I’ve Got a Lot of Past, and Not All of It’s Good

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Like everybody my age, I’ve got a lot of past.

Not all of my past is good.

In fact, a portion of it is seriously miserable.

I try to forget.

And forgive myself for the things I’ve done.

I try to forget.

And forgive others for the things that have been done to me.

But there are days when that load of past can get heavy. Especially in church. My miserable past includes a couple of bad times with church. I’ve experienced the rejection of unforgiveness. Even though I forgive as best I can, the memory still comes back from time to time, like an ache in an old break in a bone when the weather changes.

The two greatest challenges this poses are a loss of trust and a deep feeling of unworthiness. The bad opinions of others can imprint on a person and leave their ugly image. Trust, once it’s cut away, doesn’t re-grow. It callouses over, but the nerves are dead.

I have periods of time in my life when the hardest thing I have to do is go to mass. Not because of any latent anger, but because of the deep sense of unworthiness. I have no right to be there in the presence of the Presence, and I know it.

I had an exceptionally rough bout with this recently. I actually left the church during mass, left my husband there, holding the hymnal and looking at me with uncomprehending eyes as I left, driven away by the unworthiness that is branded into me.

I used those moments away to gather myself to myself and then I went back in. But it wasn’t easy. I got through that mass by looking at the tabernacle and talking to Him.

Because it’s true, you know. I have no right to be there, in the presence of the Presence. I am unworthy, as John the Baptist said, to untie His sandal. Yet the reason, the only reason, that I am there is that He invited me.

In the final analysis, the Presence does not belong to any priest, or even to the Church itself. They are its guardians, and the conduit by which God graciously consents to dwell among us in the Eucharist. But the Presence is God Himself, and as such, that Presence belongs to no human being. It is It’s Own Self.

I came to the Catholic Church and asked to come into full communion because Christ in the Eucharist called me to Himself. It was a call that was so clear, persistent and patient, that, in the end, it worked its way past all the obstacles to what was at the time a rather bold step of faith.

Jesus called me to Himself in the Eucharist. That is why I am Catholic.

And on that day when my own unworthiness flared into a blistering flame inside me, when I wanted to run away, to paraphrase St Peter, because I am a sinful woman, He was there, not to call, but to strengthen me past my focus on me and bring me into a fresh focus on Him.

I kept looking at the tabernacle, at Jesus, present in our midst. I don’t know if it was a prayer, or a conversation, or a vow of a sort. I only know I spoke directly to Him and He heard me.

“You are my Lord,” I told Him. “You are the reason I am here. You are the One I trust. You and only You.”

There was more. But that’s the gist of it. Shattered trust is like an amputation. It can’t grow back. We can never undo the things we’ve done or forget the lessons of the things that are done to us. Forgive, yes. But forgetfulness would be to unlearn the life lessons and forego the spiritual depth these things give us.

If you live long enough and do enough hard things, you will lose your trust in people, in fate, in your own good luck. The illusions of personal invincibility die a hard death, but Christ can and will raise up a new trust and a new invincibility from the ashes on that pyre of self-sufficiency.

“You are my Lord,” I told Him, and it was as much vow as prayer; an open acknowledgement of the truth of things, bound up in a promise. “You — and You only — are my Lord.”

“You are the reason I am here.” I said, not because I enjoy the liturgy or find affirmation in the friendships, but “You — and You only — are the reason I am here.”

“You are the One I trust,” because You have proven Yourself trustworthy time and time again, because You loved me first and because You forgave me and walk with me and endure me and keep forgiving me over and over again.

“You and only You,” because people, even the most lovable and precious of people, will let you down. Because, I, you and everyone, will let ourselves down. We will betray one another and we will also betray ourselves. Only Christ will never fail us.

I was not the only wounded person in the church that day. I am never am. We are all wounded, in one way or another. We shatter our self-righteousness by the things we do, and we face the terrible isolation and aloneness of the things that are done to us.

