As preparation for the Synod on the family continues we must pray hard for Pope Francis. While he has devoted supporters, he also has determined detractors; while some claim he is one of the most humble men on earth, others see him as one of the most self-promoting. It is not possible to know for certain which of these impressions is correct, but Francis himself may give us the answer when the Synod is completed and his Apostolic Exhortation released. I say this because one side or the other will be proved right: his supporters or his detractors.
This is so because, being as popular as he is, Francis has the possibility of using his popularity to bring Christ’s injunction against irregular ‘marriages’ to the world with a voice they are (currently) willing to hear. In other words, he can use his popularity for the spread of the Gospel. On the other hand, if he attempts to disregard the injunction of Christ in the Gospel and change the Tradition of the Church, it could be claimed that he is seeking his own popularity at the expense of the Gospel.
The Synod can only advise Francis to take one of two paths: it can advise a continuance of the Traditional practice or it can advise a change. It cannot do both. Nor can it advise a third path of upholding Traditional Teaching while advising him to allow even a restricted access to Holy Communion for pastoral reasons (what pastoral reason can be given to deceive a soul into thinking all is well when in fact they are at odds with the Lord’s own injunction?) No, the Synod cannot uphold Traditional teaching on the indissolubility of marriage while advocating a practice totally inconsistent with that practice; that would akin to a physician telling his patient that smoking is harmful but allowing it because it because makes the patient feel less stressed.
Francis must stay in line with the Traditional teaching if he is not to call down upon himself two criticisms: first, that he is courting his own popularity at the expense of the Gospel; two, that he has unsafe hands for the holding of the Church (solid Catholics are reminding us that the election of a Pope is not an act of God; that God does not chose the Pope with whom the Cardinals must work, but that the Cardinals choose a Pope with whom the Lord must work).
Pope Francis needs our prayers and our sacrifices if he is not to fall prey to the flattering voices of the world and doctrine-distorting voices within the Church. He must find the courage of Paul VI to stay faithful to what has gone before; this is his Humanae Vitae moment, and this is a dangerous time for him: all men are prone to the need to feel affirmed and loved, and the majority of voices today are for the abandoning of Christ’s injunction, which means a majority of voices waiting to applaud Francis. All men are in need of prayer, too. Our Holy Father is deserving of our prayers as he seeks to guide the Church according to the mind of Christ. Let us not abandon him.
who can say whether the Bishop of Rome is this or that? if he is what liberals would like him to be I pray that, like balaam's donkey, he will see the Angel of the Lord barring the way before a curse is wrought upon the church with the help of moabite cardinals.ReplyDelete
Thank you, viterbo.Delete
We must pray hard and with sincere heart for our Holy Father and the Synod.
Father, you are so right. This is where Pope Francis will show his true colours. He needs our prayers either for conversion to or for the courage to proclaim Catholicism.ReplyDelete
Thank you, David.Delete
...What else can I say?
Quite right Father. A married person whose spouse has committed adultery and subsequently left them to get married to another, must never ever under any circumstances be allowed to form another relationship for emotional or financial stability or other reasons. They must be excluded from the sacraments, publically shamed and remain lonely (even though maybe they themselves have done nothing wrong).ReplyDelete
Now, priests who sexually abuse children or vulnerable adults is a completely different story. They don't get to be excluded from the sacraments or celebrating mass; and in most cases (in the recent past) never get suspended or expelled from ministry. I wonder what the bigger scandal is: an abusive cleric, publically celebrating mass and dispensing communion / hearing confession - or - a remarried lay person receiving communion and probably hardly noticed.
You appear intent on second guessing the discussions from the synod. Why are you so afraid of letting the Holy Spirit speak?
Thank you for the comment, Marta.Delete
To take your last two points first. Priests who are found guilty of abuse are punished by the State on behalf of society (which includes the Church, which does indeed suspend them from public ministry where they would have access to vulnerable persons). I think it is right that this should be the case.
In regard to the divorce and marriage issue, if a spouse has committed adultery, forgiveness from the faithful spouse is required along with a renewed commitment to the marriage by both persons. As for emotional and financial security, these are not exclusive to marriage; one can be emotionally more secure outside of an abusive marriage, and financially secure in one’s own occupation or profession. In regard to having done nothing wrong and yet being publicly shunned, a person may not be at fault in the failed marriage, but the attempt to enter a second marriage while their spouse is still living is a violation of Christ’s injunction (the Church’s law only upholds that injunction). Such folk exclude themselves from Holy Communion; they are not shunned by the Church.
Finally, no one is second-guessing the Synod and its deliberations, just expressing concerns. Certainly we are not afraid to let the Holy Spirit speak –why would we? God the Holy Ghost does not change: “I am the LORD, I change not2 (Mal.3v6; God “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1v17) that is, God’s mind does not change with the times. If the Synod hears God it will hear Him say what he has said throughout the centuries; the concern is whether or not the participants in the Synod will be able to hear and respond to His voice above the clamour of secular relativism and dissenting catholic voices.
