Sunday, 24 April 2016

On Praying for Life

Pope St. John Paul II on Praying for Life

The sanctity of life issue has risen to the forefront of the American polity.  

The Supreme Court is deciding a religious liberty case on whether the Little Sisters of the Poor should be forced to violate their consciences by passive compliance with the Obamacare Contraception Mandate.  

Republican Presidential front runner Donald Trump took myriad alleged pro life positions, including the modest proposal of legally punishing aborting mothers. Then Trump lapsed into allowing the status quo. However, in a Today Show Townhall, Trump vowed to change the GOP pro life platform to allow exceptions which Planned Parenthood would endorse.  

Congress continues to investigate how Planned Parenthood was selling baby body parts and altering abortion procedures to maximize the harvest. But these hearings received scant coverage in the Lamestream Media.

With all this in mind, Father Frank Pavone and the Priests for Life are engaged in a campaign of prayer and fasting to end abortion in the United States along with the evils perpetrated by Planned Parenthood. 

Father, you have created us in body and soul
To honor you and our neighbor
And to receive honor and respect in return.

Our bodies are sacred.
They reflect you, our Creator.
And we hold sacred
The bodies of all the children in the womb.

Lord, we are saddened
That these children are being killed,
And saddened again
That their body parts are being harvested and sold.

Have mercy on our nation.
Have mercy on those who are perpetrating these evils.
As more and more people become aware of this,
Turn their hearts towards you,
The Fountain of life and love.

Give consolation to all who have had abortions,
And give wisdom to our public officials
That they may respond adequately
To the corruption found in the abortion industry.

Grant that we,
The People of Life and the People of Mercy,
May recommit ourselves to building a nation
Without abortion and without the many evils that flow from it.

May we choose life;
May we choose mercy;
May we choose your Kingdom!
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Some may wonder, why pray to end abortion, especially as the Lord's Prayer includes the intention "Thy will be done".

Perhaps the point is that is is our invitation to participate in building the Kingdom of God even through the power of prayer.  Such sentiments echo Pope St. John Paul II's exhortation in Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life, 1995).

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A Wise and Prudent Father

On social media and even some blogs, there are some quite wild and fantastical things being said of Cardinal Raymond Burke's 'intervention' including talk of 'betrayal'. What madness.

Nobody's asked me for my thoughts, so I thought I'd give them to you anyway...

Precisely because faithful Catholics - especially in the blogosphere, yep, me too -are engaged in the painful realisation that their worst fears have largely been confirmed by the tone and noted passages within Amoris Laetitia, and because we are either involved in or are witnessing something akin to a mass public meltdown, it is probably a very good thing that Cardinal Burke has stepped forward with a calm and measured response to the document. Precisely because unfaithful Catholics - especially in the blogosphere - are engaged in the jubilant realisation that their dreams are made true by this document, is it important that Cardinal Burke has said what he has said. He has said, 'You are still living in dreamland.'

We can easily get into a frame of mind in which because we are angry at the injustice that we have seen, that we are entirely justified, in every sense, in how we respond to that wrong. Cardinal Burke's approach to the document is distinctly different to the lay, angry Catholic blogger. He is being criticised, may I suggest, because his response is humble, measured, deferential, meek, legal, proportioned, Christian and, for a man in his particular rank, very prudent. He is not pouring petrol onto the fire. He is pouring water.

Nowhere in the article he has penned for the National Catholic Register can it be inferred, that Cardinal Burke believes Amoris Laetitia to have added anything of great value or weight to the Church's proclamation of the Gospel. It can almost certainly be inferred that it adds nothing to the Church's teachings. Cardinal Burke is looking at Amoris Laetitia from a legal perspective. He is, after all, the former Apostolic Signatura. He knows his canon law. His assessment that the document changes nothing is, as a leading Prelate, important and worthy of note. His assessment is that, 'There is nothing to see here.' He is being widely ridiculed for saying that, but he is right to say it. Cardinal Burke is saying that, in terms of the Church's teachings and in terms of the Church's pastoral practise, Amoris Laetitia is 260 pages of irrelevant.

And yet, some Catholic bloggers are saying that the good Cardinal has hereby 'wimped out' of the debate? Have you seen any other prelates summarily call Amoris Laetitia, in terms of the Church's teachings and practise, basically 'entirely irrelevant'? I don't know about you but if I had penned a document frantically or maniacally hoping that it will effect massive, revolutionary, epoch-defining change within the Catholic Church - or at least signed it in this hope - and a leading Churchman came out and publicly called my efforts - in terms of the Church's perennial, irreplaceable teachings a waste of time, I might be a bit affronted if for no other reason than I had been challenged publicly by someone much cleverer than me and who was wise to my game plan.

Cardinal Burke surely knows that it is the intention of 'progressive reformers' to use this document to lever a culture shift in the Church. While bloggers speak of 'betrayal' few have noted that he is publicly reminding those who seek to do so that there is no cause at all in altering your Diocese's or your parish's customs in terms of the distribution of Holy Communion to those in objective mortal sin. When Cardinal Burke said, 'I will resist' in answer to an interviewers question concerning how he would respond should Pope Francis persist with the Kasper proposal, I think a lot of people thought that would mean, 'I will rebel'. The good Cardinal is in no good place and no good position to behave as a petulant Catholic blogger nor just say the first thing that comes into his mind. Do you not think he may have prayed about this? Why are you not also feeling betrayed by Pope Benedict XVI who hasn't yet said anything? Don't expect Bishop Schneider to do say what you want him to say, in the way you would say it either. They would be fools to do so and they would also be fools not to think of the Church's long term future after Francis, while countering the erroneous idea that this document has the authority to change anything.

For let us imagine that day, for a dreadful moment, that day when our beloved Pope dies and goes to his eternal reward. One day the Church will have to elect a new Pope and that Pope - if he is of sound Catholic judgement and believes sound Catholic doctrine - is somehow going to have to reconcile the thoughts, words and actions of his humble, pastorally-minded predecessor given to public bouts of populism, sometimes at the expense of sound doctrine, with what came before Francis and what comes after him - namely, the new Pope and those who may follow him. Whoever that man might be, unless he is going to dig up the bones of his predecessor and throw them into the Tiber, somehow the teachings of Francis, even his non-magisterial teachings (of which there are many) are going to have to be addressed.

