Wednesday, November 6, 2013


As a pastor, I must tell you that I am glad that there is going to be an extraordinary Synod on the family. But many on the "right" are freaking out thinking Pope Francis is going to make the Church in the image and likeness of the Episcopal Church in America and those on the left are spinning the Pope because they think he is going to make the Church like the Episcopal Church in America.

What the Episcopal Church in America has shown the world is the easy recipe to self-destruction and irrelevancy. In fact all of liberal Protestantism is in collapse and has been for well over 75 years.

When one reads the document WHICH CAN READ BY PRESSING HERE, you see that the emphasis is still on Natural Law, Scripture and Tradition. In light of these, the bishops are to make determinations about their own dioceses in a sort of a poll of questions about how well their people understand these teachings not only intellectually but in practice. This is a good instrument. But the left is spinning it and raising false expectations about major changes in defined doctrine similar to what they did to Pope Paul VI and their spin of him to change Natural Law on artificial birth control. They did a great deal of damage to Pope Paul VI and to the Church and still these progressives up to their old tricks have not repented for what they did and now are trying to do again.

So it is noteworthy to understand the true meaning of this synod:

Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest, who has been chosen by Pope Francis to be relator-general for the 2014 Synod meeting, also addressed the November 5 press conference. He observed that the preparatory document for the Synod meeting sees the issue of family life as closely connected with marriage. The Church, he said, sees the family as an institution of divine origin. He said: “It is not, therefore, a mere invention of human society or, much less, of some purely human power, but rather a natural reality that has been elevated by Christ the Lord in the context of divine grace.”
The preparatory document clearly sounds a note of urgency about the decline of family life. “Never before has proclaiming the Gospel on the Family in this context been more urgent and necessary,” the document states.
The document lists a large number of major concerns about contemporary family life: the rise in acceptance of divorce, the increase in cohabitation, the influence of feminist ideologies hostile to Christian marriage, the “culture of non-commitment,” the corrosive effect of migration on family ties, the spread of contraceptive practices, the use of artificial forms of reproduction, the recognition of same-sex unions. The document goes on to explain the Christian understanding of marriage, and explore how that understanding can be communicated effectively today.
The preparatory document examines specifically the role of natural-law teaching in clarifying the meaning of marriage and family, the pastoral care of families as a form of effective evangelization, and the proper responses to families living in difficult situations or illicit arrangements. The document concludes by asking the world’s bishops for information on attitudes toward the family in their own particular societies.
At the November 5 press conference in Rome, Archbishop Bruno Forte, who will be the special secretary for the extraordinary session in October 2014, addressed popular misunderstandings of the questions that are directed in the preparatory document to the world’s bishops. These questions, he said, are intended to elicit discussion of pastoral strategies, rather than debate on Church teachings. The archbishop explained: “It is not, therefore, a matter of debating doctrinal questions, which have in any case been clarified by the magisterium recently.”
MY FINAL COMMENTS:  Some Catholics believe that an ecclesial court procedure to place the "sacramentality" of a particular marriage on trial to determine if it is a sacrament or not is "divorce Catholic style." It is not! It is the Church's right through the pope and her bishops to "loose and bind!" That is elementary Catholicism and the ecclesial court procedure is of God! 
It is also a pastoral outreach to Catholics whose marriages have ended in a civil separation what civil society calls a "divorce." It also helps Catholics who are remarried outside of the Church to discover if they can or cannot have their "legal marriage" con-validated in the Catholic Church so thatthey may  legitimately   receive Holy Communion in a state of grace. 
The biggest headache for Catholic pastors is Protestants who desire to become Catholic who have a Protestant spouse who does not want to be Catholic and that spouse or both have previous marriages. Often the one who does not want to be Catholic refuses the annulment procedure and I can certainly understand why. And involving so many Protestants in an ecclesial court process can be daunting and confusing for the Protestants who don't like saying something negative in a Church procedure about someone else's marriage and the issues of adultery, mental illness, chemical dependency and the like.
For Protestants a more streamlined annulment procedure needs to be developed that focuses primarily on if the Protestants understood the Catholic meaning of marriage from not only the permanence point of view but also the Natural Law perspective. Most don't believe the Catholic teaching on marriage and natural law. 
As far as cohabiting couples, whatever guidance that the Universal Church can provide would be helpful. Most priests today, because it is so common, simply ignore it. 
How do we also minister to Homosexuals who don't believe homosexual relationships involving unnatural sex is wrong? And what about children they adopt or have? Do we take our wrath against these sinners, which seems particular to this particular sin, out on their children and their children's children by refusing them Catholic education, the sacraments and the like (the children themselves?)
I've been confronted with this many times and I believe refusing the children of anyone who is not in a recognized marriage or in an unnatural relationship the graces that the Catholic sacraments can afford these children is wrong. 
Of course if the parents are trying to politicize their situation and that of their children, this is different, thus a good priest will try to determine what is best in each situation. Often grandparents are involved and are the ones who will take responsibility for the rearing of these children in the Church. 
So a pastoral synod is quite welcome and the questions posed to the bishops of the world is not in an effort to change Catholic moral teaching which is based on Scripture and Natural Law, but rather to help the Church to be pastoral in imperfect situations.

