Monday, 31 August 2015

February 24, 303 Revisited II

from  Mosiacarum et Romanarum Legum Collatio 6.4, qtd. and tr. in Clarke, 649; Barnes,Constantine and Eusebius


"...the immortal gods themselves will favour and be at peace with the Roman name...if we have seen to it that all subject to our rule entirely lead a pious, religious, peaceable and chaste life in every respect"

The first thing to understand about the Great Persecution is that it was not only legal, but religious. The national religion of the empire was being renewed by Diocletian and co-emperors,

MaximianGalerius and Constantius, for the good of the empire. The financial and military good of the empire 
meant that the old gods of Olympus had to be appeased. In the face of difficult times, it was necessary for the citizens to worship the "true" gods of the empire. In a sense, Diocletian and his fellow emperors in the Tetrarchy 
were revitalizing the entire Roman world with a new sense of dedication to the old gods.

So, why would the Catholics be the particular subjects of persecution?  (For the record, the Manicheans were also persecuted.)

The answer is obvious today. Any group of people which shows an allegiance to something other than the 
totalitarian heads of state form a threat. And, any group of people which holds beliefs contrary to those of the totalitarian state is a threat.

The problem with too many Catholics today, is that they do not see themselves as a threat to the growing totalitarianism of both the EU and America, now both run by anti-Christian principles, and increasingly 
anti-Catholic values or ideals.

Too many Catholics honestly believe that they can "talk", or have detente, with the growing evil of the world.

This prevailing attitude can only lead to an increase in self-deceit and a false hope for change.

Small battles have been won here and there, but the battle for souls is being hindered by communism, socialism, secularism, and neo-paganism. It really does not matter, at this time, what "ism" will push through the draconian 
laws, as it only takes one.

We have all seen this before under Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Mao, among others.

The Catholics are the threat, always, as our kingdom is not of this world.

So, the stage is being set, quickly, very quickly for a new February 24, 303.

To be continued....

Sunday, 30 August 2015

February 24, 303, Revisited I

I hope you all do not mind me reposting a series I wrote in February of 2013 on my old blog. I have a new blog now, but I have been drawn to some older postings as timely for us today. 

The series discusses the persecution under Diocletian, an emperor who was restoring the old conservative religion of the pagan Romans for various political and possible, religious reasons.

Great Britain is a nation which witnessed one of the most cruel and violent persecutions against Catholics in more civilized times. This series may help some who read it come to the realization that what is "orthodoxy" regarding institutionalized religion to a majority of people in a culture may be the very ideology which causes Catholics to be severely persecuted.

We see the institutionalizing in many Western countries of secularism as a religion. What happens when there is a clash between those who live within the boundaries of a nation which sees Catholicism as a threat to national identity?

Part One....

I am going to highlight in the next few days what it means to be a remnant in a totally pagan and hostile world. In the 1970s, my spiritual leaders taught me that there was nothing neutral in the world-only that which was chosen and created for good, for Christ, and that which was chosen and created only for evil.

Finally, more people are beginning to see this. I repeat, there is NO neutral territory.

This series will be called "February 24, 303."

This was the day which witnessed the largest and worst persecution of Catholics in Rome, called after Diocletian asked the Oracle of Apollo approval for such an empire-wide ruling against the Church. The Diocletianic Persecution was not the first in Rome. In fact, it was the last. From 303 until 313, in some part of the empire, Catholics were systematically rounded up and killed.

What I want to do is to help readers understand what these ten years meant for those Catholics who had to endure such an organized slaughter. I want to explore both how Catholics maintained their lives, and even helped to spread the Gospel under duress, how they passed the Faith on to their children, and how some survived without compromise. These posts may help us all be prepared both spiritually and mentally for things to come.

Compromise results in eternal death.

Such persecution will be the fate of some reading this post today.

to be continued.............

Preaching a God Who Does Not Exist

The new emphases and strange happenings within the Church will, without doubt, find their ultimate fruition at the Synod on the Family 2015 in October and in its wake. As other commentators have made very plain, the Catholic Church has entered a time of deep confusion and crisis. However, let us be clear. This is a crisis that is being concealed.