What will be kept of Francis's papal teachings? What will be left to gather moss and disappear? What does the post-Francis Church look like? A glorious citadel? A city in ruins? A crumbling edifice? Somehow, continuity, rather than rupture, in the line of Popes will have to be presented to the Church. That can be done, now, only if the thought of Jorge Bergoglio is ignored and the teachings of Pope Francis are retained. It may be that due to a lack of well-constructed thought and many 'off the cuff' remarks not a great deal of Pope Francis's teachings are retained. After all, if you're going to throw away your original speech/homily, tell the UN you come 'in your own name' etc...

Don't you realise that Cardinal Kasper wants to change the culture of the Church in a revolution that will span 100 years? Don't you realise he thinks that he has won? Don't you realise that if leading Prelates suggest - for a moment - that he has won, that this lends to him a victory in terms of credibility that has not occurred? Don't you realise that it is likely that Cardinal Burke and others, not wishing for the Church to break in two, must keep also in mind not just the present but the future of the Catholic Church after this tempest? Don't you realise that Cardinal Burke and others are praying with you and for you that this storm within the Church comes to an end and peace will be restored within the Church, that the Barque of Peter can once more sail on waters that are serene? Are you really willing to so readily turn on someone who is on God's side, who is on your side, who is on the side of the Angels?

As a lay Catholic blogger, I can say that I believe that whatever flowery language is within this document I believe it is thoroughly fraudulent, malevolent in intent and a danger to souls and I believe that in saying this, I am correct. Cardinal Burke is no less correct in telling the Church that the document carries no weight in apostolic teaching authority, that it is the private opinion of Pope Francis and that this summary of the Synod on the Family contains some interesting thoughts but ultimately cannot adjust, even a little bit, the Church's teachings, customs, doctrines, laws and disciplines. But if you think he's going to say what I just said in the way I say it, you're mad. I think we bloggers can get so excited by our role in teaching our glorious faith that we can easily think we need not be taught or we have little new to learn, but we do. We need to learn humilty.

If priests and bishops and bishops conferences decide to take this document and use it as a vehicle for institutionalising their grievous dissent from the Magisterium and from the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ then they must know that they do so not because the Pope has released a non-magisterial document 'permitting' they do so - no power on Earth can, in fact, do that - but because they are looking for any excuse they can to spread their lawlessness over the Church. If they do, they act illegally and contrary to the will of Christ. Nothing the Pope has written changes that. It is Cardinal Burke's position that it is not the Holy Father's intention to do so.

I admire very much the tireless effort of those who blog much more than I do on the errors and dangers posed by this tempestuous period in the Church and the deeply distressing things that have been said, written and done during this papacy, by this confusing Pope and those who he has gathered around him. Especially, analysis of this document which highlights its serious flaws is important in defending the Church.

However, I also admire Cardinal Burke for his unfailing bravery, his unfailing charity, his unfailing modesty, his unfailing love for the Pope and the Church, his unfailing prudence and the fatherly nature in which I have seen him conduct himself in the public forum. He is a true Pastor behaving in a reasoned and calm manner while the whole Church is losing its head. He has shown true leadership by penning this article, leadership which is calm and measured which seeks to gather in, rather than to scatter, to make firm that which is shaken to the core. Holding these positions are not mutually exclusive.  Come on, people. Chin up. Gird yourselves. Keep the Faith. Don't give in to despair and don't give into hatred, bitterness and rancour, for know you not that your enemy, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, then, strong in faith. And hope. And charity.

Long live this wise and prudent Prince of the Church and long live the Pope. Let us pray very much for the Pope, the Cardinals, the Bishops and the clergy and entrust all of them to the ever-Virgin, most wise, most amiable and prudent, Mother of God, Mary, most Holy.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

College Hoosiers Confuse Dominican Friar with a Klansman

Recently, there was a frantic eyewitness report from a student that a Klansman was walking the campus of the University of Indiana Bloomington with a weapon.  Other students confirmed that there was a guy wearing a white hooded robe with what looked like a whip around his waist.

Following the spirit of Hoosiers Helping Hoosiers, word was quickly spread throughout the campus The Residents Assistant at Eigenmann Hall Sophomore Ethan Gill dutifully spread this warning to his charges via e-mail.

Two hours later, Gill sent this update after another sighting of the mysterious man at the Red Mango Frozen Yogurt shop:

Before one simply tut-tuts the cluelessness of these secular snowflakes for mistaking a Dominican Friar as a KKK Klansman, it is worth considering the social media commentary after the elucidation of this so called "hilarious misunderstanding". 

One wag wondered, in a less than graceful way, why the friar was on campus at night.

A few social media commentators who seemed to get it gave the wayfare wag his comeuppance. 

HT: The Tab

Monday, 4 April 2016

Celebrating a Belated Lady Day

Pope Francis on the Annunciation

The Feast of the Annunciation, or Lady Day, is normally celebrated on March 25 which is nine months before Christmas.  However, this year March 25th was Good Friday, so it is inconceivable to observe such a solemnity on the same day so the liturgical observance of Lady Day was moved.  

Eastern Catholic Churches, like the Melkites, observed the Annunciation on March 28th, the day after Easter.  In the Roman Catholic Church, the Octave of Easter is eight days, so the Solemnity of the Annunciation was moved to April 4th.

Lady Day used to be the start of the New Year in England from 1155-1752.  With calendar changes, the observance moved from April 5th (old Lady Day) to April 6th.  One vestige of considering Lady Day as the start of the year is that the United Kingdom's tax year starts on Lady Day. 

Sometimes the miracle of the Annunciation gets glossed over in Christmastide or it gets confused with the Immaculate Conception of  Mary.  As one contemplates the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, one gets a glimpse at how the Lord can be surprising and nothing is impossible for God to choose a humble virgin full of grace from the backwater country to be the Mother of God.  

As Scripture and Holy Tradition has it, Mary is the first believer and all of her actions point to her Son Jesus.  Hence Pope Francis' pearl of wisdom about Mary being like the figurative sunrise for her son (metaphorical sun) Jesus.

Monday, 28 March 2016

On the Passing into Eternal Life of Mother Angelica

Carl Anderson on Mother Angelica

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation  (nee Rita Rizzo), the Poor Clare nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network, died on Easter Sunday at the age of 92.  Mother Angelica had suffered from a debilitating stroke in 2001.