Here in Italy, I've heard pastoral horror stories. In one situation a priest refused to baptized a baby about to undergo a serious operation because the baby's parents were not practicing Catholics! Other relatives were and were outraged by this priest's insensitivities based upon law not compassion.

In another situation, a priest refused to offer what some call "the Last Rites" to a person in a coma because he never practiced the faith although his relatives who called for the priest did.

I've had Protestants intercede for a dying Catholic in a coma in the hospital in Macon who knew that they should at least call a priest when a Catholic was dying. The man I offered the "Last Rites" that is Anointing of the Sick with the special pardon and absolution was in a coma. Did he practice the faith? I doubt it. Was he in a state of grace? I doubt it. Should I have anointed a comatose person who could not accept the sacrament for himself? Yes. Then I let God at this man's personal judgement call the shots. But the Protestants were the intercessors on this man's behalf.

Pastoral situations are not black and white all of the time. And we must take into account the practicing side of these people's lives. Parents now love and celebrate their homosexual children rather than ridiculing and casting them aside or rejecting and shunning them outright.  The same for their cohabiting children, and those who are divorced and remarried outside of the Catholic Church.

We in the institutional ministry of the Church would do well to be compassionate not only to the mortal sinners but their loving families. Only in rare instances should we deny anyone the sacraments at the hour of death or any Catholic (unless publicly excommunicated) a church burial. 


Gene said...

A "change in practice" can become a de facto change in doctrine. I think Francis and the Bishops want to liberalize the Church. Things like this always start with some kind of "survey" or referendum.
Why should there not be difficult or harsh consequences for some of the situations you site? The" wages of sin" and all that. I agree that pastoral situations are not black and white, but I fear the way is being paved for a pastoral wild card for any situation or contingency. I don't believe things look promising.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, after reading this post, I expect little, if any change in the way the Church deals with mortal sinners. It will continue to be more of the same and Canon 915 will continue to be unenforced in the cases of public figures who are obstinate in their refusal to repent, especially politicians who support abortion. And, as Gene suggests, the faithful will continue to accept this as a de facto change in doctrine.

Robert Kumpel said...

I think there's an interesting parallel here. You mention children who are unfairly banished from the sacraments because of their parents' various situations.

Homeschoolers often face the same kind of discrimination. Even though the Vatican has repeatedly said that the most important religious instruction begins at home, most dioceses (and parishes) insist on children being indoctrinated by religious ed programs before they can receive their First Holy Communion or Confirmation. Many parents do not want their children in these programs because they are sometimes vague and, in some cases, downright heretical.

I think dioceses and parishes could offer a "test out" program for homeschoolers. Ironically, homeschooled children sometimes know as much or more as the instructor in these classes. Some parish-based instruction is good, but it seems rather rigid and inflexible to insist that going through the parish DRE is the only path to the sacraments and it is almost cruel to deny them access to the sacraments for this reason.

rcg said...

The execution of doctrine through policy is the doctrine. I agree with Gene and anonymous that this is really more Spirit of Vatican II. I would caution you, FrAJM, that there may be an effort to co-op you through an appeal to your charitable nature. What problem could there be with denying sacraments to people who do believe in them? If they believe, what obstacle is too high to at least attempt? This is no different than the Protestants who demand Communion from you.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

RCG, one of the things that you guys are forgetting, and this is truly regrettable, is that since day one Pope Francis has been talking about sin and the need for mercy and forgiveness and precisely through the Sacrament of Penance. He's been calling Catholics to go to confession. Doesn't that presume an orthodox examination of conscience in light of the Deposit of Faith contained in the Cathechism of the Church and repentance of sin and return to the truths of God and Holy Church?


Gene said...

Even Ignotus probably encourages Confession and Penance. It is a powerful existential moment…
Anyone can say the right things.

Gene said...

Meanwhile, the Illinois House of Representatives' Catholic lawmakers have decided to support a gay marriage bill based upon the statements of Pope Francis. So, as I have said repeatedly, it does not matter what the Pope really believes (and we still are not sure), his irresponsible talk causes problems.