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Statues of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More (both canonized in 1935) [Church of Our Lady of Victories in Kensington, London]

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March 9, 2021 (The Catholic Thing) — The remarkable John Fisher entered Cambridge at the age of 14; he was ordained a priest in 1491 at the age of 22; and ten years later he became vice-chancellor, rising to chancellor of his beloved university in 1504.  The same year, he was named the Bishop of Rochester.

He would be confessor to the mother of King Henry VII, and possibly also a tutor to the prince who would become Henry VIII – and order Fisher’s execution.

When Henry sought to end his marriage with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, a hearing was held at the Legatine Court.  Bishop Fisher served as counsel to the queen.

When Catherine stood on her own to make her case, it was simple, powerful – and affecting. She had borne Henry’s children, including three sons who had died; she asserted that at the time of their marriage, “I was a true maid without touch of man.” And finally, she reminded Henry that the pope had issued a bull confirming her marriage to be valid.

Even a gathering of tamed bishops could be chastened. Nevertheless, the fix was in. Henry declared that the bishops unanimously accepted his case, and the Archbishop of Canterbury chimed in that “all my brethren here present will affirm the same.”

But the moment was quickly broken when Bishop Fisher said, with firmness, “No sir, not I.  You have not my consent thereto.”   And that set him on the course leading to his execution.

Along the way, the King tried to have Fisher poisoned, but he had forgotten that Fisher was ascetic.  Fisher ate nothing, but his servant, cleaning up, died.

Fisher and his soulmate, the Sainted Thomas More sought to preserve a civil deference to the king even as they refused to take an oath that Henry was now the Supreme head of the Church in England.  The Succession Act would dissolve in a stroke the claim of Rome to authority over priests and churches, and the dutiful attachment of the faithful.

With a long, distinguished career in law, diplomacy, and the repressing of heretics, More had risen to become Lord Chancellor.  He had become along the way an intimate of Henry’s; still he could remark, with an unshakeable sobriety, that “if my head would win [Henry] a castle in France, it should not fail to go.”

Of the legends of Thomas More so much has been heard, but far less attention has been given to Fisher.  And yet Fisher’s story reveals a record of courage and conviction not any shade less than that of More’s.  For they shared the same depth of faith that alone could explain why both men were able to move so cheerily to their deaths – and sainthood.

But that story is recalled now and linked, in the most telling way, to the story of More, with Robert Conrad’s new book (forthcoming from St. Benedict Press), John Fisher and Thomas More:  Keeping Their Souls While Losing Their Heads.   More remarked to the jury that convicted him hoping “we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together, to our everlasting salvation.”

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PETITION UPDATE (3/15/21) - 

Reports suggest that the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference (USCCB) is preparing a vote on what to do about pro-abortion Joe Biden (and, presumably, other abortion-promoting politicians) who continues to present himself (themselves) for Holy Communion.

Public excommunication would be a suitable response for Biden's obstinate, public and grave sin of scandalously promoting abortion.

Please continue to SIGN and SHARE this important petition.

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PETITION UPDATE (2/4/20)

Since Joe Biden was sworn-in on the 20th of January, he has wasted no time in signing Executive Orders to destroy the protections which former President Trump offered to the unborn and to the innocence and modesty of children of the United States.

In one executive order, Biden rescinded the Mexico City Policy prohibiting the federal government from spending taxpayer monies on abortion and the promotion of abortion.

And, in another executive order, Biden seeks to force girls' athletic programs, restrooms, and locker rooms to accept gender-confused males.

Since the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was shamefully silent throughout the presidential campaign on the pre-eminent issues of abortion and gender ideology, and what Biden vowed he would do as president, it is cold comfort that their pro-life office is now speaking up about this Administration's wilful disregard for human life and for God's design of human nature (i.e., two biological sexes).

Stated plainly, Joe Biden is as bad as he said he would be, and the bishop, acting in unison (as the USCCB) have an obligation to the Lord (first) and to the faithful (second) to refuse Holy Communion to this grave public sinner.

