Archbishop's column

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

'Before The Cross' by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Archbishop Carlson is the ninth Archbishop of Saint Louis. Listed below are the most recent columns written by Archbishop Carlson; click on the title to read the column. The Archdiocesan website has more information about Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

Safeguarding human life: the very beginning


Living in a culture which has lost its fundamental moral anchor, we should not be surprised at the attacks on human life, at all stages of development, in our nation. On the contrary, we must be vigilant in promoting the respect for human life, safeguarding the life of every brother and sister from the moment of inception to the moment of natural death.

During the coming months, we will face a particular challenge in safeguarding human life at its very beginning.Proponents of human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research are proposing an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would give scientists and medical researchers the right to create human embryos through human cloning (or through in-vitro fertilization) to destroy the embryos for the purpose of obtaining stem cells.The proposed amendment would also give the right to state funding for such an intrinsically immoral activity.According to plans, the amendment would be placed on the ballot for approval by the citizens of Missouri on Nov. 7, 2006.

In the meantime, the proponents of human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research will be seeking signatures on a petition to have the proposed amendment placed on the ballot.The entire initiative is called, in a beguiling manner, "Missouri Stem-cell Research and Cures Initiative."

It is critical that we as Catholics, true to the teaching of the natural moral law, oppose the initiativebecause it seeks to make legal the taking of human life.To sign a petition favoring the initiative is to promote the culture of death which tragically besets our nation and constitutes a cooperation in the destruction of human lives at their very beginning.

Human embryos are human beings

In his encyclical letter "Evangelium Vitae," our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II cautioned us "to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name (Pope John Paul II, encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae [On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life]," March 25, 1995, n. 58b).We are masters of euphemism and politically correct language. Such improper language can dull our consciousness regarding the reality about which we are speaking.

The human embryo is a brother or sister at one of the very early stages of his or her development.All of us, in the history of our development, were once a human embryo.As a human embryo, we had already received from God our identity as a human being.Our identity has remained always the same through the various stages of our development.There was not something added to our being as a human embryo, at some later stage, which changed who we are.In his most helpful booklet on the subject of embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, an expert in both biotechnology and moral theology, tells us:

"Embryos are no different in their essential humanity from a fetus in the womb, a 10-year old boy, or a 100-year old woman.At every stage of development, human beings (whether zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, infant, adolescent or adult) retain their identity as an enduring being that grows toward its subsequent stage(s); embryos are integral beings structured for maturation along their proper time line" (Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Stem Cell Research, Cloning and Human Embryos, Washington, D.C.: Family Research Council, n.d.).

With our penchant for euphemism, the human embryo because of its size and appearance can be described in various ways which ignore the most fundamental truth.As Father Pacholczyk comments: "Despite their unfamiliar appearance, embryos are what very young humans are supposed to look like" (ibid.).

Scientific truth or religious faith

The truth that the human embryo is a human being is not a matter of religious faith.It is a matter of biological science.Biology, and, more specifically, embryology, teaches us that once fertilization (or a procedure which replaces fertilization like human cloning) takes place, a new human being comes into existence.Here I note that we used to say that the stages of human development span from conception (fertilization) to natural death.Now, because of the technology of human cloning, we must refer to the beginning of human life by the word, "inception," since it is possible to generate a new human life outside of conception, that is outside the conjugal union of father and mother, even though it is gravely immoral to do so.

The scientific truth about the human embryo has the most serious implications for our religious faith and practice.Once science teaches us that the human embryo is, in fact, a human being at an early stage of development, our religious faith, which teaches us love of neighbor without boundary or limitation, demands that we safeguard the human embryo and promote its growth and development.

The safeguarding of human life is part of the natural moral law which our religious faith further illuminates.The grace of divine charity inspires and strengthens us to observe the law which God has written in our hearts. As citizens of Missouri, we know that the natural moral law is at the foundation of the justice of every law and that the common good which the natural moral law promotes demands the protection of innocent human life, the safeguarding of the right to life.

It is our strictest obligation, therefore, to work for the protection of the life of the human embryo and to urge others to join us in upholding the natural law of safeguarding human life, not as a specifically Catholic belief but as part of the moral heritage which belongs to all.

Inviolable dignity of the human embryo

Once we know that the human embryo is a human being, a human life, we are bound in conscience to safeguard his or her life.In a particular way, we must be vigilant for the protection of the life of the human embryo, for it is innocent and totally defenseless.

In our society’s confusion about the fundamental moral law, the inviolable dignity of the human embryo is said to be justified for the purpose of curing certain illnesses or repairing some physical damage caused, for instance, by an accident.Apart from the question of whether stem cells obtained through the destruction of human embryos is, in fact, an effective treatment for the illnesses or physical impairment, it is never morally justified to do something intrinsically evil to accomplish some good.Even if the stem cells obtained from the human embryos could be effective in treating the suffering of others, it would not justify our destruction of an innocent and defenseless human life.

In his encyclical letter "Evangelium Vitae," Pope John Paul II reminded us that the destruction of the human embryo is a violation of the respect owed to every human life, just as is procured abortion.He wrote:

"This evaluation of the morality of abortion is to be applied also to the recent forms of intervention on human embryos which, although carried out for purposes legitimate in themselves, inevitably involve the killing of those embryos.This is the case with experimentation on embryos, which is becoming increasingly widespread in the field of biomedical research and is permitted in some countries. It must nonetheless be stated that the use of human embryos or fetuses as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person" (n. 63a).

He continued, applying the teaching also to the case of the generation of human embryos or fetuses for some medical purpose:

This moral condemnation also regards procedures that exploit living human embryos and fetuses — sometimes specifically "produced" for this purpose by in vitro fertilization — either to be used as "biological material" or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases.The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act (n. 63b).

As citizens bound by the moral obligation to promote the common good, we should not only oppose any legislation or amendment to the Constitution of the state of Missouri which would make legal intrinsically evil acts, but we must work for legislation and constitutional guarantees directed to the respect for the inviolable dignity of innocent human life.

What about human cloning?

Human cloning, a procedure for the generation of new human life "without any connection with sexuality," is a grave violation of the moral law, opposing "the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, instruction Donum Vitae [On Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day]," Feb. 22, 1987, I, n. 6).Father Pacholczyk provides us a concise and clear description of the procedure:

"This kind of cloning involves taking the nucleus of a body (somatic) cell and introducing it into an egg cell (ovum) which has had its nucleus removed.The resultant cloned embryo is then implanted into a uterus to bring it to birth.The cloned embryo is an identical twin of the person who donated the starting somatic cell.Cloning is simply another approach to mimicking the biology that generates identical twins" (Stem Cell Research, Cloning and Human Embryos).

Nature teaches us that human life is a gift from God through the cooperation of father and mother in the conjugal act.To presume to generate life artificially or mechanically is a violation of the natural moral law and an offense to God, who is the author of all life.It subjects human life to the manipulation of technicians and leads to a domination of individual human lives, which is contrary to the inherent freedom of the individual.

Sometimes, cloning is called by another name, "somatic cell nuclear transfer."The same moral objections to human cloning, therefore, apply to somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).Here again, the practice of euphemism can enter into our discussions, confusing us about the reality in question.

What about therapeutic cloning?

Some who oppose reproductive cloning —that is, cloning for the purpose of generating a new human being identical to another human being — claim that therapeutic cloning, that is cloning for the purpose of obtaining stem cells, is morally acceptable.The truth is that both reproductive and therapeutic cloning generate artificially a new human life, which is immoral itself.Therapeutic cloning involves an additional grave moral evil, for the new human life is generated to destroy the life at the embryonic stage.In other words, instead of implanting the cloned embryo in the womb, technicians destroy the embryo to obtain its stem cells.

Father Pacholczyk points out an effect of human cloning which may evade our notice.Through the practice of human cloning, we, in effect, create a class of human beings whose inherent dignity is not respected and who are, therefore, subject to our violation of their most basic rights.In the words of Father Pacholczyk, "[t]herapeutic cloning sanctions the direct and explicit exploitation of one human being by another, in this case, the exploitation of the weak by the powerful" (Stem Cell Research, Cloning and Human Embryos).

Should not we leave it to the experts?

Clearly, to understand embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning requires a certain knowledge of human biology and biotechnology. As a result, some have taken the position that the procedures involved are too technical for everyday understanding and any judgment about the morality of the procedures must be left to experts.We cannot excuse ourselves from the protection of a human life because the assault on the life involves a certain complicated technology.On the contrary, we are even more obliged to find out what is involved in the procedures of embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning to safeguard the dignity of all human life.

