Monday, June 30, 2014


Supreme Court says NO to this as it concerns religious liberty!

While the spiritual war isn't won today, this big battle was and thanks be to God for the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby! God bless them and their lawyers who spoke after the Supreme Court's decision in favor of Holly Lobby and honored the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Eternal Word Televsion Network (EWTN) by encouraging these women to go forward in protecting their religious liberty from a soverign who wants to take it away!


 My Comments first: To say that there are contrasts between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict would be an understatement. Except for the white papal cassock, the externals are completely different, from everyday wear to the liturgy. In the article below, highlighted in red, the Holy Father states his decisions are a result of the conclave and he has done nothing on his own. That might be an overstatement. 
I don't think it was a secret that many cardinals and bishops were displeased with the direction of the Vatican under Pope Benedict from the restoration of the baroque in the liturgy (albs, vestments, etc) to the mismanagement of the Vatican by those delegated by Pope Benedict to manage, especially the Vatican Bank, but other administrative decisions that proved detrimental to the papacy of Pope Benedict.  Some blame Cardinal Bertone for Pope Benedict's downfall.
What has Pope Francis criticized the most? First of all it has been the cardinals, bishops and priests in the curia. He has called them out for acting like princes, meaning self-serving rather than serving the Church. Keep in mind Pope Benedict gave Pope Francis the findings of a secret investigation of the problems in the Vatican that undermined the papacy and the Church. It is not a secret that corruption was rampant, first of all with the Vatican bank and financial issues in the Vatican and  with then those who served themselves in a regal way rather than the local Churches of the world in Gospel simplicity and humility.
Secondly, Pope Francis has called for Gospel simplicity in the Vatican. This has to do with how prelates dress and what cars they drive and where they live. Living as princes means a lavish lifestyle unbecoming those who are called to serve the Church with Gospel simplicity.  It means the abuse of power or the ability to control for purposes other than the promotion of the Gospel.
Thirdly the Pope has addressed issues in the liturgy in terms of some restored elements, such as lace vestment, Roman chasubles and lavish accouterments.  I think many cardinals and bishops disliked the frilliness of papal liturgies and the huge candles and crucifix that became more important than the elements placed on the altar to be consecrated--meaning the focus on the candles and crucifix (in terms of size and grandeur, rather than on the bread and wine to be consecrated and the bishop/priest who is a sacramental icon of Jesus Christ at the Liturgy. 
Fourthly, the academic approach to the Church's teachings of both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict has been balance by Pope Francis' simple, down to earth catechesis. He has criticized making the Church's teachings too academic and intellectual. Thus he is basic, relies more on devotional elements of his teachings. His catechesis is more practical and heartfelt rather than lofty and academic.
Fifthly, Pope Francis has continued the crackdown on the dying LCWR and its heresies. In fact, in this regard the Holy Father has named their problems as heresy through Cardinal Mueller.  This is quite serious. But Pope Francis has also gone after the Franciscans of Mary Immaculate and the internal divisions based upon which form of the Liturgy this order will use and when as well as issues concerning the interpretation of Vatican II. Evidently there are some who are overly sympathetic to the SSPX and their ideologies and the liturgy became a battle ground of division in this regard, but a symbol of something more remiss. The liturgy in religious orders should unite not divide as in parishes too. Apart from that we do not know if the Franciscans of Mary Immaculate held their found in such high esteem as to constitute a form of an unhealthy cult as was the case with the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Perhaps Pope Francis is grabbing the bull by the horns with the Franciscans in an overreaction to how lax Pope Saint John Paul II was with the Legionaries of Christ and their depraved, corrupt founder. At any rate, I am grateful for more discipline coming from the Vatican towards religious orders on the far right and left be they nuns or monks, sisters or priests.  
Traditionalist Catholics might be upset with what they think is a persecution of traditionalists. But keep in mind Pope Francis has excommunicated leftist individual priests since becoming pope, those who promote women priests and other perversions. He has not done so with any traditionalist priests and he hasn't reinstituted  the excommunication of the SSPX bishops. This is significant! The door is still open to the SSPX complete reintegration into the full communion of the Church and perhaps through a personal ordinariate. 
It appears all these things were mandates of the cardinals or at least some of the cardinals at the conclave. I am willing to wait and see if this will result in a "new springtime" for local dioceses, parishes and religious orders. To say that the Church has been and still is dysfunctional since the Second Vatican Council would be an understatement.  We are in epochal change in society, culture and the Church. Is Pope Francis the bridge to a more functional Church and are some of the restorative elements  of Pope Francis, both pre-Vatican II and Post-Vatican II the proper balance that the next Pope will confirm or go in his own direction? Time will tell.
Pope Francis weekend newspaper interview:
(Vatican Radio) The Rome daily “Il Messaggero” on Sunday published an interview with Pope Francis made ​​by journalist Franca Giansoldati. In his responses to questions on a wide range of issues, the Holy Father focused, among other things, on the challenges of change in the current “era” and “culture,” which has consequences for political, financial, and social life. The Church, along with various civil and social institutions,  must respond to these challenges by protecting the common good and defending human life and dignity.
“Always protecting the common good, which includes “defending human life and dignity” is “the vocation of every politician,” the Holy Father said. Today, the problem of politics – which Pope Francis called a “worldwide problem” – is that it “has been devalued, ruined by corruption, by the phenomenon of bribery.” This “moral decay, not only in politics but also in the financial or social” sector, is driven by “change of epoch” that we are experiencing today, which is also “a change of culture.” In this context, our anxieties about poverty are not concerned solely with material poverty.
“I can help someone who is hungry, so that they are no longer hungry,” the Pope said. “But if someone has lost his job,” he is involved in another kind poverty. He no longer has his dignity.” Helping families in need, then, requires a “joint effort.” Pope Francis recognized that this is an “uphill” journey, but insisted it must be undertaken, working above all for the good of children. “Starting a family is an effort,” he said, because of economic difficulties that “social policy does not help.” Commenting on the very low birth rates in Europe – which makes it seem “as if she were tired of being a mother, preferring to be grandmother,” the Holy Father noted that the causes of this phenomenon lie not only in a “cultural drift marked by selfishness and hedonism,” but also in the current economic crisis.
Pope Francis was asked how he would respond to being called “a communist.” “I would only say that the Communists have stolen the banner… The banner of the poor is Christian; poverty is at the heart of the Gospel.” The cause of the poor is pre-eminently a Christian cause.  The Gospel cannot be understood “without understanding real poverty.” At the same time, the Pope said there is also a “very beautiful ‘poverty of the spirit’,” being poor in the sight of God because God fills you up. The Gospel, in fact, is addressed indiscriminately to the poor and to the rich and "does not at all condemn those who are rich,” but rather condemns their riches when they become the objects of idolatry.
To the question “Where is the Church of Bergoglio headed?” Pope Francis replied, "Thanks be to God, I don’t have any church – I follow Christ. I didn’t found anything.” He went on to say “my decisions are the fruit of the meetings before the conclave. I have done nothing on my own.”The Church in Asia “is a promise,” he said, turning to his upcoming trips to Korea, in August, and to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, in January. He also spoke about China, saying it represents “a great, a very great pastoral challenge.”
During the interview, Pope Francis also took up a number of other themes already addressed during his pontificate, such as the place of women in the Church. Without an understanding of femininity, the Pope said, one “cannot understand the Church herself.” Women “are the most beautiful thing God has made. The Church is a woman.” He said that in doing theology, one must take account of this “femininity,” and that the Church must continue to work on and develop a “theology of the woman.”
Pope Francis spoke also about the corruption and the economic and sexual exploitation of children. The Pope speaks of incidents of child prostitution that were reported to him when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, involving even elderly men. “For me,” the Pope said, “people who do this to young girls are paedophiles.”
Finally, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome, Pope Francis spoke about the everyday life and traditions of the City of which the Pope is the bishop. This role, the Holy Father said, is “the first service of Francis.” Pope Francis said Rome shares many of the problems of other cities “such as Buenos Aires.” He said a conference dedicated to the theme of “the pastoral care of the great cities” will take place in Barcelona in November. Pope Francis expressed his hope that the citizens of Rome, the inhabitants of a city “that should be a beacon in the world,” would not lose “joy, hope, confidence, despite difficulties.”

