says, that “except you be converted,” He will “brandish His sword (Ps. vii. 13).” The Lord has bent His bow, and waits for your conversion; but if you resolve not to return to Him, He will in the end cast the arrow against you, and you shall be damned. O God! there are some who will not believe that there is a hell until they fall into it. Can you, beloved Christians, complain of the mercies of God, after He has shown you so many mercies by waiting for you so long? You ought to remain always prostrate on the earth to thank Him for His mercies, saying: “The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed (Lamen. iii. 32).” Were the injuries which you offered to God committed against a brother, he would not have borne with you. God has had so much patience with you; and He now calls you again. If, after all this, He shall send you to hell, will He do you any wrong? “What is there,” He will say, “that I ought to do more for my vineyard, that I have not done to it (Isa. v. 4)?” Impious wretch! what more ought I to do for you that I have not done? 

St. Bernard says, that the confidence which sinners have in God’s goodness when they commit sin, procures for them, not a blessing, but a malediction from the Lord. “Est infidelis fiducia solius ubique maledictionis capax, cum videlicet in spe peccamus (Serm, iii., de Annunc).” O deceitful hope, which sends so many Christians to hell! St. Augustine says: “Sperant, ut peccent! Vae perversa spe (In Ps. cxliv).” 

They do not hope for the pardon of the sins of which they repent; but they hope that, though they continue to commit sin, God will have mercy upon them; and thus they make the mercy of God serve as a motive for continuing to offend Him. 

Accursed hope! hope which is an abomination to the Lord! “And their hope the abomination (Job xi. 20).” This hope will make God hasten the execution of His vengeance; for surely a master will not defer the punishment of servants who offend him because he is good. Sinners, as St. Augustine observes, trusting in God’s goodness, insult Him, and say: “God is good; I will do what I please (Tract, xxxiii. in Joan).” But, alas! how many, exclaims the same St. Augustine, has this vain hope deluded! “They who have been deceived by this shadow of vain hope cannot be numbered.” St. Bernard writes, that Lucifer’s chastisement was accelerated, because, in rebellion against God, he hoped that he should not be punished for his rebellion. Ammon, the son of king Manasses, seeing that God had pardoned the sins of his father, gave himself up to a wicked life with the hope of pardon; but, for Ammon there was no mercy. St. John Chrysostom says, that Judas was lost because, trusting in the goodness of Jesus Christ, he betrayed Him. “Fidit in lenitate Magistri.” 

He that sins with, the hope of pardon, saying: “I will afterwards repent, and God will pardon me:” is, according to St. Augustine, “not a penitent, but a scoffer.” The Apostle tells us that “God is not mocked (Gal. vi. 7).” 

It would be a mockery of God to offend Him as often and as long as you please, and always to receive the pardon of your offences. 

“For what things a man shall sow,” says St. Paul, “those also shall he reap (Ibid., ver. 8).” They who sow sins, can hope for nothing but the hatred of God and hell. “Despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering (Rom. ii. 4).” Do you, O sinner, despise the riches of the goodness, of the patience, and long-suffering of God towards you? He uses the word riches, because the mercies which God shows us, in not punishing our sins, are riches more valuable to us than all treasures. “Knowest thou not,” continues the Apostle, “that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance (Ibid)?” 

Do you not know that the Lord waits for you, and treats you with so much benignity, not that you may continue to sin, but that you may weep over the offences you have offered to Him?

For, says St. Paul, if you persevere in sin and do not repent, your obstinacy and impenitence shall accumulate a treasure of wrath against the day of wrath, that is, the day on which God shall judge you. “According to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God (Ibid., verse 5).” 

To the hardness of the sinner shall succeed his abandonment by God, Who shall say of the soul that is obstinate in sin, what he said of Babylon: “We would have cured Babylon; but she is not healed; let us forsake her (Jer. li. 9).” 

And how does God abandon the sinner? He either sends him a sudden death, and cuts him off in sin, or He deprives him of the graces which would be necessary to bring him to true repentance; He leaves him with the sufficient graces with which he can, but will not, save his soul. The darkness of his understanding, the hardness of his heart, and the bad habits which he has contracted, will render his conversion morally impossible. Thus, he shall not be absolutely but morally abandoned.

