Monday, April 16, 2012

Why An Affirmation of Faith?

Bishop Vasa
More and more I’m seeing the importance of something like the “Affirmation of  Personal Faith” which Bishop Robert F. Vasa included in his pastoral letter, Giving Testimony to the Truth: A Diocesan Guide for Pastoral Lay Ministers (April 2004, Diocese of Baker). In a couple of posts (here and here), I’ve mentioned and included a link to the affirmation, but since it’s a little difficult to find at the link, I’ve decided to post it here. You’ll find it at the end of this post (click "read more" to see it).

But first, let me offer some history and commentary concerning the “Affirmation of Personal Faith”:

The beauty of this “Affirmation” is that it touches upon all of the “hot buttons” of today.  Though it was written 8 years ago, the primary issues it addresses are still the primary issues causing division in the Church right now (and things have only gotten worse). Bishop Vasa was criticized at the time for taking a “pelvic” approach in the document, but not all of the affirmations have to do with sexual morality; also required are explicit affirmations of core doctrinal concepts: hell, purgatory, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and the Church’s teachings on Mary.

At least Bishop Vasa can say that he was teaching about the sinfulness of contraception long before it became the political issue of the day! The problem was that his priests, for the most part, dropped the ball.

Bishop Vasa took a lot of heat for the whole concept outlined in Giving Testimony to the Truth. The primary thrust of that pastoral letter, which was addressed to “lay ministers”, was that serving the Church in some official capacity (reader or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion) is a sacred duty which “necessitates a fuller commitment to the truths of the Church and a clear manifestation of that commitment” (p.1).

Bishop Vasa was immediately accused of “judging” the “worthiness” of lay ministers, and this was deemed inappropriate (by dissenters) because “we are all unworthy.” Those who objected to Giving Testimony and the affirmation of faith seemed to believe that the only requirement for lay ministers should be a desire to serve. However, the ministries which have been opened to the laity are elements of priestly ministry; deacons, priests, and bishops are required to make a formal, public affirmation of faith that is even more comprehensive and detailed than the one Bishop Vasa authored. Why shouldn’t lay ministers be required to manifest their commitment to the Church with an affirmation of faith as well?

There followed the inevitable argument that “I’m following my conscience” – as if that makes one’s opinion undeniably true. The vast majority of objections or dissent on a spurious basis of “conscience” seemed to be merely a smokescreen, though. Bishop Vasa’s letter got right to the point when it said, “The summary statements which I have collected in the Affirmation of Personal Faith…represent the authentic and authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church and acceptance of these tenets is expected of every Catholic” (from the introductory letter; emphasis added). Some dissenters objected because they didn’t want it discovered that they did not, in fact, accept one or more of these basic tenets…and they were squirming because, for the first time, the ball was in their court to either address in their own hearts and lives the discrepancy between their words and their actions, or follow out the logical consequences of their refusal to repent and be converted.

Improperly formed consciences abound...
Quite frankly, the dissenters wouldn’t have found themselves in that quandary if their pastors had been doing their jobs before Bishop Vasa came to the Diocese of Baker. Bishop Vasa’s 2004 pastoral letter merely turned on the light in a building that had long been abandoned, and it sent the cockroaches scurrying for the cover of obscurity, all the while cursing the light. The contraception mandate is accomplishing a similar feat.

People stewed over the “Affirmation of Personal Faith” for a year; they were not asked to sign it, though some made a big show of insisting that, if asked, they absolutely would not sign. Few people, in my experience, resigned as lay ministers – except in Bend, where there was more upheaval over the issue of homosexual behavior. 

Then, in May 2005, Bishop Vasa issued Entrusted with Sacred Duties, on the implementation of the previous letter. It stated that the faithful had been given a year to “investigate more fully the teachings of the Church and determine if they could, in fact, make the required affirmation”; the year had passed, and now the stipulations of the previous document had become particular law for the Diocese of Baker.

Entrusted also provided an excellent commentary and explanation of conscience and the correct formation of conscience – well worth reading. However, it seemed to not to make an impression on many of the stubborn dissenters. In my parish, one objecting staff member said to another, “Here’s our ‘walking papers’”, and both maintained they would not make the affirmation if they were required to “sign on the dotted line”. They would quit their jobs first.

But they were not required to sign, and they did not quit their jobs, and they did not resign as lay ministers.  

Entrusted did not give specific guidelines as to the implementation of the affirmation.  Contrary to popular opinion and report, the bishop did not require anyone to sign the affirmation. Instead, the pastor was required to provide to the chancery office a list of lay ministers, and he was required to sign a statement to the effect that he knew that these people had given their assent to all of the elements of the affirmation. I know this because as parish secretary I was involved in the process, in communications with the chancery, and in the implementation in our parish.

This is not to say that people have not been required to sign the “Affirmation of Personal Faith”; in some parishes, they were, or have been in the years since. Some have signed, some have asked to sign, some have refused to sign.  