Come Holy Ghost...
Except many abusive priests and/or bishops have not been suspended or expelled from ministry. Many abusive priests continue only to receive minor disciplinary sanctions, if any. Notice the number of recent cases where the cleric was required to spend time in penance but not prevented from receiving or celebrating the sacraments. And we turn a blind eye to clerics who have celebrated the sacraments immediately after and during the time of their abusive actions. There are huge double standards and inconsistencies at play in how the church applies moral rules and mercy.ReplyDelete
You are indeed second guessing the Holy Spirit, and you seek to limit it by saying the church can never change. Church teachings are open to development but you seek to ring fence where the spirit may effect it's grace. If it was up to you nothing in the church would ever change (at least not past your arbitrary date of preference) and we would still have castrati singing in the papal choir, and be using scripture to support slavery etc etc - but be turning a blind eye to clerics with concubines and illegitimate children.
If you really do trust the Holy Spirit then be silent and let it speak so all may hear and discern the way forward. Your posts smack of political campaigning rather than an open heart seeking humble discernment. Good bless Pope Francis!
Thanks again, Marta.Delete
With all due respect, development is required and good, but development is not change; we cannot go from "now you can't" to "now you can". That is change, not development.
As for turning a blind eye to those who have abused while celebrating and receiving the sacraments: the reality is that allegations bring about immediate suspension from ministry and referral to statutory authorities who establish an enquiry, make any charges, and impose any necessary penalty. I take your point that some abusive clergy have remained in minor ministries, but that is post statutory punishment; only those found not guilty can return to full ministry. Other than that, the Church has to show some mercy (without returning abusers to full ministry) -as she does to those who return to their proper spouse. The remarriage issue is not something any priest takes lightly; there is probably not a priest in the land who does not feel the pain of those who come regularly to Mass but cannot receive; there's probably not a priest in the land whose emotions are not caught up in this issue with family and friends too. But the fact is we have to remain faithful to the Gospel.
Interesting post father with some interesting comments. I'm curious about two points. With the greatest respect I would ask for some clarification:ReplyDelete
1. From what I can gather, the Church says that the non-guilty party in a case of adultery has to forgive the adulterer and continue in the marriage. But what if it is serial adultery. Is the other party to keep on forgiving over and over again when every apology is a lie? What is the marriage then based on? There is no love, no trust, no respect, no mutual grace from God.
2. Matthew 5.32 says 'anyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery'. So does this imply that unchastity is acceptable grounds for divorce? And is unchastity the same as adultery?
Thanks very much for your posts and the information you share.
Dear Wife and Mother,Delete
Sorry for the delayed reply; your comment only came through to me late in the evening.
Thank you for asking these two very important questions. This is a hot-bed of a topic, and not everything can be covered in a simple blog response/blog post, but I will try to answer by beginning with basics.
For any sacrament to be valid, everything required for the sacrament to come into being must be present. For example, to have a valid Mass one needs a priest, bread & wine and the words of consecration. If we have a priest but no bread and wine or no consecration, we have no Mass. All necessary elements must be present at the same time. It is the same with marriage: the intention and capacity to enter into marriage as the Church understands it must be there as the vows are exchanged. If any essential element is missing, a civil marriage comes into being, but not the sacrament of marriage.
If there is serial adultery in a marriage, there is a possibility that an intention against fidelity was present at the time the vows were pronounced, precluding the sacramental marriage coming into being. The party who has been wronged by adultery (the innocent party) would then be within their rights to divorce civilly so as to enter a sacramental marriage since they have never had the sacrament of marriage and remain entitled to it.
One or two acts of adultery during the marriage do not necessarily invalidate marriage, since validity rests upon the intention and capacity etc, present at the time the vows were exchanged. It is in such cases that forgiveness from the innocent party, with repair of trust, respect etc, by the adulterer is the way forward, all aided by the grace of God.
As to your second question, scholars tell us that the text does not necessarily refer to a validly married couple where one has committed adultery, for the simple reason that the word translated adultery/fornication is equally well (and perhaps more properly) translated as ‘prostitution’, meaning ‘general unchaste behaviour’, commensurate with the intention against fidelity noted above. It can also mean concubinage, which may refer to either simple cohabitation or to being lover of a married person; it doesn’t necessarily refer to unfaithfulness within a marriage.
I hope this helps...
Thank you for the clarification Father, I think that does help yes. I think it is important that the first point be clarified to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Showing that the Church does not trap people into marriages that did not constitute a sacrament in the first place. I think there needs to be more clarity in the Church media over what is divorce and what is annulment. The media (both Catholic and secular) seems to assume all divorces are wrong and does not explain the difference between divorce and releasing people from marriages that in actual fact are not sacramental (annulment). Thank you for helping to explain the difference. God blessDelete
I agree that more people need to be informed about the difference between civil marriage and a sacramental union; about divorce and annulment. as the State dissolving a civil contract, and an annulment declaring a sacramental union never came into being.
