Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Cardinal asks: WWJD?

Like I've been saying all along...

Little by little, this bishop, that cardinal; that priest, this spiritual director; this parish, or that religious community... will make pastoral decisions, allow dispensations, give the benefit of the doubt, to those sincere Catholics whose lifestyle may not quite fit the RCIA program.  Divorced and remarried, without possibility of annulment, but you feel called to serve the Church, receive the Eucharist?  A pastoral provision may be possible.  Obviously, the same goes for the gay couple, in a civil union or not; or a gay man, who is only looking for love, for someone to share his life with.  Perhaps the gay couple desires to adopt and they want to raise their child Catholic and send him or her to Catholic school?  Who can deny these sincere, good people access to the Deposit of Faith?  Who can judge them and bar them from following their conscience, even if it may be in conflict with Church teaching?

Certainly not a prince of the Church...
Cardinal Schönborn said that he had initially intended to uphold the priest’s decision--but then, he said, “I ask myself in these situations: How did Jesus act? He first saw the human being.”

Calling his decision “a decision for human beings,” the cardinal recounted that he invited Stangl and his partner to lunch and understood “why the community had given him the most votes, because he is really impressive.”

“This man is at the right place,” the cardinal said of Stangl, the homosexual in a registered domestic partnership elected to serve on a parish council. - Source    
Aren't there rules we are supposed to abide by?

Does a Catholic now need a canonist to understand what the Church teaches?  Do we need someone to not only instruct what exactly the prayers we recite really say, but do we now need a canon lawyer to tell us that our instincts about right and wrong are at best misguided?  I'm not even talking about canon law here.

That said, Dr. Peters does makes a good point about the Vienna controversy on his blog, In the Light of the Law:
Now, canon law has been around a long time, but not every institute in canon law has a long tradition of interpretation behind it, nor are the social conditions under which canon law functions always well anticipated in the law. Parish councils, for example, are very new in canon law, and the theoretical bases on which they rest (such as, degrees of lay participation in ecclesiastical governance) are but recent objects of increased doctrinal and juridic study. Meanwhile, militant homosexual activism in general, and the civil recognition of various forms of homosexual unions in particular, are entirely new in Western law and society. How these (and other) factors come together in Church life need careful sorting out. To some degree this sorting out can come about only on a case-by-case basis, and mistakes will inevitably be made, even by people of good will. Mistakes need to be fixed, of course, but, in the meantime, I suggest that, when they occur in novel cases (or seem to have occurred), corrections be offered (c. 212 § 3), not hyperbolic condemnations.

In the present case, cries of Götterdämmerung from the Right (and for that matter, triumphalist shouts from the Left) are premature. + + + - Dr. Peters
In neither the case of the cardinal and the gay man, nor in Fr. Guarnizo's case, have I been issuing any cries of anything.  Indeed I personally believe that Guarnizo did the right thing, what Cardinal Wuerl does is his business.  What canonists debate outside an ecclesial court is up to them. 

Pastoral care...
We recognize, of course, that in great measure the clear and successful communication of the Church's teaching to all the faithful, and to society at large, depends on the correct instruction and fidelity of her pastoral ministers. The Bishops have the particularly grave responsibility to see to it that their assistants in the ministry, above all the priests, are rightly informed and personally disposed to bring the teaching of the Church in its integrity to everyone. - CDF, Letter to Bishops

I am not against pastoral considerations in private circumstances - such as between a person and his confessor.  Yet when such matters become public information, I have personal opinions just like the next man, and I'm apt to express them.  Personally, I do my best striving to keep the commandments and follow Church teaching:  I'm not judging the souls of others, nor trying to control what others do or what they may condone.  I can only account for myself.  Admittedly, I am confused sometimes by inconsistencies within the Church - in fact, one never gets used to it.  Frequently I return to what the CDF under Cardinal Ratzinger warned about in the often ignored Letter to the Bishops On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:
Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it. These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.

The Church's ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church's position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.

There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy. - Holy See

This document has little, if anything to do with canon law, yet it is an important instruction frequently ignored by bishops, priests and laity.  

Which is why I am more or less convinced that, little by little, accommodations have been, and will be made on these issues... just as pastoral accomodations and considerations were made to give the benefit of the doubt to Catholics who practice contraception... albeit on a case by case basis, but sometimes as a 'general absolution'.  Wink, wink.

"As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."  As always, on the margins. 

Photo:  My favorite of the cardinal - he looks like such a kid.


