Three Cardinals — and I Don’t Mean Baseball Players — and Their Grand Slam of Confusion

I’m late to the party.

But then, I often am.

It takes me a while to think through certain events. There are also times when it takes me a while to care about certain events.

The three cardinals — Dolan, Kasper and McCarrick — and their grand slam of confusion is a case in point. I’m going to take their statements/actions one at a time.

Lesseeeee ….

Cardinal Timothy Dolan CNA US Catholic News 3 23 12

Cardinal Dolan and his parade.

It seems that the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade is going to allow a group of gay people to join in the march. It has been noted in some circles that the writers here at the Catholic Portal at Patheos have been — up to now — silent on this subject. I guess they overlooked — or perhaps didn’t like — the commentary by the Anchoress on this subject. For my part, I’ll attempt to add a bit of perspective from fly-over America.

I’ve been writing a lot about beheadings, mass murder and possible war. So, when I read that homosexuals were going to march in a parade in New York (which I hasten to remind you is almost 2,000 miles and a whole culture away from me) I thought, ummm … it’s a parade. Big whooping deal.

Then I heard that Cardinal Dolan was going to be the grand master at this hoe down, and I thought ummm … it’s a parade. Big whooping deal.

Then, I heard the plunk, plunk, plunk of the sky falling in the New York outpost of the faithful Catholic blogosphere and I thought ummm … it’s a New York thing. Big whooping deal.

To be honest, I’m sorta stuck at it’s a parade and a New York deal.

We’ll see how it comes off. If Cardinal Dolan ends up two-stepping down the road leading the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence or some such, I may decide that, in addition to being a parade, it is an embarrassment.

But basically, I’m still kind of caught up in the fact that we’ve got a blood-red Christian genocide going on and that, well, it’s not a parade. Or a New York deal.

Ppmccarrick091009

Cardinal McCarrick and his newfound universalism.

Cardinal McCarrick attended a press conference arranged by the Muslim Affairs Council and managed to do such a good job of  Muslim apologetics that one headline brayed that “Catholic Cardinal McCarrick Embraces Islam.” All in all, it sounds like the Cardinal put on a pretty good show. It might help if he gave another press conference with Eastern Church leaders to show solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. You know; just to even things out.

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Cardinal Kasper and his protestantized view of the sacrament of marriage.

My colleague, Dr Greg Popcak already wrote a post about this, so I’ll pick up the salient quote from him. Here it is:

If a Catholic who is divorced and civilly remarried, without a decree of nullity, “repents of his failure to fulfill what he promised before God, his partner and the church in the first marriage, and carries out as well as possible his new duties and does what he can for the Christian education of his children and has a serious desire for the sacraments, which he needs for strength in his difficult situation, can we after a time of new orientation and stabilization deny absolution and forgiveness?”

I’m not any kind of theologian. In fact, I’m only a Christian and a Catholic due to enormous unmerited forgiveness. So, I “get” the desire to let people in, no matter what they’ve done. I also “get” that in this post-Christian world the Church is flat-out counter-cultural. I’m sure that these cardinals deal with the fallout of that counter-culturalism every day when they interact with civic and social leaders in the upper strata.

I’ve had a few doses of that poison myself.

I also “get” that, due to pew-sitting Catholics drinking great draughts of that cultural poison, divorce and remarriage are increasingly a source of alienation for many of the “faithful.”

However, I don’t “get” slam-dunking 2,000 years of Christian teaching in order to make the Church fit in with this fallen world.

I’m not big fan of the annulment process as it is used today, anyway. I know there are times when a sacrament may not have taken place at a wedding, and I also know that the Church always errs on the side of forgiveness and compassion.

I have benefitted from that forgiveness and compassion. When I accepted Christ and changed, no one else would forgive me. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, not only took me in, but treated what I had done as a thing of the past that did not pertain to me as I am now.

I will be grateful for this loving compassion and forgiveness to the end of my days.

I understand that this deep compassion and desire to forgive animates all that the Church does. But compassion can not overwrite the plain teachings of the Gospels. In fact, it is misguided compassion to try. The compassion that I received was a firm and abiding belief in the power of Christ to redeem sinners, including me.

If the Church had told me — as a number of denominations would have — that it was ok for me to be pro abortion (that was my public sin that others would not forgive) that would have been a terrible injustice to me, a false compassion that would have led me into deeper sign, and ultimately hell.

