Saturday 31 January 2015

“The Worst Document in Church History”, and a Filial Appeal

The Catholic Herald reported that Voice of the Family have called the midway document of the Synod “the worst document in Church history” (see here).  Cardinal Burke’s response to it (see Rorate caeli, here) typifies many responses that can be found on the internet and heard in private conversations between Catholics, a response which says the document is “one of the saddest documents that I could imagine ever coming from the Church”: “Many of us were horrified with this idea that was presented in the report, that there could somehow be good elements in mortally sinful acts. This is impossible.” Indeed the document includes statements that cannot be squared with the official teaching of the Church in the post-Vatican II Catechism. Indeed, as Lifesite News indicates (here) Cardinal Baldisseri has suggested the Faith (as contained in the Catechism) can change:

“In its most controversial sections, the Relatio post disceptationem, or “report after the debate,” asked whether “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation” could align with Catholic doctrine; proposed allowing Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics on a “case-by-case basis”; and said pastors should emphasize the “positive aspects” of lifestyles the Church considers gravely sinful, including civil remarriage after divorce and premarital cohabitation.  

Cardinal Baldisseri stated that: “It was the Pope’s decision to include [in the reflection document for the 2015 Synod] the points that did not receive the two-thirds majority”. “The Pope said: These three points received an absolute majority. They were therefore not rejected with a ‘no,’ as they received more than 50 percent approval. They are therefore issues that still need to be developed. We as a Church want a consensus. These texts can be modified, that’s clear. Once there has been further reflection, they can be modified.”

The Cardinal explicitly stated that “dogmas can evolve and that there would be no point holding a Synod if we were simply to repeat what had always been said.”

Putting aside the odd ideas that what the Church aims for is consensus and that what Christ the Unchanging Truth taught can change, the propositions of the Relatio run contrary to the teaching of Christ and to the constant teaching of the Church (see Pius XI Casti connubii; through Paul VI Humanae vitae to John Paul II Familiaris consortio). Each of these papal documents is consistent with the teaching of the Church as summed up in the Catechism:

1605: Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
2397: The covenant which spouses have freely entered into entails faithful love. It imposes on them the obligation to keep their marriage indissoluble.
2398: Fecundity is a good, a gift and an end of marriage. By giving life, spouses participate in God's fatherhood.
2399: The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).
2400: Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free union are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage.
2357: Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law...Under no circumstances can they be approved.
[Emphasis added -GD]

(And we must not forget that the Catechism was a work of the entire episcopate and as such holds an authority over and above that of the Synod and its relatio.)

The sad thing is, we are now told the relatio is to be regarded as approved by the Pope before its publication and indeed, that he insisted the statements which did not gain the 2/3 majority should be included in the preparation document for the Synod this year. That has to be disturbing to anyone who agrees that the mid-term relatio is one of the worst documents in Church history, because it indicates the Pope, by ignoring the Synod vote and the constant teaching of the Church, is one of the worst popes in history (unavoidably so, since a pope is measured against his duty to defend, protect and hand on what he has received). Francis needs to be aware that many see him this way. Sadly, he is also being seen as supremely arrogant in indicating that all previous Popes and their bishops were wrong –and to imply that Tradition, the Scriptures and even words of the Lord Himself (who “is the same yesterday, today and forever” Heb. 13v8) can be over-ruled by His Vicar as ‘dispensable’. This is simply not possible. No one can deny that Francis is seeking to be a pope of mercy, but Francis must remember that Christ saw no contradiction between His mercy and requiring a change of life and that no Pope, Cardinal, Bishop or Priest, can imply that there is such a contradiction by attempting to extend mercy to those who do not change their way of life.

Francis needs to be aware that if the relatio (and its follow-up reflection document) is seen as the worst document in Church history and it was approved by him for publication and dissemination, then he is one step away in the minds of many from being seen as the worst pope in history.

