Does truth matter?

People are confused by gobs of secular group-think. At one time, folks held knowledge of truth (and living consistently with it) in high regard. Now, whatever the topic, it seems to go through a quick filter of “does it matter to me one way or the other?” If not, then go with the flow, live and let live, to each his own and who am I to judge? Truth is no longer an immutable fact, but equated with preference. What is right for you might not be right for me — so, truth is assumed to be relative.

We see this played-out in abortion politics. If a wanted child is killed in utero, that is considered murder (in most states). If that same child is unwanted and “terminated” by her mother at an even later stage, it is considered choice. The humanity of that child is true or false depending on it being wanted.

Most people today are atheists, agnostics or “nones.” Atheists at least have thought about God and have come to a conclusion, albeit an incorrect one. Agnostics and nones are more interesting because they simply do not care enough to find out. If there is a God, what could possibly be more important? The implications for everything are huge! It would seem that those who have not figured it out would spend as much effort as necessary to move themselves either to the faith or to the atheist column, yet do not bother.

There is a wide spectrum of those who claim faith. Many have confused religious belief with affirmation of whatever their fallen will desires. They will engage whatever faith community is easiest, most welcoming / accepting / affirming of their lifestyle and (current) values, involving no inconvenience and calling for no amendment of their life. It is also valued if “worship” is entertaining and fun. Social interactions with useful business or political networking is a plus. In reality, this is not so much about God as it is about themselves. Truth has little to do with it.

Moving further in the faith direction we come to those who hold a firm belief in a “higher power.” Just that, nothing more — no need to dig deeper or think anything through. Believers at this very low level are barely outside the agnostic / none camp. They move between Christian and broader faith communities with ease. Many would proudly describe themselves as “spiritual” and hold that all religions are equal. Their car bumpers typically sport “coexist” stickers.

At last we come to true Christians! By grace we are Christian believers, but have sadly landed in numerous, separated ecclesial communities. A large chunk of us believe in the Trinity and that the cross somehow saves us but know little more. There is, even among Christians, a common assumption that being a good person (just about everyone thinks they are one) is good enough (or at least not requiring much more than that). To my mind, such folks appear to be banking on their invincible ignorance to be sufficient. Like non-believers, they sadly miss lives blessed by abundant grace.

Distinct from these brothers and sisters, are those who care about and seek truth. In an ideal world, we would all be in this group! Devout Christians are open to the Holy Spirit, seek to know and understand what God has revealed, place God at the center of their lives, seek continuous conversion of themselves and a closer relationship with our Creator. This is the narrow road of truth that leads to eternal life.

Those of us who are baptized and confirmed are priests, prophets and kings. We have responsibility, not only to get ourselves to heaven but to bring as many others as possible along with us. That can only be done by keeping ourselves in that last group while evangelizing in love, those in all the others. This can not be done solely by example.

Preach the gospel at all times — if necessary, use words.

Something St. Francis of Assisi never said.


UPDATE: See also Karlo Broussard’s piece for Catholic Answers: Is It True that There Is No Truth?.

Very Messy Church Synod

Messy Church Synod

The Catholic Church is a very messy place. It is full of flawed people (well over a billion). We all hope to become saints, but for now we are all sinners, every one of us.

That is why we need the Church.

Her mission is to spread the Good News, without distortion, in order to help as many people as possible get to Heaven.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.

When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

There is no other institution like the Catholic Church. Absolutely none. This is the institution Christ himself founded, the only one.

What is a synod?

Simply put, a synod is nothing more than a fancy word for an advisory committee. Nothing more. It includes only a small fraction of the Magisterium. At its conclusion, it will make recommendations to the Holy Father.

The current Synod on the Family

I have avoided writing about this, hoping and praying that numerous reports are over-reacting. You might find this hard to believe. It is certainly deeply disappointing, but please try to keep it in perspective..