We turn to experts to understand the nature of the procedures, but we pose to the experts the ultimate question about the rightness or wrongness of the procedures, according to the dictates of the natural moral law.Some experts believe that the mere fact that a procedure can be carried out successfully justifies it.For us, the fact that we can do something in no way justifies that we do it.Only the inherent goodness of the act can justify it.The inherent evil of the act makes its impossible for us to accept.

There are a number of reliable resources prepared for those of us who are not experts in biology and biotechnology that help very much to understand the serious moral questions involved in embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning.I recommend Father Pacholczyk’s booklet from which I have quoted several times: "Stem Cell Research, Cloning and Human Embryos."It is available from the Family Research Council, 801 G Street NW, Washington, D.C. 2001.The Web site of the Family Research Council is A thorough and excellent live presentation of Father Pacholczyk is also available on DVD.It is titled "Cutting through the Spin on Stem Cells and Cloning" and is available from the Donum Vitae Center for Bioethics.You can order the DVD either by visiting the Center’s Web site,, or by calling (877) 773-4481.

Also, Our Sunday Visitor has produced two excellent pamphlets: "What the Church Teaches: Stem Cell Research" and "What the Church Teaches: Human Cloning." They can be obtained by visiting the Web site of Our Sunday Visitor publications,, or by calling (800) 348-2440, ext.3. Also, please feel free to contact the Respect Life Apostolate of the archdiocese, which has available a number of these resources.The telephone number of the Respect Life Apostolate is (314) 792-7555, and the fax number is (314) 792-7569.
Is the Church against the use of stem cells?

Because of the Church’s objection to embryonic stem-cell research, she is often accused of being against all stem-cell research that offers the promise of cure or help for those suffering from certain diseases or physical impairments.The impression is given that Catholics are heartless before the situation of persons suffering, for example, from Alzheimer’s disease or spinal injuries from an accident.Clearly, given the gravity of the suffering involved for the individuals and their families, the discussion can become very emotional.In discussing the issues, we must respect the desire to assist our suffering brothers and sisters, and to understand the feelings of those who are close to them and want to help them in any way possible.At the same time, we know that only the truth will lead us to do what is truly good and charitable.Speaking the truth with love, we will help those who suffer and those who seek to assist them.

The accusation that the Catholic Church is opposed to all stem-cell research is false.The Church, in fact, favors research involving stem cells for the purpose of restoring health.The Church opposes embryonic stem-cell research because it involves an intrinsically immoral act, the destruction of a human life.Stem cells can be obtained, for instance, from umbilical cord blood or from adults.Such stem cells, in fact, have shown good result in the treatment of certain health
conditions.In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we should be particularly proud of the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and its support by St. Louis University.

Here, it should be noted that, while there are many documented cases of cures through the use of adult stem cells, there is no documented case of a cure through the use of embryonic stem cells.On the contrary, the result has been negative, namely the formation of tumors and other difficulties in recipients of embryonic stem cells. Father Pacholczyk tells us:

"Up to now, no human being has ever been cured of a disease using embryonic stem cells.Adult stem cells, on the other hand, have repaired scar tissue on the heart after heart attacks.Research using adult cells is 20-30 years ahead of embryonic stem cell research and holds greater promise.This is in part because stem cells are part of the natural repair mechanisms of an adult body, while embryonic stem cells do not belong in an adult body (where they are likely to form tumors, and to be rejected as foreign tissue by the recipient).Rather, embryonic stem cells really belong only within the specialized microenvironment of a rapidly growing embryo, which is a radically different setting than an adult body" (Stem Cell Research, Cloning and Human Embryos).

The popular presentation of embryonic stem-cell research would have us believe that opposition to it is the denial of a cure to persons with grave physical suffering.There is no positive indication to that effect.And, if there were, it would still be wrong to destroy a human life to achieve the effect.

What next?

In order that we all take up our most serious responsibility for the protection of the life of the human embryo, the Bishops of the Province of St. Louis (Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop John R. Gaydos of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Bishop John J. Leibrecht of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau and myself as archbishop of St. Louis) have asked that the homilies in all parishes on the First Sunday of Advent be devoted to teaching the inviolable dignity of the life of the human embryo, and the intrinsic evil of embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning.

The First Sunday of Advent, with which we begin our preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, is a most fitting time for us to reflect on the inviolable dignity of every human life.God the Son became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary and was born into the family of Mary and Joseph on Christmas to give up His life to save every brother and sister without boundary or exception.God the Son Incarnate teaches us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan to love every brother and sister without boundary or exception.By His passion, death and resurrection, He has won for us the grace so to live and love one another.

Following the First Sunday of Advent, we bishops also have asked each parish to sponsor an educational event, open to all parishioners, for the purpose of discussing the issues surrounding embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning in the state of Missouri.A number of excellent presenters are available through the Archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate.The educational event will be announced in your parish on the First Sunday of Advent.I urge you to take part in it.

The Missouri Catholic Conference, the public-policy arm of the bishops of the Province of St. Louis, will be working together with the diocesan offices, which have responsibility for the respect life or pro-life apostolate.The Web site address of the Missouri Catholic Conference is telephone number is (573) 635-7239.


As a more recent citizen of Missouri, I have been impressed by the strong commitment of my fellow citizens of the state to the respect for human life.As a newcomer, I hope that the citizens of Missouri are proud of all that has been accomplished in our state to safeguard the dignity of innocent human life.

There are serious challenges to the respect for human life in our state like the "Missouri Stem-cell Research and Cures Initiative."As I wrote at the beginning, given the state of our culture, we should not be surprised at such initiatives and at the confusion from which they originate and which they generate.We must, however, be even more fervent in our prayer and in our work to promote the respect for every human life.Through prayer, study and witness, we will do what is right and good, giving glory to God and serving every brother and sister.Truly, it is a matter of life and death for our tiniest and most defenseless brothers and sisters.It depends upon us to safeguard them and to promote their growth and development.

Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, may we safeguard and promote the dignity of all human life from inception to natural death.

The instruction ‘Redemptionis Sacramentum’ — VIII


Chapter 7 of the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum" presents the discipline of the Church regarding the lay faithful who undertake extraordinary functions during the celebration of the Holy Mass or other celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy.The qualifier extraordinary reminds us that the functions in question belong properly to an ordained minister and are supplied temporarily by a member of the laity because there is the lack of an ordained minister or the ordained minister is unable to carry out his proper and ordinary function.

The instruction, first of all, reminds us that the ordained priest is irreplaceable in his proper ministry, that is, acting in the person of Christ Head and Shepherd of God’s flock in every time and place.The instruction states clearly:

"There can be no substitute whatsoever for the ministerial priesthood. For if a priest is lacking in the community, then the community lacks the exercise and sacramental function of Christ the Head and Shepherd, which belongs to the essence of its very life" (n. 146).

In any situation requiring the service of an extraordinary minister during the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the faithful should be encouraged to redouble their prayers that those whom God is calling to the priesthood will have the grace to respond with an undivided heart, so that every community will have sufficient priests to provide the ordained ministry needed for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments, for the teaching of the faith and the governance of God’s flock.There are, of course, certain liturgical functions which only the ordained minister can provide, for instance, only the ordained priest or bishop is able to offer the Holy Mass (cf. Code of Cannon Law, can. 900, paragraph 1).

According to Church law

When the members of the lay faithful take the place of an ordained minister in a particular liturgical function, they can only do so in virtue of the Church’s law. Their service is not undertaken spontaneously, that is, at their own initiative or at the initiative of anyone who does not have the authority to appoint them to provide a particular extraordinary service.

When the members of the lay faithful are appointed to carry out any liturgical function, on an extraordinary basis, they rightly call upon the help of God’s grace, so that they may fulfill the function worthily.The instruction remarks that there are many lay faithful who willingly and generously provide extraordinary service during the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy:

"Many of the lay Christian faithful have already contributed eagerly to this service and still do so, especially in missionary areas where the Church is still of small dimensions or is experiencing conditions of persecution, but also in areas affected by a shortage of priests or deacons" (n. 147).

In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, many members of the laity provide, for instance, the service of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion because of the lack of sufficient priests and deacons, especially for the distribution of Holy Communion under both species to a large congregation.

Special mention is made of the service of catechists in missionary lands and of the importance of their fundamental service to the Church.Missionary catechists often are delegated to carry out certain extraordinary liturgical functions, until sufficient priests and deacons can assume these functions which are proper to their ordained ministry.Clearly, catechists must receive an adequate preparation if they are to carry out well a service which is not inherent to the work of a catechist and, therefore, requires additional liturgical education and formation.The instruction rightly noted the "great labors" of catechists, in the past and in the present, "in the spreading of the faith and the Church" (n. 148).