Thank you for this Father. I am feeling confused and anxious about this matter. I fear that the Pope will affirm Church teaching but allow 'exceptions' and believe that the danger then is that other matters, involving serious sin, will be dealt with on the same basis and hope that the Pope will recognise how difficult it would be to prevent such a situation arising.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Lepanto.Delete
A number of people are anxious, and for the very reasons you give. But the Holy Spirit is in charge and we can intercede with Him to ensure he is heard and followed by the Synod and the whole Church.
God bless you and yours.
When asked whether the Church would again revisit the question of birth control, some 50 years after Humanae Vitae, Francis recalled that, at the end, Paul VI “recommended that confessors should be very merciful, and be attentive to the concrete situations”. Francis praised his predecessor for being “prophetic” and for “having the courage to go against the majority, to defend the moral discipline, to exercise a cultural brake, and to oppose present and future Neo-Malthusianism.” But, he said, it is not a question of changing doctrine, rather “it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and bringing it about that the pastoral practice takes account of situations and of what is possible for persons”. This will be discussed at the synod, he added.ReplyDelete
Thank you Sister.Delete
Indeed, I believe Paul VI was a prophet of our times, and that Francis is holding concrete situations in mind in seeking ways to help those in irregular situations to experience their membership of the Church and their value to God. I doubt the Holy Spirit will bring Francis to allowing a pastoral praxis which is at odds with Truth.
God bless you and yours.
With all due respect Father, you're talking nonsense. Development and growth can be gradual or more significant but both are change - albeit more or less obviously or noticeably different. Certainly that can mean that things that were previously not allowed are now allowed or vice versa.ReplyDelete
In the early church converts needed to be jewish and circumcised before becoming catholics, then following a development in teaching/understanding they didn't. At one point slavery was justified by scripture, then following a development in teaching/understanding it wasn't. More recently, catholics used to be barred from marrying non-catholics then following changes in teaching/understanding it was discouraged before being openly allowed etc etc. All these 'changes' involved a development or evolution in church teaching and pastoral praxis. There are also many other examples.
With regard to abusive priests, I'm sorry but they are not always suspended/removed from ministry. Just look at Fr marcial maciel - he was never disciplined formally, just 'invited' by Benedict to live in seclusion. He was never ever barred from receiving/celebrating the sacraments. Note also the very recent scandals where US bishops did not take disciplinary action against various abusive priests just secretly moving them to other posts. In all these cases the abusive priests were not prevented from celebrating the sacraments or receiving communion, even though they had failed to accept responsibility for their sins/crimes and receive investigation/punishment from the lawful secular authorities. If the church was consistent to it's teachings regarding communion/confession then they would have been barred also but as we have seen they were allowed to continue publically celebrating the sacraments causing immense scandal to the church and faithful.
Yes, development includes change, but whether the development is slow or rapid, it has to be consistent with what has gone before or it is not development but change: a puppy cannot grow into cat. The reference to circumcision is somewhat out of place, for it was about the admission of gentiles into the Church, what gentiles needed to do for admission. There was no previous teaching that one had to be circumcised to be Christian; it was simply assumed because until that point all the converts were Jews. Regarding the slavery issue, there was no official teaching supporting slavery. From the 13th century Aquinas was condemning it as a sin on grounds of natural law and a series of Popes affirmed his teaching. As for Marriage to non-Catholics, this was not a doctrinal issue but a disciplinary matter. It did not touch on what was essential in marriage.
On the abuse issue, most abuse cases are of an historical nature. Those Bishops in place at the time, like the rest of society, simply could not believe such abuse was staking place. When it was shown it had, the procedures we now have in place were quickly established.
To be honest, I don’t see how the abuse issue has any bearing on the issue of divorce and remarriage since abuse is an example of a detestable, sinful act in which celibacy (which is not a sacrament) is violated, whereas attempting civil remarriage after divorce is a sinful act which also violates a sacrament. Both the abuser and the adulterer are sinners, and both can be readmitted to Holy Communion: the priest when he returns to faithfully living a celibate lifestyle; the civilly-married person when they return to their former spouse. While the adulterer can return to full enjoyment of his marital rights the priest is not allowed to return to full and public ministry after his punished by the secular authorities; he rightfully remains barred from full and public ministry.
I have to say that I cannot understand your statement that abusive priests “failed to accept responsibility for their sins/crimes and receive investigation/punishment from the lawful secular authorities”. The lawful authorities do not require the cooperation of a criminal in order to arrest, charge and punish. I agree that they have caused much pain and scandal. I can tell you that I suffer from them too: as other priests have no doubt discovered, we take the flack for their crimes in the street.
The truth does not change.Delete
Thank you Lynda.Delete
Indeed, The Truth is immutable or it is not Truth, since Christ is The Truth and Christ "is the same yesterday, today and forever". I think some want development to morph into change not from wickedness but from a failure of faith and misplaced sense of compassion. No one said the Truth would be easy to live by; indeed, to live with the Truth is to take up our cross daily.