Projecting onto papa

Projecting

One of the reasons Pope Francis remains an enigma is because few people are really interested in what he has to say. People prefer to project their own agendas onto him in pursuit of a political ideology.

Hence the media has invested so much in spinning the story of  “Francis the Reformer” – the enlightened fluffy Pope to lead the Church into a new era. One at peace with the sexual revolution. One that bows down to worship at the altar of modern political correctness.  A far cry from those wicked dark repressive leaders of old. The ones that were ever hounded and painted in the worst possible light. The flip side of the game currently being played.

It is a story which delights cafeteria Catholics the world over.  For it suggests great change is round the corner. The Anglicisation of the Catholic church no less!  Great news for those who dream of “total inclusion” based, not on God’s terms but your own. Light on sin but heavy on mercy with no questions asked nor demands made of the sinner. Hell is empty in this reality. Crosses need not be picked up. 

This projection of modernist values was obvious from the start. Consider how the “gay times” made Pope Francis its cover boy.  Loudly praising his views focusing on half a sentence-“Who am I to judge?”- but ignoring  the other half “if a person seeks God and has good will”. The half which rather implies a need to be open to the teaching of the Church.

If you doubt that Pope Francis does stand by the teaching of the Church I suggest you put down the media imagined Pope for just a second or two in order to read the words and message of the real Bergoglio Hmm not quite fitting the media image is it?

And after the recent Synod the press again clamoured to sell us “Francis the Reformer” The Guardian hilariously suggesting he had “got with Guardian thinking.” What arrogance! Yet not one mainstream newspaper reported his words post Synod. You have to go to Catholic websites for that. His claim that  the Christian family and marriage have never been so attacked as they are nowadays because of growing relativism over the concept of the sacrament of marriage have been mysteriously airbrushed out. 

And then there was the ‘revelation’ this week that Pope Francis believes scientific teaching on creation is compatible with Catholic teaching. Another hint to the populace “this is the  enlightened Pope” What a contrast to the dinosaurs before him who imagined  Genesis was a literal scientific manual. All well and good- only Pope Pius XII was saying all of that in 1951! 

Nor was Pope Francis the first Pope to show compassion to the disabled. Or adore little babies. Or to reach out to the homeless. But you would be forgiven for thinking he was because that is part of the projection. Through such suggestion the world attempts to paint the Pope into their corner.  Then hopefully, swayed by all the adulation and headlines he will be a good boy and embrace the thinking of the  world. And to be fair the pressure to do so must be enormous. Who would want the alternative. The vile sneers and lies that were ever spoken about dear Pope Benedict?

The point here is not, of course, to suggest Pope Francis doesn’t care deeply about people outside the church or, in his words, who are in need of the field hospital. He does. As do all who are Christian if living in accord with God’s will. The point is that this compassion and desire for mercy is not going to lead to a changing of Catholic teaching. Not least because such teaching is not a hostile list of rules intended to damage people, but an attempt to convey truth that leads to a fullness of life, a more humanising vision.

It has all happened before of course. In the 1960’s the world played the same game with Pope Paul VI. And everyone was certain, absolutely certain, that a relaxing of teaching regarding artificial contraception was around the corner…but instead the Pope produced Humane Vitae- that  prophetic document cementing Catholic teaching. He was hated for it and never recovered from the ensuing nastiness. But he stood firm and proved himself a true son of the church. I end with his words that stillresonate today:

It can be foreseen that this teaching will perhaps not be easily received by all: Too numerous are those voices — amplified by the modern means of propaganda — which are contrary to the voice of the Church. To tell the truth, the Church is not surprised to be made, like her divine Founder, a “sign of contradiction”, yet she does not because of this cease to proclaim with humble firmness the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. Of such laws the Church was not the author, nor consequently can she be their arbiter; she is only their depositary and their interpreter, without ever being able to declare to be licit that which is not so by reason of its intimate and unchangeable opposition to the true good of man.

In the wake of the sexual revolution

friendship

The sexual revolution has caused great damage to humanity by stripping us of much that was good. Consider a type of friendship which no longer seems to exist now that sex is no longer contained within the marital union. A cause of dismay for many lonely people.