The many cruelties people practice against one another — our gossip and slanders, violence, lies, betrayals and deliberate degradations — are all at base an isolation of the other person, a way of putting them outside while we remain inside.

We draw lines around ourselves and our group, whoever that group may be, and then we push everyone outside that line into a sub-class of one sort or another. This hurts and maims all of us.

So many times on this blog I see angry, harsh comments, coming from people who at base are just trying to express their sense of isolation and rejection. The truth is, no one of us, not a single person of us, has the right to stand before God.

But He is our Lord. And He has invited all of us — ALL of us — to His table. No one of us has a right to be there. But, by the miracle of His love, no one of us is too wounded, too sin-sick, too disreputable, too female, too gay, too poor, too fat, too ugly, stupid or lost to be refused a place at that table. We are all welcome.

He is always with us, even when others fail us or turn us away. He is always ready to accept us and forgive us. We don’t have to stop sinning and get perfect to come to Him. He accepts us just, as the old hymn says, as we are.

We may have to jump through more hoops that we can manage to find surcease and acceptance from other people. But all we ever have to be or will ever have to do with Him is put our hand in His and say “Yes.”

“You are my Lord,” I told him. It is as simple as that.

Who has Teaching Authority in the Church? The Bishops, or High-Profile Catholic Politicians?

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How do Catholic politicians come to the conclusion that it’s A-Ok for them to vote, speak and advocate for abortion?

How do Catholic politicians decide that it’s not a big deal for them to vote for discriminatory laws against whole swaths of humanity?

How do Catholic politicians develop the belief that they can vote and speak for the HHS Mandate and not be attacking their own Church?

How on earth do Catholic politicians come to believe that, even though John Paul II expressly wrote a whole letter telling them flat out that politicians who vote for gay marriage are committing grave sins, that it’s still ok for them to vote for gay marriage and that they can march right up to the front of the church and take communion afterwards?

Where do these elected officials get the gas to denounce a bishop for having the temerity to teach the teachings of the Church? What is the source of the arrogance that allows a member of the Catholic laity to proclaim that a bishop’s teaching, which is based on papal documents and the constant teaching of the Church, is “a tragedy?”

Where do politicians who essentially tell bishops of the Church to “mind your place” when they teach Church teaching acquire their overbearing attitudes towards their religious leaders? Where did the princes and princesses of Western democracies get the nerve to lecture the Church on what constitutes a state of grace and who would be taking communion unworthily? 

It has grown past scandal and become a broad cultural reality that dissenting high profile Catholics deliberately and publicly thumb their noses at Church teaching by deciding, with a clear knowledge of what they are doing, to cast votes, make speeches, accept awards and publicly advocate for abortion and gay marriage. These actions have been specifically defined as mortal sins by the popes. 

Who brought this beast of arrogant Catholic politicians who oppose and attack their own Church to life? Who feeds it? 

While there are multiple factors and causes involved in the exploits of such a large group of people, one thing that stands out in my mind is the actions of the Bishops themselves. I understand that telling a group of people that they may not take communion unless they repent, as in the situation of politicians who cast a certain vote, is a difficult call, primarily for reasons of justice. 

Votes can be misleading simply because there are procedural methods of killing a piece of legislation or of working to get at it, which can look one way to the outsider and are really another thing altogether to someone who understands the process. Lawmaking in a democracy is a wild West process where anything that works, goes. 

Added to this is the fact that the bishops themselves seem to have little more than a high school political science understanding of how legislating works. A few years ago, I watched an EWTN broadcast of a meeting of the USCCB as they tried to iron out what would have been simple parliamentary procedures for an elected official. It was funny stuff. But it also taught me that these guys don’t understand what politicians do for a living.

That is why these cases have to be taken individually and why a repeated practice of voting a certain way, added to public statements is the best method for a bishop to determine if he is dealing with an elected official who just fell off the horse, or who even may be doing the right thing with a confusing procedural move, or, if the politician in question is a hardened dissenter who is committing mortal sins without compunction.

