Elsewhere: synod battle


The Synod on the Family is finally over, thank God. Within the next year or so, Pope Francis will (probably, although not necessarily) produce a document with some level of papal authority on it. The Holy Father is free to reject or accept the synod’s recommendations as synods have no authority beyond advisory.

There is much ink being spilled in summary. I urge you in the strongest way to ignore the mainstream media, as always. They simply do not understand the Church, view everything in a secular political framework and as usual, are thoroughly non-objective in the promotion of their own agendas. Also please avoid secular, political mainstream media want-to-be outlets flying under a false Catholic banner (e.g. the “National Catholic Reporter“). This of course is always my advice, regardless of topic.

For the faithful Catholic media (which is the vast majority of it), reaction is mixed. Many are relieved that the synod was not as bad as it could have been. Some are now suggesting the intrigue was overblown. They are wrong and too fast to put on rose-colored glasses. The manipulations before and during are shocking, numerous, very well documented and acknowledged by many faithful bishops. What may have been a surprise to the modernist plans is the ferocity of the response. Even though selection of participants to the synod were stacked to a clearly progressive side, even though some of those were promoting (a kind word considering their heavy-handed machinations to force) even heretical positions, their success was limited — at least this time. The faithful cardinals and bishops refused to surrender, thank God.

I suspect that some wanted to make this into a mini-Vatican III with enough vagueness in its outcome to facilitate ignoring in practice that which can not be changed. Unlike the time of and following Vatican II, we have the Internet now and the back-room shennigans could not be hidden.

In the end, the final document produced by the synod is 91 paragraphs of solid Catholic teaching plus 3 paragraphs of (#84, 85 and 86) that were barely approved by the (remember, stacked) representatives that include sufficient vagueness to justify questionable “pastoral response” to “remarried” Catholics. This is important.

The “remarried” Catholics spoken of are in fact NOT remarried. Valid marriage is indissoluble during the life of the spouses. This circumstance is (1) those who have had a putatively valid marriage, (2) whose spouse is still alive, (3) who have civilly divorced and civilly “remarried,” and (4) have not received a declaration of nullity. OFTEN, they were married in the Catholic Church and knew full well their marriages were indissoluble, could not be “remarried” in the Church, went ahead with this elsewhere anyway and for whatever reason have not sought or were denied an annullment.

Such people are our brothers and sisters, Catholics, and often now understand the gravity of their grave mistake. They need our support and respect, yet they have gotten themselves into a real pickle. Nothing changes the fact that conjugal relations with someone other than their spouse is objectively the mortal sin of adultery. Yet, some long for the Eucharist for the right reasons while others simply want false affirmation of their sinful state. Either way, living in this state of mortal sin and knowingly receiving the Eucharist makes their situation worse – much, much worse.

Time will tell how the pastoral responses given cover in those 3 paragraphs play out. I firmly believe significant abuses will become the norm in certain areas (Germany will lead the list) and that a future pope will be forced to correct them. Those abuses, will be under a banner of false “mercy” distributing “cheap grace” to the flock – disastrous for their eternal well-being. This topic was addressed last weak by Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver in his Excellency’s archdiocesan paper.

Following the words of Christ himself, the Church has always taught that divorce and remarriage is simply adultery by another name

The idea that Catholics should be allowed to remarry and receive communion did not begin with the letter signed by Cardinal Kasper and other members of the German episcopate in 1993. Another country’s episcopate — England’s — pioneered this experiment in Christian doctrine nearly 500 years ago. At stake then was not just whether any Catholic could remarry, but whether the king could, since his wife had not borne him a son.

As with those who advocate for communion for the civilly remarried, the English bishops were uncomfortable with embracing divorce and remarriage outright. Instead, they chose to bend the law to the individual circumstances of the case with which they were confronted, and King Henry VIII was granted an “annulment” — on a fraudulent basis and without the sanction of Rome.

If “heroism is not for the average Christian,” as the German Cardinal Walter Kasper has put it, it certainly wasn’t for the King of England. Instead, issues of personal happiness and the well-being of a country made a strong utilitarian argument for Henry’s divorce. And the King could hardly be bothered to skip communion as the result of an irregular marriage.

England’s Cardinal Wolsey and all the country’s bishops, with the exception of Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, supported the king’s attempt to undo his first — and legitimate — marriage. Like Fisher, Thomas More a layman and the king’s chancellor, also withheld his support. Both were martyred — and later canonized.

