Monday, 29 June 2015
It seems to me that if we trust in the Lord we have to have some hope that He will keep the Fathers of the Synod on the right track. It also seems to me that when we talk about those who propose questionable novelties that we must do so in charity. That does not mean I am not disturbed by those who make such proposals, or blind to the fact that a Synod can go very wrong in its outcomes (Synods are not an infallible action of the Church, and even Popes are bound by Tradition). Only those with an unreal, exaggerated opinion of the teaching authority of a pope or Synods could be so stupid as to blindly, unquestioningly follow a Synod or a Pope. We retain the right to question even dubious papal acts, as Paul questioned the prudential judgement of Peter.
While I am not a professional theologian, just a priest with what we might call in parenting terms a “good enough” understanding of The Faith, I do have an ability to think logically. Looking at the accepted doctrine of The Faith, I continue to say that the proposal to “allow civilly remarried divorcees to receive Holy Communion after a period of penance” is gravely wrong. A number of bishops have supported this proposal on the grounds that, to paraphrase, “if people are allowed to make spiritual communions we cannot say they are in a state of mortal sin, and if they are not in mortal sin, they can take Sacramental Communion too.”
The first problem with this is that we do not know the state of a person’s soul. We may encourage a person to make a spiritual communion but we cannot know how the Lord responds to the individual soul. He may well in His Soverign Freedom respond simply by giving extra actual graces that prompt within the person a repentance and a return to the living out of His moral teaching, so that the soul may receive His sanctifying grace.
A second problem is that if we follow the proposal we undercut all the Church’s moral teaching on marriage and sexuality per se, since if we can allow Holy Communion in the adulterous situation of divorce with re-marriage, we also have to allow Holy Communion in cohabitation, in sex before marriage, in homosexual activity, in contraception etc. Why? Because sexual experiences with someone who is not one’s spouse is either OK or it is not. And if it is OK, then it matters not a jot with whom we have sexual experiences, and the Church has been wrong to teach that it does.
The canard of ‘just changing the discipline, not the teaching’ simply does not work: discipline flows from belief and expresses it. An engineer does not ignore the laws of physics when constructing a bridge; a physician does not ignore the laws of biology and disease pathology when prescribing a medicine. Practice follows theory in all areas of life, it never contradicts it. Thus, I find it unbelievable that educated men are seeking to have the Church act contrary to her teaching. I have spoken about this before: we simply cannot say it is wrong to do something then allow the wrong to be done on the pretext of mercy.
Deferring to ‘mercy’ is of course right and proper with those who are repentant, but the proposal’s concept of mercy is erroneous; it seeks no amendment of life; no turning away from the irregularity. Yet true mercy operates only when the wrong is given up; it cannot exist in a situation where a wrong-doing is continuing, because that would be to cooperate with the wrong-doing. To accept the proposal would be to endangers the wrong-doers eternal happiness for the sake of temporal happiness; it would be to cooperate with evil, since it is, in fact, a lie told to those to whom it seeks to extend mercy: “you are at rights with God”. The Father of lies is not God but the devil, and we must not cooperate with his work.
Yes, let us demand that those in “irregular situations” be spoken about in non-offensive terms, but without losing any clarity on the wrongfulness and indeed the eternal danger of their situation. Let us also welcome them to Mass; to times of prayer; to Spiritual Direction etc., but not formal roles which would present them as in a situation acceptable to The Truth. We can always extend to them the hand of friendship and we should always insist that their human dignity entitles them to life, housing, education, work, a just wage, career progression, health care etc. But we cannot present them as in line with what the Truth Himself (Christ) has revealed to us, either by placing them in official roles or by admitting them to Holy Communion. It is not that Holy Communion is a reward for goodness (it is medicine for the sick and it cannot be ‘earned’ or deserved), but we don’t want it to be a reward for continually living in a situation contrary to the teaching of the Lord and His Church either.
Thursday, 25 June 2015
According to NewsVA, the official Vatican network, when presenting the Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 Synod, ‘The general secretary of the Synod of Bishops noted that it makes reference to “the family and ecclesial accompaniment, the streamlining of procedures for causes for annulment, the integration of faithful in irregular situations, the eventual introduction of a penitential route, the pastoral problems regarding mixed marriages and disparities of worship, as well as questions related to responsible procreation, reduction of births, adoption and fostering, respect for life from conception to natural end, and education of future generations.’
If the General Secretary is quoted correctly (and I have no reason to think he is not), and if he is relating the Instrumentum Laboris correctly, we are courting both a division within the Church of today, and a division of the Church of today from her sacred Tradition and previous Popes. In effect, we would have two schisms in one.