Prior to the sexual revolution men could forge incredibly very intimate friendships with other men, and women with women. These were entirely innocent and platonic yet solid and life giving. How they ensured that celibate people need not be lonely. How they enriched society as a whole. A fierce love detached from eros. 

An example would be Blessed John Henry Newman who desired to be buried with lifelong friend Ambrose St. John. A man he clearly loved. Or take Abraham Lincoln who shared a bed sporadically with best mate Joshua Speed. When Speed married Lincoln wrote an amusing letter stating he would feel quite lonely from now on! This type of friendship existed in literature too, prior to the sexual revolution. We might think of Samwise Gamgees and Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings. How close the two of them are! 

But today such friendships are impossible because no two people can share a bed, or any degree of intimacy for that matter, without the insinuation of sex. Little wonder, for once the genie was out of the bottle, once sex existed in the mind outside of marriage and not just within it, logic requires a degree of suspicion whenever two people are alone or demonstrate clear love one for the other.

Google “Frodo and Sam” and tens of thousands of articles will claim the existence of homosexual love between the two. This despite the fact that Sam is married to a woman  and that the author, being a devout traditionalist Catholic, would have found the notion detestable.

Google Newman and see how a man who exercised extraordinary self control in priestly life and took celibacy seriously, is now assumed to be have been involved in an active “gay relationship” because of his love for Ambrose St. John. The modern world will just not accept that love could have existed without sex or a desire for sex with that person. How much loneliness for single people now that all friendship is viewed through a sexual lens?

And in the bible the vile suggestion creeps in too. David and Jonathan cannot possible have been anything other than gay, apparently… A conclusion that would not even have entered the consciousness of the generation he lived in. And, of course, Jesus love for the disciple John is also mistaken today for something it cannot have been.

And it isn’t only centred on same sex attraction. Consider how men and women could be true friends in a bygone era in a way that just could not happen today. Again nobody would believe a young man and young woman were going camping for a night together in innocence today. Everyone would simply assume a sexual dynamic.

The point being that when you view everything through a sexual lens, so that you even identify people by their orientation alone, then innocence becomes fantasy. Chastity fallacy. And platonic friendship a thing of the past. What a  loss to humanity caused by the revolution. What a loss especially to those not married but who wish to live by the teaching of the church.

Rising inequality

I have no idea about the people behind this video so visit the advertised sites at your peril or own investigation. But the points raised are good ones. There is a rising inequality in modern Britain and it is something Christians must oppose. Because societal greed is a vice causing untold suffering leading  to impoverished lives at the lowest end of society. Hardly a part of the divine plan.

This is not to suggest all should be paid the same. I am no left wing activist. But it is to suggest more has to be done to ensure people have enough to live on and that the system is fair. The emergence of zero hour contracts, food banks, pay day loan sharks and rising cases of malnutrition in hospitals tells its own story about life in 21st Century Britain. A picture emerges that should shame those in power, though I very much doubt that it does.

The news is full of stories about UK economic recovery at present but what is seldom explained is that the UK is only doing well because of the super rich. The relief for the government comes at the cost of even greater inequality than before. Factor them out and rising bills and flatlining salaries ensure the pain continues for the majority who find themselves under tremendous strain. Too much power today being in the hands of employers. Too many workers not given enough for the work that they do.

It is easy to let a post like this lead into political waters but the issue is theological too. For the increasingly shoddy treatment of the poor  is surely symptomatic of the nation’s loss of Christian values. Just go and look at who runs the food banks and soup kitchens of Britain if you doubt me. I guarantee a heavy Christian presence.

Too often today I encounter people struggling financially. Not only the out of work but the lowly paid working population too. It is not on.  It is appalling that parents skip meals to feed children and many pensioners must choose between eating or heating. Pope Francis had the measure of it when he stated

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world..This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system,”

What can we do to ensure a fairer sharing of the earth’s resources? At the last election politicians claimed “we are in it together”- they then froze the pay of millions before voting for themselves a rise in pay of 11%- even as they were mired in the scandal of abused expenses. You couldn’t make it up! So for me the answer is clear.