  1. Can't wait to see what you come up with for Spy Wednesday. Must be a slow Holy Week. ;-)

  2. Hmm, The pastor of the parish must have known of the man's living arrangements before the election, so why did he allow it to take place only to forbid the people's choice from assuming office? I suspect things are rather more complicated than what we have been told.

  3. Fr. Richard7:45 AM


    Ecxcellent analysis- and the parallels with the contraceptive issue are uncanny and frightening- do we ever learn in the Church? The devil is having a good laugh- but he does lose in the end- however how many souls could be lost in the meantime? It is one of the heavier crosses for us parish priests trying to do the right thing- often without support from on high, including from our own bishops and chancery- with the exception of the Pope. So if you think lay people struggle in this regard to figure things out and remain faithful to the Lord of life, as a priest on the frontlines it is at an even more intense level- since we are caught in the middle of it all. Please always remember to pray hard for all priests today as the spiritual battle is intense! Lord have mercy on us!

    1. Thanks father. I do pray very much for parish priests and those in active ministry. Thank you for what you do.

  4. Terry,

    It is not an easy struggle (as I'm sure you are aware) to strive daily to persevere in grace. It is a constant struggle to to my best to obey the commandments of GOD and His Church. I become more aware with each passing day of my own sinfulness of my own wretchedness.

    This past weekend at the retreat I made Father spoke about the parable of the Publican and Pharisee...the
    idea that a soul can be saintly, even when it struggles with sin, as long as it
    condemns those sins and embraces Jesus Christ as its standard. The Publican
    (tax collector) was a holy man ("justified" as Jesus described him), not because
    he was a sinner, but because he knew he was and was striving to do better.

    He also talked about the Gospel putting together both compassion and repentance not one without the other. Every day is about Metanoia about turning away from sin.

    I worry as Father Richard that many souls may be lost/have been lost in the process of being misled by misguided Churchmen. I'm offended that one speaking for my Church would leave this man and his partner to continue on in a life of sin or affirm him in it rather than call him to conversion. Jesus forgave but His forgiveness was contingent upon repentance and amendment of life. So when a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church says or does something like this publically what is he saying to those of us who are struggling every day to live holy lives at great personal cost and sacrifice? Whether it be contraception, same sex attraction, a propensity toward promiscuity/adultery/fornication/pornography or whatever one's weakness might be? Of course we have to meet people where they are but we also have to call them to something a lot higher. The standard of the gospel/Church is higher than the world.

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  5. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it.

    That jumped off the page for me. Ironically, one would tend to think that this would refer to the laity who have veered from the truth. Now, "those within" seem to be our would be Shepards.

    Father Richard: I have really come to understand how ravenous,how avaricious is the enemy for the souls of priests. In some sense, on my best days, I thinks of priests who betray Christ, as victims in need of my prayer. I truly do pray, and fast, for priests.
    We are indeed witnessing the very same phenomenon that transpired w/ the mutiny of our priests re contraception---when fifty percent of all American Bishops dissented against Humanae Vitae.

    One of the things I have been thinking about, and Servus, who referenced this in one of your comments w/ regard to the Blessed Sacrament, is something Fr. Hardon said: "everyone who is in a state of mortal sin is an agent of the Enemy". What does the Enemy do? He divides: the Church, our government, our world, until it seems as if we live now by "mob rule".

  6. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20

    from the Haydock Commentary:

    (Challoner) — See how necessary it is, not only to believe, but to keep all the commandments, even the very least.

    (Bristow) — Our Saviour makes this solemn declaration at the opening of his mission, to shew to what a height of perfection he calls


    I don't think you are being a Pharisee. We are all called to perfection...It is my understanding that our righteousness has to EXCEED that of Pharisees (who kept the law of Moses to the letter)....

    If what we are seeking is a Church or religion wherein we can pick and choose what we wish to believe and leave aside those things that are difficult for us to live out then we may as well be Anglicans or Unitarians...To be a Catholic means that we accept the teaching magisterium of the Church in faith and morals regardless of how difficult that might be and at what personal cost and sacrifice that might entail. I will say it again. I shall not pretend that I understand the Church's teaching on some things. I accept it because I truly believe that Jesus Christ established a Church and that the holy, roman and apostolic Church is that Church. As a Catholic one does not have the liberty to just "make it up as you go along".