The Church has the same responsibility to the truth in the area of marriage, divorce and remarriage that it has about abortion.

The Church is bending over backwards to allow people who’ve divorced and remarried to come back into the fold. It does this via a somewhat complicated and terribly faulty annulment process.

As I said, I know that there are times when, for various reasons, a marriage is not sacramental and an annulment is justified. But I honestly believe that those times are much more rare than the number of annulments reflect.

I realize that this is one of the more contentious issues facing the Church today. But the fact remains that the facts remain. I know what I’ve seen. And what I’ve seen is people getting annulments for marriages that

they willingly contracted when they were free adults

they undertook after lengthy premarital counseling by the Church that took place in Catholic Churches

whose vows were given in front of many witnesses and before a priest

were not abusive but were cases where the people simply decided — for various reasons — to get out and go and get annulments so they could try again with someone else.

I know the annulment system is a mess because I’ve also seen people who entered into marriage

when both were drunk during the ceremony and they were both sleeping with other people at the time they married and they both knew it not getting an annulment  because they couldn’t get the paperwork filled out.

Add to that, I’ve also seen someone refused entry into the Church because they couldn’t get the paperwork filed out concerning a common law marriage from decades in their past.

The annulment process isn’t working for people who deserve annulments. And it’s chunking out annulments for people who should not get them.

But what the Cardinal seems to be suggesting is to toss the whole thing overboard and shake hands and call it even. In essence, what he’s leading up to is a revocation of the sacramental nature of marriage. I say that because, if marriage is a sacrament, you can’t undo it. Can’t. Not possible.

And if marriage, after 2,000 years, isn’t a sacrament, then what is? I mean, if marriage isn’t a sacrament, then why would Holy Orders, which is akin to it, be a sacrament?

The real problem with all of these actions taken by these various Cardinals is that they are deeply disturbing to the people who actually hold the Church together. I do not mean the hierarchy. I mean the pew-sitting Catholics who believe and try to follow what the Church teaches. It’s a mistake of Homeric proportions to abandon those people and go off chasing after the ones who have left the Church.

Remember when Jesus said, If you do not eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, you will have no eternal life within you? His frank discussion of the sacrament of the Eucharist, of which this statement is a part, caused a number of people to abandon Him. They went off muttering about cannibalism or some such.

But Our Lord didn’t go chasing after them and say, Wait a minute, I didn’t mean it that way.

No.

He let what He’d said stand and He allowed them to leave.

If the princes of the Church start teaching that 2,000 years of Christian teaching on the sacraments is up for grabs because it’s an embarrassment to them, we are in big trouble. In truth, sex outside of marriage, including homosexual sex, is a sin. In truth, marriage is between one man and one woman and it is for life. In truth, there are radical differences between Christianity and every other belief system. Christianity alone has the empty tomb and the words that lead to eternal life.

Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. There is no other.

On the other hand, it is just a parade and a New York deal, and it was just a speech, and then  another speech.

Confusing leadership is … well … confusing. In times such as these, it can be frightening. It seems to be almost impossible for the American bishops to give clear teaching on what is in fact the 2,000 year old teachings of the Church for which they claim to speak. They’re trying so hard to be loved by everybody that they trip over their own eagerness.

That scares people who’ve paid a great price to follow the Church, and it angers them. I think the best way to deal with that is to remember that it has always been so, and it will always be so until the Lord comes again. Your task is to stay faithful, in spite of it.

As for the New York parade deal; I just hope that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stay away.

HPIM1680

Run in Circles, Scream and Shout

When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. 

Based on conversations I have with Catholics in my private life, I’m guessing that what I’m about to say is big, unwelcome news for a lot of active, Jesus-loving Catholics in America today.

But, based on what I know is happening, it is long past time for someone to start saying it, and saying it often.

We are going to have to get used to the idea that the Church is under attack. I know that most Public Catholic readers are aware of this. In fact, I’m overdue in complimenting you on how thoughtfully you responded to last week’s media dipsy doodle over Pope Francis’ interview with America magazine.

Nobody tried to post any of the “run in circles scream and shout” comments I saw elsewhere on the internet. I think that I am blessed that this blog has attracted such an intelligent and thoughtful group of readers.

However, based on the things I read elsewhere, and more to the point, the things I’ve heard from my fellow pew-sitting Catholics, many of whom wouldn’t touch the internet with a stick, I would say that you are an extraordinary group of well-informed believers. That makes you important to the future of our Church.