‘Pastoral assistants’

The instruction next treats the service of a member of the laity as a "pastoral assistant." The term is in quotation marks because it is not part of the Church’s law.The title of "pastoral assistant" has been developed in dioceses, not missionary territories, to provide help to "the bishop, priests, and deacons in the carrying out of their pastoral activity."Properly understood, the "pastoral assistant" helps the ordained ministers to carry out their service on behalf of all in need.He or she is a kind of organizer or coordinator for the ordained ministers in the parish and diocese.

The instruction, however, cautions that care must be taken so that the pastoral assistants "do not take upon themselves what is proper to the ministry of the sacred ministers" (n. 149).There is always the temptation for the one who is organizing or coordinating the service of another to think that he or she can provide the service.

The instruction gives a good description of the direction which the work of the "pastoral assistant" must follow:

"The activity of a pastoral assistant should be directed to facilitating the ministry of priests and deacons, to ensuring that vocations to the priesthood and diaconate are awakened and that lay members of Christ’s faithful in each community are carefully trained for the various liturgical functions, in keeping with the variety of charisms and in accordance with the norm of law" (n. 150).

In other words, the "pastoral assistant" should be a model of Catholic faith and practice, serving humbly the priests and deacons, respecting the distinctness of the ordained ministry, above all, by encouraging those called to the priesthood and permanent diaconate, and doing his or her part to make the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy as fitting and beautiful as possible, according to the mind of the Church.

Use of extraordinary ministers

The instruction reminds us of a fundamental principle to be followed in the use of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, namely, necessity is the only valid reason to make use of an extraordinary ministry.Because there exists the possibility of using extraordinary ministers in liturgical celebrations, some have confusedly seen their use as a way of promoting the participation of the lay faithful in the Sacred Liturgy or even as a way of conferring an honor upon a good and devout member of the laity.The use of extraordinary ministers "rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional."For that reason, when there is the necessity to call upon the assistance of an extraordinary minister, all should pray the more urgently and frequently "that the Lord may soon send a priest for the service of the community and raise up an abundance of vocations to sacred orders" (n. 151).

Another danger exists.The fact that a person is appointed to act as an extraordinary minister must not lead to the failure of the ordained minister to carry out the very service for which he was ordained, in order that the extraordinary minister may have occasions to carry out his or her function.In some places, for instance, ordinary minister and extraordinary ministers take their turn in providing a variety of pastoral service without the proper distinction of the distinctive service of the ordained minister.The instruction notes five distinctive services "which pertain in the first place to priests assisted by deacons": 1) "the celebration of the Mass for the people for whom they are responsible"; 2) "their personal care of the sick"; 3) "the baptism of children"; 4) "assistance at weddings"; and 5) "the celebration of Christian funerals" (n. 152).

Clearly, a layperson must never use vestments which belong properly to the priest or deacon, or are similar to those vestments.The use of such vesture is a source of confusion to all the faithful (n. 153).

Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion

Regarding the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, the title itself must first be examined.First of all, it is an extraordinary ministry.Bishops, priests and deacons alone are the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion "by reason of their sacred ordination."During the Rite of Ordination, they are reminded that it belongs properly to their ministry to give Holy Communion to the lay faithful during the celebration of the Holy Mass.In fact, as the instruction points out, it is in the distribution of Holy Communion that the ordained ministry is most fully manifested in the Church and, at the same time, "the sign value of the sacrament is made complete," that is, Christ giving His Body and Blood to us for our salvation through the service of those sacramentally configured to Him as Shepherd and Head (bishops and priests) or as Servant (permanent deacons).

Secondly, the extraordinary minister is the minister of "Holy Communion," not the "Eucharist."Bishops and priests alone can offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice.It is, therefore, wrong to use the title, "minister of the Eucharist" (n. 154).

The instituted acolyte is established as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, "even outside the celebration of Mass," by the Rite of Institution of Acolytes.During the final years of their preparation for ordination to the priesthood or the permanent diaconate, seminarians and candidates for ordination to the permanent diaconate are instituted as acolytes and, therefore, rightly act as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

Members of the laity also can be delegated to act as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion "for one occasion or for a specified time."Only the diocesan bishop has the power to delegate members of the laity to serve as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion for "reasons of real necessity."When there is a need for the appointment of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the parish priest is to request the appointment of the needed extraordinary ministers from the diocesan bishop.In the case of an unforeseen but real need, "permission (to act as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion) can be given for a single occasion by the priest who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist."The delegation or appointment does not have a liturgical form, so as not to confuse it, in any way, with ordination.There is, however, a special blessing for those delegated or appointed, which is found in the Book of Blessings (Chapter 63, Order for the Commissioning of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, nn. 1871-1896) (n. 155).

The instruction insists on the use of the precise term for the function, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, lest the service be misunderstood or "unnecessarily or improperly broadened."Specifically, terms like "special minister of Holy Communion," extraordinary minister of the Eucharist," and "special minister of the Eucharist" are not to be used (n. 156).

Clearly, if there are usually a sufficient number of ordinary ministers of Holy Communion available, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed.Likewise, if someone has been appointed an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, he or she is not to exercise the ministry when there are sufficient ordinary ministers of Holy Communion present at the celebration of the Holy Mass.The instruction explicitly censures a certain practice which has arisen in some places:

"The practice of those priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons" (n. 157).

Such a practice, if it exists, is to cease immediately.

The instruction then indicates precisely the circumstances in which the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is to exercise the ministry of distributing Holy Communion.The circumstances are: 1) "when the priest and deacon are lacking," 2) "when the priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason," and 3) "when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of the Mass would be unduly prolonged."Regarding the last circumstance, the instruction further specifies that "a brief prolongation ... is not at all a sufficient reason" (n. 158).

The extraordinary minister of Holy Communion does not have the authority to delegate anyone else to carry out the ministry (n. 159).

The instruction concludes the section on extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion by directing the diocesan bishops to examine carefully the application of the Church’s discipline in the portion of the Church for which they have pastoral care.In dioceses like our own, in which extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are appointed "in a widespread manner out of true necessity," the diocesan bishop "should issue special norms by which he determines the manner in which this function is to be carried out in accordance with the law" (n. 160).


The homily during Mass is always reserved to the priest or deacon, without exception.In the case of true necessity or in cases when it would be useful, members of the lay faithful "may be allowed to preach in a church or in an oratory outside Mass in accordance with the norm of law."Only the local ordinary, that is the diocesan bishop or vicar general, can give permission for such preaching in a particular instance.

The instruction makes clear that the extraordinary case cannot be converted into an ordinary practice.Also, as in the case of all extraordinary functions of the laity during the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the extraordinary preaching is not to be seen as "an authentic form of the advancement of the laity" (n. 161).

Celebrations in the absence of a priest

The celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is at the heart of the life of the individual Catholic and of the parish.Sunday, or the Lord’s Day, in fact, is set apart for the parish to gather "to commemorate the Lord’s Resurrection and the whole Paschal Mystery, especially by the celebration of the Mass."Because of the importance of the Holy Eucharist in the Christian life, the faithful are bound, under pain of mortal sin, to participate in Mass on Sunday and holy days of obligation, and, correspondingly, have the "right to have the Eucharist celebrated for them on Sunday, and whenever holy days of obligation or other major feasts occur, and even daily insofar as this is possible." If there is some difficulty in providing the Sunday Mass for a parish, it is the obligation of the diocesan bishop, with his priests, to address the situation effectively.The instruction suggests two possible solutions: 1) calling upon other priests to celebrate the Mass; or 2) asking the faithful to go to another nearby church, in order to fulfill their Sunday or holy day Mass obligation (n. 162).

Priests are reminded that it is their special obligation, as priests, "to provide the faithful with the opportunity to satisfy the obligation of participating at Mass on Sundays."In striking language, the instruction reminds priests that the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist are entrusted to them "for the sake of others."Priests, therefore, have an obligation in justice to celebrate the Holy Mass for the faithful or to arrange for another priest to celebrate the Mass, so that they are able "to satisfy the obligation of participating at Mass on Sunday and other days of precept" (n. 163).

When it is impossible to provide the celebration of the Holy Mass for the faithful, the diocesan bishop "should provide as far as he is able for some celebration to be held on Sundays" for the parish in question.Such celebrations, the instruction reminds us, "are to be considered altogether extraordinary."What is more, the deacons and lay faithful who are deputed by the diocesan bishop to lead the celebrations must make every effort to foster, among the faithful, the hunger for participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, so that the faithful will make every effort to participate in Holy Mass, whenever possible (n. 164).