Where does that leave the faithful Catholic? Repeating with Paul: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Gal.2v11). Disobedience to a pope (and public challenge of him) must always be respectful because of the human dignity which belongs to the man and because of his office as Pope, but not to oppose him is to allow evil to flourish -and if that route is taken by the faithful Catholic, the faithful Catholic himself becomes unfaithful, and will stand equally condemned.

A Filial appeal has been launched asking Pope Francis to re-affirm the Church’s teaching. (Sign it here). 

Thursday 29 January 2015

Comments on A Letter To The Pope

Mundabor (here) points us to a letter to the Pope from a priest, as translated for us on the ‘Triregnum’ blog (here). I think this letter expresses what many a good Catholic seems to be thinking these days, if the blogosphere is taken as an indicator.

"Holy Father,
One day it is said to happen that you speak before thinking. This is what worries us priests who exercise our ministry in a context which is often difficult. This means that not only do we find it hard to understand but it is increasingly difficult to follow.
Does this mean follow as in ‘follow the thread of your argument’, or follow in ‘give obedience to you’? I suspect both of these meanings are true, because no sound Catholic can be happy with a pope who decides that the scriptures can be dispensed with, and that all previous Popes have been wrong, thereby presenting himself as the seat of wisdom.
Ever since you were chosen to succeed the Apostle Peter, you have not ceased to deliver offensive speeches.
The word ‘offensive’ is strong, and if one is talking about a crisis of faith as the letter indicates, might be better replaced with ‘scandalising’ speeches.
You Launched barbs against the faithful who love the liturgy of the Church with dignity, against your closest collaborators among the cardinals of the Curia, against simple priests, and more recently against the parents of large families. Perhaps you hoped to make people laugh by comparing them with the rabbits. Did not fire: you had some success only with journalists eager to "scoop" it up and mock the Church and yes, at the same time, it has hurt many Catholic families.
It is never a good idea to use the analogies of the world, since the world will read them in their own way. What is needed is deeply spiritual reflections, not secular sound-bites the world uses in derision. Many of the families the Pope spoke about may have achieved great sanctity by remaining faithful to Church teaching in difficult circumstances and are having it cheapened by this remark, while priests who have ministered to them are having their theological and pastoral acuity called into question.

Dads and moms have come to visit us, we, priests, to tell us their suffering. To ask for explanations that we cannot always give, incapable of understanding.
i too have had folk asking me what Francis is saying what he really means, and asking if he is changing the teaching of the Church (thereby making the direction of their lives over the years one big mistake).
Do you not think that these days, the faithful would be in most need of your support? Do you not think that instead of claiming to define a "good Catholic", a "good priest", a "good bishop," a "good cardinal of the Curia" ... you should ask if any of your malevolent comments encourage the faithful to remain in the church and help the priests to carry out their ministry in joy? To hear my brothers with whom I have frequent contact, listening to the questions posed by the faithful of the parish sector - 20 parishes - of which I am responsible, I can testify that your attacks are more disturbing than reassuring and encouraging.

Holy Father, let me be direct: do you love the faithful, priests, families? I admit to not always being sure ...
I think Francis certainly and genuinely loves people, but he does not appear to love the Church and her teaching; rather, he seems to see this teaching as an oppression of people are to be liberated...this would explain why he appears to marginalise the faithful Catholic (Cardinal Burke, for example) and to laud those who question the faith and its ancient practice (Cardinal Kasper, for example).

Since our adolescence and beyond, when some of us have chosen to start a family, while others have opted for the priesthood, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI were reliable guides for our generation. They will remain so. Are you safe driving at becoming a more popular Pope - this "good guy", as you said one day - who shoots out formulas that are bad and tweets of no interest.
Francis is often seen as seeking adulation; the love of the people, but if so, he is courting the adulation of those who have lost their faith in the Divine Revelation and become secularised, with Christ little more than a spiritual Che Guevara.

