Pope Francis: Christians should apologize for helping to marginalize gays

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ARMENIA (CNS)  — Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.

Spending close to an hour answering questions from reporters traveling with him, Pope Francis was asked to comment on remarks reportedly made a few days previously by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, that the Catholic Church must apologize to gay people for contributing to their marginalization.

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, he said. “They must not be discriminated against. They must be respected, pastorally accompanied.”

The pope said people have a right to complain about certain gay-pride demonstrations that purposefully offend the faith or sensitivities of others, but that is not what Cardinal Marx was talking about, he said.

Pope Francis said when he was growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of a “closed Catholic culture,” good Catholics would not even enter the house of a person who was divorced. “The culture has changed and thanks be to God!”

“We Christians have much to apologize for and not just in this area,” he said, referring again to its treatment of homosexual persons. “Ask forgiveness and not just say we’re sorry. Forgive us, Lord.”

Too often, he said, priests act as lords rather than fathers, “a priest who clubs people rather than embraces them and is good, consoles.”

Pope Francis insisted there are many good priests in the world and “many Mother Teresas,” but people often do not see them because “holiness is modest.”

Like any other community of human beings, the Catholic Church is made up of “good people and bad people,” he said. “The grain and the weeds — Jesus says the kingdom is that way. We should not be scandalized by that,” but pray that God makes the wheat grow more and the weeds less.

Pope Francis also was asked about his agreeing to a request by the women’s International Union of Superiors General to set up a commission to study the historic role of female deacons with a view toward considering the possibility of instituting such a ministry today.

Both Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the sisters’ group, and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have sent him lists of names of people to serve on the commission, the pope said. But he has not yet chosen the members.

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

The pope also joked about a president who once said that the best way to bury someone’s request for action was to name a commission to study it.

Turning serious, though, Pope Francis insisted the role of women in the Catholic Church goes well beyond any offices they hold and he said about 18 months ago he had named a commission of female theologians to discuss women’s contributions to the life of the church.

“Women think differently than we men do,” he said, “and we cannot make good, sound decisions without listening to the women.”

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis also said:

— He believes “the intentions of Martin Luther” were not wrong in wanting to reform the church, but “maybe some of his methods were not right.” The church in the 1500s, he said, “was not exactly a model to imitate.”

— He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.

— Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a “wise man,” a valued adviser and a person dedicated to praying for the entire church, but he can no longer be considered to be exercising papal ministry. “There is only one pope.”

— “Brexit,” the referendum in which the people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, shows just how much work remains to be done by the EU in promoting continental unity while respecting the differences of member countries.

— The Great and Holy Council of the world’s Orthodox churches was an important first step in Orthodoxy speaking with one voice, even though four of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches did not attend the meeting in Crete.

— When he travels to Azerbaijan in September, he will tell the nation’s leaders and people that the Armenian leaders and people want peace. The two countries have been in a situation of tension since 1988 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.

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One Priest’s Concern About Recent Remarks by the Pope

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By MSGR. CHARLES POPE on the National Catholic Register

I would like to make, as a parish priest in trenches, a few remarks concerning the Pope’s recent statements in Rome at a gathering of priests and seminarians. Others have admirably remarked on his troubling remarks on marriage and cohabitation. I will not add to those. But I would like to focus on two other reported remarks the Pope made about priests to the effect that some of us are cruel, are putting our noses into people’s moral life and possibly that he even called some of us animals.

And while most of these remarks, recorded and widely reported, were not included, or were “adjusted” in the Vatican transcript, they cannot simply be unsaid. And even the clarifications remain troubling.

I write these remarks simply as a parish priest. I am not a canonist and certainly not a reporter. I react simply as a priest to what has been reported all week, and write here the reaction of one man and priest—me.

First, it is reported that the Pope said pastors should not be “putting our noses into the moral life of other people.”

Permit me to state my utter bewilderment at such a notion. As a priest, and especially as a confessor and spiritual director this is my duty! It is true that I am not to unnecessarily pry into the private lives of parishioners. But surely there is a requirement that as a confessor and a pastor I have some sense of the moral life of those to whom I minister.

Consider a medical analogy. Suppose a patient comes to a doctor with breathing difficulties and chest pains. Surely the doctor will inquire as to the person’s lifestyle. Does he smoke? Did he ever smoke? What sort of food is being consumed? Does he exercise? What is his weight and what are his vital signs? Is a doctor putting his nose into the private life of the patient, or is he seeking necessary information? Of course the answer is clear, and he must have the info both to diagnose and set forth a proper medical plan of action.

It is no less the case with a priest who is exercising spiritual care. He has the duty to know and assist the faithful in their moral life. Thus if a baptism form indicates cohabitation, or single motherhood, he has a duty to teach. If, in confession, he finds evidence of sinful drives, or moral irregularities he must address them and set forth a pastoral plan for a soul in need. If a couple comes to him cohabiting, he must discuss this with them, explain why it is wrong and should stop and set forth the truth that alone sets us free. To fail to do so is not kindness, it is malpractice! This is not “putting our nose into the moral life of others;” it is engaging in a moral and pastoral conversation with souls in need. This is pastoral care, not snooping. Surely a priest should not seek for impertinent details, but no diagnosis or plan can be helpful without the basic facts at hand.

The “official transcript” of the Vatican wisely removed these remarks, but still, they were widely reported and have given fodder both to critics of priests who seek to faithfully preach the moral vison of the faith and also, at the opposite spectrum, of the Pope.

Secondly as “widely reported” by Crux and others, during a question-and-answer session towards the end of the meeting, Francis spoke of a “pastoral cruelty,” such as priests who refuse to baptize the children of young single mothers. “They’re animals,” he said.

Here too the Vatican sought to “clarify” these remarks and the “official transcript” says that the Pope actually meant to say that priests treat single parents as animals, not that priests were animals. (More on the spun remarks in a moment.) But the recorded and reported remarks have the Pope calling priests whose prudential judgments do not match his, “cruel” and “animals”.

First, let me say that I know of very few priests who deny baptism to infants born to single mothers. Most priests I know are very generous in extending baptism to infants, realizing that they are not responsible for the sins or shortcomings of their parents. Those who do, at times, delay baptism do so for other reasons, such as little evidence for a well-founded hope that the child will be raised in the faith. There are some prudential judgments to be made and pastors are required to make them (see canon 868). Again, most priests are very gracious with baptism.