The instruction then indicates various ways in which to avoid confusion between the Eucharistic Sacrifice and such extraordinary celebrations.I recall a situation in a small rural parish of another diocese in which on certain Sundays a religious Sister conducted an extraordinary celebration because the priest was unable to come for the celebration of the Mass.After a period of time, one of the faithful remarked to me that he preferred "Sister’s Mass" to "Father’s Mass."Clearly, he was confused in a most important aspect of his Catholic faith.

In order to avoid confusion, the practice of distributing Holy Communion at such celebrations must be carefully considered.Also, the various parts of the celebration should be assigned to different members of the faithful, to avoid the impression that one or another person is taking the place of the priest or deacon.No one presides over the celebration (n. 165).

Also to avoid the confusion of the Holy Mass with extraordinary celebrations in the absence of a priest, the diocesan bishop "must not easily grant permission for such celebrations to be held on weekdays, especially in places where it was possible or would be possible to have the celebration of the Mass on the preceding or the following Sunday."In this regard, if a priest has the care of more than one church, he should celebrate Mass daily in one of the churches, so that all the faithful in his care may participate (n. 166).

Finally, it is never permitted to replace the Sunday Mass obligation with participation in an ecumenical service of the word or in the services of another Christian denomination."Should the diocesan bishop out of necessity authorize the participation of Catholics for a single occasion (in an ecumenical or nonCatholic service), let pastors take care lest confusion arise among the Catholic faithful concerning the necessity of taking part at Mass at another hour of the day even in such circumstances, on account of the obligation" (n. 167).


Chapter 7 of the instruction concludes with a consideration of the case of a cleric who has lost the clerical state and who celebrates the Mass or other sacraments.Such celebrations are not permitted at all.The only time when a cleric who has lost the clerical state may celebrate a sacrament, and, in fact, is obliged to do so is the sacramental absolution of a penitent in danger of death from any censures and sins (cann. 976 and 986, paragraph 2).The faithful should not, therefore, approach a priest who has lost the clerical state for the celebration of the Mass.

The instruction also makes it clear that a cleric who has lost the clerical state "should neither give the homily nor ever undertake any office or duty in the celebration of the sacred liturgy, lest confusion arise among Christ’s faithful and the truth be obscured" (n. 168).Because of the seriousness with which the Church views the loss of the clerical state, whether it is at the cleric’s own request or through the imposition of censure, the cleric in question may not fulfill or carry out any ordinary or extraordinary office or service in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

Chapter 7 helps us to appreciate the care with which any extraordinary ministry in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, above all the Eucharistic Sacrifice, should be carried out.By the attention to respect carefully and in every detail the distinction between the ordained ministry of the bishops, priests and deacon, and the extraordinary ministry confided to members of the lay faithful on a temporary basis, the truth and beauty of the liturgical celebration will more fully manifested for all.Also, all wrong use of ministries intended to meet a temporary necessity will be avoided.

As we conclude the Year of the Eucharist, let us thank God for the special time of grace given to us, through the pastoral solicitude of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II, in order that we might grow in our knowledge of the eucharistic mystery and in love of our eucharistic Lord.May our loving attention to and care for the Most Blessed Sacrament during the Year of the Eucharist continue as a way of life for us in the Church.

The instruction ‘Redemptionis Sacramentum’ — IX


Chapter 8, the final chapter of the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, takes up the question of the remedy of liturgical abuses.It begins by reminding us that a liturgical abuse is, in fact, "a real falsification of Catholic liturgy." Constant vigilance is required against such falsification and, when it occurs, it must be corrected. It makes no sense for the Church to acknowledge serious wounds inflicted upon her sacred worship by us without providing us, at the same time, the effective remedy to treat the wounds.

The weighty responsibility for the correct celebration of the sacred liturgy belongs to the priest and bishop.The instruction quotes St. Thomas Aquinas, who declared in his Summa Theologica:

"The vice of falsehood is perpetrated by anyone who offers worship to God on behalf of the Church in a manner contrary to that which is established by the Church with divine authority, and to which the Church is accustomed" (n. 169).

Clearly, the whole Church must be concerned that falsehood not enter into her most sacred activity, but the bishop and his priests have the responsibility to receive reports of liturgical abuse and to correct them.

General remedy

An essential remedy for liturgical abuse is the coherent presentation and understanding of the Church’s teaching and discipline regarding the sacred liturgy.Many liturgical abuses, perhaps most of them, are not owed to any malice on the part of the perpetrator but to a failure in understanding the true nature of the words and actions employed in sacred worship.It is reasonable to trust that, if a careful catechesis on the worship of God is consistently offered, liturgical abuses will be recognized and eliminated.The catechesis must draw from two fonts: the sacred Scriptures and the sacred liturgy.

What sound and consistent catechesis does not remedy must be remedied in other ways.It would be a sign of a serious loss of faith to permit abuses to continue sullying the sacred action of Christ in the Church.Both for the individual who observes the abuse and for the whole Church, there exists the obligation to safeguard the right celebration of the sacred mysteries. If we do not have the deepest respect and care for the sacred liturgy, then we have also lost respect for our faith itself and its integrity.All of us should be especially attentive to our reverence at the holy Mass and other liturgical rites.By our reverence, we express our understanding of the sacred action which is taking place and are able to unite ourselves to Christ, who acts on our behalf through the sacred liturgy.

It follows then that, if an abuse or abuses are not addressed directly, there is the grave danger of the spread of doctrinal and even moral error.What is the process to be followed in addressing persistent liturgical abuses?The instruction provides a description which it introduces with these words:

"Where abuses persist, however, proceedings should be undertaken for safeguarding the spiritual patrimony and the rights of the Church in accordance with the law, employing all legitimate means" (n. 170).

It behooves all to know the legitimate and respectful way to deal with questions about liturgical abuses.

Distinction of kinds of liturgical abuse

The instruction points out that, while all liturgical abuses are most serious, some abuses are more grave than others. In Latin, they are called graviora delicta.They involve the most serious matters and are, therefore, called delicts or crimes.Other abuses are less grave.In any case, all abuses are to be avoided, given the most sacred nature of worship of God.

In considering the various kinds of liturgical abuse and their remedy, the instruction refers us to Chapter 1 which treats the responsibility of the various ordained ministers.Chapter 1 made it clear that the discipline of the celebration of the sacred liturgy pertains to the authority of the Church, namely, the Apostolic See and, as Church discipline directs, the diocesan bishop.

The more serious abuses

The more serious abuses are rightly called "delicts" or spiritual crimes because they offend the "most august Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist."In accord with the discipline of the Church, their treatment is reserved to the Holy Father’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.The list of the more serious abuses is found in a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published in 2001.It is a letter which was sent to all bishops and their equivalent: "Letter sent to all bishops and other ordinaries and hierarchs of the Catholic Church regarding the more serious offenses (graviora delicta) reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."It may be consulted on the Web site of the Apostolic See: letter treats the more serious crimes committed in the celebration of the sacrament and the crimes against morals.The first section of the document treats the crimes against the holiness of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The diocesan bishop or any member of the faithful who becomes aware of such a delict has the solemn obligation to denounce the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which alone is competent to deal with the matter.For the faithful, such action can be taken on their own or through the diocesan bishop.

The first more grave abuse is "taking away or retaining the consecrated species for sacrilegious ends, or throwing them away."Certain occult or demonic practices require the sacrilegious use of the sacred Host.To take the Body of Christ or the precious Blood for such a purpose is clearly a most grievous offense against our Lord Himself.

Similarly offensive is the "throwing away" of the Body and Blood of Christ.Christ makes Himself really present in the Eucharist in order to be received by us.For a person of faith to take the Eucharist for any other purpose or to throw away the Blessed Sacrament, instead of receiving our Lord devoutly, constitutes the gravest of crimes against holy religion (n. 172a).

To attempt to celebrate the Mass when one is not a validly ordained priest or bishop, or to deceive others into thinking that one is celebrating the Mass when he cannot is the second of the more serious abuses.Because of the most sacred nature of the holy Mass and its supreme importance in the life of the faith, it is an offense against our Lord Himself and His holy people to pretend to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice when one clearly cannot (n. 172b).

The third more serious abuse is "the forbidden concelebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice with ministers of ecclesial communities that do not have apostolic succession nor acknowledge the sacramental dignity of priestly ordination."We must respect the faith and office of religious ministers who do not enjoy apostolic succession.Part of our respect for them includes the acknowledgment that it is not possible for them to celebrate the Mass, an action which is apostolic, that is, can only be carried out by the Apostles and their successors.To pretend to concelebrate the Mass with religious ministers who do not believe in the Eucharist as the Catholic Church teaches and do not believe in holy orders is to commit a grave sin against the most sacred tenets of our faith and to lead others to do the same (n. 172c).