In publicly advocating that the king’s marriage was indissoluble, Fisher argued that “this marriage of the king and queen can be dissolved by no power, human or Divine.” For this principle, he said, he was willing to give his life. He continued by noting that John the Baptist saw no way to “die more gloriously than in the cause of marriage,” despite the fact that marriage then “was not so holy at that time as it has now become by the shedding of Christ’s Blood.”

Like Thomas More and John the Baptist, Fisher was beheaded, and like them, he is called “saint.”

At the Synod on the Family taking place right now in Rome, some of the German bishops and their supporters are pushing for the Church to allow those who are both divorced and remarried to receive communion, while other bishops from around the world are insisting that the Church cannot change Christ’s teaching. And this begs a question: Do the German bishops believe that Sts. Thomas More and John Fischer sacrificed their lives in vain?

Jesus showed us throughout his ministry that heroic sacrifice is required to follow him. When one reads the Gospel with an open heart, a heart that does not place the world and history above the Gospel and Tradition, one sees the cost of discipleship to which every disciple is called. The German bishops would do well to read, “The Cost of Discipleship” by the Lutheran martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For what they promote is “cheap grace” rather than “costly grace,” and they even seem to ignore the words of Jesus that, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” (Mk. 8: 34, Lk. 14: 25-27, Jn. 12: 24-26).

Think, for example, of the adulterous woman whom the Pharisees presented to Jesus to trap him. The first thing he did was to protect her from her accusers, and the second thing he did was to call her to leave her sin. “Go,” he commanded her, “and sin no more.”

Following the words of Christ himself, the Catholic Church has always taught that divorce and remarriage is simply adultery by another name. And since communion is reserved to Catholics in the state of grace, those living in an irregular situation are not able participate in that aspect of the life of the Church, though they should always be welcomed within the parish and at the Mass itself.

Last May, Cardinal Kasper claimed in an interview with Commonweal that we “can’t say whether it is ongoing adultery” when a repentant, divorced Christian nonetheless engages in “sexual relations” in a new union. Rather, he thinks “absolution is possible.”

And yet, Christ clearly called remarriage adultery and said adultery was sinful (Mt. 5:32, Mk. 10:12, Lk. 16:18). In the case of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), Jesus also confirmed that remarriage cannot be valid, even when informed by sincere feeling and fidelity.

Archbishop Aquila continues with more rock-solid, Catholic catechesis. Read the entire piece: Did Thomas More and John Fisher die for nothing?.

Remember – Jesus is the source of this crystal-clear, unchangeable, timeless truth.

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?”

He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

Elsewhere: conscience alone


The Protestant revolution is famous for the five “solas” it invented as new doctrine. Sola scriptura (scripture alone), for example, is the doctrine that the Bible alone is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. While the thousands of Protestant denominations are “all over the map” on what they believe, the 4 other more common solas include sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone) and soli deo gloria (glory to God alone).

These are false of course. As Catholics, we fully believe that sacred scripture is the inerrant word of God. It was the Catholic Church after all, who discerned the canon of sacred scripture in the first place. However, we also know that nothing revealed by Christ or the Apostles proclaimed that the faith would be known only by a book assembled 400 years after the time of our Lord. The Bible itself makes no such claim, but does indeed tell us of oral Tradition and the responsibility of the Church (the Magisterium).

The Protestant novelty of sola scritura is not completely wrong in that it recognizes the importance of the Bible. It utterly fails in rejecting the other two legs faith, which all work together for the complete and accurate picture.

In this time of the current synod on the family and the rise of certain progressive cardinals and bishops, we may be on the verge of inventing our very own sola. I call the new Catholic sola “sola conscientia” which means by conscience alone.

Like the Protestant solas, conscience *does* have an important role in morality. The Catechism offers a good summary in paragraphs 1776 to 1802. It can not be understood correctly as a soundbite. Importantly, it must also be “well-formed” not a subjective opinion of “well-formed” but objectively so.

Conscience is now being raised in ambiguous ways to give completely false moral cover to sinful acts. The new archbishop of Chicago has been in the news for doing just that. Samuel Gregg wrote about it for Crisis Magazine:

Conscience is one of those subjects about which numerous Catholics today are, alas, sadly misinformed. Despite great Catholic minds such as Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, and John Henry Newman discoursing at length on the question, some Catholics speak of it in ways that have little in common with the Church’s understanding of conscience.

