New Sherwood

Pope Francis still intends to admit remarried divorcees to the Eucharist

Let’s first recall this famous interview with Pope Francis on the airplane when returning to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil:

Gianguido Vecchi:

Holy Father, during this visit too, you have frequently spoken of mercy.  With regard to the reception of the sacraments by the divorced and remarried, is there the possibility of a change in the Church’s discipline?  That these sacraments might be an opportunity to bring these people closer, rather than a barrier dividing them from the other faithful?

Pope Francis:

This is an issue which frequently comes up.  Mercy is something much larger than the one case you raised.  I believe that this is the season of mercy.  This new era we have entered, and the many problems in the Church – like the poor witness given by some priests, problems of corruption in the Church, the problem of clericalism for example – have left so many people hurt, left so much hurt.  The Church is a mother: she has to go out to heal those who are hurting, with mercy.  If the Lord never tires of forgiving, we have no other choice than this: first of all, to care for those who are hurting.  The Church is a mother, and she must travel this path of mercy.  And find a form of mercy for all.  When the prodigal son returned home, I don’t think his father told him: “You, sit down and listen: what did you do with the money?”  No!  He celebrated!  Then, perhaps, when the son was ready to speak, he spoke.  The Church has to do this, when there is someone… not only wait for them, but go out and find them!  That is what mercy is.  And I believe that this is a kairos: this time is a kairos of mercy.  But John Paul II had the first intuition of this, when he began with Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy…  He had something, he had intuited that this was a need in our time.  With reference to the issue of giving communion to persons in a second union (because those who are divorced can receive communion, there is no problem, but when they are in a second union, they can’t…), I believe that we need to look at this within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage.  And so it is a problem.  But also – a parenthesis – the Orthodox have a different practice.  They follow the theology of what they call oikonomia, and they give a second chance, they allow it.  But I believe that this problem – and here I close the parenthesis – must be studied within the context of the pastoral care of marriage.  And so, two things: first, one of the themes to be examined with the eight members of the Council of Cardinals with whom I will meet on 1-3 October is how to move forward in the pastoral care of marriage, and this problem will come up there.  And a second thing: two weeks ago the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops met with me about the theme of the next Synod.  It was an anthropological theme, but talking it over, going back and forth, we saw this anthropological theme: how does the faith help with one’s personal life-project, but in the family, and so pointing towards the pastoral care of marriage.  We are moving towards a somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage.  And this is a problem for everyone, because there are so many of them, no?  For example, I will only mention one: Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, used to say that as far as he was concerned, half of all marriages are null.  But why did he say this?  Because people get married lacking maturity, they get married without realizing that it is a life-long commitment, they get married because society tells them they have to get married.  And this is where the pastoral care of marriage also comes in.  And then there is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this.  It is complex, the problem of the pastoral care of marriage.  Thank you.

Please note: the Holy Father could have given a direct answer to a direct question and said: “There is no possibility of a change in the Church’s disipline”, and then he could have explained this discipline in terms of mercy. Instead, he offered the example of the Eastern Orthodox, who permit up to three “marriages” with no disciplinary sanctions. In response to the questioner’s clear suggestion that our longstanding Catholic discipline is unmerciful, the pope did not deny the premise, but instead responded “this is the season of mercy” – as though mercy were something new and unheard of in the Catholic Church until now. He furthermore suggests that “half of all marriages are null”, indicating that fully half of married Catholics are receiving communion while in a state of adultery anyway, so why arbitrarily exclude the divorced and remarried?

Fast forward to “Evangelii Gaudium”, and Pope Francis writes as follows:

“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”

What does this suggest? Clearly, it suggests that barring anyone at all from the Eucharist is to “act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators” because, in the Church (and at the altar rail), “there is a place for everyone”. Furthermore Pope Francis declares that “If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another!”, and he specifically mentions the Eastern Orthodox in this context. 