The last of the more serious abuses is "the consecration for sacrilegious ends of one matter without the other in the celebration of the Eucharist or even of both outside the celebration of the Eucharist."It is never permitted, even for some urgent reason, to consecrate one of the sacred species without the other or to consecrate the sacred species outside of the celebration of the Mass (cf. can. 927) (n. 172d).The integrity of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Sacrament must always be fully respected and safeguarded by all.

Grave matters

The instruction points out that the gravity of an abuse is defined by Church teaching and discipline.Any abuse, however, which "puts at risk the validity and dignity of the most holy Eucharist" is to be considered among grave matters (n. 173).

The instruction then makes reference to several numbers from Chapter 3 through Chapter 7, which describe abuses constituting grave matter are nn. 48-52 (on the matter of the Holy Eucharist, that is, the bread and wine; and the text of the Eucharistic Prayer); 56 (on the naming of the supreme pontiff and the diocesan bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer); 76-77 (on the abuses of uniting the celebration of the Sacraments of Penance and of the Holy Eucharist into one liturgical rite, and of inserting the celebration of the Mass into a common meal); 79 (on the abuse of inserting elements from rites of other religions into the celebration of the Mass); 91-92 (on abuses in the distribution of Holy Communion); 94 (on the abuses of "taking" Holy Communion and of passing Holy Communion from one to another); 96 (on the abuse of distributing unconsecrated hosts or other edible or inedible things during the Mass); 101-102 (on abuses in the distribution of Holy Communion under both species);
104 (on the abuses of self-intinction and of reception of the intincted Host in the hand); 106 (on the abuses of pouring the precious Blood from one vessel to another after the consecration and of using unapproved vessels); 109 (on the abuse of celebrating the Mass in the sacred place of a nonChristian religion); 111 (on the abuse of refusing a priest who asks to concelebrate the holy Mass); 115 (on the abuse of the periodic suspension of the regular celebration of the Mass); 117 (on the proper sacred vessels for the Holy Mass); 126 (on the abuse of celebrating the Holy Mass without the proper vestments); 131-133 (on the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and the taking of the Blessed Sacrament to the sick); 138 (on the abuse of leaving unattended the exposed Blessed Sacrament); 153 (on the abuse of the wearing of the vestments of the ordained ministers by the nonordained); and 168 (on the abuse of exercising a liturgical office by a cleric who has lost the clerical state) (n. 173).

The instruction also makes reference to several canons of the Code of Canon Law, namely cann. 1364, 1369, 1373, 1376, 1380, 1384, 1385, 1386 and 1398.They all have to do with ecclesiastical penalties to be imposed upon those who perpetrate liturgical abuses or have incurred an ecclesiastical penalty which forbids to them the participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice (n. 173).The canons in question express the perennial discipline of the Church, which has always exercised a particular attention to the sanctity of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Other abuses

The other abuses which are treated in the instruction or in other documents of ecclesiastical discipline "are not to be considered of little account."They are to be "carefully avoided and corrected" (n. 174).

The instruction reminds us that the matters which it has treated "do not encompass all the violations against the Church and its discipline that are defined in the canons, in the liturgical laws and in other norms of the Church for the sake of the teaching of the magisterium or sound doctrine." The principle which is always to be followed is the correction of any violation of the right discipline of the celebration of the sacred liturgy (n. 175).

Responsibility of the diocesan bishop

As the "principal dispenser of the mysteries of God," the diocesan bishop is to provide liturgical norms, within the parameters defined by Church law (n. 176).He is "bound to promote the discipline common to the entire Church and therefore to insist upon the observance of all ecclesiastical laws."Quoting can. 392 of the Code of Canon Law, the instruction reminds us that the bishop "is to be watchful lest abuses encroach upon ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the Word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the saints" (n. 177).

Regarding the procedure to be followed, the diocesan bishop or his equivalent, when he receives news of an abuse against the Blessed Sacrament, must "carefully investigate, either personally or by means of another worthy cleric, concerning the facts and the circumstances as well as the imputability" (n. 178).It is not permitted to the bishop to let liturgical abuses continue without correction.

The diocesan bishop or his equivalent is to refer "without delay to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" the more serious crimes noted above (n. 179).For the rest, he is to apply the norms of the Code of Canon Law, applying canonical sanctions when necessary, in accord with the norm of can. 1326. "If the matter is serious," he is to inform the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (n. 180).

The Apostolic See

When the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments receives directly, that is, from a member of the faithful, the report of a delict or abuse, it refers the matter to the diocesan bishop or his equivalent for investigation."When the matter turns out to be serious, the ordinary should send to the same dicastery as quickly as possible a copy of the acts of the inquiry that has been undertaken, and where necessary, the penalty imposed" (n. 181).

"In more difficult cases the ordinary, for the sake of the good of the universal Church in the care for which he too has a part by virtue of his sacred ordination, should not fail to handle the matter, having previously taken advice from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments."The Holy Father has given to the congregation certain special powers, in order that it may help the diocesan bishop and his equivalents in addressing the more difficult cases (n. 182).

Reporting of liturgical abuses

The instruction concludes Chapter 8 by reminding all of us that each one of us has "a most serious duty" to see to it that the Most Blessed Sacrament is "protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected."The duty is to be carried out "without any favoritism" (n. 183).

At the same time, each of us "has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan bishop or the competent ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman pontiff."The report or complaint regarding a liturgical abuse is normally to be given first to the diocesan bishop."This is naturally to be done in truth and charity" (n. 184).


The instruction concludes by reminding us that the unity of Christ’s Body, which is the fruit of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, can overcome the "seeds of discord" within us, which are the source of liturgical abuses.The Holy Eucharist, above all, is the source of our unity in the Church.Devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament is a most effective means for purifying ourselves of "the seeds of discord."The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments expresses the hope that attention to the liturgical discipline set forth in the instruction will help to overcome the abuses introduced through human weakness and thereby "the saving presence of Christ in the sacrament of His Body and Blood may shine brightly upon all people" (n. 185).As archbishop of St. Louis, I share completely the hope expressed by the congregation, which surely was the hope which inspired our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II to instruct the congregation to prepare the instruction.

The instruction then gives an exhortation to all the different members of the faithful, who participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice:

"Let all Christ’s faithful participate in the most Holy Eucharist as fully, consciously, and actively as they can, honoring it lovingly by their devotion and the manner of their life.Let bishops, priests and deacons, in the exercise of the sacred ministry, examine their consciences as regards the authenticity and fidelity of the actions they have performed in the name of Christ and the Church in the celebration of the sacred liturgy.Let each one of the sacred ministers ask himself, even with severity, whether he has respected the rights of the lay members of Christ’s faithful, who confidently entrust themselves and their children to him, relying on him to fulfill for the faithful those sacred functions that the Church intends to carry out in celebrating the sacred liturgy at Christ’s command.For each one should always remember that he is a servant of the sacred liturgy" (n. 186).

It is well for each of us, especially for me as archbishop and for my brother priests of the archdiocese, on every occasion when we are most highly blessed to celebrate and participate in the celebration of the Holy Mass or other sacred rite, to recall that indeed we are the servants of Christ, "the servants of the sacred liturgy."

The instruction concludes by attesting that it was prepared "by mandate of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II," that it was approved by him on March 19, 2004 — the Solemnity of St. Joseph — and that "he ordered it to be published and to be observed immediately by all concerned."

Our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II, at the conclusion of his Petrine ministry, desired most of all to stir up in all of us a new enthusiasm and energy for the worthy celebration of the sacred liturgy and, above all, the Eucharistic Sacrifice. As we honor so much the memory of Pope John Paul II, let us honor, most of all, his desire to renew our participation in the Holy Mass and our worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament outside of the Mass.

Communion with our deceased brothers and sisters


Our communion in the Church is most rich. By our baptism, we are called to be saints, to be, in the words of our Lord, "perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).In other words, through the Sacrament of Baptism, we become part of the great communion of men and women, living and dead, who have come to life in Christ and strive to follow Him faithfully (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 954-959).
Referring to the disciples of Christ, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council refers to three states of the Church, which traditionally we called the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering and the Church Militant:

"When the Lord will come in glory, and all His angels with Him (cf. Matthew 25:31), death will be no more and all things will be subject to Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26-27).But at the present time some of His disciples are pilgrims on earth.Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God Himself Triune and One, exactly as He is.’All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity toward God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God.All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have His Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together" (Ephesians 4:16) (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium (On the Church), Nov. 21, 1964, n. 49).