Take just one problematic clause in the General Secretary’s statement: “The eventual introduction of a penitential route”. I know priests already tell people in Confession to feel at ease about coming to Holy Communion because they “were the innocent party” or simply “made a mistake and now have new obligations”. These penitents come to me intuitively uncomfortable with the direction they have been given. Since a number of priests are already acting contrary to the good of souls and to Divine law, I wonder who the penitential path is for? If it is for the “innocent party” to the marriage breakdown, are they undergoing penance for a situation in which they did not sin? They must be, because they are not undergoing penance for their second, actively-chosen, irregular situation, since that would have to include leaving that situation behind. And what is to be said to the abandoned spouse of those who marry others? “Sorry, but we are ignoring your Sacramental Marriage for the sake of supporting yours spouse’s adulterous relationship with its new responsibilities?” Where is the mercy and justice in any of this?
The whole idea of a penitential path that does not include giving up the sin is not a penitential path but a path by which Holy Communion can be purchased: “if I do six months of a certain penance I will be allowed to return to the sacraments.” This is simony of a very dangerous kind: no money changes hands to be sure, but the sacraments are definitely ‘purchased’ by a period of ‘penance’ because the ‘penance’ is not real penance since it will not include the giving up sinful situations and/or acts. maybe we can all go to Confession without a firm purpose of amendment but in order to allow us to continue sinning with the Church’s approval?
I think there is may be some scope for streamlining annulment procedures, but I can see no way to integrate ‘irregular situations’ with the Body of the Lord, at least not beyond what is already available: attendance at Mass, use of Spiritual Direction, a life of prayer, charity etc. The reception of Holy Communion being allowed for those in public and formal adultery is in fact, a nonsense, since a penitential route must include repentance, and repentance includes the giving up of the sin. The General Secretary’s words clearly indicate finding some way to unite a sinful situation to the Body of Christ. This is dangerous to souls; it is gravely wrong and reprehensible since it will give persons in irregular unions a feeling that “all is well” when making sacrilegious Communions, something the Church cannot eradicate by majority vote or even by papal decree: it is divine law that teaches us second unions are adulterous (Mk.10v10-11) and adultery is contrary to Divine Law (Ex.20v14). The Church (by Synod, Council or Papal act) absolutely cannot alter Divine Law any more than they can overrule the law of gravity. Those who think the Church can so alter Divine Law have an exaggerated belief in their own importance and of their power as Bishops or Pope.
Let us remind ourselves of the very real limits of Papal Infallibility/Authority as defined by Vatican I: “The holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.” thus, there can be no change in doctrine or in the praxis by which we live-out that doctrine. Should the Synod and the Apostolic Exhortation which )normally) follows a synod contradict Casti Connubii, Humanae Viate, Familiaris Consortio and the post-Vatican II Catechism in any way, they go against infallible teaching in view of its constant repetition by the Magisterium, and as inconsistent with to that teaching it and ought to be summarily rejected. The Faith is a given -indeed it is given by God, and no power on earth has the right to reject the word of God in order to give the Church a ‘merciful face’ by accommodating the sexual irregularities of the day.
Such a merciful face would be a lie (and the father of lies is Satan, whose smoke has entered the Church according to Pope Paul VI); it would imply that all kinds of sexual irregularities and social groupings (which are wrongly labelled ‘family’ by liberals) are acceptable to God, and thus give false hope and a false sense of security to souls who have rejected Truth (Christ) for a lifestyle pleasing to their emotional needs. Since not even a Pope can change infallible teaching, we could legitimately quote the words of Our Lord in John 8v44 to those who seek to make changes to Catholic teaching and practice, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires; he was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Since no Pope, Council or Synod can give us new doctrine on marriage and sexuality, I deep down think we need not worry too much. What has been taught by scripture and held in Tradition from the beginning must be held and transmitted to the end of time and the Synod has no choice about that. For the synod, a Council or a Pope to allow for those in adulterous relationships (irregular situations) to approach the Lord in Holy Communion and they would be guilty not only of a dereliction of duty but a betrayal of the Gospel and of Christ. As such, we should not worry too much that the Synod will seek to alter either pastoral practice or doctrine on marriage and the family. Unless the Bishops and Pope are very dim or so arrogant that they think they can overrule God and sacred scripture, the Synod will try it, since they know that by doing so they place their own souls -and the souls of those they seek to help- in danger of hell. Can anyone say our current Pope and Bishops are that dim or that arrogant? I hope we can give them credence for being men of faith and humility, a faith and humility they can demonstrate (or not) at the Synod.
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
Being a Catholic isn’t simply about being part of a religion; nor is it about having a relationship with an institution, or even the good thing of a profound admiration of the Church’s rituals and eternal truths. Rather, it is about having a real, living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. It is about being close to Him; about knowing Him, loving Him and serving Him in this life so we can be happy with Him forever in the next. Though some Protestant Christians think the Catholic Church has wandered away from Christ, this is not the case: we meet Christ more personally in the Catholic Church than we can anywhere else, though we do share with Protestants some common ways of meeting Christ.