To produce a fairer society we need to bring the nation back to Jesus. For faith is what leads to love of neighbour as of self. The further this nation walks from her Christian foundations the more we see greed and vice corrupting the people. The fruit of rebellion from God and a denial of the divine plan for God’s people.

Fr H nails it..

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A quite brilliant post from fr Hunwicke:

In Mgr Ronald Knox’s brilliant collection of Essays in Satire, there is a piece about a ‘Professor’ who invents a new sin. Now, even Knox’s brilliance has been quite superseded. Now, you see, we have completely new types, genres, of Sin. The Third Millennium has branched out into a whole novel taxonomy of Sin.

Earlier this month I approached this subject and asked three simple questions. Here they are again:

(1) Can you square it with the Sermon on the Mount and the ethical teaching of S Paul?
(2) Can you square it with the Lord’s parables about not knowing ‘the Day or the Hour’?
(3) Does it apply to murderers and paedophiles?

Let me explain what the New Casuistries teach about Sin.
(a) Graduality. People cannot give up their Sin instantaneously. They should be given the time, and the grace of the sacraments, to wean themselves off it gradually.

(b) Acceptance without Approval. Remarried divorcees may be in a position to which the Church cannot give formal approval; but she may welcome them as they are into her Sacramental life.

(c) Elements of truth. Outside the relationship of heterosexual monogamy, other models of relationship exist in which important elements exist of the values proper to Marriage itself: and it is these elements which we should emphasise (permanence; self-sacrificing love …).

Now apply Fr Hunwicke’s Question (3).

Would you accept that, since a paedophile has very strong inclinations, his aim should be to work hard to abuse children less and less frequently? How do you feel about the Church accepting that some paedophiles are gentle and affectionate to the children they abuse, and that we should concentrate our attention on those good elements of gentleness and affection? Take someone with a pathological impulse to murder; should the Church continue to maintain the teaching of the Ten Commandments about Murder, but, without approving of the murders, accept the murderer as he is?

Probably you wouldn’t. Probably most people, even very liberal Catholics wouldn’t, unless they are themselves paedophiles or murderers or both. Why not?

What we have is, in fact, the adoption by liberals of two quite distinct categories of Sin. There are sins which (most people would agree) are really sinful. Such as abusing and/or killing children. The clever little games (a), (b), (c), would never be acceptable here. If somebody suggested that it really is in accordance with nuanced Christian morality for a paedophile to abuse children as long as he does it gradually less frequently, most of us would probably kick him. However they do it, they should just give up, or genuinely try to give up, their vice. They should receive Absolution and then “Go and Sin No More”.

But there is now a quite different category of Sin. It consists of things which, because they are condemned by Christ or by long centuries of Christian Tradition, liberals might agree are in some sense technically sinful. But liberals do not feel that they are really wrong. So they devise sophisticated ways of avoiding the requirement of the Gospel: repentance and a firm purpose never to offend again and to avoid the occasions of Sin. Like children who have cheated and found out the answer to a sum, they start with the conclusion and then try to find the right ‘workings’ to get to the answer. “I want a way to argue that a homosexual couple may continue to live in genitally sexual relationship: where can I find clever arguments to support that conclusion?”

(I) REALLY WRONG SINS.
(II) SINS WHICH ARE ONLY TECHNICALLY WRONG.

Those are the two radically distinct categories of Sin in which Liberals believe.

Neither in the Bible nor in two Christian millennia is there evidence for (II).

The rigidity of liberals

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There was an ugly incident during the Synod on the family when Cardinal Kasper, on being challenged by African voices ove permissive views on sexual morality,  attempted to dismiss the criticism by suggesting African beliefs are somehow not relevant in the West. Homosexuality is taboo there, he opined, as if nobody in Africa can therefore hold a reasoned view on the subject.

Quite rightly he was called out for the shoddy comment leading him to later deny ever making it. The incident then descending into  farce as the original recording was posted on the internet. It has left his reputation damaged and so it should. For such patronising attitude towards the third world is not good let alone godly. It masks a very modern form of racism which needs exposing to all for what it is. Racism and not a mature contribution to adult debate.