We are one with the saints in heaven, the Church Triumphant.We are also one with our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in death and are in the state of purgatory, making satisfaction for the temporal punishment due to their sins, the Church Suffering.We are the Church Militant, the members of the Communion of Saints who are struggling each day to live more completely in Christ, so that one day we, with all our brothers and sisters, may reach the final destiny of our earthly pilgrimage, the Kingdom of Heaven.

On this past Tuesday, we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, recalling the memory of our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in death and have reached the final destiny of their life pilgrimage in the company of all the saints.They are "in glory," the Church Triumphant.We recalled not only our brothers and sisters who have been publicly recognized by the Church for the heroic sanctity of their lives, but also the countless number of our brothers and sisters "from all tribes and peoples and tongues" (Revelations 7:9), who have followed Christ faithfully during their lives on earth and have attained eternal life with Him in heaven.

On this past Wednesday, All Souls Day, we remembered in a special way the souls of our brothers and sisters in purgatory, praying for their eternal rest and the remission of all temporal punishment due to their sins.They "have died and are being purified," the Church Suffering.We remembered the deceased whom we know and also those whom we do not know but who have need of our prayers.

Month of prayer for the dead

Because we are one with our brothers and sisters who "have died and are being purified," the Church Suffering, we pray daily for their eternal rest.Praying for the dead is one of the spiritual works of mercy (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1032).The Eucharistic Prayer at Mass, following the Consecration, always contains a prayer for our departed brothers and sisters.Also, a venerable tradition in the Church concludes the Prayer of Thanksgiving after Meals with the following invocation: "May the divine assistance remain always with us, and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace."

In addition to regular and daily prayers for the dead, the Church sets apart the month of November as a time of special and more intense remembrance of and prayers for the faithful departed.Throughout November, we are asked to pray for the dead, to give Mass offerings for the intention of their eternal rest, and to make pious visits to their graves.In all of these ways, we express our communion with them, our love for them and our desire to continue to assist them in any way possible for us.

Observing the month of November as a time of special prayers for the dead also reminds us of the spiritual care which we are to give to the dying and the reverence with which we are to bring to burial those who have died.The living have the responsibility to see that the dying have the help of prayers and of the sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion.Holy Communion for the dying, because of its importance, is called by a special name, Viaticum.The name refers to the fact that the Body of Christ is given to the dying as the spiritual food to sustain them during their final journey, the passage from this life to the life which is to come.

Today, there is sometimes a hesitation to talk about praying for the dead, lest it seem that in some way we have doubts about the goodness of the person.Recalling that we are all sinners, we should realize that our prayers for the dead do not express a doubt about the goodness of the person but our love of the person and our desire to assist him or her in being purified for entrance into Heaven.To fail to pray for a deceased person and to have Masses offered for his or her eternal rest manifests a grave lack of charity on our part.

Consider the example of St. Monica, a most saintly mother who, for years, prayed and offered sacrifices for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine.Her heroic virtue was evident to all who knew her and was especially appreciated by her son who had been helped so much in his conversion by her prayers and other spiritual works.St. Augustine gives an account of her death in his famous autobiography which is titled "Confessions."He tells us that his mother, St. Monica, was living near Rome at the time of her dying.Augustine and his brother had discussed the hope that their mother could be buried in her home place, in Northern Africa.When the dying Monica overheard the discussion, she told them to give no thought to the place of her burial but, rather, to pray for her eternal rest.St. Augustine quotes her words:

"Lay this body anywhere, and take no trouble over it.One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be" (St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, tr. Maria Boulding, OSB, Book IX, n. 27).

Surely, St. Monica understood the importance of the prayers of her sons in assisting her after her death.Her instruction to them is a reminder to us all about our duty, in love, to pray for the dead.


One of the particular ways in which we help our brothers and sisters in the state of purgatory is to offer prayer or carry out a work of devotion for them, to which there is attached an indulgence.An indulgence is the remission of all or part of the temporal punishment due to sins which have been confessed and forgiven.An indulgence is received through the intervention of the Church.Christ endowed the Church with the power to bind and to loose for her members, giving her custody of "the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishment due for their sins" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1478).The Church establishes certain prayers and practices by which a plenary indulgence, that is remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, or a partial indulgence, that is remission of a part of the temporal punishment due to sin, can be obtained either for the person offering the indulgenced prayer or carrying out the indulgenced practice, or for a deceased brother or sister.It also establishes the conditions under which an indulgence can be obtained.

Regarding the conditions under which a plenary indulgence can be obtained, it is important to note three conditions, in addition to the condition that there be no attachment to even venial sin. The three conditions are sacramental confession, reception of Holy Communion and prayer offered for the intentions of the Holy Father.It is fitting that the reception of Holy Communion and the prayers for the Holy Father take place on the same day as the indulgenced prayer or practice is offered.The condition of sacramental confession can be fulfilled some days before or after the prayer or practice is offered.

The official list of indulgenced prayers and practices, and the conditions under which an indulgence, plenary or partial, can be obtained is found in the "Enchiridion of Indulgences," published by the Apostolic Penitentiary, the office of our Holy Father which assists him in the matter.The latest edition of the "Enchiridion of Indulgences" was published by the Holy See on July 16, 1999.

Because of the strong bond between the souls in purgatory and us who are still on our earthly pilgrimage to our eternal home, the Holy Father has granted that we can always obtain an indulgence for the faithful departed.Clearly, the Church esteems very much the gaining of indulgences for the dead and desires to encourage us in the practice.

There are four general grants of indulgences which can always be applied to the dead.The first is a partial indulgence, which is granted "to the member of the faithful who, in the performance of his duties and in bearing the trials of life, raises his mind with humble confidence to God, adding — even if only mentally — some pious invocation."The second is a partial indulgence, which is granted "to the member of the faithful who, led by the spirit of faith, gives himself or his goods, out of mercy, in service of his brothers who are in need."The third grant is a partial indulgence "to the member of the faithful who, in a spirit of penance, on his own abstains from something which is licit and pleasing for him."The fourth is a partial indulgence, which is granted "to the member of the faithful who on his own gives open witness to the faith before others in the particular circumstances of daily life" (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum: Normae et Concessiones, 4th ed., Vatican City State: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999, pp. 33-44).There are many occasions throughout the day when we can avail ourselves of these general grants to obtain partial remission of the temporal punishment due to sin on behalf of our brothers and sisters in purgatory.

Specific indulgences for the faithful departed

The "Enchiridion of Indulgences" gives several specific prayers and practices by which we can obtain a plenary or partial indulgence for the dead.They are in addition to the possibility we have of applying any plenary or partial indulgence to a deceased person.

There are two specific grants of a plenary indulgence applicable to the souls in purgatory.The first grant is given to the member of the faithful who, from the first to the eighth of November makes a visit to the cemetery, during which he prays for the faithful departed.The second grant is for the member of the faithful who visits a church or chapel on All Souls Day (Nov. 2), during which he prays the Our Father and the Apostles Creed.

There are also three specific grants of a partial indulgence applicable solely to the souls in purgatory.The first is given to the member of the faithful who makes a visit to the cemetery on any day,during which he prays for the dead.The second is given to the member of the faithful who prays Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer from the Office of the Dead, which is found in the "Liturgy of the Hours."The third is given to the member of the faithful who recites the invocation:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.May they rest in peace.Amen.

On Jan. 1, 1967, Pope Paul VI issued the apostolic constitution "Indulgentiarum doctrina, (On the Doctrine of Indulgences)."In it, he expressed in an inspiring way the reason of the ancient practice of obtaining indulgences for the dead, clearly linking it to the teaching on the Communion of Saints:

"Following in the footsteps of Christ, the Christian faithful have always endeavored to help one another on the path leading to the heavenly Father through prayer, the exchange of spiritual goods and penitential expiation.The more they have been immersed in the fervor of charity, the more they have imitated Christ in His sufferings, carrying their crosses in expiation for their own sins and those of others, certain that they could help their brothers to obtain salvation from God the Father of mercies.This is the very ancient dogma of the Communion of the Saints, whereby the life of each individual son of God in Christ and through Christ is joined by a wonderful link to the life of all his other Christian brothers in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ till, as it were, a single mystical person is formed" (Pope Paul VI, apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina [On the Doctrine of Indulgences], Jan. 1, 1967, n. 5b).

The obtaining of indulgences on behalf of the souls in purgatory is a wonderful way by which we can help our brothers and sisters who "have died and are being purified."

Masses for the dead

As part of your prayer and sacrifice on behalf of the souls in purgatory during the month of November, I urge you also to arrange for Masses to be offered for the deceased who are dear to youand for those who have need of our prayers.The fruits of the Holy Mass, applied to the soul in purgatory, are the greatest gift of love we can offer to the dead with whom we remain united in Christ, in His Mystical Body.

