See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Here's a topic for doh-nutz and coffee after Mass: Is Fred Phelps a saint?

All are welcome. - Gather us in.


Doh-nutz!

I know Mr. Phelps died, but I don't know where he is.  May he RIP.  The Catholic Church wouldn't, couldn't proclaim him a saint because he placed himself outside the Catholic Church.  In fact he despised Catholics.  As a 'hyper-Calvinist' I suspect he believed he was predestined and therefore among the elect already.  I don't know about stuff like that.

I mention Phelps because of his position on the evils of homosexuality.  Phelps was an extremist, no doubt about that - wrathful, perhaps in his own valuation, he had the spirit of an Old Testament prophet.  I rather think he was more or less fanatical in the sense of the New Testament, born-again, start-your-own-church-Bible-banger sort of way.  Yet his 'teaching' bore some similarities to medieval sermons and writings of some of the great saints in the Church.  Which is why I asked, facetiously mind you, is Fred Phelps a saint?

No sin in the world grips the soul as the accursed sodomy; this sin has always been detested by all those who live according to God...Deviant passion is close to madness; this vice disturbs the intellect, destroys elevation and generosity of soul, brings the mind down from great thoughts to the lowliest...They become blind and, when their thoughts should soar to high and great things, they are broken down and reduced to vile and useless and putrid things, which could never make them happy...Just as people participate in the glory of God in different degrees, so also in hell some suffer more than others...for this is the greatest sin. -St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) - Fighting Irish Thomas
Priest and prophet forage in a land they know not.

Tom O'Toole wrote a post reminding Catholics of what the saints had to say about homosexuality - the quote above is from his post.  It is good to remind ourselves of that.  I've done posts on a couple of saints Tom highlights myself, to great accolade, I might add.  I'm kidding of course.  I remember writing about Peter Damian's treatise, Hot Night in Gommorah, or something - the exact title eludes me at the moment.  And Pope St. Pius V and how burning homosexuals at the stake was seen as a perfect penance in his time.  Such posts are always a big hit.  NOT.  Even laced with humor some readers find that stuff offensive in the extreme.

All kidding aside, Tom's post is an excellent reminder that homosexual behavior really is a serious, grave sin, a mortal sin.  Some saints have said it is the worst sin.  Obviously, Churchmen rarely talk that way any longer.  (The reactions to Pope Francis' and Cardinal Dolan's interviews demonstrate that, much to the chagrin of some.)  As we have been told repeatedly, todays emphasis is on conversion.  The Biblical, 'T'raditional teaching hasn't changed - "the tone has changed."  Some people would probably favor a Fred Phelps approach, others would like bishops and priests to preach like St. Bernadine of Siena and other 'hardliners'.  I can understand that.
In this Culture of Death era, when Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson nearly lost his job by quoting St. Paul's teaching on homosexuality, it's unlikely Pope Francis or many—if any—bishops will publicly proclaim the Catholic Church Fathers on the same subject. Due to a combination of concentration on compassion owed the homosexual person, trying to stay politically correct, or perhaps even fearing jail time for a homophobic hate crime, the clergy have largely begged off talking about the not-so-pleasant consequences of the sexual act. Still for the sake of seeing the incredible continuity of Church teachings through the ages, it's now necessary to revisit these directives that both agree with Paul's warnings to the Romans and Corinthians and at the same time would make his skin crawl. - Tom O'Toole
However, today the Catechism still teaches the truth about homosexuality and all forms of sexual immorality.  The documents from the CDF, especially from Cardinal Ratzinger in the Pontificate of John Paul II reiterate Church teaching, while affirming Sacred Tradition and Biblical authority on the sin of homosexuality and its consequences.  The teaching is there.  Pope Benedict was confident of that fact in his Pontificate - since he never issued any other document aside from what was already there.  It's just not always clearly taught.  People like Tom O'Toole remind us of that fact - that it is there - on the books - but it's not always taught.

Outsiders - people outside the Church, as well as some inside the Church - prefer to reject the notion of sin and punishment. Likewise, the culture has lost the sense of sin.  We all know that.  Religious and non-religious people alike know that - "All have gone astray - there is not a good man left."
Priest, prophet, forage in a land they know not.
I said in my alarm;
'no man can be trusted'
all have gone astray,
there is not a good man left -
there is no one who does good,
no, not even one. 

We love you!


The time of mercy can't eclipse the truth.

