Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod (Part 4)

Professor Dr Eberhard Schokenhoff from Freiburn
After Professor Doctor Eberhard Schokenhoff from Freiburg im Breisgau, who incidentally is a Catholic Priest, came Abbé Prof. Dr. François-Xavier Amherdt from Fribourg in Switzerland (which was my Alma Mater and used to be known as the Rome of the North with its hundreds of seminarians – sadly rather different these days I have been told). The title was the same as Father Schokenhoff's: "Sexuality as expression of love. Reflections on the the theology of Love".

I found it difficult to find much theology. Indeed he starts by saying that we need to look at Love, Sexuality and Marriage in the light of a personalist sexuality, marking the dimensions of the person (!??), and looking at anthropology, sociology, psychology of the depths and human sciences. That will be the first part of his talk. In the second part having defined the first part as 'theology' he will ask how such can be differentiated from those in a sexual relationship which is not sacramental marriage in the perspective of a law of graduality referring the reader to Evangelium Gaudium Note 44. I think that must be a reference to paragraph 44 of Evangelii Gaudium which itself has a note referring to John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 34. This then takes us back to Saint John Paul II's careful distinction between the law of graduality and the graduality of the law – a distinction overlooked both here and in the Synod documents.

His first part gives a christian view on sexuality as an expression of love i.e. marriage. What he says is all good stuff mentioning such matters as chastity (hardly mentioned in the Synod documents). But then in the second part he deals with 'values in relationships and unions outside of marriage'. He talks of "logoi spermatikoi" or seeds of the spirit which can be found in these.

This is an idea which has got imported into the Instrumentum Laboris 2015 and has been obviously lifted from this talk. He then goes on to say in certain cases it is merely 'that these couples [in concubinage as for instance trial marriages] have only done over a period of many months or years what preceding generations did in a day'.

What he means is that in a sacramental marriage the marriage service and consummation normally happen on the same day whilst in irregular arrangements these two things can be separated by months or years. So that's okay. This really must take the biscuit for the daftest statement I have yet come across as it completely overlooks the point that the marriage service preceded consummation on the same day in previous generations; i.e you do not put the cart before the horse as in an irregular situation supposing the horse actually exists or ever arrives! For Abbe Amherdt though this is an example of graduation.

He then points to what he calls the values of a civil marriage which can indicate permanence and openness to procreation. He lists the values which he says can exist in cohabitation of which one is that a long length of time indicates a greater indication of permanence! He seems to have a very rosy idea of the values such couples might have and I suspect the reality is very different. One of the principal 'values' I would have thought is sex without commitment coupled with frequent deception of one party by another.

However he thinks they have the intention to marry in the end and to be open to procreation so a pastor can gradually persuade them along that path. He says how a pastor could show the couple the advantages of being married sacramentally including a wedding feast. He finishes by emphasisng the importance of the Eucharist in all this but it is a thoroughly ambiguous final paragraph as it does not explain under what conditions communion can be received.

The problem with all this is that if you say there are values in cohabitating etc then people will regard such as not sinful and merely a second best in the eyes of the Church with which they will be quite happy in order to eschew the commitment of marriage.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Defend The Faith Before The Synod

As the time draws nearer in which the Church prepares for a decisive battle within Her walls over the nature of Christ and of His Truth, Life Site News today reports on a new book written by 11 Cardinals who are willing to defend the Church's teaching unambiguously. Yet in the wake of Remaining in the Truth of Christ, more titles are expected to emerge that will ensure that whatever takes place in Rome, faithful Catholic prelates and priests are in no mood to keep silent...

Church leaders are striking back against assaults on marriage and family in a slate of new books countering proposals seeking to circumvent Church teaching at the upcoming Vatican Synod in October.
Four titles coming out in Ignatius Press’ fall releases all refute challenges to Catholic principles in the hot-button areas of marriage and human sexuality, with special consideration for the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family.
Authored by prominent Church figures representing the Church’s orthodox leaders, they directly address the contentious issues expected to be the focus of the Synod. Two of the books gather roughly a half-dozen cardinals or bishops to write in defense of the Church.
Ignatius Press Founder and Editor Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. told LifeSiteNews those at the publishing house felt the topic was important, and they wanted to give a voice to those “who have something substantial to say, and who are both deeply rooted in the Church’s long tradition and aware of the challenges of contemporary culture.”
Last year’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family was fraught with controversy, with some liberal bishops attempting to thwart Church teaching in the areas of marriage and sexuality, most notably German Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Homosexual advocates have also made a concerted continual push for their agenda to be advanced at the Synod as well.
The attempts to sidestep Church principles were masked as “a more pastoral approach” to the moral questions of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and homosexuality.
“Nothing which conflicts with authoritative teaching can be pastoral,” Father Fessio told LifeSiteNews... 

