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February 18, 2005


Mike Petrik


Jay Anderson

First Cardinal McCarrick is less than truthful about what Cardinal Ratzinger told him regarding pro-abort politicians receiving Communion, and now we learn that Archbishop Flynn was untruthful about Cardinal Arinze's view of the rainbow sash people.

These two shepherds (along with several others) have, apparently, intentionally misled their flocks on the issue of who is properly disposed to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and our God.

Will there be any consequences? Collegiality should have its limits.


I have two questions:

1. It seems as if Arinze, rather than clearly stating that "pro-abortion politicians may not receive communion," instead said that the answer "should be pretty transparent" and suggested that grade school children know it. Why did he answer the question in this backhanded way?

2. It seems as if Arinze defined "pro-abortion politicans" as those who say "I am in favor of killing unborn babies." But no politicians ever say that. Instead, they say that they are NOT in favor of killing unborn babies, but that abortion should remain legal to protect the life of the mother, etc. Why did Arinze set up these straw "politicians" in the interview?

I ask these questions because I would love to see a clear statement from Rome that forces the bishops in this country to take action here. But, in the absence of an interview transcript, I fear that Arinze left some loopholes that bishops can exploit.

Jay Anderson


I had the same thoughts with respect to the coyness with which Arinze answered the question regarding pro-abortion politicians.

Why not just come right out and say it rather than creating additional doubt?


Why not just come right out and say it rather than creating additional doubt?

Because it is not what they really believe.

The Holy Father has given Communion to pro-choice Italian politicians. Is there any effort at all in Rome to deny Communion to the Italian equivalents of Kerry and Kennedy?

If not...why should we believe that US bishops who do not refuse Communion to Kerry and Kennedy are somehow defying the Holy See?

Jay Anderson

"Because it is not what they really believe."

Unfortunately, I think you're probably right.



1) Cardinal Arinze said just last year, plainly, "If they should not receive, then they should not be given." His reluctance to address the American Bishops directly is, I think, due to a respect for their authority. He wants to make sure the practice of the Church is clear, without sounding like he's the Pope who can tell Bishops what to do. He's not (yet :) )

2) He didn't set up a "straw man". He was just reducing the reality of the pro abort position take up. Regardless of semantic hoops they jump through, he calls a spade a spade, and recognizes that they believe women should be allowed to kill their babies. Period.

I was impressed by Arinze in this interview. He strikes me as a sheperd that would tell someone to shut up if they needed to shut up. No minced words.


Last I heard, lying is a sin. The bishops lied. One has to wonder about their view of God's will, scripture and tradition, eternal life, etc. This is serious stuff.


I just love Arinze. I heard him speak at Duquesne University a couple of years back and took many memorable sound bites away from the experience (eg: "The Truth does not depend on the sincerity of the person who holds a particular position!") I also salute him for his speech at Georgetown which ruffled so many faculty feathers down there. He is clear and direct and a wonderful speaker.

But truly, on this issue, I think the most definitive thing a cardinal or bishop or anyone else can say is that if one publicly supports and works to advance abortion they should not present themselves for Holy Communion.

Maybe a lawyer or priest can help me out here. Isn't there a concept called burden of proof, or to put it another way, isn't it basically the responsibility of the person receiving the Eucharist to ensure that they are properly disposed or worthy to receive that sacrament? I know how long the lines are at Mass each Sunday, surely everyone who receives can't be in the state of holiness we should all aspire to (I know I'm not). But honestly, I don't see how a standoff at the Communion "rail" with a pro-abortion politician or a Rainbow sash member would play out in the real world. Generally speaking, I don't think it's a question of bishops and priests not really "believing it" or "leaving loopholes." How can they ever know for sure if anyone who walks up should or should not receive Communion? To me, taking a "hard line" on whether or not to give Communion seems extremely difficult if not impossible when push comes to shove.


Jason -

I, too, think Arinze is a good shepherd. If you're not familiar with it, see the text of his commencement address at Georgetown here.

That said, I am inclined to think that Arinze was mincing words in this EWTN interview, just as he was when he said "if it should not be received, it should not be given." That statement simply begs the question: should it be received?

The question here is not: should the Catholic bishops chastise politicians who support legalized abortion? or should Catholics who are known to think abortion is a positive good be prevented from receiving Communion? Those questions are easy. (The answer to each is "yes.")