With all due respect to these bishops, they diminish the Holy Eucharist and their high office, as well as cause grave scandal to the faithful, by dialoguing with a man who is promoting mass murder of the unborn against the constant teaching of the Church.

A man who continues to use the church as a backdrop for statements about how "Catholic/religious" he is, but, at the same time, is now doing everything in his power to protect the murder of the innocent, needs to publicly repent before dialogue can begin.

The bishops should not dialogue with or congratulate someone who has publicly betrayed the Church's teaching and who is leading others astray.

It's an embarrassment and a scandal for the bishops to continue to allow him to receive Holy Communion.

Please SIGN and SHARE this petition today!

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PETITION UPDATE (12/10/20)

Prior to the election on November 3, the U.S. bishops did not address Joe Biden’s anti-Catholic position regarding faith and morals as a unified body.

The USCCB, the organization to which every U.S. bishop belongs and which is staffed and led by bishops, remained disgracefully silent in the run-up to the election.

What were the bishops afraid of, losing their charitable tax status with the IRS, or being deprived of fat checks from the HHS (immigration programs) and USAID (foreign aid programs)?

Or, were they just too cowardly to clearly declare Christ's law to be above man's law and risk the ire of a Joe Biden as president?

Either way, the bishops’ lack of clarity in this regard is a terrible scandal in itself and probably greatly contributed to the possible election of a pro-abortion, anti-Catholic Catholic to the presidency.

Given the fact that exit polling shows Catholics split their vote 50-50 for Trump and Biden, even a slight deviation in the heavily-Catholic swing-states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania could have produced different results.

The bishops could have spoken out against Biden’s pro-abortion stance collectively, but, again, they were overwhelmingly and shamefully silent.

Because of this, they will be at least partly responsible for the policies advanced by a Biden administration, in the event that Biden is sworn into office.

However, the bishops can, even now, mitigate the damage done by their inaction by taking the following steps: 1) Speak with one voice, as the USCCB, and plainly condemn Biden's pro-abortion stance; 2) Publicly advise Biden not to present himself for Holy Communion because of his scandalous position on abortion and homosexual "marriage;" and, 3) Tell Biden to publicly repent of publicly promoting the wilfull murder of the preborn, sins against nature, and diminishing the natural family.

Thankfully, some individual bishops have spoken out forcefully on Biden's scandalous behavior, and his standing in the Church.

On November 9, Archbishop Strickland of Tyler, Texas tweeted: “A dark cloud has descended on this nation when the USCCB and Planned Parenthood speak in unison in support of a Biden-Harris administration that supports the slaughter of innocents by abortion for all 9 months of pregnancy.”

Additionally, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, Colorado and Archbishop Charles Chaput have both declared publicly that Joe Biden “should not receive Holy Communion."

But, to add insult to injury, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. has said that he will give Holy Communion to Biden because “it’s a matter of the responsibility that I have as the archbishop to be engaged and to be in dialogue with him, even in those areas where we obviously have some differences.”

And, Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware and Bishop McElroy of San Diego also congratulated Biden in statements, but they have not indicated whether or not they would administer Holy Communion to him.

With all due respect to these bishops, they diminish the Holy Eucharist and their high office, as well as cause grave scandal to the faithful, by dialoguing with a man who is promoting mass murder of the unborn against the constant teaching of the Church.

A man who uses the church as a backdrop to make sickening political advertisements about how "Catholic/religious" he is, but, at the same time, says that he will do everything in his power to protect the murder of the innocent, needs to publicly repent before dialogue can begin.

The bishops should not dialogue with or congratulate someone who has publicly betrayed the Church's teaching and who is leading others astray.

It's an embarrassment and a scandal for the bishops to continue to allow him to receive Holy Communion.

