General Discussion (6)

confusedIf there’s something of interest in the news that’s not covered in one of the topic threads, or you have a question to ask, a comment you’d like to make about anything under the sun, more or less, this is the thread for you. However, please check first, to ensure that you haven’t missed a topic thread.  Readers have occasionally gone straight to the General Discussion thread to post news that is already the topic of a thread or to ask a question that is already being discussed elsewhere. So, do your Sherlock Holmes before posting here, please and thank you!

Feel free, also, to share your favourite spiritual reading books, prayers and devotions. Whatever.

Enjoy!

To read General Discussion Thread (1) click here (2) click here (3) click here  (4) click here  (5) click here 

On Resisting Pope Francis To His Face…

Pope Francissmiles

The article below is taken from the website of The American Conservative – click on photo of Pope Francis to read original.  Comments invited.

Here’s a powerful column by Ross Douthat, in which he says Pope Francis is pushing the Catholic Church to a precipice.  Here’s the gist of his piece:

But going beyond such a welcome to a kind of celebration of the virtues of nonmarital relationships generally, as the synod document seemed to do, might open a divide between formal teaching and real-world practice that’s too wide to be sustained. And on communion for the remarried, the stakes are not debatable at all. The Catholic Church was willing to lose the kingdom of England, and by extension the entire English-speaking world, over the principle that when a first marriage is valid a second is adulterous, a position rooted in the specific words of Jesus of Nazareth. To change on that issue, no matter how it was couched, would not be development; it would be contradiction and reversal.

Such a reversal would put the church on the brink of a precipice. Of course it would be welcomed by some progressive Catholics and hailed by the secular press. But it would leave many of the church’s bishops and theologians in an untenable position, and it would sow confusion among the church’s orthodox adherents — encouraging doubt and defections, apocalypticism and paranoia (remember there is another pope still living!) and eventually even a real schism.

Those adherents are, yes, a minority — sometimes a small minority — among self-identified Catholics in the West. But they are the people who have done the most to keep the church vital in an age of institutional decline: who have given their energy and time and money in an era when the church is stained by scandal, who have struggled to raise families and live up to demanding teachings, who have joined the priesthood and religious life in an age when those vocations are not honored as they once were. They have kept the faith amid moral betrayals by their leaders; they do not deserve a theological betrayal.

Here’s the bomb Douthat drops:

[Theologically orthodox Catholics] can certainly persist in the belief that God protects the church from self-contradiction. But they might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.

Call it the Galatians 2 Option. Here is St. Paul:

When Cephas [St. Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? …

Read the whole Douthat column. The point he raises is necessary but incendiary: that the Catholic faith is not Catholic without the Pope, but it is also not what the Pope says it is. That being the case, it is conceivable that those who want to be faithful to the Truth must stand up to the Pope — even to his face.

UPDATE: The traditionalist Catholic priest Father Richard Cipolla explains why the pope’s behavior in the Synod is such a big deal. Excerpts:

There are many of us who have been perplexed and upset by what happened at the first session of the Synod on the Family in Rome the last two weeks.  Quite apart from the synodal procedure itself which the Bishop of Providence called a Protestant way of doing things, where one votes on the truth, what was most upsetting was the very real attempt to railroad through propositions dealing with divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion, and with gay unions, that depart from the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Church throughout her history, which teaching is affirmed as late as the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI and in the Catholic Catechism itself.  Amidst this confusion and pain among those who love the Tradition of the Church there is also a sense of euphoria that the necessary two/thirds majority to pass these propositions as the sense of the Synod was not achieved.  But, as I have said elsewhere, there remains the fact that over 50 percent of the Cardinals and Bishops at that Synod voted in favor of the propositions which included openness to giving Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, to affirm positive aspects of cohabitation and civil unions, and to affirm positive elements in gay unions.  This should astound us.