The question, rather, is: should Catholic politicians who profess to be personally opposed to abortion but who fail to oppose its legalization be allowed to receive Communion? I think this is a tough question that lacks easy answers. Americans like me, who tend to have itchy trigger fingers when it comes to the enforcement of canon law, hate these nuances, but they are there and the Church is right to deal with them cautiously. Again, remember the wheat and the tares.

This desire to proceed cautiously, along with a desire to promote collegiality, is probably why Arinze did not directly answer the question posed to him.


I think his coyness indicates his sincerity, despite perhaps his phrasing. Implying that not answering the question with his lawyers standing by to make sure he "closed every loophole" assumes he intended there to be loopholes.

I think the statements are pretty obvious myself. Only those with an axe to grind will find ways to misuse what he said.


I think this is a tough question


And it is not only US bishops who are struggling with it, but bishops in Europe and around the world, including the Bishop of Rome — who himself has not taken the hardline as a Minister of the Eucharist that some commentators say is demanded by the Holy See.


"Are we going to change Divine Law, how God made us?"

We're probably not, that's obvious. But if God "made" people gay by means of genetics, where do we go from there? Denying the facts of one's God-given make-up is wrong if a heterosexual engages in homosexual behavior. Why not in other instances?

Arinze is a good diplomat. But he might have said something different to Flynn.

Mitchell Hadley

I too wish Cardinal Arinze had been more forceful. Reminds me of the dispute over Cardinal Ratzinger's words in saying the Pope spoke infalliably on women priests. Unfortunately, the heterodox will believe what they want to believe. Those of us here in St. Paul-Minneapolis will wait to hear what Archbishop Flynn says next...



Do those other instances include adults who are attracted to children? Why should they suppress who they are?

Mike Petrik

We are each endowed with all kinds of genetic predispositions and predilections. This, however, does not excuse sinful behavior. After all, we now know that genes affect our temperaments as well as our various appetites. So what? "My genes made me do it" just doesn't wash.
I do not mean to suggest that sinners aren't welcome within the Church. To the contrary we all rely on the Church's embrace of sinners. But Catholics must accept what the Church defines as a sin, and not subjectively adjust those definitions in order to justify one's predilections


Last time I looked, Cdl. Arinze was not in any American bishop's chain of command....not yet anyway.


It is one thing for a Cardinal to sin, say steal a candybar, and it is quite another to falsify Church teachings on abortion. Quick, some canon lawyer, tell at what point would this Cardinal loose his right to be sheperd at least until he publicly repents?


"Do those other instances include adults who are attracted to children?"

No, without exceptions.

"Why should they suppress who they are?"

Because child (or teen) sexual abuse is about one person's urge, not two. The child or adolescent is incapable of making a sexual commitment, and the potential harm exceeds the crime of the sexual acts themselves or their immediate consequences. Additionally, sexual predators are more about power and control than sex. The desire to dominate another person is severely disordered, and cannot be traced to genetics. Predators are made, not born.

"We are each endowed with all kinds of genetic predispositions and predilections. This, however, does not excuse sinful behavior."

Sinful sexual behavior is more a denial of the good that comes from a close relationship than it is an "incorrect" act. Sinful sexual behavior is wrong primarily because of the harm caused by the act, not because the Church says so.

"But Catholics must accept what the Church defines as a sin, and not subjectively adjust those definitions in order to justify one's predilections."

On the point of self-justification, I would agree. My experience with gay persons and my assessment that Catholic moral theology is based in part on false biological or psychological premises raises my internal doubts about the Church's position on committed, permanent homosexual relationships. That said, the best advice I could give a Catholic coming to me with the question is to do one's best to remain celibate. That choice is a more "guaranteed" path. That choice is not without personal cost, though, and it also carries a whiff of injustice that I find too bothersome to dismiss easily.

The Rainbow Sash issue is a no-brainer for me. Anyone using the Mass as a vehicle for protest should not come forward to receive, be they Rainbow Sash folks, orthodox Catholics coming to a Mass just to protest the protesters, or anyone whose motives are less than a sincere attempt to worship God.


>>>"The desire to dominate another person is severely disordered, and cannot be traced to genetics. Predators are made, not born."