Mother Angelica founded a monastery in Irondale, Alabama in 196 at a time when Catholics were only 2% of the population in the South.  .  As a charismatic speaker, Mother Angelica began to do radio shows in 1971 and she gravitated to hosting "Our Hermitage" for Christian cable television stations in 1978.

However, when the secular TV station where Mother Angelica recorded her shows planned to program "blasphemous" programs, the feisty nun protested.  The station manager ignored her complaints which resulted in Mother Angelica threatening to do her show elsewhere.  The station manager threatened: "You leave this station and you're off television."  Mother Angelica vowed: "I'll build my own."

Philadelpha Archbishop Charles Chaput on Mother Angelica

The Eternal Word Television Network started in the Our Lady of Angels Monastery's garage in 1981 on a budget of $200.  Today, EWTN is the world's largest satellite television religious network operating in Hanceville, Alabama. The EWTN media empire broadcasts Catholic programming 24 hours a day reaching 264 million homes in 144 countries as well as having a terrestrial radio network and shortwave service and employs 400 people. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has served on the EWTN board since 1995, recognizes how this Poor Clare nun in rural Alabama was able to do what US Bishops had been unable to do, namely effectively evangelize through the mass media in this day and age.

Mother Angelica expressed how she attributed all the success of her mission to emptying herself out to the Lord.

Despite her failing health, Mother Angelica proclaimed that she wanted to live longer. Such a proclamation may seem surprising coming from a contemplative and convicted religious.  But Mother Angelica reasoned that by doing so, she could suffer one more day for God and get to know Him better.

It seems fitting that as Christians celebrate our Savior's victory over death, Mother Angelica goes to her eternal reward.  May Mother Angelica rest in peace.

H/T: Catholic News Agency

Friday, 25 March 2016

Artistic Impressions of the Agony in the Garden

Agony in the Garden, studios of El Greco (c. 1590s), National Gallery of Art, London UK 

Could ye not stay awake with me an hour,
You who by your consent would die for me?
Could you not stay awake with me one hour?
Judas--do not not see how he does not sleep,
But hastens to hand me over to the Jews?
Why are you sleeping?
Arise, and pray,
Lest you fall into tempetation.
       ~Sept répons des ténébres (1962)
         Francis Poulenc 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

In a ‘post-Christian’ age, why do we still want our leaders to be moral?

In terms of the practise of Christianity, the majority of the Western world – unlike Africa - has long since entered into an era of religious decline that has all the signs of being terminal.

Children grow up with little understanding of Christianity. Among Catholics, belief in fundamental tenets of Catholicism is markedly low. Generally, belief in the supernatural is widely mocked and ridiculed, the Church has become a peripheral force in society, the cultural left is in the ascendency, and enlightenment ideals of ‘equality’ and ‘liberty’ are being pushed to their breaking point in so far as it is no longer even considered whether their extreme manifestations create more division in society than cohesion.

Values on marriage and gender that were taken for granted for millennia have been overturned on a mass scale across whole Western societies. In many ways, it is hard to disagree with those who would call the United Kingdom – or even the United States of America – ‘post-Christian societies’.

With the marked exception of Eastern European countries like Poland, the transition from ‘Christian societies’ in Europe to ‘post-Christian’ societies that can see even Italy adopt same-sex civil unions with muted and lacklustre protest from even the Catholic hierarchy in Rome has not been an easy one. No bullets were needed during this cultural revolution but nonetheless the transition will continue to claim victims in terms of human tragedies.

The break-up of the family will continue apace. The wounds and divisions inflicted upon families lacking the solid foundation of marriage and respect for life will continue. The rates of abortion will most likely remain at a constant. Drug addiction will continue to rise. Mental health problems are likely to accelerate and society will continue to be ravaged by a moral relativism that denies fundamental or absolute truths as backwards, even foreign concepts that are no longer relevant to that ‘post-Christian society’ to which even the Church, lacking in zeal and humiliated by sexual scandal in the eyes of the world has made its own unique contribution.

Yet despite all of this, despite Western man and woman’s unshakable belief in the universal benefits of human progress, as human beings in an era of instant communication and instantaneous 24-hour news services, we all still agree on something. No matter whether we are on the ‘left’ or on the ‘right’, whether we are religious or not, we still want our leaders to be moral and to show moral leadership. One begins to feel rather sorry, then, for those public figures who fall short of the glory of God.

For this reason, I feel a particular sympathy for Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Mr Trump has been on the receiving end of insults from journalists, politicians, opinion formers, fellow nominees and pundits everywhere. Everyone has an opinion on Donald Trump in a manner that not everyone has an opinion on Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Yes, Mr Trump has even the Pope’s condemnation, a diplomatic anti-medal that can be claimed by very few politicians in history. When Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were striding across the world stage, what did the Pope of their time say publicly concerning their moral character? As far as I know, not a great deal was publicly said.

Traditionally, Popes condemn morals and distorted, erroneous ideals, rather than individuals and their morals and distorted ideals. In this manner was Nazism condemned, Communism condemned, Fascism condemned. Dangerous ideas are traditionally condemned but on individuals – even those in the full glare of public life - Popes usually maintain a dignified silence. It was impossible for journalists not to take away from Pope Francis’s comment on his return from Mexico that the kind of person who ‘builds walls’ is ‘not a Christian’ was a direct attack on the moral character of the billionaire Republican nominee. This from a Supreme Pontiff who hit the headlines for his now well-known catchphrase that in certain circumstances in a person’s spiritual search, an attitude of non-judgementalism should be adopted by even the Pope.

I think I know why ‘the Donald’ is so disliked. People don’t agree with his personal morality. People wonder if he really has one. I don’t think many people even believe what he says. He’s been described as a ‘con man’. People think he is crass, vulgar, intellectually unfit for high political office and carries himself with all the offensive, arrogant swagger of the billionaire of ‘Trump Tower’ who, having indulged himself in a life-long fantasy concerning his own greatness, finds that he has the money and power and prestige to make his lurid fantasy become a reality for all Americans. When he says he wants to make America ‘great again’, we wonder whether he is just saying he wants to remake America in his own image.