More:

But it is this question that is a denial of truth in matters of morality that lies at the heart of this drive to change the Church’s moral teaching in the name of more merciful pastoral practice.  A writer for the Italian version of Huffington Post—I know, that gives one pause—lamented the failure of the Synod to carry out the “October revolution”. And they failed, he says, because they could not find a bridge that would lead from the indissolubility of marriage and the Church’s teaching on those sexual acts that are a part of gay unions to that pastoral practice that would give Holy Communion to divorced and remarried persons and to the affirmation of the goodness present in gay marriage.  He laments this deeply because, he says, the Pope gave them the bridge.  The Pontifex, the bridge builder in Latin, gave them the bridge, showed them how to get from one to the other, in the form of the question:  Who am I to judge?  This is the way to affirm doctrine and then adopt a pastoral practice that denies it.  And it is the way, except the bridge leads to at best liberal Protestantism or at worst the individualism of secularism.

What Is A Dangerous Occasion of Sin?

A Protestant reader contacted Catholic Truth to tell us about the concerns of a friend who is always amazed to find Catholic  Dangerteachers – including former seminarians – present at this social venue when he visits for a night out.

It got us thinking about the concept of “a dangerous occasion of sin” –  at one time a regular theme in sermons and in lessons in Catholic schools.

Priests and teachers would warn of the importance of  socialising carefully – in short, avoiding anyone who might lead us into sin, and any place where we might be tempted to sin. . . , 

But since we now live in an age when we are all encouraged to exercise an ‘adult faith’, does it matter where Catholics choose to socialise?  Would Catholics even know the term ‘a dangerous occasion of sin’ any more? How would you define it?

As we ponder the issues, we might spare a thought for the good Sisters of the Order of St Clare who rise every morning at 1.a.m. for the purpose of prayer and making reparation for sins committed during the hours of darkness. We might pause to offer the Prayer to St Michael, the Archangel (see below) for the intention of special graces for all those caught up in dangerous occasions of sin, whether through attendance at particular social venues or through unsavoury friendships.

If you have particular prayers, novenas or other devotions to recommend for this intention, please do so. In any event, let’s hear whether or not you think there should be more preaching and teaching about the apparently long-forgotten concept of “a dangerous occasion of sin.”


St Michael Archangel

 Prayer to St Michael the Archangel

Holy Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust down into hell Satan and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen. 

Catholics Must Reject Synod Document – Calling UK Bishops To Show Leadership

vatican-cityIn pastoral terms, the document published today by the Synod of Bishops represents an earthquake, the “big one” that hit after months of smaller tremors.

The relatio post disceptationem read aloud in the synod hall, while defending fundamental doctrine, calls for the church to build on positive values in unions that the church has always considered “irregular,” including cohabitating couples, second marriages undertaken without annulments and even homosexual unions.

Regarding homosexuals, it went so far as to pose the question whether the church could accept and value their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine…

At least one bishop asked what happened to the concept of sin. The word “sin” appears only rarely in the 5,000-word relatio.  Read more

 Comment

Catholic teaching and the natural moral order cannot be compromised. The document proposed as a basis for further discussion by the Bishops of the world is a disgrace and must be rejected outright by all Catholics, everywhere. Nobody who accepts the contents of that “earthquake” document should have the temerity to describe themselves as Catholics. By definition, they are not remotely Catholic.

We call on the bishops of the UK (and, indeed, Ireland) to show leadership in this matter. They (especially the Scottish Bishops) have taken great care throughout the pontificates of recent popes, to wear the mask of orthodoxy, at least on occasion, in public. Time now to speak out, time to demonstrate that claimed orthodoxy. Some of us have never been convinced of it – here’s their chance to prove us wrong. 

13th October – The Miracle of the Sun…

 

Read a first hand witness account of the miracle here

Comment

Despite headlines across the internet claiming to “debunk” the Fatima miracle, nobody has succeeded in so doing.  Yet, still the powers-that-be in the Vatican continue to ignore the key part of the Fatima message, that the Pope and Bishops should consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to achieve a period of peace in the world.  In the light of all the scandals currently engulfing both Church and world, we might use this thread, marking the 97th anniversary of the miracle of the sun, to remind ourselves of the need to play our own part in bringing about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.  Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us. 

Bishop Fellay: Cardinal Kasper Quite Logical and Perfectly Consistent …

bpbernardfellay_01You were received by Cardinal Müller on September 23rd.  The communiqué from the Vatican Press Office repeats the language of the 2005 communiqué issued after your meeting with Benedict XVI, which already said that the parties would “proceed gradually and over a reasonable period of time… with a view to the envisioned full communion.”  The 2014 communiqué, on the other hand, speaks about “full reconciliation.”  Does this mean that you are starting over at the beginning? 