Within the Church's corridors is a confusion and a crisis that is masked by an abundance of words, speeches, reports and even a grave crisis masked by perhaps the calling of Synod on the Family itself. Through the mist of daily PR, more and more observers are able to distinguish that what at first appears to be a confident Church and a confident papacy is a Church and a Papacy marked more by doubt than by anything else.

Why should this be so? Ostensibly, the Synod on the Family was convened in order to gather Bishops and Cardinals together to face the problems affecting marriage and the family together in the 21st century, but it has turned out to be so much more than that. 'New ways' from the very outset, were proposed. As soon as these 'new ways' of presenting and offering 'pastoral care' were presented it became obvious that far from a Church confident of Herself and Her Lord, the Catholic Church is now a Church marked by a breathtaking lack of confidence in Jesus Christ.

Despite the apparent strength and vitality of its Pope, whose boldness in speaking on many matters, from the environment, to the plight of the poor and refugees, to insisting that God's tender mercy is proclaimed within the Church, even to its 'peripheries', something is certainly lacking in the new direction that the Vatican has taken since the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI. It was a something that was, of course, very apparent among Bishops who had steadfastly ignored Pope Benedict XVI's message. What is that something?

Catholic commentators, some of them priests, have put their finger on what they consider to be the reason of the shift in emphases within the Catholic Church that appears to be coming from the head down. The missing link, they assert, is the idea - or rather the immutable Catholic doctrine - of sanctifying grace. Gradualism as interpreted by Cardinal Kasper would deny to man the essential truth about God and man's relationship with God, namely that God will give to the sinner who seeks it earnestly the Grace required to overcome sin in his or her life. There is great irony in the following quote from a book by Cardinal Kasper in 1967 is doing the rounds at the moment. It is very revealing of the mindset of the author then and, most likely, now, since it is a quote never repudiated by Kasper himself...

'The God who is enthroned over the world and history as a changeless being is an offence to man. One must deny Him for man’s sake, because he claims for himself the dignity and honour that belong by right to man. We must resist this God, however, not only for man’s sake, but also for God’s sake. He is not the true God at all, but rather a wretched idol. For a God who is only alongside of history, who is not himself history, is a finite God. If we call such a being God, then for the sake of the Absolute we must become absolute atheists. Such a God springs from a rigid worldview; he is the guarantor of the status quo and the enemy of the new. [Walter Kasper, “Gott in der Geschichte”, an essay that appeared in Gott heute: 15 Beiträge zur Gottesfrage, edited by Norbert Kutschki (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1967),]'

To traditional Catholic eyes this statement will appear absolutely and completely incompatible with Catholic teaching and for good reason, but it needs a little bit of unpacking in order to see where Cardinal Kasper is coming from and what we have left of 'God' once we have basically stripped Him of His Lordship over all Creation.

One illustration is particularly worthwhile exploring. News has recently emerged that the Catholic Church will in many places be asked to pray fervently for the environment - yes - even before the Blessed Sacrament. The 'God of Cardinal Kasper' is not - we are assured - a God Who is enthroned over the world and history as a changeless being, despite St James's words that point to the opposite:

It is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. St James 1:17

So, leaving aside asking how a 'changeless' God is a an 'offense to man' and leaving aside the question as to quite why a 'changeless' God is worthy of such contempt, we would do well to ask of what use to man is a God Who is basically firstly either limited or impotent and secondly changeable - even fickle. For the God of the 21st century cannot, apparently, to modern man be the God of the Old Testament or the New for two millennia, because we have changed. God must have changed with us and if He hasn't, then He is in the wrong. That's as arrogant as Cardinal Kasper's theology is.