Calling people to repentance doesn't mean banging them over the head with how horrible they are, or yelling, "You're going to hell if you don't repent."  Mercy is not exacted in hostility and contempt and scare tactics.  The sinner is easily repelled, often because deep down the sinner understands his alienation, his anxiety.  By contrast, the encounter with mercy - with Christ - consoles, embraces, and sees.  It is the light of Christ that enlightens the soul.  Every sinner who has experienced conversion can most likely tell you the moment he first believed, the exact moment he met Jesus... much like the Samaritan woman in today's Gospel when our Lord revealed himself to her - "I am he, the one speaking to you."  (She was still a sinner!  Think of that.  " while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.")   I'm convinced that is how the conversion of sinners comes about.  As Pope Francis indicates in today's Angelus address:

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ In this way – the Pope explained – he cut across the barriers of hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans, crushing the prejudice that existed in relating to women.  (Ed. note: Imagine she was another type of sinner.)
The Pope said that Jesus’ simple request signals the beginning of an open dialogue, through which, with great delicacy, He entered the interior world of a person to whom, according to social convention, He should not even have spoken to.  (Ed. note: Imagine she was another type of sinner.)
“But this is exactly what Jesus does! Jesus is not afraid. When Jesus sees a person he goes towards that person because he is filled with love. He loves all of us. He does not stop before anyone because of prejudice” he said.
And Francis explained that Jesus does not judge, but acknowledges each person making him or her feel considered and recognized, and stimulating in that person the wish to go beyond their daily ‘routine’.
He explained that the thirst Jesus speaks of is not so much a thirst for water, but the with to quench the thirst of an arid soul. Jesus – Francis said – needs to meet the Samaritan woman to open up her heart: he asks her for a drink to highlight her own thirst. The woman – he pointed out - was touched by this meeting and asks Jesus some deep questions that each of us harbor, but often ignore.
The result of that meeting at the well – Pope Francis continued – “was that the woman was transformed: leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and told the people of her meeting with a man ‘who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ She was so happy. She had gone to the well to draw water and she found the living water, the spring of living water welling up to eternal life. She ran to the village which had always judged condemned and rejected her and announced that she had encountered the Messiah who had changed her life” he said.
And, Pope Francis said: “each encounter with Jesus changes our life, forever”. - Pope Francis

 Sin and its consequences, judgement and damnation are important to teach - and remember - the teaching is always there.  Likewise, there will always be someone, something to remind us of it.  As I said, sinners intuit that dread within themselves as an alienation - only love and mercy can conquer such barriers.  Love alone cuts across the barriers of hostility that exist between us.  Crushing a bruised reed, quenching a smoldering wick is not the way of salvation.

I may be wrong, but I have confidence in the merciful love of God, who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  As the psalm says, in Christ crucified, "mercy and love have met, justice and peace have kissed."  Love makes the truth known to the soul.  Notice how our Lord evangelized, how he called the Samaritan woman to repentance - from the preface for today's Mass:

For when he asked the Samaritan woman for water to drink,
he had already created the gift of faith within her
and so ardently did he thirst for her faith,
that he kindled in her the fire of divine love. 

Without condemning her, he gently elicited from her the confession, "I do not have a husband" - and thus he kindled in her the fire of divine love...
Jesus, I trust in you.

Blood and water flowing
forth from the side of Christ,
as a font of mercy for us,
I trust in you!




34 comments:

  1. I don't know that it is "political correctness" that makes churchmen unwilling to use this kind of rhetoric today, but something deeper, reflecting a shift in how the Church approaches the sinner (though not the teaching).

    St. Bernardine of Siena, great saint that he was, also had a penchant for hyperbole that would not be very effective today. Sometimes quoting these guys can prove too much -- St. Bernardine also thought it was a mortal sin for married couples to have sex when infertile, from what I understand. St. Jerome's rhetoric denigrated marriage as better than fornication only in the sense that it's better to live off coarse, stale bread than it is to eat excrement. Other Fathers (Tertullian was one, though he died a heretic) talked about how we should rejoice at the eternal suffering of the wicked in hell. And then there's, as you allude to, St. Pius V's enthusiastic support of the torture and burning of heretics and sodomites.

