Wednesday 30 September 2015

Report: Catholic Identity Conference 2015

During the weekend of 25-27 September 2015, the fourth annual Catholic Identity Conference was held in Weirton, West Virginia. This Traditional Catholic leadership forum drew Catholic paticipants from all around the United States.

The Conference opened with a Solemn High Mass for Ember Friday offered in a local parish church by Canon Jean-Marie Moreau of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.  The theme of this year's conference was The Three R's of Modernism: Recognize it, Refute it, and Return to Tradition.  The Conference keynote address was delivered at the Saturday evening dinner by Fr. Gregory Pendergraft of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, who also offered the Ember Saturday morning Mass.  On Sunday, Fr. Ladis J. Cizik, a diocesan priest, offered a Missa Cantata to close the Conference.

Priest participants at Catholic Identity Conference 2015,
from the SSPX, FSSP, ICRSS, and diocesan clergy.
In addition to prominent Catholic scholars, authors, journalists, and bloggers, there were in attendance priests from the major Traditional Catholic fraternities and societies, namely the Society of Saint Pius X, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, in addition to diocesan clergy who offer the Traditional Latin Mass.  While there remained major differences on strategy and tactics in dealing with the current crisis in the Church, the attendant clergy were of one voice in encouraging the assembled faithful to remain true to the ancient and perennial teaching and form of worship of the Catholic Church. They exhorted the faithful to hold fast to Tradition.  This was a powerful witness to the assembled faithful on behalf of these various traditional orders and diocesan clergy to the imperative of holding fast to right belief and right worship in the face of the current crisis.  The message was clear; while maintaining their various positions, Traditional Catholics should not be at war with one another.

The tone of the conference was quite upbeat and enthusiastic. While there may be many challenges and obstacles to be overcome, and many trials to be endured, the forces of Tradition were shown to be advancing on all fronts and by multiple means and paths to a full restoration of Catholic Tradition in all its splendor and glory.

For a brief summary of the talks and to purchase CD's visit the Catholic Identity Conference website.

Messy Ideas vs. Clarity Part Two

What all of us need is a reference to Grace 101. As Aquinas notes, the sacraments were not necessary before the Fall, but after the Original Sin, man needed physical signs of spiritual life. The sacraments of Christ, as found in the New Testament, produce grace. As the Great Doctor notes, we are only incorporated into Christ through grace, and grace is given through the sacraments.

The sacraments are the instrumental cause of grace, God being the principal cause. Because the sacraments, (and this is all in Thomas), are the instruments of grace, these sacramental graces are actually brought to fruition through the instrument of the sacrament.

The essence of the soul is perfected by the grace of the sacraments. Now, in order to receive grace, one cannot be in mortal sin. Mortal sin stops the flow of grace, the soul being unable to receive new graces until the sin is removed, absolved in the sacrament of Penance.

There is a particular grace from each sacrament. Therefore, there is a sacramental grace of and for marriage, of and for the priesthood, and of and for the reception of the Eucharist.

Each sacrament has an end. And, the corresponding grace for that sacrament, states Thomas, moves a person towards that end. Hence, the sacramental grace of marriage leads a couple towards a happy and complete marriage in Christ.

The powers of the soul are affected by the grace of the particular sacrament. We are truly absolved of sin through the sacrament of Confession, or Penance, or Reconciliation, however it is labelled.

We are truly made one as a couple in Christ, if we truly receive the sacrament of marriage.

If we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we are transformed into His Passion and Death, becoming one with Him through the grace of unity. The Eucharist, if taken in piety and in grace, is the consummation of baptism, bringing about the perfection of the person through the grace of union with Christ.

The messy ideas floating around the Synod seem to be a set of ideas which ignore some basic tenets of the Faith.

1) In order to receive graces in the sacraments of marriage and Eucharist, one must be in grace.
2) Grace builds upon grace, and the sanctifying grace of the sacraments cause an effect. allowing other graces to become stronger, even habits of virtue. Without that initial reception of grace, nothing happens.
3) Each sacrament gives a particular grace as well as sanctifying grace. Eucharist does not give absolution for mortal sin, does not forgive sin, under usual circumstances. Reconciliation does this. Marriage does not bring about a grace of celibacy. Ordination gives this grace. Ordination does not give a grace for raising children or discerning the children's vocation. Marriage gives a particular grace for faithfulness and long-suffering in an intimate relationship. The Eucharist was not given to us to take away mortal sin, but to nourish us, give us more grace, unite us with God, and cure our infirmities, states Thomas. To deny that each sacrament has a purpose and a particular grace seems like basic theology of sacramental grace. Perhaps some have forgotten this at the Synod....or want to deny it.
4) Without the reception of a specific sacrament, grace is absent. Therefore, only natural graces inform couples who are not married regularly, not supernatural graces. And so on...particular graces are not the same as inclusive sanctifying grace.
5) The disposition of the person is important in Catholic sacramental theology. Grace follows grace. This doctrine separates us from the Lutherans and other Protestants, who see grace as purely an individual relationship with God, outside of a church, and totally "private". Sola gratia is actually clarified in Trent, meaning that the deeds or works of men have nothing to do with meriting grace. But, that is it sheer gift, to those already in grace. Disposition means that one is in sanctifying grace, in good standing with Holy Mother Church and able to receive the grace of the sacraments.

Justification prepares us for sanctifying grace and this justification involves the forgiveness of sins, (absolution from the sacrament of Reconciliation), and the dedication to following a life of holiness, or metanoia.

The inner reality of sanctifying grace changes a person spiritually, and even physically. This grace is a supernatural quality of the soul. One can see that those who want to allow those in mortal sin to be able to receive the Lord's Body and Blood in the Eucharist simply do not understand, or want to hold, this basic teaching of the Church regarding grace. Grace gives us the disposition to act in a holy manner, to practice virtue.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

What is behind the mess at the Synod?

One of the great spiritual writers of our time, Father Garrigou-Lagrange, in a booklet entitled Where Is the New Theology Leading Us? aids us in understanding why certain priests and lay people think the way they do about doctrines being discussed in the Synod.

Because this is a blog post, I shall concentrate only on two evils of Modernism, which inform the minds and hearts of those trying to change Church doctrine regarding grace.

In a nutshell, the problem demands an understanding of the denial of "form" and the idea of "vital immanence", which can be seen in the efforts of those who want to move away from traditional Church teaching regarding marriage and the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Taking the idea of "form" first, The very idea of Truth was attacked by the Modernists, and part of this attack was the denial of form. For the Catholic trained to think as a Catholic, truth is the intellect meeting reality. Reality is fixed, and there are forms, created by God, which can be understood through reflection.

The Modernist believes that truth is a process, and that forms change constantly and must be re-evaluated in a contemporary manner. Sadly, this idea of progressivism is so common, that most Catholics cannot see the mine-field of errors following the idea that truth cannot be found, but only experienced, or worse, re-created. 