Donald Trump’s bombastic response to the Pope’s unprecedented, barbed personal criticism made it appear that only he – among all mortal men – among even the plethora of security services and methods at Western government’s disposal - could protect Rome from a future invasion of blood-thirsty, Islamic, axe-wielding barbarians. Many don’t like him because somehow, despite the horrors unveiled by the Planned Parenthood scandal, this candidate cannot make his mind up on whether abortion-provider Planned Parenthood is a force for good or evil within US society.

If I was an American citizen, I don’t think I could vote for a man who I see to be a political opportunist who sees his country as he may an ace business opportunity, a man whose narcissism is of such proportions that he either hasn’t noticed it is a part of his personality or has so much money and status that public knowledge of it simply doesn’t matter, a man for whom the excesses of capitalism derided as obscene by most, has become for him a badge of honour.

Yet whatever his faults, or perceived faults, and all the messages we receive from the media concerning him, surely all of this should really be irrelevant today. The West, after all, has moved on from Jesus Christ, the moral law, the objective moral order, the natural law, divine law.

We don’t as one Blairite PR man said, ‘do God’. As Western societies, we don’t condemn self-fascination and self-glorification. We don’t honour humility or the virtues Christ called us to on the Sermon of the Mount. Instead, we raise the false gods of money, sex and power to new ideals to live up to. We don’t value poverty and weakness, instead as a society we hold them in contempt. So why should we hate the man who ‘lives the dream’, rather than the nightmare that is these false and dangerous new ideals?

We British, just like other nations, like to see our politicians or even our Churchmen who so often imitate politicians, exude false humility and pretension because there are public standards to live up to at least in public. We would rather be deceived that the next Prime Minister of our country will be a ‘man of the people’ working ‘for the people’ and then decry our disappointment that they didn’t meet our expectations as we realise that underneath the pleasant exterior lurked a Machiavellian despot who held the will of the general populace in low esteem, preferring the praise of powerful companies, or union bosses or Party benefactors or international agencies.

We want our political leaders to love truth and integrity, to value honesty and dedication to the common good, to defend the weak and respect human life, to live upright personal lives, to uphold those parts of the confused, tattered moral framework that the West proclaims which help us to admire our leaders rather than look upon them with scorn. Many Catholics and many atheists might agree with Donald Trump that he is a ‘unifier’ but only in the sense that he has united the pious and impious in loathing of him and what he stands for. Only Christians, however, can say that in a ‘post-Christian society’, we get the leaders we deserve.

For this reason I feel sympathy for Donald Trump in the attacks he receives that escape many others, including those against whom he will be pitted in the elections. Why pick on him? Why throw stones at him when he, like US politics in general, is symptomatic of an entire culture that has rejected any sense of the absolute and embraced the relative as the accepted social norm? Or as Pope Francis said, 'Who am I/are we to judge him?' By what standards are we judging when we judge? God's law? Natural law? Fashion? The times in which we live?

Western nations have rejected Christianity. We have moved 'beyond Jesus'. We no longer accept as given a universal, traditional understanding of public and private virtue. There is no tangible concept of ‘sin’ or ‘vice’ in the modern mind set. Even within the Church these terms have become unpopular or deemed offensive. As nations we abhor as oppressive any external religious or moral limitations placed on our own personal liberty. As societies, then, how dare we even contemplate asking our leaders to be moral and show moral leadership when we cannot even decide, much less agree on, what morality is? The negative reaction of the press, the pundits, the people and even the Pope to Donald Trump tells us something that could so easily be missed. Our ‘post-Christian societies’ are not quite ‘over’ Jesus yet.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Three Years Later

On this day, in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Church and the World by resigning the active ministry of the Petrine Office, while remaining "in the service of prayer, so to speak, in the enclosure of St Peter".

Three years later, it has become abundantly clear that the man who assumed the vacant Chair left by Benedict XVI was and remains, an unswerving ideological opponent of the Pope Emeritus.

For those who think that such a description of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio - who became who we now know as Pope Francis - to be unfair or unjust, or misleading, a relatively brief assessment of these three years which have quickly passed may be helpful.

Whatever history says of the still controversial resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, history itself is not the ultimate judge of a man. The judge of every man is Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whose Vicar on Earth, Benedict XVI was. I say 'was' because, like the vast majority of Catholics, I assume that this title now belongs to his Successor, Pope Francis.

The Church: Macro and Micro-Scale Impacts of the Francis Revolution

On a macro-scale, the Catholic Church has been thrown into a crisis of perhaps hitherto unprecedented proportions. So much has changed, most notably, in the public image of the Pope and the Church. The man who Austen Ivereigh dubs, 'The Great Reformer', Pope Francis, has expended huge amounts of energy in cultivating an image of the Catholic Church which is astonishingly human, so human that it is not an exaggeration to argue that under the reforming Pope of our current times, the Catholic Church is experiencing, on a general scale, a cultural revolution of secularisation effected through an engineered collapse of the Church's fundamental tenets of belief. Quite simply, Pope Francis is, in terms of the message going out to the city and the world, for the Catholic Church, our 9/11. Whatever is knocked down can, however, be rebuilt.

And while ity cannot be exaggerated just how very damaging this cultural revolution - effected from above, mostly, though not exclusively, through public relations - is, precisely because it comes from the summit of the Church, what Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Cardinal Raymond Burke have called a 'crisis' is, in my opinion, like Lent and Passiontide, only a prelude to, a preparation for, the birth-pangs of, something else entirely. For what we look forward to in Lent is not simply an ecclesiastical event but the Resurrection of Christ our Lord and ultimately, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Resurrection of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

The Church is Universal, but the Catholic Church is experienced locally

Yet there are real signs of hope. This is because on a micro-scale, the Catholic Church is organised into living cells of those who believe in the Teachings of and the Person of Jesus Christ. If they don't, they usually don't come to Mass. All will never be lost. In the papacy of Pope Francis and whatever changes it effects within the Church, it must be said that there are parish priests, religious communities, some bishops, bodies of laity, Catholic institutions, collections of Catholics who work within the media and new media, who are far more attracted to the vision of Pope Benedict XVI - a vision which included and promoted continuity with the Sacred Tradition of the Church, than the far less easy to define, more popularist, secular and incoherent vision of Pope Francis and his fellow reformers.