For full article click here. See Rorate Caeli for a review of the latest book, Eleven Cardinals Speak On Marriage and the Family.

Monday, 24 August 2015

A Difficult Transition

The duty of parents, among other things, is the passing down of the Faith, which I have written about from a personal experience on this blog.

But, one of the most important things a parent has to do is help the child make the transition between the domestic church and the home school, or private school, and the hostile world.

Many children have fallen away as young adults simply because they were not prepared to meet the type of antipathy to God and Church which they encountered in college, or in new jobs.

Some young adults have not been able to make the difficult transition between the golden years of education in the Faith, and the application of that Faith in the world.

What has been missing are two skills which can be taught either in the home school, or in the family of those who go to Catholic schools.

These two skills are absolutely needed for today's youth to be able to deal with the growing paganism of the West.

These two skills are mental prayer and apologetics, coupled with rational discourse.

The first skill demands just as much discipline as the second. Both skills demand the use of the intellect, as intelligence and prayer grow together, as well as logic and intelligence.

Young people have not been prepared for the false thinking of relativism and subject morality. They have not been prepared for hatred, hatred of the Mass, the hierarchy, the beliefs of Catholicism, the natural law which brings order to all humans who respect it.

To be able to transition from a childhood faith into an adult appropriation of the faith demands the discipline of learning meditation, and the discipline of logical discourse.

Two years ago on this blog, I suggested that the new evangelism was not geared to ask and answer the real questions which those in the world need to have answered. If anyone remembers that post, I suggested that we go back and ask the basic questions of life, such as what does it mean to be human or is there a God, and so on.

The problem with asking and answering these types of questions rests on the fact that too many adult Catholics do not know how to think as Catholics. They have never adopted a philosophy or metaphysics which informs their faith.

One cannot share faith which has been born and raised in a vacuum. Faith is not merely personal belief, but an entire system involving one's worldview, one's view of one's self, including an understanding of one's soul and the interaction between God and the soul.

How can young people discuss morality without logical thinking, and without a deep prayer life?

If these two skills, which can be learned with grace as one grows and matures, are missing, the youth who faces evil for the first time may be overcome with a sense of inadequacy and helplessness.

In reality, every baptized Catholic has tremendous power to overcome evil merely by the graces of baptism, nourished by the other sacraments of confession and Eucharist. But, without the skills of prayer and communication on a rational level, these graces cannot be used in the market place.

What is needed is the old classical form of education, real liberal arts, which taught men and women to be free, (the meaning of "liberal" in liberal arts, as in "liberty"), because they knew how to think.

Thinking and praying mark the great saints, The Doctors of the Church have been granted this status of "doctor" because of their profound writings as well as their unity with God--fruits of thinking and praying.

More than ever, we must teach our children how to think and how to pray. Grace informs the intellect and the soul. Both together bring us closer to God and help us to love our fellow human beings.

Can we do anything less than prepare our children for the spiritual warfare they face and will face in that difficult transition from childhood faith to appropriating their adult faith?

Soon we shall witness two saints added to the galaxy of stars in the Church, Louis and Zelie Martin, as they will be canonized during the Synod. Let us pray for them to inspire parents everywhere to train their children to be saints, as they did.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod Part 3

Next came Professor Doctor Eberhard Schokenhoff from Freiburg im Breisgau. His talk was entitled "Sexuality as expression of love. Reflections on the theology of Love". Given in German I am reading the French translation.

I thought that 'theology' had something to do with God. In the whole of Doctor Schokenhoff's talk God gets mentioned precisely once when he says "In the strict sense, only the past is irrevocable and not even God can wipe it out." That is the extent of the theology in this essay. It is really his reflection on how things are with sex and love as a matter of sociology.

He starts by saying that many people do not see themselves as being capable of an indissoluble marriage but are prepared to say they will do their best but it may not last. Apparently many engaged couples in the course of a marriage preparation meeting suggest a trial marriage. We must take his word for that. He says it is an 'existential auto-contradiction' when they promise fidelity at the same time as having the idea that it might not last. The word 'existential' is supposed to impress us that this is serious stuff. Even Cameron has started using it: 'ISIS presents an existential threat'. I am never sure what it adds to the meaning but it does sound good. Apparently "There is a cat on the mat" is an existential statement in linguistics. But I digress.

I suppose what the Professor is saying is that it is a bit strange to take a vow 'till death do us part' and at the same time think they can part earlier. Actually that would be grounds for nullity which would obviate the whole problem of divorce and remarriage in any particular case but he does not mention that point at all. But then throughout this talk the teaching of the Church is ignored.

