Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Fr. Jonathan Morris has a very good show each Monday on Catholic Radio which is repeated Tuesday morning at 6:00 AM when I can listen to it driving from Augusta to Macon. Today's show was about the synod and the ambiguity of the bishops reflected in several key paragraphs which he quoted that seem to indicate that the Church might move in a more subjective way as it concerns morality rather than in the true way of objectivity.

Of course Fr. Morris made it clear that the document as it now stands has no authority in the Church but it does indicate that many bishops fall into the category of what the pew survey shows with this recent survey of which I have some comments below:

Most U.S. Catholics hope for change in church rule on divorce, Communion

Fewer Than Half of Catholics Say Homosexual Behavior, Remarriage Without Annulment, Cohabitation, Contraception Are SinsThe Vatican synod on the family concluded over the weekend – with somewhat inconclusive results that were open to multiple interpretations.

While there were many topics of conversation – including homosexuality, cohabitation and contraception – much of the focus fell on Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without an annulment, and the debate over whether the church would allow them to receive Communion. The synod’s final document, with each paragraph approved by at least two-thirds of the 265 voting bishops in attendance, did not take a clear stance on the issue, but some observers expect Pope Francis may leave it up to local parishes.

Most U.S. Catholics (62%) think the church should allow Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without an annulment to receive Communion, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. And only about a third of American Catholics (35%) say they personally think getting remarried after a divorce without an annulment is sinful, compared with half (49%) who say it is not a sin. Only 21% of Catholics say simply getting a divorce is sinful, while 61% say it is not.

These views may be informed by the fact that many Catholics have had these experiences. A quarter of American Catholic adults (25%) have been divorced themselves, and roughly a third (9% of all Catholic adults) are currently remarried. Among all U.S. Catholics who have ever been divorced, only about a quarter (26%) say they or their former spouse have sought an annulment from the Catholic Church.

MY COMMENTS:  One of the callers on Fr. Jonathan's show indicated that her mother in the early 1960's was told by her priests she could not divorce her husband. Both were Catholic and married in the Church in the early 1950's. It turns out that the husband was a psychopath, had threatened to kill the family and eventually was placed in an "insane asylum" as these where called back then.

She disregarded the pastoral advice given her by her priests, did divorce and eventually remarried outside the Church as she needed help in supporting and rearing her children and she could not live a single life--she was called to be actively engaged in marriage and all this means.

She was also told by her priests she could not get an annulment although deep down she knew her marriage was not what God expected (her first to the psychopathic husband). 

So many Catholics in the past were given very poor, rigid, doctrinaire pastoral advice that pushed them out the doors of the Church. Many today believe that priests still give this lousy advice which maybe it does still occur? 

But many Catholics simply don't live up to the Church's marriage and sexual teachings and feel they don't want to be hypocrites and thus they leave the Church and this means their children will not be brought up Catholic. We lose two generations of Catholics through shoddy pastoral advice by priests or pride and arrogance by lay Catholics.

The pew survey above I think reflects the mentality of many of my parishioners and it isn't because I haven't taught them correctly or they don't know the truth. They disagree with what the Church is teaching and want change.

It seems to me that we have two options. The first option seem to be the way Pope Benedict was leading the Church: never compromise on the truth although be pastoral and assist people to accept the truth. He was realistic in the sense that His Holiness knew this could well lead to a smaller but purer Church, not that this is ideal, but the reality of teaching the truth to an unbelieving generation who in their pride and arrogance depart when they don't get their way.

Or we can go the way that Pope Francis seems to be leading the Church, a larger more dragnet like Church that becomes very subjective about the truth and inconsistent and ambiguous about the truth.

This will lead to a larger Church but very impure (and you can take that word in all its different levels of meaning).

Which is best a smaller or purer Church or a larger impure Church? Either way God still judges us at our particular death and the Church institutionally at the Last Judgement. 


Gene said...

So, truth is determined by polls. Again, doctrine means nothing. I came to the Catholic @ ten years ago from being a former Presbyterian pastor and a student of theology all my life. I came because protestantism in virtually every major expression had failed miserably, conceding to the secular/humanist views on morality, actively preaching universalism/indifferentism from pulpits everywhere. I figured that, if we shall know them by their fruits, then protestantism was a dismal failure. The Catholic Church, at that time, seemed to have maintained a strong stance against these humanist inroads, and I believed it was because of her strong belief in the Real Presence, her proper worship (at that time I did not realize what I now know about the OF), and a very strong dogma. I struggled for a long time with several theological issues, spending much time with Fr. MacDonald in discussion of them, and finally concluded that there was nothing in CCC or dogma to which I could not confess. So, here I am.

Now, all of that has come tumbling down and, I believe, that a strong argument can be made, that Calvin was correct about the Pelagian tendencies in Catholicism and the dangers of her love affair with reason and rationalism. Look where those things have led. Protestantism failed because it gradually went over to Enlightenment thinking and reason, culminating in neo-protestantism (read atheism). The Church is following the same path. I am not sure what to do. There is the SSPX, but there are no Churches within a reasonable distance. I could, and may, look East, but there are theological issues there, as well. I suppose I could find some independent Calvinist Church somewhere that has not succumbed to evil, but I still believe there is a universal church out there somewhere and I detest all the splintering. Or, I could just stay and see what happens, wondering if I am participating in true worship or not and wondering if there is any Real presence where I worship. Christ's Real Presence was a promise, not a guarantee. The Holy Spirit could well choose to dwell elsewhere than in a compromised, impure, and failing Church.