Sunday, June 29, 2014


The Holy Father is quite aware of the silly season of the Church of the 1970's and what His Holiness said to a group of young people on Saturday night, June 28, is quite telling in this regard.

I think it is safe to assume that in God and the Church the Holy Father sees both the patriarchal and the matriarchal and that the two are complimentary and necessary.

In the 1970's theology that I learned, patriarchal was changed to patriarchy and considered evil, bad, and off-putting. Thus there was the trend to make neuter the pronouns normally ascribed to God, such as He,Him and Father. Even the Biblical terms for Jesus was neutered, Son of Man to Person of Humanity. Gender neutrality was the name of the game for referring to God.

The same for Holy Mother Church. Matriarchal was changed to matriarchy and matriarchy was bad, evil and not good either. The Church became neutered. She became it and one did not speak of it as her or mother or bride.

Of course popular devotions in general and Marian devotions in particular were cast aside in the 1970's. And it is here that Pope Francis laments what he experienced in the 1970's:

Pope Francis said he feels sad when he hears Christians say they do not seek the Mary or pray to Mary. He recalled a conversation with two young catechists in the seventies, a couple with young children, who spoke beautifully about Jesus:

“At one point I said, ‘And devotion to the Madonna?’ ‘But we have passed that stage. We know Jesus Christ so well, that we have no need of the Madonna.’ And what came into my heart and my mind was ‘Oh… poor orphans!’ … because a Christian without the Madonna is an orphan. And a Christian without the Church is an orphan. A Christian needs these two women, these two women who are mothers, two women who are virgins: the Church and the Madonna. And to make a ‘test’ of a good Christian vocation, you need to ask yourself: ‘How is my relationship with these two mothers going?’ with mother Church and with mother Mary. This is not a question of ‘piety,’ no, it’s pure theology. This is theology. How is my relationship with the Church going, with my mother the Church, with the holy mother the hierarchic Church? And how is my relationship going with the Madonna, who is my Mamma, my Mother?”

My Final Comments:

Pope Francis knows that when God is neutered and the Church is neutered then the truth is neutered. The truth about the priesthood as an image of Jesus Christ the Bridegroom, the truth about the Church as the Bride of Christ and Holy Mother, the truth about marriage (secular or religious) about the complementarity of male and female, bride and groom open to becoming a co-creator with God through sex based upon natural law.

When you neuter God and Church you get the perversions of female priests, same sex marriage (secular or religious), and the loss of the significant complementarity of being husbanded and wifed,  mothered and fathered and the need for both. A husband needs a wife and a wife needs a husband! Children need both a mother and a father and the Children of God need both God to be a Father and the Church to be a Mother and Jesus to be the Bridegroom and the Church to be the Bride of Christ.

It is that simple and that necessary--it is pure theology, doctrine and dogma!


John Allen, my favorite religion reporter, who, thank God, got a legitimate job at the Boston Globe after leaving the National Chismatic Reporter (NCR) often called Fishwrap, has a very good article on a few topics concerning Pope Francis and the Church in the Boston Globe. You can read it in full HERE.

However, this is his take on the working document that was just released by the Vatican  for the upcoming synod on the family. John Allen sees Pope Benedict's hand in much of it which I do too! It must be something about the name Allen, although it should be Allan.

This is John Allen's take:

A revival of ‘affirmative orthodoxy’ on sex

Some years ago I coined the phrase “affirmative orthodoxy” to capture what Pope Benedict XVI was up to on the subject of sex. It was an attempt to explain the curious fact that whenever people expected the Vatican’s infamous “Doctor No” to wag his finger against sexual sin as pope, he typically served up elegiacs about love instead.

Both elements of the formula count.

Benedict’s line was “orthodox,” because he certainly wasn’t changing doctrine, but “affirmative” in that he wanted to emphasize what the church supports rather than what it opposes. The idea seemed to be that church teaching might find a new lease on life if it came off as something more than a litany of “thou shalt not’s.”

Judging by a key Vatican document released Thursday, affirmative orthodoxy is alive and well, even after the resignation of the pontiff who pioneered it.

Called an instrumentum laboris, or “working paper,” the document sets the table for a summit of Catholic bishops from around the world in Rome Oct. 5-19, summoned by Pope Francis to discuss the family. It should be great theater, since there’s almost no hot-button issue that isn’t germane — from women’s rights, gay marriage, and contraception, to whether divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to take communion.

The text is designed to synthesize the input the Vatican has received, including responses to a questionnaire requested by Francis to seek the views of the church’s grass roots.

In early reporting, much was made of the document’s acknowledgment that many Catholics do not follow church teaching on contraception. That’s hardly a thunderclap, however, since it’s been blindingly obvious for decades. As Cardinal Sean O’Malley put it in February, if that’s the only result the questionnaire produced, the Vatican could have saved the postage.

The document is also hardly notable for its literary appeal, with National Catholic (Chismatic) Reporter columnist Fr. Tom Reese calling it “boring and joyless.” (To be fair, saying a Vatican text isn’t gripping reading is like saying a dog bit a man — only the opposite would be news.)

Its real importance is as a preview of coming attractions for October, and at that level the document seems to hint at changes in tone if probably not in content.

It affirms Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical upholding the church’s ban on birth control, and rues the influence of a widespread “contraceptive mentality.” It asserts that every bishops’ conference in the world is opposed to “redefining” marriage to include same-sex couples, and voices opposition to allowing gay couples to adopt. It also describes abortion as a “very serious sin.”

Even on the issue of the divorced and remarried, where Francis himself has appeared to signal openness to change, the document plays down hopes for a breakthrough.

Paragraph 95 cites the fact that Orthodox Christianity sometimes permits a second or third marriage, but asserts that in Orthodox countries the practice has not reduced the number of divorces. The text also warns against any step that might be perceived as allowing “Catholic divorce.”

In a nutshell, that’s the “orthodox” part of the document. What’s equally striking, however, is its “affirmative” dimension.

Inspired by Pope Francis, probably the single most important word in the 85-page text is “mercy.” Its text repeatedly rejects “moralism,” insisting on “an open and positive pastoral approach.”
Judgmental attitudes are the document’s bĂȘte noire.

“The church must not assume an attitude of a judge who condemns,” it says, quoting Francis, “but that of a mother who always receives her children and nurses their wounds so they may heal.”

As an example, the text says in paragraph 120 that even though the church disapproves of gay adoption, the children of same-sex couples should be fully welcome. It also applauds the courage of teen mothers and calls for every effort to help them.