“I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted (Isa. v. 5).” When the master of the vineyard destroys its hedges, does he not show that he abandons it? It is thus that God acts when He abandons a soul. He takes away the hedge of holy fear and remorse of conscience, and leaves the soul in darkness, and then vices crowd into the heart. “Thou hast appointed darkness, and it is night: in it shall all the beasts of the wood go about (Ps. ciii. 20).” 

And the sinner, abandoned in an abyss of sins, will despise admonitions, excommunications, divine grace, chastisement, and hell: he will make a jest of his own damnation. “The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sin, contemneth (Prov. xviii. 3).”

Why,” asks the Prophet Jeremias, “doth the way of the wicked prosper (Jer. xii. 1)?” He answers: “Gather them together as sheep for a sacrifice (v. 3).” Miserable the sinner who is prosperous in this life! 

The prosperity of sinners is a sign that God wishes to give them a temporal reward for some works which are morally good, but that He reserves them as victims of His justice for hell, where, like the accursed cockle, they shall be cast to burn for all eternity.
“In the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers: Gather up the first cockle, and bind it in bundles to burn (Matt. xiii. 30).” 

Thus, not to be punished in this life is the greatest of God’s chastisements on the wicked, and has been threatened against the obstinate sinner by the Prophet Isaias. “Let us have pity on the wicked, but he will not learn justice (Isa. xxvi. 10).” On this passage St. Bernard says: This mercy I do not wish for: it is above all wrath. “Misericordiam hanc nolo; super oimiem iram misericordia ista (Serm, xlii., in Cant).” 

And what greater chastisement than to be abandoned into the Lands of sin, so that, being permitted by God to fall from sin to sin, the sinner must in the end go to suffer as many hells as he has committed sins?”

Add thou iniquity upon their iniquity. . . . let them be “blotted out of the book of the living (Ps. lxviii. 28, 29).” On these words Bellarmine writes: “There is no punishment greater than when sin is the punishment of sin.” It would be better for such a sinner to die after the first sin; because by dying under the load of so many additional iniquities, he shall suffer as many hells as he has committed sins. This is what happened to a certain comedian in Palermo, whose name was Caesar. He one day told a friend that Father La Nusa, a missionary, foretold him that God should give him twelve years to live, and that if within that time he did not change his life, he should die a bad death. Now, said he to his friend, I have travelled through so many parts of the world: I have had many attacks of sickness, one of which nearly brought me to the grave; but in this month the twelve years shall be completed, and I feel myself in better health than in any of the past years. He then invited his friend to listen to a new comedy which he had composed. But, what happened? On the 24th November, 1688, the day fixed for the comedy, as he was going on the stage, he was seized with apoplexy, and died suddenly. He expired in the arms of a female comedian. Thus the scene of this world ended miserably for him. 

Let us make the application to ourselves, and conclude the discourse. Brethren, I entreat you to give a glance at all the bygone years of your life: look at the grievous offences you have committed against God, and at the great mercies which He has shown to you, the many lights He has bestowed upon you, and the many times He has called you to a change of life. 

By this sermon he has today given you a new call. He appears to me to say to you: “What is there that I ought to do to my vineyard, that I have not done to it (Isa. v. 4)?” What more ought I to do for you that I have not done? What do you say? What answer have you to make? Will you give yourselves to God, or will you continue to offend Him?

Consider, says St. Augustine, that the punishment of your sins has been deferred, not remitted; “unfruitful tree! The axe has been deferred. Be not secure: you shall be cut off.” If you abuse the divine mercy, you shall be cut off; vengeance shall soon fall upon you. What do you wait for? Do you wait till God sends you to hell? The Lord has been hitherto silent; but He is not silent forever. When the time of vengeance shall arrive He will say: “These things hast thou done, and I was silent. Thou thoughtest unjustly that I should be like to thee: but I will reprove thee, and set before thy face (Ps. xlix. 21).” He will set before your eyes the graces which he bestowed upon you, and which you have despised: these very graces shall judge and condemn you. 

Brethren, resist no longer the calls of God; tremble lest the call which He gives you today may be the last call for you. Go to confession as soon as possible, and make a firm resolution to change your lives. It is useless to confess your sins, if you afterwards return to your former vices. 