Obvioulsy, some of the Synod Fathers simply do not believe in a fixed truth, or a form of religion, which demands a proper response of humility and grace. Herein lies another error, the error which denies that grace is not only necessary for salvation, but not merited. Grace is necessary both for justification, and in the movement of the mind and heart through which a person accepts justification.

Grace upon grace flows through the sacramental life of the Church.

Back to forms: truth does not change and cannot be other than what is both capable of being found by the intellect and what is revealed by God. Such truths are the certain dogmas of the Church, such as Transubstantiation, and the earthly permanence of the marriage vow. 

Those in the Synod who want to radically change rules for the reception of Communion have fallen into the thinking that a docrine which is not changing is not valid. They also seem to deny the efficacy of grace.

I am convinced that some bishops want a world religion, which denies form, denies grace. They want faith to merely be conformity to one's personal judgement, not a set of revealed, immutable forms of truth.

The true Modernist denies Transubstantiation, denies the reality of the Presence of Christ's Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the sacrament. The Modernist bishop may not be willing or even able to define such a position, but in denying the truth of forms, the truth of immutable dogmas, such a belief hides under a veneer of pastoral care, setting aside æquatio rei et intellectus.

Hence, some of the errors are the result of the great danger of the Charismatic emphasis on experience and personal feelings regarding the Faith.

Which leads me to the other false idea pushing some stances in the Synod, vital immanence.

Vital immanence has seeped into the teaching and consciousness of millions of Catholics, partly because of the popularity of psychology as a substitute for religion. I think some of the Synod Fathers think grace is something "natural",  forgetting the supernatural origin of grace.

They seem to think that one grows into grace, setting aside the doctrine of grace as gift, gift through certains means, and not a natural condition of humans.

Do they confuse the "immanence" referred to by St. Paul with their idea of "vital immanence"? Maritain seems to think the Modernists confused and re-discovered the "half-truth" of immanence by placing the Divine into Man. Here is Maritain on this subject and I highlight key sentences:

 As to the Modernist theory of the Divine in man, or, as they prefer to call it, 'vital immanence,' it is one of those very subtle half-truths which in reality are the greatest falsehoods. The 'immanence' of St. Paul is one thing, the Modernist 'vital immanence' is quite another. It is not only that God is in us, but we are also in God.{2} God is present everywhere by His essence, presence and power, which is the same as saying -- (1) There is no place where He is not; (2) He is not inactive, but is always Preserving creation, 'upholding all things' (Colossians); besides, (3) He is continually creating anew. But He is absolutely distinct from all creatures whatsoever They are not a part of God in any way, for this would be pantheism. Then, again, it is quite true there is the mystic life of Christ living in the souls of men; there is the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in holy souls. But God and Christ and the Holy Spirit are essentially Divine in themselves, and infinitely distinct from the souls of Christian believers. What is Divine in man is only so in a purely created and participated sense, not in an absolute sense. It is a presence by means of grace, which is a created supernatural gift bestowed on the possessor, either making him holy or helping so to do, according as it takes the form of sanctifying or actual grace. This is not God, or Christ, or the Holy Spirit; it is quite distinct from the Divine Being.
Faith comes from without, being a supernatural gift bestowed on man. Without this no man by any interior impulse or 'vital immanence' (!) could believe than he could see at all, any more without the organs of vision, or reason without an intellectual faculty. Revelation is absolutely distinct from faith, as the objects seen by man are distinct from the eyes that see them. Revelation is both the whole ensemble of Divine mysteries and supernatural realities existing in the supernatural works; and the Mind of God, unfolding or revealing or unveiling them to the mind of man, to believe in by means of the supernatural gift of faith. So much for the false theory of Modernism as a so-called philosophy. 

I am reminded of the popular idea of universal salvation, which blurs the teaching on grace as a gift exterior to humans. What the false idea of vital immanence does is to make people, including bishops, believe that grace is part of naturally being human, a denial of sin, both actual and Original. This hope or belief of vital immanence as some sort of interior impulse to be good and do good, that religion comes from man himself, blossoms out of modern psychology and the love-affair of contemporary theologians with "religions" other than Catholicism or Christianity. To be politically correct means that one must accept some sort of vital immanence in all humans, which lead them to the truth of the Divine, found, in themselves, and not through grace or through the Church. Thus, man-made religions are O.K. to the Modernist, as these are seen as efforts to find the Divine within.

The sentiment of vital immanence not only creates religion, but brings some sort of grace, some sort of salvation because the person finds God through his or her own efforts and inner search. Sounds like Neo-Pelagianism in the mask of tolerance.

One can see the logical conclusion among some Synod Fathers who want to relax rules regarding the reception of Communion for those in irregular marriages, for example. Or the tendency to overlook the sins of same-sex activities. If all persons have some sort of vital immanence, they will find God anyway, not through the external gift of grace, or through the sacramental life of the Church, but through some sort of emotional sense, a true denial not only of the intellect and the will being involved in conversion, but a real denial of the forms of truth, the immutability of dogma.

To put it all in kindergarten context. some Synod Fathers seem to think that receiving Christ in the Eucharist when in sin will take away sin because one will find the God within, not through grace but through one's own creation of religion through some sort of sentiment. Religion becomes one's own "journey" and not a movement of God's gift of grace, plus the reflection and acceptance of the intellect, aided by Revelation, exterior to one's own mind, heart, and soul.

These Synod Fathers, to be blunt, have created a religion in their own minds, which is not Catholicism, but a hybrid of Modernism and psychological interpretations of the soul. Such is the politically correct stance of the relativist.

May I quote the great Dominican criticizing Blondel by using the Frenchman's own words? "No longer 'adæquatio rei et intellectus', but 'conformitas mentis et vitæ'" is the problem behind the mess at the Synod.

Reflections on Loss

This past week has been bordered by losses. A friend of mine lost a brother to death. Another friend of mine lost a father. I lost a confidant, and I do not know why. But, perhaps, the greatest loss for me during the Ember Days of September, has been the loss of a vision.

The entire Church has lost the vision of what it means to be the Church in the world. Most people in the pew have no clue as to what their role is as lay people, bonded by baptismal promises, to evangelize and re-create the world.

The great loss of vision to which I refer specifically, however, may be described as the loss of the vision of community. I use to mention to my younger confreres, that priests began to refer to community only after this reality had disappeared in the Church. Now, for the first time in my short life, I realize that the type of pre-Vatican II community I experienced for almost the first half of my life is gone with the winds of confusion and lack of cohesiveness, among both the clergy and the laity.

I cannot grieve over this loss, but, like an old woman looking back on the early, happy days of married love, I can say that I experienced something most people alive today will never know-local, strong, charitable, and unified communal living.