  7. "everyone who is in a state of mortal sin is an agent of the Enemy"

    That describes most of us at one point or another, though. And most of our friends and family, probably. Should we really view such people as agents of Satan? Is that how Jesus sees them, sees us?

    Even people in a state of mortal sin can do good and resist evil. There are several people I know who live lives that are objectively sinful according to the Church, yet who are more charitable, more righteous, more forgiving, more kind, more everything than I am. I can say I know what they are doing is wrong, but dare I think of them as agents of Satan, when I am such a piece of crap myself?

    If what is meant is that sin clouds people's consciences and makes them follow the Ruler of this World, then I guess I understand.

  8. My righteousness does not exceed the scribes and Pharisees. My righteousness hardly exceeds that of the worst of sinners. Every day I meet "sinners" who are better people than I.

    Most "righteous" people I encounter are vain, puritanical, spiteful, judgemental, and a host of other things.

    Surely it impossible to reach heaven. I'm beginning to accept the notion of that one saint who said 5 in 33,000 are saved.

    With those odds, everyone I knew is in hell (some were not only not perfect monks or nuns, but died without the final sacraments), and everyone I know will go there, including myself.

    I know good people who have died, but no one who was perfect, no one who was a saint.

    1. Mercury

      Don't let yourself be taken by the devil's tool of hopelessness. As long as you having a breath in you, you have time to work out your salvation in fear and trembling. I think the key is to work on not being concerned by what others around us are doing or not doing. As difficult as that is to do. We all have piles of manure in our own garden to tend let alone what our neighbor has. Whether there are few who will be saved or not what matters is will I? I'm responsible for working out my salvation and trusting in the mercy of GOD. What happens in that moment between death and judgement we leave to the mercy of GOD for those who have died. That's why I think it important to pray for dying souls throughout the day.

    2. we are ALL called to perfection. we are ALL called that our righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees. so as long as we know that our's (righteousness) hasn't made it yet that should urge us on toward the road of perfection. Jesus said, "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect".

    3. But don't you have to accept the evangelical counsels for perfection? That's what confuses me. Are married people really SUPPOSED to strive for total continence, or at least try to make marital relations as rare as they can?

      My spiritual director says no, not in the least. You have no idea how much grief I have let this cause me, how much guilt and fear.

      How can one be perfect unless one accepts all of the counsels?

      Also, the number of the saved concerns me because of the people I love. I am SO afraid they are in hell.

      And please, I know about fear and trembling, and not an ounce of comfort or consolation. Again, my own fault, not God's.

    4. Everyone is called to perfection according to their state in life. Married people are called to the married state. Everyone is called to be chaste but not everyone is called to celibacy. The married person strives to love their spouse and be open to life in their relations.

      You have to leave the souls of the deceased of friends and loved ones to the mercy of GOD and still pray for their repose. You don't know where they are. Leave them to the mercy of GOD.

  9. I think we just don't understand the insidious evil that is mortal sin. I heard a talk this morning on EWTN by Father Pablo Straub on the subject of mortal sin. It is an agent of death. We have to abhore sin. I was always impressed by the saints especially children who begged God never to let them offend Him by one mortal sin. One thing that has stuck in my mind recently is that when we sin mortally any merit that we had to that point is gone! but Thanks be to God when we turn to Him with a contrite heart and confess our sin that we regain all that merit again. I mean that's really something. Any "good" that we might do in the state of mortal sin is worthless.

    " 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. " ISAIAH 64:6

    1. "Any 'good' that we might do in the state of mortal sin is worthless."

      I think this is theologically incorrect, actually. It's not enough to save us, but it's not worthless, and it may be what eventually brings us to salvation.

      Plus, I have no idea what merit even means, since it seems Catholic theology assumes that we can sure as hell offend God, but never do anything to impress Him. How could we? He does it all anyway?

      We have free will to do evil ,and it's our fault, but when we do good, it's not us who do it. Weird.