So, let’s not be naive about what the pope intends to impose at next year’s Synod on the Family. He wants to admit remarried divorcees to holy communion without annulment or repentance. There are other hints in “Evangelii Gaudium” about how this will be accomplished doctrinally, such as his statement that:

“The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37).”

Keep in mind that, in this context, Pope Francis is specifically addressing pastors – those who are the legitimate guardians of the Eucharist, who must sometimes make precisely those kinds of judgments. “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” – John 20:23.  The pope’s statement is all the more problematic in the context of evangelization – the very topic of this Apostolic Exhortation – for which the knowledge of human responsibility and culpability is not a matter of personal judgment but of divine revelation. But here’s the point: it will be argued at the Synod that exclusion from the Eucharist is a matter of personal moral culpability alone, which only God and the sinner himself are permitted to judge; and therefore, remarried divorcees should be admitted to the Eucharist unless they choose to exclude themselves.

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November 30, 2013 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 10 Comments

The economics of Pope Francis is not the issue

The majority of Catholic criticism of Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” seems to be focused on his radical economic proposals and his lack of appreciation for “free market” economic theories. But these are the very least of this document’s many defects which are fundamentally doctrinal, moral, and spiritual. That Catholic “conservatives” are so fixated on the economic passages, and apparently oblivious to much more serious problems with the rest of the document, speaks volumes about the state of “conservative” Catholicism today.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | Leave a comment

Did I read that right?

At one point (par 165), Pope Francis writes:

“The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part …”

In other words, if I understand the context, the pope is saying that the evangelizer is not to appeal to moral or religious obligations, such as the duty of every man to worship the one true God and obey His laws, because those obligations don’t exist for him until he encounters the Gospel. Do I misunderstand?

Astonishing.

November 28, 2013 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 14 Comments

Pope Francis and non-Catholics

The Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” also contains multiple problematic statements with respect to non-Catholic religions. For example, Pope Francis writes:

“As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word … God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism.”

The reference to 1 Thes 1:9 really has nothing to do with the stunning claim that Judaism is not a foreign religion, or that Jews are not called to turn from idols and “serve the true God”. I invite you to read the verse for yourself, in context, at this link. Why this irrelevant biblical passage was cited in the text is anyone’s guess. Sacred Scripture offers no support for the idea that the Jews are not to be evangelized and converted to Christ. On the contrary, the apostles gave their lives for the conversion of their kinsmen according to the flesh, even going into their temples to proselytize and suffering martyrdom. We have also, of course, the words that St. Peter himself preached to the Jews:

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests, and the officer of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead: And they laid hands upon them, and put them in hold till the next day; for it was now evening. But many of them who had heard the word, believed; and the number of the men was made five thousand. And it came to pass on the morrow, that their princes, and ancients, and scribes, were gathered together in Jerusalem;

And Annas the high priest, and Caiphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest. And setting them in the midst, they asked: By what power, or by what name, have you done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: Ye princes of the people, and ancients, hear: If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole: Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him this man standeth here before you whole.

This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:1-12)

But it gets even worse. Here’s “Evangelii Gaudium” driving another nail in the coffin of Catholic evangelism:

“Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live ‘justified by the grace of God’, and thus be ‘associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’. But due to the sacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying towards God. While these lack the meaning and efficacy of the sacraments instituted by Christ, they can be channels which the Holy Spirit raises up in order to liberate non-Christians from atheistic immanentism or from purely individual religious experiences. The same Spirit everywhere brings forth various forms of practical wisdom which help people to bear suffering and to live in greater peace and harmony. As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over many centuries, which can help us better to live our own beliefs.”

To which a Catholic need only respond with the Syllabus of Errors, by which Pope Pius IX condemns the following propositions:

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. — Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation. — Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846.

17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. — Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.