Even though examples of obvious, high-profile cases of the latter are easily found in American politics, both at the federal and the state level, I do not want to see star chamber Catholics with their desire to use communion as a club to beat people they don’t like to rule the day. I appreciate the caution of good bishops in a matter as serious as telling someone to refrain from taking communion. 

But if they want to lead their people, the bishops are going to have to get together and do something. They should have done something a long time back. It needs to be consistent, cohesive and understandable. It also needs to occur in non-election years so that there is no taint of electoral politics to it. 

This penchant for openly committing grave sins and then denouncing anyone who says that it is, in fact, a sin, has become a mass revolt in the public at large, and it is being led by large numbers of Catholic politicians.

I know that it is difficult for a bishop to talk to each one of these offending politicians personally and advise them of the gravity of their situation. I also understand that a certain number of the politicians in question will make the whole thing public and milk it for all it’s worth. There will inevitably a public outcry and excoriation of the bishops for their “intolerance” when they advise someone to refrain from taking communion until they repent and go to confession.  

But the fact is that the reason there are so many Catholic politicians doing this is that the bishops have failed Catholic elected officials in this matter for a long time.

Elected officials are not just things with power. They are human beings. They are immortal souls. If they are Catholic, their religious leaders are their pastor and their bishop. If both these men do not take note of public dissent against Church teaching in grave matters when it is manifesting and step in to advise the person of the danger to their soul in what they are doing, then that pastor or bishop is failing this person. 

It really is as simple as that. Bishops who allow high profile Catholics to run amuk and commit equally high-profile mortal sins without at least making sure that their pastors talk to them about it are failing these people. What’s more, they are failing them in an area which strikes to the core of what a bishop is, which is their role as the shepherd of souls.

If the pastor or bishop allows this behavior to continue unchallenged until it becomes a public scandal — as it will — then they have not only failed this one individual, they have failed all those who observe this politician’s defiance and decide that it must be ok for them to defy the Church in matters of mortal sin, as well. 

In this way, the pastor and bishops are training both elected officials and the rest of the laity to defy the Church and ignore its teachings. The bishops are indirectly teaching that mortal sin is not mortal sin and the Eucharist is simply a social rite which may be taken by the force of public approbation and criticism. 

We’ve just been given a startling example of this by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England basically did exactly what I’m talking about in a recent letter in which they made it clear that, insofar as the Church is concerned, the Catholic MPs who voted for gay marriage did not commit a serious sin with that vote. 

They didn’t say this explicitly, of course. What they said was that there were no plans to deny communion to those MPs who had voted for gay marriage. So far as the public is concerned, this is the bishops’ imprimatur on the power of Catholic politicians to commit any sin they chose with their offices and not have to count it as sin. 

Again, the bishops didn’t explicitly say that, but there is enough past experience here, and they all have to be intelligent well-educated men who are fully aware of the consequences to this sort of thing that I’m certain they know how people will see their actions. They also have to know that the effect of their little letter will be more dissent in the future.

Where do you think dissenting politicians come from? They are empowered and enabled by bishops like these. 

From LifeSiteNews:

LONDON, April 2, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales assured Catholic Members of Parliament this week that there are “no plans” to refuse them Holy Communion after they voted to support the “gay marriage” legislation that came into effect yesterday.

Greg Pope, head of parliamentary relations at the conference and a former Labour Party MP, wrote to MPs assuring them that comments by the bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, on the Church’s Code of Canon Law forbidding Communion to “manifest grave sinners,” would not be applied to them.

Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan

Today the media office of the bishops’ conference confirmed with LifeSiteNews that the letter was addressed to the Catholic MPs with the bishops’ full authorization. “Many thanks for your mail. Mr. Greg Pope was speaking as a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales,” a spokesman with the bishops’ Catholic Communications Network said.  Greg Pope was chosen as the liaison between the English Catholic bishops and Parliament despite his consistent voting record in opposition to traditional moral teachings. Pope has supported abortion, adoption by homosexual partners, and artificial contraception.