He says this scepticism about the possibility of permanence is not some fault they consider themselves to have but something that has arisen in the modern era. He goes on about the profound splits or changes that have happened in the modern world, in matrimonial life and the family. The fragmentation and loss of confidence in social institutions; the contradictions; the complexity and incoherence of the modern world etc etc. All of this may be true but were there not problems in earlier ages perhaps different but just as difficult? He cites Erich Fromm and Adorno on the problem of a sentimental attitude where the idea of will to love is excluded. He says the social sciences have recorded all this.

Next we are told all these difficult questions admit a double response. One could say good-bye to the ideas of fidelity, trust and security as one response so one is not disappointed when things end. Alternatively you can say that there is excess of meaning which invites one to reflect on the consequences of a response that is at once playful and lacking in seriousness. I am not sure what that means.

Briefly, he says, what is the consequence if we say love is only temporary? Well then we must accept that love can, effectively, cease. Even if two people decide on a permanent relationship it does not mean that they could not review the decision later. This is where he says that nothing is irrevocable and God himself cannot change that! The indissolubility of marriage is just something the spouses impose on themselves. I think he means it is rather like writing something down like 'We will stay together' in the hope that such will make them stay together. It is not something to be imposed from the exterior. Indissolubility becomes some sort of magic charm or incantation to be adopted at the time of the marriage in the hope that it will actually work out like that.

Then we move onto sex. Sex is not to be a question of using another as a sexual object but a rejoicing in the presence of the other. The word 'existential' gets several more outings. Basically though sex is really about desire and he quotes some book on love which says that what it is about is "I want you because it is good for me that you are there". The spouses are useful to one another. He claims this is different from treating the other as an object because it is reciprocal. He quotes some Protestant Theologian who said "In love there is no possession which does not arise from a gift". However the idea of giving gets only brief mention. "The other has given permission to give". Quite what is given is never mentioned and certainly there is no mention whatsoever of procreation.

The whole talk is devoid of any mention of the theology surrounding marriage or any part that God might have to play or any idea of the sacramental life. I suspect the intended message is really; "This is how things are in the modern world and the Church had better accept it." Once again God has just got it wrong.

By the way Doctor Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht has got back to me on the question of Professor Soding of Bochum's idea that a Tomtom GPS can be used to get to Heaven. He says the idea was possibly suggested by Chesterton; you know the poem with such lines as "The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head" finishing with the line "Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green". His studies continue but generally his findings are unfavourable to the idea: difficulties with selecting the destination; getting bored with being told to keep going straight leading to ending up in a cul-de-sac or what the French more accurately call a "Sans issue".

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod Part 2

Dr Thomas Soding 
After Professor Pelletier had explained how Jesus had got it all wrong about marriage Professor Doctor Thomas Soding of Bochum took the floor (I bet some of you reading my previous note thought that he was another invention of Peter Simple but no he is for real). He spoke in German but I am reading from the French translation.

He starts with a quotation from Mark 13:14 "He who reads must understand". From that he says that the Bible was not written to stifle questions as to moral and religious orientations but to make suggestions and help us to formulate good responses. It therefore must be interpreted faithfully but creatively. He says one must distinguish or dissociate Holy Scripture from any earlier interpretative tradition so that it can be re-intepreted afresh. Having referred to Pope Benedict XVI's "Verbum Domini" which constantly refers to 'living tradition' this seems a bit of a contradiction. Professor Soding goes on to say that the Bible is not the Christian Life itself but "a system of navigation which shows arrivals and departures, intineraries and bottlenecks, toll booths and service stations". I wonder if he has got the Bible muddled up with his Tomtom GPS. I am surprised he does not mention speed cameras at some point. Perhaps he thinks his Tomtom is the voice of conscience? "Go left, go right, aargh! turn around and retrace your steps".

St Mark: Visibly unimpressed
Well actually St Mark was not talking about understanding the Bible but understanding his reference to the Abomination of Desolation. Here we have in the Professor's talk an Abomination of Waffle, Incomprehensibility and Contradiction. He goes on to talk about the 'Vote Christique' by which I suppose he means what Christ said, being merely one person with a vote. He says that the teaching on marriage is pretty clear and the Synod should make such recognisable by everyone. Good idea but he then says that precisely because the teaching is so clear it is an open question! The teaching must not be rigorist but merciful in an opening to the future in three aspects:

  1. Christ developed the teaching starting with Genesis and it can therefore be developed further and there are drafts for this – presumably Professor Soding and other eminent theologians have these in their briefcases!
  2. The Petrine privilege could be developed. Whereas that applied to somebody who was married to a pagan and became a Christian and could be released in the interests of preserving their Faith – presumably because it would have been impossible to go on living with the pagan, Professor Soding now proposes that where one party gives up the Faith and becomes a pagan the marriage might be dissolved in the interest of the Faith of the other party. But he says adultery is adultery therefore a grave sin and "God himself can dissolve a marriage if the alliance of believers with him, concluded by Baptism, cannot be saved by any other means." So we could have the situation where someone says to God "If you do not dissolve my marriage I will cease to believe in you" and Professor Soding thinks the Church should oblige. Where on earth has his Tomtom led him?
  3. The interpretation of the 6th commandment as forbidding all sex outside of marriage is rather rigid in his view. "The stratification of the Biblical constant is more complex." It needs looking at again. Jesus did not tell the woman taken in adultery not to sin again but merely to review her conduct. With the Samaritan woman he makes her a messenger of Faith ignoring, in Professor Soding's view, her irregular situation. Again those who do not have the gift of celibacy should not be regarded as an obstinate sinner if the marriage has broken down and they are committing adultery elsewhere. If they have not the gift of celibacy then we must accept their adultery.
    A marriage is concluded, once and for all, with consummation but adultery is repeated with each act of adultery so absolution is not possible. For Professor Soding this represents a contradiction if the fault which has led to the adultery is regretted and the wound has cicatrised. Actually cicatrised does not necessarily mean healed but merely sealed with a scab – the wound is no longer open. What fault is there that someone commits in a marriage that leads them to adultery? A fault by one party might be a factor in leading the other party to adultery in seeking solace but how can they then regret the initial fault of the other party as if the fault was their sin? There is a similar muddle in the Instrumentum Laboris 2015 – perhaps he had a hand in it?

God calls us to live in peace therefore the Synod must give peace to the divorced and remarried. Professor Soding says the Synod must find a way to solve this conundrum. I wonder what Dr Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht would have to say about all this.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Catholic Family News

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma welcomes a new member, the team at Catholic Family News.

While the Catholic Family News site is not a blog, it is regularly updating its readership with important updates on those crucial developments that have a bearing on marriage and the family both inside and outside of the Church.

Their website can be viewed here.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

At The Doorstep of Europe

I have friends in Gibraltar and Malta. I have friends in France. I have a son in England, as well friends. Watching the movements of the "religion of peace" in northern Africa, I am struck today by the fact that not only are displaced people trying to get into Spain, and the rest of Europe, and rightly so, but that others with violent intent may be as well.

Europe for centuries has withstood the onslaught of those enemies who hate Christ and His Church. In the universal calendar, we celebrate two great feasts of victory over a faith which does not accept personal liberty. These two feast days, September 12th, the Holy Name of Mary, and October 7th The Feast of the Holy Rosary, reveal the depth of the Church's efforts to save music, art, literature, architecture and law which grew out of the consciousness of natural and revealed law.

Revealed law founded not only the Jewish People of God, but Western Law. Throughout the ages, we have enjoyed, until recently, the fairness of justice based on a concept of community which rests on Christ and His Kingdom, not man's kingdom. Justice and mercy in the West became more linked with the morality of the heart of natural law, and the revealed law, which includes not only the Ten Commandments, but the beauty of the Beatitudes.

No other religion but Christianity holds such gentle and loving words as these, the code of virtue which brought peace and real progress to the nations we now label as European.

Matthew 5 Douay-Rheims
5 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him.
2 And opening his mouth, he taught them, saying:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
5 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
10 Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake:
12 Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.
13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.
14 You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.
16 So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
17 Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
18 For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.

For the first time since the aggressive tyrannies of both Marxism and Nazism, both pagan "isms" based on a false messianism and hatred particularly against Christ and His Church, we are facing enemies which truly hate peace, justice, mercy, law, and culture, the very bricks of our civilization.

We know that the forces of evil which are unseen are greater than those which are seen. Those who ignore the unseen Ancient Foe will be the first to fall for the lies of this Father of Lies. Christ warned us. He gave us the sacraments, the prayers, the example of His Own Passion so that we would be able to spread His Good News of real love and peace. The truth is that there is no love, no peace without the very foundation which created Europe-Christ. There is no justice, no mercy, no beauty without the guidance of Holy Mother Church.

At the doorstep of Europe, and possibly, as we have seen clearly since January, in many places within this beautiful continent, have come those who do not want the justice, mercy, peace, art, music, architecture, laws founded on the lovely teachings of Our God.

The Trinity has dwelt within our system for centuries because the Trinity dwells within the soul of every baptized Catholic living in sanctifying grace. What we witness now will become the true test of each one of our own ability to perceive the God Within and take Him out into the world for the sake not only of souls, but lives in our fragile civilization.

I love Europe. Europe is the cradle of my ancestors and my son. I owe my classical education, my manners, my taste in art, my love for the liturgy, my preference for Bach and Gregorian Chant, and all the thoughts which flow through my head and the feelings of my heart to those who followed Christ to build an edifice of faith.