However, there are important contradictions going on here, for if God is really, as Cardinal Kasper suggests, changeable, then how can we know that God loves us? If God is not 'changeless' then how can we know His mercy is everlasting? If God is not Lord and Master of the Universe, enthroned above His creation, with seraphim and cherubim surrounding Him, why would we bother to ask Him to save the environment and tend to the needs of 'Mother Earth' in His almighty power? Apparently, the idea of an Almighty God Who is supreme over all things and Whose Kingship extends over the whole of Creation is an offense to man. So why pray at all? Why pray for employment, or for an end to violence, for an end to war, for peace, for the end of abortion, if God is not truly Lord of all things.

The ideas that Cardinal Kasper advances concerning God and His nature belong, if they belong to any time, to 1967, when theologians rejected much of what had been handed down the ages concerning God and His nature. Once we remove from God His Lordship over all things, including us - and let us be clear about this - once we remove from Jesus Christ His Divinity preached by the Apostles and preached by the Church down the ages, what kind of a God are we left with?

If God is not 'changeless', if with Him there really is such a thing as 'alteration' and 'shadows of change', then how can God be trustworthy at all? We would be like a wife who was told by her husband that yesterday he loved her but today he is 'not so sure'. If we cannot depend on the trustworthiness of God's Law how on earth can we depend on the trustworthiness of God's Mercy? How can we trust even that God is 'loving' if doubt is the new creed, and certainty is the new enemy, because in order for us to trust that God is merciful we have to rely on Scripture and Tradition? How can God help us if He is not the God revealed in Scripture and Tradition? We cannot in one instance make God impotent and dethrone Him and then ask God for assistance that will save the World from environmental degradation? Indeed, if God is not Lord over all things, enthroned high above the Heavens, how can He help us at all, whether that be in order to become virtuous and leave a life of sin, or whether that be to come to the aid of the environment?

Of course, what Cardinal Kasper is really saying is that we can redefine the nature of God and God Himself and God will not mind because the concept of a God Who is omnipotent is offensive to man, so He cannot be as He has revealed Himself to the Church. We can be atheists and still believe in God, apparently. If, indeed, the God of Cardinal Kasper - Who Cardinal Kasper can never claim to be the 'One True God', because such a title would be 'offensive to man', is 'changeable' then of what use, indeed, are any of the Scriptures which are read out at Mass. The Gospels and the Letters of St Paul as well as the Old Testament would, if God is changeable, be completely useless to us since there is nothing for us to learn or be taught about how we should live, perhaps other than a vague ideal that they in some way represent a good life. Ultimately, however, they are mere goals, unattainable except for a strange, nebulous 'elite' of 'heroic Christians'. More than this though, the information we receive in the Word of God is useless to us anyway because God can change His mind about any of it at any time He pleases, or rather 'the people' please.

When God is changeable...
If the God preached by the Catholic Church is to be confronted and rejected simply for being the 'enemy' of 'the new', then what is to be the Catholic Church's conception of God in four hundred years time?

If the God preached by the Catholic Church is to be rejected simply for being the guarantor of the status quo then why should we ever say, with any categorial assurance whatsoever, that God is merciful at all? Because Scripture tells us so? Because Jesus Christ conveys it in the Gospel? But the Gospel isn't trustworthy anymore. We have made His words unnecessary, irrelevant to our times. God Himself can change according to the times after all. Cardinal Kasper relies on some Catholic rhetoric to present his ideas on mercy, but he cannot call God 'Love' or 'Mercy' without some relying on some kind of 'orthodox' source, such as Scripture or Tradition, the two very elements of Catholic theology that he simultaneously undermines.

The sad truth - and it is very sad indeed - is that the God of Cardinal Kasper - if his writings are anything to go by simply does not exist. God - the Blessed and Most Holy Trinity - does exist, but this does not seem to be the same God, trustworthy, changeless, merciful, holy, just, pure, benevolent and eternal as that of Cardinal Kasper. If the Catholic Church were to adopt Cardinal Kasper's 'vision of God' nothing - absolutely nothing - that the Mass attending Catholic, or even the atheist had been told about God by a Catholic, could be trusted, including the very concept of His infinite goodness. For how can we say God is even Good without the authority of Scripture and Tradition and the timeless teaching of the Church? It is true that in Jesus Christ God became man and embraced weakness, poverty and took on Himself our lowly state, but it is equally true that Jesus Christ is truly Risen and when He returns He will return 'coming on the clouds in glory' as Judge of the World.