This synod, very unfortunately, is a failure. If you have been following faithful Catholic media, you are already aware of the myriad of problems. These include:

  • non-representative participation – the synod members (“synod fathers”) are not drawn from the vast majority (the good shepherds) who represent worldwide Catholicism of the ages, but instead skew heavily toward the modernist “progressive” end of the spectrum; some members have openly promoted heretical positions long before their invitation to the synod.
  • non-transparency – information flow has been anything but open. Press credentials are given to new (even non-Catholic) media with apparent heterodox agendas while actually revoked from other long-standing faithful media (even clergy). Transcripts are not provided. Official translators, mostly from progressive ranks, give their own personal summaries which have been shown to exaggerate progressive views while omitting traditional, faithful ones which were (often strongly) expressed.
  • “shadow synods” – groups pushing progressive agendas have been working in a political style, in private, strategizing how to steer the result.
  • pre-determined results – credible reports of at least draft forms of the final synod recommendations are persistent, including prior to the synod starting.
  • extraordinary synod experiences – the shennigans from the preparatory synod last Fall are legion and quite well documented. This has NOT resulted in effective reforms for the synod itself. If anything, circumstances are worse.
  • synod rules – differ from previous synods and are a major facilitator of the problems.
  • wide ranging issues – the purpose of this synod is to strengthen the family, yet non-related homosexual issues and women’s ordination to the diaconate have been permitted while faithful bishops have been shutdown when supporting the continuous teaching of the Church.

Response of the Faithful

Over 800,000 people, including many Bishops and Cardinals, have signed an extraordinary Filial Appeal to Pope Francis asking for clarification.

During the synod, a group of Cardinals (including Cardinal Dolan of New York City) have written to Pope Francis expressing their alarm.

Numerous books by groups of faithful Cardinals and Bishops have been authored in response to the false, dangerous proposals some have made in the last few years which are coming to a climax now.

Probable Outcome

Doctrine is inerrant and therefore can not be changed (ever), so accept that as a given.

The synod itself may or may not produce a public final report. If it does, expect it to be ambiguous and contradictory. The committee tasked with writing it is clearly stacked. Pope Francis might take no action. If he does, expect approval of “pastoral responses” to “certain needs” which he either specifies OR leaves up to national bishop conferences.

Either way, the net result of this in much of Europe (Germany for sure while Poland not at all) and certain non-European areas (including parts of the US), will be an increase in significant abuses. This is similar to the pattern that followed Vatican II. People will be led away from truth to their eternal detriment.

There is talk of this causing schism (that won’t happen, but true unity will suffer). Bishops are being urged to walk away from the synod should it be necessary for them to show their strongest disagreement with its often outrageous conduct and false conclusions.

YET, the Church will survive. We may see harmful turmoil, but in the end the Church will pull together, possibly smaller, but stronger than ever. Perhaps it will be under a different pope and not in our lifetimes. This remains the Church Christ founded, it can be wounded, but the gates of Hell can not prevail.

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?”

He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.

For now, pray. Pray for the faithful bishops who fight against this stacked deck. Pray for the heterodox bishops who seek compromise with the fallen world under a banner of false mercy. Pray for Pope Francis, that he strongly and clearly lead the Church in the truth of Christ.

“Gay marriage”

Gay Marriage

Last week, as almost everyone now knows, the Supreme Court of the United States of America fabricated a new “right” for homosexual unions to be recognized as marriage.

A Legal Fiction

Legal fictions can be useful, although this one most certainly is not. A useful fiction, for example, is the way law treats a corporation as a “person.” As such it has certain rights and responsibilities including paying taxes or being subject to suit as if it were a person distinct from the owner or owners. This facilitates commerce and is morally neutral.

“Gay marriage” is simply a new legal fiction. What constitutes marriage and morality in general has never been up to government and never will be. Ideally, government is enlightened and informed by God, the creator, and recognizes all rights flow from Him. Our founding documents acknowledge this but we have “evolved” to an enlightened view of our own making to our detriment.


  • Government long ago redefined the bond of marriage to be dissoluble. Legally marriage is a state one can enter into and exit as they wish as many times as they wish. That has also always been a fiction.
  • Government redefined life itself as something that comes into existence only when it says so (contrary to science). This allows the “termination” of life to not only be without (legal) consequences, but also to be a cherished “right.”