    And "the worst sin"? Come on ... yes, it is a sin that cries out to Heaven, yet I cannot imagine it is the very worst of all. Reading some of the Fathers and Saints, it almost sounds like the God hates these people so much that they are beyond mercy. Some people even thought that even the repentant still had to be painfully killed, not, you know, encouraged with the help of the Sacraments to live chaste and fruitful lives (and expected to fall just as much as anyone else).

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    1. Good points, thanks Merc. I don't think churchmen are inhibited by PC or a fear of being hauled off to jail either. I see it as you say - a change in approach towards reconciliation.

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    1. I see no problem with Pope Francis. Not one. Not one single problem what so ever.

      I see problems with people who write badly about him.

      I don't read Kasper or read things about him any longer.

      I also try not to read too many blogs.

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    2. Pope Francis has never once backed down on the ugliness of sin or the reality of hell and the devil.

      His emphasis is on God's Mercy for the sinner, as previous popes before him focused on as well. This does not exclude a sober realization of what the evil is.

      I think some people have trouble with God's Mercy. I personally have a very very hard time accepting it for myself, accepting that He loves me and wants me with Him, and is not a hairs breadth away from casting me into hell for very screw up.

      If it seems scandalous, part of the reason is that God's mercy IS scandalous.

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    3. PS:

      "My God, I’m so persuaded that You watch over all who hope in You and nothing can be lacking to those who await from You all things, that I have determined to live from now on without any concern, letting go and giving You all of my anxieties. I will sleep and rest in peace because You, O Lord, and only You, have secured my hope.

      Men can deprive me of possessions and reputation; illnesses can take away my strength and means to serve You; I myself can lose Your grace because of sin; but I will not lose my hope; I will conserve it until the last instant of my life and all the efforts from demons trying to take it away from me will be useless. I will sleep and rest in peace.

      May others expect happiness in their richness and talents; some may lean on the innocence of their lives, or the rigor of their penitence, or above all on the amount of their good works, or the fervor of their prayers. As for myself Lord, all my confidence is my confidence itself. Because You Lord, only You have secured my hope." - Saint Claude de la Colombiere

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    4. That is beautiful. I would like to pray that when I am discouraged and confused.
      I heard in a homily today that Jesus knew exactly how to touch the woman's heart, while not pulling any punches in his speech. Wish I knew how to do that, even a little.

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  4. Jesus met sinners where they were. Pope Francis is trying to do the same. The blind militant extreme wing of the Church doesn't like to mingle with the great unwashed. If they can't be angry about something they look for reasons to whip themselves into name-calling frenzies. They get so angry they even turn on each other. They never allow that they could ever be wrong about anything. They resemble the fundamentalists who believe no one is saved but them and because they are saved they don't have to change. They have no interest in souls except their own and those like them. Time is running out. The Pope is responsible for saving souls. You can't save someone you can't reach. He's not perfect but he's trying. Salvation is a messy endeavor. Think Crucifixion. When I have to stand before God and He asks what I did to fight for His kingdom in souls, I don't think it will go very well for me if finger-pointing and condemnation are all I have to show for my labors. Francis has their attention. Pray God grants him the wisdom to close the deal.

    If you don't like all this talk of mercy, take it up with Jesus. The Gospels have a lot to say on the subject.

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  5. And I'm sorry but I am passionate about conversion b/c it wasn't so long ago that I was on the wrong side of salvation. Thankfully no one condemned me or decided to give up on me. I know, however, that conversion is an on-going process and I too have my own blind spots and short-comings. Mea culpa.

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  10. Hi Terry (and Kelly, ATDP, and Mercury),

    Excellent article! I have to start workin' less and reading more -- I wish!!!

    Perhaps to debate whether homosexuality is the greatest sin or not is to miss the point. Abortion wasn't the scourge it is today when these saints wrote, but they gave it just as tough a treatment when the issue emerged. On the other hand, the bishops who spoke up against Hitler in his heyday were few and far between -- and both fear and blindness were the reasons.

    True while I do believe PC causes most bishops, priests (the shirtless bishop at your page top an exception:)), to deliver the vague dumbed-down sermon we often hear, unlike Canada we are a few years away in the USA from actually getting arrested for "homophobic" rhetoric. But if we stay the same course, in which during the last ten years the great and powerful LGBT lobby has changed the opinion of the country from approximately 70% against gay marriages to nearly the same percentage in favor, we will certainly be there soon.