But it is beyond lamentable that the Pope, as initially reported, should have called priests (or any human being for that matter) “animals.” Such a word should never have come out of his mouth, and I would hope for an apology for this offensive characterization, not merely a Vatican “clarification.” I certainly have some differences with brother priests, I would call my differences with dissenting priests significant. But this does not permit me to call them animals, and the Pope, who seems to have done so, has no business doing it either. Admittedly the recorded comments are hard to follow, but the cleansed Vatican transcript is more in the mode of “Let’s pretend this was never said as recorded” rather than a clear denial—“The Pope wants to say he not consider priest animals, even though he thinks some are too hard-lined on this matter.”

It will be admitted that Pope Gregory (in his Pastoral Rule) once said that silent priests who failed to rebuke sinners were like “dumb dogs that cannot bark.” But he was using a metaphor, and quoting Scripture. He did not univocally call them dogs, he said they were “like” or in the mode of dumb dogs that cannot warn of danger. But there is nothing in this recent Pope’s comments that suggests metaphor or simile. He just outright called priests whose prudential judgments he doubts “animals”. “They’re animals” he said.

I pray that never again will we hear reported such a rude and unnecessary remark from this pope or any pope. No human person should be called an animal by a pope or any anyone, for that matter. Metaphors and similes have their place in human discourse, but to univocally call a fellow human being and animal is out of line.

But let’s consider the post hoc assessment of the remark wherein some prefer to say he apparently intended to say that some priests treat children (or possibly their unwed mothers) as “animals.”

Well, count me as less than relieved by this explanation. Again let me note that delaying a baptism merely due to the parents being unwed is rare in my experience (and hence a strawman argument). But it remains highly disrespectful to say that priests who delay baptism (usually for a number of reasons) are treating others as animals and are cruel.
Thus even the “spun” remarks are unhelpful at best and divisive at worst.

Please, Holy Father: Enough of these ad hoc, off-the-cuff, impromptu sessions, whether at thirty thousand feet or at ground level. Much harm through confusion has been caused by these latest remarks on marriage, cohabitation, baptism, confession, and pastoral practice. Simply cleaning the record in the official transcript is not enough; this is an era of instant reportage and lots of recording devices, tweets, and Instagrams.

Just this priest’s perspective. But I can assure you, dear reader, that the impact hits priests hard, and I cannot deny a certain weariness and discouragement at this point. I realize that such remarks of the Pope are not doctrinal, but just try and tell that to gleeful dissenters and the morally confused or misled in this world.

Let us pray for our Holy Father and for the universal Church.

——–

CP&S Comment – And in the words of dear Father Z, ‘do we hear a resounding “Amen!”?’

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Poland responds to Eurocrat critics

By Stefano Gennarini

NEW YORK, June 24  C-Fam (Centre for Family and Human Rights)

_59715240_poland-eu2-apThe Polish government snapped back at European bureaucrats in a scathing response to a report published last week by the Council of Europe that criticized Poland’s restrictive abortion law and its treatment of women.

Donning the ceremonial tone and submissive deference that many countries adopt in their interface with international bureaucrats, Poland accused the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Latvian-American Nils Muižnieks, of “overstepping his mandate,” of bias and selectivity, and interfering in internal affairs in an official response to a report of the Commissioner published last week.

In a section on “sexual and reproductive health” the Commissioner’s report instructs Poland to decriminalize abortion, remove conscience protections for doctors and medical personnel, and enact mandatory comprehensive sexuality education.

Instead of bowing obsequiously as is commonly assumed nations will do in such situations, Poland replied that the Commissioner had his facts wrong, and that he both misunderstood Polish law and the obligation of Poland under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Polish law in this regard has its sources in the Constitution and is conditioned by a widely shared care of Polish society for the respect for life,” was Poland’s specific response on the issue of abortion.

The Commissioner also suggested, on the basis of reports from International Planned Parenthood Federation, that Poland was somehow preventing women from accessing contraceptives because it would not subsidize certain contraceptives.

The Polish government accused Planned Parenthood of self-interest for seeking financial profit from the sale of contraceptive drugs.

International Planned Parenthood Federation “can hardly be called an impartial source of information in the light of its active involvement in promoting access to contraception and abortion, and its roles in facilitating direct access to such services,” the Polish government said.

But Poland’s harshest criticism of the European human rights bureaucracy was in the section on women’s equal rights, which took up approximately one third of the report.

The Commissioner’s report accused Poland of holding back women from economic and public life, and failing to criminalize and prosecute violence and sexual harassment perpetrated on women—smears commonly leveled against countries that protect life in the womb.

Poland said the Commissioner was merely parroting poor information provided by a few organizations that are hardly representative of civil society in the entirety of the country and “completely ignoring” the information provided by the government. The Polish response compared this uncritical repetition of unverified opinions “not based on facts” to the game “Chinese whisperers” in which a message is delivered incorrectly after a series of translations.

It called such accusations “ideological” and “off the mark,” highlighting data showing that Poland has some of the lowest rates of domestic violence and of sexual harassment in the workplace in all of Europe.

Poland also pointed to OECD data showing that, among other things, in Poland the gender pay gap is among the smallest in Europe at only 10.6%, less than Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, that Poland has the second-largest share of women investors, and that the ratio for female Parliamentarians stands at 27.4% which is comparable to the average for Europe of 28.58%.

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Now to rebuild Europe

A thoughtful short post from Jo Shaw (LMS Chairman) on his analysis of the UK’s situation within Europe in the wake of Brexit referendum. Recovering Europe’s Catholic identity is the only way to restore hope in our joint future. (Map and pictures from CP&S.)

Map of the enlargement  to 28 EU Members countries (2013)

Map of the enlargement to 28 EU Members countries (2013)

Britain’s departure from the European Union may not mean the end of the EU, but it does mean the end of the EU as the way we, in the UK, perceive our relationship with ‘Europe’. It means that we need to engage with our neighbours in a way not mediated by EU institutions. It is striking how people have been talking about ‘Europe’ as though that simply meant the EU, and how the issue of human rights, connected with a treaty and court entirely separate from the EU and covering a wider set of countries, as though it was the same thing. (David Cameron, remember, wanted to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights. He did not want to withdraw from the EU.) The EU had taken over our imaginative understanding of Europe.

