The Synod: German Bishops Take One Last Shot

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Aleteia Image Department

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Aleteia Image Department

Mary Rezac, at Catholic News Agency, wrote a pithy summary of the German bishops’ efforts to change pastoral practice within the Catholic Church as it applies to marriage.

Here’s part of what she said:

Ok everyone, last German bishops blog for the duration of #Synod15! (At least, I think. I hope?)

As they near the end of an eventful three weeks, the 13 small groups of the Synod on the Family, divided by language, have released their last reports before the conclusion of the meeting on Sunday.

For those of you just joining us, the German-speaking group of bishops has been in the spotlight during the Synod as some of the main proponents of what has become known as the “Kasper proposal”, by which Cardinal Walter Kasper has promoted allowing some divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to receive sacramental Communion after a ‘penitential path’, among other controversial proposals.

This proposal has been shut down multiple times by the Church over the years, and yet, it continues to crop up, particularly amongst German bishops. Hence this blog. And this one. And this one. Oh and also this one. 

In their small group report on the third part of the synod’s working document, the German bishops suggest that divorced-and-civilly-remarried couples discern in the “internal forum” their ability to receive the sacraments, following their conscience and aided by their confessor. Read the rest here.

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Drug Addiction is a Catastrophe for Families

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Imagens Evangelicas

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Imagens Evangelicas

I wish that the Synod on the Family had been able to spend more time considering ways in which the modern world destroys families, often from the inside out. If they had, drug addiction would surely have found a way onto the list.

Nothing is more insidious or difficult to address than drug addict family members. The rest of the family ends up paying a horrendous price for the love they feel for the addict, and the addict is destroyed utterly by both the addiction and the things they do as a result of the addiction.

I wonder that there is so little genuine attention given to this plague by religious thinkers. I honestly do not know why this is so.

I wrote a post for the National Catholic Register about my own struggles with a family member of mine that I love with all my heart who suffers from a life-long addiction to drugs.

Here is part of what I said:

If you doubt that drug addiction is evil, consider what it does to love.

I’ve been dealing for years with the heartbreak and disaster of a beloved niece who suffers from cocaine and meth addiction. I’ve watched and suffered as the drugs destroyed her personality, health and sanity.

It’s as if the drugs were devils who consumed her. They disassembled her personality and shredded her rationality until there was nothing but rage and violence left behind.

Drugs eat the person alive, hollow them out and leave them as clanking and unworkable faux versions of themselves. Drugs degrade addicts in horrible ways. They do things to themselves and others that scar and mutilate them spiritually and morally, as well as physically. The worst of it is that drugs turn them sociopathic. They become manipulative, dishonest, and without conscience in their dealings with the people who love them.

No one can have a practicing drug addict in their life and stay sane and happy. You can’t help them. If you try, they will pull you into their insanity and destroy you, along with themselves. The choice inevitably becomes a choice to either cut all ties with the drug addict, or be destroyed by their addiction, along with them.

That’s why I said that drug addiction is evil. It destroys life, personality, morality and sanity. But its worst crime against the people it infects is that it turns love into a weakness and a weapon.

Read the rest here.


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Small Groups Release Concluding Reports on Instrumentum Laboris

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Aft4TheGlryOfGod

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Aft4TheGlryOfGod

The Synod on the Family moved closer to a conclusion with the release of small group reports. It appears that the English-speaking reports call for no change so far as the issue of communion for divorced and remarried couples is concerned.

Rather than try to summarize these reports, I’m going to link to them at the National Catholic Register, so you can read them yourselves. Remember, this link is only for the English-speaking reports. I’ve read the some of the reports that are written in other languages differ from them.

To read the reports, go here.


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He’s Out! Bishop Laicizes Priest Who “Came Out” on Eve of Synod

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Dennis Jarvis Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Dennis Jarvis Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by

My friend Kathy Schiffer has the story.

Remember the high-ranking Vatican priest who chose the opening of the Synod on Marriage to announce that he’s gay and then ride off into the sunset with his boyfriend and a book deal? His bishop has laicized him.

I wonder how this guy managed to rise so high in the Church in the first place.

Here’s a bit of what Kathy Schiffer has to say about it:

The Polish priest who declared his homosexuality on the eve of the Synod on the Family, Fr. Krysztof Charamsa, has been laicized. Bishop Ryszard Kasyno, bishop of Pelplin (Poland), sent a letter to Fr. Charamsa on Wednesday, October 21, notifying him that he may no longer celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments or wear a cassock.