    This is precisely why the issue of gay sex (and even the saint quotes in all their gory glory) must be kept alive; not only is sodomy NOT seen as a sin in our society, it has now become a means of salvation. Gay athletes and entertainers now coming out are not only "accepted," but praised as heroes. As abortion became accepted (largely by Planned Parenthood's strategy of keeping its murderous nature hidden), now gay sexual relationships, by being presented as just as good (if not better) of a way of raising a family, threatens "the domestic church" to its very core.

    This is not to criticize Pope Francis' gay strategy (which a priest compared to one general strategy in Japan during WWII -- to not engage their soldiers directly, but to cut off their supply source) anymore is it my intent to criticize Pius XII's strategy against the Nazis (which also had much merit). While it is rare that one should hit an active homosexual over the head with Bernardine of Siena, the average Catholic and Christian needs to be reminded of these timeless teachings lest his or her compassion for the actively gay person slides slowly into acceptance of the sin.

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    1. Great point Tom, and I think we can all agree on that.

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  11. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

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  12. as you were saying Thom ...


    GIRLS AND SEX: THE FIRST TIME NO LONGER MATTERS - ALETEIA

    What are the dynamics between these youngsters like?

    It so happens that many parties and other seemingly amicable encounters become opportunities to engage in sexual activity devoid of any connections to consequences. One “game” they might do, for example, is to hide in the closet, and then whatever happens happens. Or everyone kisses everyone, without exception. There’s another element worth noting, too: before, homosexual experiences were more frequently seen in males than in females, since males were the ones who would typically go to college, engage in military service, etc. But today, the rate of female homosexual activity has risen to nearly the same level. The only determinant of whether one continues to engage in such behavior is whether one perceives it as having been an experience worth repeating – that is, how did the experience feel for this individual? There is no sense of right or wrong in all this; it is simply a measure of physical pleasure. ..."

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  13. ADTP

    Self-pity I may be guilty of at times but not in this instance. I simply tried to make the point that when I was away from the Church (during which time I would NEVER have presented myself fof Holy Communion at the occasional funeral or wedding) I would have turned a deaf ear to the some of the tactics I've seen used. What persuaded me to try to right the ship was the realization that I was offending a loving and merciful God and subjecting myself and anyone I mislead to the pains of Hell. The so-called company line is the same now as it was 2014 years ago.

    As for the souls that are being harmed I would simply say the horse ran away from the barn well before there was a Pope Francis. Until I hear an outright reversal of centuries of Catholic teaching, I'm not going to give in to alarm.

    What's more I'm going to continue to try to convert the people I meet not by looking down on them but by doing my best to imitate Christ. He didn't sugarcoat the truth but nor did He get people's attention by doing anything other than offering them a compelling reason to change. He was and is Someone people want to imitate.

    I don't see angry as a way to convert people.

    That's all I'm going to say in response.

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  14. Where is Pope Francis, or Benedict XVI, or John Paul II, etc. NOT offering people a compelling reason to change? Am I missing something?

    And good for you that you stayed away from Holy Communion all that time. I unfortunately was not properly educated in that area, and committed sacrilege many times, to my discredit. I do my best to educate people on that issue now, though, as a lot of Catholics have no idea.

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    3. This is no different than what they have said, especially Benedict. This is not a question of reversing doctrine -- I don't get that impression in the slightest. It IS an issue of trying to address a real pastoral problem in many parishes.

      Keep in mind that in most cases we are dealing with a "first marriage" that broke up after a year or two, often against the will of one partner, and a "second marriage" that has lasted decades and includes children. This is a tough situation, though the teaching IS in fact clear.

      I myself was in a similar situation, and have gone through the annulment process (which is almost over, thank God). Luckily I did this before looking for someone else, but for people who have families and who decide to come back to the Church, this poses a serious obstacle with no easy solution, unless "tough shit" is considered an easy solution.

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    5. It is not facile. And no, "tough shit" is not a distortion. Most of these cases are not ones in which families just decided they didn't love each other anymore, or the dad went and got a younger model. They mostly fall into two categories that are pastorally extremely difficult. In many (if not the majority) of cases, these were "cultural Catholics" who got married in the Church without a proper understanding or caring about the gravity of the situation.

      A.) The case of a spouses who was totally abandoned and not given any chance to recover, who married someone else and raised a family.

      B.) Marriages that crashed and burned very quickly, the "spouses" then getting re-married, raising families.