Marc said...

In all of this, no on ever talks about getting the divorced and remarried to heaven. It's all about receiving Communion. That's the biggest problem here.

Marc said...

Gene, the Orthodox Church is unashamedly semi-Pelagian, but I don't think that should stop you from investigating the theological issues as an aid in your discernment. I think it is helpful to see that there is an aspect of Christian soteriology untainted by Augustine that basically ignores all the issues that ultimately led to Protestantism.

Are you familiar with the history of the early Lutherans reaching out to the eastern patriarchs? They thought, well, those people don't like the pope either, so we must agree. The patriarch eventually told them to stop writing to him. They were so off-track in their understanding that there was no common theological language with which to carry on the discussion.

Gene said...

Communion has become a political statement rather than a means of grace and salvation. Communion has only, I mean only, to do with grace and salvation. Calvinists and most protestants believe it is "an outward sign of an inward grace." I thought the Catholic church, even more, was supposed to believe that, as well. The Church's commission is to save souls and spread the message of salvation in the midst of a damned world. It is a hard message; there will be a final judgement, Christ will return and, if we are there, we will be able to get it with a camera....just like if we had been at His resurrection with a Nikon...we could have gotten the shot. I say this to say that these events are historical events, not some existential crap about self-renewal and personal apocalypse. A believing Church seeks above all else to preach Christ's primary message, stated most starkly in Mark..."Repent and believe the Gospel; Believe in Him who was sent." That is ALL that Communion is put it as bluntly as I can, it is to save your ass from eternal damnation. I see absolutely no signs that this Pope, the synod, or those Bishops in Europe calling anew for saving the earth from global warming have a clue about any of this. Do you?

Tom Makin said...

Smaller and more pure. I have said before and now say it again: our Bishops and Priests must preach in word and writ what it is to be Catholic. The milk toast, follow your conscience, what's good for you is good for you approach that has dominated my entire adult life, from diocese to diocese across the USA, has not gotten us as a church anywhere but more confused.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Milk toast? MILK TOAST? Try milquetoast.

Anonymous said...

Marc, I'm sorry to say it but you have given the wrong advice to Gene. Although not widely known the Church still teaches that outside the Church there is no salvation, so my advice is to cling on to the barque in the sure and certain knowledge you have the truth and it will prevail. I was baptised a Catholic and have watched on in angst for the whole of my adult life as the Church has lurched and rolled but She has never capsized and She never will. In all of what has gone on I have never lost the Faith because I know the truth and once you have it, it can never be taken away. In the fullness of the Truth there is absolute beauty in the Catholic Church. We have the Real Presence and have no doubts, if the words of consecration are said by the priest, no matter what goes on at the Mass transubstantiiation takes place. There could be situations where it may not occur so avoid those Masses. If your diocese is that bad then move if you possibly can. Pray that the situation will improve and it will. Cardinal Burke was asked what people should do if the Synod changed Church teaching and he said, "Remain faithful". In other words, they have the churches but we have the Faith and they can't take that away from you, but you could throw it away. Gene, God has given you the gift of Faith, so don't throw it back. Sure the Church is going through a rocky time but the Truth remains the same. It is unchanging and can't be changed. Remember Japanese had no priests for hundreds of years but they still retained the Faith. A beautiful thing, the only sure thing in this world. I will cling to it and like the old hymn says, "Faith of our fathers living still in spite of dungeon, fire and sword ... faith of our fathers, we will be true to thee 'til death!" Take heart!


Gene said...

Thank you, Jan, for your hopeful post. I still do not know what to do, but I am leaning toward hanging on. Of course, the SSPX has great appeal in all this as a Catholic faction maintaining true worship and doctrine. I am aware of the issues with SSPX, but I believe they represent the True Faith.

Marc said...

Jan, I trust Gene's intellect enough that he can study theology and not be lured into error. Moreover, apparently the soteriology of the Orthodox is acceptable even for a Roman Catholic to believe since it is believed by the Eastern Catholics in union with the pope.

Since the question is where is the Church, it makes sense to explore the possible answers to lead one into a deeper faith in the true Church once it is found.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc, it is immoral and unethical to counsel someone to go into schism and thus jeopardize their salvation. It is a mortal sin as it is serious matter and if one knows that it is objectively sinful to apostatize or leave the full communion of the true Church and then with full consent of the will, how can one be counseled to do such a thing?

I have a situation with a convert to the faith who is single now but divorced. At the time of the marriage both were free to marry as Protestants and thus that marriage in the eyes of the Church is a sacrament unless it can be annulled.

The only problem is that the marriage took place when both were 18 years old, and forced to do so and the next day one of the two went off into the military and they've never seen each other since.

There is no way to contact one of the parties.

It is clearly annulable. But no witness and can't locate one of the spouses.

You would think that even as a lawyer, one would applaud trying to find another way to assist this person to eventually marry and remain in full communion.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Should have said the formal, external annulment procedure cannot go forward on the technicality of no former spouse to be found and no witnesses.

Marc said...

I'm not counseling Gene to go into schism, and you didn't post my comment that made that clear.

As a lawyer, I recognize there are difficult situations in the world. I'm curious why the person you mention so desperately needs to remarry... They can be in "full communion" right now. So they can choose Christ or they can choose adultery. Just because you don't like them having to make that choice doesn't necessitate a rule change.

Gene said...

Well, I am not going anywhere without a lot of prayer and thought. Besides, who would leave now...I'd hang around just for the entertainment the proverbial train wreck you cannot take your eyes off of.