But intriguingly Kaspar is not alone in suggesting African views on human sexuality are not relevant in the West. The Episcopalian leader Katherine Jefferts Schori herself used almost identical words a few years back when defending against criticism from African Anglicans who condemned the blessing of same sex unions in America. Like Kaspar she suggested an enlightened liberal view was beyond the grasp of supposedly primitive Africans.

Kaspar and Schori make strange bed fellows. Leaders who, in attempting to be inclusive end up excluding huge numbers of people. Why? Is it mere co-incidence or a sign of a larger problem for trendy liberals? I say the latter. For there is much to suggest Western elites have become so  sure of their own viewpoint that they have closed minds to all others.  They being so very “right” alternative viewpoints must be “wrong”. Either a result of bigotry/rigidity or caused by backward and primitive thinking.

It is something George Weigel picked up on in his comments on the Synod. He said “Many northern European bishops and theologians acted as if the blissful years when they set the agenda for the world Church at Vatican II had returned. That these same bishops and theologians have presided over the collapse of western European Catholicism in the intervening five decades seemed not to matter to them in the slightest. Happy days were here again…otherwise intelligent men…incapable of admitting that they’d gotten it wrong.

Here then is the real problem behind Kaspar’s comment and it is grave. Not that he said something stupid for which he could apologise. But that his view is authentic and actually representative of  many in global politics. So that there is no room  today for doubt or dissent in the wake of the sexual revolution. It spells disaster for those not conforming to the will of modernity, who still sincerely believe in traditional marriage as a union of one man and one woman in the clear interests of all children.

When we accept liberal minds are now closed we begin to make sense of extraordinary situations recently witnessed. Nurses disciplined for praying or -this month- pastors in Houston asked to submit sermons to be checked for “homophobic content”. (Otherwise know as conventional Christian teaching on family life)

Or consider the claim of Africans at the Extraordinary Synod who spoke of threats from the first world to withhold aid where abortion and same sex marriage are not accepted. A clear example of hubris from the wealthy elite and a bullying of those with less resources. No wonder so many countries “all at once” started waving the rainbow  flag and signed up to “gay marriage”. Economic pressure and threats have ensured it is so.

But let those who stand by the family not lose hope. For where we see crass bullying or an obvious need for manipulation in synods- there we find doubt. Think about it! If liberal attitudes were really so convincing  the British Government would not have forced  “gay marriage” through parliament- they could have consulted the electorate! And the third world would not need threats at all if reason leads to only one conclusion.

Back to Kaspar’s claim then and the weakness of the liberal argument is exposed. For the notion that Africans cannot inform the West rests on a relativistic supposition. As if  human nature, morality and revelation somehow shift according to postcode. And even worse it rests on a very racist supposition. As if the people of the third world are somehow more stupid/ less enlightened than those in the West. (In fact many are inspiring and well educated and overseeing growth not decline in the churches they lead.)

We reach a worrying conclusion. Kaspar’s comment was laughable in its stupidity- risible in its racism- but truly frightening in its scope. For it is a view held by many today whose minds are closed.  Take the Guardian which  saluted the church (wrongly) for having got with Guardian thinking. If that is not arrogance – a one sided newspaper congratulating a two thousand year old church for having caught up with its thinking- I do not know what is.

So remind me again who is rigid? And who is it on the side of the poor? Those who back the impressive leaders of Africa and Asia who are overseeing a period of growth and renewal. Or the tired leaders of the crumbling West who manage decline whilst assuring themselves of their own superior thinking?

George Weigel speaks out

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The impressive Catholic writer and thinker George Weigel, who wrote the impressive biography of JPII and the excellent book “Evangelical Catholicism” , has given his reflection on the recent Extraordinary Synod. It is the best reflection I have read to date. I urge you to read it to as it raises important points for reflection.

Comfort or confusion?

Pope Francis

The first session of the Synod on the Family has ended and the Pope has issued a balanced speech to gather it together.  I urge you to read it carefully.

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,
With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!
I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.
One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you! Thank you, and rest well, eh?