On a micro-scale, we might see that there remains a vocations crisis and that Catholic parishes are being merged in the West. We might discern that the 'Francis Effect', however lasting that may or may not be, has done little to ease this crisis, but there are serious and credible reasons for hope for both the present and the future of the Church's mission. This is because on that micro-scale, for quite a number of Catholics, while the person at the top of the Church has changed, they themselves remain themselves. They still love Jesus Christ and His Church - love Her as She is in Her essence, rather than as progressive reformers wish to see Her. They love Her teachings, her doctrines, they love her very walls. Parish life continues. If you are in a parish with a priest who has a traditionally Catholic outlook, you may very well still see in 2016 what you saw in 2012: the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in your region. Younger clergy are, I believe, and anecdotally there is evidence for this - far more impressed by the traditional liturgy that communicates the Cross and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Eucharistic Presence, the Church's timeless Teachings, and by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself than they are by His Vicar on Earth and whatever program of reform he may or may not wish to enact.

The real holiness of Benedict XVI did then - and it still does today - make itself known by his ability to draw people to God in pointing away from himself to Jesus Christ. Faithful priests strive to do the same. The real deficit of the present incumbent of the Chair of Peter, is his ability to draw people to himself by pointing to himself and not pointing to Jesus Christ, something illustrated by his now notorious videos on ecumenism and ecology in which God does not even get a passing mention.

Where Benedict XVI successfully detoxified the 'traditionalist community' to the horror of the modern impulse for all things new, Pope Francis has found success in detoxifying the Church's image - even on child abuse - by maintaining a stubborn insistence that 'all things new' are to be embraced. This is a new flavour the World can consume happily, but it will not convince everyone. For the traditional Catholic, the 'newness' is embarrassing because, for once, the Church and the World do not seem to be completed opposed when, in reality, they are implacably so. Unfortunately, the deficit in this position is that more and more people are discovering, with their own unhappy, unfulfilling experiences (for which I can attest) that all things 'new' that the world offers are not all life-giving. Quite simply, in the marketplace of spirituality, religion and morality, everybody is offering something 'new', up-to-date and modern and now this Pope is offering...more of the same.

'The new' does not satisfy

There's a downfall to all of this. In offering 'newness' and prompting expectation of 'change' what Pope Francis appears to be offering to the World is something that appears to be artificial, something 'created', his creation indeed, rather than the Creator Himself. New things, after all are created, or even invented. They are not timeless. They also usually have a 'sell by' date.

This is seen most strikingly of all in his dedication to the environment in which we are asked to preserve and conserve with enthusiasm the created, natural world. Benedict XVI respected stewardship of the environment, but what Benedict XVI prioritised and offered to the world was the Creator of the natural, created world. Like all before us, our obsession with the 'new' does nothing to restore our spiritual happiness. The newest Iphone, the newest fashion, the newest film, the newest belief and innovation. These do nothing for man's Soul. To achieve peace in our souls and friendship with our Creator may involve advice from Saints from long ago and most certainly the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It is not something or somebody 'new' Who can take away man's sin and reconcile him to God. It is Somebody Else Entirely, the Lord Who ascended Calvary 2,000 years ago, Who can do that.

What the Catholic Church brings to man, so bombarded by advertisements and enticements towards something 'new' is, in one sense, always wonderfully new, but in another sense, not at all, precisely because God does not fit these kind of 'brand categories'. He is that Something Else Entirely that man truly seeks. With the wonder of the Incarnation, the Resurrection and the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ we can truly say, 'And now, for something completely different'.

What Holy Tradition offers to modern man is its ability to communicate He Who is Completely Different. It offers to modern man the encounter with the Completely Other, yet the God Who was made flesh and dwelt among us.

After three years, we can measure Pope Francis's success in communicating his personal vision of the Church of the 21st century and it can be summed up in his homiletic theme of the Church embracing that which is 'new' in contrast to that which is 'old'. We have encounter, dialogue, ecumenism, ecology, but where, oh where, is Jesus Christ?

In terms of Popes, we can see that Pope Francis himself is something new, perhaps that he is even completely different to his predecessors, but the themes of the pontificate: poverty, ecology, human trafficking, perhaps with the exception of the theme of 'mercy', are not greatly different to the philanthropic and charitable endeavours of various UN agencies.

It may very well be that from 13 March 2013 to whenever this pontificate ends, history will record that the Catholic Church was turned upside down in two senses. Firstly, in the sense that from the top of the Church came radical or even revolutionary ideas that inflicted damage on the Church, but, secondly, that the bottom of the Church resisted them and faithfully clung to Jesus Christ and His Teachings.

People are still searching for meaning...

The pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, in which he made it so known that he would do what he could within his power to hold back 'wolves' encircling his active ministry, should such a resistance to perverse distortions of the Catholic Faith that threaten to ensnare the souls of God's children be forthcoming, will have done an immeasurable amount to aiding that defense of the One True Faith. Summorum Pontificum permitted to Priests that which was hidden from the Faithful for over 50 years. What was taken away with the use of authority in the highest place in the Church was restored. This Mass, the Mass of Ages, communicates the sheer enormity of the love that the Almighty bears for His creatures and the enormity of love and worship which is owed to Him.

The success of Summorum Pontificum shows that what satisfied and fed our ancestors, in defiance of those who would suggest satisfaction can be found in modern teachings and new principles that owe more to the secular than to the sacred, still satisfies men and women today. We have not changed and we are delighted when we see that God has not changed either because if God changed, nothing and nobody could be trusted. 

So when the Church and the World seem more and more to become one, and when that union is advertised as something 'new', men and women will still seek that which is entirely Other, because men and women were not created for anything new, but for Everlasting Life and for Union with the Lord Who alone can grant it. The whole Church can be reformed in the image in the mind of any particular Pope, at any particular time, but God Himself cannot be reformed, neither can man's yearning for his Creator be reformed. It can be misled, deceived, perverted, but not entirely destroyed. Our desire for Truth, for the True God, even if we flee Him, is in our very DNA. Benedict XVI knew this and spoke of things Eternal, as well as encouraging us in facing the real challenges in the modern world.