Mass offerings can be made to your parish priest at any time.Also, the priests in the missions are always disposed to offer Masses for the eternal rest of the faithful departed.The offerings which they receive for the Masses are a significant means of their support.Offerings for Masses to be celebrated by missionary priests may be sent to the Archdiocesan Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

Also,priests who are infirm or are retired from the parish are happy to offer Masses for the intentions of the deceased.


May the month of November mark in us a growing understanding of our participation in the Communion of Saints, especially our communion with our brothers and sisters who have died and are being purified.May it draw us closer to them in Christlike love.If we are not already doing so, let us make prayers for the dead an integral part of our daily prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

And may perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary: at the heart of archdiocesan life


In coming to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I was especially happy that the archdiocese has its own college seminary, Cardinal Glennon College, and its own theological seminary, Kenrick School of Theology.Both seminaries are located in the same building at 5200 Glennon Drive in the City of Shrewsbury and are commonly called by one name: Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.At one time, the two seminaries were housed in two separate buildings, not too distant from each other,but Archbishop John L. May decided to locate both seminary programs at what was then the college seminary, Cardinal Glennon College.The former Kenrick School of Theology was eventually remodeled by Archbishop Justin F. Rigali for use as a center for the administration and pastoral activity of the archdiocese.

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary has a long history, beginning with the first seminary founded by our first bishop, the saintly Joseph Rosati, a Vincentian priest.The archdiocesan seminary was, in fact, operated and directed by the Vincentian Fathers for nearly 177 years. Their service was outstanding and very generous to the archdiocese, often given at their own expense or for a modest stipend.For the past 11 years or so, the archdiocese has assumed the full responsibility for the operation and direction of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

Seminary at the heart of the archdiocese

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is at the heart of the life of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, for it prepares men to serve as priests for the faithful of the archdiocese and of the other dioceses which do not have their own seminary and have chosen our seminary for the preparation of their priests.The home and the parish are the places in which the Christian life is first and daily lived to its fullest, but both the home and the parish depend upon the seminary, in order that they may have a priest who, by the grace of holy orders, is a true shepherd for them.The priest, by the grace received in ordination, acts in the person of Christ, head and shepherd, in every community of the Church.Without the priest, the Christian home and community suffer for want of their proper shepherd.They suffer, most of all, for the lack of the celebration of the Mass by the priest, and the forgiveness of their sins through the ministry of the priest.The priest is also the chief teacher of the faith in the local community and has charge of the discipline and direction of the community, according to the mind and heart of Christ.

At the beginning of a new school year, I write to you about the critical work of preparing the future priests of the archdiocese and of the other dioceses which send their seminarians to us for their priestly education and formation.I find that often Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is taken for granted or is little known.The seminary must become better and better known, because of its key importance to the life of the Church.

Also, I write to you about our seminary in response to a number of commentaries about the apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries and houses of formation, which appeared in the secular media some two weeks ago.I write to tell you what this means for our seminary.

Importance of the archdiocesan seminary

It is important for a diocese to have its own seminary for several reasons. First of all, having a proper seminary makes it possible for the diocesan bishop to fulfill more fully one of his primary responsibilities, that is, to provide for the proper education and formation of the future priests of the diocese.Our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II wrote the following about the bishop and his seminary:

"The presence of the bishop is especially valuable, not only because it helps the seminary community live its insertion in the particular Church and its communion with the pastor who guides it, but also because it verifies and encourages the pastoral purpose which is what specifies the entire formation of candidates for the priesthood.In particular, with his presence and by his sharing with candidates for the priesthood all that has to do with the pastoral progress of the particular Church, the bishop offers a fundamental contribution to formation in the "sense of the Church (sensus Ecclesiae)," as a central spiritual and pastoral value in the exercise of the priestly ministry" (Pope John Paul II, post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores dabo vobis [On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day], March 25, 1992, n. 65e).

Just as Christ called the Apostles and carefully instructed and formed them for their apostolic priestly ministry, so the bishop represents Christ calling men to the seminary and preparing them for consecration as priests.

The interior call of the Holy Spirit, which the seminarian hears, must be verified by the bishop who alone calls a man to holy orders.It is very difficult for the seminarians to continue to hear the call without the active engagement of the bishop in their seminary formation.At the same time, it is difficult for the bishop to come to know the seminarians, in order to call them to priestly ordination, if they receive their seminary formation outside the diocese, often far away from the See city.

When the seminary is in the diocese, the bishop also can attend to the appointment of the best possible faculty to staff the seminary.Regarding the choice of faculty, Pope John Paul II wrote:

"It is evident that much of the effectiveness of the training offered depends on the maturity and strength of personality of those entrusted with formation, both from the human and from the Gospel points of view.And so it is especially important, both to select them carefully and to encourage them to become ever more suitable for carrying out the task entrusted to them" (Pastores dabo vobis, n. 66b).

The Holy Father continued by indicating that the priest faculty members must lead an exemplary life, so that the priestly formation which they impart is not merely a matter of words but of living witness.He stressed the importance of having "the cooperation also of lay faithful, both men and women, in the work of training future priests" (Pastores dabo vobis, n. 66c and 66e).

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is blessed to have the service of several archdiocesan priests and two religious order priests.There are several excellent laymen and laywomen serving on the faculty of the seminary.Two dedicated religious Sisters also serve on the faculty and staff.Just last week, I spent a day interviewing all of the faculty for 30 minutes each in order that I can be more closely united with them in their most important service.Regarding the members of the seminary faculty in their relationship to the bishop, Pope John Paul II declared: "They should be intimately joined to the bishop, who is the first one responsible for the formation of the priests" (Pastores dabo vobis, n. 66b).In my conversations with the faculty, I wanted very much to confirm their unity with me in carrying out their important mission.The seminary has, I can assure you, a well-prepared faculty, all of whom are deeply dedicated to the good of the Church and of our seminarians.

Another reason why it is important for a diocese to have its own seminary is the formation of the seminarians in the locations in which they will serve as priests, among the people whom they will shepherd, and among the priests with whom they will serve. For example, our seminarians spend some time each week doing apostolic work in one of the parishes of the archdiocese.The seminarians tell me how helpful and encouraging their work in the parishes is.The faithful of the parishes in which they serve are so happy to get to know their future priests and to receive their service.The priests are encouraged to get to know better those who will be joining them in the pastoral care of God’s flock.The presence of the seminarians is also an inspiration to the young men in the parish who are hearing the call to the priesthood.

Finally, in the diocesan seminary, the seminarians form brotherly bonds which will sustain them throughout their priesthood.One of the most impressive aspects of our seminary is the way in which the seminarians encourage and assist one another.They also have more opportunities to get to know the priests of the archdiocese, with whom they will soon be serving and will form one presbyterate.

The seminarians

This year, we have 58 seminarians in the theology and pre-theology programs at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.The pre-theology program is for those seminarians who come to the seminary after having completed their college education elsewhere.The lack, in whole or part, the systematic study of philosophy, which is essential to the study of theology.

We have 21 seminarians in the college seminary.All but one of the seminarians in the college is from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.We have one college seminarian from the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa.

Kenrick School of Theology has 25 seminarians from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.Five of them are in pre-theology.The other 33 seminarians come from 13 other dioceses and one institute of the consecrated life.Two of the seminarians are from Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan in Central America.The archdiocese has a long and wonderful relationship with the Church in Belize, which has been mutually enriching for decades.The other archdioceses and dioceses represented are Bismarck, N.D.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Des Moines; Jefferson City, Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City-St Joseph; Lafayette, Ind.; Memphis, Tenn.; Omaha, Neb.; Rockford, Ill.; Springfield, Ill.; and Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

The institute of the consecrated life is the Sons of Our Mother of Peace. The headquarters of the institute are at High Ridge in the archdiocese.The Sons of Our Mother of Peace carry out door-to-door evangelization in the archdiocese, primarily among nonCatholics and especially in the predominantly African-American parishes.

Seminary education and formation

At Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, as at all seminaries, the seminarians receive formation or preparation in four key areas: human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation and pastoral formation. All are key to the future life and ministry of the seminarian, should he be called to the priesthood, and all four are related to one another.They are described in detail in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Pastores dabo vobis": human formation (nn. 43-44), spiritual formation (nn. 45-50), intellectual formation (nn. 51-56), and pastoral formation (nn. 57-59).

Space does not permit me to enter into a detailed discussion of the richness of education and formation provided in each of the key areas.In my future columns, I hope to present the four areas of formation in detail.