Built on Lies

Marriage as God created it and as it has been universally understood for millennia has not changed. This Supreme Court decision is just that, a deeply flawed and seriously harmful opinion of the narrowest majority. It is a legal construct, unfortunately divorced from reality.

The people of very few states approve of this. When put to a popular vote, with very few exceptions, “gay marriage” was defeated. In many cases however, the will of the people was overruled by their legislatures and most often by federal judges. The media ignores this fact, preferring to mislead by noting only 14 states at this point did not “allow” it. That the states who did “allow” it were forced to against their will is not mentioned.

Of special note are the Catholic justices who supported this decision: Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Their votes were a clear rejection of God, Jesus Christ and His Church. There is no wiggle room on this. This travesty passed only because both of them supported it. In the 5-4 decision, all 4 of the dissenters (Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas) are Catholic.

The Effect

There are three major effects of this:

  1. Religious freedom will be relentlessly attacked, long term. The heavy hand of the law will be used to bludgeon any who dare to publicly resist cooperation with this immoral fiction. Activists will seek to bully through intimidation, threats and whatever legal traps they can craft with great zeal.
  2. The valid role of government in fostering procreation within stable families, structured for the benefit of children, is further muddled.
  3. People who suffer with homosexual attraction are scandalized. Instead of helping them, they are increasingly told their unnatural and immoral temptations are actually completely normal, healthy and should be a source of pride. This will never result in their true happiness.

What to Expect

Beyond the long-lasting effects noted above, it is almost certain that further “evolutionary progress” will be made in the legal understanding of family and marriage:

  • marriage of brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, etc.
  • reducing the minimum age for marriage
  • polygamy is more natural than homosexuality so why limit marriage to only 2?
  • polyamory, polyandry, polygyny, polyfamilies, poly-anything-goes – why not?

Most of the arguments for “gay marriage” apply to the above. Sympathetic stories will be told, individual plights of “injustice” presented in the context of fairness and civil rights, pride parades, media support followed by corporate support and it is done.

Expect to see the process of entering into and exiting marriages, however they are defined at the moment, to be streamlined.

Many more (although not all) countries will follow in our footsteps. The UN will push harder to “recognize” this as a basic human right. Hollywood will celebrate with gay weddings appearing in most television shows beginning this fall.

Christian Response

Our respect and love for people with same sex attraction must not diminish. We will be tested in this regard, count on it. Remember too that not all people with same sex attraction support this (although many who dissent are no doubt bullied into silence).

The word “marriage” has lost its common and proper meaning. We must separate what we mean by the life-long union of one man and one woman in formation of a family from the fiction presented by the law. Words have meaning and we clearly need a new one to replace being married, getting married, marriage ceremony, marriage invitation, etc. A word is needed to accurately convey the concept given to us by God. Continuing to use the word marriage will just contribute to confusion.

Finally, we must not cooperate. This must be opposed in every way possible for the benefit of society and every person in it. This is a major setback but not a lost cause. The cause is lost only when we accept it.

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.

But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.

Support Archbishop Cordileone

Support Archbishop Cordileone

Faithful bishops around the country are concerned by the examples some teachers in their diocesan Catholic schools present to children in their care. Certainly it would be best if the teachers were all faithful Catholics. However, dissident Catholics and non-Catholics are also offered positions provided they do not lead students astray by words or actions contrary to Christ.

Therefore, teachers are increasingly asked to sign very basic morality clauses in their contracts promising that their public conduct will not openly oppose the teaching of the Church. This is not a free speech issue any more than a business asking their salesmen not to promote products of competitors or politicians refusing to hire campaign workers who promote opposing ideology. Moreover, even the supreme court has ruled in favor of religious schools (see the unanimous Hosanna-Tabor decision) in support of such obvious and reasonable requirements.

San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone is an honorable, holy and faithful shepherd assigned to a formidably difficult archdiocese. He is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage and is in no way any kind of “extremist.” Opposition to a very basic morality clause is fierce and mobilized in a political style backed by large sums of money, a high-power PR firm, an aggressively hostile city council and strongly biased media. Everything is against him except the truth.