But you will perhaps say that you have not strength to resist the temptations by which you are assailed. Listen to the words of the Apostle: “God is faithful, Who will not permit you to be tempted above that which you are able (1 Cor. x. 13).” God is faithful: He will not permit you to be tempted above your strength. And if of yourself you have not strength to overcome the devil, ask it from God, and He will give it to you. “Ask, and you shall receive (John xvi. 24).” “Praising,” said David, “I will call on the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies (Ps. xvii. 4).” And St. Paul said: “I can do all things in Him Who strengthened me (Phil. iv. 13).” Of myself I can do nothing; but with the divine assistance I can do all things. Recommend yourselves to God in all temptations, and God will enable you to resist them, and you shall not fall. 

Comment:

The Pope has spread abroad belief in a false mercy, one which – according to St Alphonsus – might take souls to Hell. 

Is the optimistic reliance on this false mercy, this failure to understand that unrepentant sin will take souls to Hell, one of the reasons for the growing number of blatant scandals we are witnessing today; double-living clergy, laity living in manifest public sin receiving Holy Communion and such like? Share your thoughts… 

Confession: Is Validity Enough?

ConfessionConcerned Catholics have been asking us to reassure them about the validity of absolution in Confession, because Fr Tim Curtis SJ, PP of St Aloysius, Garnethill, changes the words of absolution to say “I absolve you from these sins and all the sins of your life…” The rest, we presume, is correct, but these words have stood out as being noticeably different from what we are used to hearing in Confession.   More than one reader expressed concerns at the time to Fr Curtis, who has always been polite, they say and even agrees, when asked, to repeat the words of absolution, omitting his own addition to the form. In fact, although what Fr Curtis is doing is not permitted, the absolution received by our concerned readers is valid, as we were assured by a traditional priest who answered our query as follows:

“The theologian Fr Diekamp writes that the “form would be invalid if it did not at least refer to the minister and recipient of absolution, for this is necessary to a judicial pronouncement. Thus to what is minimally necessary to the validity of this sacrament belong the words ‘I absolve thee/you’ or their equivalent.” [F. Diekamp Katholische Dogmatik nach den Grundsätzen des heiligen Thomas Münster 1954 (Aschendorff) 12th ed., Vol. III, p. 247.]

One might thus validly use a form of absolution which omitted the invocation of the Blessed Trinity, for example, but one would not do so lawfully. In answer to your query, then – “Is that allowed or does it, objectively, invalidate the Sacrament?” the answer is no, it is not allowed, but no, it does not invalidate the Sacrament either.  End.

The most recent penitent to contact us on this matter is our very own Petrus, who – as recently as yesterday – asked Fr Curtis to repeat the words of absolution, omitting his own addition, and Father did so. Petrus later emailed him and also contacted the Archdiocese of Glasgow.  Father Curtis replied to Petrus, apologising for causing him “worry” and assuring him that he would consult others on the form he used – to which Petrus responded as follows:

Dear Father,

Thank you for your reply.   Please be assured that I was not worried in the Confessional.  I’m a well informed Catholic, as all Catholics should be, therefore I know what the essential form is to ensure validity of the Sacrament eg.  “Ego te absolvo”, or “I absolve you”, in the vernacular.   

However, you know as well as I do that Sacraments must be valid and licit ie. lawful.  The formula you use doesn’t invalidate the Sacrament but it is unlawful.  

Furthermore, when I go to Confession, or any other Sacrament, I have the right to receive what the Church deems lawful and you have a duty to provide this.   I do not wish your individual stamp on the Sacraments and you have no right to do so. 

There really is no need for you to “consult” on this as the Church is clear – Sacraments must be valid and licit.  I have spoken to the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Glasgow and he writes”

“Archbishop Tartaglia expects that priests, in the administration of all the Sacraments, follow verbatim the approved formularies.”

A penitent should never, ever leave the Confessional wondering if their absolution is valid or not.  I know that other penitents have expressed these concerns to you.  Such is the seriousness of the situation and to ensure that other Catholics are aware and informed, this matter will be discussed over the next few days on the Catholic Truth Blog which can be accessed at www.catholictruthblog.com

Therefore I must ask once again, can you confirm that from now on you will use the correct form of absolution in the Sacrament of Confession?  End.

