Sunday 23 March 2014
Have Some Priests Lost Their Faith?
Too many people (including priests of both Presbyteral and Episcopal rank) seem to have an image of Christ that is a kind of cross between Freud and Marx; a Christ for whom pastoral care means little more than alleviating emotional pain and removing social oppression. Does this constitute a loss of the Faith? Doesn’t Christ want us to have peace and social freedom? It seems to me that it at least suggests a loss of faith, because while such priests demonstrate natural goodness they decline to emulate Our Lord in His encounter with the woman caught in adultery by saying “Go and sin no more”. Yes Christ wants us to have peace and emancipation from unjust oppression, but the peace He wants us to have is Gospel peace, which inhabits the soul rather than the emotions; the emancipation He desires is from personal sin (in both the oppressed and the oppressor, since it is only by the conversion of the oppressor that social injustice can be overcome).
Surely most priests are full of faith and loyal to the Church and her enduring Magisterium, but priests unwilling to emulate Our Lord in His encounter with the woman caught in adultery fail both the Lord and souls: Our Lord showed the woman His love and mercy in forgiving her adultery, not by sanctioning it, yet for some Christ’s love and mercy are, it seems, to be shown by sanctioning adultery; they want to say, “Go, do penance, then return to your sin”. This is the spiritual reality they propose. If a Pope were to allow such a proposal to go through, one might find it hard not to say he had lost faith too.
The error here is that if one kind of infidelity to the sacrament of marriage can be tolerated (civil ‘remarriage’ after divorce), the door is opened to all lifestyles inconsistent with the spiritual realities of marriage: cohabitation, extra-marital sex and same-sex pairings. Yes these are more frequent than ever, and accepted by the secular culture, but for Catholics to accept them would be to choose secularity over the Gospel; to overthrow the whole of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, to eliminate her claim to infallible authority –and to eliminate the call to holiness: penance prior to sin being enough to save.
None of us is worthy of Holy Communion: I receive not because I am good but because I seek to be good, since I sin on a daily basis (who doesn’t?) But falling into sins on a daily basis is not the same as publicly setting oneself in formal opposition to Gospel teaching. At present the Annulment process is the just and honest way of ending distress in those whose marriages were truly invalid; the change needed is not an over-riding of the Tribunals by ‘pastoral arrangements’, but the snail-paced time the Tribunals are taking.
We have to pray for the blessing and courage of Pope Francis; to pray that he has a ‘Paul VI moment’ and not allow pressure from the world and priests of all ranks to persuade him to overturn the teaching of all his predecessors (and Christ Himself) by allowing teaching of Christ to be circumvented. We need Francis to stand strong, as did Paul VI with Humanae Vitae. Yes it brought Paul VI a heavy cross to carry, and it will bring Francis a cross too. But the cross is the only way to salvation; it cannot be achieved by submission to secular culture and formal (or at least material) sin.