Allow me to conclude, I wish to make a confession: when I celebrate Holy Mass in the morning in a nearby church, It becomes more and more difficult to say your name in the Eucharistic Prayer. Know that I am deeply mortified because I can not conceive the exercise of my ministry without a sincere communion with the Successor of Peter. But when listening, I see, I read , this sincerity crumbles.
I have no difficulty in praying for Francis at mass. I focus on his genuine love for people and his need for renewal in the faith is not the canon the Mass the best way to thank God for Francis love of man and to intercede for the up-building of his faith?

The faithful expect from the Pope a comforting sweetness and clarity, not speeches that destabilize or wound. (Indeed they do). I do not Want to prevent Catholics of our parishes - priests and laity - to grant their full trust and respect ... "
Respect, I’m sure, will always be given because of Francis Office and his love for his fellow men, but trust in his driving of the bus we call the Church, is by now seriously questioned by many, who would rather have a bad-tempered Pope who kept them safely on the right track to heaven, than a Pope who is amiable but drives their souls off the rails and into the ditch. 
All that is required from the Synod under Francis's leadership is that it reaffirms marriage was established by God and not the Church; that the Church is bound by Christ's Truth and our 'Tradition' ('Traditio' meaning the 'handing on' of the Truth), and that her practice must be true to the Truth. Is this so far beyond the bounds of possibility that we must reconsider our loyalty to Francis in order to stay true to the Deposit of Faith? 

Sunday 18 January 2015

Bishop Egan’s Pastoral Wisdom on Funerals

A comment from ‘Shocked’ who had occasion to attend a funeral in this Diocese is now published on Father Dickson’s previous post below. I had been reflecting upon my own experience of funerals, so I use the comment of Shocked to introduce my thoughts.

I attended a funeral recently in Hexham and Newcastle diocese and was dismayed at what took place. For a start there were no candles around the coffin: there were two small candles on the altar and that was it. The 'Mass' was introduced as a celebration of the life of the deceased. The eulogy was delivered immediately after the sermon. During the sermon the priest said quite emphatically that we do not know if there is a heaven; we hope there is but we do not know because no one comes back to tell us. The emphasis was on the word 'know' and that all we had was hope. I was astounded. At the sign of peace the priest left the sanctuary in order to shake hands with everyone in the font row, and those in the rows behind were given a cheery wave. Then we arrived at the Communion. Those who did not wish to receive holy Communion were told that they could come forward for a blessing. This blessing could be given by the priest or the 'Special' ministers because the blessing comes from God and not the individual. If this is the case then all we need to do is to turn to our neighbours in the pew and bless each other.

But worse was to come: we were told that because people were in mourning then anyone who wished could come forward to receive. It seems to me that the sacred liturgy in this diocese is no longer seen as sacred and 'anything goes' seems to be the rule. It really is about time that our priests were given specific instructions on how to celebrate the liturgy and the limitations on their creativity. I can excuse the younger priests to a great extent because it is quite obvious that they have been badly formed and they know no better, but there is no excuse for older priests who should know better.
The great tragedy was that so many people, cradle Catholics, thought that it was wonderful.

I want to share my experience of Funerals which demonstrates the wisdom of Bishop Egan in reminding his Diocese about the norms.

Having been involved in the serving of funerals for ten years I recall being surprised when setting up the Church for a funeral and asking Father if there was an Order of Service and which readings to prepare, to discover he did not know. The deceased’s family had undertaken all the planning with their guest Celebrant, and Father had been unsuccessful in trying to contact the said priest by both phone messages and emails.

We have had folk disappointed over the years at not being permitted to give eulogies; not have photographs on top of the coffin; no playing of CD’s (one funeral was booked then cancelled next day because Father had said no to playing Fields of Gold).  On the morning of another funeral the deceased’s family, naturally anxious that all should go as planned, came into Church an hour before hand to check all was as they had asked. They reminded Father that he agreed to make the altar people-facing, and stipulated that the altar should be people-facing and that the ‘big six’ were to be removed. Father pointed out that the altar had was arranged people-facing as they had requested, but declined to remove the big six (he did however, remove two of them, and wondered later if people think six is part of the Extraordinary Form and that by agreeing to make the altar people-facing the family had presumed the six would be ruled out). Father told me later he was profoundly saddened that such a misunderstanding should occur on the very morning of a funeral. That said, all of this could have been avoided had we access to an official restatement of norms for the people. We had a funeral this week where two candles were removed, and as you can see from the photographs, either way the altar looks impressive enough to house and honour the Sacred Mysteries for the deceased.