The action against Fr. Charamsa comes as no surprise, considering the priest’s carefully executed attack on the Church he served. Charamsa, who held a press conference October 2 with his boyfriend and announced their love relationship, had apparently been planning to disrupt the Synod with his “coming out.” He presented a 10-point “liberation manifesto” against “institutionalized homophobia in the Church” and announced the upcoming publication of a book detailing his twelve years at the heart of the Vatican bureaucracy.

He was immediately fired by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he had worked as a senior official; but it took just a little longer to complete the investigation which resulted in his removal from priestly service.


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No Matter What the Synod Does, I Will Keep on Doing What I’ve Been Doing

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Aleteia Image Department

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Aleteia Image Department

Conscience is a weak reed on which to lay the foundation of your eternal destiny.

I know from personal experience that I can convince myself of anything. I also know that I am not the only person with this problem. In fact, I would guess that this ability to justify oneself to oneself is part of the universal human condition.

The truth is, people cannot do that which they cannot justify to themselves. I have no doubt that Hitler had justifications that worked for him for everything he did. Ditto for Pol Pot, John Wayne Gacy, abortionists and corporatists alike.

They all manage to justify what they do, at least to themselves. The rapist’s “she asked for it,” works perfectly fine to allow him to sadistically degrade, brutalize and harm another person, just as the corporatists’ blather lets their greed fuel wars, create poverty and destroy hope.

I learned a long time ago that nothing makes a person meaner than being challenged on their self-justifications. The worse the thing they are justifying, the meaner they get when the justification is challenged. Thus we have men who beat their wives yelling “You made me do it!” and following that with another blow to silence any challenge to their justification. We have nations going to war rather than treat their own citizens as full human beings.

Nothing makes a person meaner than telling them they cannot kill somebody they’ve decided it is their right to kill. If you try to confront them with the reality of what they are doing, they become dangerous to you, as well.

The one thing you cannot rely on to make them change their behavior is the whispering of their own conscience. Conscience is an unworkable guide precisely because conscience is so easily shaped by the forces of self interest and human weakness. Perhaps the number one human weakness that damages conscience is the desire to be accepted and liked by the people around us.

That weakness works against good judgement and right conscience in an insidious and steady sort of way. It is buttressed by sophisticated arguments that excuse virtually anything. Today’s advocates for dissolute living are skilled in making good sound bad and bad sound good.

They can and do convince people that everything from killing grandma with euthanasia to dismembering our children with abortion is a positive good. Our conscience is no defense against them unless we have a reliable touchstone by which to judge and evaluate what we are hearing.

For two thousand years, the Catholic Church has provided that reliable touchstone. For two thousand years, the Church has held fast in its teachings and dogma. Individual priests and bishops have been all over the map in their moral teaching. They are all over the map right now on the core challenges facing modern Christians. But the Church itself has never taught that which is not true. It has not deviated from following Christ and Him crucified.

That is why so many Christians found the discussions at last year’s Synod disturbing. That disturbance is why they are distrustful of this year’s Synod. They become restive when Synod fathers talk about allowing individual conscience to be used as a guide for when it’s ok to ignore grave sin because they know — we all know — that our own consciences can lead us straight down the road to perdition.

We need a Church that we can trust to present us with Jesus Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever. We do not need and will not benefit from theological experimentation that runs perpendicular to the explicit teachings of Our Lord and of Scripture.

Jesus said, For this cause a man shall leave his mother and father and join with his wife and they two shall become one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined together let no man put asunder … anyone who divorces … and marries another … commits adultery. 

He was speaking directly and explicitly about the question of divorce, which he said Moses had allowed due to the Israelite’s hardness of heart. Marriage is between one man and one woman and it is for life. Period.

St Paul said, … whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup unworthily shall be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord … and brings judgement upon himself. 

These teachings put a crimp in things for a lot of people these days. If they are true, then a great many men and women are living in adultery. If they are not true, then the Scriptures themselves are false.

People don’t like hearing things like that. They want Jesus. They know they need Him, and they want Him. They crave communion with the Lord, and Christ in the Eucharist is the best and easiest way to achieve that.

They are good people. Many of them repent of their mistakes and are trying to do better. Divorce is a scalding experience that wounds people to the core. That’s because marriage is exactly what Jesus said it was; the binding of two people together as one for life. Tearing that apart is painful beyond pain.