      Divine reward for the practice of virtue. It is a Catholic doctrine that by his good works a person in the state of grace really acquires a claim to supernatural reward from God. "The reward given for good works is not won by reason of actions which precede grace, but grace, which is unmerited, precedes actions in order that they may be performed meritoriously" (II Council of Orange, Denzinger 388).
      Certain conditions must be present to make supernatural merit possible. The meritorious work must be morally good, that is, in accordance with the moral law in its object, intent, and circumstances. It must be done freely, without any external coercion or internal necessity. It must be supernatural, that is, aroused and accompanied by actual grace, and proceeding from a supernatural motive. The person must be a wayfarer, here on earth, since no one can merit after death.
      Strictly speaking only a person in the state of grace can merit, as defined by the Church (Denzinger 1576, 1582).
      Merit depends on the free ordinance of God to reward with everlasting happiness the good works performed by his grace. On account of the infinite distance between Creator and creature, a human being alone cannot make God his or her debtor, if God does not do so by his own free ordinance. That God has made such an ordinance is clear from his frequent promises, e.g., the Beatitudes and the prediction of the Last Judgment.
      The object of supernatural merit is an increase of sanctifying grace, eternal life (if the person dies in divine friendship), and an increase of heavenly glory. (Etym. Latin merces, hire, pay, reward.)
      All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

    3. "One cannot gain any merit for heaven as long as he is not in sanctifying grace, what is termed "in the state of grace". For without sanctifying grace one is an enemy of God, and cannot enter His kingdom."


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  10. Mercury:
    This is for you--Said Fr. Hardon:

    how does the devil operate? He operates by deceit. The devil is a liar as Christ tells us from the beginning. How then does the devil operate? By seducing people from the Truth. In our meditation on Christ being the Truth let’s make sure, make absolutely sure; Christ has his disciples, and the devil has his disciples. For forty years in the priesthood I’ve been telling people every person in mortal sin is an agent of the devil. Let me repeat. Every person in mortal sin is an agent of the devil."

    He always repeats when what he has to say is very important,I have noticed. He goes on to say:

    Finally, how to cope: First of all we must know when we are being tempted by the devil. In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius there are directives quite detailed on how to recognize the evil spirits. Two classes of people: those who are not serving God, who are living in sin; the devil’s technique is to keep those people in sin; not bothering them, not worrying them, not making them anxious. For the obvious reason, he wants to keep them in sin.

    How does God operate for people who are in sin? Very simple. He sends them problems: difficulties, trials, suffering, pain, even tragedy to wake them up. One side; the other side.

    How does the devil operate on people who are serving God, sincerely trying to do the will of God? And I’m confident I’m talking to the right audience. We wouldn’t be here; I know one person who wouldn’t be here unless he thought it was the will of God. We want to do God’s will. How does the devil operate? Memorize this for life. Those who want to do God’s will; the devil causes them worries, anxieties, disturbs them, makes them anxious, disquiets their minds. Take this as a law of the spiritual life provided you sincerely want to do God’s will: Consider every anxiety, every worry, every disturbance, every desolation as a temptation. That statement is worth ten million dollars.

    Oh, how the devil can fool us. I repeat. If we are trying to do God’s will; the devil disturbs, makes anxious, causes worry. What do you tell the devil? Go to hell."

    Hardon at his best, lol.

    On the Evil Spirit

    Terry; I think when you have lived a life of truly great sin, as I have, one develps an extra sensitivity to sin in general. Why? I know how high the cost of sin and how I have offended God.

    1. Maria said:

      "Terry; I think when you have lived a life of truly great sin, as I have, one develps an extra sensitivity to sin in general. Why? I know how high the cost of sin and how I have offended God."

      I second what Maria said. I am painfully aware of the cost of sin and how I have offended GOD. I know each day that there but for the grace of GOD go I. I live every day (as do many of us) with the consequences (scars if you will) of past grievous sin. What consoles me is knowing that without the grace from my Jesus in Blessed Sacrament and without His strength in the sacrament of penance, I would be right back where I was before.

    2. Maria - wow, that second part really was for me!

      It's just that I know so many people, people i love, who are in what the Church would classify as objectively a state of sin - people who are prayerful, people whose charity exceeds my own by leaps and bounds - charity that does not come from Satan.

      I pray for such people to come back to the Truth, to repent of anything that separates them from God, but when they die, would it be right to assume they went to Hell?

      It's hard to see people who have shown me great love, who have shown great mercy and charity to others, even who trust God but are still at odds with Church teaching - it's hard to see that these people are nothing more than pawns of the devil.

      I have friends too who aren't even trying to live a good life - but the ones I mentioned above aren't like that - they truly strive to be the best they can and to do well by God, even believe in Judgment. I have seen God work in their lives, though blessings, grief, trials, etc., and they respond.

      How can I look at people around me who are better than I am, assume they are on the road to Hell, and then assume I will get to heaven being who I am?

      Should I never trust anything these people have to say, never trust their charity, never trust any wisdom they have to offer, affection, etc.?