“The statement was approved by the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference after appropriate consultation. ‘There are no plans by any Bishops in England and Wales to deny communion to Catholic MPs who voted in favour of same sex marriage legislation last year,’” the spokesman said.

Pope’s letter came in response to a LifeSiteNews interview with Bishop Philip Egan in which he said that denying Communion to someone engaged publicly in grave sin is an “act of mercy” and a “medicinal” remedy for Catholics.

He said, “When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church … in terms of the teachings of the Church on marriage and family life – they are voting in favour of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion.”

“When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church on such a central thing as the value of life of the unborn child and also in terms of the teachings of the church on marriage and family life – they are voting in favor of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion,” he said.

Bishop Egan refused to be intimidated by the possibility of opposition, saying “Nobody is forced to be Catholic.”

Here is how the discussion began, also from LifeSiteNews:

PORTSMOUTH, UK, April 1, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An openly gay Catholic MP who voted for same-sex “marriage” in Britain has said he “feels unable,” in the words of The Telegraph, to receive Communion after his local bishop said that those who vote for legislation that is contrary to Church teaching on marriage and family make themselves unworthy to receive Holy Communion.

Conservative MP Conors Burns called Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan’s remarks a “tragedy.”

Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan

“I have been a practising Catholic and communicant within the diocese of Portsmouth since I arrived at Southampton university in 1991 before anyone in Portsmouth Diocese had ever heard of Philip Egan,” Burns told The Telegraph.

He voted for the same-sex “marriage” legislation that came into effect last month, even though he had voiced prior reservations to redefining marriage.

“If the arrival of this bishop means that I can no longer be a practising Catholic within the diocese, that is a tragedy,” hetold The Tablet last week.

Burns co-chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Britain’s relations with the Holy See and is considered to be one of the country’s most senior Roman Catholic MPs.

Despite his high ranking, Burns appears to have missed his bishop’s main message.

Egan made it clear in a video interview last month with LifeSiteNews that denying Holy Communion — which Catholics believe to be the body of Jesus Christ —to Catholic politicians not believing and practicing the faith is not a punitive measure, but “always an act of mercy.”

It is done to “encourage someone to come back to seek communion with the Lord with the truth and say I’m sorry I got lost,” he said. It is done “with the hope and prayer that that person can be wooed back into full communion with the Church.”

Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

However, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has responded to Egan’s remarks by assuring Catholic politicians that Canon 915 will not be enforced. The bishops’ head of parliamentary relations, Greg Pope, has written to Catholic MPs that Communion will not be denied to those who supported gay “marriage,” reported The Telegraph.

American Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, has strongly advocated the use of canon 915 in the case of Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

In a recent interview published exclusively in English by LifeSiteNews, Burke said denying these politicians Communion is a “prime act of pastoral charity,” since it helps the person in question to “avoid sacrilege and safeguard[s] the other faithful from scandal.”

Vatican Says No to Communion for Divorced and Remarrieds

Rumors aside, it appears that Pope Francis is not going to overturn the 2,000-year-old Church teaching on the sanctity of Holy Matrimony.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller published an article in the Vatican newspaper, putting that story to rest.

Archbishop Muller writes that marriage is indissoluble as is testified in both Scripture and Tradition.

From National Catholic Register:

That Pope Francis is not going to change the discipline that denies Communion to divorced-remarried people is established by the long article Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, drafted for the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

In the article, published on Oct. 22, Archbishop Müller reiterates that a Christian marriage is indissoluble and that this is not simply a pastoral question, but a doctrinal issue that involves the Church’s theological understanding of the sacrament of marriage.

There are also other key passages. Archbishop Müller stated that the Orthodox practice of allowing second or third marriages under certain circumstances “cannot be reconciled with God’s will.” He rejected that the individual conscience can be the final arbiter on whether a divorced and civily remarried Catholic can receive Communion. And responding to the argument that Christian mercy mandates allowing such Catholics reception of Communion, he asserted that “an objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God by implying that God cannot do other than forgive.”