Not only did I grow up in the pre-Vatican II ghetto Church, in an area where Catholics were never more than 12% of the population and Lutherans 80%, with a smattering of Presbyterians and Baptists, I grew up in a world where the Catholic families identified which each other in two common purposes-living in and passing on the Faith. I grew up having to know the Faith, so that I could try and convert the Lutheran boy next door, or, live the Faith in a close family situation, or try to change the world and make it a better place in which to live-a Catholic place.

We were in each other houses, eating together, playing together, dating those within the little communal life, marrying those whose parents were friends of one's own parents, and so on. We knew each other, the good and the bad, the weak and the strong.

In addition, those in my generation were taught Catholic leadership training. We heard from the nuns and priests that it was our duty, as educated Catholics, to go out and create Christendom again, one modeled not on monarchies, but on the domestic Church. Family circles would spread out, like concentric circles in a pond when one tosses a rock into still water, influencing the environment, and, perhaps, if we were bold enough, changing not only the family life around us, but the political life as well.

This was not a remnant vision, but a vision of a Church "on the move". None of us thought of hiding, or compromising, or losing our Catholic identity. But, for many, hiding became a reality of survival, compromising became a way for an easy life, and the loss of Catholic identity, a change of clothes, merely, like taking off the little black dress after a party, and getting into jeans and a tee-shirt.

The loss of vision kills a people.

Proverbs 29:18 
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
The vision for true communal life is so lost, I have come to the realization that this phenomenon, which so many of us took for granted as youth, has disappeared forever. Why? Thinking on this loss over the past week, I have come to these conclusions.

First of all, without a real, personal relationship with Christ, a deep conversion of heart and mind, there is nothing to share. Catholic communities in the past were not formed, or kept together because of politics, either in or out of the Church, but by a love of Christ and His Mother. This deep conviction of the Lordship, and yes, the Kingship of Christ on earth, brought and bonded Catholics together, even under persecution.

Second, without a great love of the real Church, not some ideal, pie-in-the-sky Church, no community can exist. People in a community love the institution Christ created, as it is, as well as what it should be. Charity forms the wattle and daub of the daily life of a community within the larger Church, but this local Church reaches out to the universal Catholic Church as well, again, in love. But, the view must be based on reality, the reality of a people trying to be holy.

I have heard more hatred of the universal Church in the past month than charity. Without love, a vision does not even spring up to feed the hearts and minds of those who desire community. Without love, as in a marriage which has failed, hearts become grasping, petty, incomplete.

To love the Bride of Christ is, sometimes, to love the Whore of Babylon. This may sound extreme, but when I came back to the Church at the age of 22, I distinctly "heard" this in my soul. I had wanted a Church which was a false construct of my mind, as a young person. I wanted a type of utopia, and became a Marxist for a while, confusing earthly, material community for the vision of community based on God's plan. This vision of God means loving sinners, including myself, and loving those who fall short of saintliness. Yes, this means loving even those who seem to be bent on destroying the Church of Christ's making. 

The vision of the Protestants has been and still is the search for the perfect Bride of Christ on earth --some unreal City, only populated by those who are already saints. Such a utopia does not exist, but we all should be working towards this vision of holiness. The word for saint used by St. Paul when he described the Church is qadosh. This word means "one in a covenant", or even better, "one set aside by God" to become holy, to pursue holiness, to be in a covenantal relationship with others. Do Catholics understand what it means to be covenanted, to be set aside in the world and to become holy, not as hermits, but together, in love?

The Church is not a business corporation, or a club. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and we are Her members in an organic sense. St. Paul's theology of Church reveals this mystery to us in his famous pericope on the People of God. Perhaps 1 Corinthians 12 is one of the most misrepresented selections from the great Apostle to the Gentiles. The community of the Church cannot be seen as a group of people with different gifts to share, as if one had gathered a focus group for a certain purpose. The Body of Christ is a living community, like an extended family, reaching out into the world, and not self-referencing constantly. This type of community grows together, changes into a people of charity, open to those in need, open to correction, and growth.

1 Corinthians 12

12 Now concerning spiritual things, my brethren, I would not have you ignorant.You know that when you were heathens, you went to dumb idols, according as you were led.Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, saith Anathema to Jesus. And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost.Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit;And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord;And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all.And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit.To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;To another, faith in the same spirit; to another, the grace of healing in one Spirit;10 To another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, interpretation of speeches.11 But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.12 For as the body is one, and hath many members; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ.13 For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink.14 For the body also is not one member, but many.15 If the foot should say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?16 And if the ear should say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?17 If the whole body were the eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?18 But now God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him.19 And if they all were one member, where would be the body?20 But now there are many members indeed, yet one body.21 And the eye cannot say to the hand: I need not thy help; nor again the head to the feet: I have no need of you.22 Yea, much more those that seem to be the more feeble members of the body, are more necessary.23 And such as we think to be the less honourable members of the body, about these we put more abundant honour; and those that are our uncomely parts, have more abundant comeliness.24 But our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, giving to that which wanted the more abundant honour,25 That there might be no schism in the body; but the members might be mutually careful one for another.26 And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member.28 And God indeed hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors; after that miracles; then the graces of healing, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches.29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all doctors?30 Are all workers of miracles? Have all the grace of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?31 But be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way.

The loss of vision implies that most people simply do not understand this passage as describing a living organism of people who share a common vision, and want, really want, that vision to become a reality on this earth, now, in this time. The last element missing, which a community absolutely must experience, is friendship in the Lord. Sadly, I have discovered that most people today simply do not know how to be friends.

How did this happen? One can blame the lack of the nuclear family, as families create communities of sharing. One may blame the false rugged invidualism of the Anglo-Saxon, both in America and in the U.K. One may blame the lack of marriage, period, and the unwillingness to have children, a common loss in the Western World. One can blame gross greed and selfishness, the Peter Pan syndrome, or worse, the Predator, me-first, and me-always mindset of the narcissist.

One can blame governments and the media for creating a fear culture. This must be addressed. We do not need to live in fear. We have God in our midst. Too many Catholics have refused to be healed, to get beyond hurts, in order to be friends and to love again. Whatever the root causes, the lack of friendship stops communities from even starting.

In England and in America, there exist a few communities to which one can look and find the three elements described above: love of Christ, love of the Church, love of neighbor.

But, I want to add one more cause of the demise and end of communal Catholic living-the proliferation of too many opinions among Catholics. Without a common vision of what the Church should be, there can be no community. Recently, I discovered that a group of people who desired, (and some still do), communal living failed because of this hydra-headed monster of opinion. How can a Catholic community exist when people actually "hate" what they call liberals, neo-cons, or trads? To me, this diabolical soup of opinions, not based on doctrine or dogma, but interpretations of what the Church should look like today, has murdered the faltering groups who have wanted real community. Opinions, simply, are not shared truths, but stumbling blocks to community. To pick and needle those who go to a different form of the Mass, for example, or who do not wear what one determines as godly clothes, must be seen as the infiltration of cult-thinking into some groups within the Church. Such opinions reveal a lack of a common vision.