The very first ancestor on my maternal side to come to America was a missionary priest, Father Josef Dostal from Bosice, Moravia. He wrote back to his brother, Hynek, to help build Catholic schools in the wilderness. And,these were established, including the monastery and college of  St. Procopius in Lisle, now Illinois Benedictine.

The family started magazines and newspapers for the Czech populace of America, and Hynek became a diplomat under President Wilson, eventually receiving the Knighthood of St. Gregory the Great for service to the Pope. He did other things, but he also passed the Faith down to his children and children's children.

Educated laity and religious in the family carried the Faith from Europe to the land from where I write this post, and another young man, in a seminary in England, brings back both the heritage of his European ancestors and his American ones to continue evangelization and service to God on your shores. His faith is the Faith of Europe, or the Faith of Europe until recent times.

This is the Faith, universal, catholic, one, true, holy, preserved by the Catholic Church, spread by those who have loved the Bridegroom of the Bride, Christ's Church, willing to sacrifice for truth, goodness and beauty. Truth, Goodness and Beauty are a Person. Now, we all face the threats against Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

I do not know, now, but I work and pray, that like St. Monica, I may follow the son to Europe again before the darkness closes the door. Pray for me for this, please. May God gives us all courage and strength, as well as discernment, as darkness begins to cover this green and pleasant land and her neighbors. I pray for my own distraught and leaderless country and the local church, as well as the Universal Church. I pray for Europe and her wonderful people, my own people.

Let us not be caught without faith, hope. and love in these times. Let us find the Indwelling of the Trinity, that place of God in the very being of each one of us, to take us to wherever God desires in the fulfillment of His Will.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Bishop Athanasius Schneider on the Synod Again

If you missed the excellent interview with Bishop here is the transcript at Catholic Voice.

We post here just one question and answer here including a damning response from the great bishop of the state of the Catholic Church, in particular, here in the West. It is highly relevant now because Catholic schools in Britain, and around the world, have long been complicit in the culture of death, providing access to abortion and contraception for the under-16s without parental knowledge. This is happening with the co-operation of the Catholic authorities.

Q. Excellency, in the ongoing debate over same sex “marriage” some Catholic groups have become open to the notion of recognizing that same sex pairs can have long term loving relationships thus they conclude that it is possible to recognize same sex civil partnerships. It is evident that even a few bishops support this idea but could this ever be an authentic Catholic position?

Bishop Athanasius: "This can never be an authentic Catholic position because it contradicts directly the words of God, which says that homosexual acts and the homosexual lifestyle are a grievous offense of the will of God (cf. Gen 18:20; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Is 3:9; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10; Jud 7). Committing evil in a long-term and even loving relationship cannot transform the same evil into good. Only true repentance that includes contrition and the firm intention to avoid the evil cancels with the grace of God the evil. It would be absurd to affirm that alcoholism will gain a positive recognition because of the long-term and loving relationship of two persons who established this relationship on the base of their propensity to alcohol. The same absurdity contains the above-mentioned affirmation about same sex unions."

Let us give thanks to God and pray fervently for this holy Bishop.

Holy, Strong, And True

The dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s was one of the most revolutionary events in English history. There were nearly 900 religious houses in England, around 260 for monks, 300 for regular canons, 142 nunneries and 183 friaries; some 12,000 people in total, 4,000 monks, 3,000 canons, 3,000 friars and 2,000 adult man in fifty was in religious orders (the total population estimated at the time was 2.75 million).G. W. Bernard, "The Dissolution of the Monasteries," History (2011) 96#324 p 390, Wiki article and The Courier.

I am not sure of the future of Catholic bloggers who are actually orthodox. Like our ancestors who faced decisions, most of us will not abandon Holy Mother Church for the sake of either political correctness or blasphemy.

The history of Great Britain changed forever, in 1534 with Act of  Supremacy, in 1536, with the First Suppression Act of, and in 1539, with the Second Suppression Act, not only because one king chose to defy the pope over the rules of marriage, but because hundreds of leaders in Parliament wished the destruction of the Church, and millions of people cooperated with the planned extinction of God's one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

The Church survived, just, but mostly by leaving and returning, or in small groups protected by great houses of Catholic families.

The Church will survive the new onslaught, carried out now within and without Her fold. But, not without great damage to communities and families. She will survive, not in great triumph, but in small remnant groupings, yet again, but with barely no wealthy or landed patronage.

As a blogger in a free country, which is becoming less tolerant of religious freedom, that is, the right to express one's beliefs in the market place-the media, I wonder at the limited days of blogging for truth.

It is only a matter of time before "hate speech" laws hit the net in ways unforeseen in early days of free speech on this platform.

Some of us, on purpose, push the envelope, write furiously, and plenty, in order to spread the good news of Christ's redemption and the beauty of Church teaching on line.