The error of indifferentism has been condemned repeatedly by popes, councils, saints, and doctors of the Church in thundering passages like this one from Pope Gregory XVI:

“Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate.’ Let them hear Jerome who, while the Church was torn into three parts by schism, tells us that whenever someone tried to persuade him to join his group he always exclaimed: ‘He who is for the See of Peter is for me.’ A schismatic flatters himself falsely if he asserts that he, too, has been washed in the waters of regeneration. Indeed Augustine would reply to such a man: ‘The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit for it is the form, if it does not live from the root?’

This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. ‘But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,’ as Augustine was wont to say.”

It would be unfair to single out Pope Francis as being uniquely prone to confusing statements about non-Catholic religions. The Second Vatican Council, along with the popes of the post-conciliar era, all helped lay the groundwork. What is unique about Pope Francis, however, is that he doesn’t seem to be at all concerned – thus far – about openly contradicting established doctrine or the pre-conciliar magisterium. But perhaps it’s too early. When the religious indifferentism of Bl. John Paul II’s pontificate got out of control, due in part to many of his own statements, his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was compelled to issue “Dominus Iesus” and thereby saved the day. Let’s hope that a similar corrective will soon be forthcoming, and the sooner the better.

November 28, 2013 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 4 Comments

Pope Francis, Holy Orders, the Council of Trent, and St. John Vianney

Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” contains one particularly confusing passage (among others) that appears to minimize the ontological dignity of the priesthood. He writes:

The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”. The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”. Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered “hierarchical”, it must be remembered that “it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”. Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people.

I am especially concerned with the phrase “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”, which is taken from Blessed John Paul II’s “Christifideles Laici”, apparently in context. Is there no special dignity in the priesthood? Is the priesthood not uniquely set apart for divine service – i.e., a sacred office? Mere functionality doesn’t require a sacrament! Note also the statement that the “ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people” (i.e., just “one means” among others of equal value and efficacy?), followed by another mitigating statement, that “our great dignity derives from baptism”, intended to further diminish the distinction between priests and laity. The motive here seems to be an attempt to placate feminists, who see the priesthood exclusively in terms of power and authority, and who therefore covet ordination for themselves. Although it may be useful, at times, to emphasize the purely functional aspects of the priesthood which are “totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members”, Pope Francis seems to do so at the expense of the divine authority and sacerdotal dignity conferred by holy orders. Therefore, I think it wise to refer to the Council of Trent (its “most fruitful doctrine” being recently praised by Pope Francis) for clarity:

CHAPTER I.

On the institution of the Priesthood of the New Law.

Sacrifice and priesthood are, by the ordinance of God, in such wise conjoined, as that both have existed in every law. Whereas, therefore, in the New Testament, the Catholic Church has received, from the institution of Christ, the holy visible sacrifice of the Eucharist; it must needs also be confessed, that there is, in that Church, a new, visible, and external priesthood, into which the old has been translated. And the sacred Scriptures show, and the tradition of the Catholic Church has always taught, that this priesthood was instituted by the same Lord our Saviour, and that to the apostles, and their successors in the priesthood, was the power delivered of consecrating, offering, and administering His Body and Blood, as also of forgiving and of retaining sins.

CHAPTER II.

On the Seven Orders.

And whereas the ministry of so holy a priesthood is a divine thing; to the end that it might be exercised in a more worthy manner, and with greater veneration, it was suitable that, in the most well-ordered settlement of the church, there should be several and diverse orders of ministers, to minister to the priesthood, by virtue of their office; orders so distributed as that those already marked with the clerical tonsure should ascend through the lesser to the greater orders. For the sacred Scriptures make open mention not only of priests, but also of deacons; and teach, in words the most weighty, what things are especially to be attended to in the Ordination thereof; and, from the very beginning of the church, the names of the following orders, and the ministrations proper to each one of them, are known to have been in use; to wit those of subdeacon, acolyth, exorcist, lector, and door-keeper; though these were not of equal rank: for the subdeavonship is classed amongst the greater orders by the Fathers and sacred Councils, wherein also we very often read of the other inferior orders.