Pope Francis, for all his positive effects in terms of detoxifying the Church's 'brand', speaks of things temporal, transient and passing but does not successfully communicate Eternal truths, the truths concerning God Who, like our souls, is Eternal. The truth is that we receive the temporal, the transient and the passing every day. We find it everywhere and we don't need to go to Church to receive it.  We yearn, however, for the Eternal, the Absolute, the Lord, for Absolute Love, Absolute Truth, for holiness. God loves mankind and mankind still seeks God because man seeks his ultimate meaning and destiny. Let us all seek Him, while He is still to be found.Yes, we will return to dust, unless the Lord returns before, but even our dust will come to praise Him, when He comes again and transforms these lowly bodies into incorruptible bodies after the pattern of His own.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

What to Make of Ash Wednesday Marking

Ash Wednesday is the second most attended Mass in the Catholic calendar, even though it is not officially a holy day of obligation.

One of the features of the Ash Wednesday liturgy is the application of ashes on the faithfuls' foreheads to mark the start of Lent to represent our consciousness of our own sin and need for repentance. These sacramentals are not uniformly applied in the same manner, hence the waggish graphic of Ash Art.

Some non-liturgical Protestants question whether Christians should advertise their faith by walking around wearing schmutz on their forehead. They would question why we are not adhering to Matthew's admonition not to trumpet their faithfulness in public.

However, walking around with Ashes on their forehead is not exactly a boast of one's virtue.  In fact it is the opposite.  And unless Fr. Hollywood applies "The Hitchcock" or "Harry Potter" ashes, the mark is a variation of the Cross.  In the ancient world, the cross was a sign of shame, as it was the cruel way the Romans enforced their authority against "criminals".  In Christendom, it is a reminder of the Via Dolorosa which each of us are invited to take in our walk of faith.

Lest anyone think that Ash Wednesday Ash art is just a benign symbol, consider the case of Stuart Varney.  In 2001, the host of CNN's Moneyline, quit after CNN head honcho Ted Turner mocked those with ashen crosses on their foreheads as "Jesus Freaks".  

Friday, 5 February 2016

Conclusion: The Synod on the Family - the Final Documents [4]

A Shambles?

Having worked through the final Relatio Synodi (RS) and compared it with the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) it is obvious to me that the IL was almost totally rewritten and anything heretical has been removed. The RS followed the same plan as the IL with similar headings but towards the end large parts have been re-ordered as well as rewritten.

The question arises as to how this came about. We have the description from Professor Roberto Mattei that on the evening of Thursday 22nd October a draft of the RS was presented to the Synod but only in Italian and the delegates were sworn to secrecy. Professor Mattei wrote:

'The text did not take into any account the 1355 amendments proposed over the course of the preceding three weeks, and substantially reproposed the implantation of Instrumentum laboris, including the paragraphs that had roused the strongest criticism in the Hall: the one on homosexuality and the other on the divorced and remarried.'

He goes on to tell us that the draft was rejected and the next morning, Friday 23rd October, it was arranged that it should be rewritten and presented for voting on the Saturday 24th October. To what extent the Thursday draft followed the IL is impossible to know. It seems incredible that it was little changed from the IL and that it was entirely rewritten taking account of the 1355 amendments by the Saturday morning.

Another account is that by Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, someone regarded as being in the liberal camp. He kept a diary which is on the Archdiocesan website where he says that Thursday 22nd October was a free day for the delegates whilst the drafting commission prepared the Thursday draft. He wrote:

'But a few others – myself among them – were also tied up, trying to finish our assessment of the 520 proposed amendments to Part III of the working document. My little group resumed work at 9am, with Cardinal Lacunza saying he couldn’t stay beyond 10.30. So we agreed that we would finish by then. As it turned out, we finished by 10.25.'

So at same time as the drafting commission were preparing the Thursday draft in Italian to be distributed that evening Archbishop Coleridge and others were considering the 522 proposed amendments to Part III. Are we to suppose that the results of their deliberations were then handed to the drafting commission who incorporated them, suitably translated into Italian, into the Thursday draft that evening? It seems unlikely. Perhaps they were just ignored? Archbishop Coleridge's account is less dramatic than that of Professor Mattei in recounting the presentation of the Thursday draft on the Thursday evening:

"The Secretary General then told us that it was our solemn duty to read the text carefully so that we could present proposed amendments the following morning. This was OK for those who know Italian. But the fact is that many of the bishops (and even some of the cardinals!) don’t know Italian or don’t know it well enough to read and respond to a complex document like this one. Bishop Hurley is one of those, so I had to sit down with him last night and go swiftly through the text so that he knew what he was responding to. The fun and games started again when Cardinal Baldisseri told us that the draft document was so sensitive and super-secret that we couldn’t even take it home. At this, there were serious rumblings in the Hall. Boos were looming. Sensing mutiny, the Secretary General changed his mind: we could take it home but was strictly for our eyes only. Not a whisper to anyone else. They weren’t even to know we had the document."

On the Friday morning amendments were submitted verbally and/or in writing. Archbishop Coleridge commented:

“We’re free this afternoon while the 10-man Commission is hard at work processing all the proposed amendments, spoken and written. I don’t think their task will be monumental; most of the substantial suggestions concerned only a few paragraphs.”

But was he in a position to know what amendments had been suggested in writing?

On the Saturday afternoon they voted on the 94 paragraphs in 90 minutes. They had electronic voting which was not all that reliable. The Archbishop tells us:

'In all the pressing, you hoped to hell that the system worked. This evening it did, though the Archbishop of Sao Paolo had to call for a number of technicians at one point. They either fixed his handset or decided that his vote didn’t really matter.'

With one paragraph only getting the absolute minimum two-thirds majority by one vote?!!! Perhaps the Holy Spirit had a hand?

As to at what stage the very extensive rewriting of the IL into the RS took place the whole procedure sounds pretty shambolic with little time for ensuring that the drafting was properly done or that the delegates even understood what they were voting on.

Doctrinal changes?

As explained the RS was a total rewrite of the IL. The IL itself gave rise to grave concerns and certain clauses in the IL were seriously in contradiction to the teaching of the church:

Clause 98 in the IL suggested that there were positive aspects in irregular situations such as Catholics marrying outside the Church (civilly married) and cohabitation thereby tending to indorse such situations. This was attenuated in clause 70 of the RS but it remains ambiguous and as in the 2014 session there were over 50 delegates voting against it. It should really distinguish between good intentions and sins but fails to do so – intentionally?

Fortunately the earlier clause that there was good in homosexual sexual acts did not even make it to the IL let alone the RS.

Clause 72 still seems to say that cohabitation can almost be accepted as a step towards marriage but the mention of 'seeds of the word' being found in such arrangements, that was culled from the Shadow Synod, has been dropped.