Communities which "work" and thrive have a common vision. We see this most clearly among the renewed, older religious orders, such as the Benedictines, the Franciscans, and even the Jesuits--orders which have experienced a renewal of vision based on that of the founders, all saints with vision.

No separate opinions mar the real visions of St. Benedictine, St. Francis, and St. Ignatius. If there are modern interpretations, these, slowly but surely, are being set aside for a renewal of the original rules. The vision of the communal life of the saints grows daily in the newly established orders, seen in such monasteries in Kansas City, Clear Creek, and London. Yes, even the Jesuits witness a renewal, with a new kind of man entering the order-a man seeking the real purity of St. Ignatius's community, a man seeking holiness, not political agendas.

But, for the laity, I fear the days of community, as experienced among remnant families, has disappeared forever in the fights over the Liturgy, over interpretations of doctrine, and even over the personage of the present pope. The bitterness of opinion has strangled agape.

Without charity, no vision can breathe. Without a vision, the People of God will remain weak and scattered, unable to create God's Kingdom on earth, as we are commanded to do. I have wanted for years to find and help recreate the type of community I experienced from 1949-1979. Now, I fear this type of communal Catholicism has vanished. Such are the thoughts of loss today.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Circoli Minori or Minor but Furious Whirlpools

At the Synod of the Family in October 2014, after the very controversial Relatio Post Disceptationem had been presented to the delegates, small groups (circoli minori) were set up in four language groups – French, English, Italian and Spanish.

When their reports were presented to the full session, the Synod Secretariat, under Cardinal Baldisseri, refused to publish them.

As Edward Pentin in his must-read book “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod” describes this decision resulted in a furious row:

Date: October 16, 2014
The synod fathers present the report of the circuli minors (small working groups) to the synod secretariat. Cardinal Baldisseri announces that they will not be made public, contrary to the established practice at synods. Numerous synod fathers, led by Cardinal Pell and including Cardinal Napier, Cardinal Parolin, and Archbishop Leonard of Brussels, protest vigorously and demand publication. Pell says people have a right to hear what bishops are saying. The secretariat is reportedly booed and jeered for a few minutes. During this time, Cardinal Baldisseri and other members of the secretariat sit in silence. Pope Francis eventually nods his head to indicate that the reports can be published.

Even now these reports do not appear with the Synod documentation but on the Vatican Press website. Thanks to Edward Pentin I have been able to find them. Each of the ten groups had a Moderator and a Relator together with about 15 or 16 other Synod fathers with some extras.

French Language Groups

The first French language group had the redoubtable Cardinal Robert Sarah as Moderator. He is the author of “Dieu ou rien” (shortly to appear in English) which is the most amazing testament I have read in years; clearly a man in the model of St John Paul II and papabile. His relator was Monsignor Dumortier S.J appointed by Pope Benedict to be Rector of the Gregorian University. Presumably it is the relator who is speaking when he says that they did not limit themselves to amending the Relatio Post Disceptationem (RPD) but to actually rewriting it.

However, the texts they proposed for rewriting have not been published so even the publication of these reports of the Circoli Minori is deficient. The relator goes on to mention the emotion and the dismay that the RPD provoked which did not help reflection. He goes on to explain that the problems are different in different parts of the Church and that therefore local Churches should have a certain autonomy in looking for answers to the pastoral problems in each locality. I suspect this meant that what might appear important in say Germany might not be so in Africa.

Indeed, he speaks of the problems for families caused by poverty and inhuman misery: “misery surrounding big cities … situations of violence and war”.

They rewrote the second part of the RPD with a text centred on Christ upon whom marriage is founded. In respect of marriage problems they ask for respect for those involved but also the need to encourage repentance and help for them. However, they also say attention must be paid to faithful marriages besieged by poverty, unemployment, sickness, mourning, sterility and difficulties with the education of children.

They insist upon maintaining the existing teaching on remarriage and exclusion from the sacraments but at the same time call for a review of the annulment procedures. As to homosexuality they clearly support the current teaching as set out in the Catechism. They end by calling for a deeper reflection on all these problems before the next Synod.

The second French language group had Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna as Moderator – a man of paradoxical views – but his Relator was Archbishop Andre Leonard of Belgium who took over from Cardinal Daneels and was indeed a total contrast to his predecessor.

They posed two questions:

  • How to unite doctrine and discipline in a manner which would not shock either son in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
  • How to take account of the differing pastoral problems throughout the world at the same as respecting the catholicity and universality of the Church.

Whilst regretting the turgid, wandering, excessively verbose and thus generally boring style of the RPD (their words not mine!) they made several changes as follows:

  • They voted (9 for, 5 against, 4 abstentions) to take out any mention of graduality and 'seeds of the Word' as these expressions might be interpreted as justifying sinful situations.
  • They did not agree on communion for the remarried – some going for the existing discipline; others for a different discipline but not specifying what.
  • They recommended further study of spiritual communion for those who could not receive eucharistic communion.
  • They insisted on mercy in order to conduct people to a way of truth, conversion and peace.
  • They reiterated the current teaching on homosexuality and deplored the manoeuvres of international organisations trying to blackmail poor countries into accepting 'gay marriage',
  • They wanted Humanae Vitae to be properly presented.

English Language Groups

The first English language group had Cardinal Burke as Moderator and Archbishop Dew from New Zealand as Relator - any pair further apart it would be difficult to find. They propose several major and minor amendments to the RPD but again not published. They wanted an introduction based on theology and said the RPD “must proclaim the truth of the Gospel, the truth of human life and sexuality as revealed by Christ”. Even though only a pastoral document it must have “references to the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterial documents”.

If the methodology was to be listen, judge, act the listening or seeing must be “through the lens of the Gospel”. They would prefer see to listen.

On cohabitation they wrote:

“For example, where the Relatio appeared to be suggesting that sex outside marriage may be permissible…then concerned parents could very easily say, 'Why are we trying so hard to encourage our sons and daughters to live the Gospel and embrace Church teaching?'”

They did not recommend communion for the divorced and remarried. They criticised the presentation of the principle of graduality and conclude by saying the Relatio must not be confusing.

The second English language group had Cardinal Napier Archbishop of Durban and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin – again a contrasting pair! This group was overwhelmingly from Africa and Asia. “The uditores (sic) and a fraternal delegate contributed significantly to the reflection of the group”.

The group felt strongly that the RPD was much too concerned with problems and lacked enthusiasm about marriage. Again, they wanted an introduction so that the Word of God and the beauty of the Gospel of Marriage would be central to the final report.