In this lion’s den Archbishop Cordileone needs our prayers and our support. Please consider joining me and 34,000+ other fair-minded individuals in signing the petition sponsored by American Life League and Life Site News. Sign the petition HERE. Ask your friends to do likewise. More information is available at that link or feel free to contact me.

It reads:

To: The San Francisco City Council, San Francisco Catholic school board, teachers, and administrators

We, the undersigned, wish to express our strong support for Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s courageous, commonsense, and fatherly efforts to strengthen the Catholic identity of the Catholic schools in the San Francisco archdiocese.

We categorically condemn the distortions and attacks against these efforts, and the archbishop personally, spearheaded by those who seem neither to understand the basics of Catholic teaching, nor the importance of religious liberty in the health of our society.

We demand that these shameful attacks against the archbishop’s efforts to protect the Catholic identity of Catholic schools immediately cease.

We pray as well that Catholic teachers and administrators in the schools will use this controversy as an opportunity to deepen their personal commitment, as exemplified by how they live their personal lives, to Catholic teaching and to providing an authentically Catholic education to their students.

Finally, we offer our heartfelt prayers for Archbishop Cordileone and wish to express our deep gratitude for his personal courage and charity in the face of these unjust public attacks.

[Your name]


Liturgical vestments

Liturgical Vestments 2015.02.24 Liturgical Vestments.Jpg

One area of study I have ignored during the 5 years since my conversion is liturgical vestments. There is so much to learn that until now, I have given this area a very low priority. At some point however, in conversation with others, I have to stop describing the things priests or deacons wear and use their actual names. It gets to be embarrassing otherwise!

I was going to make some notes for myself, but decided that you might be interested too. Hence, this post. Please note that this is only the basics. There is a huge amount of variety by rite and somewhat by country and diocese. Proper vesting also varies by rank (for lack of a better word, e.g. priest, monsignor, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, pope) and by ceremonial usage. This should cover most common usage that you will see in your US Latin Rite parish.


The basic building block of the vestments is the alb (meaning “white” from the Latin Albus). It is that white, floor-length tunic which is under the other parts. It looks like this:

Vestments Alb
The Alb

The alb is worn by priests, deacons and lay ministers. It is derived from the ordinary clothing of Romans in the first century.

A shorter version of the alb is the surplice, plain or adorned by lace. You might recognize it worn over a black cassock (see next) in choir dress or by seminarians at Mass. There are other forms (e.g. rochet for prelates) and usages. It looks like this:

Vestments Surplice
The Surplice


Backing up, priests and deacons often wear a black clerical shirt with matching pants, belt, socks and shoes. This dress does not have a fancy name, but is usually referred to as simply “clerics” or “clerical clothing.”

A less common alternative to this is the cassock (meaning “ankle-length garment from the Latin vestis talaris; a/k/a a soutane). Jesuits, for example, wear simple black cassocks. It looks like this:

Vestments Cassock
The Cassock (plain and with bishop’s piping, cape and cincture)

Like the alb, the cassock also dates back to first century Roman tunics. It can be black or white (in warm climates) and usually features a built-in collar and top-to-bottom row of buttons (sometimes 33). It may also be worn with a shoulder cape (formally a pellegrina) and colored piping, depending on rank. It can be worn by non-clerics and is the basis for habits worn by the consecrated religious.


This you quickly recognize. It comes from the Latin stola (meaning “garment”) and is a long wide cloth worn around the neck. Deacons and priests wear it differently, thus:

Vestments Stoles
Deacon and Priest Stoles

The stole is worn over the alb (or the shorter surplice, depending on use) and its color matched to the liturgical season, feast or special Mass. It can also be worn over clerics outside of Mass (e.g. a purple stole worn by the priest at confession).


Chasuble (meaning “little house” from the Latin casula) is the outermost body garment. It is layered over the stole and alb. It looks like this:

Vestments Chasuble
The Chasuble (for priests)

The chasuble is worn by priests only at Mass or other sacred actions connected to a Mass. It is derived from traveling coats worn at the end of the Roman empire. Like the stole, its color is liturgically keyed.