Funerals are a tense time for a bereaved family (who naturally need to feel in control of their loved one’s final service) and for the priest (I’ve witnessed that no matter how sensitive a priest is in saying ‘no’, the refusal can be offensive).

To all you priests out there, I can see how difficult your care of the bereaved must be. I think it would be useful if all the Bishops followed Bishop Egan and issued simple reminders of the actual norms which can be given to the people. Father Dickson does this in the parish as you can see from his previous post where he includes a pamphlet he designed and makes available in our parish hall but being Father’s own production, it appears to some as ‘Father G’s way of doing things’. To prevent any major differences between parishes -and upset between the bereaved and their priest- I think a common, clear policy spelling out the actual norms (and not just a local Bishop’s partiality) is needed for pastoral reasons.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Bishops Egan’s Reminder About Funerals

Well done by Bishop Egan! So many priests need something like this reminder, because so many have fallen prey to the ‘Princess Diana’ type of funeral where anything goes, including pop songs. This idea that ‘anything goes’ because the family are grieving has to stop.

Funerals are a very sensitive time, and we have to handle all requests concerning the service itself as considerately as we can. My basic principle is to say yes to everything that is not actually forbidden by liturgical norms. I had a Funeral Director book a date and time with me then cancel it next day because no CD’s are allowed to be played in Church. The family went to a neighbouring parish where the priest accommodates such things. (The request made to me was for Eva Cassidy’s version of “Fields of Gold”). While gentle and meditative in mood, this song includes some very sensual, impure lyrics:

               So she took her love for to gaze awhile upon the fields of barley
              In his arms she fell as her hair came down among the fields of gold
            Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth, among the fields of gold.

Another Funeral was taken completely out of my hands: the family concerned brought in a priest from outside to preside at the Funeral; contacted the local Council themselves to arrange the grave; informed the Funeral Director not to pay me a fee as they would see me privately; brought in their own musicians, contacted our parish flower ladies privately and even indicated where the flower pedestals were to be placed on the sanctuary. (They even decided how many candles would be used on the altar at their last family funeral). All this despite the fact that we have a booklet in our parish hall (which people must pass through to come into Church); a copy of which was given to the family. I post a copy of our booklet here for your perusal. It arose because it became easier when visiting the bereaved to prepare them for arranging the liturgy if they were aware of all this beforehand. 

I should note that when people still request CD’s I gently say “Just as you don’t have hymns in the Club after the funeral, so we don’t have songs in the Church during the funeral’. Only rarely (once, as related above) has the logic of this not been seen and agreed to.

Saturday 10 January 2015

The Synod Reflection Document for England & Wales

I have looked over this and don’t know where to begin. I choose to begin by saying that yes, we all meet folk in irregular situations and hopefully, we speak understandingly, gently but clearly in order to guide them with care and compassion to the Truth. Whoever wrote this document for the Bishops presents them as seeing their clergy as having no pastoral insight or compassion, while presenting the Bishops  as somehow having greater insight with the bestowing of the mitre. I think not. The mitre signifies authority, not wisdom. This reflection document leaves much to be desired in terms of Catholicism, but it is reflective of the problems in the Church in many places beyond E&W. Just a few comments on things that hit me slap in the face as I read through it.

We meet people in all stages of their vocation and journey...couples living together...with previous marital relationships which have broken down which they have left...we are part of the onward expression of their life and love as the couple form a home, often blessed with children, and seek our support and help to bring faith to the children and family...often maintained through on-going celebrations of the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation and first Holy Communion with the children born of the marriage.