The latest Catholic to be embroiled in controversy about conscience is Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago. While recently discussing the question of whether those who have (1) not repented of sin, and/or (2) not resolved to go and sin no more may receive communion, Archbishop Cupich stated: “If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I’ve always done that.” Referring specifically to people with same-sex attraction, he noted that “my role as a pastor is to help them to discern what the will of God is by looking at the objective moral teaching of the Church and yet, at the same time, helping them through a period of discernment to understand what God is calling them to at that point.”

This isn’t the first time that Archbishop Cupich has raised eyebrows. Many will recall what some regard as the effective equivalence he made between Planned Parenthood’s selling of body-parts and problems like homelessness and hunger.

Then there was his more recent speech to the Chicago Federation of Labor. Alongside a defense of religious liberty, most of the Archbishop’s address simply reiterated Catholic social teaching about unions. Perhaps it wasn’t the occasion to say such things, but absent from Archbishop Cupich’s remarks was any reference to the numerous caveats stated by popes – such as those detailed by Blessed Paul VI (who no-one would describe as a gung-ho anti-union capitalist) in his 1971 apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens (no.14) and Saint John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens (no.20) – concerning the very real limits upon what unions may do. Unfortunately, modern America is awash with examples of what happens when unions (in collusion with business executives who go along to get along) ignore those limits, as broken cities such as Detroit know all too well.

Aspects of Archbishop Cupich’s comments about conscience, however, will remind some of arguments made by various theologians in the 1970s and ?80s as part of their effort to legitimize dissent from Catholic moral teaching. Certainly, Archbishop Cupich stressed the importance of priests conveying the Church’s objective moral teaching to people who consider themselves marginalized by that teaching (presumably because it does not and cannot affirm some of their free choices). But a significant omission in the archbishop’s statements concerned why conscience is inviolable. As Vatican II stated in Gaudium et Spes, conscience draws its inviolability from its “obedience” to the truth, or what the Council called the “law written by God? (GS 16).

So where is this truth and law to be found? On one level, we discover it in the natural law. Saint Paul famously stated (Rm 2: 14-16) that this is knowable by everyone who possesses reason, including those who don’t know the Word of God revealed in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. For people, however, who also believe in Christ and accept that the fullest account of Christ’s life and teaching is to be found in the witness of the Catholic Church, the very same truths about morality are also expressed, confirmed, and enriched by that same Church’s moral teaching.

These simple points lead to profound conclusions. One is that conscience doesn’t create its own truth. Nor is it above truth. The oft-used phrase “primacy of conscience” makes no sense in Catholicism unless we accept that conscience’s authority is derived from every person’s responsibility to know and live in the truth encapsulated in the divine and natural law. In Newman’s words, “Conscience has rights because it has duties.”

It follows that conscience cannot be construed as a mandate for us to depart from the truth whenever it clashes with our desires. Catholicism has never held that conscience is somehow superior to the divine and natural law. To claim, therefore, that our conscience somehow authorizes us to act in ways that we know contradict what Christ’s Church teaches to be the truth about good and evil is, at a minimum, illogical from the Catholic standpoint.

The piece continues and is very good. Read it all at: An Archbishop and the Catholic Conscience.

Elsewhere: Synod Reading List


With the World Meeting of Families and the (continuing) Synod of Bishops on the Family, it is safe to expect public antics from agenda-driven Catholics and non-Catholics futilely pressuring for changes. Futile because truth is immutable.

Regularizing the status of divorced (not a problem now) but “remarried” (big problem) Catholics is one issue. Christ was abundantly clear that marriage is indissoluble for validly married people and living as married with someone else is adultery (Matthew 19:3-9).

Likewise, acceptance of people with homosexual attractions (not a problem now) but who engage in non-chaste sex (big problem) is another. The immoral LEGAL concepts of divorce and “same sex marriage” are sinful in God’s eyes.

This is the timeless teaching of the Church. Unpopular with modern secularists for sure, but true nevertheless. It is thus also the unchangeable doctrine of the Church so will not and can not be changed by the upcoming synod, any future council or even the Holy Father.

I suspect what you are about to read and hear from the popular press will include many errors and distortions. It is important to discuss this and to know the beauty of the truth. To that end, several new books have recently been published. Edward Pentin provides a good overview in a piece for the National Catholic Register:

As the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family takes shape, a slew of new or updated books upholding the Church’s teaching and tradition on marriage and the family have been written and published shortly before the meeting begins.