Like the chasuble, the dalmatic is worn over stoles and albs. It is similarly ornamented and colored and at a glance may appear to be the same. It’s not and it is important to know the difference because of who wears each. Unlike the chasuble, the dalmatic has wide sleeves, customarily with a slit under each in a scapular style (although not always). Additionally, the dalmatic typically has 2 stripes which run from hem to hem over the shoulders with 2 cross stripes connecting them. It looks like this:

Vestments Dalmatic
The Dalmatic (for deacons)

While only priests wear chasubles, only deacons wear dalmatics. Except on special uses where a bishop wears a dalmatic under his chasuble (confusing, huh?). One final note, in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Tridentine), the dalmatics worn by subdeacons are distinguished from those of deacons by having only 1 cross stripe (vs. 2 for deacons). These dalmatics are also known as tunicles and of course, subdeacons (constituted but not ordained) do not wear stoles under them.

Other Stuff


Braided cords, white or keyed to the liturgical color, tied around the waist with knotted or tasseled ends hanging on the side. These can also be wider bands as worn by bishops. It looks like this:

Vestments Cincture
Cincture (around waist)


Cope (meaning “cape,” from the Latin cappa) is easily recognized as an long cape draped over the shoulders, open in front and worn over other vestments. It looks like this:

Vestments Cope
The Cope

The cope is worn by priests during special Solemnities and Eucharistic adoration.

Humeral Veil

A special garment worn briefly by priests and deacons during the blessing, while grasping a monstrance at the end of adoration of the blessed sacrament. It looks like this:

Vestments Humeral Veil
The Humeral Veil


A biretta (from the Latin biretum, birretum) is a square cap with 3 “peaks” (in a square, the corner without a peak is worn to the left). They are black (for priests and lower rank), amaranth (reddish rose) for bishops and scarlet red for cardinals. Tufts (poms) are on top except for cardinals. Bishops have purple tufts and some Vatican priests have red tufts, but most are black. It looks like this.

Vestments Biretta
The Biretta

The biretta is worn by all ranks below pope to subdeacons and seminarians.

Bishop Stuff


Those “pointy hats” worn by bishops. It looks like this:

Vestments Mitre
The Mitre


The skull cap worn by prelates (i.e. pope and bishops). See picture below.

Pectoral Cross

A large cross worn on a chain or cord by bishops. It looks like this:

Vestments Pectoral Cross And Zucchetto
Pectoral Cross and Zucchetto (Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone)

Concluding Notes

This list is not exhaustive, but covers common vestments you will see. Other vestments include the maniple, amice, pallium, ferula, pontifical gloves and sandals, galero, camauro, fanon, mozzetta, papal tiara, subcinctorium, falda, etc. Still other additional vestments apply to Eastern Rite Catholic churches. Much more can be said about each item listed on its use, history and symbolism.

I also did not address in any detail when these vestments can be worn and in what combinations. There is a lot of tradition here and for many cases, the requirements are detailed in the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal). Some things are debatable (e.g. wearing a maniple in the OF Mass).

Also note that clergy sometime fill a different liturgical role than that of their rank. For example, priests sometimes serve and dress as deacons when they are not concelebrating or deacons in choir dress acting as master of ceremonies. You are most likely to see this kind of thing (when useful, if at all) for a Mass celebrated by your bishop. Generally, if you see someone wearing a chasuble they are a priest; if they are wearing a dalmatic then they are a deacon.

Lastly, this piece did not touch on similarly rich non-vestment liturgical items such as the crucifix (OK, that one is easy), tabernacle, sanctuary lamp (tabernacle lamp), ambo, altar, missal (sacramentary), breviary, lectionary, the Roman Ritual / Roman Pontifical / Roman Martyrology / Roman Gradual, crosier, processional cross, processional candles, paschal candle, font, chalice, ciborium, host, paten, cruets, credence table, thurible (censer) and boat, incense, aspersory and aspergillum (aspergill), monstrance (ostensorium or ostensory) and its luna, pyx, chalice veil, purificatior (mundatory or purificatory), pall, finger towels, corporal, burse, etc. You can see why I didn’t get into all that here!