Saturday, December 5, 2015

Mercy Priest: Speaking Against Pope Same as Physically Assaulting Him

Archbishop Fisichella holds up a large
word-stone for reporters.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella is President of the Pontifical Council of New Evangelization.

He was chatting with Aleteia about the powers of Mercy Priests, and said they could even absolve people from sins normally reserved to the holy see. After ticking off four or five of these heinous sins, he mentioned "physical violence on the Roman Pontiff." Well, sure. Physically attacking the Pope ought to be pretty serious.

But wait. Archbishop Fisichella said this. "I would say we need to understand 'physical violence' because sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones. and, therefore I believe some of these sins are far more widespread than we think."

Okay, now you may laugh.

Let me explain this just in case Archbishop Fisichella should somehow see it.

Words are immaterial for all intents and purposes. They are expressions of thoughts, opinions and mental events like that. They cannot physically hurt you. They are not rocks or stones. A good way to keep this straight is an old saying we have in English-speaking countries: "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me."

Archbishop Fisichella is confused about what a metaphor is. A metaphor compares two things without using a connecting word such as "like." "Sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones." That's a metaphor. Just because you utter or write a metaphor doesn't make it really, literally true. A word will never be a rock or stone no matter how many times you chant it. It will just be a word.

Therefore, while you may metaphorically say ill-speaking against the Roman Pontiff is a stone or a rock thrown at him, it does not and never can constitute a physical attack on the Pope. It might make him sad, or angry, should he learn of it, but it won't knock him down, or give him a skull fracture or or severe lacerations on the face that require over 300 stiches.

The Bear apologizes to those of you with an IQ above 85, but he felt it was important to educate someone in such an important position on the difference between figures of speech and physical objects.


  1. swords....words....So, I was raised with "sticks & stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me". Then it became "Wait, words CAN hurt" and I believed it, because I believed everything I read in my younger years and I started being afraid of words. How goofy is that? I think (like your poll is telling) that we need to re-establish outselves in the absolute Truth absolutely. If the Archbishop were speaking of calumny, then for goodness sakes, say what THAT. Swords...words...nuances. I am glad for a bear that can write expresssively with clarity, whatever mood he is in.

    1. You are very welcome! The Bear spends the better part of every day on one aspect or another of this little circus. People even throw him a fish once in awhile!

  2. Soon we'll be commanded to burn incense to him while we venerate the poor.

  3. I wonder if Archbishop Rino Fisichella could show how these "word rocks" have actually damaged the Pope. Would the good Archbishop say that the Pope Francis tendency to call good Catholics names and constantly make confusing statements is evidence of the damage.

    1. LOL, TBI from being stoned by "word rocks" from the Catholic blogosphere. Archbishop Fisichella's comments are an example of what passes for thinking in Pope Francis' Church. He's the perfect man to head up the "New Evangelization," which actually means "No Evangelization at All."

  4. I think, Bear, a wee distinction might be made between speech which is intended to wound the character or integrity of a person and that which is understood or interpreted as wounding or cruel by the person who is the object.of such speech.

    There are many hypersensitive and thin-skinned folks running about the world these days who play the 'victim' at the drop of a hat.

    I was taught that deliberately cruel speech is a sin against the Fifth Commandment. I also learned that inordinate sensitivity is often wedded to pride. If you want to play rough-and-tumble with the big boys you have to expect you might get your knees scuffed.

  5. Speech can be a sin, no doubt. It cannot be physical assault, which is the element of the offense whose absolution is reserved to the holy see. Should one sin by calumny or detraction against the Pope, he may be absolved by his regular confessor, no matter what verbal "stones" he may have thrown. What's next, thinking bad thoughts about the Pope is the same as a physical assault and you cannot be absolved except by the holy see? Fisichella, who holds a great deal of responsibility, is simply speaking nonsense.

    But may the Bear make an observation? How many times has Pope Francis condemned sinful speech, calling it terrorism, and murder. And at least on the airplane he explicitly linked it to those "fundamentalists" he is always talking about. The Bear believes the Pope and apparatchiks like Fisichella may be deliberately trying to chill criticism of their program.