Since you are the ones who have learned to think things through without taking a reflexive bite of whatever swill the media is dishing, you are also the ones who have the job of going into your parishes, prayer groups and families and setting things straight.

That’s a big job, and it’s going to get bigger as time goes by.

You see, the Church is under attack. As St Paul said 2,000 years ago, we are not dealing with the ordinary gossipy mealy-mouthedness of regular human communication. We are dealing with powers and principalities. In other words, the Church is being attacked by people who, without knowing it at all, are driven by a hatred for the Light that does not grow tired and will not stop until Jesus comes again.

The sad part is that the purveyors of Christian/Catholic/Church bashing claptrap are winning the information wars. People believe these folks, especially when they praise the pope for their false interpretations of his words. They fall right over the cliff of thinking that the Holy Father has pulled the moral rug out from under them.

Let me tell you something simple: That ain’t gonna happen. It won’t happen in my lifetime, or in yours, or in the lifetime of the Church.

The Pope will never obviate 2,000 years of Christian teaching to follow after what Elizabeth Scalia calls the “idols of everyday life.” No matter what bribery they offer him in terms of their praise and adulation for what he didn’t say, he will not do this.

The Church’s written teaching on abortion goes all the way back to the Didache, which is to say, to the beginning. The teaching on the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony goes back to the wedding of Cana, which is to say, to the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. It was the first thing Our Lord did when He began to teach and preach.

The Vicar of Christ is not going to overturn these teachings.

At the same time, the teachings of the unfathomable value of every human being — young or old, gay or straight, man or woman, saint or sinner — goes back to that same Jesus and His words. The Christ Who told us that the very hairs on our heads are numbered by the God Who made us, is the same Christ Who instituted the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

It is all of a whole; one cloth. That is what we have lost in our politicized message. We cannot chose between human beings and say that one is more worthy of life than another. We can not do this about any human life, including our own, for the simple reason that every human life belongs to God. By the same token, we cannot pretend and proclaim that two men or two women are the same as a man and a woman. If it wasn’t for the enormous pressure being exerted by the culture, we would all see this for the fantastical delusion that it is.

That does not mean that two men or two women are any less human and worthy of love than a man and a woman. But it does mean that just because you call it “marriage” that does not make it a marriage. It just makes you a fool when you say it.

The reason I am writing this is because I think most of the people who read it see this already. I want you to understand that you are graced by that understanding and that this grace carries a responsibility. Our brothers and sisters are being whipped around like flags blowing in the wind by media flimflam about the Church.

They absorb the constant dribble of malicious criticism without giving it perspective or taking the time to learn what is fact, what is exaggeration and what is an outright lie. By the same token, they buy the whole deal when the press tells them that the Pope has overturned bedrock teachings of the Church.

What I want for you is two things.

1. Do not lose track of the fact that the Holy Father will never repudiate Christ and His teachings. He will not do it. So when you hear the next new whatever that the press says about him, judge it by that simple fact.

2. Communicate this to the people around you. Evangelize a bit by telling the truth. It won’t be easy. The American public has been so beaten up by constant manipulation and propaganda that they behave like a 300,000,000-member herd of spot-lighted deer. But if I have learned anything in 18 years of public life, it is that steady persistence and consistency win out over lies. They don’t right at first. But in the long run, the truth floats and lies sink.

We’re going to have to get used to this. Things will get worse before they get better.

But that isn’t a tragedy. It’s an opportunity. It’s our chance to stand for Jesus.

My advice to you is, don’t miss it.

The Pope and “Judging” Gay Priests, Redux

Pope francis and dove

The National Catholic Register has an excellent article by Edward Pentin. The article analyzes the press reaction to Pope Francis’ comments concerning homosexuality.

The Holy Father made these comments during his flight back to Rome from World Youth Day. I wrote about them here, and gave you a video of them here.

The point the NCR article makes is that the Pope did not overturn 2,000 years of Catholic teaching on this issue. He simply gave an example by his actions as to how it is lived out in real people’s lives.

The media not only misinterpreted Pope Francis’ comments, but it has consistently, and with what seems to me to often be deliberate malice, misinterpreted Catholic teaching on this subject in its entirety. This is so widespread that I can’t just offhand think of a major media outlet that represents Church teaching accurately.

I know this is due to some extent to the limitations of space and time in which they work. There is also the problem of shoddy workmanship in which they settle for quoting one another rather than checking things out. Whatever the causes, the media has consistently portrayed Church teaching concerning homosexuality inaccurately and negatively.