On the question of those in irregular situations whether cohabitation or divorced and remarried the whole of the Art of Accompaniment has been rewritten and the idea of a Way of Penance leading to communion for them has been dropped.

The idea that spiritual communion is available for those who cannot receive eucharistic communion has been dropped.

There is no more any suggestion that Orthodox practice on second marriages should be considered.

Clause 63 on Generative Responsibility mentions both Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio as essential guides. There is no qualification of these two documents and in the absence of such qualification their teaching stands. It is only in that context that individual clauses should be read. The appalling interpolated clause 137 in the IL where uninformed conscience was put on a par with the teaching of the Church has not been repeated.

Pastoral changes?

Whilst it is fair to say there are no doctrinal changes there are pastoral openings which no doubt some will take advantage of. Indissolubility of marriage, Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio are reasserted without any caveats. However the whole document is notable for what is not said. Important teachings are not mentioned and there are some very weak passages on abortion, bio-ethics and IVF. The Art of Accompaniment in respect of cohabitation and other irregular situations is plainly open to abuse. Unfortunately the scope for misinterpretation and the skills of those who do misinterpret are large.

My Final Conclusion

The delegates at the Synod have done a great job in resisting the KasperKampf and effectively rewriting the IL as the RS. However it is still a skeleton produced by the Secretariat; the bones have been cleaned by the Bishops but there is precious little new flesh. From the voting one can see that there were a considerable number of delegates who had reservations about the text particularly in Chapter III where irregular situations were discussed.

Pope Francis now has the task of writing the Apostolic Exhortation. However if he accepts what the Synod has said i.e. that there can be no doctrinal changes but merely some rather vague pastoral suggestions, what is he going to be able to say that has not been already said in Familiaris Consortio and said extremely well? Familiaris Consortio is a document which is as up-to-date and relevant to-day as it was thirty years ago. It has just been largely ignored and its recommendations not implemented.

If this is the case has this whole Synod on the Family achieved anything at all in saying anything that was not already in Familiaris Consortio and ignored a great deal more? Was it needed? Was it a colossal waste of time? What was it? Was it an attempt by the liberals of the KasperKampf to undermine the teachings of the Church on sexual matters which has failed despite every manipulation by the Secretariat?

However if Pope Francis were to ignore this final Relatio Synodi and attempt to redefine doctrine we would be into a completely different ball game.

At present there are just rumours that the Apostolic Exhortation will be published on March 19th the feast of St Joseph - a week before Easter, that somebody in Argentina has drafted it, that there are several drafts in circulation and that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued 40 pages of suggestions or critical notes.

We, the laity, have nearly the whole of Lent to pray for a good outcome.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Synod on the Family – The Final Documents [3]

The Final Relatio Synodi: Commentary on Part III.

As already mentioned some of the clauses are inherited from the 2014 session whilst others were interpolated by the Secretariat in the Instrumentum Laboris (IL). Some clauses are completely new.

This third and last part is entitled 'The Mission of the Family' and presumably corresponds to the 'Act' part of 'See, Judge, Act'. The preamble talks of the 'Gospel of the Family' – a phrase which the Irish Bishops did not like! What was Chapter II in the IL has now become Chapter I in the Relatio and is entitled 'The Formation of the Family'. It starts with clauses 57 & 58 on marriage preparation which are rewrites of the inherited clause 84 and two interpolated clauses 85 & 86 and clauses 94 & 95 in the IL. The clauses follow a much logical sequence than in the IL.

Clause 59 on the Celebration of Marriage is a reworking of clause 79 in the IL. Clause 60 on the Initial Years of Married Life is a reworking of inherited clause 96 and interpolated clause 97 in the IL. Clause 61 on the Formation of Priests and Other Pastoral Workers is a very much extended version of interpolated clause 89 in the IL.

Chapter II in this Part III corresponds to Chapter IV in the IL and is entitled Family, Generativity and Upbringing. 'Generativity' is a new word for me and a better one would have been 'Procreation' or a better title could perhaps be just 'Marriage and Children'. The IL is somewhat confused at this point and we get sentences like: Some see a need to continue to make known the documents of the Church’s Magisterium which promote the culture of life in the face of the increasingly widespread culture of death (interpolated clause 137). Why only 'some'? Thankfully this has been changed to This situation calls for an ever-increasing diffusion of the documents of the Church’s Magisterium which promote the culture of life in clause 62 on The Transmission of Life. That should make the liberals groan!

Clause 63 on Generative Responsibility mentions both Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio as essential guides. The appalling interpolated clause 137 in the IL where uninformed conscience was put on a par with the teaching of the Church has not been repeated.

Clause 64 on The Value of Life in All its Stages is a reworking of clauses 140 & 141 in the IL. Both documents refer to the 'tragedy of abortion' which is an inadequate statement. Many people who accept abortion might agree that it is a tragedy but surely the Relatio should say something much stronger such as defining it as an 'unspeakable crime' as in the Second Vatican Council. For once the wording of the IL is preferable to the Relatio. The Relatio speaks of being in favour of life whilst the IL speaks of defending it. The Relatio talks of the Church being close to those who have 'endured abortion' whilst the IL speaks of 'those who have suffered through abortion'. But both versions are weak. Both say Those who work in healthcare facilities are reminded of the moral obligation of conscientious objection. I think, in England at least, more support from the clergy to those who do work in healthcare facilities would not go amiss.

Clause 65 on Adoption and Foster Parenting is a reworking of clause 138 in the IL. Clauses 66 to 68 deal with the upbringing of children and replace clauses 142 to 146 of the IL.

Chapter III of the Relatio corresponds to Chapter III of the IL and is entitled The Family and Pastoral Accompaniment starting with 'Complex situations'. This is where controversy begins! Inherited clause 98 in the IL almost put irregular situations on a par with sacramental marriage having regard to to-day's world. It certainly suggested that there are positive aspects of civilly celebrated marriages and cohabitation. Clause 70 of the Relatio still speaks of positive elements but perhaps in a slightly attenuated manner; unfortunately clause 71 still seems to suggest that cohabitation can be a valid stepping-stone to sacramental marriage as in clause 102 of the IL.