The publications are a response to what many see as threats to established Church teaching and practice presented at the last synod, and which look likely to be repeated at the upcoming meeting of bishops next month.

One of the latest comes from no less than the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who has had published a new edition of his book: “Mystery and Sacrament of Love – A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization“.

As prefect of a Vatican dicastery, Cardinal Ouellet is automatically invited to the synod, but his decision to come out with an updated version of his book just ahead of the meeting is a sign that he wishes his views to continue to be heard.

The Canadian cardinal, who wrote the first edition before last October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, underlines the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the sacraments, and their “missionary dimension.”

He criticizes modern approaches to marriage which reflect an “anthropological crisis,” and he firmly opposes Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal for admitting remarried divorcees to Holy Communion. Rather, he believes such faithful bear better witness to Christ by abstaining from Holy Communion.*

The Canadian cardinal, who is renowned for his spiritual writing and theological expertise, draws on the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II, known as “Pope of the Family,” theological intuitions of Vatican II, the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, and influences of Pope Francis.

The book “lays the foundations for a faithful resurgence of well-being for families in our contemporary day and age,” write its publishers, Eerdmans. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, one of three bishops representing the U.S. Church at the synod, has called the book – an invaluable resource in recovering a faithful understanding of marriage, family, and the new evangelization.”

The prefect of another important dicastery has also had his comments published just ahead of the synod. Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah discusses with Nicolas Diat the mission of the Church, the joy of the Gospel, the “heresy of activism”, and the definition of marriage in the book entitled “God or Nothing“, published now in English by Ignatius Press.

Read the entire piece: Flurry of Books Upholding Church Doctrine Appear Before Family Synod.

Here is a list of books referenced in the above piece plus other faithful books written ahead of the synod. There is good reason why so many heavy-hitter Cardinals are involved (see my coverage of Cardinal Walter Kasper and Cardinal Reinhard Marx; see also The rigging of a Synod?).

Elsewhere: coming persecution


People roll their eyes when told of Christian persecution in the Western world. It is already happening but at a modest level. We all know about florists, bakers and other small businesses being targeted then punished with draconian fines. That is just the start.

Expect to see greater indoctrination of children on the virtue of abortion and “gay marriage,” with little recourse for parents to “opt-out.” Expect greater restrictions not only against practicing the Christian faith, but also in simply teaching it. For example, saying that “gay marriage” is immoral will be considered hate speech with serious repercussions. Forget everything you have known about freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

This has already begun in Europe as Bishop Vitus Huonder has found. Speaking at a Christian symposium on marriage, his Excellency quoted Holy Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For this, he is being charged with a hate crime and if convicted (it could go either way, for now) he faces 3 years in prison. Let that sink in. Incarceration for 3 years for faithfully teaching the Catholic faith. If not convicted, he can expect civil suits for the pain and suffering his (truthful) words had upon the psyche of fragile homosexuals.

Deacon Keith Fournier covered this for The Stream:

On Friday, July 31, 2015, the bishop spoke at a symposium in Fulda, Germany, entitled “Marriage: Gift, Sacrament and Commission.” In the context of explaining the background of the Christian moral teaching, he referenced two passages from Leviticus (Lev. 18:22, 20:13). He used them as examples of Scripture’s rejection of same-sex relationships and proof that same-sex marriages were an attack on creation.

“There is no plurality of models for marriage and family,” he told the conference. “To even speak of such is already an attack on the Creator, as well as on the Savior and Sanctifier, that is, on the trinitarian God.”

In the presentation the bishop had also explained that “pastoral care must orient itself according to the divine order. Its mission, undertaken in awareness of the salvation of souls, that is, in pastoral love…   is to free mankind from the condition of a fallen nature and raise it to life as children of light.”

Showing pastoral care for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, he said, “The Faith is to everyone, even to those with homophile tendencies, a source of comfort and can lead to a redirection of such an orientation, to a governing of sexual urges, and to an ordering of one’s own life according to the divine command.”

Because the second half of the second passage instructed Israel to put to death people who have sexual relations with someone of their own sex, Pink Cross claimed that Bishop Huonder was sowing hatred and inciting violence against homosexual people. He violated both German and Swiss law, they declared, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

It should have been obvious to anyone why he quoted those two passages and that he did not endorse the execution of homosexual people. That didn’t matter to Pink Cross, who saw a chance to attack a major Christian figure for his defense of marriage.