But, like our patron, Titus Brandsma, had to face, we shall come to a fork in the road. Thankfully, I truly believe most of us on this blog will choose the right path, for Christ, for real freedom.

Let us not be presumptuous about that time. Let us pray for each other to be holy, strong, and true.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod (1)

The Shadow Synod was organised by the Bishops' Conferences of France, Germany & Switzerland meeting on Monday 25th May 2015 at the Gregorian University.

The first talk was on the “Reception of Matthew 19, verses 3 to 12” and was given by Prof. Dr. Anne-Marie Pelletier (Paris) in French. (A better title for her talk would have been "How Jesus lost his cool and got it all wrong")

This is the passage, the subject of her talk, from the Knox Bible:

3. Then the Pharisees came to him, and put him to the test by asking, Is it right for a man to put away his wife, for whatever cause? 4. He answered, Have you never read, how he who created them, when they first came to be, created them male and female; and how he said, 5.A man, therefore, will leave his father and mother and will cling to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? 6.And so they are no longer two, they are one flesh; what God, then, has joined, let not man put asunder. 7.Why then, they said, did Moses enjoin that a man might give his wife a writ of separation, and then he might put her away? 8.He told them, It was to suit your hard hearts that Moses allowed you to put your wives away; it was not so at the beginning of things. 9.And I tell you that he who puts away his wife, not for any unfaithfulness of hers, and so marries another, commits adultery; and he too commits adultery, who marries her after she has been put away. 10.At this, his disciples said to him, If the case stands so between man and wife, it is better not to marry at all. 11.That conclusion, he said, cannot be taken in by everybody, but only by those who have the gift. 12.There are some eunuchs, who were so born from the mother’s womb, some were made so by men, and some have made themselves so for love of the kingdom of heaven; take this in, you whose hearts are large enough for it.

Dr Pelletier speaks of the gravitas of this text meaning it is tough stuff much contested by our contemporary manners. (I translate her word 'moeurs' as manners). She links it to Matthew 22,35 where Christ is asked what is the greatest commandment by a lawyer Pharisee as in both passages Pharisees are trying to trick him. She suggests that in both cases this was a confrontation of a kind which menaces us with being closed into a face to face opposition between the logic of God and a different logic of man. She says she want to ride above this opposition.

She goes on to mention the supposed exception not for any unfaithfulness of hers but she does not discuss it except to say that it makes for complexity and that the discipline of the Church is far from being immobile. Note that she says 'discipline' and not 'doctrine'. That is a crucial difference and reminds me of how Archbishop Cyril Vasil' has explained that the Orthodox Church is all over the place, as regards its discipline in respect of second marriages. No doubt the Roman Church has, at times, been erratic as to discipline but in no way does that affect doctrine.

She then says that what Jesus said was radical as he was correcting Moses and therefore this only applied to the new order and therefore only to those who are baptised. She continues that if it is regarded as not applying only to the baptised then the words of Jesus become a rigorism which risks becoming a trap for couples. It is difficult to see the logic in this and worth checking what the Church actually says.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church para 1605 marriage was an unbreakable union from the beginning and this is based upon the passage, from Matthew, quoted above And so they are no longer two, they are one flesh; what God, then, has joined, let not man put asunder. Nothing about baptism there. They can achieve this union with the help of the grace of God – para 1608. Canon Law makes it clear:

Canon 1056 The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility; in christian marriage they acquire a distinctive firmness by reason of the sacrament.

Christian marriage is a marriage between two baptised persons and has been raised to the status of a sacrament. The difference between a non-sacramental marriage and a sacramental one is that the Church has the power to dissolve the former in certain circumstances: the Pauline and Petrine privileges.

Dr Pelletier
However Dr Pelletier seems to be suggesting that indissolubility only applies to sacramental marriage and therefore non-sacramental marriages can be dissolved for a variety of reasons. Evidently she thinks that the rigorism of the Church's view that such non-sacramental marriages can only be dissolved in very restricted circumstances presents a trap for couples. I would have thought that those in non-sacramental marriages are not particularly fussed by the teaching of the Church or regard themselves as being in a trap. But what has this to do with sacramental marriages and the question of communion for the divorced and remarried Catholic?

Dr Pelletier continues saying that the Catholic tradition of indissolubility was based on a disciplinary interpretation of the text rather than a kerygmatic interpretation. I rush to my dictionary – kerygmatic apparently means preaching. But what is the difference? Is she suggesting that Christ was going over the top in responding to the tricky Pharisees? That is to say that what he said was just an 'ideal' not attainable by all? Indeed in a footnote she uses the words “ideal indissolubility”.