  11. without the grace from my Jesus in Blessed Sacrament and without His strength in the sacrament of penance, I would be right back where I was before.

    I say Amen, from my little Amen corner, Servus;)

  12. Don't miss this!!

    Repent and Believe the Good News | Irish Catholic Bishops ...

    5 days ago ... Download a copy of Repent and Believe the Good News (pdf) ... that Pope
    Benedict XVI has given to us in Ireland in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of
    Ireland and also last week ... Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference - 2011 ...


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  14. Terry mentioned the mercy of Jesus. I think that is a good focal point, indeed, it can be THE focal point.

    St. Therese and her little way is a “totally new” path to heroic sanctity. It is a way for one to reach the heights of holiness not through the traditional “rough stairway of perfection,” but through the “elevator” of humble confidence.

    No one will be denied the Divine Mercy who sincerely trusts in the Lord. This is not to say that all else is irrelevant and that we shouldn't strive always for perfection otherwise. It's just that the bottom line is that God will ultimately lift the little ones who trust in Him up.

    There is more than one way to become a saint and the Church is realizing more and more just how profound of a thing the Spirit did through little Therese.

  15. Patrick:

    Matthew 7:21-23
    Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

    21Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    22Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name?

    23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

    1. Are you trying to say that what Patrick said is not true?

  16. Mercury: I am trying to say we cannot presume upon His Mercy. We must be doers of the Word. That's all.

    1. What if His Mercy is all we have?

      Do you think Patrick really meant that we can just live our lives however we want to and presume His Mercy?

  17. Maria,

    That is an interesting quote you brought up from Matthew, especially in light of the point you make in a later comment: "We must be does of the Word."

    First, the Lord addresses those who are, seemingly, not does of the Word but only offering a form of lip service. Yet, a verse later, the Lord refers to apparent "doers of the Word" who "prophesied," "cast out devils," and "done many miracles" - all, they say, in His name.

    And they are cast away.

    To make things more interesting, in this same chapter, verses earlier, the Lord says:

    7'Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.

    8 Everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened.

    9 Is there anyone among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?

    10 Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish?

    11 If you, then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

    In fact, this entire chapter seems to hold that tension between faith (and, thus, what God will do for those who ask) and works (what we should do for God, for example, producing "good fruit").

    It seems, then, a worthwhile question to ask what being a doer of the Word means since it is not altogether obvious given the aformentioned tension.

    Therese has an answer to the question: being a doer of the Word - the first 'act' that we should do to follow Jesus - is to trust Him. Because, without His mercy, we are nothing and everything we could hope to do is nothing, in vain, self-righteousness. Everything is grace.

    Faith, trust - that is the 'work' that is absolutely essential to God and for us, first and foremost. There is no being a "doer" otherwise, regardless of how much we think we are doing "God's work" (think of those who cast out devils for Him). If are faith and trust in Him is legit, "good fruit" will follow. Therese was loving, patient to the point of death. But she would never try to justify herself by thinking she is a competent "doer of the Word" if by that we mean piling up "good works" to boast of before God. That kind of mentality misses the point entirely.

    Therese wanted to stand before God "with empty hands" - she was not lazy and was not trying to argue for a spirituality of quietism. She simply knew her wretchedness, all of our wretchedness, and the eternal divide that there would be between us and God if it was not for His mercy. If that is not so, then I don't know what we're focusing on this and every Holy Week and Easter.

    It is a paradox, to be sure, as the texts from Matthew suggest.

    I also wanted to make one observation and comment, which is strictly my own opinion: you seem to be an avid reader of Fr. Hardon. In my reading of him, I've gotten the sense at times that his approach is rather will-based. It is, if I am not mistaken, different in its emphasis than Therese and, I'd suggest further, to that extent, something I think would be best balanced out lest it lead someone to try to justify him or herself through their "works".

    Finally, Mercury raised the point about His Mercy being all that one may. This, I think, understood rightly, is the spiritual foundation of Therese's understanding of the Gospel and it is not without precedent: consider the Good Thief.

  18. Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in his masterful encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, "Rich in Mercy, defines mercy as love coping with evil. Memorize that, mercy is love coping with evil. Mercy is love, paid the price of love. Mercy is costly love. It is love that loves although it has not been loved. Mercy is love giving to those who have stolen love from us. All of this we believe."
    --John Hardon SJ

    He was big on Mercy, Partrick ;)


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