      Let's say that in such cases they decide to do what is right and come back to the Church and back to the Sacraments. The tough response is "yes, you will have to sleep apart and no longer be able to act as spouses in those most intimate ways" -- this is true, and it is extremely unfortunate, because this really *can* cause severe problems of its own, including discord in a household where children are being raised. It's not impossible, and many heroic and saintly folks have swallowed this and taken it, but it IS a tremendous burden to ask of people, and often times of people who were simply abandoned or cheated on in their first marriage.

      However, what I am thinking will be addressed is that a lot of these marriages *could* be declared null, as there is often ample evidence that there was no sacramental grace in the marriage and that the partners went into it with much less than a truly Catholic understanding of marriage. This is extremely widespread in this day and age,especially in the first world, because of decades of horrible catechesis and loss of faith in many households.

      The pastoral problem is that when someone is taking baby steps back to the Church, the whole "oh yeah, you can never be intimate with your spouse again or have any more children, or perhaps you can wait the several years it will take to get an annulment as the process currently works" is not something anyone can lightly take up. Yes, with prayer and grace anything is possible -- I know that.

      But the question is that if so many "first marriages" are almost obviously null, then what is the best way to expedite the process of determining that and getting the couple in line with the Sacraments?

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    7. All I mean is that the situation is complex because it usually involves a couple returning to the Faith as a couple. I'm not saying remarriage is a good option or that people should. I waited until my annulment was almost finalized before I even thought about trying to meet someone again. But people, broken as they are, do do stupid things.

      I agree with you on most of what you said here, though.

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  15. Merc I was just trying to make the point that angry and ugly aren't qualities that attract people to a cause, in this case orthodox Catholicism. I wouldn't use angry and/or ugly to describe any of the popes you mentioned. Please don't be offended but I am ending my participation in this discussion here. I agree with Terry's observation in another thread that a synod does not a decree make. You've come a long way Merc. God bless you.

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    1. TLW, I am sorry -- I was responding to ADTP, I thought!

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  16. Interesting that someone would bring up St. Bernadine...a very interesting saint in this time of social, political and even religious change..as he lived in a similar time and preached to a crowd often as angry as today's Cultural Warriors. What is often not said when cherry picking Saints quotes is that they were human, and of their time. St. Bernadine was very much of his time in several ways, (interesting enough he was most likely thought of as a crazed "feminist," in his day as he spoke often that women were BETTER then men, groundbreaking in its day, though his reasoning was that men were made of clay and women were made of Adam's rib but still...) and St. Bernadine was a man of his time. The 1400s were a time similar to ours in several ways, social and cultural change, the Church loosing influence and power in everyday life..and most of it driven by what today would be call, "the cultural elite." This sparked quite a big of anger in his day and St. Bernadine was a leader of that anger. ...getting HUGE crowds that a rock star would appreciate. St. Bernadine had quite a bit to say, not just about "sodomy" (which he linked to cultural elites) but about witches, and gambling and yes, sex between married couples...I take it that most people who like to quote him about the gays also like to occasionally go to the boat and do gambling squares and have sex with their wives even if they can no longer produce children..you know, just for the fun of it and that they love their wives. Its useless to mention his thing with Jews as that has been talked about quite often. He may have been a saint but he wasn't always right.

    But if you intend on using his quotes regarding homosexuality to combat this and to spread the word, please do. But also be ready to be repudiated by gay people and the people who know them that homosexuality does not necessarily make one sloth full and frenzied, etc. et . That's the problems with using quotes as the absolute truth...people can see with their own eyes, and their own lives...and that is what is changing all of this.

    I would have to also say that the gay athletes that the poster above says the media celebrates as heroes. I would have to disagree and say that they are celebrating them as trail blazers (they always get attention) and for their bravery as it does indeed take bravery to come out in any kind of sport, professional or not. I think the people reading this who have participated in sports, (not just sat and watched them) would have to agree, it takes bravery to break with the pack especially some very "masculine," sports. I played football and rugby in school and I can tell you this, if you don't think players are CONSTANTLY talking about their heterosexuality you never were in a locker room. So the gay players has to make a choice, shut and lie...or tell the truth. Telling the truth in that world takes a huge amount of bravery, as you have to answer to some big, aggressive teammates. That is why I think the media responds to that. (for what it is worth personally I don't care if Tim Tebow is a Christian or a Wiccan, I could care less if a player is gay or straight, play the game and shut up about yourself and quit "grandstanding." )

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