The bishop responded to the protests with a statement stressing that he was not endorsing violence against homosexual people. “During the lecture I quoted several uncomfortable passages from the Old Testament to do with marriage, sexuality and family,” he said. “I want to clarify that I would in no way wish to diminish homosexual people.”

The head of Pink Cross rejected the response: “There is no question in this case of what he was talking about — there was no misunderstanding. We don’t need charity or mercy from the Church at all; we don’t accept his apology.”

The Bishop simply expressed the teaching of the Catholic Church he serves. He cited the pertinent sections of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2357-2359). The actions of the homosexual activists who filed this spurious criminal complaint is one more sign of growing efforts to use the police power to prevent the Church from proclaiming the message of true liberation in Jesus Christ.

Read the whole store: Bishop Faces Three Years in Jail for Defending Marriage.

Elsewhere: fallibility


To be Catholic is to be in union with the infallible teaching of the Church. “Cafeteria Catholics,” for example and to be blunt, are in schism with the Church and often objectively in a state of mortal sin. Nothing could be more serious.

It is important therefore to know what the Church infallibly teaches and to accept it. That is, to live by her dogma and other doctrines. It is also important to respect her shepherds when they teach on faith and morals. They are experts in these matters and ordained by Christ to His priesthood.

The Church will prevail until the end of time, but she may suffer setbacks in her influence and effectiveness of mission. Some of that is unavoidable in standing for the truth. Other times, she simply shoots herself in the foot. This has been occurring more frequently as the Vatican and our bishops make pronouncements in areas of prudential judgment far beyond their competence – such as in complex science, economics and political areas.

The most recent example is the Vatican’s apparent endorsement of the Iranian nuclear agreement. This is an area in which they are completely unqualified. Actual experts are divided on (but increasingly leaning against) this proposal precisely because it is more likely to lead to nuclear war then prevent it.

This is not an argument about the morality of nuclear or any other war. Catholic social teaching is well developed in this area. It would be appropriate for the Vatican to remind everyone of that teaching and to applaud efforts to avoid war and nuclear war in particular. Unfortunately, they unwisely went far and dangerously beyond that. Again.

In my opinion, this will have absolutely no impact on the debate (thank God). It will only serve to needlessly diminish the Church’s influence.

William Kilpatrick takes a close look at this particular issue for Crisis Magazine:

When Church leaders comment on international events they show a remarkable propensity for explaining those events in more or less the same way that secular liberals do. The flip side of this penchant is a tendency to ignore what their own theological training might tell them about important issues.

Take the recent Vatican endorsement of the Iranian nuclear agreement. After the global powers finally reached a deal, the Vatican wasted no time in praising it. Shortly after the announcement, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the agreement “is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See.” Bishop Oscar Cantu, the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, called on Congress to “support these efforts to build bridges that foster peace and greater understanding,” and he warned Congress not to “undermine” the deal. For his part, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., applauded the deal in an essay for the Washington Post. He opined that we can trust the Iranians because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once issued a fatwa that “declared the possession and use of nuclear weapons as incompatible with Islam.”

Coincidentally, both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have also referenced the fatwa as evidence of good faith on the part of the Iranians. According to Obama in September, 2013, “Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.”

The trouble is, the existence of the fabled fatwa is in dispute. Apparently, no one has been able to produce the text. According to a “Fact Checker” article in the Washington Post, the fatwa appears to be no more than an urban legend. However, seeing as the likes of John Kerry believe in it, we could be kinder and call it an “urbane legend” — the kind of thing that ought to be true because sophisticated people say it’s true.

A fatwa against nukes? Although bishops can’t be expected to understand the finer points of uranium enrichment or the technical difficulties of inspecting secret underground sites, they might be expected to have a better grasp on whether or not using nuclear weapons is contrary to the faith of Islam.

Kilpatrick goes on to closely examine and contrast Iranian beliefs to ours. It’s a very good, eye opening piece. Read it all at: Faith-Based Negotiations with Faith-Based Fanatics.

He does not mention it, but another crucial thing to be aware of relating to the alleged fatwa is al-Taqiyya. That is the Islamic word for concealing or disguising one’s beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies. Applied it means that lying to deceive infidels to bring world domination is completely acceptable. This is not hidden, but quite well known.