A journey made in a sinful situation is not a vocation, since is not a journey directed towards God. This is the language of modern sociology and psychology and its social engineering; by using it the Bishops appear to be trying to present a judicious picture we will fall for. Many will not.

Nor are we sought by those in irregular situations to give support to their life of faith, but to assent to their sinful situation: baptism is most often motivated not by faith but access to the school, while First Holy Communion is most usually an isolated Communion, not repeated unless the children are at a school Mass (where, despite having reached the age of reason and being capable of the grave sin of not attending Sunday Mass [CCC#2181], the teachers invite all who have made their (so-called) ‘First’ Communion to receive.

The Synod does not shrink from the demands of the Gospel and the Kingdom, urging us to make “the demands of the kingdom of God” but this must be accompanied with a compassion and love, seeing firstly persons and secondly their situations.

Making the demands of the kingdom of God means asking folk to set their lives right and this will always, no matter how gently put by the priest, be experienced as judgemental and combative. People do not see themselves existing in a vacuum but in their concrete situations. You cannot see the person without seeing their situation at the same time; not secondly. If the Bishops mean ‘show compassion and respect to the person regardless of their situation’ that is fine, but compassion which seeks to make the demands of the kingdom is by nature correctional, concluding with: ‘Go, and sin no more’.

The Church in North Africa was ruptured was ruptured in the early fourth century by the Donatist heresy. St Augustine spoke against this heresy in the Council of Carthage in June 411. The Donatists believed that they represented a ‘Church of the pure’, uncontaminated by dissent from those who betrayed their Christian faith during a period of persecution. They alleged that the Catholic Church of Augustine’s day was contaminated by their ancient link with those who in the persecution a century earlier consigned the Sacred Scriptures to fire, ‘the traditores’.

There is a subtle bullying in this paragraph. If this is not an attempt to gert those who want to hold the Church’s pastoral discipline in harmony with her teaching to label themselves as Donatists, I don’t know what is. They label not only those of us who seek to keep that harmony as Donatists, but all the Popes and Bishops who came before them.

The Church is called to proclaim the peace of Christ to his people, and to the world.

“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt.10v34). Yes we have a peace to proclaim, but it is a peace that comes from the forgiveness of repented sin; we are not sent to proclaim a false peace that overlooks sin and pretends all is well with the sinful soul and God. Indeed, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Lk.12v51). Well, we seem to being asked not to divide ourselves from the world but to accommodate it. “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Lk.6v26).

Augustine’s own personal journey to find the truth was long and arduous; at times he despaired of finding it, before he gradually came to it in piecemeal fashion and by the kindness and witness of others.

Augustine accepted the Truth and the behaviours it required from the time of his conversion; he did not convert ‘piecemeal’. His search was not for Truth with his behaviours being modified along the way, but a search for understanding what he already believed and lived by.

Final Thoughts:
All in all this is a very disappointing document from the CBCEW; it is one which seeks to allow for all kinds of moral irregularities in the hope that people are journeying in stages to the Truth and to behaviours fully consonant with the Truth. This is extremely naive and devoid of intellectual insight: no one who is allowed to receive the Sacraments while living in a civil union after divorce or a homosexual pairing where sex acts are allowed, is going to journey toward greater Truth –why would they? They have all they could want by receiving the Sacraments in their current situation. Permitting them to receive the Sacraments in such situations does not promote the journey the Bishops presume they are on; it terminates their journey by providing them here and now with the goal: reception of the Sacraments.

Toward the end of the questionnaire we are asked, “What is the experience that the bishops need to hear?” What the Bishops need to hear is already heard by them: the pain and anger of those who cannot receive the sacraments but this cannot be helped: we either live by the Truth or we abandon the Truth, and to abandon Truth is to abandon Christ. What the Bishops need to say is another thing: they need to hold to the truth in word and deed while encouraging those excluded from the sacraments to continue worshipping and socialising with their parish.