The article seems a clear corrective to those who recently praised the Church for, they said, finally being open to bringing Communion to divorced-remarried under Pope Francis’ pontificate. And it also serves as a correction to numerous newspaper headlines that have misrepresented the theme of the next Extraordinary Synod of Bishops — “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” — as meaning the 2014 synod will open the door to a new Church discipline on the matter.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/communion-to-divorced-remarried-catholics-the-cdf-says-no?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-10-25%2020:59:01#ixzz2isPprnKm

Conversion Story: Hell and Oyster Crackers

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Sam Rocha and Katrina Fernandez, aka, The Crescat, got together for a Facebook interview.

When those two get together, you just know the result is going to be interesting.

And it was.

There’s lots to read, and you can find it here. I want to focus on one aspect of that free-ranging discussion: Katrina’s conversion story.

Kat came to Jesus by way of art. Imagine this: A seven-year-old who spends a lot of time in museums (already it’s getting unusual) spies Memling’s painting, The Last judgement. She’s small enough that her eye-view is of the bottom of the painting. She’s nose to canvas with the lost souls in hell. The prospect convinced her that hell was real.

Sam’s response, “You found God in hell?”

That sounds like a reasonable question to those of us who’ve never been converted by art. I mean, how does that track?

Here, according to Kat herself is how:

If Hell is real then it stands to reason that God was real. Simple as that.
Why do atheist struggle so? Their arrogance to dismiss their first instinct… that child voice plainly stating a fact as fact. There’s nothing intellectual about “well, duh!” which is what happened when I saw Hell. Well, duh! God is real.

She goes on to add, “Landscapes showed me God is kind.”

Weyden Beaune Last Judgment Altarpiece opened

Katrina is not the only person I know of who was converted by art. Peter Hitchens related an almost identical conversion experience in his book The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith (which I recommend) and then later in this interview. Peter Hitchens, who is the brother of the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, found God by studying Rogier van der Weyden’s The Last Judgement.  

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Hitchens was an adult at the time of his conversion. He described it this way: 

… I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open, at the naked figures fleeing towards the pit of hell.  These people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation … They were me, and people I knew. 

Do you recognize the Power at work in both these stories?  Hint: It’s not the power of great art, although the power of great art is certainly real. 

This is the Holy Spirit, at work in two souls, calling them to Jesus.  These stories illustrate the single most powerful truth of conversion that I know: God meets us where we are. He is not too proud to accept us through any route to Him we find. In the Person of the Holy Spirit, He will call to us and reach out to us along any path that we will walk to Him. 

The fact that God meets us where we are has other facets to it besides His willingness to come to us through a painting or a sermon or the guilt we feel for our sins.

One of these facets is that He does not ask us to get perfect first. Too many times, people who are trying to bring people to God focus on the other person’s need to change. 

The truth is, you don’t need to change to come to God.   All you need to do is say “yes” to Him. The changing part comes later, and it will be through a changed heart and converted spirit. As I’ve said, God doesn’t change what you do. He changes what you want to do. 

But at the beginning, all you have to do is open your heart — or in the case of Katrina Fernandez and Peter Hitchens and others like them, their eyes — and say yes to what is right in front of you.  There is no one right way to come to Jesus. Jesus Himself is the Right way. 

Kat and I both experienced another, second, conversion. This one was to the Catholic Church. In the usual Kat fashion, her experience was sudden, a bit defiant and absolute. Mine was gentle and insistent. But despite the differences, it was the same for both of us. 

Kat attended a communion service in a church where they offered communion, which I would wager they regarded as a “symbol,” in the form of grape juice and oyster crackers. Kat, being Kat, rebelled. She knew. Knew right then without any dissembling that this was not the real deal. She also knew that there was a real deal out there somewhere and that she wanted it. Here’s how she describes it:

It was Easter Sunday 
and the pastor wanted to “do communion” and wanted to try something a little different 
so he had us all line up to come to the “altar” and receive a shot glass containing grape juice and a packet of oyster crackers.