The same people wanted to roll up the UK’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland, our bilateral deal with France over the migrant camp in Calais, and even our relationship with the United Nations and the USA as though all these things were just aspects of our relationship with the EU. Perhaps real life is too complicated for political sloganeering.

(Gregory the Great's meeting with the slave children that sparked his idea to evangelise Britain.) 'Angles call ye them?' he   said, 'Nay, Angels rather.'

(Gregory the Great’s meeting with the slave children that sparked his mission to send Augustine to evangelise Britain.) ‘Angles call ye them?’ he said, ‘Nay, Angels rather.’

For better for or for worse, we will be leaving this particular political structure. What is necessary now is to re-imagine the UK in Europe. And that is something for which UK Catholics have a special vocation.

The Catholic genius is a taking seriously the natural world, not as untainted by the Fall but not as evil either. This understanding makes science possible without making science a tyrant. It makes art possible without making art an idol. It gives us an appreciation of nature, without an embrace of paganism. Wherever Catholics are, there is an acceptance of the good things of life and the interesting things of life, the achievements of humanity and the glories of nature, alongside restraint, an openness to criticism, and balance.

It is this that lies at the basis of European culture. For all the triumphs of European Protestant art and science—which as a Briton I certainly cannot ignore—the conceptual framework which makes all of this possible is Catholic, and the degree to which Protestantism has taken things towards a Manichean rejection of matter, or anti-intellectualism, and the degree to which reactions against such tendencies has given us Romantic neo-Paganism, European culture has declined, disintegrated, or simply come to a halt.

This is the grain of truth in Belloc’s bombastic remark, the Faith is Europe, and Europe in the Faith. And this is the positive thing, along with many negative things, which Europe has bequeathed to the Americas, to Africa, and to Asia: a model of how to work with nature, with natural reason and human desires and strivings, without becoming enslaved by them. This is the European genius, a genius which is at the bottom of much that is good and organic and authentic in a world now more and more dominated by European culture and its Holywood spin-offs.

Folio 7 contains an image of the Virgin and Child. This is the oldest extant image of the Virgin Mary in a Western manuscript.

Folio 7 contains an image of the Virgin and Child. This is the oldest extant image of the Virgin Mary in a Western manuscript.

That is why the Catholic Church does not flatten out local cultures, but enables them to flourish in new ways. The monumental artistic achievement of the Book of Kells expresses native, pre-Christian Irish artistic traditions, but it would never have happened without the Catholic Church. The staggering Latin American Baroque tradition gives expression to the passion, industry, and inventiveness unique to Latin America, but it was made possible by the Catholic Church. The delicacy and compassion of English medieval poetry and our early modern composers is supremely English, and totally Catholic in a way that no other nation’s Catholic art is Catholic. It is an expression of Catholic truth through the English spirit. It is the English spirit at work in the Vineyard of the Lord, alongside the spirit of every other nation, distinct, mutually influential, and harmonious.

It is not just possible for a Catholic from one nation to value and appreciate the culture of another; it is necessary. English Catholic pilgrims to Europe have always marvelled at the glories of Rome and Jerusalem, at Paris and Cologne and Santiago: Saxon Catholics, late Medieval Catholics, 18th century Catholics, and Catholics today do so. Some of these Catholics bring back important cultural ideas from these trips. But they don’t cease to be English, and for their part our continental brothers do not expect us to do so.

Catholic thought not only lies at the centre of what it is to be European, but it gives us a way of appreciating diversity, not of tolerating it but of really valuing other traditions, of making them part of our imaginative worlds without ceasing to be a party to the diversity ourselves: without ceasing to be distinct.

The European Union has a problem with all this because it rejects the Christian roots of Europe. This might seem a superficial thing, but the argument about the wording of the European Constitution and halos on commemorative coins symbolises something deep. The only way our rulers in Brussels and Westminster can imagine maintaining harmony is to destroy diversity, often in the name of diversity. The hysterical persecution of people selling potatoes by the pound or rolling cheeses down hills is part of a mindset which cannot understand how different ways of life can express universal values, because it admits no universal values. Without real, substantive, universal values, there is only uniformity, efficiency, and ‘elf ’n’ safety.

Not through the political machinery of a bureaucratic state or super-state, but through friendship, mutual respect, and re-teaching of the fundamental values of the Christian religion, will Europe be restored.

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Father Joseph Ratzinger 1969 Prediction of the Future of the Church

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By Fr Richard Heilman on ROMAN CATHOLIC MAN

In a 1969 German radio broadcast, Father Joseph Ratzinger offered this prediction of the future of the Church:

“The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.

To put this more positively: The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered.

If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!

How does all this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the [sidelines], watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.

Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.

The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century.

But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

Another fascinating interview with Raymond Arroyo in 2003:

 

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A New Saint at the Altars: Stanislaus Papczynski and the Virtue of Building Families

By Br Estaban Ybarra, FMCD posted on OnePeterFive, June 23, 2016

StanislausIn July 1655, Poland was invaded by Swedish Protestant forces.  Warsaw had fallen, and the Swedish soldiers plundered and pillaged even the churches and religious houses, killing all in their path.  A young seminarian named Stanislaus Papczynski, along with a university companion, was walking along the street after studies in the Old City and was suddenly approached by a Swedish soldier with drawn sword.  His companion ran away, but Stanislaus in his youthful zeal wanted to be martyred for the faith.  He knelt in front of the soldier, baring his neck, bracing for the blow that would send him straight to Heaven.  Three times the soldier drove his sword, intending to decapitate the zealous young religious, causing him immense pain.  However, as he was to write later in his will, by “the decree of Divine Providence,” he received no wound.  The soldier backed away, mystified.

On June 5, 2016, this man, who founded the first male religious order in Poland and the first religious order dedicated to the Immaculate Conception 181 years before the dogma was proclaimed, was raised to the altars as Saint Stanislaus of JesusMary Papczynski.  To so many devotees, especially to me and my fellow religious brothers, who endearingly refer to him as “Father Founder,” it is a special time.

Why has the Church in this Jubilee Year of Mercy determined, through Divine Providence, that now is the time to canonize this mystic, who received his reward for a saintly life more than three hundred and fifteen years ago?

To understand this better, we can study the miracles attributed to St. Stanislaus during the canonization process.  The miracles accepted by the Vatican consulters and approved for promulgation by the Holy Father regard the breath of life, family, trust, and perseverance.