One could, if one chose, decide that the God of Cardinal Kasper, being so open to redefinition by His own creatures so as to agree with them that the past two hundred years of Catholic teaching had been 'one big misunderstanding' was so irrefutably confusing and changeable that maybe Lucifer was a better option in terms of worship, because at least with him you always know where you stand. Indeed, the Catholic Church, with a God so changeable as Cardinal Kaspers, who says things 2,000 years ago that of no relevance to modern man today, having abandoned all sense, all tradition and all understanding, however limited that may be of the Infinite Majesty of the Godhead, may well decide to adopt Satanism as part of its new creed for the 22nd century.

Cardinal Kasper likes to quote Scripture when it suits his theology
After all, if Scripture, the Magisterium, the Fathers of the Church, the Apostles, the Popes and even Jesus Christ Himself aren't trustworthy in their teaching, maybe we were wrong about the diabolical and incomprehensibly evil nature of God's enemy, Satan. For all we know, in the Church that has confounded 'the enemy of the new' and 'guarantor of the status quo', perhaps we'd been worshipping the wrong 'being' after all. Of course, both God and the Devil exist. God is infinitely Good and the Devil is infinitely Evil. There are no depths to which the Lord of all History will not sink in which to save us from ourselves and from our sins. Unfortunately, there are no depths to which Satan does not wish to drag those God has redeemed into everlasting punishment with him and his cohorts of fallen angels.

For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has preserved Her doctrines in fidelity to Her Lord and King, Jesus Christ, not to offend man, but to draw man into the a restored relationship with the Most Holy Trinity, even to being refashioned in the likeness of the Son of God. Jesus Christ is truly Our Saviour. God truly is God. Salvation - Eternal Salvation - truly is at stake for us and at the Synod on the Family is at stake so much more than simply marriage and the family, for if Jesus Christ cannot ultimately be trusted, if for 2,000 years, the Catholic Church was untrustworthy, if Scripture lies concerning God's nature, then we will lose sight entirely of who we are, why we were created and of our ultimate destiny. In that way, Cardinal Kasper's agenda is perfect for this age, if you wish to live in a godless, hopeless, temporal, amoral dystopia.

'The God who is enthroned over the world and history as a changeless being is an offence to man. One must deny Him for man’s sake, because he claims for himself the dignity and honour that belong by right to man. We must resist this God, however, not only for man’s sake, but also for God’s sake. He is not the true God at all, but rather a wretched idol. For a God who is only alongside of history, who is not himself history, is a finite God. If we call such a being God, then for the sake of the Absolute we must become absolute atheists. Such a God springs from a rigid worldview; he is the guarantor of the status quo and the enemy of the new.'

Without a God Who is enthroned over the world and history as a changeless being, how can we call upon Him confidently and in hope? What hope have we of Heaven if Earth and its story is all there fundamentally is? How can we have honour and dignity as sons and daughters of God if there is no King, robed in light and majesty, to confer us with honour and dignity? How can we proclaim Salvation and a 'changing' God at the same time, for He might have changed His mind about His Salvation completely? How can we proclaim the forgiveness of sins - and obtain forgiveness of sins from a God Who, despite having become Man and suffering and dying for our sake, can be so indifferent to us that He would change and be subject to alteration along with the vicissitudes of modern thought and simply by our willing Him to change? Cardinal Kasper, not God, must be resisted, not merely for God's sake, but for man who he claims has permission to take offense at his Creator's audacity in simply being Himself.

God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you. (Exodus 314)
Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. (St John 8:58)

The Amorality of Atheism

Giorgio Reversi has written a book entitled 'The Amorality of Atheism', the contents of which seem as relevant today within the Catholic Church as it is in its endeavour to reach the hearts and minds of those outside of the Church. 