For example, the first way Catholics and Protestants can both meet Jesus is in the reading of the Gospels. When we read the Gospels we see Jesus healing the sick, hear Him consoling the sorrowful and forgiving sinners, all of which show us how loving God is toward us. We also hear Him describe God to us in His own words by ‘pictures’ or imagery, like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son and the imagery of living water or a wind that blows where it will for the Holy Ghost. So reading the Gospels (and speaking to Jesus about what we are feeling and seeing as we read them) is a core way of meeting Our Blessed Lord Jesus.
The second way Catholics and Protestants meet Jesus is prayer. We don’t pray because we believe in God; we pray so that we can believe in God. We cannot know someone we never speak to, so in order to get to know God we must pray, and listen to His response in our spirit. Prayer is best when it is simply talking to God as we would to our most trusted companion. We don’t need set words; only an open heart that speaks to God about whatever is going on inside of us; all our hopes, fears, joys and successes. Set prayers (as on prayer cards and in books) can be helpful when we can’t find the right words and we can put our heart and soul into what the prayers express, but simply contemplating the presence of God around us and within us like a light or a wind, is a very powerful prayer of adoration and petition which does not rely upon words at all.
A third way Catholics and Protestants meet Jesus is in other Christian people. Those Christians we meet who show love and compassion to everyone and yet do not compromise the truths of the faith, are ways in which we see Jesus living among us today. In them, God seems to truly live and move and have His being. Also, those we meet who are sick or in need are Jesus in need, and in caring for and showing love to them we caring for (showing love to) Jesus; we learn to enter into the love and compassion of God.
In marriage, Catholics and Protestants meet Christ in their spouse, for whenever we are forgiven (or challenged); whenever we are loved for who we are (and not because of what we do for our spouse or how we make them feel about themselves), we meet God and His unconditional love.
There are though, specific ways in which Catholics meet Jesus which Protestants do not have; our sacred art, and especially the Sacraments: the Priesthood; Confession, Holy Communion and Anointing of the Sick. Certainly the rituals of these sacraments play a role, the ritual being a way of showing the mystery and wonder of God, but it is the inner reality of the sacraments celebrated in those rituals that brings us to a personal meeting with Christ.
While ritual is a kind of sacred art demonstrating the God’s beauty, wonder and complexity there are other forms of sacred art too: the external grandeur of the building, the imagery and internal decoration of the Church and her own (Gregorian) chant are all aspects of sacred art. Sacred art raises the mind and heart to God in that its beauty speaks to the heart of man. We see in it something wholly different to the decoration, imagery and music we generally have in our homes, offices, pubs etc. Such music and imagery remind us that we are in heaven when we are in Church; we remind ourselves that we are surrounded by the angels and saints in contemplating their images, we see a central throne for the Lord, candles to bring the beauty of light and mystery, and windows which tell the story of the Gospels or the lives of the saints. All this is unique to Catholic Churches, Protestant places of worship are devoid of such sacred art in fear of becoming idolaters.
When it comes to the sacraments we have to begin with priesthood, because the priest is set apart by Christ to make Him present in the world as our Good Shepherd. Jesus told His apostles, “As the Father sent Me, so I am sending you” (Jn.20v21). Thus St Peter describes the elders of the Church as shepherds, with Christ as the chief shepherd (1.Pet.5v1-5). Every priest has been called and set apart by Christ for the baptising of the convert (Math.28v19); the consecration of the Holy Eucharist (LK.22v19-20); the forgiving of sins (Jn.20v23) and the Anointing of the sick (Mk.6v13 & Jas.5v14). Jesus lives and acts in the priests in such a unique way (Lk.10v16 & Jn.20v21) that they act in His very person: “in persona Christi”, for it is His power that comes to us in them as our shepherds in His stead. It is because the priests live and act in the person of Christ the Good Shepherd that sins committed by priests are particularly appalling, for priests have the responsibility of living exemplary lives that model for us what every Christian life should be.
The first way we meet Christ in the sacraments is in Baptism. The result of Adam’s original sin being the loss of grace, (‘grace’ meaning ’union with God’), Baptism wipes away the result of Adam’s original sin by filling us with grace (union with Christ, Acts 2v38).
Another way we meet Christ in the sacraments is in Confession. We should remember that when we go into Confession we are not really telling our sins to the priest but to our Blessed Lord, thus, when the conversation is over, the priest must not reveal any sins told in Confession: he is to be like a telephone wire: an empty vessel; the telephone wire between Christ and the person. Confession is a wonderful way to meet with Jesus Christ because there, He forgives all our sins and fill us with the grace we lost by sinning.