CHAPTER III.

That Order is truly and properly a Sacrament.

Whereas, by the testimony of Scripture, by Apostolic tradition, and the unanimous consent of the Fathers, it is clear that grace is conferred by sacred ordination, which is performed by words and outward signs, no one ought to doubt that Order is truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of holy Church. For the apostle says; I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God, which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love of sobriety.

CHAPTER IV

On the Ecclesiastical hierarchy, and on Ordination.

But, forasmuch as in the sacrament of Order, as also in Baptism and Confirmation, a character is imprinted, which can neither be effaced nor taken away; the holy Synod with reason condemns the opinion of those, who assert that the priests of the New Testament have only a temporary power; and that those who have once been rightly ordained, can again become laymen, if they do not exercise the ministry of the word of God. And if any one affirm, that all Christians indiscrimately are priests of the New Testament, or that they are all mutually endowed with an equal spiritual power, he clearly does nothing but confound the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which is as an army set in array; as if, contrary to the doctrine of blessed Paul, all were apostles, all prophets, all evangelists, all pastors, all doctors.

Wherefore, the holy Synod declares that, besides the other ecclesiastical degrees, bishops, who have succeeded to the place of the apostles, principally belong to this hierarchial order; that they are placed, as the same apostle says, by the Holy Ghost, to rule the Church of God; that they are superior to priests; administer the sacrament of Confirmation; ordain the ministers of the Church; and that they can perform very many other things; over which functions others of an inferior order have no power. Furthermore, the sacred and holy Synod teaches, that, in the ordination of bishops, priests, and of the other orders, neither the consent, nor vocation, nor authority, whether of the people, or of any civil power or magistrate whatsoever, is required in such wise as that, without this, the ordination is invalid: yea rather doth It decree, that all those who, being only called and instituted by the people, or by the civil power and magistrate, ascend to the exercise of these ministrations, and those who of their own rashness assume them to themselves, are not ministers of the church, but are to be looked upon as thieves and robbers, who have not entered by the door.

These are the things which it hath seemed good to the sacred Synod to teach the faithful in Christ, in general terms, touching the sacrament of Order. But It hath resolved to condemn whatsoever things are contrary thereunto, in express and specific canons, in the manner following; in order that all men, with the help of Christ, using the rule of faith, may, in the midst of the darkness of so many errors, more easily be able to recognise and to hold Catholic truth.

Now we do not see a direct, open contradiction between the Council of Trent and “Evangelii Gaudium”, but we do see strongly opposed and contrary emphases – the former upholding with clarity the divine authority of the priesthood, the latter obscuring it and seemingly embarrassed by it. Furthermore it should be noted that the doctrinal truths proclaimed and clarified by the Council of Trent have practical, earthly, non-abstract implications with respect to how the laity are to view the sacrament of holy orders. No one better explains this than Saint John Vianney in his classic Sermon on the Priesthood:

My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God–a man who is invested with all the powers of God. “Go,” said Our Lord to the priest; “as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations. . . . He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me. ” When the priest remits sins, he does not say, “God pardons you”; he says, “I absolve you. “At the Consecration, he does not say, “This is the Body of Our Lord;” he says, “This is My Body.” St. Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest–always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest. (Do read the whole thing!)

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | Leave a comment

Evangelii Gaudium: excerpts without comment

An English translation can be found on the Vatican website. In the following excerpts, the points I chose to emphasize are in bold. I have also eliminated the footnotes for simplicity in reading.

“The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion. The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position ‘to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit’. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

“Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.”

“Differing currents of thought in philosophy, theology and pastoral practice, if open to being reconciled by the Spirit in respect and love, can enable the Church to grow, since all of them help to express more clearly the immense riches of God’s word. For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel.”

“In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives.”

