Friday 29 May 2015

Loss of Faith Among the Bishops

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.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Marriage and family: A Consideration

Marriage is often referred to as the building block or foundation of society, which seems rather difficult to disagree with since it is by the stability of marriage that society generates stable people. As the Guardian reported, the Office of National Statistics states that figures indicate children of married parent families suffer less mental health problems than those brought up by single parents (see here); and as the study by Osborne, Mclanan and Brooks-Gunn at the University of Texas appears to indicate, “children born to married versus cohabiting parents have fewer reported behavioral problems at age three, and that differences in parental background characteristics account for 30% to 50% of the differences in child outcomes at age 3. The remaining differences in child behavior can largely be explained by differences in household income and maternal health behaviors. Marriage following a cohabiting birth is not associated with fewer child behavioral problems” (here). Taking both of these into consideration, it might well be said that children reared in marriages better understand where they come from and what their role in life is as a man or a woman.

The family is also the place in which the stability and unity of family life allows us to take risks knowing we are loved, valued and cared for unconditionally. It is the unit in which we learn mutual respect and develop a sense of justice, fairness, mutual support and respectful challenge. I’m sure you could add to this list, but I hope the point is made that we learn about ourselves, others and social interaction within the family, taking all we have learned there with us into the adult world. As the 2008 Summit report ‘Cohabitation, Marriage and Child Wellbeing’ from the National Marriage Project (see here) reminds us, children raised outside an intact marriage are much more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders, diseases, suicide attempts, alcoholism, and drug abuse. All the above considered, it is thus reasonable to conclude that marriage is indeed the bedrock or foundation of society.

Many today might claim marriage to be a social construct, others as the formal union of two persons who love each other, or yet others as the legalisation of a romantic relationship. Well, it may be a social construct in regard to its formalisation, but it is surely part of man’s nature: would not parents would stay together because both desired to protect and nurture their offspring? There may have been no formal marriage ceremony in the Stone Age, but surely parenting of their offspring was the natural response of both parents?

Traditional Catholics and others are often accused by liberals of holding to an ‘ideology’ of marriage that today’s society has outgrown; accused of failing to recognise that there are many types of ‘marriage’ and ‘family’. But Marriage and family are not an ‘ideology’ that Traditional Catholics unrelentingly hold to; Marriage is a union of life and love. Many people have no problem recognising a ‘love’ element: they will see it as feelings of affection for the other and the will to care for the other (thus they divorce if their romantic feelings are turned to another person or if they perceive themselves as being oppressed in the marriage and harmed rather than cared for.) When it comes to the sharing of ‘life’ however, they most often appear to mean ‘a lifetime’ or ‘a lifestyle’, and will end the ‘lifetime’ part if the ‘lifestyles’ begin to differ significantly and become ‘irreconcilable differences’.

But the sharing of life in marriage goes beyond the sharing of a lifestyle or a lifetime to the sharing of life itself; the sharing of one’s life-giving power for the procreation and rearing of offspring. Without the sharing of the life-potential the act of copulation is not so much a love-life as an act of lust-relieving. It is in this aspect of lust-relief that contraceptive sex and homosexual acts both run contrary to nature, since both make use of the procreative act in a way that eliminates its primary and unique purpose: that of procreation. (The Marriage of infertile couples is still true marriage because they are open to receiving new life; it is marriages entered into with a clear decision not to cooperate with the generation of new life that are a different matter). We often hear it said that the act is also used to bond the couple, and while that can of course be recognised as true, it is equally true that bonding can occur in other ways than by sex (we bond with parents, siblings and friends without engaging in sex acts with them), so sex is not to be seen as simply about bonding or used only for bonding).