Please SIGN and SHARE this petition today!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/us-bishops-concerned-about-pro-abortion-biden-previously-hailed-him-as-second-catholic-president

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abp-aquila-backs-call-for-pro-abortion-catholic-joe-biden-to-be-denied-holy-communion?utm_source=top_news&utm_campaign=standard

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/former-philly-archbishop-biden-not-in-full-communion-with-the-catholic-church

https://www.thesoutherncross.org/news/bishop-mcelroy-offers-prayers-and-congratulations-to-president-elect-biden/

https://www.ncronline.org/news/politics/us-catholics-weigh-mixed-reaction-biden-win

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PETITION UPDATE (9/29/20)

Cardinal Raymond Burke has stated that Democratic candidate Joe Biden should not receive Holy Communion because of his support for abortion.

In an interview for Thomas McKenna's Catholic Action for Faith and Family podcast, Cardinal Burke states the following (starting around 5:00):

First of all, I would tell him [Biden] not to approach to receive Holy Communion, out of charity toward him, because that would be a sacrilege and endanger the salvation of his own soul.

But, also, he should not approach to receive Holy Communion because he gives scandal to everyone, because if someone says, 'I'm a devout Catholic," and, at the same time is promoting abortion, it gives the impression to others that it's acceptable for a Catholic to be in favor of abortion.

Of course, it's absolutely not acceptable, and never has been, and never will be.

We give thanks for Cardinal Burke's frankness and clarity. And, we call on every U.S. Catholic bishop to follow Cardinal Burke's lead and call out Joe Biden for his bloody-minded hypocrisy on the issue of abortion.

To reiterate: You cannot be a Catholic and support abortion.

Thank you for continuing to sign this urgent petition.

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PETITION UPDATE (8/17/20)

The Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, keeps claiming to be Catholic but has said he will do everything in his power to support abortion.

And, with his pick of California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, Biden has just cemented abortion into the Democrats' 2020 presidential ticket.

Indeed, Harris is vehemently pro-abortion.

During her time as attorney general of California, Harris played a key role in defending Planned Parenthood over its sale of aborted baby parts (which violated multiple federal laws, according to undercover video of abortion industry personnel).

And, last year, Harris unveiled a plan to essentially force pro-life states to seek permission from the federal government before pro-life laws can take effect.

Additionally, Harris has dangerous views on religious liberty and freedom of speech.

Harris displayed anti-Catholic bigotry in the confirmation hearings of Judge Brian Buescher. Harris cited his membership in the “all-male society” the Knights of Columbus and its stances against abortion and same-sex “marriage” as grounds for rejecting Buescher for a federal district court in Nebraska.

And, David Daleiden, head of the pro-life investigative group Center for Medical Progress, wrote that from his firsthand experience, he considers Harris the “greatest threat to First Amendment civil rights our country has ever seen.”

Joe Biden has seriously erred by taking on Kamala Harris as his running mate, further distancing himself from the truths of the Catholic Faith, especially that every life is sacred from conception till natural death.

Please CLICK HERE to read an article which details one U.S. bishop's warning about the Biden-Harris ticket.

And, please continue to SIGN and SHARE this petition.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Of course, these two things are incompatible: you cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion.

And, a "Catholic" politician's responsibility in this regard is absolute: On pain of serious sin, he or she can never promote abortion because abortion is the wilful murder of innocent preborn human beings, and also because doing so causes grave scandal to the Church and the faithful.

Please SIGN this urgent petition asking the bishops of the United States to refuse to give Holy Communion to Joe Biden until he publicly repents from his scandalous promotion of abortion.

Biden recently promised to “codify Roe v. Wade” as president, adding, "my Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate a woman’s protected, constitutional right to choose."

And, since starting his latest run for the presidency, Biden also flip-flopped against the Hyde Amendment, saying that he would allow federal funds to be spent on abortion - a position he claimed to be against for more than 40 years.

In short, Joe Biden will do everything in his power to enable and defend the wilful murder of innocent preborn human beings.