Another way we meet Christ in the sacraments –indeed the very best way- is in Holy Communion; the Holy Eucharist. Although it may look as though the priest is simply blessing bread and making it holy, in fact by the words of the priest oir Blessed Lord is changing the bread and wine into His very self: His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. We know this from His own words: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. anyone who eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I shall give for the life of the world, is My Flesh. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives in Me, and I live in Him. As I draw life from the living Father, so whoever eats Me will draw life from me” (John 6). Our Lord’s Presence in the Blessed Sacrament for the life of the world is committed to His priests, to whom he said, “Take, eat, This is My Body...This is My Blood. Do this in memory of me”.
Finally, who would not want Jesus Christ to sit with them holding their hand as they die? This is what He does by the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Not only can this sacrament on occasion restore health in quite miraculous ways, but it always brings the forgiveness of sins to repentant souls so that we are ready for entry into heaven. in this sacrament, Christ continues to touch us with his healing and forgiving hands. We should try to not see a priest sitting by our bedside but Christ, for it is Christ who anoints and heals both the body and the soul as He waits to guide the willing soul to heaven.
It is important that when we receive the sacraments we make ourselves conscious of the fact that this is a meeting with Jesus, or we will fall into the trap of engaging in ritual and fail to develop that one-to-one relationship Jesus wants with us. Of course that relationship will be there from His side, but we fauil to develop our awareness of it and of Him if we receive the sacraments in mere habit and not actively, attentively conscious that they are a personal meeting with Christ our Blessed Lord and God.
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Today’s Ordinary Form Gospel included the following: “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” I preached on this text this morning, but not easily, for the road we walk is narrow raod and a hard one. It is not an easy road to follow, but its destination is a peace and a joy, a contentment of heart that is literally out of this world. The homily went like this...
In my experience, everyone who has lost a loved says, “Well Father, they’ve gone to a better place; they’re out of their suffering now”. My response is always the same: “Well, that’s our hope for everyone;”. But I have to say i do wonder at times, since I have buried people whose lifestyles have been anything but edifying. We simply cannot assume that anyone who has died have gone to that “better place” we call heaven, because we can never know the depths of anyone, but also because to our Lord says the road to heave if found only by a few, not by the many. He certainly died for all, but not all are responding to Him. thus, Our Lord said the road to hell is wide and many are taking it, and the road to salvation is narrow and hard, and few are finding it. For that reason alone i encourage people not only to pray for the Holy Souls (which is a good thing), but to pray for the conversion of sinners and the return of the lapsed.
The sinner and the lapsed are often those who have chosen the spacious, wide road; a life without moral boundaries where all things are acceptable: contraception, abortion, sex outside marriage, divorce with remarriage, elective sterilisation, homosexual activity, receiving stolen goods, consulting spiritualists and horoscopes for guidance and/or encouragement; the attitude of revenge dressed up as ‘justice’; alcohol and drug abuse as simply ‘enjoying life’. Even some of those who attend Mass regularly espouse such activities and see no problem with them because “they are legal, Father”. They may come to Mass for an hour each week or even perhaps for an hour each day, but unfortunately that does not made us Christians at heart.
Coming to Mass while exchanging the moral law of the Gospel for the law of the land is to abandon Christ (we have to call upon political leaders to rediscover the wisdom of God). Quite honestly, sitting in Church for an hour a day or an hour on Sundays does not make us into Christians anymore than sitting in our garage for an hour a day makes us into a car (it does not even make us into a mechanic). To be a Christian we have to live the Christian life of receiving the sacraments, a life of prayer and a life of charity to those in need for the love of God; only living in this way can we be Christians. To be sure, those who follow the spacious road may well have their emotions attuned to the Lord and may love the Lord, but their will is turned against Him if they choose worldly ways, and it is in the will that we sin, not our emotions. And frely chosen sin keeps us from God.
So while we treat others as we would have them treat us (with respect, dignity, care for our needs etc) we still have to walk the narrow road of the moral law of God; the road that has boundaries of behaviour to save us falling of the precipice into the abyss. It isn’t an easy road. Overcoming sin in our own lives is a constant battle and we fail frequently (thank God for Confession, and use it regularly). To be sure we are regarded as narrow-minded when we follow the narrow road, but those who chose the wide road and claim it to be free from oppression are in fact choosing to oppress themselves by becoming slaves to their passions; giving way to every instinct they have. Indeed, choosing the wide road without boundaries is what has brought about the current chaos in society: families are abandoned at will; babies are terminated to avoid career complications, and alcohol and drug abuse disorder whatever family life we have left.
Yes, following the narrow road may well bring us into conflict with family, friends and co-workers (it will certainly set up a conflict within the self as we struggle to avoid the wrong and do the right), but the retirement plan is out of this world.
Monday, 22 June 2015
The occult is, I think, attracting and dissuading many young people from the Faith. It is full of mystery, ritual and the promise of power, which the youth -and older folk- find attractive. (Perhaps it would have helped our young people avoid the occult had we kept a liturgy full of ritual and mystery as in the Extra-ordinary Form).