The document calls for a more “positive” presentation of church teaching and warns against “overly rigid” stances. On gay unions, it says “extreme reactions” have not helped and calls for “a respectful and nonjudgmental attitude.” It concedes that the church faces a credibility gap on moral matters, in part because of its sexual abuse scandals and the lavish lifestyle of some bishops.

Paragraph 109 offers a series of present participles to capture the right pastoral style: “Proposing, not imposing; guiding, not pushing; inviting, not driving away; thought-provoking, never disappointing.”
Translated into political terms, what this boils down to is a major boost for the church’s moderate camp.

When it comes to sex, liberals in the Catholic fold seek changes in teaching, while conservatives want more emphatic defenses of tradition. Moderates are generally those who accept current doctrine, perhaps seeking small accommodations in specific cases (such as permitting condom use for married couples where one partner is HIV-positive and the other isn’t).[My comment: Pope Benedict hinted at this too, if you will recall, actually more than a hint and he was clobbered by many rigid Catholics, although it is only common sense!] Yet they don’t think the church has to talk about sex all the time, and they favor compassion and flexibility in how the teachings are applied.
It remains to be seen if October’s Synod of Bishops will follow the script laid out in the instrumentum laboris. If so, however, it looks like a prescription for an “affirmative orthodoxy” mandate.

If that proves true, and if Francis runs with it, at the very least we’ll have a fascinating chance to see if a different pope can move Benedict’s message.

My Final Comment:  I don't see any major changes in Church teaching or any at all as it concerns contraception, divorce and remarriage and homosexual legal unions. I do see a more pastoral approach though and a broadening of the annulment process to assist those who are married again outside the Church--I especially hope there will be a streamlined approach for inquirers into the Catholic faith. Marriage issues are the number one stumbling block!

As it regards homosexual legal unions, I would appreciate some clarification on how to minister to them and embracing any children they might have no matter how that occurs. The problem I see is that there are ideological homosexuals who despise the Church's teaching on sexuality and natural law and will use their children to push forward their ideological agenda. And with homosexual legal unions, which some call marriage, there is an ideological agenda to force this on the Church and our institutions, such as our schools and this has happened in Macon, Georgia! We need to push back when that happens. 

Overall, I am excited about the upcoming synod and pray it will help bishops and priest minister more effectively and help the laity to appreciate the Church's wisdom as it concerns sex! God knows our current culture needs the Church's corrective teachings!


When Pope Benedict was installed as pope this is the pallium that was placed upon His Holiness:
The Papal Pallium above was different than what previous modern popes had worn, such as Pope Saint John Paul II:
The Papal Pallium Pope Benedict was first given was ungainly and His Holiness soon changed it to this:
Pope Francis was given and wore the same revised style of Papal Pallium for His Holiness' installation as pope:
Pope Francis wore the Papal Pallium that Pope Benedict wore until today, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul when His Holiness restored the traditional Papal Pallium worn by Pope Saint John Paul II and His predecessors:
 Please also note the nice new miter!
 Pope Paul VI:
Pope Saint John XXIII:
 Pope Pius XII wearing the papal pallium which Pope Francis restored today, June 29, 2014:

And this is today's (June 29th) Papal Mass and Imposition of the Pallium on the New Archbishops for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, please note that the first Pope is wearing the Papal Tiara!

This is the homily Pope Francis preached for this great solemnity:

On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal patrons of Rome, we welcome with joy and gratitude the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, our venerable and beloved brother Bartholomaios, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis.  Let us ask the Lord that this visit too may strengthen our fraternal bonds as we journey toward that full communion between the two sister Churches which we so greatly desire.

“Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11).  When Peter began his ministry to the Christian community of Jerusalem, great fear was still in the air because of Herod’s persecution of members of the Church.  There had been the killing of James, and then the imprisonment of Peter himself, in order to placate the people.  While Peter was imprisoned and in chains, he heard the voice of the angel telling him, “Get up quickly… dress yourself and put on your sandals… Put on your mantle and follow me!” (Acts 12:7-8).  The chains fell from him and the door of the prison opened before him.  Peter realized that the Lord had “rescued him from the hand of Herod”; he realized that the Lord had freed him from fear and from chains.  Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free.  Today’s liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has freed me from all my fears”.

The problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.

I wonder, dear brother bishops, are we afraid?  What are we afraid of?  And if we are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find security?  Do we look for support from those who wield worldly power?  Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us security?  Dear brother Bishops, where do we find our security?

The witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God.  Trust in God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all worldly temptation.  Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.

Peter recovered this trust when Jesus said to him three times: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21: 15,16,17).  Peter thrice confessed his love for Jesus, thus making up for his threefold denial of Christ during the passion.  Peter still regrets the disappointment which he caused the Lord on the night of his betrayal.  Now that the Lord asks him: “Do you love me?”, Peter does not trust himself and his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17).  Precisely at this moment fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate.

Peter experienced how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than our denials.  He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and exceeds every human reckoning.  Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love me?”.  He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles.  Peter shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable fidelity.  Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13).  He is faithful. The fidelity which God constantly shows to us pastors, far in excess of our merits, is the source of our confidence and our peace.  The Lord’s fidelity to us keeps kindled within us the desire to serve him and to serve our sisters and brothers in charity.

The love of Jesus must suffice for Peter.  He must no longer yield to the temptation to curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus: “Lord, what about this man?” (Jn 21:21).  But Jesus, in the face of these temptations, says to him in reply: “What is it to you? Follow me” (Jn 21:22).  This experience of Peter is a message for us too, dear brother archbishops.  Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors: Follow me!  Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me.  Follow me without regard for the difficulties.  Follow me in preaching the Gospel.  Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism and holy orders.  Follow me by speaking of me to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends.  Follow me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. Follow me!

Saturday, June 28, 2014


The Ordinary Form Requiem  Mass with its propers needs very little reform. The greater problem are the choices that are made for music that substitute for the propers. This is the greatest need for reform, the mandate that the propers, especially the Introit be chanted (and in the Ordinary Form there are a couple of good options in this regard).

The other area is the issue of eulogies allowed after Holy Communion. I propose these be banned and allowed only at the Vigil of the Deceased following that Vigil or prior to the Vigil itself. The laity can do whatever they wish at the Wake, before or after the Vigil for the Deceased.

The two biggest problem areas have to do with the type of music selected for funerals which substitute the chants of the Mass and eulogies. These can easily be resolved on the local level and universally by mandate to simply do the Funeral Mass without these substitutions and eulogies.

But apart from these two issues, there is a problem with the actual reform of the Requiem Mass and returning to the EF's Requiem as a template would solve the problems and very easily.

This is what I would propose:

I. The Alleluia not be chanted in any Requiem Mass  as the Gospel Acclamation, rather the traditional Tract should be an option or the Lenten Gospel Acclamations. There should not be alleluias at Requiems, period.

II. The second reading after the Responsorial Psalm should be eliminated and the Sequence, Dies Irae, should be restored to its traditional place in the Requiem. 

III. Incense is only to be used at the Offertory and then again at the Final Commendation

IV. The Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) should be restored to its EF Requiem's form with "...grant them, rest; ...grant them rest; ...grant them eternal rest,  rather than "...have mercy on us; ...have mercy on us, ...grant us peace."

Finally, the revised Final Commendation should only use the chants that are in the funeral ritual and no other music as substitutes. The recessional should always be "May the Angels Lead you into Paradise" without substitution.