I was impressed and proud of the way Public Catholic readers responded to this dust up over Pope Francis’ statements. The comments to these two posts concerning the Pope’s remarks were thoughtful, well-informed and intelligent.

You were not stampeded by the press. Bravo!

One thing that I think you already know, but that I want to make clear, is that the Catholic Church does not “hate gays” and it certainly is not homophobic. The only way it could be judged “homophobic” is by self-serving definitions of the word used by people who claim that any limit on homosexual behavior is, de facto, “homophobic.”

The Church offers the same gifts of the sacraments to homosexuals as she does to everyone else. There is no bright line in Church teaching that says that homosexual acts are worse than adultery or other, similar, sexual sins. The Church — and the Pope in his press conference — simply refuse to deny that these acts are, in fact, sinful.

If the Church bowed to the dictates of trendy morality and started going along with people’s demands that it tell them that their sins are not, in fact, sins, it would certainly not be doing them any favors. In fact, it would be endangering their immortal souls, and denying its own mission.

The Church cannot do this.

The Church is here to be a pathway to heaven. It shines a light on the narrow path that will take all of us who chose to follow it Home.

Do you want to go to heaven? Then do what the Catholic Church teaches.

It’s as simple and easy as that.

For those Protestants who don’t fully understand what I am saying, doing what the Church teaches will lead a person into a close, intimate and fruitful relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They will be born again into the new life of truth and spirit. Doing what the Church teaches means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I know this is hard to see from the outside, but I’ve lived it, and I know it’s true.

The Church cannot tell people that their sins are not sins. That would be the worst possible lie. It would wreak damage on them of eternal dimensions.

Churches who are falling into the trendy mindset of re-writing the Gospels to suit the fancies and fashions of the day are misleading their followers. They are ignoring their responsibilities to the people who trust them, and to the God they claim to follow.

The Catholic Church, for all the failings of its people, will not do this. It is the Rock and it will not lie to you in ways that can get you sent to hell.

This is not homophobia. It is love.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Misinterpreting Francis (1944)

NEWS ANALYSIS: A Vatican official chided the mainstream media for its conflation of the Holy Father’s remarks on homosexuality.

– CNA/Alan Holdren

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality during a press conference on the papal plane back from World Youth Day in Rio were largely misreported by the mainstream press, according to a Vatican official and a Church expert.

During a surprise and wide-ranging in-flight press conference Sunday that lasted 80 minutes, Pope Francis reportedly said: “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” the Holy Father went on. “It says one must not marginalize these persons; they must be integrated into society,” he said, and he reportedly made the distinction between homosexual acts, which are sinful, and tendencies, which are not.

“The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying, either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby,” he said. The Pope recently said a “gay lobby” exists in the Vatican, which protects some priests and threatens to blackmail others.

The Catechism states that the number of men and women who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.” The inclination is “objectively disordered,” it continues, and “constitutes for most of them a trial” (2358).

It adds, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (2358).

The Catechism teaches that homosexual persons “are called to chastity” and that “by the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (2359).

 

Not Changing Doctrine

But large media outlets, such as the BBC, often accused of promoting same-sex rights, were quick to report the story in accordance with their own biases. The BBC splashed this headline across its news site: “Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people?” Others followed suit, misleadingly implying that the Holy Father “doesn’t judge gay people.”

“[The Pope] is not saying homosexual acts are not a sin, and he obviously isn’t changing Church doctrine, but he is making a change of emphasis,” one Vatican official close to the Pope told the Register on condition of anonymity.

 

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/misinterpreting-francis?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-07-30%2012:53:01#ixzz2aXmze850

The Sacramental Vending Machine vs The Highway to Heaven

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way …’” John 14: 1-6

 

Leah Libresco

When my colleague Leah Libresco enters the Church today, she will do so with the support and the presence of a sponsor.

Candidates for Baptism and Confirmation in the Catholic Church usually go through what is called a Rite of Election before their big day. During this rite, their sponsor vouches for them, affirming that they are, indeed, sincere in their desire to become Catholic.

The reason for this is ancient. In the early days of Christianity, there were those who would pretend to be converts in order to infiltrate the Church and then use the knowledge they gained to aid those who persecuted it. They were, in the parlance of the Cold War, double agents.

