Mercy Priest: Speaking Against Pope Same as Physically Assaulting Him

Mercy Priest: Speaking Against Pope Same as Physically Assaulting Him

Posted by St. Corbinian’s Bear
Saturday, December 5, 2015

Archbishop Fisichella holds up a large word-stone for reporters.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella is President of the Pontifical Council of New Evangelization. (Come on, give him a chance.)

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

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

Okay, now you may laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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2 comments on “Mercy Priest: Speaking Against Pope Same as Physically Assaulting Him

  1. Perhaps some priest or canonist can answer a question I was asked but could not answer: Is just wanting to strike the pope a mortal sin that has to be brought to confession? The person who asked the question had no intention of actually striking the pope, but had just become angry in the moment and momentarily had the wish to do so. We do not have access to a traditional priest very often here and I did not know what to say. Thoughts?

    • Canonist to Vatican archbishop: No, Church law doesn’t excommunicate papal critics

      John-Henry Westen

      December 7, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – A controversy launched by Vatican Archbishop Rino Fisichella over the possibility of automatic excommunication for those who, the archbishop claims, use words as “physical violence” against the pope, has been answered by well-known canonist Edward Peters.

      In a blog post today, Peters says Fisichella “was speaking in the context of faculties to absolve from automatic excommunications, and as there is an automatic excommunication against those who employ physical force against the pope (1983 CIC 1370 § 1), I am guessing that Fisichella might be thinking that ‘harsh language’ against the pope is a canonical crime that makes one liable to excommunication. If so, he is mistaken.”

      Archbishop Fisichella made his remarks at a Vatican press briefing while explaining how Pope Francis’s new “Missionaries of Mercy” will have the power to forgive penalties previously reserved to the Holy See. In reference to Canon 1370, which imposes automatic excommunication for “physical violence” against the Roman Pontiff, Archbishop Fisichella said: “I would say that we need to understand well ‘physical violence,’ because sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones, and therefore I believe some of these sins, too, are far more widespread than we might think.”

      Peters points out that Canon 18 “requires penal canons to be read strictly (i.e., as narrowly as reasonably possible).” He notes that Canon 1370 criminalizes ‘vim physicam’ against the pope, not ‘verba aspera’ or variants thereon, and I know of no canonical commentary that includes ‘words’ as a species of ‘physical force’ in this context.” Rather, Peters points to four canon law commentaries which all “expressly exclude ‘verbal violence’ from the range of actions penalized under Canon 1370.”

      See Dr. Ed Peters’ full blog post here.

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