A young married couple in Poland had already suffered through a miscarriage.  During the second pregnancy, problems once again began to occur, the mother was hospitalized, and several family members began asking for the intercession of Father Stanislaus for the delivery of a healthy baby.  The young woman was released from the hospital, but the next day, while at home, she began having severe abdominal pains.  She was taken to the emergency room, and an ensuing ultrasound revealed that there was no longer a heartbeat and that the fetal sac had shrunken.  The hopes and dreams for a new family for this young couple were dashed again.

Sorrowfully, the couple’s prayers continued, as devotion for them to the cult of Fr. Stanislaus was deep.  Then, as the doctors prepared the woman for the inevitable in these situations, a heartbeat in the previously lifeless womb was discovered.  During the family’s pleading for intercession through Father Stanislaus, the child died and was “resurrected” in the womb.

Shortly after the beatification of Blessed Stanislaus in 2007, a different young woman from Poland, preparing for marriage, was taken to the hospital suffering from what seemed to be severe cold symptoms.  Everything the doctors tried failed, and she soon lost consciousness.  Her body began to shut down, and her family was notified that it appeared that her lungs had been destroyed and she would soon die.  Her young fiancé, himself weak in faith, would not leave her side.  Her distraught mother, witnessing the hopes and dreams of her daughter eclipse right before her eyes, was found crying in a local church.  Another person in prayer tried to console her and gave her the instructions for the novena through the intercession of Blessed Stanislaus, encouraging her to recite it and to trust in God.

Meanwhile, after consultation with the family, it was decided to remove the young lady from life support on the second day of the novena.  Resigned that they would have to watch as she left this world before their eyes, they prayed – and their little girl, who was just weeks away from her planned wedding, did not die.  On what was supposed to be her deathbed, she too seemed resurrected.  She steadily got better, and on the ninth day of the novena, the doctors took an x-ray of her lungs and discovered that she had been fully healed, having the lungs of a “newborn baby.”

The young man and woman were married.  Both are now strong in the faith and have a growing family of their own.

Life can be very difficult.  Sometimes – certainly from a spiritual perspective, but also physically – we cannot seem to catch our breath.  We need help.  When those times come, when we need the breath of love, we come to know and experience God most appropriately through our families.  When we reach to those who know us best, entrusting our suffering to God and persevering in prayer, we truly come to know Him Who never leaves our sides.  To build up the family – to extend the breath of life in persevering prayer and trust in God’s Divine Providence – is to transform our works into the saving, healing breath of love by the Holy Spirit, Who works through us for the sake of others.

In considering St. Stanislaus’s intervention for ailing families, we see reflected in his works the life and example of her who achieved the ultimate building up of family, who should be our constant example.  Devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was the raison d’être of this new saint.  After all, it was she who first trusted, believed, and persevered, whose very breath is the breath of love that permeates the lives of those who love her, knowing that when she is the Queen of Love in our hearts, He is the King of Mercy in our lives.

Who could have foretold that we could learn so much from a seemingly obscure man from seventeenth-century Poland?  Saint Stanislaus of JesusMary Papczynski, pray for us!

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There’s a strong Catholic case for sitting on the fence in this referendum

The referendum in the UK on whether to remain or leave the EU is almost upon us. There are strong arguments on both sides of the debate. How should a Catholic citizen vote? Without believing we should try to influence the voters, we publish below just one of the many articles flying around in the Catholic media on this dilemma for your consideration (emphasis ours).

An article by Philip Booth in the Catholic Herald 

Boris Johnson and David Cameron, leaders of the Leave and Remain campaigns respectively (PA)

Boris Johnson and David Cameron, leaders of the Leave and Remain campaigns respectively (PA)

The EU has brought many benefits, but sometimes seems to have lost touch with its Christian roots

There is a strong Catholic attachment to the European Union. This is especially so in countries where the faith seems to be waning rapidly, such as Germany and Austria.

Such attachment is not surprising. The EU has strong Christian – indeed, Catholic – roots. There was a real optimism when it was founded that it could help to cement Christian democracy as well as keep the peace and foster economic cooperation. And not long after what is now called the EU was formed, Pope John XXIII issued Pacem in Terris, which called for international political institutions that would help promote the dignity of the human person and the global common good – a call that has been echoed on many occasions.

However, neither the Catechism of the Catholic Church nor the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church specifically mention the European Union and so, as Catholics, we must avoid the reductionist fallacy that runs: “The Church’s teaching supports international political institutions; the EU is an international political institution; therefore the faithful must support the EU.”

The question for Catholics has to be: does the EU still promote human dignity and the common good? Political institutions are human constructions. They do not exist for their own sake and they do not exist forever. If they do not serve the purpose for which they are designed, we have every right to change them.

Without question, there are some ways in which the EU has promoted the common good – often by restraining nation states. Though many in Britain are nervous about migration, it has brought many benefits – not least to migrants themselves. On an everyday level, free movement is especially helpful to continental countries. And the “four freedoms” – movement of goods, services, capital and people – has helped cross-border economic and social cooperation between professions, universities and commercial organisations when, in the past, nation states might well have put up barriers.

But there are also negatives on the balance sheet. Pacem in Terris envisaged international institutions assisting nation states in ensuring that the states themselves could protect human dignity: in other words, the principle of subsidiarity, properly defined, was paramount. In the EU, the principle of subsidiarity is so perversely defined that it promotes, rather than provides a check on, the centralisation of power within the European institutions. Indeed, in one of the EU’s documents it is suggested that the principle of subsidiarity implies that action should only be taken at the local level where it proves to be necessary. It is little wonder that EU institutions just accrue more power to themselves.

And there have been concerted efforts to use the EU institutions to promote abortion as a human right – completely inverting any proper understanding of human rights. Not only that, economic outcomes in the EU are terrible: youth unemployment is nearly 25 per cent in the eurozone. This is a scar on Europe.

In this context, I believe that Catholics are entitled to judge whether the EU serves a useful purpose and whether meaningful reform is possible. Has the EU become so detached from its Christian roots that it is fatally adrift when it comes to judging matters to do with the protection of human life? Does it show an indifference to the young that undermines the common good and solidarity? Have its institutions become self-serving? Will a Britain outside the EU actually become more engaged with the rest of the world and remove those tariff barriers that are erected against the products of poor countries?