So, this should not be a hard decision for our U.S. bishops. In fact, in another circumstance, it was already done by an Illinois bishop.

Indeed, Bishop Paprocki, of Springfield, Illinois, invoked Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law to withdraw Holy Communion from two Illinois state politicians who had worked to enact radical new abortion legislation in 2019.

Canon 915 states: "Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."

Of course, no-one, least of all the bishops, wants anyone to be deprived of Holy Communion.

A politician who publicly and obstinately advocates for the murder of innocent preborn babies puts himself out-of-communion with the Church and her teaching. 

Pro-abortion politicians should not think that they can advocate for the murder of the unborn and receive the Body of Christ at the same time. This would be to defile the Eucharist while giving scandal to the faithful.

Depriving politicians of Holy Communion is not just meant to prevent scandal; it is also designed to bring a grave public sinner to repentance. In this way, such an action is meant to be for the good of their souls, too.

Thank you for SIGNING this urgent petition which calls on the U.S. Catholic bishops to refuse to admit Joe Biden to Holy Communion until he publicly repents from his scandalous promotion of abortion.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Joe Biden: I support abortion ‘under any circumstance’ - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/joe-biden-i-support-abortion-under-any-circumstance

Catholic priest denies Joe Biden Holy Communion for pro-abortion stance - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/catholic-priest-denies-joe-biden-holy-communion-for-pro-abortion-stance

Cardinal McCarrick and the Concealing of Rome’s Position on Denying Communion  - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cardinal-mccarrick-and-the-concealing-of-romes-position-on-denying-communio

**Photo Credit: Joshua Roberts / Getty Images

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He kissed the executioner, about to dispatch him and said, “Thou will give me this day greater benefit than ever any mortal man can be able to give me.”  As Fisher prepared calmly for his execution, he dressed in his finest clothes and told his servant that this was his marriage day, and it behooved him “to dress for the solemnity of the marriage.”

The story offers a dramatic mix of law and theology, and Conrad brings to it the eye of a former federal prosecutor, now a senior federal judge in North Carolina.  But he brings also the angle of a serious Catholic, who takes fully seriously the faith that removed from these men the fear of death.

The trials through which More and Fisher passed would not exactly pass a demanding test of “due process of law” in our own time.   But Conrad leads us through the thicket.  More and Fisher refused to take the oaths confirming Henry’s divorce, or the Act of Supremacy, establishing Henry as the Supreme Head of what was now the Church of  “England.”

More and Fisher fell back on the understanding in the law that silence implies consent.  They made a claim to “conscience” as a way of showing the want of “malice” that was necessary to the crime.  But silence, of course, would not do, and so the next statute took the refusal to take the oath as the “misprision of a felony.”

That notion of “conscience” has been the parent of serious confusion in this story.  The most famous account of More has come through Robert Bolt’s play, turned into a movie, A Man for All Seasons.  But as Gunnar Gundersen pointed out in these columns, Bolt gave us a More furnished with the “clichés” of our own day.

Bolt has More say that what matters to him is not that “I believe” these arguments to be true, but that “I believe” them.  In the vernacular of our day, Bolt sought to show that the lodestar for More was to be comfortable with himself.

That stands in striking contrast to John Paul II’s teaching that “conscience” is directed to an objective set of moral norms outside ourselves.   And as Robert Conrad shows, that is the only account of More that makes sense.

For Bolt, the key to More was the “possession of self” – that More was a “hero of selfhood.”        To take that path, as John Paul II said, was to move  to a “subjectivist” understanding, and in that way “the inescapable truths disappear.”  Conrad caught the core of the matter:

[More and Fisher] were not adamantine followers of self-will but servants of the one true God who spoke through his Word and his Church.  Their shared conviction was that. . .God was truth, and that his Church was a truth-telling institution.

And that, as Conrad says, was truly a “message for all seasons,” and a script “for generations unborn.”

Originally published at The Catholic Thing. Reprinted with permission.

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