“The group asked me to record explicitly its concern about some of the conclusions drawn in the Relatio, about its methodology, its complicated language (compounded by poor translation) and of the effects of its publication before it had been reviewed by the Synodal Fathers.”

Further on they wrote:

“Many in the group felt that a young person reading the Relatio would if anything become even less enthusiastic about undertaking the challenging vocation of Christian matrimony.”

They wanted leadership from the Church and some wanted pastors to recognise their “own failures and their inadequacies in fostering support for families”. They wanted the final report to be an encouragement to those committed and witnessing to the Christian ideal and not to allow those, who do not, to steal the narrative. There is then a bit of waffle from one member (Martin?) about “knocking on forbidden doors”.

Their conclusions were to maintain the existing teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage even if it is presented in a new way. There is an unacknowledged reference to Familiaris Consortio saying how the divorced and remarried should be encouraged to 'attendance at Mass'. The Secretariat in the Instrumentum Laboris 2015 have deliberately misquoted the same document as 'participation in the celebration of the Eucharist'.

  • They did not want any reference to “positive elements” in irregular situations. They supported the existing teaching on homosexuality. 
  • They wanted Humanae Vitae to be promoted. They want a study on the problem of polygamy amongst new converts by the Bishops in Africa.
  • Finally, they wanted an emphasis on the role of Our Lady 'our Blessed Mother' in the lives of the married.

The third English language group had Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville as Moderator and Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town as Relator.

They said they were surprised by the release of the RPD to the media. They went on to set out the teaching of the Church on marriage evidently seeing this as not having been mentioned in the RPD. They continue:

“We strongly felt that the tone of the entire document should express our confidence in marriage”. 

Married people need encouragement and those not married should be encouraged to see the beauty of marriage. They do not want insipid solutions for those in irregular situations rather than Christ's words “go and sin no more”. Generally pastoral care of marriage should be encouraged and improved.

Italian Language Group

The first Italian language group was moderated by Cardinal Filoni and related by Archbishop Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo.

My Italian is not great so I my understanding of their reports may be deficient. They refer to the problem of migration and also how bio-technology is turning the family into an experimental laboratory.

  • They criticise the use of 'graduality' in the RPD and ask the Secretariat to rewrite that part in particular emphasising the theology of marriage and its scriptural basis.
  • The family must be recognised as a pastoral subject and there is a need for all, including the clergy, to improve pastoral care. In particular they did not like the heading “Positive Aspects of Civil Unions and Cohabitation” but wanted it changed to “Pastoral Care”.
  • On communion for the divorced and remarried they recommend study of Familiaris Consortio which gives the current teaching that the divorce and remarried cannot receive communion unless they regularise their situation.
  • They refuse to equate 'gay marriage' with true marriage and say that children should have a father and a mother.

The second Italian language group had Cardinal Bagnasco Archbishop of Genoa as Moderator and Archbishop Fisichella as Relator. It will be remembered that the latter was removed from the dicastery for the Family after a vote of no confidence because of his questionable views on abortion.

  • They wanted a more positive view of the family based on the Gospel and not a disproportionate part devoted to irregular situations. 
  • They mention various aspects of marriage including adoption. They want the Word of God and not some populist measures. 
  • They quote Ezechial (3, 17-19) on the subject of responsibility for correcting the wrong-doer viz:

Mortal, I have made you a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.  If I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give them no warning, or speak to warn the wicked from their wicked way, in order to save their life, those wicked persons shall die for their iniquity; but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and they do not turn from their wickedness, or from their wicked way, they shall die for their iniquity; but you will have saved your life.

The third Italian language group was moderated by Archbishop Massafra of Shkodre-Pult, Albania and related by Father Manuel Conde described as a Spanish expert.

  • They said that the larger part of the fathers were surprised at the public distribution of the RPD. There were two different views on its content. They wanted the first part to insist that the only form of marriage which corresponds to the teaching of the Church is that between a man and a woman. 
  • They wanted greater emphasis on this teaching based on both scripture and the magisterium. They criticise the wrong use of 'graduality' and wanted it cut out. 
  • They wanted more on the riches of marriage as the world urgently needed such a message.

On homosexuality they wanted a return to the text of the instrumentum laboris. Presumably they wanted that document's reference to the text of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

“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.”

They wanted the annulment process to be looked at again. A majority wanted some process to enable the divorced and reamarried to receive communion under precise conditions (not defined) but there were strong objections to this.

Spanish Language Group

The first Spanish language group was moderated by Cardinal Robles Ortega Archbishop of Guadelajara, Mexico and related by Archbishop Quiroga of Tunja, Colombia.

This group was made up of 17 fathers from the Synod, a priest expert, three assessor priests and four very competent lay people. They lamented the terrible translation of the RPD!

  • They said the first thing that should have appeared was a salute to all those families who live according to the doctrines of the Church as well as the parishes and lay movements who promote the gospel of the family.
  • They said the present crisis arose from a crisis of faith which ignored God. 
  • They wanted a fuller account of the demographic crisis arising from low natality which leads to IVF and destroys the dignity of human love. They saw the necessity to denounce female genital mutilation, prostitution and sex slavery. They mention the problem of street children, often without families, and the general exploitation of childhood.
  • They wanted an explicit reference to the teaching St John Paul II. However they go on to praise the parts about finding Seeds of the Word in irregular situations but they want those concerned to follow the call of Christ until they enjoy the fullness of communion and divine grace.
  • They want better pre-marital teaching particularly with regard to chastity and purity which are absolutely essential. They need to learn to pardon each other.
  • Divorced people who do not remarry are heroic witnesses to indissolubility and fidelity.
  • With regard to homosexuality the document should speak of people with homosexual tendencies and not homosexuals.
  • They wanted mention of the role of Our Lady.
  • This group did suggest specific amendments of the RPD which are included in their text.

The second Spanish language group had Cardinal Martinez Sistach Archbishop of Barcelona as Moderator and Mgr Rodolfo Nuez Bishop of Verapaz, Guatemala as Relator. The text deals only with points on which there was consensus.

  • They start by saying they thought the RPD was a fair representation of what had been discussed but they said it was capable of improvement.
  • There must be greater clarity about the propositions regarding communion for the divorced and remarried. The same for annulments.
  • They said it lacked emphasis on important subjects such as abortion, murder, adoption, and conscientious decisions by spouses. Homosexuality need to be dealt with more clearly. All this needed to be studied before the 2015 session of the Synod.
  • They did not like the substitution of listen/judge/act for see/judge/act. God sees it all!
  • The RPD does not sufficiently emphasise the positive message of the gospel of the family in concentrating on the pastoral problems.
  • Finally whilst this is a pastoral Synod there must be insistence on basic doctrine. They mention the teachings of the Popes from Paul VI onwards.
  • They want to underline the lights of the family and the importance of matrimony, to affirm the doctrine and to give life to family pastoral action, in the hope that the Synod will shed light and give directions on the new matrimonial situations.