    Fisichella's statement is mind-bogglingly asinine and an excellent example of the type of unreality that is the matrix for thinking in the Church today. Most of what you hear from the Vatican, from the Pope on down, is completely unconnected to reality. Take Archbishop's Fisichella's New Evangelization. The Bear is certain the Archbishop, using the same logic that turns a word into a stone, believes he is doing a wonderful job with the New Evangelization, and that it is a stunning success. There is no accountability. A word is a stone, and a fiasco is a success, because they say so.

    1. Amen. Canonical penalties are understood in the narrowest of terms. Words against the Holy Father, while they might be harmful and sinful, can never constitute literal "physical violence" and thus can never incur the penalty that CIC 1370 speaks of.

      Archbishop Fisichella's suggestion otherwise is among the most absurd of Vatican Newspeak and should be rejected out of hand.

  6. I agree with your train of thought and argument, Bear. 'Assault' in law, if I recall, is distinguishable from battery in that the former is based on a reasonable apprehension of being battered, if you will.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is case law for speech ('boo in the dark') causing shock leading to heart attack.

    I have presided over hearings where one would think the opposing attorneys were each trying to inflict a death of a thousands cuts on the character and integrity of a witness. I am ashamed to say that the best dispatched their quarry before the game even knew he/she was dead.

  7. But what if these word-rocks come from the periphery? What then? Doesn't the periphery get a pass?

  8. Re: Liam and Valdemar.

    I wonder how criticism of the Pope and his operatives can possibly be a sin particularly if the criticism is true.
    The Pope is a public figure, the Pope often acts like a politician dealing with earthly matters, the Pope is plainly wrong on many matters of faith and quite possibly a heretic, the Pope is confusing many Catholics, the Pope could be responsible for folks going to hell..

    So........ it seems to me the issue should not be about condemning the criticism of Pope Francis but rather how better to praise and encourage it...

    1. Legally, you're absolutely right, Mike. Public figures are exempt, truth is an absolute defense, etc. But there is detraction, where even disclosing something true is a sin. It might even be sacrilege to make fun of the Pope.

      But when the Pope preaches communism in season and out of season, or wants to weigh in on questionable public policy like global warming like any secular politician, or skate close to the edge of heresy (if not further than that) I don't see how fair, even invited, comment can be a sin. Indeed, as you suggest, I think we have a duty as Catholics and citizens to comment.

      I think it would be a sin to lie about the Pope, or to disclose some unknown, private thing, to the public.

      Is it a sin to make fun of the Pope? My position is that I am working in a unique medium that gives me very little time to grab a reader's attention and set a tone. And if he consents to be photographed wearing a clown nose, he can hardly complain of people use it.

      But I would probably not flat out make fun of him like I do of Cardinal Marx, or do a parody. I'm sure I've crossed the line, but I try to be careful.

    2. That sounds most balanced and reasonable Bear. Of course, the Cardinals have the greatest responsibility for correcting and/or replacing the Pope. But my guess few do this. becomes our mission by default.

    3. Just for the record, Michael, if you would kindly revisit my original posting you will see I never said it was a sin; rather, I tried to draw a distinction.

      In truth, but for one or two small nuances, I wholly agree with the Bear. Peace!

  9. "Speaking Against Pope Same as Physically Assaulting Him", NO it is not!

  10. I am going to produce an analogy and use the word "like".
    This man's words are like the words of the American Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who recently threatened the full force of the government against anyone whose words "promoted violence" against Muslims, the day after the massacre, when she attended a Muslim event and promised to support them.

    What diabolical liberals can't control, they censor.

  11. A new papacy requires a few new commandments. Dolt!

  12. Wait, what about the "rocks" that the Pope throws at people on a regular basis?--those lobbed at vague, unnamed members of the Church who are "doing it all wrong"? The loaded phrases, the insults generated that [must!] have a carbon footprint of their own by now.

    I confess another playground retort comes to mind: "He hit me first!"


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