We should, though, be careful before throwing the baby out with the bathwater and should certainly not vote according to narrow personal or national interest. The EU is far from perfect, but then there is no perfection to be found in human institutions.

A case can be made that the EU has helped to promote liberty, democracy, economic freedom, stability and human rights in a number of countries, particularly in central and eastern Europe. Certainly, such countries do not have an ideal political environment, but it is almost certainly better than it would have been without the EU – and well-intentioned people in former communist countries want Britain to stay because they believe that the UK is a force for good in the EU.

If we remain in the EU, we must try to transform the institution for the better. And if we leave, we must promote an outward-looking and not an insular Britain. I have yet to make up my own mind on the matter. There is a strong Catholic case for sitting on the fence.

However, abstaining is not really an option. A judgment has to be made about whether, on balance, the EU contributes to the promotion of human dignity and the common good – when compared with the realistic alternatives.

Philip Booth is professor of finance, public policy and ethics at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and academic and research director at the Institute of Economic Affairs

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How to Destroy the Faith in Five Easy Steps

holysacrificemass

In the 50 years between 1912 and 1962, the Catholic Population of England and Wales more than doubled in size. Attendance at Sunday Mass in 1991 was recorded as 1.3 million, a drop of 40% since 1963. (So what happened to the Holy Mass in the 60s, may we ask?) Since the 1990s, attendance at Mass has continued to decline, though the rate of fall has been slowed by the large number of immigrants from Catholic countries to the UK. Statistics for the US and other Western nations are on similar lines; all show a decline of the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass once a week (or more) in the last 50 years or so.

Defendants of the Novus Ordo Mass will argue that many other factors came into play during the ‘swinging sixties’, the era that heralded in the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ at the start of the decline. They have a point of course as this, together with a greater secularisation of life in general, started the side-lining of those who held firm Christian religious beliefs. Man became the new ‘god’ in the general mind set of modern day culture.

Yet it is also undeniable that once the Divine Liturgy was interfered with, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was replaced, from the God-centred, sublimely beautiful and reverent Tridentine Mass, where the Canon of the Mass is celebrated in Latin, to the more community-centred, versus populum Novus Ordo Mass celebrated in the vernacular, the falling away from the practice of the Faith became unstoppable. By changing the way people pray and adore God, the way they believe too had been greatly weakened in consequence.

Below is another superb post from Liturgy Guy, bringing us his usual insights into where the root of the problems lie within our lex orandi and how they can be counteracted.


By Brian Williams (Liturgy Guy)

Those of us who write about the Catholic Church, and the liturgy specifically, often speak of the ongoing crisis of faith which has constituted much of the post-conciliar narrative. What we have seen over the last forty years is nothing less than the widespread desacralization of the holiest act of religion known to man, the Sacrifice of the Mass. Sadly, the impact upon millions of the faithful, many of whom have simply fallen away from the one, true, Church is staggering to say the least.

It might be good at this time to recall what Fr. Robert Southard wrote in the April 1974 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review:

The Catholic Church will survive on this planet til the end of time, believing, teaching and practising essentially what Christ wills of her…But we must understand this promise correctly. The Church in this or that particular place can be destroyed. There are no limits to Christ’s promise; It applies to the Church as a whole, not to every member or parish or diocese, not even to nations as a whole.

Understanding this to be true, we can look to see what post-conciliar practices and attitudes have been introduced to the Mass contributing to a loss of the sacred. Where a sense of the sacred has been lost, a sense of the supernatural has inevitably been lost as well, leading to a widespread loss of the faith.

Five Easy Ways to Destroy the Faith (in no particular order):

1. Make the Mass about Man. Nothing erodes a sense of the sacred more than anthropocentric liturgies. Versus populum masses, the removal of altar rails, and armies of readers and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion all feed into our own narcissism, our own incorrect understanding of participation within the Mass, and instill pride when humility is most needed.

2. Distribute Communion in the Hand. Bishop Athanasius Schneider has identified this as the major crisis in the Church today. The loss in reverence for the Eucharist leads to a loss in belief in Our Lord’s Real Presence. While many have offered compelling arguments in favor of the traditional practice of receiving on the tongue (including Rome itself), no one can offer a good defense of the new practice which (until the 1970’s) had completely disappeared from the Church for well over a millennium.

3. Remove Objective Beauty from Churches. The post-conciliar architectural minimalism has been nothing less than an assault against beauty. Beautiful high altars and classic statuary were discarded in the years after the Council as parishes began to look more like Quaker meeting houses instead of Catholic churches.

As the physical beauty of the Church was removed, so was her musical beauty. The recovery of sacred music, the very focus of much of the twentieth century liturgical movement (from Pope St. Pius X to Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), has been largely ignored in much of the Church. Profane instruments and even Protestant hymns and praise songs were introduced into Catholic worship, as if to add insult to injury.

4. Innovate. Constantly Innovate. Possibly nothing has been more instrumental to the loss of faith than the incessant drive to continually tamper with the liturgy. Much as we have seen in the secular realm, the spirit of innovation has been constant, leading to never-ending liturgical experimentation. A sense of obligation to hand down the tradition that they themselves had received was completely lost upon the innovators. Their hubris told them that they must always reinvent…that they could make the Mass better.

The greatest tragedy in all of this is that the most compelling arguments in favor of the Church, her antiquity, her immutability, her constancy (Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever) was undermined by all of the instability.

5. Never Reference the Supernatural. Ever. The four last things. The fate of our eternal soul. The reality of heaven. The reality of hell. The reality of Satan and of demons. The reality of purgatory. The sacraments. The wages of sin. The death to the soul caused by mortal sin. The destruction wrought by fornication, contraception, sodomy, pornography, abortion. The obligation to go to Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation. The need to repent. Sacramental confession. The need for prayer. The need for contemplative prayer. The need for silence.

The vast majority of priests and bishops today preach with little to no sense of the supernatural. (Not surprisingly, they also fail to demonstrate a sense of the sacred when offering the Mass). There is no urgency in their teaching. No bold presentation of the truth to counter the lies of the cultural revolutionaries. They are spiritual fathers who refuse to parent for fear of offending. They are spiritual doctors guilty of malpractice because they refuse to diagnose the true sickness or prescribe the necessary medicine.

Thankfully in recent years we are beginning to see more orthodox priests recovering this sense of the sacred and the supernatural. The traditional axiom lex orandi, lex credendi is understood and embraced by these holy men. Unfortunately, very few bishops (with only a few notable exceptions) have done anything to address these problems. Until this occurs, we are likely to see a continued loss of faith and with it, the loss of countless souls.

