The "Missionaries of Mercy":
Anatomy of a PR gimmick
by Christopher A. Ferrara
March 18, 2016
Now that 1000 “Missionaries of Mercy” have been launched on their mission by Pope Francis, the question arises: What exactly are they supposed to do that ordinary parish priests cannot do? The answer has already become clear: absolutely nothing, as shown by an inadvertently revealing story at Catholic News Agency (CNA).
As the story notes, according to the Vatican, the “Missionaries of Mercy” (MOMs) have been given a faculty “to absolve sins in cases otherwise reserved to the Holy See.” For the umpteenth time we see confusion between the absolution of “sins reserved to the Holy See,” of which there are actually none under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and the absolution of penalties attached to sins, such as excommunication, which in some cases are still reserved to the Vatican even where the sins have been absolved locally by a parish priest.
In this regard, the Catholic press has passed over in silence the significance of a Vatican “clarification” CNA reports:
Though there are several such sins, the Holy See has clarified that the faculties of the Missionaries of Mercy are limited to just four.
Namely, they are: Profaning the Eucharistic species by taking them away or keeping them for a sacrilegious purpose; the use of physical force against the Roman Pontiff; the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment (“thou shalt not commit adultery”) and a direct violation against the sacramental seal by a confessor.
Notice that two of the four sins are committed by clerics only, and that one — stealing the Eucharist in order to defile it — is an offense very few members of the laity have ever committed, almost all them Satanists.
Notice also what is missing from the list: abortion, or rather the latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication attached to abortion under Canon 1398. Why is abortion not on the list? Answer: there is no “sin reserved to the Holy See,” nor any penalty reserved to the Holy See regarding abortion. Any parish priest can absolve the sin and the same priest can lift the penalty.
The reader will remember the worldwide media accounts that Francis, whom the media constantly hail as “the Pope of mercy” in derogation of his supposedly merciless predecessors, had authorized MOMs to “forgive the sin of abortion.” Where did they get that idea? From Francis! As he declared in his widely published letter to Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization:
For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured itand who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.
You read correctly: Francis “conceded” to priests for his “Year of Mercy” discretion they already had, thus implicitly contracting the scope of mercy already available in the confessional. Oops. Hence the Vatican’s belated “clarification” that Francis has not, in fact, granted any faculty to “forgive the sin of abortion.”
As to the four penalties listed above, what was to prevent Francis from simply granting every parish priest in the world a faculty to remit the penalties in keeping with the theme of God’s “limitless” mercy? Absolutely nothing.
So, then, just what service to the Church do the MOMs perform that could not otherwise have been provided without the time and expense required to bring hundreds of priests to Rome to receive their special “mandate” as MOMs? None whatsoever. Just how superfluous the MOMs are is shown by CNA’s own report:
Bishops will be able to contact Missionaries of Mercy nearby and invite them to come to their dioceses.
Fr. Landry [one of the MOMs] said that when the missionaries are invited by a bishop to come to a diocese, the concrete things they'll actually do depends on what that particular bishop wants.
“Every pastor, every bishop that writes a Missionary of Mercy in will have a general idea of how best to put him to work,” he said, explaining that in most places they will likely be invited to preach and hear confessions in forums such as congresses, youth conventions, events for families and pilgrimages.
In other words, beyond remitting four penalties Francis could have authorized any parish priest to remit, the bishops will have to think up things for the MOMs to do, if they even decide to write a MOM into their diocesan schedules. But all of the functions Landry mentions can be, and already are, performed by regular priests.
Is this a joke? No. It’s a public relations gimmick in service of a slogan: “Pope Francis’ Revolution of Tenderness and Love,” as Cardinal Kasper so shamelessly describes it. For the past 50 years — but today more than ever — the Church has been governed by such revolutionary slogans and “happenings” rather than the substance of the Catholic faith. And it is this cloud of useless ephemera that marks perhaps the greatest crisis in Church history.