This is the proposed order of a Requiem in the Ordinary Form:

I. The priest and ministers process to instrumental music to the entrance of the Church where the Family awaits with the remains of the faithful departed. There he begins with the Sign of the Cross, greeting and sprinkling with Holy Water of the remains and covering with pall using the words prescribed in the ritual.

II. Afterwards the procession to the altar is accompanied by the chanting of the official Introit with verses to cover the complete procession and entry of the family into their pews.

III. Once the Introit is completed and the priest as reverenced the altar and gone to his chair, the Kyrie is chanted followed by the Collect. 

IV. All are seated for the First Reading followed by the Responsorial Psalm or Gradual, then the Lenten Gospel Acclamation or EF Tract followed by the Sequence and the Reading of the Gospel, without lights or incense. 

V. Following the homily is the Offertory without presentation of gifts. Incense is used as the Offertory Chant is chanted.

VI. The "Sign of Peace" is eliminated and the  Lamb of God is the EF's version for Requiems.

VII. The official Communion antiphon with verses is chanted for Holy Communion.

VIII. Following the Post Communion Prayer, the chant choices prescribed in the Funeral Ritual are chanted as the remains are incensed and sprinkled with Holy Water. Following the Prayer and dismissal, "May the Angels..." is chanted as the ministers depart and the remains and family join in the recessional. 

My final comment: This would entail almost no official tinkering except for mandating the propers, removing alleluias, restoring the Tract or Lenten Gospel Acclamation and Dies Irae as well as the EF's Requiem's Agnus Dei.


Because I'm 60 years old and also have a great memory of my life starting around 1956 for some odd reason (I can pinpoint that date to early July 1956 when we moved into our apartment in East Point, GA (Atlanta) when I was almost 3 years old, because we had just driven down from New York where I became ill and my parents made a bed for me on the floor of my bedroom as we awaited our furniture. I just remember being sick, sleeping on the floor, which I thought was cool, in a strange house that was really hot (no air-conditioner) waiting for the moving van. I also remember seeing the blue flame of our gas hot water heater and being enthralled by it. But I digress.

I remember almost every Sunday Mass since that time and also Christmas Midnight Masses, all in the only Mass the Church had, the Mass prior to Vatican II. We normally went to Low Masses on Sunday but would go to a High Mass for Christmas and some other occasions.

The Liturgy and the popular devotions of the Church were a given. No one criticized the Mass or the priest celebrating the Mass. Few people went to Holy Communion and children remained in their pew when their parents did go. No one was compelled to go to Holy Communion and no one felt left out if they didn't go to Holy Communion.

But what I remember of that period was that Catholics were different than other Christians and proud of the difference. It stemmed from the Latin Mass, to celibate priests and nuns in schools and hospitals who worn funny looking clothes.

But more importantly, Catholics tried not to wear their religion on their sleeve but to be good people at  home, work and play. We were not to proselytize and our faith was a bit of a private matter but at the foundation of who we were.

If people were drawn to the Catholic Church, it was by the example of our lives that did not wreak with a pungent religiosity. We tried to be normal people who enjoyed life but not to excess. We like to eat, drink, smoke, dance and have fun, clean fun. But we were expected to be married in the Church, remain married when we got married, to have children, to support our Catholic schools. We were expected to go to Mass each and every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation, observe the days of fast and abstinence, especially on Fridays, support the Church and attend popular devotions such as the Holy Rosary and the Stations of the Cross and novenas. 40 Hours devotions were very popular too.

At home we were expected to say grace before meals and to pray the Holy Rosary privately or as a family.

The Bible though was not really a part of our Catholic piety--that was considered Protestant, being a Bible thumper.

We dressed in our Sunday best for Mass, carried our St. Joseph Sunday Missal to Mass, used it, had our rosaries for Mass too, to pray prior to Mass and to hold during Mass. Women covered their heads with hats, chapel veils or sometimes even Kleenex.

There were only three forms of the Mass, Low, High and Solemn High. Few parishes every had a Solemn High Mass-that was usually reserved for the Cathedral.

There was no experimentation with the Mass, you did it as it was prescribed, the laity were quiet before, during and after Mass in a hushed silence of awe. One never looked backwards in the Church except to depart! Eyes were to to fix on the tabernacle before and after Mass and on the altar and priest during!

Every parish church no matter how simple or how ornate had altars with the same configuration and an altar railing. The altar was always decorated with a nice altar cloth, the six High Mass candles, only lit for High Mass and an addition two lower ones placed somewhat close to the tabernacle for Low Mass. The tabernacle was always on the main altar. There were at least two other altars, one for the Blessed Virgin Mary and one for St. Joseph. Some churches had altars for the Sacred Heart. Other more elaborate church had additional altars, shrines and statues.

No one complained about the Mass, until about 1965. The complaints haven't stopped and I think these complaints have contributed in a large part to the decline of Catholicism in this country since that time, from a peak of about 90% of Catholics attending Mass, to less than 25% in most places today and of that 25% they still complain about this, that or the other. That is not very inviting to say the least.

Pope Francis has taken the attention off of Liturgy and more on Catholic life, especially popular devotions, but also how to live our Catholic lives outside our church buildings and obviously after Mass.

In my mind, this is a major restoration! This is very pre-Vatican II! This is the way it should be if and only if we celebrate the various options we have for the Mass by "saying the black and doing the red" and saying and doing it with reverence, awe and dignity and the laity properly disposed internally and externally.

Friday, June 27, 2014


UPDATE: A good night's rest seems to have restored Pope Francis as this photo is from this morning (Saturday, June 28) as Pope Francis meets a political leader in audience:

(Vatican Radio) On the evening of  June 27, Feast of the Sacred Heart, Pope Francis was scheduled to visit  Rome's  "Agostino Gemelli" Hospital on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. While there he was to  meet with some of the patients, hospital and university staff and preside over Holy Mass. He has called off this commitment  owing to an unexpected indisposition. 

MY COMMENT: What is this so-called "indisposition" which has affected a number of his last minute cancellations? Today's outing was advertized as an article by Vatican Radio only this morning, a few hours ago. 

I think prayers are needed for the Holy Father. There must be a chronic "indisposition" such as an intestinal issue like crohns or ulcertive colitis or some other such thing?


Let's say there is an FSSP parish that is willing to celebrate a monthly all Latin Ordinary Form Chanted Mass using their normal schola/choir to do so and the normal parts of the EF Mass chanted in Latin with the chanted Introit, Offertory and Communion antiphons. And let's say that there are no lay ministers involved except the altar boys, that the Mass is completely ad orientem and at the altar, (the chair is not used) and even the lectionary is read from the altar in the normal fashion of an EF Mass but using the new lectionary (could be in Latin or English) with the Latin Gradual chanted in place of the Responsorial Psalm, what would be lacking, especially if the Roman Canon is chosen and said in a audible but low voice?

From appearances, especially from the ad orientem point of view, the congregation would experience an almost identical Mass to the EF, especially if Holy Communion is distributed at the altar railing.

So the normative Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form celebrated in the manner highlighted above would appear to be almost (although certainly not quite) identical to its source the EF Mass, no?


Is this sensus fidelium? No!
In the previous post, we saw how disappointed the far left group "Call to Action" is over the working document for the Synod on the family. Call to Action and other left leaning groups, especially those born in the 1970's think that the meaning of sensus fidelium is that you take a poll and find out what Catholics believe and then that is the mark by which you define doctrine or redefine it.   Of course this is the smoke of Satan and I am sure Pope Francis would agree. 