Yes and no, depending on the perspective that you take.  There is nothing new, in the sense that both our interlocutors and ourselves, we realize that doctrinal differences still exist—which had been made quite clear during the theological discussions in 2009-2011—and that because of this we were unable to sign the Doctrinal Preamble that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has proposed to us since 2011.

But what is new?

There is a new pope and a new prefect heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  And this recent interview shows that neither they nor we want a break in our relations:  both parties insist that it is necessary to clarify the doctrinal questions before there is any canonical recognition.  This is why, for their part, the Roman authorities are demanding the endorsement of the Doctrinal Preamble which, for our part, we cannot sign because of its ambiguities.

Another new fact is the current aggravation of the crisis in the Church.  On the eve of the Synod on the Family, serious, well-founded criticisms made by several cardinals against Cardinal Kasper’s proposals about communion for the divorced-and-remarried are coming to light.  This has not been seen in Rome since the criticisms by Cardinal Ottaviani and Bacci in their Short Critical Study on the New Order of Mass (the “Ottaviani Intervention” of 1969).  But what has not changed is the fact that the Roman authorities still do not take our criticisms of the Council into account, because to them they seem secondary or even illusory, given the severe problems in the Church today.  These authorities do recognize the crisis that is convulsing the Church at the highest level—now among cardinals—but they do not consider that the Council itself could be the main cause of this unprecedented crisis.  It is like a dialogue of deaf people.

Can you give a specific example?

Cardinal Kasper’s proposals in favor of communion for divorced-and-remarried persons are an illustration of what we blame on the Council.  In the talk that he gave to the cardinals during the Consistory on February 20th of this year, he proposed doing again what was done at the Council, namely:  reaffirming Catholic doctrine while offering pastoral overtures.  In his various interviews with journalists he harps on this distinction between doctrine and pastoral practice.  He says that theoretically doctrine cannot change, but he introduces the notion that concretely, in reality, there are some situations in which the doctrine cannot be applied.  Then, in his opinion, only a pastoral approach is capable of finding solutions… at the expense of doctrine.

Cardinal Kasper is quite logical and perfectly consistent:  he proposes applying pastorally to marriage the new principles concerning the Church that were spelled out at the Council in the name of ecumenism:  there are elements of ecclesiality outside the Church.  He moves logically from ecclesial ecumenism to matrimonial ecumenism.  Thus, in his opinion, there are elements of Christian marriage outside of the sacrament.  To look at things concretely, just ask spouses what they would think of “ecumenical” marital fidelity or fidelity in diversity!  Similarly, what are we supposed to think about a so-called “ecumenical” doctrinal unity that is united in diversity?  This sort of result is what we denounce, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith either does not see it or else does not accept it.

How are we to understand the expression from the Vatican communiqué:  “proceed gradually?” 

The mutual desire of Rome and in the Society of Saint Pius X to continue doctrinal discussions in a broader, less formal framework than in the previous discussions.

Cardinal Kasper’s proposals in favor of communion for divorced-and-remarried persons are an illustration of what we blame on the Council.  In the talk that he gave to the cardinals during the Consistory on February 20th of this year, he proposed doing again what was done at the Council, namely:  reaffirming Catholic doctrine while offering pastoral overtures.  In his various interviews with journalists he harps on this distinction between doctrine and pastoral practice.  He says that theoretically doctrine cannot change, but he introduces the notion that concretely, in reality, there are some situations in which the doctrine cannot be applied.  Then, in his opinion, only a pastoral approach is capable of finding solutions… at the expense of doctrine.

For our part, we blame the Council for making this artificial distinction between doctrine and pastoral practice, because pastoral practice must follow from doctrine.  Through multiple pastoral concessions, substantial changes have been introduced in the Church, and its doctrine has been affected.  This is what happened during and after the Council, and we denounce the same strategy that is being used today against the morality of marriage.

But was it only pastoral changes in the Council that indirectly affected doctrine?

No, we are in fact obliged to note that serious changes were made in doctrine itself:  religious liberty, collegiality, ecumenism….  But it is true that these changes appear more clearly and more evidently in their concrete pastoral applications, because in the conciliar documents they are presented as simple overtures, just hinted at, with much left unsaid….which makes them, in the words of my predecessor, Fr. Schmidberger, “time bombs.”