“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”

“It is also true that at times greater emphasis is placed on the outward expressions and traditions of some groups, or on alleged private revelations which would replace all else, than on the impulse of Christian piety. There is a kind of Christianity made up of devotions reflecting an individual and sentimental faith life which does not in fact correspond to authentic ‘popular piety’. Some people promote these expressions while not being in the least concerned with the advancement of society or the formation of the laity, and in certain cases they do so in order to obtain economic benefits or some power over others.”

“This worldliness can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.”

“This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed, yet all have the same pretence of ‘taking over the space of the Church’. In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few.”

“I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. Because ‘the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace’ and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.

“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power ‘we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness’. The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions ‘do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others’. Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. Even when the function of ministerial priesthood is considered ‘hierarchical’, it must be remembered that ‘it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members’. Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.”

“A preaching which would be purely moralistic or doctrinaire, or one which turns into a lecture on biblical exegesis, detracts from this heart-to-heart communication which takes place in the homily and possesses a quasi-sacramental character: ‘Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ’ (Rom 10:17). In the homily, truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness. Far from dealing with abstract truths or cold syllogisms, it communicates the beauty of the images used by the Lord to encourage the practise of good. The memory of the faithful, like that of Mary, should overflow with the wondrous things done by God. Their hearts, growing in hope from the joyful and practical exercise of the love which they have received, will sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand. The challenge of an inculturated preaching consists in proclaiming a synthesis, not ideas or detached values. Where your synthesis is, there lies your heart.”

“The different tools provided by literary analysis are well known: attention to words which are repeated or emphasized, recognition of the structure and specific movement of a text, consideration of the role played by the different characters, and so forth. But our own aim is not to understand every little detail of a text; our most important goal is to discover its principal message, the message which gives structure and unity to the text. If the preacher does not make this effort, his preaching will quite likely have neither unity nor order; what he has to say will be a mere accumulation of various disjointed ideas incapable of inspiring others. The central message is what the author primarily wanted to communicate; this calls for recognizing not only the author’s ideas but the effect which he wanted to produce. If a text was written to console, it should not be used to correct errors; if it was written as an exhortation, it should not be employed to teach doctrine; if it was written to teach something about God, it should not be used to expound various theological opinions; if it was written as a summons to praise or missionary outreach, let us not use it to talk about the latest news.”

“The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical. All this demands on the part of the evangelizer certain attitudes which foster openness to the message: approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome which is non-judgmental.

“The Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfilment in eternity, for he has created all things ‘for our enjoyment’ (1 Tim 6:17), the enjoyment of everyone. It follows that Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life ‘related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good’”.

“This message is so clear and direct, so simple and eloquent, that no ecclesial interpretation has the right to relativize it. The Church’s reflection on these texts ought not to obscure or weaken their force, but urge us to accept their exhortations with courage and zeal. Why complicate something so simple? Conceptual tools exist to heighten contact with the realities they seek to explain, not to distance us from them. This is especially the case with those biblical exhortations which summon us so forcefully to brotherly love, to humble and generous service, to justice and mercy towards the poor. Jesus taught us this way of looking at others by his words and his actions. So why cloud something so clear? We should not be concerned simply about falling into doctrinal error, but about remaining faithful to this light-filled path of life and wisdom. For ‘defenders of orthodoxy are sometimes accused of passivity, indulgence, or culpable complicity regarding the intolerable situations of injustice and the political regimes which prolong them’“.

“This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”

“In this perspective, ecumenism can be seen as a contribution to the unity of the human family. At the Synod, the presence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Rowan Williams, was a true gift from God and a precious Christian witness …  If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another! It is not just about being better informed about others, but rather about reaping what the Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us. To give but one example, in the dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and their experience of synodality. Through an exchange of gifts, the Spirit can lead us ever more fully into truth and goodness.”

“We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’ (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word … God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism.”