Today the word ‘marriage’ is applied to the formalisation of all sorts of affectionate relationships: men and men; women and women, people with animals (here) and even people with buildings (here). The reality of marriage as a ‘sharing in life and love’ is not possible in these relationships, so they cannot be marriage, no matter who decides to label them as such -be that the Irish Government, the UK Government, the USA Government or the UN. While ‘marriage’ between a person and a building obviously excludes a sharing in the life of the other since it is ‘union’ with an inanimate, non-living object, so too is the union between persons of the same sex where all that can be shared is a lifestyle and a lifetime, not life itself (it cannot generate new life). And yes, homosexual pairings can share a lifetime and a lifestyle together, but they cannot share life with one another, anymore than a person can share life with a building or their budgerigar, for even though they share a living space and may share it for life, none of these pairings can generate new life. Adoption by a homosexual pair does not rectify the absence of new life since they rely upon the natural couple of male/female to ‘provide’ the child; it is not equivalent to adoption by an infertile couple where the natural reality of father, mother and child is replicated. 

Natural marriage and families should thus be protected and promoted as the bedrock of human society, for it is in the natural family alone that humanity recreates itself, sustains itself, nurtures itself and learns to live as a fair and caring society. Governments that allow all sorts of living arrangements to be labelled ‘marriage’ and ‘family’ have fallen prey to emotionalism rather than reason; they have become puppets to emotions rather than masters of reason. They claim to follow modern science but actually follow emotions, not biology. In praying for them I am not praying for greater intellects to lead us; I am asking God to “give us the wisdom that sits by your throne.” (Wisdom 9v4). It is not professional theologians that we need: these can lead us astray from Christ’s message when they subjugate defined Doctrine to their intellectual appraisal; what we need is the Wisdom of God, which is not synonymous with education: the old lady with rosary in hand can be far wiser than the theology professor who modernises doctrine to fit with the age. Yes, “We do talk of a wisdom, it is true, but not a philosophy of this age or of the masters of this age” (2 Cor.2v6-7). What we need is the true wisdom that comes from God; the Truth which sets us free from bondage to our pride and from acquiescing to our passions. Modern society has lost sight of wisdom and followed mere education. The former really ought not to have been excluded from the latter, but it was as soon as Rationalism invaded the Church and the Gospels subjected to methods of study that treated it merely as a piece of ancient literature and not as the word of God who “is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13v8). 

Saturday 23 May 2015

The Irish Referendum -updated after the vote

If the Irish people vote “Yes” to same sex ‘marriage’, will anyone be surprised? I don’t think so. Whereas Ireland once prided itself on being a Catholic nation it has, in recent years, shown a tendency to follow the rest of the Western world by turning from the teachings of the Truth (Christ) to the teaching of the liar (Satan). Why have they done this? They have done it for the same reasons every other Western Country has done it: they preferred the teaching of Marx, Freud, Jung and Rogers to the teaching of Christ; it made life easy, and allowed hedonistic pleasure of all kinds. They have done it because -with rare and notable exceptions such as Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Pell, and Bishop Schneider; Archbishop Cordileone, Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Sample in the USA, and Bishop Egan and Bishop Davies in the UK- Catholics have had and continue to have weak, faithless priests in the Presbyteral and Episcopal ranks. They are weak in that they have courted the popularity of the world; they wanted to appear ‘informed’; ‘wise’, ‘compassionate’ in the eyes of the educated faithless. Instead they betrayed Christ and became slaves to teachings that tickle the ears. They are those of whom scripture says “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2.Tim.4v3); they are faithless in that they have allowed themselves to be seduced (pun intended) by the attractiveness of sin and popularity. Indeed, few priests from Rome down to local parishes seem concerned with holding fast to what we have received: “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you” (2.Thes.2v15), but are eager to abandon it in order to avoid being criticised or attacked or to appear to be the embodiment of Christ’s mercy. Yet they known darn well that nowhere in the Gospels did Christ receive sinners without adding “go and sin no more”, which today’s priests are unwilling to do. They would rather appear to be merciful while all the while allowing souls to continue in ways contrary to the ways of Christ and salvation.  We probably all know priests of this kind, and we must pray for them. By ministering alongside them I know them to be men who mean well; it’s just that their emotional nature will not allow them to cause emotional pain to others.