The sensus fidelium as Pope St. John Paul II made clear: “does not consist solely or necessarily in the consensus of the faithful. Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion.”  “The Church values sociological and statistical research,” continues the pope, “when it proves helpful in understanding the historical context in which pastoral action has to be developed and when it leads to a better understanding of the truth.”  

And Pope Benedict reiterated the following: “It is particularly important today to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this is because the sensus fidei cannot grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium.”

The authentic sensus fidelium comes into play when the Church defines certain doctrines to be dogmas. The two doctrines that sum this up the best are the Immaculate Conception and Assumption. These were believed by Catholics around the world since the early Church but never defined as dogmas until 1864 for the IC and 1950 for the Assumption. There was no poll taken when the pope defined these as dogma but he knew that the sense of the faithful along with a tradition of belief going back to the early Church was present. 

To a certain extent we can say that limbo is a doctrine in the loose sense. We can say there are a significant number of people who believe in it, especially as it regards the Old Testament figures who died before the Christ-Event. But as it regards unbaptized children, I don't think we can say it goes back to the early Church or that there is a consistent belief in it both in the east and the west by the majority of Catholics. Therefore it does not appear that any Church Council or pope acting alone would elevate it to the status of an actual doctrine and then a dogma. Could this happen? Unlikely but possible.  

The sensus fidelium has nothing to do with redefining doctrine if Catholics become unfaithful! This is what Call to Action wants the synod to do, confirm unfaithful catholics in their infidelity! No that won't happen. 

 In other words, Call to Action and other groups like them are heretics at worst or heterodox at best. They are a new breed of gnostics. They think they have a special knowledge that is only known to them and not the authentic teachers of the Faith, the Pope and Bishops in union with him, the Magisterium, which is more than just the pope(s) and bishops currently living, but the Tradition of the Magisterium!

So, just as on the left there is a new breed of gnostics, so too on the right although the right's gnosticism is different. They are more like the left in terms of being cafeteria catholics. They pick and choose what is essential for them but leave out what they don't like. This is especially true of the SSPX who some say accept 95 percent of Vatican II but leave the other 5% out, they won't tocuh it like a kid and his broccoli.

When it comes to the Mass the right sometimes make themselves a faux magisterium. They think they know better than a council or any subsequent popes. And they pontificate upon the liturgy disconnected from actual papal authority. It happens on the left too, especially with those clergy and laity (PI please take note) who refuse to acknowledge the authority of Pope Benedict to issue SP and the rights of a stable group of laity to have the EF when requested in various parishes, even if the pastor has to seek someone to celebrate it for them!

But for the right, they fail to recognize that the OF Mass is the normative Mass of the Church and the EF is the exception. I would suspect if the FSSP had a parish in a southern city and it was the only Catholic Church that they would have to take into account parishioners who petitioned for the OF Mass, if a stable group of them existed, and provide the OF Mass for them. 

But for the laity to say that they reject the normative Mass of the Catholic Church outright would be heterodox.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014


The weeping and wailing of post-Catholics, heterodox Catholics, coloring book Catholics, neo-gnostic Catholics has begun! This is good news indeed! Will they repent and return to the truth? No, I suspect they will make formal their agreement with the Episcopal Church and simply join that denomination. 

I wonder what the LWCR thinks? Can't wait to get their take!

Read it and be of good cheer!

Guiding Document for Upcoming Synod Simply Old Hat

Written By Ryan Hoffmann
June 26, 2014

Guiding Document for Upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family Simply Old Hat

When Catholics heard last year that the leaders of their Church were seeking feedback on the topic of ministry to the family, they responded enthusiastically, sharing their experiences, insights and desires. Catholics believed it was a new moment in which leadership would listen and honor their voices, experiences and wisdom.

Unfortunately, this morning’s report prepared for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops to be held in October comes as a major disappointment.

The report’s blame of Catholics for not understanding Church teachings is simply old hat. Recycling the same approach and arguments we’ve heard before, the report rejects Catholics’ desire for a more relevant, practical, and inclusive church. The irrelevance of the Church’s teaching on contraception, or the lack of pastoral welcome for divorced and remarried Catholics, for example, were repeated themes in responses to the survey.

“The wisdom of the laity should be celebrated, not patronized,” says Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director. “The future of our Church will depend on leadership listening to, respecting, and honoring the experiences of the faithful.”

This entrenchment and re-articulation of the status quo continues to leave thousands of Catholics behind, dismisses the dignity of our entire Catholic family, and fails to move our church forward in a spirit of welcome and compassion.

While today’s report is a disappointment, today’s Catholics are not. They do get it: they understand perfectly well the call to love rooted in the Gospel. Catholic parishes, schools and communities across the country will continue to live with love, welcoming our brothers and sisters who’ve struggled through divorce, remarried with love, stood proudly as LGBT persons or used contraception when creating their family.

Champions of a faith they love, Catholics remain hopeful that discussion, dialogue and prayer leading up to the 2015 Synod will move Bishops to a place of pastoral leadership.
For Immediate Release: June 26, 2014


My comments in red within the text! This will be a bombshell to many who thought things would change! They won't! But education and pastoral responses will!
The following is from the National Schismatic Reporter (NCR) which you can read HERE.

Vatican document for synod on family balances mercy and cultural blame

Struggles faced by faithful around the world in following Catholic teachings stem mainly from ineffective education in those teachings and the pervasive effect of a relativistic culture, states the guiding document for an upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family. (Isn't this the main problem in the post-Vatican II Church, coloring book catechesis and a neo-gnosticism?)
The document, anticipated by many Catholics as a barometer for what to expect from the synod, also strongly reinforces church teachings regarding the indissolubility of marriage, the restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples, and that partners must be open to having children.(This is only a bombshell to heterodox Catholics and faux-traditionalist catholics who think Pope Francis is heterodox.)

At the same time, the document states, the church must respond with mercy to the struggles of families to adhere to sometimes controversial teachings -- like those prohibiting divorce and remarriage, contraception, cohabitation, and same-sex marriage -- and "support her children on the path of reconciliation." (Duh! We do that through the annulment procedure and teaching the truth, not coloring book catholicism!)

Released by the Vatican on Thursday, the document was prepared for an extraordinary Synod of Bishops to be held in October. Called by Pope Francis last year, the 2014 synod is the first of two back-to-back yearly meetings of the world's Catholic bishops at the Vatican on the theme of "pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization."

The Vatican's office for the Synod of Bishops drafted the preparatory document after a consultation unusual for the breadth of comment it encouraged prelates to seek from priests and laity.

Over the past months, news of the synod has raised hopes that Francis may be considering a change in the church's pastoral practices in a number of areas, particularly regarding the admittance of divorced and remarried persons to Communion.Yet, Thursday's document paints the upcoming meeting as an event for the prelates to evaluate how to re-articulate current teachings, not to evaluate the teachings themselves. (Can't you just hear the NCR's readings weeping, wailing and mourning over this!?)

The document, known in Latin as an instrumentum laboris, also blames modern culture for Catholics' poor acceptance of certain church teachings. (Hello? No kidding!)

Responses to the synod office's global consultation -- which saw bishops' conferences around the world answer a long questionnaire on how Catholics perceive church teachings -- were "in agreement on the underlying reasons for the difficulty in accepting Church teaching," the document states.