The first thing to be clear about is what we mean by the ‘occult’. The word ‘occult’ comes from the Latin word occultus, which simply means ‘hidden’, and while it is most often applied to the world of the wicked spirits, it is applicable to all forms of trusting in or calling upon unseen powers and forces, the demons hiding their evil works under seemingly innocent activities and attractive, pleasurable pursuits. (This necessary to them because if the activities were obvious ways of inviting hell into our lives we would not do them (if sin was not attractive and pleasurable we would not do it). Thus, the most important thing to remember about the occult is that it hides itself under attractive and pleasurable activities so that are fooled into an attachment to hell.
Unfortunately most people today do not take the destructive influence of the occult seriously; with the result that the occult shows up in fashions (where skulls and cross bones are common); in hard rock music) where it glorifies sex, violence and drug abuse); in board games and even in TV in serials abut the ‘living dead’ (vampires, zombies, etc). These fashions, films, music and such insidiously remove from folk any awareness of the dangers of the occult by making it ‘entertainment’. One young man telling me he got the idea of praying to the devil from his rock music and TV programmes, and continued because the devil always answered prayers and God did not. I pointed out that this is because the devil, like the child molester, gives us whatever pleases us so as to have us get into us into his car with him, whereas God will say ‘no’ to some of our requests because He knows they are not good for us in the long run. (The bad parent gives his diabetic child sweets/candies when the long-term effects are dangerous and fatal; God is the good parent who says ‘no’ to what is haermful, even though it is pleasurable).
The fundamental problem with all aspects of the occult being that it draws upon or trusts in powers other than the providence of God, it inevitably opens the door to wicked spirits; to powers opposed to God. We cannot afford to open such doors. Should we do so we fall into sin, and sin deprives us of salvation. We can include in our list of dangerous entertainments and hobbies such things as hard rock music, occult films, amulets, good luck charms, fortune telling, crystal-power and spiritualism, as well as overt things such as witchcraft, devil-worship and superstition. All of these are a trusting in )or a calling upon) powers other than God and His Divine providence; they constitute and an idolatry that breaks the very first commandment.
Some aspects of the occult (of seeking power and knowledge outside of God) that many folk do not recognise to be the occult are the following. Note as we look at these that we are not saying all those who promote such things are bad people with bad intentions, but that the things they are promoting militate against the soul’s salvation.
Ouija boards seek to contact the dead and the spiritual world. We do not know what kind of spirit we are conjuring up here, so it is as dangerous to the soul as eating things we have never seen before is dangerous to the body. Spiritualism holds the same desire to contact dead, but through living persons (mediums). The trouble with both Ouija and spiritualism is two-fold: first, we should not drag the dead from their rest; they should be left to rest in peace, not conjured for our own ends. (If the dead wished to come to us they would do so of their own free will, not wait to be conjured up). Second, since all knowledge is available to all spirits (being unlimited by the physical brain) it is easy for a wicked spirit to know the secrets of the dead we seek to contact and impersonate them so as to give us advice that in the long run, causes us to make bad choices and fall away from God and salvation.
Fortune telling and horoscopes embody the desire to know the future and control it. Both fortune telling and horoscopes usurp the place of God in our lives, and are thus sinful. We cannot regard these as “just fun”, because they embody the grave danger of abandoning God’s providence for other powers. It is like having fun by playing with traffic. What is ‘dangerous fun’ is not good.
Superstition is not a direct dabbling with occult powers as are Spiritualism, Ouija boards, fortune telling etc. Nevertheless, superstition rests on an assumption that unseen powers are directing our lives other than the providence of God. Superstition is thus sinful because it is an insult to God: it assumes He is forced to change His plans simply because we have crossed someone on the stairs, broken a mirror or placed new shoes on a table.
Lucky charms are seen by most people as harmless, but the reality is that they seek to draw upon a power (‘(luck’) that is not of God and is opposed to trust in His providence, as such their use is offensive to God, and sinful.
Reiki, while not usually seen as the occult, nevertheless is akin to occult practice since it seeks to tap into “unseen universal life energy” in order to provide for one’s health. Some forms of Reiki claim to work with angels as vibrations of the Divine, but this has the additional problem of leading to angel-worship.
Inviting occult powers into our lives by Ouija boards, spiritualism, fortune telling etc, may well lead to such spirits taking control of our lives. Possession (as seen in the film ‘The Exorcist’) is rare, but the more folk who dabble in what we may call ‘heavy’ occult practices such as Ouija boards, spiritualism, witchcraft etc) the more widespread possession will become. Exorcism by the Church is rare, since the Church will not perform one unless the person has had a full psychiatric assessment and is shown to have more going on that is apparent in pure psychiatric disorder. The sound reason for this is that engaging in exorcism when the person is ill rather than genuinely possessed would only compound the illness and make the situation worse.