We must seriously ask the question why it is that laymen and women who have undergone no PhDs or Masters Degrees in theology are able to articulate the Catholic Faith in understandable ways but those who are considered moral theologians - even moral theologians who are praised by the highest authorities in the Church - can only find ways in which to undermine the credibility of that same Faith.

Please find below a taster of Giorgio's clear explanations of Catholicism and another timely - and much needed - rejection of the errors of atheism. 

And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us

John 1:14

I don’t deny that Jesus Christ can be regarded as a great moral teacher. But so was Confucius, who taught - five centuries before Christ – "Do not unto another that you would not have him do unto you. Thou needest this law alone. It is the foundation of all the rest.” This is the Golden Rule on which I believe our morality should be based upon.
I don’t have a problem with Christianity per se, rather with your fundamentalist, exclusivist approach. And I admire moderate, liberal Christians who are more concerned with social justice and the protection of the environment than theological diatribes, as you seem to be.
Our atheist’s words remind me of an aphorism by Colombian philosopher Nicolas Gomez Davila: “Overstated admiration for Jesus Christ as a moral teacher immediately betrays the atheist”. It also betrays - I should add - a Christian who is indistinguishable from an atheist. But I will further comment on that in a moment.
Let me first explain why our atheist’s premise – “the Golden Rule on which I believe our morality should be based upon” – is deeply flawed. He falls into what can be defined as the “Golden Rule fallacy”, which is this. Saying that morality is based on the rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, or indeed any rule, is a meaningless and baseless assertion unless we are able to give a reason why we ought to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto us”. In other words, foundation to morality is not a rule - however “golden”- but is the ultimate reason why we ought to act according to that rule. Anyone can claim that a certain rule must be followed, but the claim is meaningless unless one is able to offer the ultimate reason why we ought to follow that rule.A reason that can only be found in transcendence: precisely what the atheistic world view cannot offer. This is the unique and irreplaceable role of religion: to offer the ultimate, transcendent reason for our actions, thus providing a foundation to morality.
Which brings me to the next point. Our atheist friend states that Jesus Christ can be regarded as a great moral teacher. As C.S. Lewis famously noted, this is the one thing we must not say, because a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher, but a lunatic. Jesus made himself “equal with God" (John 5:18) and even went so far as to use the very words by which God revealed Himself to Moses from the burning bush (John 8:58). Indeed, Jesus was put to death not because he upheld a radically alternative set of moral principles - in which case he would merely have had a pleasant discussion with Scribes and High Priests on the exegesis of scriptures -, but because He identified Himself with the ultimate reason for those principles, thus affirming His divinity.
Christianity is in fact the religion that identifies in Jesus the ultimate reason for our moral principles, for our “Golden” rules. To quote John’s Gospel, He is the Logos of God, the Reason for all things made flesh. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). A rather “fundamentalist”, “exclusivist approach”, I would say. But this is the core belief of Christianity, which our atheist friend does seem to have a problem with. Anything else is its politically correct parody.
I said that overstated admiration for Jesus Christ as a moral teacher betrays a Christian who is indistinguishable from an atheist. This is, I believe, the key to understanding the phenomenon of secularisation and de-Christianisation that has swept Western society in the last few decades. At the root of secularisation is not merely the non-belief in the existence of God, but the acceptance of the atheist dogma of a morality without God, of a set of moral values, of “Golden Rules” independent from God, from Christ, who therefore becomes irrelevant. Christians in the West have not only passively endured a process of secularisation; they’ve actively promoted it, in so far as they’ve adopted the secular notion that morality can exist without God.
The “moderate”, “progressive”, “liberal Christians”, “concerned with social justice and the protection of the environment”, who see the Gospel simply as a 'Handbook' for 'Moral Guidance’, and the divinity of Christ as a cause of embarrassment, an unnecessary occasion of disagreement with atheists and people of other faiths, have reduced the Church to a campaigning force for social justice, indistinguishable from secular organisations, de facto annulling the social, cultural and political relevance of Christianity. It’s no wonder our atheist friend admires them. They have in a way succeeded where even the most zealous militant atheists have failed.