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21st June – Feast of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

The people who mass-produce statues and holy cards have done St. Aloysius Gonzaga no favors. The standard image of the saint as a frail, doe-eyed novice has given us the wrong impression. It may even be responsible for the decline in devotion to St. Aloysius. Yet Aloysius deserves a revival, especially as the patron saint of teenagers.

The time and place where he grew up — 16th-century Italy — is not very different from 21st century America. It was a lax, morally careless, self-indulgent age. Aloysius saw the decadence around him and vowed not to be part of it. He did not, however, become a kill-joy. Like any teenage boy, he wanted to have a good time, and as a member of an aristocratic family he had plenty of opportunities for amusement. He enjoyed horse races, banquets and the elaborate parties held in palace gardens. But if Aloysius found himself at a social function that took a turn to the lascivious, he left.

Aloysius did not just want to be good, he wanted to be holy; and on this point he could be tough and uncompromising. He came by these qualities naturally: among the great families of Renaissance Italy, the Medici were famous as patrons of the arts, and the Borgias as schemers, but the Gonzagas were a warrior clan. While most Gonzaga men aspired to conquer others, Aloysius was determined to conquer himself.

Aloysius wanted to be a priest. When he was 12 or 13, he invented for himself a program he thought would prepare him for the religious life. He climbed out of bed in the middle of the night to put in extra hours kneeling on the cold stone floor of his room. Occasionally, he even beat himself with a leather dog leash. Aloysius was trying to become a saint by sheer willpower. It was not until he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome that he had a spiritual director — St. Robert Bellarmine — to guide him.

Bellarmine put a stop to Aloysius’ boot camp approach to sanctity, commanding him to follow the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial. Aloysius thought the Jesuits were too lenient, but he obeyed. Such over-the-top zeal may have exasperated Bellarmine, but he believed that Aloysius’ fervor was genuine and that with proper guidance the boy might be a saint.

To his credit, Aloysius recognized that his bullheadedness was a problem. From the novitiate he wrote to his brother, “I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered the religious life to get twisted straight.”

Then, in January 1591, the plague struck Rome. With the city’s hospitals overflowing with the sick and the dying, the Jesuits sent every priest and novice to work in the wards. This was a difficult assignment for the squeamish Aloysius. Once he started working with the sick, however, fear and disgust gave way to compassion. He went into the streets of Rome and carried the ill and the dying to the hospital on his back. There he washed them, found them a bed, or at least a pallet, and fed them. Such close contact with the sick was risky. Within a few weeks, Aloysius contracted the plague himself and died. He was 23 years old.

In the sick, the helpless, the dying, St. Aloysius saw the crucified Christ. The man of the iron will who thought he could take Heaven by sheer determination surrendered at last to divine grace.

Excerpted from Saints for Every Occasion, Thomas J. Craughwell

 

Prayer to St Aloysius Gonzaga, 
(Can be Prayed as a Novena for Nine Consecutive Days)

O Saint Aloysius, adorned with angelical manners, although I am thy unworthy servant, I recommend to thee in an especial manner the chastity of my soul and body; I conjure thee, by thy angelical purity, to commend me to Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb, and to His most holy Mother, the Virgin of virgins. Preserve me from every grievous sin; never suffer me to sully my soul with any impurity; whenever thou seest me in temptation or danger of sin, ward off from me every impure thought and affection, and awakening in me the remembrance of eternity and of Jesus crucified, imprint deeply in my heart the sentiment of the fear of God. Inflame me with divine love, in order that by imitating thee on earth, I may merit to enjoy God with thee in heaven. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary.

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A Catholic Firebrand

I had never heard of Ann Barnhardt until last Sunday when she was cited to me as one of those rabid Catholics who have perhaps wandered off the reservation. Fearless disciple that I am, I decided to do some research . I truly do not know what to make of her. She is very interesting and engaging to listen to. The video below is about diabolical narcissism, but I can’t shake off the thought that perhaps the speaker has caught the very disease she has diagnosed. I’ll leave it up to you all to reach some conclusion. WARNING: Ms Barnhardt is a “no holds barred” wrestler with the truth. Watch this with caution. It is also very long.

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International Congress of #WeAreN2016

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The Eternal War

“Put that bloody light out! Don’t you know there’s a war going on?!!”

Thus spake countless ARP wardens in Britain during WW2. Night time enemy bombers high above could be guided to their targets by the slightest glimmer of light emerging from down below, and would unleash their high explosive payload without mercy upon them.

How different was the guidance of our Saviour:

“Do not hide your light under a bushel!”

With this commandment, He literally instructed us to invite bombardment upon ourselves. How very Christian of Him!

There is a war going on. It always has been, and always is, and always will be.

It is the war between ideal perfection and reality. It is a blood-soaked and despair-ridden affray.

There is hope though. Amidst the battlefield there run kindly souls tending the wounded, patching them up to fight again or retreat perhaps such as is wisest.

Under the sign of the blooded red Cross such individuals race to and fro, their commanding officer’s orders to fulfil.

Yes, the Church is a “field hospital”. Its Sacraments are medicines for the ailing, not rewards for the proudly and comfortably well.

My plea is for all people to get greater “situational awareness”-any soldier will tell you that this is an essential.

We are all at war, but we must keep the light ON, for Christ’s sake.

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Papal comments on cohabitation and civil marriage suggest a direction

On his blog “In the Light of the Law” the Canon Lawyer, Dr Ed Peters, writes :

June 18, 2016

The pope’s most recent comments on marriage point in a disturbing direction but let’s address two important matters first.

Point One. Cohabitation is not marriage.

Largely overlooked amid the furor caused by Pope Francis’ rash claim that “the great part of our sacramental marriages are null”—an assertion reckless if false (which it is) and brimming with despair if true (which it is not), a claim followed not by an apology, an official retraction, or even a bureaucratic ‘clarification’ but instead by an Orwellian alteration of the pope’s words in Vatican records—overlooked, I say, in this greater mess was the pope’s later but equally problematic comment about his being “sure that cohabitating couples are in a true marriage having the grace of marriage”. Though multi-facetedly wrong (theologically, canonically, pastorally, socially) the pope’s equating cohabitation (‘faithful’, whatever that means) with Christian marriage did not, mirabile dictu, get edited down to a platitude or deleted completely: his words are still there, “in queste convivenze … sono sicuro che questo è un matrimonio vero, hanno la grazia del matrimonio…”

Let’s be clear: marriage is marriage but cohabitation (as that word is nearly universally understood in social discourse) is only cohabitation. Where to begin?