Psychiatric illness is often entangled with a person’s religious belief and as such, religion is often seen as the cause of the illness. Yet it is just as possible that the personality fixates upon religious ideas once their illness arises, rather than religion being the cause of the illness. To say the cause is religion rather than say that religion has been caught up in the illness strikes one as prejudice; a pre-judgment about religion that can block scientific assessment of the cause and treatment of the illness. It is true however, that in some cases psychiatric illness can follow dabbling in the occult. Not because the devil seeks to make us ill, but because the person becomes obsessed with the search for power and answers. The devil, in fact, has no desire to make us ill and no use for such illness; his desire is to make us sin since illness cannot keep us out of heaven but sin does, and it is keeping us out of heaven that is the devil’s goal.
What is more common than Possession is that the devil giving us an obsession: he gets us obsessed with good things that can distract us from God, and because the things we are obsessed with are good, we are blinded to the problem. Yes, even good things such as healthy hobbies (football, swimming, dancing) and such good things as socialising, work, home improvements etc, can become over-important to us; so much so that we put them before our obligations to God (Sunday Mass, prayer and charitable works). In such cases, the devil’s work is done without ‘possession’: he has distracted us from our obligations to God and thus placed us in sin. Indeed, obsessions with good things are more his method than possession, because possession does not cut us off from God and heaven whereas obsessions do (this is because possession is not willed/chosen by the soul but forced upon it, whereas obsessions are freely chosen goods that we have placed before God, which is sinful). If the devil wants to deprive us of heaven, it is by making us obsessed with good things that he achieves this, not possession.
Fundamentally, the Church’s attitude to seeking out occult powers (by Ouija boards, consulting spiritualists etc) or trusting in hidden powers (horoscopes, lucky charms, superstitions etc) is that such things are always gravely wrong. Remember: mankind is in a Spiritual War: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world and its darkness; against spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Eph.6v12) Dabbling with the occult or becoming obsessed with the good things of this world runs contrary to our eternal salvation. How then, are we to deal with the occult?
First things First: How Can We Know we have a soul [to be saved]? We can know we have a soul because our thoughts cannot be seen, touched, or measured with a ruler, yet they are real -and must come from some part of us that cannot be seen, touched, or measured with a ruler yet is equally real. That part is our soul (our spirit). Since God is the Supreme Spirit, pictures of God as an old man in the sky are ridiculous; they are absurd, and give a very wrong impression of God.
How can we know there is a Supreme Spirit (whom we call God?) We can know there is a Supreme Spirit (God) by logic. This is not easy to understand, but we can simplify it like this: we have existence, but are not existence itself; we have life, but we are not life itself. We cannot say “I am existence; I am life”, because life and existence are something we have, not something we are. Now, since it is the very nature of existence to exist, and in the very nature of life to be alive, there must be a single, “living existence” from whom all life and existence comes (nothing can have tyow starting points so existence and life must exist as a single unit). That living existence is what we call ‘God’. “May the force be with you” is almost akin to what Catholics mean by “The Lord be with you” -only we know “the force” to be a Person: God; the mind behind the mathematical underpinnings of the universe.
What are wicked spirits? How and why do they tempt us away from God? Wicked spirits are angels who refused to obey God; they originally receive their existence from Him, as all angels do, but have chosen to be wicked. They tempt us to live immoral lives (deceitful, lustful and violent lives) by making the pleasures of life attractive, and the cares of life so important to us that we give up on God and religion. Why they do this is simple: they want to take us from the hand of God our Father to prevent us getting what they threw away: Heaven.
Are ‘Ghosts’ wicked spirits? No; ghosts are human souls which are not at rest; souls who are in purgatory (the purifying state prior to entering heaven); souls who are either still too attached to the things of this world or souls who have not made recompense for their sins. As such, they are not yet able to enter God’s presence and Heaven.
In what ways can the evil spirits get at us? They can get at us by giving us an obsession that distracts our attention from God They can also attack us by oppression, which is where they harass us to get us to lose confidence in God (obsession and losing confidence in God by oppression, are the only way they can get us into a sinful state). Possession (which is very rare and usually happens to those who get involved with devil worship) is where they take us over. Deliverance frees us from obsession and oppression, while Exorcism (very rare and done only by priests with specific permission from the Bishop) frees us from possession.
What can we do to keep evil spirits at bay? Here is some basic advice.
1. First, Do not be afraid. God is the Supreme Spirit who has overcome all the evil angels who rejected Him. If we are close to God we have already overcome them.
2. Live good lives –ungodly lives are an alliance with ungodly spirits
3. Pray and go regularly to Confession & Holy Communion
4. Have your home blest by a Catholic priest, and keep Holy Water in your home to re-sprinkle it now and again to build the blessings it holds
5. Wear a blest medal (blessings attach to the medal, so the blessings go where the medal goes)
6. Ask your Guardian Angel for his help on a daily basis
7. Say the Rosary and Prayer to St Michael the Archangel every day
8. DO NOT engage in conversation with evil spirits: talking builds an alliance.) Rather, in virtue of your baptism inot Jesus Christ, order the spirit to be gone in the Name of Jesus Christ.