There are often serious reasons for divorce. Violence, infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse are not fixable unless the offender is committed to changing. The only thing the victim spouse can do is end the marriage and try to rebuild.

That is why the Church has developed the process of annulment; to determine if the marriage was invalid. It lets people move forward.

This is a thorny subject for the Church right now precisely because certain bishops are pushing to place Christ’s teaching on a shelf and ignore it in actual practice. They want to say that Jesus said what He said, and the Church is not changing doctrine, but it will ignore the doctrine in its pastoral life.

To my way of thinking, this is inherently dishonest. It also sets the Church on the path of unraveling the cords that bind it together. The Catholic Church is the Eucharist and the Eucharist is a sacrament.

The Eucharist is a sacrament, established by Our Lord. Marriage is a sacrament, established by Our Lord. No one — including bishops — has to power to undo or nullify a sacrament.

If the sacrament of Holy Matrimony can be dismembered into a meaningless nothing that has no actual power in how people live their lives, and the core meaning of the Church, which is the Eucharist, can be taken by force and popular demand, then the Church itself has come unwound.

Holy Orders are meaningless if the Eucharist and Holy Matrimony are meaningless. If the Church puts doctrine on the shelf and ignores it in its actual, pastoral practices as they pertain to the Eucharist and Holy Matrimony, then the sacraments become pro forma to the people in the pews.

I do not understand anyone who would take the Eucharist by force. I do not.

I don’t “get” people who know that they are living in violation of Church teaching and then demand that the Church change what it teaches to suit them. Their job is to change how they live in order to follow Christ. And Church teaching has, up until now, been a reliable guide on how to follow Christ.

Why would anyone take communion when they know they are in mortal sin? Do they think that Jesus can be fooled? Do they think they can lie to Him and He won’t notice? Why would a bishop deliberately lead people into doing this? Doesn’t the bishop fear God?

I understand full well that much of the arguing in the two Synods has been a manifestation of the culture wars raging in the Western world. I believe that a number of politico-socio movements, including the gay rights movement and the new atheism, have a vested interest in tearing down the Church’s teaching.

Trashing the sacrament of Holy Matrimony would weaken the Church’s witness in the world today far more than even the priest sex abuse scandal has done. If the Church walks away from the sacraments, then it walks away from itself.

The fact that so many secular interests perceive the Synod as something they can influence to act in ways that are contrary to 2,000 years of Church teaching says a lot about at least some of the bishops who are meeting there. The other fact, that so many faithful Catholics who have stood by the Church through all the wounds she has inflicted on herself in the past 15 years, are deeply mistrustful of the Synod, says a lot about the danger that lies within the Church if such a change is made.

If the Synod Fathers accede to pressures from the German bishops to radically change Church practice on marriage in these fraught times, they will make the Church the pawn of special interests.  At the same time, they will alienate many of their most faithful followers.

They don’t seem to understand the synergy at work here. To put it simply, a decision to change Church practice would comfort the Church’s enemies, including those who seek to destroy faith altogether. It would, at the same time, alienate and create confusion and mistrust among those who ardently try to follow the Church. It would weaken the loyalty of the people the Church must turn to for help when it is attacked.

I pray about the Synod, but one thing is absolute: No matter what happens with these bishops, I will not leave the Church. To paraphrase St Peter, where would I go?

What I will do is read whatever the Synod produces carefully and prayerfully. Then, I will think about it. I imagine I may go through this read-pray-think process more than once. If the Church wounds itself with unsound practices, I will pray for wiser minds to undo this mistake in the future.

Whatever the Synod does, I plan to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for quite a while now. I will do my best to follow Jesus within the confines of the Catholic Church.


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Nearly 500 British Priests Urge Synod to Stand Firm on Communion for Remarried

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Quinn Dombrowski

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Quinn Dombrowski

Nearly 500 British priests sent a letter to the Synod Fathers, urging them to stand firm on the question of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.

The priests called for the Synod Fathers to issues a “clear and firm proclamation” upholding Church teaching on marriage.

From Catholic Herald:

They write: “We affirm the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony.”

One signatory, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed there “has been a certain amount of pressure not to sign the letter and indeed a degree of intimidation from some senior Churchmen”.

Another, who also asked not to be named, said the issue of Communion for the remarried was “a matter of pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel”.

He said: “Mercy requires both love and truth. There’s a lot at stake. Not all priests would be comfortable expressing themselves in an open letter, but I’d be very worried if there were priests who disagreed with the sentiments it contains.