So basically, those with a pedophile orientation should suppress who they are. Got it. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If you are going to condemn one sexual proclivity, you have no basis on which to condemn others for condemning another sexual proclivity.

Tom Harmon


The source of the good of sexual intercourse is not located in the consent of the two people involved. Consensual sex can be gravely disordered, too (adultery, for example).

Jay Anderson

"Last time I looked, Cdl. Arinze was not in any American bishop's chain of command....not yet anyway."

(1) So, that gives these American Bishops a free pass to be untruthful about what he said on various topics related to the Faith?

(2) Why do these American Bishops even feel the need to quote (or misquote as it seems) Cardinals Arinze and Ratzinger if their views are not relevant to how the American Bishops do their jobs?
(I'm not saying their views are necessarily relevant to how the American Bishops perform their functions, but then why quote/misquote them rather than completely ignore them?)


"These rainbow sash people, are they really saying we are homosexuals, we intend to remain so and we want to receive Holy Communion"

How exactly does it follow that wearing the sash means you are engaged in homosexuality? Couldn't it be a solidarity thing?

Jay Anderson

"How exactly does it follow that wearing the sash means you are engaged in homosexuality? Couldn't it be a solidarity thing?"

Regardless, the purpose of coming forward to receive the Body and Blood of our God isn't to show solidarity with someone's plight, make social commentary, or score political points.


Sinful sexual behavior is wrong primarily because of the harm caused by the act, not because the Church says so.

Or even if St. Paul says so?

Jack Taylor wrote in "This Rock":
Matthew Tyndall (1657-1733), one of the most respected Deists of the eighteenth century, declared that, since the essence of Christianity is ethics, grasped by natural reason, there is no need for divine revelation. Religion thus is separate from miracles, history, religious institutions, and priestly hierarchies. No one needs anyone else to tell him what to do; we can all figure it out for ourselves through reason.

Which means that I can figure out what harm there is in any given sexual act. Very modern for sure.


Tom, I agree with your example, which exemplifies a betrayal of the intent of sexual expression to be permanent and exclusive. I add it to my own list of non-negotiables.

John Heavrin

"The desire to dominate another person is severely disordered, and cannot be traced to genetics. Predators are made, not born."

Is this as settled a fact as the statement implies?


TSO, another modern thought for you: was it okay before St Paul and Pentecost, only to be wrong with the advent of the Church?

Mike Petrik

A few quibbles:
First, sex between an adult and a teen (and potentially even a pre-teen) does not necessarily involve only the "urge" of the adult. It is wrong even if the desire is mutual and even if one can justify it under the quasi-utilitarian calculus you propose.
Second, we don't know to what extent the desire to dominate can be tracable to genetics. What we do know is that we have been given the free will to act or not act on our desires.
Third, under appropriate circumstances various sexual behavior can be sinful solely because the Church says it is, just like any other behavior, such as eating meat on Lenten Fridays. But in this case the behavior is recognized by the Church as sinful because it is incompatable with the Word of God and His natural law.
God gave us the gift of sexuality and procreation subject to certain conditions. He did not ask us to sniff them for justice; only to obey them.


Mike, agreed on your first point, which I did not exclude from my post. On point 2, the desire to dominate is clearly off the point of homosexuality, and even more clearly a grave evil, especially without the cooperation of the victim. Homosexual rape is an obvious evil. And to number three, Church regulations serve a purpose to deepen the holiness of its members. They are not rooted in Natural Law, specifically. To your conclusion: I have no problem obeying Church conditions on sexuality or counselling others to do so. The debate comes in the realm of questioning certain teachings. The Magisterium has yet to incorporate scientific fact in many of its positions: this naturally leads to questions.

Desert Chatter

"Why do these American Bishops even feel the need to quote (or misquote as it seems) Cardinals Arinze and Ratzinger if their views are not relevant to how the American Bishops do their jobs?"

I don't think that Jim said that Arinze was irrelevant. He just said that Arinze is not in a position to order the bishops to do anything. His thoughts are certainly relevant, but not binding as authority. If the Pope wanted to issue a direct order, we can assume he would have issued a direct order.