Among those reasons: "the hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; the growing secularism; the prevalence of ideas that lead to an excessive, selfish liberalization of morals; ... [and] a culture which rejects making permanent choices." (This sounds like Pope Benedict and his dictatorship of relativism!)

The document, which spans 85 pages, is to be used by bishops around the world in preparing for the 2014 and 2015 synods. It was promulgated and signed by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Vatican's office for the synod. The document is split into three parts:
  • An examination of the faithful's "knowledge and acceptance" of church teaching;
  • A study of "various challenges and actual situations" faced by families;
  • Pastoral challenges concerning "openness to life" and raising of children.
At points, it addresses specific practices like abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, and divorce and remarriage. At other points, it speaks much more broadly about the passing on of the faith and the wider context of the church's teachings on the family.

Prelates attending the Vatican synod are expected to review the document in preparation for whatever statements they might make during the meetings in October. Those statements, known as interventions, are usually limited to four or five minutes and are submitted for review before the opening of the event.

The 2014 synod, known as an extraordinary synod, will be limited mainly to leaders of national bishops' conferences. The 2015 meeting will be much larger, consisting of several elected bishop-representatives from each country.

Abortion, cohabitation, abuse

One of the first issues that the document mentions as a "critical situation" within Catholic family life is abortion. The document says many bishops' conferences around the world said they were "greatly concerned" about the issue. (Hello? Shouldn't they be? Are we shocked?)

"In many ways, today's society seems to promote a culture of death regarding the unborn and to manifest a culture of indifference in approaching life in general," it states. "Many responses also stress that a contraceptive mentality has a negative impact on family relationships." (Bombshell?)

But the synod document also addresses what it calls a "counter-witness" to family values from inside the church, specifically because of the continuing clergy sexual abuse crisis and of some clergy who live a "lavish lifestyle." (Of course this diminishes the effectiveness of the Church!)

"Responses from almost every part of the world frequently refer to the sexual scandals within the Church (pedophilia, in particular) and, in general, to a negative experience with the clergy and other persons," it states. "Sex scandals significantly weaken the Church's moral credibility, above all in North America and northern Europe."

Part of that counter-witness, the document adds, also occurs when members of the clergy treat Catholics who are separated or divorced improperly.

"The responses lament that persons who are separated, divorced or single parents sometimes feel unwelcome in some parish communities, that some clergy are uncompromising and insensitive in their behavior; and, generally speaking, that the Church, in many ways, is perceived as exclusive," it states.
"In this sense, an open and positive pastoral approach is needed, one which can restore confidence in the institution through a credible witness by all her members," it continues. (I would welcome a better pastoral approach and I think Cardinal Collins in my post below nails it!)

The document also specifically addresses cohabitation, saying it has become a "permanent form of life" for couples in Europe and North America.

"Cohabitation and de facto unions are a symptom of the fact that young people tend to prolong their adolescence and consider marriage too challenging and, therefore, fear embarking on an adventure considered too great for them," it states.

"In this regard, any possible response to this situation through pastoral care must assist young people overcome an overly romantic idea that love is only an intense feeling towards each other and teach them that it is, instead, a personal response to another person as part of a joint project of life, which reveals a great mystery and great promise," the document says.

Divorce and remarriage (This section names sentiments out there, and I really think the only orthodox solution is the annulment procedure and streamlining it for those who want to become Catholic but have previous marriages!)

The document treats at greatest length separation, divorce and remarriage, devoting eight pages to the subject. It states several times how reports from bishops' conferences globally mentioned the pain and suffering of divorced and remarried Catholics wishing to receive Communion.

"Some Church members who are cognizant that they are in an irregular situation clearly suffer from the fact that they are unable to receive the sacraments," the document states. "Many feel frustrated and marginalized. Some wonder why other sins can be forgiven and not theirs."

"In other cases, persons do not understand how their irregular situation can be a reason for their not being able to receive the sacraments," the document continues. "Instead, they believe that the Church is at fault in not permitting their irregular marriage situation. This way of thinking can lead to viewing withholding the sacraments as a punishment."

While the document does not outline coming changes to the church's practices on the matter, it does obliquely refer to such changes, saying, "The Church needs to equip herself with pastoral means which provide the possibility of her more widely exercising mercy, clemency and indulgence towards new unions."

The document also states that some responses recommended adopting the approach taken by Eastern Orthodox churches, which allow divorced members to remarry in a special ceremony that emphasizes penitence at the loss of the first marriage.

"In light of this suggestion, countries having a major number of Orthodox Christians noted that, from their experience, this practice does not reduce the number of divorces," the synod document states. "Others request clarification as to whether this solution is based on doctrine or is merely a matter of discipline."

The document also addresses the annulment process, saying some responses urged making it easier for Catholics to receive annulments while others defended the current practice.

Among reasons given for defending the current process: "In streamlining, simplifying or reducing the process: injustices and errors could result," or "the impression might be given that the indissolubility of the Sacrament is not respected."

Others, the document states, asked that there be a simpler and faster annulment process that grants more authority to local bishops, involves more laypeople in the tribunals that determine which annulments are granted, and reduces costs for the separated persons.

"Clearly, in these cases, the Church must not assume an attitude of a judge who condemns, but that of a mother who always receives her children and nurses their wounds so they may heal," the document states.

"With great mercy, the Church is called to find forms of 'accompaniment' which can support her children on the path of reconciliation," it continues. "With patience and understanding, she must explain to these people that their not being able to celebrate the sacraments does not mean that they are excluded from the Christian life and a relationship with God."

Same-sex unions, contraception (There is a link in these two issues and they are related!)

The document bluntly restates Catholic opposition to both same-sex marriage and artificial contraception. (Another bombshell for heterodox Catholics!)

On the first issue, the document states: "Every bishops' conference voiced opposition to 'redefining' marriage." Some responses, it says, "recommend not using phrases such as 'gay,' 'lesbian' or 'homosexual' to define a person's identity." (GOOD!)

It states: "The great challenge will be to develop a ministry which can maintain the proper balance between accepting persons in a spirit of compassion and gradually guiding them to authentic human and Christian maturity."

(BOMBSHELL! BOMBSHELL! BOMBSHELL!): The document devotes six pages to contraception, sometimes fiercely defending Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, which deemed use of artificial contraceptives by Catholics as sinful.

"The Encyclical Humanae Vitae certainly had a prophetic character in reiterating the unbreakable link between conjugal love and the transmission of life," states the document. It says the positive aspects of Paul's teaching are unknown by many.

"Some responses see a relation between the commonly-held contraception mentality and a pervasive gender ideology which tends to change some basic aspects of anthropology, including the meaning of the body and the difference between the sexes which is replaced with the idea of gender orientation to the point of subverting sexual identity," it states. (Did I just write that above this?)

"In this regard, many responses see a need to go beyond simply condemning this ever-pervasive ideology and to respond with persuasive argumentation against this position, now widely spreading in many western societies."

To assist in spreading the church's arguments against contraception, the document suggests parishes have presentations in favor of so-called natural family planning methods, "in collaboration with well-qualified people from both the field of medicine and the parish." (Excellent!)

The document also suggests "including the subject in the seminary formation of future priests, given that priests are sometimes unprepared to deal with these issues and sometimes provide inexact and misleading information."