She turns then to Ephesians chapter 4 and the idea that we each have a vocation. St Paul in chapter 5 then says marriage is like the relationship between Christ and his Church. So she asks, before the establishment of the Church, could marriages be seen as like that relationship and therefore indissoluble. Evidently she thinks not and says this is food for thought. Talk about clutching at straws! And exactly what relevance is this tenuous theory about marriages prior to the Incarnation relevant to today's problems?

She then talks about the position to-day. Her talk was given in French and just to emphasise the importance of what she next says here is the original:

A certains égards, ces problèmes prolongent ce que l’Eglise catholique a expérimenté au long d’une histoire où elle n’a cessé de garder fermement l’indissolubilité, tandis que les moeurs démentaient largement le principe auquel acquiesçaient les sociétés chrétiennes.

I give my translation:

In certain regards, these problems prolong what the Catholic Church has experienced over the length of a history where she has not ceased to keep firmly to indissolubility, whilst manners have given the lie largely to the principle in which Christian societies acquiesced.

The key word is dementaient which comes from the word mentir to lie and effectively means to undo a lie. Harraps translates is as 'to give the lie to'. So what she is saying is that the manners of the world have shown the idea of indissolubility to be a lie. Jesus Christ lied when he spoke about marriage. “I am the way, the truth and the life” and yet he lied. There you have it. The sinless one sinned. It is not a question of some weird interpretation of his clear words or some translation problem or contextualisation of what he said as the historical Jesus but quite simply that he lied when speaking about marriage perhaps, as she says, because he was cross with the Pharisees for trying to trip him up and he lost it. She compares it to the other occasion when the Pharisees tried to trip him up and he went on about what was the most important commandment (Matthew Chap 22 verse 35). Does she think he lost it on that occasion as well?

She goes on to say that the situation is quite novel and this requires a veritable theological development in the Newman sense of the term. Oh dear! Poor old Newman! For two centuries we have had laicisation and secularisation – obviously she is a child of the French Revolution! She talks of an anthropological earthquake (cf the Irish vote in favour of same sex marriage). We are all living longer – in opposition to the ideal of fidelity for life, we have the ideal of successive fidelities. I wonder if I am alone in wondering how fidelity can be successive. I suppose if you regard fidelity as not sleeping with more than one person on any given night one can get one's mind round successive fidelities. I think most of us see fidelity as an on-going matter. Successive fidelities are really successive infidelities. Black is white.

Anyway she then asks how indissolubility can be regarded as other than an arbitrary constraint, an exotic constraint? Is she unaware that there are quite a large number of people who believe in and practice marital fidelity till death? Probably a majority in the world!

She goes on to mention the problem of the divorced and remarried. She quotes Familiaris Consortio at para 13 where it says Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross but in her view that is alright for some but not for others. She mentions St Cyprian and the problem of the lapsi. This is the same muddled thinking that came out of our England and Wales Bishop's Conference when they referred us to the Donatists. What is overlooked is that the problem with the lapsi was that although they had repented there was a dispute as to whether their penances were sufficient. In the case of the divorced and remarried they are not repenting if they continue in their adultery so the question of penance does not arise.

Dr Pelletier suggests that those who say the second marriage is adulterous are themselves refusing grace and shutting their eyes so as to enforce a discipline which makes it impossible for the couple in the second marriage to live the sacrament at the root of their identity (whatever that means). She goes on to say that it would be a mistake to see the failure of a marriage as being someone refusing the grace of God in the terms of para 103 of Veritatis Splendor. So breaking up a marriage is not necessarily a sin in her view. Indeed it is a pity that she has not taken into account what Saint John Paul II says in that same paragraph earlier: It would be a very serious error to conclude … that the Church's teaching is essentially only an 'ideal' which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a 'balancing of the goods in question'.

Dr Pelletier asks how a couple in a second marriage can be pardoned if we insist on indissolubility of the first marriage. She says Pope Francis has asked us to reconsider mercy. We have to be inventive. She recalls the parable of the dishonest steward 16. He shows mercy to his master's debtors in reducing their debts but he is still described as knavish. Is she seriously suggesting that a priest in the Church should act knavishly in pardoning a continuing sinful situation? Or like the people who risked the talents, in another parable, in order to earn more, the priest should take a similar risk and pardon them? Apparently she is suggesting that the couple should not only have a right to ask for pardon but a right to demand pardon. The Church should take this risk rather than trapping the couple in the teaching in Matthew 19. This sounds like confession without a firm purpose of amendment.

In summary therefore Doctor Pelletier seems to be suggesting that Jesus did not really mean what he said and we should therefore be merciful in allowing second marriages.

I will be writing next on the talk given by Professor Doctor Thomas Soding of Bochum. I expect he will make up for Bishop Dr Spaceley-Trellis, the go-ahead bishop of Bevindon, not having been invited. One would have thought that the presence of an Anglican would be 'de rigueur' in such a meeting.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Not isolating, not winging it...