Spak, RE your question--"Why did he answer the question in this backhanded way?" Because it's so damned obvious a kindergartener would know the answer. He's telling us "DUHHHHH, yah think? (as Amy put it)" but he's too nice to say it that way. Maybe he should, maybe it's the only thing Americans understand anymore.

What's the difference between a) thinking abortion should be legal, and b) thinking killing babies should be legal? Not too darned much if you can read a dictionary. They both result in millions of dead bodies.

Besides I don't think they're "straw politicians." I seem to remember wonderful addled old Kerry saying something like "yes, I know fetuses are babies before birth and that abortion is killing a baby, but I'm in favor of abortion anyway." I think it made a pretty big splash right in this blog, if I remember right...also over at Bettnet.


Jason, all sexual proclivities are not equally normal, moral or desirable.

Homosexual proclivity is gravely disordered, according to the CCC and classical Catholic teaching. Homosexual activity is gravely (mortally) sinful. Moreover, homosexual behavior ALWAYS occurs outside sacramental matrimony, the bounds for licit sexual activity.

Sexual proclivities ordered toward first sex after marriage, and normal marriage with openness to children thereafter, are not at all disordered. They're normal, licit and moral. Moreover, Catholic marriage between a man and a woman is a sacrament.



Did I say anything to the contrary?


Jason, you said, "So basically, those with a pedophile orientation should suppress who they are. Got it. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If you are going to condemn one sexual proclivity, you have no basis on which to condemn others for condemning another sexual proclivity.



People who rape boys (these are not pedophiles, mostly) have to suppress what they DO, yes. In every case. Always. Or else they should be jailed. Period. Rape is a crime and a mortal sin.

However, between a married couple, sex can be holy. Both are sexual proclivities. They are not comparable morally, OF COURSE.



My comments had nothing to do with sexual proclivities in themselves, but with Todd's logical outlook on them. If he is going to condemn one sexual proclivity, then he has conceded the point that a sexual proclivity can be condemned, and thus he is logically incapable of objecting to others who object against a sexual proclivity. He can disagree with the view on a particular sexual proclivity, but he cannot do so on the grounds of "sexual proclivities are part of who you are, and thus shouldn't be condemned", because he has already done so himself.


I'm assuming Todd thinks masturbation is ok then too?


Jason, actually, I condemned sexual choices, not proclivities. I make a careful distinction between nature and nurture. Also, you've failed to make the distinction between sexuality as "who you are" versus "what you do."

The examples cited above: masturbation and pedophilia are independent of a person's sexual orientation, whether you call them urges, proclivities, or genetic inclinations. Pedophiles and masturbators are either homosexual or heterosexual, most often the latter.



Homosexuality is not part of "who you are". It is a disorder of the sexual appetite, which, when healthy, is naturally ordered to the opposite sex. Homosexuality is a disordered element of who you are, namely, a human being. There are many disorders of the sexual appetite. Pedophilia is one of them.


Hey, Todd, you didn't answer his question.


Jason, it has yet to be clearly shown that homosexuality is not something at least some people are born with. As such, Arinze's quote, "Are we going to change Divine Law, how God made us?" is at least ironic, if not revelatory of a rather deep flaw in the initial argument. For heterosexuals who are "disordered" in their sexual appetite, it is as you say. If a homosexual is born into this orientation, is that not the way "God made" that person? By the way, pedophilia is not always a sexual disorder in the main. It involves the domination and bending of a weaker person, the grooming and charming of adults and victims, and numerous other elements. To suggest pedophilia or other sexual sins is about putting genitalia in the wrong place at the wrong time is incredibly naive.

mc, I believe I covered real questions addressed to me that were germane to this thread. If you have questions off topic you wish me to address, please e-mail me and I'll post them, plus answers, on my own blog. Thanks for the interest in my opinions.


I should have posted, "To suggest pedophilia or other sexual sins is only about putting genitalia in the wrong place at the wrong time is incredibly naive." Sin is a lot more pervasive than the sexual act itself.


>>>"Sin is a lot more pervasive than the sexual act itself."

I agree, much like homosexuality is as much about a deformed psychological development as it is about base sexual desires. Homosexuals are seeking to compensate for a lack of male positivity or another such psychological retardation.