Step forward Cardinal Marx and Cardinal Kasper. 'The Amorality of Atheism' can be purchased for £1.99 on Amazon Kindle. There are not an abundance of recommendable Catholic books which confront the atheists of our age. Good men take time and for the love of God expend a great deal of energy, often at a cost, to communicate the Catholic Faith during a time when the world - and great parts of the Church - are hostile to the supernatural Faith that is required for us to live and pray as adopted children of God.

Bravo to Giorgio Reversi for putting pen to paper and compiling a consistent and thorough rebuttal to the new atheism that has ravaged the West inside and outside Holy Mother Church. Why not purchase a copy for yourself and for atheist friends? It may be worthwhile sending a few copies to the Bishops at the Synod, because ultimately, as Nicholas Bellord has made so clear in his five part series of blogposts on the Shadow Synod, at the heart of the matter is Faith, and whether we believe in the God revealed in and taught by the Church for 2,000 years, or whether we deny His existence as revealed through Scripture and Tradition.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod (Part 5)

Fr Alain Thomasset S.J
Father Professor Doctor Alain Thomasset, a Jesuit from Paris, was the next to speak. Why is it that whenever I see the initials S.J an amber light switches on in my head. In this case it is justified as he goes the full hog.

Professor Thomasset refers to the Relatio Synodi 2014, which was the document that came out of the first session of the Synod in particular to the “divine pedagogy” in clause 13. He says this shows how by His grace “divine indulgence always accompanies the path of men”. He says that those words in quotes come from clause 14. I think the idea he wishes to convey is that God is indulgent towards ours sins rather like a parent indulging or spoiling a naughty child by not correcting him.

The problem is that clause 14 does not actually say that. The English version says: “In this way, Jesus shows how God’s humbling act of coming to earth might always accompany the human journey and might heal and transform a hardened heart with his grace, orientating it towards its principle, by way of the cross.” The French version reads “De la sorte, Jésus montre que la condescendance divine accompagne toujours le chemin de l’homme, par sa grâce elle guérit et transforme le cœur endurci en l’orientant vers son origine, à travers le chemin de la croix.”. Thomasset has substituted the word 'indulgence' for the original 'condescendance'. What the Relatio is saying is that God has humbled himself or condescended to come to Earth in order to accompany the path of men. It does not say that he has come to indulge the ways of men. Not a good start!

Thomasset goes on to say that the vocation of the Church taking the example of Jesus cannot omit to take account of the history of people and to accompany them on their path of faith in a progressive revelation. He sees the biography of a person as being essential to a personalist ethic without giving up on normative indications. That is to say that in judging the act of a person one has to look at their circumstances whilst not giving up on the teaching of the Church. He implies that this idea of progressive revelation is in clause 14. Unfortunately for him clause 14 says nothing of the sort and speaks of Christ's teaching as being the fullness of revelation and not something that changes with time.

His next heading is the question of intrinsically evil acts. Of course the most renowned use of that term is in the Catechism when it defines homosexual acts as intrinsically disordered.   Such disordered acts of the will are a moral evil (CCC1761) so the words 'disordered' and 'evil' are synonymous in this context.  What most people do not realise is that the words 'intrinsically evil' are not some hyperbole but have a very precise meaning in Catholic ethics. To-day consequentalism is popular; that is to say that no act is evil of itself and one can only judge whether an act is good or evil by looking at the consequences. It is an idea that has come in various forms from Bentham, John Stuart Mill and others to this day. The Church rejects this kind of ethics and say that certain acts are evil in themselves, intrinsically evil, regardless of the consequences. What is important though is that the moral culpability of the person committing the act is quite a different and separate matter.

Thomasset has problems with this teaching of the Church because it determines the condemnation of artificial contraception, sex between the divorced and remarried and homosexual sex even in stable relationships. “If she [the Church] insists with reason on the objective benchmarks necessary to the moral life, she precisely neglects the biographical dimension of existence, and the specific conditions of each personal path, elements to which our contemporaries are very sensitive and have a bearing on the reception of Church teaching”. Thus Thomasset abandons reason in favour of sentiment.