Friday 9 January 2015

A Disturbing Lineamenta for the 2015 Synod

Am I alone in feeling uncomfortable with the Lineamenta for the forthcoming Synod? The suggestion that we look for pastoral practices without reference to doctrine is one with which I feel very uncomfortable: how do we prevent souls falling away from the Truth which sets them free and into the grasp of the father of lies, if we do not take Truth into consideration when planning the pastoral care of souls?

I pray that the participants in the Synod take seriously the fact that practice must always follow doctrine and make it concrete in people’s lives, just as physicians take anatomy, physiology and the pathology of disease into consideration when planning medical intervention, or as engineers take the laws of physics into consideration when building bridges and other structures. Practice must always follow the known truth.

The idea that we can have a pastoral approach divorced from Doctrine is cunning of diabolical origin, and it is the more emotion-driven person who is likely to fall prey to Satan’s cunning.  We need to be clear that only the devil can inspire us to say one thing and do another, because it is the devil who seeks to have Truth play no part in the formation of our soul and its concrete moral operations by our behaviours; only Satan could inspire us to play false to Truth by proclaiming it in word while living contrary to it in our deeds. Such duplicity is not of God, who is not a God of disorder (1 Cor.14v33). It cannot be anything other than traitorous to Truth to live contrary to Truth.

Many emotion-driven persons will want to take up the Lineamenta’s idea, simply because they see pastoral care as not hurting anyone’s feelings. They are dangerously wrong. Genuine Pastoral Care does not mean abandoning the Gospel to label as ‘families’ the socially-engineered/socially-constructed living arrangements of today, but helping people to experience their dignity and value by our support of them in the effort to overcome disordered desires and leave behind irregular lifestyles, much like a physician helps the patient to feel valued by assisting them in overcoming alcohol or tobacco addiction.

If the Synod chooses a pastoral path unrelated to doctrine doctrine it chooses the path of duplicity. To avoid this false concept of mercy must be exposed at the Synod by its members: it is no more merciful to the sinner to accept sinful acts than it is for the physician to affirm damaging behaviours. Indeed it is the opposite of mercy, designed only so the cleric can feel better about himself as one who does not judge others or see himself as imposing lifestyle changes -God forbid a physician should decide he will not prescribe difficult lifestyle changes for his or her patients who engage in damaging behaviours. 

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Catholic Protestants

Three significant aspects of Protestantism are the focus on the scriptures as the authority for belief and practice; the private interpretation of scripture, and the focus on Jesus. Holding to these allows for the ‘open table’ policy by which anyone who is dedicated to scripture and Jesus is welcome at the Communion Table. In that the Church is (for Protestants) not a divinely established institution but a fellowship of believers (‘the invisible church’), the Church plays little or no part in their theology. When it comes to belief and practice, each Protestant may simply ask himself, “What would Jesus do/say?” which unfortunately but inevitably means following a Jesus designed to their own taste.

Without a doubt, one can go to any Protestant community and find the folk there to be sincere folk dedicated to scripture and to Jesus Christ. Such formal Protestants are what I will call Honest Protestants: they know they reject belief in the Church as the ultimate authority on earth in doctrine or morality.

There are also what I call ‘Dishonest protestants’: persons who identify themselves as catholic yet reject the Church’s authority and teaching on doctrine, moral issues and liturgical discipline.

Such persons promote the Culture of Death by happily supporting artificial contraception, abortion, civil ‘marriage’ after divorce, homosexual activity, euthanasia, et al. Indeed, they seek ways to accommodate such ‘lifestyles ‘choices’ into Catholic living so that they may welcome those who practice such lifestyles to Holy Communion, thereby treating the Altar of God as akin to the Protestant Table, and the Most Blessed Sacrament as akin to the (symbolic) Protestant Holy Communion. They also see the desire women feel for the ordained ministry as 'a call of the Holy Spirit', as though he has changed his mind after 2000 years and was seeking to establish a new kind of Catholic Church not identifiable with its history and Tradition. I call such persons ‘Dishonest protestants’ simply because they are protestant in belief and practice yet they remain in the Catholic Church. They do not have the integrity that Formal Protestants demonstrate. They are, in fact, quislings, whether they know it or not, functionaries of the enemy by the very fact that they deny the Truth of Catholic teaching and moral practice, and disorder her worship. only the Father of Lies (John 8v44) could seek to destroy Truth; and liturgical chaos cannot be of God who is not a God of disorder (1 Cor.14v33).  