But the bottom line is that it hasn’t made any difference.

I know for a fact that many people who would not have agreed to sign the document have continued in their “ministries”, even though they know they are not in compliance with Diocesan law. The Church is still full of dissenters because they believe that they have a right to ministry inherent in their Baptism absent any other consideration. Of course, that position cannot be justified by an appeal to the actual documents of Vatican II, which is why they so often fall back on the ethereal “spirit of” Vatican II. They are quick to point out that “The laity derive the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head…” (Apostolicam auctuositatem 3) – but conveniently ignore the parameters established only two paragraphs later: “This should be done by the laity in communion with their brothers in Christ, especially with their pastors who must make a judgment about the true nature and proper use of these gifts” (emphasis added).

Archbishop Sartain,
Archdiocese of Seattle
In light of many recent events, the relevance of the “Affirmation of Personal Faith” should be obvious. The open rebellion in the Diocese of Seattle over the issue of homosexual marriage is one example. Cardinal Schonborn’s support of an openly homosexual man’s bid for a seat on the parish council is another. These are reflections of the constant clamor of dissident “Catholic” groups for things like women’s ordination, complete acceptance of homosexual behavior as sinless, and all manner of liturgical abuses.

I think it’s time to acknowledge that the Catholic Church (in the US at least, and probably world-wide) is effectively divided. Even though the faithful attend Mass in one building, two Churches are present – and only one is truly Catholic. The other is a sham, a schism, and the smoke of satan. The purpose of those leading the dissenters is to destroy the true Catholic Church from within. Until those leaders are dealt with, and until those who have swallowed the deception are confronted about their misunderstanding of Church teaching, the division will grow. We can’t go on pretending it doesn’t exist.

It’s time to turn on the lights. It’s time to admit there’s an elephant in the living room.

Click "read more" to see the “Affirmation of Personal Faith” as it appears in Bishop Vasa’s 2004 pastoral letter “Giving Testimony to the Truth”. You can read the pastoral letters in their entirety here (scroll down to Appendices 29 and 30).


I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.” In particular:

I affirm and believe the Church’s teaching about the inviolability of human life. In accord with that teaching I affirm that human life is sacred and must be protected and respected from the moment of conception until natural death. I affirm that I reject direct, intentional abortion and I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience in this matter. I am not pro-choice. I further attest that I am not affiliated with, nor supportive of, any organization which supports, encourages, provides or otherwise endorses abortion or euthanasia. (cf. CCC 2270-2283)

I affirm and believe the Church’s teaching about the sinfulness of contraception. I affirm, in accord with the teachings of the Church that “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil. (CCC 2370)

I affirm and believe that every person is called to chastity in accord with their present state of life and that it is only in marriage between man and woman that the intimacy of spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. (CCC 2337—2365) I accept the Church’s teaching that any extra-marital sexual relationships are gravely evil and that these include pre-marital relations, masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations.

I affirm and believe the teaching of the Church about the evil of homosexual acts. I accept the formulation in the Catechism which states: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (CCC 2357)

I affirm and believe all that the Church teaches about the Reality and Presence of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. Specifically I believe that Jesus is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity under each of the forms of bread and wine and that receiving either one is Communion with the whole Christ. I recognize that worship and adoration are appropriate, not only during Mass but also outside of Mass and that the Most Holy
Eucharist must always be handled with the utmost care and devotion. (CCC 1373-1381)

I affirm and believe the teachings of the Church regarding Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church. I accept with the Church that it is fitting and proper to honor the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. (CCC 963-975)

I affirm and believe that it is possible for a person to choose to remain separated from God for all eternity and that “This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”” (CCC 1033)

I affirm and believe that those who die in God’s grace and friendship but are still imperfectly purified undergo additional purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joys of heaven. I affirm that the Church’s name for this final purification is Purgatory. (CCC 1030-1032)

I affirm and believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and embrace the teachings about that Church as enunciated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (cf. CCC 748-962)

I affirm and believe that the Church teaches with God-given authority and that the promise of Christ to remain with His Church always, until the end of time is a reality. I further acknowledge that those teachings pronounced in a definitive manner, even though not as an infallible definition, are binding on the consciences of the faithful and are to be adhered to with religious assent. (CCC 892)

To these and to all the teaching of the Catholic Church I give my assent. I attest that I believe these things and, while I am aware of my own sinfulness and shortcomings, I strive in my beliefs and life style to conform to this Affirmation of Personal of Faith.

* The Church requires the making of a Profession of Faith by various persons when they undertake specific duties related to Church administration and teaching. (cf. Canon 833) In the Diocese of Baker this has been expanded to include those who take on the ecclesial duties of Catechist, Liturgical Reader, Cantor, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and other Church positions which entail a presumption of orthodoxy.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Jay. Your are on fire. Good for you and good for Bishop Vasa. I knew there was a reason I liked him. Did You read the Vortex today?


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