Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Pope Francis greets Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington as the pope meets with U.S. bishops in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington Sept. 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-US-BISHOPS Sept. 23, 2015.

Maybe because of the new media, we are exposed to so much ugliness coming from Catholics who proclaim orthodoxy but promote mortal sins against the virtue of charity and directed toward  the pope or imperfect Catholics who may be living in sin yet have a strong desire to be close to God.

As a pastor, my job is not to send anyone to hell but to act as a representative of Christ to seek the lost or straying and keep them close to Christ and His Church.

We are more successful using sugar rather than vinagar! We attract rather than repel. Pope Francis is bringing a pastoral approach to the magisterium that is important for the Church as she adjusts to the most significant cultural revolution since the Enlightenment and the 1960's.

If a Catholic in the Archdiocese of Washington comes up to you after the document comes out to express disappointment or anger with something it contains, how will you respond?

I think our response has to always be that for a Catholic, the rock is Peter. When I don’t understand something clearly … and I have to say, there are a lot of things I don’t understand clearly in the life and practice of the Church … but the touchstone is Peter. It’s been that way throughout all of my life.

I go back a long way, as Pius XII was pope when I was in high school. Every one of the popes has had something to say that somebody didn’t like, whether it was “Mater Si, Magistra No!” [a reference to a 1961 editorial in the National Review rejecting the teachings of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra], Pacem in Terris, Humanae Vitae …You name the pope, there’s been something that some people didn’t like.

I have to remind myself, it’s the teaching of the Catholic Church. The same spirit is guiding the Church in every different period of her life. The spirit doesn’t change, so you can’t pick and choose among popes and still claim to be Catholic.

If there is a cautious opening in the document to an “internal forum” solution for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, would that change much in terms of pastoral practice in the Archdiocese of Washington?

It would be very hard to tell, because of the essence of pastoral practice. When you’re counseling someone who is trying to arrive at a conscientious conclusion, it’s between the priest and the person. It’s not the same as the bond of the confessional, although a lot of that conversation takes place in the context of confession. The last one to hear about it would be anybody outside.

But if there is some opening in the document, would that amount to a pastoral revolution?

I don’t think it would. If this document says, look, there’s a lot of space … we have to be aware that the teaching doesn’t change, but pastoral practice has to be compassionate … and there’s space to try to put all of that together, I think we will find that many, many of the priests are already doing that.

It’s why these priests were saying with “The Light is On for You”, and why they’re saying with the “Francis effect,” that “this is what we do.” I don’t think it’s going to be a surprise.

Personally, I think it’s going to be quite subtle. It’s not going to be the dissolving of marriages in the confessional, it’s not going to be annulment, but it is going to be meeting people conscientiously where they find themselves to be. This is pastoral practice, which has been a part of the life of the Church from the beginning.


Anonymous said...

But the bottom line is we have to remember that he or she who eats and drinks of the Lord's body and blood unworthily eats and drinks damnation unto himself or herself. The soul is the ultimate pastoral concern. If the Church's teaching is that marriage is not dissolved except through a proper annulment process then there can be no other pastoral care of the person than to gently remind them of that and point them in the right direction and assist them. To not give that advice would simply be for the priest to condone sin and be no different from those priests who give communion to politicians who support abortion. But then, isn't that what Cardinal Wuerl does already? So it will just be business as usual for him, won't it?

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald, Cardinal Dolan said that the bishops are to receive the Apostolic Exhortation by Tuesday. If that is correct, will you, in turn, receive the document today from your bishop to read and consider the Exhortation?


Mark Thomas

Linda Gourash, MD said...

One sign of Modernist Heresy is obfuscation. If, at the end of reading the Apostolic Exhortation, we are not quite sure what it is saying or what are the limits of new pastoral approaches, we can be fairly certain that the ambiguity is intentional.

rcg said...

The risk here is that through misguided compassion, or even weak character, the exception becomes the rule. I do not care that a person kneeling next to me may be divorced and accept that they have reconciled their status with the priest. What I do care about is that the expectation is that they are led to believe that they can negotiate or connive access to the Host through anything other than sincer contrition that is a foundation for at least an attempt at changing the way they behave.

Donna Bethell said...

The touchstone of our Faith is not the Pope. Cardinal Wuerl keeps saying that, but it is wrong. The touchstone is Jesus Christ and the Revelation that He entrusted to His Church, as it has been preserved and taught always and everywhere (the Magisterium). A particular Pope is not the criterion of that. It is his job to be faithful to the full deposit of the faith; he is judged by his fidelity to the Magisterium.

In defining papal infallibility, Vatican I said: "Neque enim Petri successoribus Spiritus Sanctus promissus est, ut eo revelante novam doctrinam patefacerent, sed ut, eo assistente, traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodirent et fideliter exponerent." [The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in order that, by his revelation, they might disclose new teaching, but so that, by his assistance, they might devoutly guard the revelation handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith, and might faithfully set it forth.]

Jusadbellum said...

Rose Marie is right. Peter's job is to defend the deposit of faith, not conjure up brand new doctrine out of whole cloth, no matter how pleasing it may be for the general public itching for new doctrines that allow them to keep their sinful habits without the pique of conscience.

Because that's precisely what happened after Humane Vitae - countless bishops, "theologians" and pastors decided to halt all comment on the gravity of artificial contraception and handle it "in the internal forum" (i.e. never) leading directly to the Church going AWOL in the culture war, leaving the pro-lifers largely high and dry and on their own.

Once contraception became common in Catholic marriages, divorce began to spike. So did porn and masturbation...which led countless religious and priests to conclude that since selfish sexual release was "OK" in marriage, it's not a 'bad' thing for professed religious "living sexually healthy lives"... which created the conditions for all the scandals.

Marriage is the core of society so anything that undermines the purity of the spouses will necessarily work its dark magic throughout the rest of society. How can we condemn sodomy if we accept masturbation (inasmuch as its the same thing)?

Only now, belatedly, after countless heartaches and bloodshed do we admit that porn is "bad" and that golly gee willikers maybe we shouldn't rush to divorce as a solution to our problems of "not being fulfilled".

The way out, the 'fix' is always going to be the restoration of purity in the lives of the spouses and through them to their children. It can't come from any other program because literally NO other program is the core foundation of society like marriage is.

And this is why so-called "gay" marriage and divorce/remarriage is such a devastating cancer in society - poisoning everything and turning society and government on its head to justify what cannot be justified.

Marriage was the original commandment of God to humanity - it's the very image of the union between God and humanity. It's the neurological key to the whole Christian religion... so silence from the pulpit on the very acts that most threaten the union of spouses is a devastating betrayal of the very point of ministry: to make disciples.

ALL our ministries to the poor, the disadvantaged, etc. are derivatives, band aids to the degree we don't minister to and make disciples of married couples.