Everybody starts off single. One stays single unless one goes through a ceremony called a wedding, at which point, one is (presumptively, at least) married. People who are married get to do certain things that people who are not married don’t get to do, like, say, submit a married-filing-jointly tax return with a certain someone and have sex with that same certain someone if they both so choose. In addition, though, married couples who are baptized get something else at their wedding, they receive a sacrament called Matrimony, and with that sacrament come very powerful graces put there by Jesus to help Christian couples living the difficult and wonderful thing called marriage.

But, if one is not married, one does not get to submit a married-filing-jointly tax return with anyone and one does not get to have sex with a certain no-one or with anyone else. Moreover, even if one is baptized (and regardless of what other sacramental or actual graces might be wonderfully at work in one’s life) a single person does not get the specific graces of Matrimony. Why? Because cohabitation is NOT marriage, let alone is it “true marriage”, and cohabiting couples do NOT share in the graces of Matrimony.

Point Two. Civil-only marriage might, or might not, be marriage.

While asserting that couples cohabiting ‘faithfully’ (?) are in a real marriage (which they aren’t) the pope also said that merely civilly-married couples are in real marriages (which they might or might not be). To understand what is at stake here we need to distinguish more carefully.

Couples, neither of whom is Catholic (i.e., most of the world), even if both of them are baptized, can marry (the Church would say, “validly”) in a civil-only ceremony. To that extent, Francis would be right to say that civilly married couples have a true marriage. But if the pope thinks that merely civilly married Catholics—and given the context of his remarks this is likely whom he had in mind—are, just as much as cohabiting couples (supposedly) are, in real marriages and enjoying the graces of Matrimony, then I have to say No, that’s wrong—even though I wish he were right. Once again, the requirement of “canonical form” (a cure that has long out-lived the disease it was prescribed to treat) seriously complicates the Church’s message on the permanence of marriage.

Because Catholics (let’s just talk Romans here) are required for validity to marry in (still keepin’ it simple) a Catholic religious ceremony, those tens of thousands of Catholics who ‘marry’ civilly-only are (outside a few rare exceptions) no more married than are couples just cohabiting (‘faithfully’ or otherwise). Moreover, because of the inseparability of the marriage contract from the sacrament, if one is invalidly ‘married’ (and ‘marriages’ among Catholics who disregard canonical form are invalid) then one does not receive the sacrament of Matrimony either nor any of its graces. Why? Because, No marriage means no Matrimony.

Here’s the rub: as virtually all of the rest of the world, including baptized non-Catholics, can marry civilly-only, they are bound to such marriages if they enter them. So, even though a civil wedding might be just as much of a lark for some non-Catholics as it is for some Catholics, only Catholics have, in virtue of the requirement of canonical form, a “Get Out of Marriage Free” card to play. And play it they do. Lots. Hence, the complications that I (and some sterling canonists going back 50 years) have been warning about in regard to Church teaching on the permanence of marriage in the face of canonical form. Thus I say, one of these days, form has to go—but this is for another discussion.

In short, if the pope had in mind non-Catholics, he would be right to say that their civil-only wedding would count toward marriage (though why he would discuss such persons with cohabiting couples escapes me); but if he had in mind Catholics (as he probably did) then he is wrong to say that such persons are truly married and are drawing on the sacramental grace of Matrimony (though it would explain why he mentioned such persons in the same breath with cohabiting couples, as neither are married).

Now, these two points being addressed, and with the debacle of assertions of massive nullity supposedly plaguing Christian marriage still reverberating, something deeper may be emerging here. Consider,

Marriage, like pregnancy, is one of those ‘either/or’ situations—either you are or you aren’t. Others’ opinions, even your own opinion, about whether you are or aren’t, are irrelevant to whether you are or aren’t. Marriage is an objective fact, not a subjective (however sincere) feeling or attitude. Continuing,

The pope’s most recent statements on marriage were not slips akin to getting the date of a meeting wrong, they are not hearsay shared by a prelate known for a flexible attitude toward accuracy or stories shared by relatives from Argentina, and they are not hints of his views left ambiguous by some obvious omission. Instead these latest assertions were calmly offered by the pope before a large and sympathetic audience, with expert advisors readily at hand, in an extended manner, all of which factors point, I think, in a consistent if disturbing direction.

And what direction is that?

This one: Pope Francis really—and I think, sincerely—believes:

(A) most marriages (at least, most Christian marriages) really aren’t, deep-down, marriages (and so the annulment process has to be sped up to dispatch of what are, after all, probably null marriages anyway, and the consequences of post-divorce marriages need to be softened because most people in those second marriages probably weren’t in true marriages the first time, and so on); and,

(B) lots of things that aren’t marriages (like cohabitation and civil-only weddings between Catholics) really are, deep-down, marriages (so we need to affirm them and assure them that they enjoy the same graces as married people, and so on).

That this is pope’s view can, I suggest, be directly determined from his own words (expunged and otherwise) and, if I am right, would explain many things, from his favoring Cdl. Kasper and side-lining Cdl. Burke, rolling out several problematic tribunal “reforms” in Mitis Iudex, and leaving ambiguous several crucial points that sorely needed clarity in Amoris laetitia. The irreducibly objective, ‘either/or’, nature of marriage would not sit well with someone who prefers subjective, flexible approaches that allow for ‘this and that’ responses, but, whatever problems the principle of non-contradiction poses here, a conviction that most marriages are not marriage but lots of non-marriages are marriage, would explain a lot.

That said, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that a crisis (in the Greek sense of that word) over marriage is unfolding in the Church, and it is a crisis that will, I suggest, come to a head over matrimonial discipline and law. If so, a key fact to keep in mind will be this: No sacrament owes so much of its theology to Church discipline as marriage owes to canon law.