 And God said “NO!” I immediately knew this aping display was not the real thing. I grabbed my son under my arm and got up and left.

She was, in short, called to the Church by the Eucharist. 

Welcome home Kat, so was I. Only for me it was an almost constant call from Christ in the Eucharist. He called me for years to Himself in the Eucharist. When I finally found Him there, I experienced the healing of the woman who reached out and touched His garment.

That same healing is there for anyone, anytime, in all the Catholic Churches of all the world.  Conversion, real conversion, is a one-way street. Once you’ve found it, you know it’s real and you can never walk away from it. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is real. Life in Christ is a living reality. 

I love conversion stories when they’re told by people with authentic hearts. Every single one of them exposes a truth of God’s love for us and His simplicity in dealing with us. 

Conversion stories are always elemental stories of birth. They relate the dynamics of how a soul is born from eternal death into eternal life. And just like that first biological birth, they happen to each one of us individually. Because we are each unique and wonderful enough that the God Who made everything, everywhere, accepts us as the old hymn says, Just as We Are.   


Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

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I Believe

Apostles creed

I taught my kids the Apostles Creed when they were little.

During the homeschooling years, we prayed the Apostles Creed after our daily Bible study every morning. We were Protestants at that time and I wanted to prepare them for the marketplace of ideas and ideologies that make up the wide world of many denominations. I told them that if a church did not believe what the Apostles Creed teaches, then it was not a true church and they should not join it.

If I was raising my kids today, I would have to take on a plethora of attacks on the Gospels, many of which are more subtle than simply denying the basic tenets of the faith that the Apostles Creed teaches. However, I think my original way of looking at the subject is still valid. A church — or a person, for that matter — who denies the basics contained in the creeds is missing the essentials of what constitutes Christian belief.

I view the Apostles Creed as the bedrock statement of the faith, the non-negotiable foundation on which everything else the Gospels teach is built.

What do you believe?

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Pope Francis Leads Corpus Christi Procession on Foot

Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, the body of Christ.

Jesus said,

“Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you have no life in you … Whoever drinks of my blood and eats of my flesh remains in me and I am in them … the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

This teaching was so hard that many people stopped following Him because of it. Afterwards, He turned to the the disciples and asked if they were going to leave Him, too.

This prompted Peter to reply “Where else would we go? You alone have the words that lead to eternal life.”

This teaching is just as true today as if was then.

Pope Francis led the Corpus Christi procession on foot this week. Remember, he is 77 years old. Here is a video of the procession with a summary of his homily. 

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How Beautiful

is the Body of Christ

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Christian Persecution: MPs Defend Church Denied Charitable Status Over Communion

Last Friday I re-blogged an article about the Brethren Church in the UK which was denied charitable status because it had a closed communion.

There is evidently some argument about whether this is the reason, or that the reason is that the church doesn’t do charitable work. A reader added a link about the Brethren Church which seems to make clear that it does do charitable work.

In my opinion, this discussion about whether or not the church complies with the law begs the question of whether or not the law itself should exist. From what I’ve read, it appears that the law on which this decision is based is one of the many new laws that seek to narrow religious freedom in the West. Rather than explain my concerns, I’ll let you read the article below and judge for yourself.

The Barnabasaid article reads in part:

MPs have made a robust defence of the Brethren church that has been denied charitable status by the Charity Commission in an important test case for churches and Christian organisations throughout the country.

In a well-attended debate led by Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, in Westminster Hall on Tuesday (13 November), members discussed the implications of the decision against Preston Downs Trust, which owns gospel halls in Torquay, Paignton and Newton Abbot.