“Our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance, since they are now significantly present in many traditionally Christian countries, where they can freely worship and become fully a part of society. We must never forget that they ‘profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, who will judge humanity on the last day’. The sacred writings of Islam have retained some Christian teachings …”

“Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live ‘justified by the grace of God’, and thus be ‘associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’. But due to the sacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying towards God. While these lack the meaning and efficacy of the sacraments instituted by Christ, they can be channels which the Holy Spirit raises up in order to liberate non-Christians from atheistic immanentism or from purely individual religious experiences. The same Spirit everywhere brings forth various forms of practical wisdom which help people to bear suffering and to live in greater peace and harmony. As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over many centuries, which can help us better to live our own beliefs.

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 6 Comments

Deleted post about cancelled TLM in Chico

Dear friends, I deleted the last post about the cancellation of the TLM at St. John the Baptist in Chico. Against my better judgment, I was indiscreet and much too loquacious in my remarks – as usual. I apologize to those who left thoughtful comments. For informative purposes, let me just state that the nearest diocesan approved TLM is St. Stephen the First Martyr in Sacramento, a fully traditional parish served by the FSSP. There is a small chapel located in Chico that is served by the SSPX – St. Therese Chapel – with masses twice per month, on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, at 10:00am.

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Catholicism, Chico | 6 Comments

How to stay outside the Revolution: “identify a place …”

KCChurchBlessing
The incomparable Rorate Coeli blog recently posted some constructive advice and encouragement for Catholics during these tumultuous times in the Church:

The one who is truly seeking God in this revolutionary Church, is left frightfully alone.

What to do in this suffocating atmosphere? And what not to do?

First of all, it is important not to be beset by agitation, it is important not to react like revolutionaries: that would be like treating a disease, which is precisely what the Revolution is, with the same illness. The revolutionary spirit, even when it pretends to save the good, will never be the solution.

Instead, it is essential to stay really outside of the Revolution, by living Catholicism integrally in the stability that was there, before the Revolution invaded everything.

In the darkness of [the present] confusion, you need to decide before God to live a stable Catholic life. In order to do this you have to identify a place that transmits the peace of the Faith which possesses revealed truth. A place where the Traditional Mass is celebrated: choose it as a reference for your life, allowing yourself to be educated by this place. Do not live in agitation, in a perennial struggle, but live like Catholics in the Liturgy of all time, in the Doctrine of all time, in the Grace of all time according to the Sacraments of all time; and with that, do all the good that the Lord permits you to do.

Padre Calmel says it like this: “Despite the diabolical efforts of the new post-Vatican II Church, the things that will always be possible and guaranteed in the Church are: the goal for real sanctity, the opportunity of educating oneself, in a real group even if it is very small, about the immutable and supernatural doctrine, under a real authority, conserving the certainty that there will always be true priests and faithful Bishops, who will not have abandoned [themselves] (perhaps even without being aware of it) into the hands of committees and collegiality.” ( R.T. Calmel, Brève apologie pour l’Eglise de toujours [Italian edition], Editrice Ichthys, p 51).
This is all very important. The temptation to “act like revolutionaries” in times of crisis is strong, and pulls in many directions – even in what may appear to be orthodox or traditional directions. At the same time, those who consciously and deliberately “stay outside of the Revolution” will be falsely accused of being revolutionaries themselves, and that should not disturb our peace. The importance of “identifying a place” where one can live like Catholics in the Liturgy of all time, in the Doctrine of all time, in the Grace of all time according to the Sacraments of all time; and with that, do all the good that the Lord permits you to do” – and without being in a state of perpetual unrest, agitation, and uncertainty – is crucial. But we cannot do this alone. 

November 10, 2013 Posted by | The Catholic Crisis | Leave a comment

Dr. Ronald McArthur vintage video

I love this man.

Please watch.

There was a lot of “fight” in Dr. McArthur.

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Catholic Faith, Catholicism, Education | Leave a comment

   

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