Commentary and conclusion

As to the composition of these group besides the Synod Fathers (generally about 17 or 18) in each group there were others. Edward Pentin reports that:

“Various synod fathers recall, that during the circoli minores, figures known for their sympathies to the Kasperian proposal would be present at each of the small groups. If one left, he would be replaced by another.” 

It sounds rather like the role of political commissars under the Soviets. Summarising the views on the various issues there is a pattern in the papers of the Circoli Minori.

  • On communion for the divorced and remarried six of the groups came out definitely against it, three wanted further study and clarity and only one – the 3rd Italian – seemed to be in favour subject to precise conditions which they did not specify.
  • In respect of homosexuality the current teaching was insisted on by all with the possible exception of the 2nd Spanish group who wanted the position to be stated more clearly.
  • There was support for reviewing the annulment process but not with any great precision.
  • Those who mentioned Humanae Vitae wanted it to be better taught.
  • There was only one group – the 2nd Spanish group – who thought the RPD reflected what had been discussed and I think they were just being polite. Others were pretty dismissive of it and objected strongly to how it had been released to the media before even the Synod fathers had seen it.
  • They all thought the RPD was insufficiently positive about marriage and lacked any setting out of the teaching of the Church both scriptural and magisterial. They criticised the lack of any reference to the role of Our Lady.
  • The misinterpretation of 'Graduality' came in for a deal of criticism from four groups and no one supported it.

Examining each group's contribution:

First French: The idea of local autonomy is not about doctrine but about different pastoral problems – Germany may be concerned with second marriages and homosexuality but Africa is more concerned with poverty, polygamy, migrant workers etc.

Second French: Basically orthodox presumably with Archbishop Leonard being a firm hand.

First English: Evidently Cardinal Burke dominated over Archbishop Dew. But, surprise, surprise, Pope Francis by dismissing Cardinal Burke from the Apostolic Signatory has ensured that he will not be attending the 2015 session. On the other hand the Pope has since created Dew as a Cardinal and although the New Zealand hierarchy did not select him as their representative for the next session, the Pope has issued a personal invitation to Cardinal Dew to attend. I could not possibly comment!

Second English group: Here again one suspects Cardinal Napier had to see off Archbishop Martin in asserting orthodoxy. The latter was left to knock on “forbidden doors” whatever that meant. Lets not speculate.

Third English group: Wanted a more positive document on marriage.

First Italian group: Got its request fulfilled that the heading “Positive Aspects of Civil Unions and Cohabitation” should be changed to “Pastoral Care of Civil Unions and Cohabitation” in the Relatio Synodi.

Second Italian group: Cardinal Bagnasco must have frightened the horses with his very apt quotation from Ezechiel asserting the need for fraternal correction and warning that those who fail to correct the sinner will suffer the same fate as the sinner

Third Italian group: Was entirely orthodox.

First Spanish group: Led by Latin American Bishops one might have expected that this would be other than orthodox but it was not. They made several specific suggestions with new wordings most of which were subsequently ignored in the final Relatio Synodi although sometimes the points they raised were covered by other wordings. One point they did get in was saying that the merciful thing to do was to tell the truth although the attribution to St Augustine was left out. Their suggestion that purity and chastity should be taught to the young was ignored completely so there is no mention of either. However their suggestion about couples learning to pardon each other was included. But their final suggestion that the innocent victims of divorce who did not remarry should be regarded as heroic was also ignored.

Second Spanish group: From Barcelona and Guatemala was the only one to say they liked the RPD. However they too wanted more clarity. I am afraid they hope to square the circle as to opposing concepts of doctrine and discipline.

One point raised by at least two of the groups was that they did not like 'listen/judge/act' but preferred 'see/judge/act'. I presume they are suggesting that one should see the reality on the ground rather than listening to experts propounding academic theories which have little basis in reality – very much a feature of the later Shadow Synod in May 2015.

Generally speaking, as I have mentioned in my comments in another paper, the final Relatio Synodi was a great improvement on the RPD but there was still considerable work to be done not least in what was omitted. Looking at the voting patterns in the 2014 session of the Synod and the partial accounts of what was discussed in these Circoli Minori the majority of the fathers wanted to keep with orthodoxy. However the Instrumentum Laboris 2015 taken one step back with the secretariat doing their best to promote the agenda of the Kasper Kampf.

Let us hope and pray that the orthodox majority of the fathers do not lose their nerve.

Thoughts from The Past

While in the monastery in 2013, I lived with the nuns in the silence of the day. I have tried to cooperate with grace and cultivate an interior silence outside the convent. Some of the great Benedictine writers have distilled Benedictine's writings. The great saint is very strict on silence. Here are some points.

1) Silence involves a "radical renunciation", as one is renouncing self and others in order to be silent.

2) Noise is "rebellion" and the author of noise is the evil one. Noise is rebellion because one is filling up the void in one's spirit which is necessary for God to fill. Noise does not merely distract one from God, but actually makes one closed to God's working in one's spirit.

3) There is virtue in refraining from giving one's opinion. There is virtue is listening to opinions. Not all knowledge is equal in value and, in fact, most of our knowledge is not necessary to our salvation. Reality shows on television, for example, merely clog our time and our ability to hear God speak in the quietness of our hearts.

4) St. Benedict states that even excellent conversation about spiritual things should be avoided, if possible. One can get too much information and input without processing this information in the heart and mind and soul.

5) Silence allows for this processing and for healing. Without silence, the deep parts of our spirit cannot be reached and we go through life unnecessarily burdened with the past.

When I was in Ireland, I was burdened by the number of people who live in the past. One attractive lady told me that she would never marry an Irishman who lived in the past, and that so many do. Why? Too much talking and too much activity stops healing.

6) When we talk, say the Benedictines, we lose focus. How true. Focussing on God takes energy. When we talk, we dissipate that energy. We lose ground in our journey towards God.

7) And, this is so important--we need to feel and sense the VOID in us. Many people keep too active and too noisy in order to fill up the voids in themselves. The opposite must be true in order to gain heaven. We must face all the voids and let God enter into those holes in our lives. Firstly, only He can satisfy the longings of our hearts and, secondly, only He can heal those causes of the voids, some of which are sins.

8) Lay people ask me frequently, how can I have more silence? Here are the answers: a) do less, simplify your lives; b) do not have a television or a radio, or if you do, keep them only for emergencies;  remember St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's vision of the streets being vacant in the villages and families being inside staring at black boxes, as if mesmerized. Remember what Thomas Merton said, which I have quoted here before on this blog that television is the opposite of contemplation. And that the very energies of passivity which most men use in watching television are the very energies which God gave us for contemplation. Watching television, simply, is idolatry.

and thanks to my Benedictine mentors for these thoughts..........