Comments are invited, but please do not quote questionable advice given or dubious remarks made in Confession as, due to the seal, priests cannot respond to allegations of unorthodoxy etc.  It would be, therefore, unjust to enter into what this or that priest is alleged to have said in Confession. A default “we don’t believe you” position will hold if any such comments are posted and they will be deleted the minute I see them.  Stick to the subject in hand, which is the importance of priests using the correct form and matter for the Sacraments, and not “doing their own thing”.  One penitent mentioned that, as she was leaving the confessional box, having explained her concerns about the change in the form as quoted above, Fr Curtis wished her “a happy new year” – not “have a great new year” or “hope 2015 is good for you” or any other form of the traditional new year greeting.  He stuck to the recognised “happy new year”. So, it’s not as if he doesn’t know that there’s a recognised form to be used on occasion – he just needs reminding that Confession is one such occasion…

The purpose of this thread then it to educate ourselves on the importance of the use of the correct form and matter for the validity of the Sacraments, but also to ask ourselves if technical validity is all that matters.  Hopefully, this thread will either encourage Catholics to not hesitate to ask a confessor to use the correct form if they encounter a Fr Curtis think-a-like, or, if necessary, avoid going to Confession in parishes where the priest(s) deviate from the Church’s form. We’ve named Fr Curtis since St Aloysius is a city centre (Glasgow) parish where lots of people go to Confession throughout the week and weekends, but we do not, of course, attribute any malice to him. When Petrus asked him why he added his own words: “… from these [not ‘your’] sins and all the sins of your life”, he replied to the effect that he wanted to send people away feeling reassured that all their sins had been absolved. So, good motivation. He means well.  However, it cannot be the case that we leave the confessional absolved from sins we haven’t confessed – we have to identify our sins.  What if I’d pinched my granny’s pension book a couple of years ago but had never confessed it?  Would that be absolved by Fr Curtis’s assurance that “all the sins of the past life” had been absolved – even if never confessed, never repented?

Anyway, your call – let’s hear it… 

John Cornwell Savages Pope St Pius X…

ImageAt my Catholic boarding school in the late 1950s there was a jolly priest who heard my confession in his  room rather than in a vacant confessional box. After I had recited my laundry list of petty sins, he asked if I was ever tempted to ‘commit a sexual sin by myself’.

He suggested that I take out my penis so that he could examine it to see whether I was prone to sudden erections. I left the room immediately. The next year, his proclivities discovered, he was removed by his bishop to another school.

As a child barely out of infancy, I had joined the long queues in our parish church every Saturday to confess my sins. The confessor  sat behind a grille inside a dark box like an upturned coffin, smelling of stale perfume and nasty body odours.

A priest at John Cornwell’s Catholic boarding school asked if he was ever tempted to ‘commit sexual sin’ (picture posed by models)

I did not realise that we child penitents were guinea-pigs in the greatest moral experiment ever perpetrated on children in the history of Catholicism.

When I started my investigation into Catholic confession I was shocked to discover that young children were not allowed to go to confession before the 20th Century – in previous eras children did  not make their first confession  until their teenage years.

It was the anxious and pessimistic Pius X, Pope from 1903-1914, who decreed in 1910 that children must make their first confession at the age of seven. Evidently he had taken to heart the Jesuit maxim: ‘Give me a child at seven and it’s mine for life’. Click on photo of Pope Saint Pius X for the rest of this savage pseudo-journalism.

Comment…

John Cornwell has now been thoroughly discredited for his false allegations about Pope Pius XII in relation to the persecution of the Jews in Germany during the war. Click here to read more

So, having made a fool of himself once, it is incredible that he has now turned his attention to Pope Saint Pius X in an attempt to blame him for the clergy child sexual abuse scandals in our times.  What a numpty.  What is it with Cornwell?  Is he in bad conscience about something and seeks to savage the Church as a result? We can’t tell whether or not he is malicious – that’s not for us to decide. But what we do know, from his ignorance about the way Pope Pius XII helped the Jews, and won the gratitude of the Jewish community as a result, is that he lays no claim to being an objective academic in his writings about the Catholic Church. Far from it. 

Frankly, I think there’s something very wrong with a man who is so muddled in his thinking that he blames Pope Saint Pius X for the sins of bad priests in the latter part of the twentieth century, when the pontiff’s motivation was merely to allow children access to the graces of the Sacrament of Penance at the most likely age when they would know right from wrong. I mean, nobody blames Wimpey for building houses on the grounds that they have make it easy for paedophiles to molest children – do they?  Crackers.

I can’t help thinking that John Cornwell needs help. And lots of it.  And soon.  But then, maybe you disagree?