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR national correspondent.
Following is the full text of the Instrumentum Laboris released Thursday. It also available on the Vatican website.


Why do so many in the Church despise this form of the Liturgy and want to forget about it altogether and are embarrassed by the authentic history of the Liturgy? Those who want to forget this and are embarrassed by it ARE NOT TRUE CHRISTIANS, TRUE CATHOLICS, THEY SLIP INTO IDOLATRY!

Shortly after Pentecost at a daily Mass, Pope Francis said the following: 

"The Holy Spirit helps Christians remember the history of our faith and the gifts we have received from God. Without this grace, we risk slipping into idolatry.

A Christian without memory is not a true Christian: he or she is a prisoner of circumstance, of the moment, a man or woman who has no history. He or she does have a history, but does not know how to enter into history. It is the Spirit that teaches us how to enter into history."

My comments: Is not this loss of history, but even worse, the despising of our history as Catholics caused us to become idolaters of the Second Vatican Council interpreted as a breach and rupture of history?

Is this not what Pope Benedict XVI tried to overcome in his papacy, the interpretation of the Council as a rupture form history and for those who promoted this rupture, a despising of our history, liturgical ecclesiological and morally?

In the years after Vatican II have we not despised our history on the Liturgy, on the Sacraments, on the all male priesthood, on the femininity of the Church, on our Blessed Mother, on our popular devotions? Have we not made the Second Vatican Council an idol completely disconnected from our history, our Church culture and what it means to be a ROMAN Catholic?

Let me focus on liturgy and how so many people, especially clergy and religious whose heyday was in the 1970's and who still are going strong in 2014, absolutely despised and continue to despise the Liturgy as it was celebrated prior to the Council (they despise almost everything prior to the Council).

For them it was a great shock that Saint Pope John Paul II allowed the EF Mass in a limited way, but which opened the door to Pope Benedict's complete release of this imprisoned liturgy to the masses of the Catholic Church. What had this liturgy done wrong that it would have been imprisoned by the wrong interpretation of Vatican II? It was of our history, of our European, Roman culture, of our sense of majesty from that culture and the images of the court, the king, the queen, the splendor of the monarchy, not of its banalities but of its best which pointed to the Kingdom of heaven, a parable of sorts, if you will. The Church's liturgy and the signs, symbols, decor, decorum and vesture point to the KINGDOM, human monarchy redeemed.

Pope Benedict recaptured much of this in his papacy and especially in his liturgies. Keep in mind he never celebrated a public EF Mass after SP, although he did when he was cardinal. But his style of the OF Papal Mass was in continuity with the EF Mass.

Pope Benedict did not forget the history of our faith and the gifts we have received from God. Without this grace, [he knew] we risked slipping into idolatry.

Pope Benedict was not a Christian without memory who is not a true Christian: he was not a prisoner of circumstance.

This rediscovery and admiration of our history is Pope Benedict's gift to us. As time marches on, may we appreciate the great gift of memory that Pope Benedict XVI returned to us. 


FROM THE WORLD ON FIRE BLOG: Marriage, Divorce, and Communion: An Interview with Cardinal Thomas Collins

As we approach the upcoming Synod on the Family, which will be held at the Vatican this October, discussion has swirled about the Church's teachings on marriage. Many people are seeking clarity about these teachings while others wonder which, if any, are open to change. Today, Brandon Vogt interviews Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, who sheds light on many of these pressing questions.

Brandon Vogt: Much of the current discussion about divorce, remarriage, and communion is clouded by confusion. What does the Church actually teach on these issues and why?

Cardinal Thomas Collins: The Catholic Church simply teaches what Jesus teaches: marriage is an unbreakable covenant between a man and a woman, faithful in love and open to the gift of life. Divorce and remarriage is not allowed when it is a matter of a valid, sacramental, and consummated marriage.

When Jesus was preaching in Galilee, divorce and remarriage was accepted in society. The law of Moses allowed for it (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). The teaching of Jesus that divorce and remarriage is not allowed was revolutionary. It was even an indication of his claim to divinity, for only God has the authority to over-rule the law of Moses. Jesus went back to creation itself for the foundation of the unbreakable bond of marriage between a man and a woman: "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (Matthew 19: 1-12). In light of current controversies, it is also helpful to note that Jesus also asserts plainly something that until recently was obvious to everyone: marriage is between a man and a woman.

It is always assumed by the Church that couples are truly, or "validly" married. The burden of proof is on anyone who says that they are not. When requested, however, the Church will examine a marriage to discover whether it was a truly binding commitment of the type that Jesus is talking about, i,e, a valid marriage, which cannot be dissolved. If, after very careful study, the Church discovers that at the time when they exchanged consent at their wedding the couple for some reason did not truly make a binding commitment to marriage, then it will issue a statement, or "declaration of nullity," officially confirming that the marriage was not "valid" from the start. This is very different from a divorce, in which the government official grants that there was a valid marriage, and then uses the power of the state to end it.

Brandon Vogt: Some Catholics hope the Church will soon change her position regarding communion for those who are divorced and remarried, perhaps at the upcoming Synod. Others worry such a change would undercut Jesus' clear teachings on marriage. On this issue, which teachings and practices are immutable and which are open to change?

Cardinal Thomas Collins: The Synod on the Family will surely deal with the whole range of issues facing the family today, not only this one issue of communion for those who are divorced and remarried. For example, one of the key problems we face now is that couples are more often living together without getting married. And there are many societal trends, especially in the western world, that undermine the family. The question of communion after divorce and remarriage is one among many issues, and I would imagine that the Synod will spend most of its time on the broader issues affecting marriage and the family.

The command of Jesus that marriage is unbreakable is central to the Christian understanding of marriage, and cannot be changed by the Church. But we can change the way we help couples prepare for marriage, and help them live their marriage, and help them practically if their marriage breaks down.

Even apart from Our Lord's command, divorce is a great human tragedy that can have devastating effects upon the spouses, and especially upon their children. That is why we need to do all that we can as a Catholic community to help couples prepare for marriage, and to assist them during marriage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are many groups, such as
"Marriage Encounter", and other such groups, that offer great assistance to spouses. When there are problems in a marriage, groups such as "Retrouvaille" seek to help the couple once more have a healthy marriage.

One thing we need to do is celebrate wedding anniversaries. Recently, in my diocese, we had a great celebration of the 25th, 50th, 60th and higher anniversaries of married couples. In the context of Mass, they renewed their vows. It was inspiring, and encouraging to them and to other married couples. We need to encourage all married couples with such living examples of fidelity in the midst of the struggles of life, especially in our society that is so allergic to lifelong commitments. I hope that the Synod will show the way towards better marriage preparation, encourage groups that seek to strengthen marriage, and help those whose marriage is in difficulty.

In a society in which permanent commitments are not valued - and that applies to the priesthood and religious life as well as to marriage - it can take great spiritual strength, and is certainly counter-cultural, to renew each day a sacred lifelong commitment, trusting in the grace of God. That must be our path as Christians, and anything that tends (even unintentionally) to re-inforce a culture that undermines fidelity to sacred permanent commitments must be resisted, as also any action that suggests that the Church does not take seriously the permanence of such covenants.

Our Lord's teaching on marriage, like his whole teaching on discipleship, can at times be very difficult. Especially in the world in which we live, but really in all periods of history, a certain heroism is required in the Christian life. We are all called to holiness; that is not just the vocation of the few who are canonized, but of all of us.