Remember: “Have no fear little flock, for it has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom” (LK.12v32).
Catechism of the catholic Church:
#2116: “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead, or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time and history...”
#2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling...e.g., when one attributes an importance in some magical way to certain practices [crossing a person on stairs, new shoes on a table etc] otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance [quite[ apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is also to fall into superstition.
Monday, 1 June 2015
I read with dismay of the saga wherein a cleric of this Diocese threatened to sue a blogger for calling him out on at least repeating the idea that the Holy Spirit is feminine. I have not seen what Father feels were personal insults by the blogger, and indeed I hope they were not insulting (which would lack charity). I have read her posting as it is now and can see nothing insulting in it, and the lady herself says she has removed nothing from the post following Father’s threat of legal action. Amidst today’s’ fixation with ‘loving everyone’ (being ‘nice’ to everyone), knowledge of what true love is (caritas, agape) will be lost if we start suing each other for acts of fraternal correction; acts which foster orthodoxy and holiness in another soul.
The lady blogger is not alone in getting into hot water with the clergy; I myself was described as ‘disruptive’ for questioning two priests who, while instructing a Catechists group, said that mortal sins need not be confessed in kind and number (which runs contrary to CCC #988, and Pope St John Paul II’s Misericordia Dei, #3). I’ve also heard first-hand accounts of laity feeling publicly rebuked by clerics for attempting to receive Holy Communion on the tongue.
While discussing marriage and sexuality at a later meeting of the same group, other instructors and indeed participants, were praising the 2014 Synod on the Family for seeking to change teachings and disciplines on marriage, sexuality and the reception of Holy Communion, accusing the Church of having formerly “used the Eucharist to punish the divorced and remarried”. I was compelled by conscience to ask, “But how does this fit with 1650 in the Catechism (“If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities...”) which repeats the Lord’s words that to divorce and marry another is to commit adultery?” One cleric told me to “consider the fact that our Lord gave Judas the Eucharist at the Last Supper”; I was then asked by a participant, “And what about during the feeding of the five thousand? I wonder how many of those were in second marriages?” I pointed out that this was not the Holy Eucharist since this was not instituted until the Last Supper, which was dismissed as incorrect.
What these examples seem to show is that clergy and educated laity appear to care little for orthodoxy and orthopraxis; they would rather follow the world’s idea of mercy (which is to simply ignore the sin or even call it ‘good’). What is more, it seems that such clergy and educated laity are the ones chosen to undertake teaching roles; those priests and laity loyal to the Faith being ‘passed over’ (it is rare in my experience for orthodox folk to be invited to lead educational sessions). It may well be true that as Father Dickson says, the authorities of today are good-hearted men who believe they are serving the cause of God, and I myself would not doubt that. But good will does not excuse acting contrary to the Faith as taught in the Catechism or ignoring Canon Law. After all, one cannot stand before God claiming degree and doctorate training as the excuse for bad teaching when Holy Mother Church has clearly taught the Truth. Can there be a pleading of invincible ignorance there?
I am growing tired of the oppression faithful Catholics receive from the Church. I have personally witnessed this numerous times and been on the receiving end more than once myself; even from those who claim to be “open to the gifts of young people” ; urging others to be the same (it seems to me that the gifts they speak of are those of making the liturgy entertaining or of reducing moral teaching to the ignoring of personal sin to tackle social injustice). Sadly, those liberals who cry ‘injustice’ are often unjust and uncharitable to their own (faithful) Catholic brethren.
I cannot help but ask myself why priests and laity who flout liturgical Norms and teach contrary to the Catechism go unchallenged and are -it seems- rewarded by being given teaching positions. I’m not saying that everything they teach is wrong or that there are not other ways of getting doctrine and law across, but it is never acceptable to defy Canon Law or contradict the Catechism when teaching the teachers.
Friday, 29 May 2015
Too many souls have lost The Faith, even among those who come to (or celebrate) Mass. The vote in Ireland (around 60% said ‘yes’ to homosexual “marriage”), shows just how far we have gone in abandoning the Gospel for modern secular views fuelled by emotion and bad psychology in the face of objective biological realties. Such a fuel burns even among some Cardinals who have argued against the traditional position held by the Church as defended by pro-life Cardinals such as Cardinals Burke, Pell, Müller, Brandmüller, and Caffarra (all of whom collaborated on the book, “Remaining In The Truth Of Christ”). Cardinals and Bishops who have argued against the five Cardinals just mentioned have, in their misguided understanding of mercy and social justice, abandoned their duty to protect their flock from the Father of Lies; they have abandoned 2000 years of Catholic teaching and natural law so as to adapt The Faith to subjectivity, which is contrary to The Revealed Truth and the good of souls. Make no mistake about it: the Church is in a battle against evil and the Culture of Death in a new and intense way, and we need to keep up our prayers for the exaltation of the Church and the good of souls -and for the recovery of The Faith in many of the Bishops and the support of those who prefer to simply administer their Diocese without raising the Church's voice on hot-button topics.
