On January 2, 2015, the Fathers of Mercy released an official statement on the "Healing of Families" by Fr. Yozefu-B Ssemakula. If you follow that link you will see another link which opens a six-page synopsis of their concerns. In the main link I provided, after reading the statement, you might want to read the dialogue taking place in the comment thread between readers and some of the priests. While the statement released by the Fathers of Mercy is not magisterial, it carries considerable weight given the esteem these very solid priests have in Catholic circles. Their members speak at all kinds of venues, they do parish missions, have been on Catholic television and radio, and in media. Fr. William Casey and Fr. Wade Menezes of EWTN fame, are among their more notable members.
Back on August 26, 2014, Bishop Gregory Parkes released an official statement concerning the "Healing of Families." The request for an imprimatur by Fr. Ssemakula occurred while the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee was under the administration of Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The Fathers of Mercy, in their statement, write (emphasis mine in bold):
- A theological and spiritual work, like The Healing of Families, written by a Catholic priest, should not be published without ecclesiastical approbation.• Fr. Ssemakula's work was reviewed and rejected for Church approval. Bishop Parkes' official statement: http://www.ptdiocese.org/documents/Bishop/Ssemakula.pdf. Despite the rejection due to theological errors, he still published it.
• Fr. Ssemakula told attendees at the ‘clergy only conference’ in February of 2014, that his bishop had told him “there was no need for an imprimatur,” and there were [other] bishops who have offered him an imprimatur on his book. This was a misrepresentation of the truth; no imprimatur can be granted while there are theological errors. His book and ministry is currently under review once more by the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
That is troubling.
In both the statement of Bishop Parkes, and the Fathers of Mercy, they point out that there are some good things in the book that people find helpful. They can't simply dismiss theological errors on the basis that other things are helpful. Even mushrooms which have good taste and important nutrients, can be poisonous. I'm not saying Fr. Ssemakula's book is a poisonous mushroom, but merely making a point that theological error can be found in a book that has other components which are otherwise good. Theological error in a book is not a benign thing and can have harmful effects. Those harms may be hidden to the casual observer.
I'm going to pepper in a few of the bullet points from the statement, but do read the whole thing.
Fr. Ssemakula's book makes the following statements: “Now, that suffering [of Jesus Christ] was willed by neither the Father nor the Son. What the Father willed was to save the world, not the death of His Son.” “He did not come to die, but to save, and ended up dying....” These statements are absolutely contrary to the Biblical prophesies of the Redemption being brought about through the suffering and death of the Messiah, and to the constant tradition of the Church and her saints.
This book presents a distorted picture of our chief enemy – Satan/Lucifer/The Devil – giving him powers and “rights” that he does not possess, and at the same time, presenting him as desiring only to wreck havoc, pain and sufferings upon us (in this life), when in fact, Satan's true goal is our spiritual destruction by sin and eternal damnation.
This book misrepresents the fact that God sometimes punishes us in this world, asserting rather that all evils/sufferings are “consequence[s] of sins.” This is clearly contrary to Scripture and Tradition, in which God uses sufferings to bring us back to Himself (our conversion), to correct our faults and free us from the effects of our sins (purification), and to unite us more closely to Himself in His Passion and Death (sanctification).
This book is replete with “proof-texting” – a serious misuse of Sacred Scripture in which passages are taken out of context in order to “prove” a point which is not supported by the clear meaning of the Scripture passages. There is also a severe lack of reference to the Catechism, Church Fathers, or the Saints.
In bullet 13, the statement explains how much of the "theology" in the book, "resemble ancient heresies": Manicheanism, Gnosticism, and Pelagianism (it explains those terms).
There are several bullets dealing with prayers made without faith, from praying a particular formula to saying the name of Jesus. The explain that this is a form of superstition. Faith has to be component.
In Bullet 20, it states:
In the appendix, Fr. Ssemakula states that a priest cannot use the imprecatory prayer of Leo XIII without permission from his bishop, but that it CAN be used by the lay faithful because they have authority in their families. This is in direct contradiction to Church teaching. In 1985, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, gave the Church’s official clarification on the matter: “… it is not even licit that the faithful use the formula of exorcism against Satan and the fallen angels, extracted from the one published by order of the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII, and even less that they use the integral text of this exorcism.”
This is a clear example of how flawed Fr. Ssemakula’s teaching on authority is; his teaching on the individual’s authority to directly address the devil goes too far and potentially puts souls in serious harm’s way.
Later in the statement, the Fathers of Mercy discuss a list of reasons why they feel people find the program helpful and say these are not contrary to the faith. After that list they explain:
In terms of why this program works, at a very superficial level, these principles listed above are in keeping with good Catholic thought and teaching. Fr. Ssemakula is not totally wrong in his presentation and there are elements of Truth with a capital “T” found here. These are some of the reasons why we feel this book and program has produced such notable results.
Finally, they conclude:
While recognizing tremendous good that has resulted from the use of the Healing of Families book and program, the Fathers of Mercy have grave reservations regarding the tremendous theological errors, philosophical contradictions, and logical fallacies within the book and presented at the conferences. There has been much effort given to “working around” these errors and utilizing the program in its present form; however the errors are just too numerous and, in parts, dangerous to souls. For this reason we cannot recommend this book or program and in conscience must warn souls of the dangers it presents.
Among the preparers undersigned, is Fr. Ken Geraci, listed as a (Attendee and Former instructor of "Healing of Families"). He is one of the priests responding in the comment thread here. Reading that comment thread you understand how involved they were and why, now, they feel the need to distance themselves.
In that comment thread, someone dropped in a comment with a link to an in depth review of the book he did this past summer. See his comment with a link to the dropbox site where he has it stored online.
Please pray for Fr. Ssemakula and all of those struggling with this issue. Hopefully, he can update his book and teachings to fix what is broke. People can have mistaken understandings and hopefully, that is all that is happening here and it can be resolved.
"Generational Healing" and "Family-Tree Healing"?
On a similar note, I think this would be an opportune time to mention the subject of "generational healing." That was addressed soundly by the Korean bishops in 2007 (see news story here). The only thing I can find is this report. It would have been good to get the entire statement in English if that is available. In part, the report reads:
According to the directive, proponents of this practice believe that people inherit their ancestors´ sins, which cause chronic family problems.
The proponents of "family-tree healing," also called "generational healing, argue that if people do not pray for their ancestors´ souls and offer Masses for the removal of their sins, these problems cannot be solved.
Bishop Choi explains that "family-tree healing is a mixture of traditional Church teaching" on the souls of the dead and Oriental religious worldviews. "The belief that people inherit their ancestors´ sins is not part of the Catholic faith," he stresses.
He points out that sins belong solely to the individual and cannot be inherited.
Furthermore, baptism frees all Catholics from their past sins, even original sin, he points out.
Yeah. This is superstition.
- Instructions on Prayers for Healing (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)
- Salvifici Dolore (Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the Meaning of Suffering)
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