Catholics are not going to be able to wing it anymore. All of us are going to have to have the basics down pat. Why? We merely cannot just say "Because the Church says so..."

We need to know why and be able to say why we believe in something or Someone. Recently, Cardinal Nichols said he wanted "gay Masses" throughout Great Britain. Some commentators went on and on about Masses not being for certain groups, which is stupid, no offense, but there have always been Masses for certain groups, such as Opus Dei Masses, or Latin Mass Society Masses in the past, or Cursio Masses and so on. We have always in the Church had special Masses for special groups of those who needed this type of ministry for whatever reason.

Now, I knew personally Msgr. Keith Barltrop, although I have not seen him for years, but had the "luck" of meeting this holy man many times, who is the chaplain for the LGTB people in the Church in GB. I think he understands that there is a real need for a revamping of what is being done by a rebellious group in London. My guess and the guess of others is that a real Mass for those suffering ssa is needed in order to evangelize and meet the needs of the whole.

If the sewer Mass in London is under the diocesan watchmen on the tower, such a Mass could actually bring, especially young people, into the real teaching of the Church.

How about those with same-sex attraction becoming the truly pure, chaste group, which needs to occur, like a holy remnant of those who suffer from the "wound" of ssa, becoming saints through such a ministry under the guidance and care of the bishops?

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A timely re-post....

Monday, 19 November 2012

What to do after losing a war

Many of us are sitting back and wondering where the world will be moving politically now that America has lost the culture war. We cannot be in cloud-cuckoo land, pretending that this week is the same as a week last month. We cannot pretend that a great day of the Church, a new Christendom, will bless the earth with a homogenous vision of God, His rule, good and bad, brotherly and sisterly love.

Sorry, the moment has passed. Those of us who have been praying for a long time or involved in the work of the Church for a long time have seen this day coming. We knew in the 1970s, after Roe v. Wade, that the Christian community would have to fight, or be persecuted. We can fight, but the majority is against us.

Some people do not believe this. I met many guests and religious in the past two months who believe in the resurrection of the dead Western Civilization and a time of Christ's reign on earth which will bring world peace. I do not know which Bible these people read or why they are not hearing the Holy Spirit.

That I try, gently, and maybe not so gently, to speak the truth is that there is not much time.

There are NO safe havens. One may be able to withstand evil in an excellent Catholic community for awhile, but persecution will come. First, the established Church will be more openly attacked, then priests, nuns, sisters and the laity.

The Church Triumphant is in Heaven.

The emphasis on this blog, therefore, will be on the interior person and personal holiness. Why? If we are facing martyrdom, or sacrifices beyond our imagination, we must be prepared spiritually. One cannot exhibit virtue without living in the Presence of God, of Love Himself, in the days to come.

There is no time frame on this coming persecution. Catholics in England saw incremental, increasingly harsh times and some were martyred. It became illegal to leave the country in order to practice Catholicism elsewhere and avoid fines or imprisonment.

Where are the Catholic havens now? Not Ireland, where I am sitting, looking out over the downtown of Dublin, witnessing the fall of the one of the most faithful countries in the world, now racked with gross materialism, hatred for the Church and selfishness. The winter is already more severe than last year, as if the gods of nature, metaphorically, of course, were grieving at the loss of innocence on this once holy isle.

Malta? The socialist agenda, including ssm, abortion and civil marriage, is gaining ground. France? The eldest daughter of the Church has wedded herself with a son of Gramsci. Italy, Spain, Portugal are grasping for life, both spiritually and physically.

I merely stated facts. One must learn to accept suffering, love the enemy and serve God in all circumstances. One must beg God to reveal His Love to you in your hearts so that you can carry Him with you wherever you go and preach the Gospel through the life of the virtues. 1 Corinthians 13 is our road map, as well as the Passions narratives.

A God-Man has already experience what you have and will experience. It was His Will to suffer. And, now, for the sake of His Holiness, all will suffer. This is not because He is a vengeful god but because His is Just. The time of Mercy is coming to an end.

Some of you will be betrayed. This has happened to me more than once by those I trusted. Some of you will be isolated. Focus on Christ. Some of you will need to move. Be ready and willing to go wherever. Some of you will merely disappear. Only a few will remember you.

Be strong, be disciplined. Those of us who are physically weakened by circumstances or ill-health appeal to the strong to reach out and take us many, many in, as the weak will be the first to go in the utilitarian world where only those who are useful will be rewarded.

I shall continue to write about this journey to perfection. It is our way to be in and with God and lead others to Him.

These persecutions have all happened before. The scale will be larger and sadly, America, which used to be a Christian nation, is leading the way into darkness now.

Be holy, put on the mind of Christ. He is with us, as He was in Gethsemane. We are a privileged generation.
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