In the proposals of Cardinal Kasper, where do you see a pastoral application that makes more evident a doctrinal change introduced during the Council?  Where do you see a “time bomb?” 

In the interview that he granted to the Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli on September 18th, the Cardinal says:  “Church doctrine is not a closed system: the Second Vatican Council teaches us that there is a development, meaning that it is possible to look into this further. I wonder if a deeper understanding similar to what we saw in ecclesiology, is possible in this case (i.e. that of divorced Catholics who have remarried civilly).  Although the Catholic Church is Christ’s true Church, there are elements of ecclesiality beyond the institutional boundaries of the Church too. Couldn’t some elements of sacramental marriage also be recognized in civil marriages in certain cases? For example, the lifelong commitment, mutual love and care, Christian life and a public declaration of commitment that does not exist in common-law marriages.”

 But if the doctrinal discussions in 2009-2011 accomplished nothing, what good is it to resume them, even in a broader fashion? 

Because, following the example of Archbishop Lefebvre, who never refused to go to Rome at the invitation of the Roman authorities, we always respond to those who ask us about the reasons for our fidelity to Tradition.  We could not shirk this responsibility, and we will fulfil it in the spirit and with the obligations that were defined by the last General Chapter.

But since you just mentioned the audience that Benedict XVI granted me in 2005, I remember saying then that we wanted to show that the Church would be stronger in today’s world if it upheld Tradition; I would also add:  if it proudly recalled its bi-millennial Tradition.  I say it again today, we wish to contribute our witness:  if the Church wants to end the tragic crisis that it is going through, Tradition is the response to this crisis.  This is how we manifest our filial piety toward eternal Rome, to the Church, the mother and teacher of truth, to whom we are deeply devoted.

You say that this is about giving witness; it is not rather a profession of faith?

One does not exclude the other.  Our Founder liked to say that the theological arguments with which we profess the faith are not always understood by our Roman interlocutors, but that does not relieve us of the duty to recall them.  Moreover, with his characteristic supernatural realism, Archbishop Lefebvre added that the concrete accomplishments of Tradition:  the seminaries, schools, priories, the number of priests, brothers and sisters, of seminarians and lay faithful, also had a great value as proof.  Against these tangible facts no specious argument can hold up:  contra factum non fit argumentum.  In the present case, we could translate this Latin adage by the saying of Jesus Christ, “A tree is judged by its fruits.”  And in this sense, while professing the faith, we must give witness to the vitality of Tradition.   Source

Comment:

If you can highlight one point made by Bishop Fellay which outshines the rest, share it with us. I can’t get past the (obviously rhetorical) question: “why isn’t Bishop Fellay Pope?”

The Spectator Sees The Best of the Game

Divorce and remarriageI am a divorced and remarried Catholic. I attend Mass every week. When my children want me to take them up to Holy Communion, I walk along behind them and cross my arms over my breast. My youngest is particularly keen on going up for a blessing, although he wants to know when he can get ‘the bread’. I say, ‘When you understand why it isn’t “the bread”.’

It has never occurred to me to present myself for Communion when I have not sought — for various reasons that I won’t discuss here — to have my first marriage annulled. I know I am not a good Catholic, and I am living a life that the Church considers to be adulterous. Yet I am in good spirits, as I hope in God’s mercy. But I do not presume upon it. My Catechism says that is a further mortal sin, as would be the unworthy reception of Holy Communion.

People in my state are explicitly encouraged, in the Catechism, to attend church, and to make a spiritual communion, as I do each week. I have the hope that one day I will be in a state of grace and able to receive Holy Communion again. I hope that, despite my ongoing sin, God nonetheless hides me in the shadow of his wings; that Mary, hope of sinners, has her cloak of mercy cast about me. I am a poor Catholic but I am also a believing Catholic. Yet there is a faction within the Church that evidently considers ‘believing Catholic’ to be a hopelessly old-fashioned clique that they must get shot of, alongside lace mantillas and kneeling at the Communion rail.

Holy Communion, for most of the bishops of England and Wales, appears to have become Protestant by default. Instead of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist — a presence we should tremble to receive at the best of times — Communion is now a sign, a symbol, a mere shared meal, an ‘expression of community’.