But I don't want to get into a whole thing about homosexuality. Just to say that this point of natural law is in no way doubted by the Church, and Cardinal Arinze understands (and believes) the Catholic understanding of the human person. Your beef is with the Church's doctrine on the nature of human sexuality, rather than with Cardinal Arinze.


And the fact remains, there is a very real difference between the orientation and the act. Homosexual acts should disqualify a man from the priesthood. Homosexual acts by the ordained should be treated as reasons for dismissal, laicization, etc. Priests are not supposed to be using us for raw material for their obsessions. Ditto covering up debauchery by bishops. Period.


Jason, Cardinal Arinze said what he said. If science can show conclusively that homosexuals are born, not made, it throws his whole stated argument into arrears. It is conceivable that people are born with SSA. If so, traditional interpretation of Natural Law might be flawed. There is no legal handbook on Natural Law; it is based on the essence of how God made us and what God's intent for us is. If heterosexuals wrote the book on interpretation, SSA people may have a legitimate beef with how Church teaching has been articulated.

Personally, I think Arinze didn't make the best argument for Church tradition on SSA, but it's not up to his critics to make his argument for him. As I've said countless times before, I'm resolved to hold to Church teaching and advise other Catholics to do their best to adhere to it. But if a whole class of men and women are being asked to live a tradition (celibacy) without the benefits accorded heterosexuals living their call to celibacy, I think they deserve the best and most rigorous theological formulation, not off-hand or half-hearted arguments.



Sorry, but science is subordinate to divine revelation. Science can be wrong; revelation cannot. The Church knows both from revelation and from the natural constitution of man that homosexuality is a disorder of the human person. Her teaching on this is definitive and infallible. It is not open to negotiation.


SSA doesn't excuse homosexual behavior anymore than a prediliction for alcoholism excuses lying in the street zonked out of your mind.

Everybody has problems. The fact that we have them doesn't mean we should engage in the consequences of them. If we are not mere animals, that is.

thomas tucker

Todd- even if homosexuals were born and not made, so are people with deformed limbs, mental retardation, blindness. etc...
In other words, it still wouldn't say that such is normal or God's intention.


Jason, science can verify facts, which, if it turns out these are contrary to previously held beliefs, it might seem that the interpretation of God's law was somehow flawed. Science once thought of women as being deformed or inferior versions of men. We now recognize that women are complementary, not inferior. A theology based on false notions about human biology, not matter how definitively held, would be flawed.

Tom, your argument is superior to Arinze's. But it still begs the question: Is SSA truly a handicap or is it part of our biological make-up as a species. Even among animals and plants, everything is not so geared to procreation as we once thought.

mc, you are right we are not animals. In sentient beings, sexuality is a means of communication and sacrifice that animals are incapable of. In a way, the notion that sex is only for procreation is a way of suggesting we are little better than animals. People can and should make wise choices (and be expected to make wise choices) about sexuality. Leaders who cannot articulate well matters of sex, theology, and discipline well do their position more harm than those who wish a more rigorous standard and are willing to ask for it.


You have so many assumed premises, even you can't keep track of them, Todd. But you sure can type. You do your grammar and imaginative writing teachers proud.

thomas tucker

Todd- perhaps for you it begs the question. Would you argue the same about spina bifida- that it is just a variant that is to be celebrated rather than repaired or prevented? For me, it is self-evident that SSA is as much a deformity, whether congenital or acquired, as is blindness or a missing limb. If you start from the principle that heterosexual attraction is the norm , just as sight is the norm and two arms with two legs is the norm , then you can see that SSA is abnormal. If you can't see it, then I suspect there is a either a willfull blindness or defective vision due to the peculiaritites of cotemporary society. Obviously this dovetails with the Church's teaching that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, regardless of the homosexual's acting out of that disorder or not.



I think you contradict yourself in two successive posts.

First, you defend the Cardinal's articulation of the pro-choice/Communion situation thus: "What's the difference between a) thinking abortion should be legal, and b) thinking killing babies should be legal? Not too darned much if you can read a dictionary."

However, in the next post, you point out how gravely disordered homosexual conduct is. Yet the Cardinal, while clearly stating his refusal to administer the Eucharist to "active homosexuals" didn't say he'd deny it to politicians who fail to criminalize it.