Saturday 19 September 2015

Resume and Comments on the 'Shadow Synod'

On Monday 25th May 2015 there was a meeting at the Gregorian University in Rome organised by the Bishops' Conferences of France, Switzerland and Germany each represented by their respective Presidents: Mgr George Pontier, Archbishop of Marseilles, Mgr Markus Büchel  Bishop of St. Gallen and Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

This meeting was dubbed by outsiders as the Shadow Synod. At first sight it appears to be a pretty impressive meeting as these Bishops' Conferences are supposed to represent the collective views of the Bishops in their countries. However if you think of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales you have to remember that in representing the Bishops few of them have any views on anything very much and those that do are usually soon corrected by a spokesman for the Conference. It is probably much the same in these three countries.

Six papers were presented:

Professor Doctor Anne-Marie Pelletier said that sacramental marriage is a trap best to be avoided. This was the initial reaction of Christ's disciples but I doubt if she agrees with His statement that celibacy is the only alternative if you have the gift. Basically the modern world, according to her, has given the lie to Christ's teaching on indissolubility.

Professor Doctor Thomas Soding of Bochum next tied himself in knots saying we must accept and teach the very clear teaching of Christ on marriage but we must reinterpret that teaching as it was all too difficult and we must accept that those who do not have the gift of celibacy are inevitably into adultery and other things.

Professor Doctor Eberhard Schokenhoff from Freiburg im Breisgau is a Jesuit Priest and he talked about sociology where it seems God has no place. Basically adultery, marriage breakdown etc are all something new which did not occur in earlier ages and therefore the Church had better get with it and adapt.

Abbé Prof. Dr. François-Xavier Amherdt from Fribourg in Switzerland, another priest, next came on and turned out to be completely daft. The longer a trial marriage goes on the better and there are values to be found in every relationship. Priests could however persuade people to get married properly by pointing out what a wonderful party they could have when they do.

Father Professor Doctor Alain Thomasset, a Jesuit from Paris, relied on misinterpreting several documents to show that God is indulgent to whatever we do and there is no such thing as sexual sin if we have a good intention (such as wanting to enjoy it?)

The final paper was given by Professor Doctor Eva-Maria Faber of Chur in Switzerland, by some oversight not a priest. For her the teaching of the Church is incoherent and totalitarian. Marriage is not about couples but about individuals and it takes a lifetime to become a couple; in the meantime not being a couple the marriage is not “consummated” in her new definition of the word and therefore can be declared null and void. Indeed for her the marriage bond is just an invention of St Augustine!

Apart from these talks there were debates, coffee and lunch but there is no published record of what was said. Reading these six papers the word 'theology' does appear but there is virtually no mention of God or any theology. The Church is seen as being just a lot of rules irrelevant to the present age all based on ancient texts which may have been of use in their time but now need drastic re-interpretation.

There is no hint of what it is to be a practising Catholic – the life of the sacraments, the desire to gradually conform oneself to the teaching of Christ with the help of His grace, the devout life or the imitation of Christ. Instead it is all about sociology and psychology without however any concrete references to these subjects. The realities of marriage, divorce etc are completely ignored and we are really into some kind of late nineteenth century scientism.

One of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council is a greater emphasis on the possibility of everyone of us attaining sanctity through a personal relationship with Christ. These speakers do not seem to have taken this on board and nowhere hint that we can be anything other than a soulless individual as in a novel by Zola or Huysmans. They want the Church to conform to the world rather than the world conforming to Christ. One seriously wonders whether any of them are practising Catholics.

The published account of this meeting finishes with a resume drawn up at the end which just reflects what the speakers said with a bit extra. The only surprise is in the final paragraph which states “scission is not a work of the spirit”. I get the impression that at least some at that meeting looked over the precipice and saw that all this was leading to schism.

The End of Politics

Some UK political commentators have been talking up the 'new politics' represented by the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn is popular, it is said, with young people who have felt disenchanted with the political landscape for a long time. These young people, naturally, were not present during the 1970s and 1980s when the battle between Thatcher's brand of fiercely ideological Conservativism and the hard left took place, therefore, they can be forgiven for believing that Jeremy Corbyn represents something 'new'.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of British politics in the last century has been the refusal of the political representatives of this country to examine the origins of the ideological assumptions that now define an orthodoxy that binds, quite incredibly, both conservative political thought and the unreconstructed socialists now filling the shadow cabinet. The origins of these ideological assumptions lie in the very origins of life itself and I would say that these lie 'in the womb', but this wouldn't do justice to the truth. It would be better if I said, 'in the petri-dish'. Where does politics begin? It surely begins where life begins. Where does life begin? It could be within the womb of a mother or alternatively, it could begin in a laboratory. Incredibly, I can say that to almost no astonishment whatsoever.

Yes, our political reality is this. Companies can create human embryos. Companies can store human embryos. Companies can sell human embryos - human beings in the very first stages of human life and apparently, whether you talk to Jeremy Corbyn or to David Cameron, Caroline Lucas or Tony Blair, that's just fine. Discuss this with any of our political leaders and you will quickly discover that the very place in which politics begins, the first place, the most politically potent place, that place where new life is made, is the very last place these figures want to talk about.

Why? No political leader - however 'socialist' or however 'conservative' he is, can divorce politics from morality. Whether they be misguided, right or wrong, every politician, in advancing a political idea does so from a place that they deem to be driven by a moral good. Yet no politician, it seems, is able to raise a single objection to the most politically charged place in the world. No politician can bring themselves to raise objection to the most politically explosive ideological development of the last one hundred years - a development upon which both the left and the right are utterly silent. What is this development? This development is nothing more or less than the commodification of the human person - that is - human beings new status as commodities.

We might ask ourselves, as Catholics, just how it happened that from far left to far right of the political spectrum the most fundamental and crucial political questions concerning human life became 'off-limits'. We might ask ourselves how the commodification of the human being - in embryonic stage, slipped under the political radar almost unnoticed.

We might ask ourselves how this insidious idea was left utterly unconfronted by the politicians of our era and how an entire ideology that captured both the right and the left moved so stealthily as to unite them both in such astonishing silence while even The Independent newspaper runs front-page headlines on the issue that crystalizes the very essence of politics itself.

Politics begins when human life begins and if you still don't believe that, politics certainly begins when human beings are producing embryonic human beings in laboratories. Politics definitely begins when human beings are genetically modifying human embryos. Politics ends when this 'just isn't an issue'. Politics ends when a news story such as that covered by The Independent yesterday receives no comment at all from a single politician. Whatever we hear from Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron, history will undoubtedly note that while the 'Brave New World' was constructed around them, while even mainstream newspapers issued a warning, while Alex Salmond and others were complaining of 'media bias' in terms of the political landscape, no political ideology of the day was able to withstand the social darwinism and the unjust and inhuman commodification of the human person that triumphed almost unchallenged, in a twist of supreme irony, even by those whose natural inclination is to call for the curtailing of the 'free-market'.