Clauses 72 to 75 deal with mixed marriages and replace clauses 126 to 128 of the IL. Clause 76 replaces clauses 130 to 132 in the IL dealing with persons who have homosexual tendencies. 'Gay marriage' is condemned but there is an ambiguity in the use of the word 'union'. Clause 76 says

'Regarding proposals to place unions of homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family”.'

The quotation is taken from the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4. The conclusion of that document reads:

'11. The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.'

The document from the CDF signed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger and approved by St John Paul II thus does not approve of legal recognition of homosexual unions (civil partnerships in the UK). The Relatio Synodi fails to condemn such unions but does condemn 'gay marriage'. Approval of legalised unions is very much a liberal idea. There are reports that Pope Francis has been ambiguous on this subject when in Buenos Aires. So is this Relatio ambiguous on the subject? Although it quotes from the CDF's document it does not endorse it as a whole. It is something to watch out for when we have Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation.

There then follows a section on 'Accompaniment in Different Situations'. Clause 77 gives a general view on the Art of Accompaniment and is an abbreviated version of clauses 109-111 in the IL. Clauses 78 & 79 deal with marriage breakdown and are an extended rewrite of clauses 112 & 113 in the IL. A new clause 80 separates out the question of single-parent families briefly mentioned in clause 113 of the IL. Clause 81 is on reconciliation and the Church's role in helping in such which was mentioned briefly in clause 104 of the IL.

Between the time the IL was written and the 2015 session of the Synod Pope Francis has issued his motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus and Mitis et Misericors Iesus which fundamentally reform the annulment process. This is reflected in clause 82 of the Relatio which replaces clauses 114 to 117 of the IL. The IL had a suggestion that In cases of the validity of consent in marriage, most agreed on the importance of the faith of those to be married and suggested a variety of approaches to be examined further. Quite what that means I do not know. It gets no mention in the Relatio but I believe does get mentioned in the motu proprios which have led to considerable comment by Canon Lawyers. This is a very complex affair which I am not competent to comment on although I find the grounds for nullity to have been stretched to such a degree compared with earlier years that they tend to promote scandal.

Clause 83 congratulates those who have stayed faithful to their marriage vows in spite of divorce reflecting a brief mention at the end of clause 113 of the IL.

There then follows a section on 'Discernment and Integration'. Clause 84 deals with the divorced and civilly remarried. It replaces clauses 120 and 121 in the IL. IL 120 said the such couples should not be discriminated against and should be encouraged to participate in the life of the Church. IL 121 suggested a process of discrimination to ascertain whether it was impossible for the divorced to return to their previous spouse and whether some exclusions should be reviewed. The divorced and remarried should be encouraged to follow the law of gradualness. It then said that the community should be led to accept such situations according to the Law of Gradualness referring to Familiaris Consortio 34. Now Familiaris Consortio refers to the Law of Gradualness as the gradual conforming of souls to the teaching of the Church and NOT gradualness of the Law i.e. gradually changing the teaching but this is surely what the IL intended.

The new clause 84 in the Relatio talks of integration of the divorced and civilly remarried into the Church. In a thoroughly fulsome manner it talks of a joyful and fruitful experience and the Holy Spirit pouring into their hearts gifts and talents for the good of all. After such hyperbole it suggests that any exclusions should be surpassed which in plain English means added to but I think they meant the reverse. It claims that none of this will show 'a weakening of her faith and witness in the indissolubility of marriage'. The mention of indissolubility is an improvement!

Clause 85 calls for the divorced and remarried to reflect on what they have done and further says that moral imputability can vary according to the circumstances. Clause 86 is very important and reads:

'The path of accompaniment and discernment guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God. Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of Church and Church practice which can foster it and make it grow. Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. FC 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity as proposed by the Church.'

It is important to note whilst there is a reference to the internal forum this is not a reference to the internal forum where somebody, in the absence of an annulment of their previous marriage, sincerely believes that the first marriage was invalid and therefore they can receive communion – a version of the internal forum that was explicitly condemned by St John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio. Thus the whole idea of a Way of Penance leading to them being admitted to communion, as suggested in clauses 122 and 123 of the IL, has been dropped.

It is a pity though that the words of St John Paul about attending the mass (different from participating) and the exclusion from communion are not quoted in full. At least his words are not deliberately and dishonestly misquoted as in the IL under Cardinal Baldisseri. Likewise the nonsense about spiritual communion being available for those unable to receive eucharistic communion because of the lack of a state of grace, as suggeseted in clauses 124 and 125 of the IL, has been dropped. Further the suggestion about considering the Orthodox practice on second marriages in clause 129 of the IL has been dropped – squaring the circle was obviously not one of the aims of the Bishops.

The final Chapter IV is on 'Family and Evangelisation' has some generalities in clause 87 on marriage from Pope Francis. One wonders whether the translation into English has been carried out by a native speaker of the language – the awkward language could certainly be improved. For example 'forgive me' would be a better translation than 'pardon me' which is usually used in different circumstances! Clause 88 talks about tenderness.

The next section on 'The Family: Object of Pastoral Care' starts with the words: To be faithful to its mission, the Christian family will have to well understand.... I think many couples might find this section rather irritating as if everything is down to them in a somewhat moralising tone with no mention of any pastoral care by the clergy – a particularly egregious lack since the time of Familiaris Consortio and before.

Finally there are sections on 'The Relationship with Cultures and Institutions' and 'Openness to Mission' which do have some good points but are written in a somewhat platitudinous style – clauses 91 to 93. Finally there is a self-congratulatory clause 94 where the Bishops hope that this Relatio might give hope and joy to many families in the world. Perhaps I am unduly cynical but I am reminded of what one African Bishop said of the Instrumentum Laboris: “Would any young couple want to get married after reading this?”. The Bishops were faced with a herculean task in revising and rewriting the Instrumentum Laboris and they have succeeded in removing the heretical suggestions and by and large it is a great improvement despite the Secretariat. But...

In a final post on this subject I will give my overall conclusions.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Join Cardinal Burke in a Spiritual Crusade

From LifeSiteNews:

Cardinal Raymond Burke is urging faithful Catholics to "storm heaven" by joining with him once a month in the Mass and the Rosary to pray for hope and guidance out of the current "confusion" in the Church and the world.

The lay Catholic organization Catholic Action for Faith and Family has put up a page on its website for "Rosary Warriors" to sign on to join the effort, which Cardinal Burke launched with a Mass in Rome on December 8.

For more information visit their page here.

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