Now, are politicians who refuse to criminalize homosexual acts (or certain heterosexual acts) stating that they're "in favor of sodomy"? If so, then the Cardinal should call for withholding the Eucharist from them. If he admits of a distinction between refusing to criminalize an act and actively supporting the act (when it comes to homosexual conduct) then that might call for more clarification of his abortion position.


Tom, it's interesting that you and others have equated homosexuality with spina bifida, blindness, mental retardation, etc.. What if it's not that disordered, say something like hair or eye color? What seems self-evident to you may not be so with other people. Personal feelings and judgments, though important for informed moral decisions, is not the last word. SSA people might say their orientation is nothing more than epidermal hue. Or they might struggle profoundly with it.

People are born with their skin, eye, and hair color. People can misuse their eyes, skin, and hair and commit sins, even serious ones. But mostly, people just have what God gave them.

You might suspect there is willful blindness on my part, but it could just as easily be you. That I'm willing to adhere to Church teaching personally and in my counsel to others might indicate your suspicions might be off the mark. But it's an interesting discussion, nonetheless.

The original post was about Cardinal Arinze's remarks. I found them somewhat evasive, rather full of strawmen, and perhaps less rigorous than it could have been. I certainly agree with him that God made us, and however we turned out, there is some cause for giving thanks in that. I think I will end my commentary on this thread. Thank you all.

thomas tucker

Adios, amigo. God bless you, Todd.
I'm glad to read that you adhere to Church teaching. I didn't mean to imply that you personally are guilty of wilfull blindness, just pointing out that some are. In fact, I myself have indeed been guilty of that.
It is an interesting discussion.
How do we know what is normal and what is not? Notice I said "know" because I think these things can be known, it's not just a matter of personal opinion. I guess the first place to start is with God's revelation to us in Genesis. As some have pointed out, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. That sounds simplisitc and yet there is profound truth in what God tells us through the author of Genesis.
I would be interested in hearing what other people think- how do we know what is normal, and what is not?


No contradiction there, Todd. IF they're on the record and not recanting from the record as favoring EITHER abortion or homosexual behavior, they shouldn't be in the Holy Communion line.


It's not attitudes, mind you, it's actions which are sinful that keep you out of the Holy Communion line. Temptation does not equal sin--but then you should know that if you are one of those big-time ecclesiastical honchos you make out to be.

You know Church teaching: Unrepented mortal sins prevent a person from receiving Holy Communion. Immoral statements to the press and an immoral voting record not ammended are immoral. On items which are mortally sinful, they keep the legislator out of the line--precisely BECAUSE they are not in union with the Church. This is not hard to see if your prejudices on the matter don't cloud your ability to see anything.

Individuals, not legislators, have to think of their own sins which are not repented of. It is necessary for mortal sins to be absolved and repented of for a person to get in the Communion line. You know this, for Pete's sakes.....


Thomas, how do we know which things are normal? Look at the design of the human being--natural law tells you what the human body and soul are designed to do.

It's not complicated. And it's not opinion. Doctors know the structure of the body very well. Experts on mystical theology know the structure of the soul/reason. Psychologists know the structure of the emotions.

Why do you think that incest, for instance, creates a horrible conflict in a child who's been involved in that? Why is it that it creates a psychological crisis that often precipitates later suicide? Because human beings are not made to be used in that way. People find it hard to accept this sometimes, but it's the way people are made. It's the design; mess with it and all hell breaks loose. Period.

thomas tucker

Yes, michigan, I agree with you- looking at the design and seeing what the purpose of something is ( a teleological argument, in other words) is also an excellent way to understand what is normal and what is not.
Does anyone know of any others?


And it's not incidental that what the Church teaches from Divine Revelation is in accord with what one can derive from natural law. God is the architect of the design. So listening to the Church is another way to know.


NOTE: Thomas, when I say "what the Church teaches from Divine Revelation," I'm not talking about the products of speculative theology by modern theologians, many of whom are crackpots and trend-chasers. I'm talking about the central traditional teachings of the Church. The test here is that the teaching has been taught for centuries and upheld through papacies, through eras, through upheavals, and still holds--for centuries plus. You can be very sure about things that meet this description.

thomas tucker

Ah- a third argument, one from authority. and the authority in this case is one that we Catholics believe to be an infallible teacher.
Any others?

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