I assure you that all of the areas are given constant attention, also regarding their relationship to each other.Both the administration, faculty and I are keenly aware that we must keep the formation at the highest level possible in every area. Msgr. Theodore L. Wojcicki, the rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and Father Timothy P. Cronin, the director of Cardinal Glennon College, give the day-to-day direction to the seminary program.Msgr. Wojcicki is helped in carrying out his weighty responsibilities by Father Edward J. Richard, MS, vice-rector and dean of formation, and Father Lawrence C. Brennan, vice-rector and dean of studies.Father Donald E. Henke, in addition to teaching moral theology, has charge of the pre-theology program. From my visits with the seminary faculty, I can see that all of them have in mind the total work of formation and the part which each of them is contributing.

In this regard, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is also served by a highly-competent board of trustees, of which I serve as the chair.The members of the board of trustees held me very much in my responsibilities for the seminary.Msgr. Wojcicki and Father Cronin take part in all of the meetings of the board of trustees, providing them an accurate report on the work of the seminary and receiving their counsel.Both Msgr. Wojcicki and Father Cronin maintain an active and complete communication with me, so that I can fulfill my essential responsibilities for the formation of our future priests.

Clearly, too, I, together with Msgr. Wojcicki and Father Cronin, bear a heavy burden of responsibility toward the other archbishops and bishops, along with the superior of the Sons of the Mother of Peace, who confide their seminarians to our care for their priestly formation.We make every effort to keep in good communication with all of them.

The apostolic visitation

In late January, our seminary will receive a visitation from the Apostolic See, more specifically from our Holy Father’s Congregation for Catholic Education.The visitation will be carried out by bishops and priests from our country, chosen and appointed by the Congregation for Catholic Education, who will be assisted by qualified members of the laity.The visitation is to take place in absolute confidence because it is carried out in the name and at the instruction of the Roman pontiff.The final report after the visitation will be given directly to the Congregation for Catholic Education, which will take appropriate action based on the findings.The visitation of our seminary will take place in the last week of January 2006.

The apostolic visitation, by definition, will examine every aspect of seminary life and discipline: the concept of the priesthood in the seminary, the governance of the seminary, policies for admission to the seminary, the seminarians themselves, the four areas of formation (human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral), promotion to holy orders and other concerns.The current apostolic visitation has two specific objectives.First of all, it is "to examine the criteria for admission of candidates and the programs of human formation and spiritual formation aimed at ensuring that they can faithfully lived chastely for the kingdom."Secondly, related to the first objective, it will give "particular attention" to the area of intellectual formation "to examine fidelity to the magisterium, especially in the field of moral theology, in the light of ‘Veritatis splendor’" (Congregation for Catholic Education, Seminaries and Institutes of Study, Instrumentum Laboris for the Apostolic Visitation of the Seminaries and Houses of Priestly Formation in the United States of America).

Background of the apostolic visitation

To understand the specific objectives, it is necessary to review the background of the apostolic visitation.The cardinals of the United States and the leadership of our conference of bishops requested the apostolic visitation during their meeting with our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II in April 2002, regarding the most grave evil of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy.Given the gravity of the evil involved, it was rightly observed that seminaries should be visited to make certain that every possible care be taken to avoid the ordination of a seminarian who would eventually sexually abuse children and young people.

The majority of the cases of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy do not involve true pedophilia, that is, the sexual abuse of pre-adolescent children, but homosexual acts perpetrated upon adolescents.The highest incidence of the acts occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, a period marked by a general decline in seminary discipline and the strong emergence of an erroneous moral theology.Over the past years, the Church has been giving constant attention to the restoration of the necessary discipline in seminaries, especially the asceticism required to lead a chaste life, in accord with the promise of celibacy or perpetual continence.With regard to seminary discipline, I can tell you that I am edified at the discipline followed at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

The erroneous moral theology, known as consequentialism or proportionalism, was addressed in a definitive manner by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical letter "Veritatis splendor (Regarding Certain Fundamental Questions of the Church’s Moral Teaching)," issued on Aug. 6, 1993.Consequentialism or proportionalism, "while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behavior which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values" (Veritatis splendor, n. 75b). As a result, consequentialism or proportionalism judges the morality of an act in two different ways: "its moral ‘goodness’ is judged on the basis of the subject’s intention in reference to moral goods, and its ‘rightness’ on the basis of a consideration of its foreseeable effects or consequences and of their proportion" (Veritatis splendor, n. 75b).In such a way of thinking, the moral goodness or evil of an act is "determined exclusively by the faithfulness of the person to the highest values of charity and prudence, without this faithfulness necessarily being incompatible with choices contrary to certain moral precepts" (Veritatis splendor, n. 75c).In such a way of thinking, moral precepts concerning grave matter are no longer seen as always and everywhere binding but rather relative to the intentions of the person acting and the expected consequences of the action."In this view, deliberate consent to certain kinds of behavior declared illicit by traditional moral theology would not imply an objective moral evil" (Veritatis splendor, n. 75d).

As you can imagine, the error of consequentialism or proportionalism easily led to self-deception regarding the rightness or wrongness of acts which the Church has always considered to be grave violations of the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue, including homosexual acts.When the error of consequentialism or proportionalism was taught in seminaries, it was harmful in two ways.First of all, it risked the compromise of the moral life of the future priest, and, second, it prepared the future priest to propagate the error in his teaching and counsel of others.

The leadership of the bishops in our nation and the officials of the Holy See, therefore, rightly saw the need to conduct an apostolic visitation to insure that every seminary in our nation is following the sound guidelines for seminaries and seminary formation.Clearly, particular attention needs to be given to the teaching of "Veritatis splendor" in the seminaries and the correct moral conduct of seminarians, in accord with "Veritatis splendor," particularly in what pertains to the demands of purity and chastity.Once again, I am pleased to say that the teaching of moral theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary is thoroughly sound.We are blessed to have on the faculty two experts in moral theology whose teaching is fully coherent with the teaching set forth in "Veritatis splendor."As one faculty member observed to me, erroneous proportionalist thinking is not tolerated for a minute at the seminary.

Questions regarding homosexuality

As you may have noted in the coverage in the local secular media some two weeks ago, the claim was made that the apostolic visitation is directed at a kind of purging of any person with same-sex attraction from the seminary.The objectives of the apostolic visitation, rather, aim to assist seminaries and seminarians in dealing with erroneous thinking and practice in the area of sexual morality.The key is the right moral thinking and action of seminarians who are helped to grow strong in the virtues of purity and chastity, knowing that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and never justified.Put in another way, the formation in the seminary is to help the seminarians grow strong in respect for the conjugal meaning of the human body, both in their thinking and acting.In other words, one’s sexuality is seen as ordered to the exclusive and perpetual union of man and woman in marriage, which has its highest fruit in the procreation of offspring.For the seminarian and priest, respect for the conjugal meaning of the body means giving up the good of the marital union and, therefore, any sexual activity, in order to direct one’s affections totally to Christ and His Mystical Body in the priestly ministry.

The apostolic visitation rightly aims at assuring that the seminarians are correct in their moral judgments regarding sexual matters and, specifically, homosexual acts, and that the seminarians are, in fact, leading a pure and chaste life.For the rest, if a seminarian suffers from same-sex attraction, the matter must be addressed respectfully and thoroughly on an individual basis, so that no seminarian is advanced to holy orders who does not acknowledge, also in practice, the always disordered nature of homosexual acts, and so that no seminarian who cultivates same-sex attraction or engages in homosexual acts is permitted to remain in the seminary.The concern regarding the homosexual condition, which is required by the results of the study of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, is, therefore, placed within the context of the totality of concerns which the apostolic visitation must address.


It is my hope that what I have written acquaints you a bit more with Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and leads you to become better acquainted with our seminary of which we can all be rightly proud.I encourage you to make a visit to the seminary, at which you are always welcome.It is also my hope that you will have the occasion to meet one or more of our seminarians, so that you can witness first-hand the results of the excellent work of priestly formation at our seminary.

Regarding the Apostolic Visitation of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in late January, I hope that my explanation helps you to see the very positive good which the apostolic visitation should accomplish for the continued strengthening of the preparation of the future priests of the archdiocese and of the other dioceses and institutes of the consecrated life which use our seminary. In particular, the apostolic visitation will give us the occasion to strengthen our seminarians in the virtues of purity and chastity which must strongly mark the life of the priest as a true shepherd of the flock.

Finally, I hope that what I have written will lead you to pray for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary daily and also to be generous in your support of the seminary. The seminary is at the heart of the life of faith in the archdiocese.Let us all work together to keep our seminary strong, so that the archdiocese will continue to enjoy the strength of good and virtuous priests.

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