Liturgically, such catholics refuse to follow Vatican II on the decreed retention of Latin and Gregorian chant.  Nor will they follow the norms of the Reformed (1970) Roman Missal, which puts the decrees of Vatican II into practice. They refuse for example, to uphold the altar-facing celebration from the offertory onwards, and reception of Holy Communion on the tongue as the norm (reception on the hand is only by indult [indulgent permission from Rome]). They also refuse to follow such norms as the restriction of Extraordinary Ministers to exceptional circumstances (Sunday Mass is not an exceptional circumstance); the reservation of purifications to the clergy; the prohibition of eulogies at Funerals; the prohibition of laity giving talks/appeals from the lectern. They thus protest by word and by deed against Catholic Truth and liturgical norms, and can legitimately be called ‘Dishonest protestants’.

What we have in the Catholic Church today is a great mass of such ‘Dishonest protestants’. For them the Revealed Faith is easily put aside to follow the changes in secular society. They give their obedience not to the Sacred Tradition but to the prevailing sociological, psychological and political ideologies of the day. It is these folk who happily support the culture of death and joyfully ignore liturgical directives. As such, they show that they have implicitly abandoned the Catholic Faith and thus the Catholic Church (to reject Sacred Tradition they must also reject the Church, since the Church holds Tradition to be a vehicle of Divine Revelation -in which many of today’s ‘lifestyle choices’ are rebuked as intrinsically wrong).

There are many such ‘Dishonest protestants’ in the Catholic Church today. They may well be found at all levels of the Church: in Rome and in episcopal residences, in presbyteries and in pews. We can detect them whenever they say such things as ‘Tradition must be reinterpreted in light of changing times’; ‘the scriptures must be reinterpreted in light of advanced knowledge’, or ‘the Pope can change anything he wants because he is the Pope’. Another give-away are the mantras of ‘God loves you as you are’, which permits or even encourages the absence of penance and reform; and ‘What would Jesus do/say?’, by which they speak from emotion (which they label ‘the heart’) and not from reason (conscience). They thereby formulate a new faith for themselves and the world under a mistaken understanding of the authority of a Pope.

Unfortunately for them, no Pope is God; a Pope can only exercise legitimate authority over the Church when he acts in accord with Tradition. Those catholics who expect Pope Francis to side with them (or to ‘get alongside’) by abandoning long-held moral teaching in discipline (practice) if not actually in doctrine, are asking him to formally abandon the Faith delivered once for all to the saints. Yet Francis has professed himself a loyal son of the Church, so I wait for the day when he shows ‘Dishonest protestants’ (dissenting catholics) that they are wrong about him and about the Faith, which he can do by upholding Traditional doctrine and vetoing any pastoral procedures or disciplines at odds with that Doctrine. His opportunity to do this comes with the 2015 Synod. Pray for him, that as a loyal son of the Church he may remain unwaveringly united in mind and heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

A Glossary of Terms
Honest Protestant: one who identifies as a Protestant and thus rejects the Catholic Church in her teaching and discipline; a person who demonstrates integrity. 
Dishonest Protestant: one who identifies as a Catholic yet rejects the Catholic Church in her teaching and discipline; a person who lacks integrity and demonstrates duplicity. 

Thursday 1 January 2015

The Synod Must Remember Metanoia

The following report about preparation for the forth-coming Synod is disturbing because it’s lineamenta recommends duplicity: saying one thing and doing another, wherein lies a real but covert abandoning of the Gospel.