On this same topic, it ought to be disturbing to see the report from Guiseppe Rusconi (see Lifesite news here) outlining the dissatisfaction in the Roman Curia with Pope Francis and some of his remarks such as “Who am I to judge?” Many however, will simply dismiss the article, others will be scandalised. Whatever way we react, the story must be disturbing to the man or woman who seeks the peace of the Church and the good of souls.
It is important to remember that a Pope cannot add to, delete from or change established teaching; he can only guard it, penetrate it and hand it on incorrupt. So while we must accept infallible papal teachings we can, with due obedience and respect, question his words in homilies and interviews, and question any dubious laws he enacts, no Pope being above the Tradition he is called to serve: “A servant is not greater than his master” (Jn.15v20). Indeed to seek to change established teaching or to enact laws which undercut that teaching is to usurp the Sovereignty of Christ, which has probably been a temptation for many popes. Still, they can rely upon faithful Catholics and Cardinals such as those named above to call them to account if they veer from the Truth in word or in action, as Paul called-out Peter (Gal.2v11).
Too many in the Church are blind to the state of the Church today, which is lacerated by the world and suffering from an autoimmune disease. Fundamentally, this disease consists in a shift in focus from God to man: pastoral care must overlook sinful acts so as to be “merciful” (though it is not merciful to pretend that sinful actions are not sinful), and liturgy must be geared towards the affirmation of man. As for moral teaching, in recent decades the people of God have been allowed by their shepherds to consider their conscience autonomous from the teaching of the Church with the result that now, any attempt to teach orthodoxy by faithful presbyters, is met with antagonism from the people and rebuke from many of the Bishops.
I was once called to our curial offices (not by our current Bishop) to account for a ‘How to go to Confession’ sheet I placed in the Church and in which (it was claimed) I had failed to make room for the word of God as required by the New Rite of Penance. I showed my questioner where scripture was indeed properly included and he duly apologised, but then complained that I had incorporated an Act of Contrition that included the words “I am sorry for my sins because by them I have lost heaven and gained hell”. I was told it was inappropriate. I asked if we did not lose heaven by our sins and he said we did, but that it wasn’t appropriate to say it. (If it isn’t appropriate in Confession, one wonders where it could ever be appropriate). He then showed me a communication from a parent decrying the fact that I required the families of those children seeking Confirmation to attend Sunday Mass. The lady writing said it was not right for me to demand that people attend Mass to receive Confirmation –and my questioner told me she was right. I pointed out that Divine Law (the Ten Commandments); Canon Law and the Catechism are what make that demand; I only voice it. But he was not happy.
Laity are just as confrontational. I was once reproached by a lady where I regularly supplied a Sunday Mass because I had preached a sermon on the immorality of contraception, abortion and homosexual acts. The lady told me she was the catechist for marriage preparation in the parish and that it was "her job to teach on those topics, not the priest, and certainly not in a homily where people need to be affirmed and uplifted”.
In my experience there is great antagonism to anything that is not people-centred in our liturgy, and a commensurate antagonism to Catholic moral teaching. Here we come back to the Bishops: it is up to them to put this right; if they will be clear on teaching according to the Catechism; faithful to the rubrics of the Mass and the decrees of Vatican II, the people will follow and Rome will take notice. Indeed I respectfully suggest that it is not Pope Francis who is primarily at fault today, but the episcopate which, with rare exceptions, is afraid of being unpopular with the world and our own Catholic people. If the Bishops were to begin again teach faithfully, clearly and consistently what Scripture, Tradition and the Catechism teach, both in their own Diocese and through their Episcopal Conferences, Francis would not think of allowing anyone to toy with new teachings on marriage or changing Canon Law governing marriage and the reception of the Sacraments. Sadly, one cannot help but wonder if Francis realises his popularity is not because he shows compassion to the sick and disabled; because he kisses babies or because he speaks about the rights of the poor –none of these are unique to Francis. No, his popularity arises from the fact that he is seen as the pope who will abandon Gospel teaching and 2000 years of moral tradition; he is popular because people see him as the pope who will give them permission to live by their licentious and perverted desires. It is this which makes him -and those Bishops and priests who promote the same- popular.
Pray for Pope Francis and the Bishops in particular; they mean well and act from good heart but many act from weakened faith and bad theology. Pray especially for the Pope who, as Captain of Peter’s Barque but not its owner, must steer her safely in the direction of Heaven’s harbour through the strong winds of disordered societal change.