Of course what he is doing is confusing the evil of an act with the culpability of the actor. He goes on to look at this subjective side of any situation and the place of conscience. How predictable! He says that clause 52 of the Relation raises this difficult of distinguishing between the objective situation and the surrounding circumstances. He points to clause 52 of the Relatio to justify his argument. Clause 52 was rejected by the Synod fathers but kept in at the request of Pope Francis. However whilst clause 52 mentions the distinction between the evil of an act and the culpability of the actor it does not see it as a problem. It is purely a problem for Thomasset. Predictably he brings conscience into it.

He then talks about how people find themselves in situations where duties seem to conflict and they have to choose. In respect of Humanae Vitae he says that nine Episcopates (among them the French, Swiss and German) declared that complying with it was a matter for the individual conscience. Well we all know about that and how in the UK Cardinal Heenan said it was just a matter of choice.

Thomasset then goes on about how the biographical and narrative perspective obliges one to evaluate the morality of an act not in respect of individual acts but on human acts in a history, According to him an isolated act is not a human act. Killing someone is a material act and is only one element in appreciating the complete picture in order to judge it as a human act. This is really confusing the issue. Is killing someone okay so long as there is no moral culpability? He says that most people would agree with him and offers as evidence a book he wrote himself.

Having dealt with what he sees as the subjective side he turns to the objective side and the development of moral norms and their limitations. He says the nature of an act depends upon its object which is “the proximate end of a deliberate decision” - a phrase he picks up from St John Paul II's Veritatis Splendor at clause 78 and with the authority of St Thomas Aquinas. He says therefore the morality of an act includes in part the intention and circumstances of the actor. So he goes on to say although a contraceptive act includes the intention to render procreation impossible that is not enough to judge the act. You have to look at the intentions and circumstances.

The intention may be good in that intercourse reinforces the union of the spouses. He applies the same idea to the divorced and remarried having intercourse. He then refers to Familiaris consortio and clause 84 (incidentally misquoted in Instrumentum Laboris 2015) saying that St John Paul II said that one has to take into account the “diversity of situations”. Actually that phrase does not appear in clause 84 which says “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations.” The French text has “l'obligation de bien discerner les diverses situations”. JPII is not talking about the couple looking at their situation but pastors doing so after the event. Thomasset though is suggesting that the couple weigh up the pros and cons of their situation and decide accordingly. This is proportionalism.

He continues by referring to clause 9 of Familiaris Consortio which is entitled Gradualness and conversion and deals with the gradual movement away from evil towards the gifts of God. However, according to Thomasset, Pope John Paul did not develop this idea. Thomasset is presumably saying that the couple can therefore continue with their sin until they decide to move away from it. Having said that in his proportionalist view there is no sin anyway why should anyone move away from the act?

Of course this is all very selective quoting from Veritatis Splendor which contains a very clear condemnation of consequentalism and proportionalism. It is worth reading clause 71 to 78 to see all this in context. In particular in clause 78 after the sentence quoted by Thomasset above about “the proximate end of a deliberate decision” it goes on to read:

'Consequently, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "there are certain specific kinds of behaviour that are always wrong to choose, because choosing them involves a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil". And Saint Thomas observes that "it often happens that man acts with a good intention, but without spiritual gain, because he lacks a good will. Let us say that someone robs in order to feed the poor: in this case, even though the intention is good, the uprightness of the will is lacking. Consequently, no evil done with a good intention can be excused. 'There are those who say: And why not do evil that good may come? Their condemnation is just' (Rom 3:8)”.'

Which rather sinks Thomasset's argument.