Perusing the pages of, say, Jesuit Fr. George Joyce’s classic study of Christian Marriage (1933), one is repeatedly struck by how deeply indebted the development of Catholic doctrine on marriage is to the practical work of canon lawyers handling marriage matters. That the latest crisis over marriage depends so much on how canonical terms like “valid” or “null” are used, on how “marriage” and “Matrimony” are defined, or on what legally constitutes “objective grave sin” and “repentance”, should surprise no one. Catholic theology of marriage and Catholic canon law on marriage are deeply, deeply interwoven. This heavy presence of law in marriage matters even explains, I think, at least in part, why some proponents of “softening” Church discipline on marriage so often berate canon lawyers as Pharisees with stony hearts who care only about rules (oblivious to the irony that it was, after all, the Pharisees who tried to derail God’s plan for marriage.) By their defense of Church discipline on marriage canon lawyers have long been crucial in the defense of Church doctrine on marriage. And I hope we remain so.

To conclude, and prescinding from what other questions might face the Church under Francis, I think the marriage crisis that he is occasioning is going to come down to whether Church teaching on marriage, which everyone professes to honor, will be concretely and effectively protected in Church law, or, whether the canonical categories treating marriage doctrine become so distorted (or simply disregarded) as essentially to abandon marriage and married life to the realm of personal opinion and individual conscience. History has always favored the former; disaster lurks behind the latter.

Sts. Thomas More and Raymond Penyafort, pray for us.

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For The Sake Of The Fox

Let’s not go chicken

Some years ago, while preparing an asleep patient for major bowel surgery, I blurted out “For fox sake!” This was triggered by some hassle with the equipment I was using.

(I have a whole arsenal of euphemistic exclamations with which I avoid blasphemous or profane speech: Oh sugar! Cheese and crackers! FFS! etc.)

My surgeon colleague, a big burly and jolly Muslim from Yemen took the time to ask me why I was imploring the blessing of a fox. He genuinely wanted to know.

Speaking straight off the top of my heart, this was my reply:

Once upon a time, when this part of the world was called Christendom it was common to upbraid a falling fellow with the words “For Christ’s sake!”.

Sadly, in this post-Christian society the name of Christ has become taboo, it makes people uneasy, and so people use a vulgarity like “f**k” instead when they emote. I cannot abide with vulgarity so I use the word “fox” in its place.

Does that answer your question?

Everyone in the operating room had listened to this exchange and were moved by it. There was a short silence and then my Muslim friend smiled and nodded with understanding. He clapped me on the shoulder and laughed. “I never expected such an elegant answer”, he said.

In my dwindling professional capacity, I have many letters after my name. I am thinking of adding “FFS” to them as I increasingly utter those words while I battle to maintain my sanity working in the UK’s Notional Health Service.

-Dr B. Burrito BA BM BCh FRCA FFS

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Letter From Beyond

The following was found among the papers left by a nun who died in a convent in Germany. It is not completely clear whether this was a vision or just a vivid dream. It is remarkable that Sister Claire was actually able to read the letter in the dream; in dreams, the written word is too visually unstable to read. Also remarkable about the dream is the orthodoxy of every detail of the letter. (Footnotes indicating Catholic doctrine are provided.) Whether or not this is a private revelation, it is a very poignant meditation on hell.

Let us think of Hell while we are still living, so that we will not fall into it after we die.
In my youth, I had a friend, Anne, who lived near my house. That is to say, we were mutually attached as companions and co-workers in the same office. After Anne married, I never saw her again. We never had what can be called a real friendship, but rather an amiable relationship. For this reason, when she married well and moved to a better neighborhood far from my home, I didn’t really miss her that much.
In mid-September of 1937 I was vacationing at Lake Garda when my mother wrote me this bit of gossip: “Imagine, Anne N. died. She lost her life in an automobile accident. She was buried yesterday in M. cemetery.”
I was shocked by the news. I knew that Anne had never been very religious. Was she prepared when God called her suddenly from this life? The next morning I assisted at Mass in the chapel of the convent boarding house where I was rooming. I prayed fervently for the eternal rest of her soul and offered my Holy Communion for that intention.
Throughout the day I was unsettled, and that night I slept fitfully. Once, I awoke suddenly, hearing something that sounded like my door being opened. Startled, I turned on the light, noting that the time on the clock on my nightstand showed ten minutes after midnight. The house was quiet and I saw nothing unusual. The only sound was from the waves of Lake Garda breaking monotonously on the garden wall. There was no wind. Nonetheless, I thought I heard something else after the rattling of the door, a swooshing sound like something being dropped. It reminded me of when my former office manager was in a bad mood and dropped some problem papers on my desk for me to resolve.
Should I get up and look around? I wondered. But since all remained quiet, it didn’t seem worthwhile. It was probably just my imagination, somewhat overwrought by the news of the death of my friend. I rolled over, prayed several Our Fathers for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, and returned to sleep. I then dreamed that I arose at six to go to morning Mass in the house chapel.
Upon opening the door of my room, I stepped on a parcel containing the pages of a letter. I picked it up and recognized Anne’s handwriting. I cried out in fright. My fingers trembled, and my mind was so shaken I couldn’t even think to say an Our Father. I felt like I was suffocating, and needed open air to breathe. I hastily finished arranging myself, put the letter in my purse, and rushed from the house.
Once outside, I followed a winding path up through the hills, past the olive and laurel trees and the neighboring farms, and then on beyond the famous Gardesana highway. The day was breaking with the brilliant light of the morning sun. On other days, I would stop every hundred steps or so to marvel at the magnificent view of the lake and beautiful Garda Island. The sparkling blue tones of the water delighted me, and like a child gazing with awe at her grandfather, I would gaze with admiration upon the ashen-colored Mount Baldo that rose some 7,200 feet above the opposite shore of the lake.
On this morning, however, I was oblivious to everything around me. After walking a quarter of an hour, I sank mechanically to the ground on the riverbank between two cypress trees where only the day before I had been happily reading a novel, Lady Teresa. For the first time I looked at the cypress trees conscious of them as symbols of death, something I had taken no notice of before, since these trees are quite common here in the south.
I took the letter from my purse. There was no signature, but it was, beyond any doubt, the handwriting of Anne. There was no mistaking the large, flowing S or the French T she made that used to irritate Mr. G. at the office. It was not, however, written in her usual style of speaking, which was so amiable and charming, like her, with those blue eyes and elegant nose. Only when we discussed religious topics did she become sarcastic and take on the rude tone and agitated cadence of the letter I now began to read.
Here, word for word, is the Letter from Beyond of Anne V. as I read it in the dream.

Read the letter here.

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