From Franciscan Media
Saint Angela of Foligno, Saint of the Day for January 8
(1248 – January 4, 1309)
Saint Angela of Foligno’s story
Some saints show marks of holiness very early. Not Angela! Born of a leading family in Foligno, Italy, she became immersed in the quest for wealth and social position. As a wife and mother, she continued this life of distraction.
Around the age of 40, she recognized the emptiness of her life and sought God’s help in the Sacrament of Penance. Her Franciscan confessor helped Angela to seek God’s pardon for her previous life and to dedicate herself to prayer and the works of charity.
Shortly after her conversion, her husband and children died. Selling most of her possessions, she entered the Secular Franciscan Order. She was alternately absorbed by meditating on the crucified Christ and by serving the poor of Foligno as a nurse and beggar for their needs. Other women joined her in a religious community.
At her confessor’s advice, Angela wrote her Book of Visions and Instructions. In it she recalls some of the temptations she suffered after her conversion; she also expresses her thanks to God for the Incarnation of Jesus. This book and her life earned for Angela the title “Teacher of Theologians.” She was beatified in 1693, and canonized in 2013.
People who live in the United States today can understand Saint Angela’s temptation to increase her sense of self-worth by accumulating money, fame or power. Striving to possess more and more, she became more and more self-centered. When she realized she was priceless because she was created and loved by God, she became very penitential and very charitable to the poor. What had seemed foolish early in her life now became very important. The path of self-emptying she followed is the path all holy men and women must follow. The Liturgical Feast of Saint Angela of Foligno is January 7.
Capital Punishment Confusion at the Top
The papal confusion around capital punishment, beginning with Pope John Paul II—which led to our book, at Amazon, on the subject, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support—has gotten into real confused territory under Pope Francis, as this article from Catholic World Report notes.
Debate has always been an invigorating and constructive way of defining and refining views, assuming that the debaters have minds of probity and reason. This is increasingly absent in our culture, where subjectivism rules, and where there is only one debater, and his opponent is a straw man of his own construction.
Yet when one reads the “spontaneous remarks” of Pope Francis on various subjects of the day, the quality of reasoning and information of facts is so fugitive, that frustration yields to sheer embarrassment. There is, for example, the Holy Father’s remarks to youth in Turin on a hot June day in 2015: even a Reuters press release said that his smorgasbord of concerns, from bankers to the weapons industry to Nazi concentration camps, was “rambling.” While constrained by respect for the Petrine office, and aware of the strains that imposes, it is distressing to look for a train of thought and find only a train wreck.
That has to be the impression after reading the Pope’s remarks to a Delegation of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty. Pope Francis reiterated his absolutist opposition to the death penalty which, by a singular gesture, he has also ordered be inscribed in the Catechism. Perhaps aware that public response might be problematic, he did not mention his opposition even to life sentences, having called them a form of “hidden death penalty”. This went far beyond the second edition of the 1992 Catechism, which affirmed the integrity of capital punishment in Scripture and Tradition but added that the cases in which the execution of the offender as an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” By adding to a catechetical text a prudential opinion, John Paul II did something unprecedented and the whirlwind now being reaped in a pontificate less theologically acute, could justify concluding that the insertion of a prudential apostrophe was imprudent.
Pope Francis uses the term ”inadmissible” to describe the death penalty, although it has no theological substance, and by avoiding words such as “immoral” or “wrong”, inflicts on discourse an ambiguity similar to parts of Amoris Laetitia. The obvious meaning is that capital punishment is intrinsically evil, but to say so outright would be too blatant. He also calls all life “inviolable,” a term which applies only to innocent life and has no moral warrant otherwise. Then there is the ancillary and unmentioned consideration of the role of punishment and hell in all this, conjuring a suspicion of universalism, which is the denial of eternal alienation from God.
In 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger explained: “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia” and should a Catholic support the death penalty “he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.” Pope Francis has discarded that, just as he has set aside the entire magisterial tradition of the Church on the kinds of penalties—medicinal and retributive—and their functions. This is no surprise, since an attaché of the Holy See Press Office, Father Thomas Rosica, has said in a statement ultramontane to the point of heresy: “Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.”
Exceptional delineations of authentic teaching on penalties were explained by Pius XII in his discourse to the First National Conference of Italian Lawyers in 1949 and the Sixth Internal Congress of Penal Law in 1953. A definitive new study is the book By Man Shall His Blood be Shed by Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette. Professor Feser has logically asked why we should have reverence for a father who has no reverence for the fathers, and warns that by divorcing his teaching from the constant tradition, Pope Francis is cutting off the very branch on which he sits.
Pope Francis justifies himself by invoking a “”progress” in society, but this is a humanistic—even Pelagian—confidence that has no warrant in reality. It also lets loose a cataract of contradictions. For instance, one of the Pope’s men, Archbishop Marcelo Sorondo, praised Communist China for coming “closer to Catholic social teaching” than the United States, although there were 23 executions in the United States last year compared with 1,551 in China, more than all other nations combined.