The sad thing is that in 1985, many of the Bishops saw the doctrinal mess the Church was in following the Second Vatican Council and called, at the 1985 Extraordinary Synod, for a Catechism to be promulgated. A work of the entire episcopate and of theological advisors worldwide, Pope St.John-Paul II promulgated the requested Catechism in 1992 as a sure norm for the teaching of The Faith. Why then, did many of the Bishops of the day and thereafter allow doctrine to continue to deteriorate in the seminaries, schools, parishes and Diocese?  Perhaps because they had already been overcome by the spirit of the world and did not want to be restricted by the Catechism (or by Canon Law). Each Bishop became his own Pope: infallibility belonged to each Bishop they decided, and could determine what was to be taught without reference to the teaching of Scripture, Tradition or Rome. And so it has continued to this day, despite their public avowal of loyalty to Scripture, Tradition and Rome.

A cleric I know said to me recently that those priests who stand up for Truth are called theologically backward and pastorally bad, and often called to give account of themselves to their Bishops. But isn’t that easier than what the Bishops will face? They will have to account to God for the souls they have endangered and the faithful priests they have persecuted. Who would want to be in the shoes of many a bishop today? The Bishops who allow all sorts of nonsense to be taught in their Diocese and all sorts of liturgical irregularities to go uncorrected because they are done by well-liked priests; that is, by priests who are well-liked because they give Holy Communion to all and sundry and never speak about the evils of contraception, remarriage after divorce, homosexual practices, intoxication and the like. How easy it is to be a well-loved priest...

And yet being faithful to teaching and liturgical rubrics is all I personally can offer the Lord, for I am not a man without sin –who is? We are going to have to account for our sins, be they the detracting tongue, short temper, conversational innuendos, laziness etc. Only if we can offer a spotless soul to God as regards personal sin should we dare to add the sins of doctrinal and liturgical disobedience to our list. Doctrinal and liturgical faithfulness may be all we can offer Him with clean hands and heart. And honestly, how hard is it really to say what is true in our pulpits and our pastoral letters? How hard is it to follow a simple rubric such as ‘facing the altar the priest says...turned toward the people the priest says’...? It is only hard if we are focused on pleasing the people; on tickling their ears and eyes, rather than pleasing God. 

I pray the Irish have said ‘No’ today, but I doubt they will. They have had little or no real guidance or example from their clergy. 

The Irish voted ‘Yes’, to no one’s surprise. The Bishops and the Pope now have the opportunity to clearly and firmly decry the move towards co-called homosexual ‘marriage’, and an opportunity to restate clearly that while homosexuals persons must never be victims of violence, abuse or oppression, yet the homosexual ACT can in no way be approved of; that it is a turning away from Christ and His Gospel of salvation. The hierarchy have the opportunity to learn from the failure to publicly profess The Faith over the last few decades; an opportunity to call us all back to the Divine law. If they fail to do so we shall know which side of the fence they stand on (either by design or by (culpable?) ignorance. Some have already demonstrated their failure to recognise the lies of Satan by failing to clearly and consistently denounce contraception, abortion, and (now) of same-sex ‘marriage’.

Have no Fear though: society as we know it will fall apart in the next two or three centuries as evidence of the harm today’s secular ‘morality’ causes is acknowledged. There will then be a turning-back to traditional morality. It cannot be otherwise, for Satan’s hundred years as foreseen by Pope Leo XIII are probably coming to an end, and repair work will begin under the inspiration and power of the Holy Ghost. We just need good Popes, Bishops and priests aided by sound and faithful laity who are what Vatican II declared them to be: the leaven in the world a declaration woefully ignored in the last few decades so as to promote lay ecclesial roles (to avoid accusations of clericalism). With good clergy and sound laity the repair work will begin. Those of us who uphold traditional teaching in the face of odd-ball comments from Bishops and laity may well be in the minority, but “Have no fear, little flock, for it has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom”. (Lk.12v32)