Next week an Extraordinary Synod of Catholic bishops, summoned by Pope Francis, will meet to discuss the family. Catholic reformers are full of hope that, under his guidance, the bishops will liberalise the Church’s teaching on divorced and remarried Catholics. The liberal Tablet magazine devoted a cover story to the subject. It filled me with dismay. The article began by quoting Cardinal Walter Kasper, the leading liberal cardinal: ‘The church’s blanket ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion…’.

Where to start? The Church does not ban anybody from receiving Communion other than non-Catholics (and there may be exceptions) and those too young to understand what they are receiving. Rather, nobody may receive God in the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. Even before I remarried, and I use the term in a legal sense, since I cannot sacramentally remarry, I did not always present myself for Communion. Often I would be in a state of serious sin and had not found the time or organised myself enough to go to confession. The fact is that nobody in a state of serious sin — whatever that sin may be, in this case, adultery — is able to receive Christ worthily. To receive him unworthily is to commit a further mortal sin.

The Tablet article was called ‘The Case for Mercy’ and, reading it, I felt like pleading for us suckers who actually believe the basics: sin, confession, absolution, the Real Presence and the like. What Cardinal Kasper appears to want to do is to tempt a generation of people into weekly mortal sin. How is that merciful? How is that helping? Is it impossible for liberal theologians to combine their reforming fervour with actual logic? Allow a divorced and remarried person to receive Holy Communion and you are saying one of two things: either that it is not adulterous to have sex outside the marital bond, or that one may harmlessly receive the Most Holy Eucharist while in an ongoing state of mortal sin — a sin one firmly intends to commit again as soon as convenient.

There is no way that either of those things can be true, and the Church’s teaching be true. If sin doesn’t matter, what was the point of the Crucifixion? Why did Christ not stop with a ‘community meal’ on Maundy Thursday and skip that whole bothersome deal the next morning?

There are ways that those civilly divorced and remarried can be admitted to Holy Communion. Make it easier for them to obtain a declaration of nullity. Here is an area where the Church could be more sympathetic, could grant dispensations and exemptions in matters of process. The power of ‘radical sanation’ — granted for various reasons — to make a marriage whole could also be administered more often. That power does actually exist. Where the Church can legitimately change is in matters of tradition and practice — but not doctrine or dogma. Here, we sinners are protected from the human failings of individual priests and bishops by the infallibility of the Church. Some traditionalists protested when altar girls were permitted; I remember asking in one forum if the Bishop had the right to do this (yes), then if it had been done to say it was wrong was — equally as much as in the other direction — to say the Church was wrong.

Theologically, the Church is like a giant tower in Jenga; pull out one brick and you topple all the others. We cannot admit that sex outside marriage isn’t adulterous, nor can we say that mortally sinful people can receive Holy Communion. But we can look harder at the powers given to the Church to declare and discern when somebody is in a state of sin or where, for genuinely merciful reasons, a union can be made whole, by powers already granted to our bishops by the Holy Spirit.

Nothing will ever persuade me to receive Holy Communion in a state of grievous sin, unless for a serious reason. I once did so, when I discovered that a Protestant at my sister’s wedding had approached the priest, taken the Host and put it into his pocket. The poor priest hesitated but the man had walked away. He was foreign and hadn’t understood. I went to find him at the reception and he said ‘I didn’t want to interrupt the line’. I asked if I could have the Host from his pocket, I made a quick act of adoration and contrition and I ate it, despite being at that time not fit to receive. It seemed the lesser of two evils, and certainly that was my intent. I believe that under the circumstances, it was valid to consume the Host (although I am not sure). One day I hope to do so again. But I understand that the Church, while it strives to emphasise mercy, cannot do so by encouraging sin. Communion is not, as the Tablet journalist I Twitter-debated this with said, just ‘for the saints’, that is true. But nor is it, as he put it, ‘a help for the journey.’ It is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. However unfashionable that may be, it remains true.  Source

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 4 October 2014

Comment

This is an interesting insight, is it not, straight from one of the horses’ mouths, so to speak. Share your thoughts on the above article, which I think, by any yardstick, is an important contribution to the “debate” on a key topic of the forthcoming Synod on the Family. There’s an old saying, the onlooker (spectator) sees the best of the game. I think that is very true in this case – what do you think?

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