There are over 370 Brethren Gospel Halls throughout the UK
There are over 370 Brethren Gospel Halls throughout the UK
Mary and Angus Hogg / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Brethren church was denied charitable status over concerns that it does not satisfy the “public benefit” requirement; the lack of public access to the communion services held in gospel halls was specifically mentioned.

Ms Bruce and numerous other MPs highlighted the extensive work carried out by the Brethren in their communities, including support for families, care for young people, disaster relief, visits to prisons, hospitals, and donations of substantial funds to many charities. She said, “Surely no one can argue that they do not provide public benefit” and also defended the “openness” of the Brethren; they actively share their faith and make information about their services available to non-Brethren.

Ms Bruce said, “Restricting access to Holy Communion should not be a reason for refusing charitable status.”

Other MPs raised concerns about the wider implications of the Charity Commission’s decision for churches and Christian groups.

Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, said:

This is a test case on religion and the thin end of the wedge, particularly given that the Charity Commission’s letter says that even the Church of England would have to prove public benefit.

All churches now have to prove their "public benefit"
All churches now have to prove
their “public benefit”
Eamon Curry / CC BY 2.0

Amendments under the Charities Act 2006 removed the presumption of “public benefit” for organisations that advance religion and required charities that had been registered under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 to seek registration with the Charity Commission. Churches therefore now have to demonstrate how they are of benefit to the public, whereas before it was taken as a given that they were.

“Public benefit” is not clearly defined in the Act, but the Charity Commission states that it must be identifiable, balanced against any harm, appropriate to the charity’s aims, and not “unreasonably restricted” in a way that might prevent some people from benefiting from the charity’s work. (Read more here.)

Christian Persecution: UK Commission Refuses Charity Status to Church Over Communion

The UK Charity Commission is refusing to grant charitable status to a church because it restricts communion services to members only.

Parliament is currently holding hearings on the matter.

In a letter to Plymouth Brethren church leaders, the Commission cited a recent court decision to suggest that religion does not serve the public good.

“This decision makes it clear that there was no presumption that religion…is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England,” the Commission said in the letter.

A conservative member of Parliament said the Commission is, “Committed to the suppression of religion.”

A LifeSiteNews article reads in part:

LONDON, November 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Conservative Party MP has accused the government’s Charity Commission of attempting to suppress Christianity after the group denied charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren, a small denomination of conservative evangelicals. MP Charlie Elphicke has said that the Charity Commission has stepped outside its mandate telling the Brethren that their religion is “not necessarily for the public good”.

In a letter to the community, the Commission wrote of a tribunal decision that found “there is no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England”.

The Plymouth Brethren, of which there are about 16,000 adherents in Britain, have said they intend to pursue their dispute to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary. They have been embroiled in the dispute with the Commission for seven years since the Commission refused charitable status to one of the group’s churches in Devon. The group engages in street preaching, distributing bibles and visits hospital patients. These activities, said Garth Christie, an Elder in the group, more than qualifies them for charitable status under the “advancement of religion” clauses.

The matter became public when the Public Administration Select Committee discovered the letter as part of materials released as part of their investigation into the decision-making processes of the Commission.

The Charity Commission alleges that the group’s rule of only giving Holy Communion to full members means that their services are not open to all, a charge which the Brethren deny. The Brethren say that their public services are offered to everyone regardless of religious affiliation. If it is upheld, the rule could be extended to the Catholic Church which also officially restricts Communion reception to members.

The letter has promoted Elphicke, a member of the Select Committee, to call the Commission’s policies “anti-religion” and said that it is more evidence that it is a waste of public funds. Members of the Plymouth Brethren were giving evidence to the committee and Elphicke asked, if they thought the Commission was “actively trying to suppress religion in the UK, particularly the Christian religion”.

Christie responded, “I think we would share those concerns.” He agreed with Elphicke’s suggestion the Charity Commission’s decision could be seen as the “thin end of the wedge” with concern to other small religious groups.

Elphicke told the Brethren representatives, “I think they [the Commission] are committed to the suppression of religion and you are the little guys being picked on to start off a whole series of other churches who will follow you there.” (Read more here.)