The questionnaire for 2015 instructs bishops’ conferences to “avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine,” in favour of what it describes as Pope Francis’s call to “pastoral activity that is characterised by a ‘culture of encounter’ and capable of recognising the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models.” (see here)

The honest person would have to say that if the Synod does not provide pastoral provisions in line with Doctrine it will be less a case of “the white man speaking with forked tongue” as one of hypocrisy and duplicity: “We believe this to be true, but we don’t live according to that belief.” In which case truth may as well not exist, and yet it is only truth that sets us free; duplicity is a binding-work of the devil. As such the Synod simply cannot afford to evade formulations of pastoral care based on doctrine in order to favour “pastoral activity that is characterised by a ‘culture of encounter’”. The idea of ‘encounter’ is popular today but is so vague it is meaningless, especially in terms of preaching the Gospel of Christ to a fallen world. The encounter of the Gospel with sin and has only one aim: repentance: “Repent; for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk.1v15). Without this repentance, this metanoia, this change in lifestyle, there can be no possibility of putting into practice Vatican II’s Universal Call to holiness (cf. Lumen gentium 39, 40).

It is true that we are living in the ‘age of mercy’, but that age was inaugurated 2000 years ago when the Gospel was first preached. Today’s idea or presentation of mercy has, unfortunately, acquired a diabolical deformation: it has become ‘accepting the sin for the sake of the sinner’.  No more the forgiveness of God for past sins and a getting back on the right track: the “Go, and sin no more” of the Gospel (cf. Jn.5v14., 8v11). Rather, there is an abandonment of forgiveness in favour of distorted ‘mercy’ (which is not mercy at all but an abandoning of people to their sins –even an affirmation of them in their sin). Do today’s pastors think they have it right and that the Church has been wrong for 2000 years? If so, they have not simply lost their faith but demonstrate extreme arrogance, since they are seeking to allow behaviours that scripture and tradition both condemn as wrong.

Why is this distortion of mercy being peddled by so many today at all levels of the Church? I think there are several reasons; none of which bode well for the souls of the flock or of those who tout it. These reasons include, I suggest, the loss of Faith; fear of rejection by the world; misplaced compassion, the desire to be popular and the pride of being seen as ‘intellectually enlightened’.

Let us pray that the participants in the Synod demonstrate their faith in the Gospel by affirming and clarifying the pastoral provisions already present for those who are in occasions of sin (‘irregular situations’), be those situations a civil marriage after divorce; cohabitation; a homosexual pairing; or the use of artificial contraception. Let us pray the members of the Synod do not fall prey to the diabolical distortion of mercy that abandons forgiveness and metanoia; a trap into which they can easily fall by inviting persons in such irregular lifestyles to Holy Communion. Let us pray that the participants will clearly affirm that such folk remain members of the Church by Baptism and are still called to a life of prayer, to attendance at Mass, to participation in the social life of the parish, to active charity –and to union with the Heart of Christ by conversion of life. Christ’s mercy does not extend to unrepentant sin. We forget this at the cost of souls –our own and those of the flock.
Most Holy Trinity,
from whom all families take their origin and meaning,
we pray for the exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church:
and especially for the forthcoming Synod on the Family:
open minds and hearts to the Gospel of Christ;
and to the place of marriage & family in your plan for our salvation.
Help your holy Church,
and the world in which she lives,
to uphold the sanctity of human life from natural conception to natural death;
the rightfulness of natural marriage,
and to find grace-filled solutions to the breakdown of marriage and family life.
Seeking the intercession of Our Blessed Lady, of St Joseph her spouse,
of St Michael the Archangel and of all the angels and saints,
we make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen

We need to remember that mercy is not quite the same as forgiveness. Forgiveness is an act of mercy bringing reconciliation; forgiveness springs from a having a merciful disposition, which is why we must be careful when speaking of the ‘age of mercy’. We need to include metanoia as a required element in reconciliation for union with God.