“The letter calls for fidelity to Catholic teaching, and that practice should remain ‘inseparably in harmony’ with doctrine. The priests state that they remain committed to helping ‘those who struggle to follow the Gospel in an increasingly secular society’, but imply that those couples and families who have remained faithful are not being adequately supported or encouraged.”

Notable signatories to the letter include theologians Fr Aidan Nichols and Fr John Saward, and Oxford physicist Fr Andrew Pinsent. Fr Robert Billing, spokesman for the Diocese of Lancaster, Fr Tim Finigan, blogger and Catholic Herald columnist, and Fr Julian Large, provost of the London Oratory, have also signed the letter.

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The Myth of the Pregnancy Rewind

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Cambridge Brewing Co

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Cambridge Brewing Co

Which is worse, killing someone, or disposing of their body improperly once you’ve killed them?

In our nutty society, killing babies with abortion is considered a “human right” of the person who wants them killed. But, once the baby is dead, we do not — and I mean do not — want to see or hear of what is done with the baby’s corpse.

Why? Why do Americans get so worked up when a doc mistreats the body of a baby he or she has killed, but pay no attention to the killing itself? I think the answer lies in the fantasy thinking of the myth of the pregnancy rewind.

I wrote about this for CatholicVote. Here’s a bit of what I said:

As anyone who watches crime drama knows, the number one problem that any murderer has is how to dispose of the body once the grisly deed is done. Lakes, dumps and crawlspaces are favorite places murderers use to stash the remains of their victims. 

Even though they maintain that abortion is not murder, abortionists end up with the same problem as the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world. That problem is how to dispose of the remains of those whose lives they have ended. 

Here in Oklahoma, we had a local abortionist who tried to solve this problem by burning dead baby bodies in a field. This same doctor was later charged with committing fraud by lying to his patients and telling them they were pregnant when they were not, and performing unnecessary abortions on them. 

It appears that Planned Parenthood has turned body disposal into a profitable business of selling the remains of aborted babies to researchers. Meanwhile, a Michigan abortionist has taken up an even more Dahmer-esq solution. According to news reports, Dr Michael Roth stores the bodies of babies he’s aborted in plastic jars in his house and drives a few of them around in the trunk of his car. 

These scandals reflect two truths. The first truth is that no matter how vociferously pro abortion people may deny it, abortion kills a living child. The second truth is that the American public is decidedly uncomfortable with the first truth.

Read the rest here.

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How to Tell the World that You Love Jesus

Photo courtesy of Nancy Ward

Photo courtesy of Nancy Ward

Evangelization is not only awkward to say, most of us find it awkward to do.

It’s all very well to talk about converting this culture. But how do we do that? Is there a roadmap somewhere to help us on our way to this worthy goal?

Most Catholics are considerate of others. We don’t go door to door on Saturday mornings, rousting people out of bed to ask them where they think they will go when they die. Neither do we dominate dinner parties and family gatherings with demands that our friends and family call the local parish and sign up for RCIA.

We do our best to live and let live. We carry this to the point that we often let internet bullies defame both us and our Church without arguing back.

So, given all that, how are ordinary pew-sitting Catholics going to convert this culture? That’s an important question because, if this culture gets converted, it will be by ordinary pew-sitting Catholics. Priests are preoccupied with running parishes, editing magazines, running universities and dealing with Church administration. Not only that, but they clearly don’t have any better idea how to convert people out there in the hustings than we do.

I see the priests’ role as empowering and equipping the laity to do the work of converting the culture. I see our role as the laity as living our faith in the world, taking the brickbats that go with that, staying faithful and, yes, converting the culture, one step, one person, at a time. No one of us is going to convert this culture. But if we each do our part and we do it every day, we can get there.

The question underneath this remains. How do we convert the world, one person at a time?

I’m talking about a kind of relational conversion that Catholics have pretty much left out of their spiritual kit bag. What has happened is that the laity thinks that conversion is the priest’s job, and the priest thinks that his job is running the parish 24/7.

Let’s cut to the chase here and acknowledge that we, the laity, have the job of converting the culture.

That’s number one.

Next, let’s go about the business of figuring out how to actually do that. By that I mean, let’s start the work of brainstorming for ideas about how we can go about this eternity work that has been given to us.