For me it raises as many questions as it answers. Though, in fairness, that is not so much because of the speech as the Pope who issued it.  He does seem a most perplexing fellow- one whom nobody can really pin down. People praise and fear him in equal measure but none point definitively to his agenda.

Do we take the speech as a sign that the deposit of faith is in safe hands? Or should we fear the liberal forces unleashed via this debate given how strong are the pressures on the church now that the thinking of the sexual revolution is becoming a global ideology?

Learn about Newman

An excellent new DVD has been produced by Saint Antony Communications tracing the life of Blessed John Henry Newman. That giant of English spirituality and the father of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Church of England, who would eventually move to Rome in order to lead where his movement would one day follow as the Ordinariates were established.

I heartily commend this DVD to all Catholics and especially to members and friends of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. For it tells an important story that we should all ponder as it travels with Newman through the pilgrimage of his own life and thinking.

To purchase a copy, which merits a place in the home as well as on the catchiest shelf, visit the St. Antony Communications website.

Caesar vs Jesus

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Yesterday it was the turn of Father Nicholas to preach and he delivered a great homily on the need to dedicate ourselves entirely to Christ. He text was the Gospel reading in which the pharisees attempt to trap Jesus by asking if it is right to pay tax. Jesus demanded a coin and asked whose image it bore. When they replied “Caesar’s!” he famously told them “render unto Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s” 

Many preachers make the mistake, Fr Nicholas told us, of imagining Jesus is accepting a necessary divide. That there are some things worldly and others divine. Each meriting service. Leading to the common practice today of living in the world and coming to church rather than being the church living in the world. Fr Nicholas then asked which of us neatly divides life/attitude/ behaviour into two separate areas labeled “church” and “rest of life”. And if we did this without caring we should get up and get out! It is just not Christian.

Think about it harder, he urged. And see how Jesus was being far cleverer that we think. Because the reality of taxation is that it is all an enormous confidence trick. There may be winners and losers within the system but the system itself takes more than it gives. Caesar, that is the civic realm, is dependent on the people he does not, in truth, provide a single thing for them that isn’t first taken from them.

Meaning, rather obviously, that Caesar gives nothing. He takes. Where God has given the world we inhabit, the resources we use, the life we enjoy, the air we breathe. Back to Jesus clever quip then and we see that in rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s – we owe NOTHING AT ALL. But in rendering to God what is God’s – we owe EVERYTHING! What a brilliant point and what a sermon it was!

Because so much of what is threatening the faith today does stem from misplaced confidence in the philosophy of the world. Just ponder the recent synod where the call for change was due to the prevailing attitude within Caesar’s realm at this current time! Has the world changed its view regarding the sexual act- surely the church must catch up or be denounced. Has the world accepted serial monogamy in preference to lifelong marriage – well the church better embrace the change or risk falling out of favour.  Do Africans dare stand against Caesar’s thinking- disregard them entirely and call them primitive…Yes even lunatic Cardinals are to be found dancing along to this seductive tune.  For life is more comfortable when you go with the flow. Rendering to Caesar what is God’s in the process.

We cannot live with one foot in the church and the other in the world, horse trading morals to balance the two. It leads only to a compromised version of divine revelation. What God calls for- what we see again and again in the lives of the Saints- is total fidelity. A total surrendering of the will to  God . A total rejection of sin. It is hard. We balk. But that is what holiness is about. And anything less than total self giving is to render less to God than He calls for.

The church is living through a crisis. In truth little to do with sex -though our culture can think of little else as it pushes for a relaxing historic teaching in pursuit of the goals of the sexual revolution. No the crisis is centred on loss of true holiness of life, the total giving of self to God. The comfort of the modern world has won many souls including those in the church. So that even the bishops- those called to be guardians of faith- are found leading lives of compromise and corruption. As tales of abuse and adultery make clear.

The cure to this seeping wound in the body of Christ is not to make the sins MORE acceptable. And stating this does not negate the need for mercy, forgiveness and fresh starts. No the cure is to reject the world in favour of the Gospel. To turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. To stop rendering to Caesar what he has no right to demand and stand up for Jesus and the faith he revealed. Why is this very obvious point so difficult for some to accept. Yes even those in pointy hats?!