The human embryos created on live US television in the clip above could have been you, could have been me. Don't ever let anyone tell you that human life for sale, human life created in a scientific laboratory, whether out of motives deemed good, or bad, isn't an issue for politics. Politics and ethics go hand in hand and you will never hear a politician lay claim to a political stance without some kind of ethical belief behind it, whatever that political stance is.

Human embryos in laboratories, like their brothers and sisters whose lives are in constant threat in the womb, don't vote, but look around the political scene and be quite sure, that if they could, they almost certainly wouldn't, for who will recognise them as even being human?

Our medical and scientific advancement is unparalleled throughout human history, but likewise, so is the blindness, indifference, ignorance and ultimately, the futility of our political representatives, because if human beings can be created and sold, genetically modified or cloned, disregarded and binned or frozen in storage and remain waiting for collection indefinitely, unfathomably, the political issue which isn't, the question that is never asked, if the very origins of our species itself goes ignored, know that however 'radical' or 'socialist' a politician may appear, however 'conservative' another may seem, politics itself, is dead. With Jeremy Corbyn, not the new politics, but rather the old politics is back.

The genuinely 'new' politics that brought into light the dark crimes hidden in laboratories, as well as that which remains hidden in abortion clinics, sadly, in the UK, never got started. For some inexplicable reason the reason why was never explained to anybody and nobody wanted to talk about it. One thing is assured, however. Eventually, the sinister ideology that drives the commodification of the human person in the laboratory, created only to be sold, will have infected, as it nearly already has, almost all aspects of human life. Such an ideology cannot be kept in isolation. It is a plague.

When Western societies realise that their political leaders have allowed them, truly and in all ways, to be priced tagged and sold according to their value as a human commodity, then 'the left' won't have the answers, 'the right' won't have the answers, but at least the questions will be asked: Why did you allow this cruel dystopia to develop from its embryonic stage? Why did you not only allow it to be born, but to flourish and thrive uncontested while even history and credible newspapers warned you? Then, and only then, will the new politics begin.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod (Part 7)

At the end of the papers given at the Shadow Synod there is a resume. Basically this picks up the various themes of the speakers and also the debates which were held after each couple of papers but of which there is no public record. The themes are dealt with under a series of headings:


That means interpretation particularly of “assertions” in the New Testament. The hint is that this interpretation must take account of science and life to-day.

The Kingdom of God

The Good News is a message destined to liberate humanity. The liberty of each person is to be respected, their sociality is favoured and love in the heart of marriage is valued. I am not sure what is meant by favouring their sociality.


Obviously this takes us back to Professor Faber. The biography of each person has to be taken into account. It is claimed that although people whose marriage breaks down may feel that they were at fault in the first marriage they do not see any fault in the second marriage but see it as a way ahead for something better.

So the Church misunderstands the position in qualifying the second marriage as permanent sin. I would have thought the Church sees the second marriage as on-going sin but sin is never permanent – you can stop with the grace of God! It is then said that the discussions do not deal with the destiny and suffering of the children concerned. I suspect though that what is being hinted at is that the second marriage provides stability for the children of the first marriage and that one must have regard for any children of the second marriage. This seems to ignore completely the damage done to children where the marriage breaks up, the family home is destroyed and the children have to contend with step-parents. Trauma that marks the children for life; something that the parents have to live with too.

Humane Sciences – Sociology?

Here the sciences: medicine, psychology, psychology of development and sociology of to-days world all have to be taken into account in interpreting scripture. “It is important in particular not to restrict human sexuality to coitus as certain important chapters in the doctrine of marriage continue to do”. What does that mean? Are they suggesting that varieties of sexual activity other than normal heterosexual intercourse be accepted in some way? There needs to be a development of « maïeutique de l'Éros». Now what that means is anybody's guess. “Maïeutique” seems to have a variety of meanings from giving birth, or to the Socratic method, but more probably refers here to a kind of technique invented by Carl Rogers in the 1940s which some would regard as psychologising relativism quite the opposite of the Socratic technique. Anyone it is surely a bit old hat but who knows? The fashionable theory of the day is more important than the words of Christ.


This is not about reconciling the spouses of the first marriage but about confession. The use of the word reconciliation assumes that the result of any confession is absolution and thus reconciliation with the Church – anything else is not acceptable. Apparently the idea that those in a second adulterous marriage cannot be absolved has no parallel in ecclesiastical practice. Well I can think of several parallels where somebody is into a habitual sin and has no intention of amendment. But we have to overcome that if the credibility of the Church is to be maintained! How do we square the circle? A tool-box has to be developed. Quite what will be in this tool-box is not explained; perhaps some kind of wrench for bending doctrine into the desired shape?


It says that that sacra-mentality is important. The failure of a marriage is not only a failure for the couple but also for the Church. What is considered necessary is a new interpretation of the notion of sacrament! Sacrament is seen as a cure and a fortifier for the journey but cure must not get in the way of the latter. I suppose this means that the lack of a firm purpose of amendment should not get in the way of absolution.


This takes us back to Faber and the idea that consummation is not just the sexual act but something much more which covers the integration of the human person on a biblical basis and in the current of tradition with the latest teachings of social science. This presumably will take a lifetime if it ever happens and therefore most marriages are voidable in view of this new definition of non-consummation.


People are on a journey and therefore there must be an imprecision between doctrine and life. That sounds like a recipe for getting lost. Indeed they suggest finding God everywhere even in irregular situations particularly in homosexuality.


Again this is Faber. Life is so complicated and the Church's response is just too simplistic. We must not discriminate when it comes to other relationships different from marriages. Discrimination is a sin; just remember that when you next go to a restaurant and have to discriminate between meat and fish. It is as this point I really begin to wonder as to the supposed intelligence of these people.

Offering an orientation

Here again we are told that the Church has to adapt to reality. The Church must learn to accompany people in whatever they do.

Consequences for the Synod

Curiously this last section is more or less orthodox. Perhaps the Bishops who attended this shadow synod thought that this final paragraph which might be seen as a sort of communique must not frighten the horses.

What is the message for the Synod proper they ask. It cannot be a simplifying compromise … in what spirit does one talk … Schism is not a work of the spirit … insults etc are not a work of the spirit … hanging on here to the truth on one side and adapting to the spirit of the time on the other is not the answer … we cannot lower the Christian ethic and create let outs … the Synod is a great opportunity to rediscover and proclaim the message of Christ on marriage and the family as a theology of love.

The mention of schism is interesting – perhaps they have looked over the precipice and suddenly seen the need to draw back?

The day was introduced by a Jesuit father and Mgr George Pontier, President of the French Bishops' Conference and Archbishop of Marseilles. Also taking part were Mgr Jean-Marie Lovey, Bishop of Sion, Switzerland and Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
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