My fellow Catholic writer, Nancy Ward, has authored a CD which starts the ball rolling in that direction. It’s a three-parter titled Sharing Your Faith Story that begins with Nancy’s own faith story and ends with ideas for how to share your faith story. I think that’s a great place to start the work of converting the culture because each one of us has a faith story, and that faith story is our personal witness to the truth of Christ. For almost all of us, our faith story is a love story, and that makes it even more powerful.

We need to learn how to tell this powerful story of love between us and our Jesus. That’s the first step toward leading others to a love story of their own.

Nancy is running a contest in which you can win a free copy of her CD. Go here for details. To learn more about the CD, check out an interview Nancy gave here. Or, you can buy the CD on Amazon.

Evangelization may be an awkward word to say, but it doesn’t have to feel awkward to do. We just need to put our heads together and figure out how to do it well. The first step is to learn how to tell our faith stories. Our individual faith story is our personal witness of what we believe and why we believe it. Nancy’s CD can help us learn to tell our faith stories, and that is the beginning of converting this culture.

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Studies Show Porn and Abortion are Allies

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Chris Lim

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Chris Lim

I was there when most of the tracks that led us to where we are now were laid down. By “there” I mean I was often in the room when the discussion were had and the decisions were made. On those occasions when I wasn’t part of the initial discussion, I was usually one of the first to know what was coming down.

If hindsight really is 22, then I have a clear view of how we got here, or at least the beginnings of it.

I wrote a bit about that in a post for CatholicVote. The post discussed a new study which revealed the old truth that abortion and porn are, in fact, allies.

Here’s part of what I said.

Well, duh.

A new study by the Journal of Sex Research indicates that users of porn may also be “useful allies” of the abortion industry.

This is news?

I was an active part of the feminist movement back in the 1970s. I was also the Oklahoma Director for NARAL. I remember when we (meaning those who advocated for legal abortion) partnered with the Playboy Foundation. Prior to that, the feminist movement had been, rightfully, against pornography because of its penchant for reducing women and children to objects. Porn is degrading to those who are depicted in it. Oftentimes it is violently degrading.

Just type a series of xxxs in your search engine and sit back and watch the porn depicting violence against and degradation of women roll down your screen. Or, type “rape” or “rape victim” in your search engine and see how many hits you get for pornography depicting violent gang rapes and snuff films — all with women and children as the victims. This is not to say that pornography only victimizes women and children. Gay porn is just as degrading and often as violent as that aimed at women.

Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I realize that this compromise with the devil of pornography on behalf of the demon of abortion was, in many ways, the unraveling of the feminist movement.

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PP Says They Will Stop Taking Money for Aborted Baby Body Parts. Do You Believe Them?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryofGod by  Sharon

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryofGod by Sharon

Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, published a letter yesterday stating that Big Pink won’t take direct monies for selling the body parts of babies it has killed during abortions. Do you believe them?

I talk about this, from the viewpoint of someone who once allied with Planned Parenthood as a pro choice advocate in a post I wrote for the National Catholic Register. 

Here’s part of what I said:

Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, posted a letter yesterday. She announced that Planned Parenthood would no longer accept money for supplying the body parts of aborted babies to researchers, research facilities and their middlemen.

Personally, I’m not convinced. The reason I’m not convinced is my personal experience with Planned Parenthood and the impressions I formed of them during the time I was their political ally run counter to this action.

The truth is, Planned Parenthood cares about money. Planned Parenthood really cares about money.

I was a naive, true-believing 22-year-old from the wrong side of the river when I first encountered Planned Parenthood’s leadership. My piece of the situation was an ardent belief that (and I’m explaining this beyond what I would have said at that time) the sexual double standard and misogyny were such that abortion was absolutely necessary to save women’s lives and allow them to function as full human beings. I had a friend who almost died from an illegal abortion. I well remember the terror of this situation and how hard it was to get medical care to save her life.

That was a watershed event for me. The horror of it trumped every other consideration in my thinking about abortion for a long, long time. That’s how I came to advocate for legal abortion, how I came to be the Oklahoma Director for NARAL, and how I came to sit across the table with Planned Parenthood muckety-mucks from around the country at various banquets, seminars and such. Without exception, the first thing a member of Planned Parenthood’s governing boards would ask me was “How are you funded?” Meaning, how was Oklahoma NARAL funded.

This wasn’t something that came up casually, later in the conversation, and it didn’t happen once in a while. Every single conversation I ever remember having with them began with an introduction, followed by the question “How are you funded?”


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