His next section is about how 'moral norms are always to be understood in the context of an historical process which implies the experience of the believers'. That is to say we are not stuck with Jesus's commandments for all time. The sensus fidei argument is trotted out. Bishop Egan has given useful guidance on this in his talk, about a year ago, to the Society for the Protection of the Unborn. He said:

“As Newman himself discovered, in a dispute about doctrine such as the fracas of Arianism in the Early Church over the nature of Christ, the orthodox position that the Church eventually upheld was not a via media or middle-ground between two extremes. It was in fact one of the extremes, held by a minority. This is often the case. Many people think that truth lies somewhere in the middle, yet it may not be. To take the example of contraception: some accept the teaching; others reject it. Yet this does not mean that an intermediate common-ground position – ‘Accept it if you can’ or ‘It’s up to your conscience’ - is the doctrine Christ wills for His Church. The truth of a doctrine is not necessarily the balanced view: it is the true view.”

Next Thomasset seems to be suggesting that doctrine should flow from the pastoral rather than the other way round. So he concludes that the divorced and remarried should not have their sexual acts condemned as the couple are not morally culpable. This would open the way to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. Always the two are conflated as if the sacrament of penance was not always available. Further for married couples artificial contraception is okay provided it is non-abortive and the couple remain open to the gift of life. (Not quite sure how you do that!). Curiously he does not mention the position of the unmarried where I would have thought his proportionalism would make the use of contraceptives even more acceptable. Lastly the homosexuals living as a stable and faithful couple should not have their sexual acts condemned. It is interesting to note that in the UK at the insistence of the LGBT lobby infidelity is not a ground for divorce in gay marriages which suggests that fidelity is not going to be high on their agenda. For Thomasset such a relationship can be a way to sainthood. The mind boggles as to what the future might hold if he got his way!

He rambles on about pastoral accompaniment according to the criteria he has set out with a final call to virtue including chastity! Dear me what the Jesuits have come to. In all these talks what seems to be overlooked is that we are promised eternal life if we keep the commandments. As St John Paul II says in Veritatis Splendor:

The morality of acts is defined by the relationship of man's freedom with the authentic good. This good is established, as the eternal law, by Divine Wisdom which orders every being towards its end: this eternal law is known both by man's natural reason (hence it is "natural law"), and — in an integral and perfect way — by God's supernatural Revelation (hence it is called "divine law"). Acting is morally good when the choices of freedom are in conformity with man's true good and thus express the voluntary ordering of the person towards his ultimate end: God himself, the supreme good in whom man finds his full and perfect happiness. The first question in the young man's conversation with Jesus: "What good must I do to have eternal life? " (Mt 19:6) immediately brings out the essential connection between the moral value of an act and man's final end. Jesus, in his reply, confirms the young man's conviction: the performance of good acts, commanded by the One who "alone is good", constitutes the indispensable condition of and path to eternal blessedness: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17). Jesus' answer and his reference to the commandments also make it clear that the path to that end is marked by respect for the divine laws which safeguard human good. Only the act in conformity with the good can be a path that leads to life.

What he is saying is that essentially sin is bad for you whatever your intentions. Thomasset on the other hand is saying something like “If you drink bleach it is quite alright if you mistakenly thought that it was a gin and tonic”. Try it.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod (Part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Defend The Faith Before The Synod

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

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

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

Monday, 24 August 2015

A Difficult Transition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod Part 3

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

I thought that 'theology' had something to do with God. In the whole of Doctor Schokenhoff's talk God gets mentioned precisely once when he says, "In the strict sense, only the past is irrevocable and not even God can wipe it out." That is the extent of the theology in this essay. It is really his reflection on how things are with sex and love as a matter of sociology.He starts by saying that many people do not see themselves as being capable of an indissoluble marriage but are prepared to say they will do their best but it may not last. Apparently many engaged couples in the course of a marriage preparation meeting suggest a trial marriage. We must take his word for that. He says it is an 'existential auto-contradiction' when they promise fidelity at the same time as having the idea that it might not last. The word 'existential' is supposed to impress us that this is serious stuff. Even Cameron has started using it: 'ISIS presents an existential threat'. I am never sure what it adds to the meaning but it does sound good. Apparently "There is a cat on the mat" is an existential statement in linguistics. But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Catholic Family News

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

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

Their website can be viewed here.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

At The Doorstep of Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 14 August 2015

Bishop Athanasius Schneider on the Synod Again

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

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

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

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

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

Holy, Strong, And True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I give my translation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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