The Church, Same Sex Marriage and Biased Reporting

Archbishop Myers in a photo from Archdiocese web page.

Archbishop John J Meyers, of the Archdiocese of Newark, went out on a limb and made a statement Tuesday supporting the Church’s 2,000 year-old teaching on marriage. The resulting news article by NorthJersey.com is one of the finest examples of biased reporting and deliberate manipulation of public opinion I’ve seen today.

Not, notice, that I’ve seen in my lifetime, or even this week. Examples of biased reporting and deliberate manipulation of public opinion aimed at discrediting the Church’s stand in favor of traditional Christian morality are so commonplace that I can only say that this article is the most egregious I’ve seen today. So far. I reserve the right to come back later today with something worse.

The article leads with a few paragraphs describing the Archbishop’s statement, including the fact the he dropped the c bomb (“Catholics who disagree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on marriage should ‘refrain from receiving Holy Communion.’”) Then it moves on to all sorts of saber rattling quotes from various secularists expressing their concern about the evils of Catholics Who Preach Politics From the Pulpit.

As usual for journalism of this type, the article tries to imply that a Bishop of the Catholic Church who issues a pastoral letter that explains Church teaching is violating the law. It creates this implication by quoting carefully selected people who can be counted on to say the right things.

When the reporter asks the head of an organization that is well known for opposing Church teaching if the bishop “crossed the line” with his letter, they can be sure they’ll get a quote that verges on condemnation to use in the story. That’s what happened here. Everyone the article quotes allows as how Bishop Myers did not, in fact, “cross the line” but they qualify this with ponderous statements implying that he’s awwwwfulllllyyyyy close to doing it.

The dubious reporting is topped off with an unflattering photo of Bishop Myers; one of those mouth-open, eyes-half-closed snaps that happens to everyone. After my years in public office, I’ve got some ghastly photos of me floating around out there. Not that I’m any beauty. But I can tell you from experience that a skilled news photographer can make you look any way they want.

This tactic of eliciting attack quotes by interviewing people you know will give them to you and then illustrating the story with a photo that makes your prey look daffy or drunk is pretty standard stuff. That’s why I’m going to reproduce part of this article here and link to it. This post is a lesson in spotting anti-Catholic propaganda. The comments section of the article demonstrates the effect this kind of propaganda has on people.

If you agree with Bishop Myers, you might drop him a line at the Archdiocese of Newark, 171 Clifton Ave, Newark, NJ 07104. I’m sure he’s getting plenty of the other kind of letter.

Here, for your edification, is the article. It says in part:

Newark archbishop urges voters to defend marriage, life

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2012 LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2012, 6:41 AM
BY ABBOTT KOLOFF
STAFF WRITER
THE RECORD
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In a sweeping pastoral statement to be made public today, the leader of more than 1 million North Jersey Catholics urges them to vote “in defense of marriage and life,” and warns that the passage of same-sex marriage laws might lead to a government crackdown on their religious freedoms.

CHRIS PEDOTA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Archbishop John Myers of the Diocese of Newark
Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said the statement on gay marriage was not timed to coincide with the November election, now little more than a month away, and that he was not calling on Catholics to vote for a particular candidate. But he said they should examine the “full spectrum” of each candidate, including how they stand on abortion and “a proper backing of marriage.”

He also said in the statement, a copy of which was provided to The Record before its release, that Catholics who disagree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on marriage should “refrain from receiving Holy Communion.” He said he issued the statement because of what he described as a lack of clarity on the subject by other bishops.

“It’s not 100 percent for either party,” Myers said in an interview Monday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. “The basic point is that we must defend what we believe to be the truth. That includes voting, speaking out, contacting officials.”

The statement is being issued amid a politically charged atmosphere at a time when some other Catholic leaders have been criticized for talking politics from the pulpit. President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in May. His Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, opposes it. (Read more here.)


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