So what cannot be changed is the fact that what God has joined together, no one can put asunder. But the Synod may well deepen our understanding of Christian marriage, building on the treasure of teaching in Scripture and Tradition, such as the beautiful document of St. John Paul II,
Familiaris Consortio. We need above all to help couples faithfully and fruitfully live the sacrament of marriage.

Sadly, marriages sometimes fail, and the Synod may try to find more effective ways of caring for people in those painful situations. If a couple separates, despite every effort to heal the marriage, and are legally divorced, each is called to continue in a faithful life of Christian discipleship. They cannot marry again, as they are married already. Many divorced Christians lead a life of exemplary holiness, recognizing this reality. They are an inspiration to us all. I hope the Synod offers encouragement to those who are divorced and faithfully living the Christian life.

Perhaps, when someone has been civilly divorced, if the marriage is examined by a Marriage Tribunal of the Church, it will be found not to have been valid, and the person will be free to marry. But that may not happen, or a person for various reasons will decide not to seek to discover their status in the Church concerning their marriage (that is, whether they are in reality single or married). Although the dedicated staff of marriage tribunals offers great pastoral care to those whose marriage has failed, the Synod might be able to find ways of improving the processes tribunals use for making a judgement concerning the validity of marriages, and so that is one possible area of change. Any human process can always be improved.

Many people who are divorced, and who are not free to marry, do enter into a second marriage. There are various reasons that can lead to this, and their fellow parishioners should not occupy themselves speculating about them. Catholics in that tragic situation can be involved in many ways in the life of the community, but they may not receive the sacraments, such as Holy Communion, since whatever their personal disposition is or the reasons for their situation, known perhaps only to God, they are continuing in a way of life which is objectively against the clear command of Jesus. That is the point. The point is not that they have committed a sin; the mercy of God is abundantly granted to all sinners. Murder, adultery, and any other sins, no matter how serious, are forgiven by Jesus, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the forgiven sinner receives communion. The issue in the matter of divorce and remarriage is one’s conscious decision (for whatever reason) to persist in a continuing situation of disconnection from the command of Jesus. Although it would not be right for them to receive the sacraments, we need to find better ways to reach out to people in this situation, to offer them loving assistance.

One thing that would help would be if all of us realized that receiving communion is not obligatory at Mass. There are many reasons why a Christian might choose not to receive communion. If there were less pressure for everyone to receive communion, it would be some help to those who are not in a position to do so.

Often, people in this situation decide no longer to continue as members of the Catholic community, as they are not able to receive sacramental communion at Mass, even though they can experience a kind of spiritual communion through prayerful adoration, although abstaining for good reason from receiving communion; that, for a Catholic can be a truly penitential act. It is a great tragedy if they leave the Church. It is likely that they, and their children, and their descendants, will become disconnected from the source of life in Christ that is found in the Church. We need to think of what we can do to reach out to people in this situation, in a loving and effective way. But as we do so, we also need to be attentive to the command of Christ, and the necessity of not undermining the sanctity of marriage, with even more dire consequences for all, especially in a world in which the stability of marriage is already tragically compromised. If we proclaim in actions, even though not in words, that the marriage covenant is not really what Jesus says it is, then that offers short term comfort at the cost of long term suffering. As the sanctity of the marriage covenant is progressively weakened, it will ultimately be the children who will suffer most.

So although fidelity to the teaching of Christ on the indissolubility of marriage is not open to change, there may be things that we can change to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in this difficult and painful situation. Real assistance can be given through improvements in the way the Church examines the validity of marriages, and through efforts to give spiritual support to Catholics who are divorced and remarried, encouraging them to be engaged in their parish as much as they can, and offering them ways of prayer appropriate to their situation. We need to consider what the Church community can do to assist the couple with their children, often living in combined family situations. But over-riding the explicit teaching of Jesus on the unbreakable nature of marriage is not an option. Nobody has the authority to do that.

Brandon Vogt: Outside the Church, the secular media overwhelmingly expects the Synod to substantially revise Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce. How does this compare to the expectations swirling before Pope Paul VI’s release of of
Humanae Vitae in 1968?

Cardinal Thomas Collins: In the years before the letter of Pope Paul re-affirming the constant Christian teaching that contraception is not in accord with the will of God, there was widespread speculation that the Church was going to change this teaching. This kind of speculation is based to some degree on the idea that Christian doctrine is like government policy: when the circumstances change, or when more people support this alternative rather than that, then policy changes.

But Christian teaching is based upon the natural law that is written in our very natures by God, and especially upon the revealed word of God. We discover God's will, and the scriptures and the living faith of the Church help us to do so. We do not shape God's will according to what currently seems best to us.

So when Pope Paul did not change what he could not change, but re-affirmed Christian faith, many, many people were upset, and simply decided to ignore the teaching. That is our present situation. I certainly hope that we do not suffer a repeat of that, as unfounded speculation swirls concerning a change by the Church of the explicit teaching of Jesus on marriage.

Brandon Vogt: You’ve previously mentioned how Our Lady, Undoer of Knots—one of Pope Francis’ favorite devotions—is specially connected to the healing of broken marriages, and how we should therefore turn to her as a key intercessor and guide on this issue. Why this connection?

Cardinal Thomas Collins: I had not heard of this devotion until recently, when I read a booklet about it. Apparently its origin is found in something very close to the issues now being discussed: in the 17th century, a young couple experienced immense difficulty in their marriage. They prayed to Our Lady, and she untied the knots in their relationship. A descendant of the couple commissioned a painting of Our Lady untying knots, and that has become a great focus of devotion, which Pope Francis has done much to popularize. It is a devotion that can be connected to many situations in life, but apparently it arose out of prayer to Our Lady to bring healing to a troubled marriage. We should ask Our Lady to help us address these difficult issues of marriage in a way that is loving and faithful.

Brandon Vogt: Some theologians have looked to the Church’s tradition for examples of divorced-and-remarried Catholics licitly receiving communion, sometimes pointing to the Council of Nicaea’s rulings. What did that Council have to say on the question?

Cardinal Thomas Collins: There is a rule that comes from that most important Council that refers incidentally to people who are in a second marriage. It has mistakenly been taken to justify a second marriage, after divorce, but it actually refers to those whose spouse has died, and who then marry a second time, which is certainly in accord with our faith.

Brandon Vogt: The annulment process seems to be a common-ground target for renewal. Many Catholics believe it could be more efficient and dignifying. What are some ways to renew the annulment process without compromising its integrity?

Cardinal Thomas Collins: I am not an expert on the law of the Church, and I know that those engaged in the ministry of marriage tribunals at every level seek diligently to serve the Church, and especially those who ask them to examine the validity of a marriage. But it would be good for those who are more expert than I to see if there are ways of improving this process.

Brandon Vogt: At the heart of this discussion are millions of divorced Catholics experiencing real pain and difficulty. How can the Church welcome and serve these people while still promoting the deposit of faith?

Cardinal Thomas Collins: It is vital that we do all that we can to reach out in loving support for all of our brothers and sisters who are experiencing the terrible pain of divorce. There are movements in the Church that seek to do that, but each parish and diocese also needs to care for people who are suffering this pain. Their children may be suffering most of all. This should be a focus of our prayer, and in individual situations, pastors and parishioners need to do all that they can to help.

Cardinal Thomas Collins is the Archbishop of Toronto. He is a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Brandon Vogt is the Content Director at Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.