Back in the 1950s, there was a television show called I Led Three Lives about just such a double agent. It told the story of a man who pretended to be an ordinary citizen on the outside, was an active spy for the Communists in one of his inside identities and a double agent for the United States who was, in fact, spying on the Communists in his hidden, but true, identity. Evidently, a good many people once tried to infest the Catholic Church with their own version of I Led Three Lives  in much the same way back in the early days of Christianity.

Most Christians in those days led at least two lives; passing as best they could as ordinary citizens in their outside identity and living for Christ in their hidden, but true, identity. Thus, converts who go through the rite of election do so with a sponsor, who is a known Catholic in good standing and who vouches for their sincerity of intent concerning their desire to enter the Church.

Unfortunately, this part of the Rite of Election is no longer as archaic as it was, say, 30 years ago, not even here in the “Christian West.” More and more people seem to be attempting to enter the Church as what amounts to current-day double agents. They demand the sacraments of baptism and confirmation as if the Church was a sacramental vending machine and they’ve put in their dollar and deserve their sacrament in return.

These people approach entry into the Catholic Church with an arrogance they would never employ during pledge week at a university. The same people who will grovel and debase themselves to be part of a fraternal organization, think nothing of demanding entry into the sacraments without any requirements of genuine belief or fidelity. They are open and arrogant in their refusal to accept Church teaching.

History has made a turn into a full circle. We are once again back at a time when double agents inside the Church cooperate and aid those who want to persecute it. We have also come to a day when some of those who seek entry into the sacraments often do so with an arrogant assumption that this places zero responsibility on them to take this step with a sincere heart and genuine desire to follow what the Church teaches in their lives.

All of this makes the continuing rise in numbers of sincere conversions an even more powerful testimony to the love of Christ. One Leah Libresco is worth any number of false Christians. Leah is quite open about the fact that she is still seeking to understand certain Church teachings. Honest questioning from a sincere heart that is seeking to understand is not what I am talking about when I use phrases like “double agent.” The strongest followers of Christ grow from those who begin with honest seeking and the open hearts and minds of sincere questions.

Conversion is an on-going process. It’s a life-long process. None of us will get to the end of our growth in Christ in this life. Life in Christ is an ever-deepening miracle of love that grows and expands as we step out in our lives and live it. Questions, seeking answers to the confusions of living this faith in a fallen world, are a natural and honest part of it.

What is not honest are those who are not questioning but condemning the Church for teachings that fall afoul of the current world thinking. What is not sincere is someone who enters the Church with no interest in conversion for themselves and a hardened intention to defy the Church and support its attackers in matters of faith.

I found Christ while driving my car without any intellectual reasoning at all. Leah Libresco reasoned her way to Him in a way that reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ conversion. I think that speaks more to the kind of people Leah and I are than anything else. Jesus comes to you where you are. Then, if you give yourself to Him, He leads you gently to where He wants you to go. But the key is that you must give yourself to Him. He is the potter and you are the clay.

The Catholic Church has distilled its great wisdom of 2,000 years of Christian witness into simple, follow-able teachings that are accessible to the smallest child and challenging to the greatest scholar. I think of the Church’s teachings as a roadmap to heaven, and not just to the heavenly Kingdom but to heaven on earth as well. If we could truly follow the path of Christ in the here and now, we would re-create the paradise of before the fall.

But we can’t. Not now. Not yet. We are fallen people in a fallen world and there are tough times in life when the best we can do is just to hang on and do what God tells us. That’s when the teachings of the Church are most valuable. There are days when the confusions and griefs of life rob each of us of our judgement. There are times in every life when all we really want to do is just walk off, walk away and forget about it. Those are the times when this roadmap of Church teaching may be the only path we can see.

Go to mass. Say your prayers. Don’t lie, steal, cheat, rape, rob, kill or commit adultery. Care for the poor, stand for life, pray, even if grudgingly, for your enemies. Chose Christ by doing what He has told you to do, putting one shaky foot in front of the other … day by day by day. Stay the simple, clearly-defined course of Church teaching, and it will lead you through to the other side of whatever angst and dire is tearing at you. That is the truth of Christian living when the going gets tough as I know it.

I am not the intellectual wonderment of a Leah Libresco. I am just one of many battle-scarred veterans of living the Christian life in an openly hostile environment. In that world, sincerity and honest seeking is all.

History has made a turn into full circle and enemies of Christ attack the Church from within as well as without. But compared to the honest seeking of an honest convert who has truly found Him, they are nothing.

Welcome home, Leah. You are God’s gift to the rest of us.

 


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