Thursday, October 09, 2014

Obsessed by clarity?


One Eastern, Orthodox friend wrote to me recently and said, "You Latins are so obsessed with clarity you lose sight of God". It is what I feel about the Synod, we are trying to clarify what might be best left unclear. Providing we have clarity about what we believe, how we put that into practice is best left to local pastors, adapting practice to local needs. It is our scholastic Aristotelian heritage that draws us to carefully categorise everything we do.

Yes, it is important we address the great gulf between the Magisterium and what is actually taught in diocese and believed and practiced by the people. Reflecting on the words of the Australian couple who spoke of welcoming their homosexual son and his companion for Christmas dinner, I am sure Pope Francis would be proud of me, I've never turned anyone away, nor actually do I know any priest who would, I think this is one of those straw-priests 'Fr Nasty' who the Pope so often presents who doesn't baptise some one who doesn't fit certain rigid categories. In fact the only place I know where this happens is Germany, where if you don't pay Church tax, your children are not baptised and your body is left unburied. What I find difficult is warning a son that certain sexual practices might endanger not only his and his friend's spiritual health but their physical health too. Like many parents today we want to avoid conflict, even if in a real loving family, truth and frankness is necessary and welcome.
http://wdtprs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/12_04_02_confession_line.jpg
The more I hear from the Synod, the more anxious I become, I was interested in what Father Hunwicke had to say about secrecy and the Synod. Are we in the midst of a great act of Romanisation? I do fear we are stoking up two opposing factions that will never be reconciled. Are we heading to a civil war?

Every act of the Church is though not necessarily 'a sacrament' it is 'sacramental'. The old priest who taught Church history at my seminary, occassionally would say things like, "for all his brilliance St Thomas was the great curse of the Western Church", what he meant, I think, was that by defining and clarifying St Thomas moved the focus of the Church. In that sense he marks the separation of East and West. By tightly defining the sacraments, limiting them to seven we lost sense of other sacramental acts, for example we focus on the sacrament of Marriage and ignore the once sacramental acts leading to it and following from it, for example the rites that once surrounded betrothal, or the exchange of dowry and marriage contract, the blessing of the newly married or yet to be married's bed or hearth, or the grace said at the wedding breakfast or the blessing of the cake. St Thomas focused us on the moon and made us forget the stars.

ashwednesday e1266250568930 Ash Wednesday Service from the Use of SarumThe Church today stresses Mass and Communion, rather than Liturgy as a whole. The 1972 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in a way was an attempt to redress the balance, and to move the Church to regaining a sense of mission rather than simply serving it existing members. I am not overly fond of 1970's arguements, they are tedious and 'churchy' but one that possibly we should return to is the question of Mission and/or Maintainence. If you are going to evangelise, processions, devotions, discussions, eating and drinking, or education might well preceed any thought of Mass, in the same way in most countries building a school often preceeded building a Church.

RCIA, which I never tire of arguing is a series of Rites, not a course, reflects the situation of the first half of the first millennium where the Church consisted of people who belonged to it by degree, from those who are friendly towards it or receive help, to those who actively sought membership and were enquirers, hearers and catechumens, who were the majority, to those were actually communicating members, through to those who had a ministerial role or hieratic role through to the bishop who is the locus of Communion. Significantly it also contained penitents, who had lost and hoped to regain their place within the community. It was a Church of 'gradualism', a Church of those who gradually approached Communion with Christ, expressed in Holy Communion but ultimately expressed in the Communion of Saints and the Communion of the Church throughout the world, the Communion of Bishops.
liturgy-of-the-mass


ADDED LATER
I have just had a lady ring my door bell and ask, if her memorial service could take place here, She wants to  write her will. She has not been baptised, she doesn't want anything contrary to the faith, quite what her relatives might want I don't know. She has goodwill but her real reason is her mother had her Requiem here thirteen years ago.
I wasn't quite sure what to say to her, especially as she reads this blog!

23 comments:

Anil Wang said...

I disagree. The problem in the Synod is precisely that some are trying to muddy what is clear, and in that mud, allow people to risk their salvation.

It is true that there are some things which we simply don't know and trying to clarify them only needs to one pet theory being promoted at the expense of others. In these cases, we must simply trust God to do what is right and obey what he commands.

But it is also true that Christ was extremely clear to the point of being unpleasant, even to his own apostles. At one point (John 6), he laid out his teaching on the Eucharist and challenged everyone to accept or or leave. Most left. If we fail to uphold what Christ teaches, we too be the ones who leave Christ. Truth is truth no matter where you go. Local conditions don't change that.

This doesn't mean that there can't be local variations in how that truth is applied. In some regions where rape, forced marriages, forced apostasy are the norm (e.g. ISIS regions), the annulment process might be extremely quick, gentle, and usually grant annulments, while in areas where all are well catechisized and society generally follow Catholic norms, the annulment process might be extremely long, antagonistic, and few annulments are granted.

In both cases, the same truth exists, but the expression of those truths results in different outcomes dependent on the local conditions.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Anil,
Agreed local/historic conditions don't change the teaching but they do change to attitudes to how we interact with people.
Setting the bar at the Eucharist or sacramental Communion, is problematic, it has always signified 'full communion", total acceptance of Christ, whereas RCIA might suggest other degrees of communion. Welcoming Sun worshipping polygamus pagans, who like wearing a cross, does not mean offering them sacramental communion, or a place to teach their beliefs.

Lynda said...

Clarity is essential and easy when one is concerned with essential teaching of Christ and the Divine Law. That marriage is for life (all necessary elements of a valid marriage subsisting at the time of entry), and that reception of the Blessed Sacrament is prohibited to those with unabsolved mortal sin, that sexual relations of any kind between persons of the same sex are always and everywhere gravely wrong, unnatural and prohibited, that sexual relations between persons not married to each other are gravely wrong and prohibited - there ought to be no lack of clarity about such fundamental things.

Liam Ronan said...

On the topic of clarity, my mind brought me to these words of Christ Jesus:

"Do not imagine that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have come to bring a sword, not peace.

I have come to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter with her mother, and the daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies will be the people of his own house.

He is not worthy of me, that loves father or mother more; he is not worthy of me, that loves son or daughter more..." Matthew 10:34-37

Liam Ronan said...

Just a further thought. St. Paul, who did not scruple to give his own children in the Faith a severe reprimand when they strayed from the Truth, nonetheless (and quite pastorally to my mind) also said:

"With the Jews I lived like a Jew, to win the Jews; with those who keep the law, as one who keeps the law (though the law had no claim on me), to win those who kept the law; with those who are free of the law, like one free of the law (not that I disowned all divine law, but it was the law of Christ that bound me), to win those who were free of the law. With the scrupulous, I behaved myself like one who is scrupulous, to win the scrupulous. I have been everything by turns to everybody, to bring everybody salvation." 1 Cor. 9:20-22

I am not a priest, Father, but I should have no difficulty in approving the requested memorial that your visitor has requested. I am convinced that it what both Jesus and St. Paul would do.

Cheers.

Jacobi said...

I have much sympathy with your Orthodox friend’s view that we Catholics have lost sight of God.

At Mass last Sunday, our priest complained about the shuffling of Missal pages. I don’t think he is against the Missal as such but he did point out that the business of “following “ the Mass was essentially a Protestant idea. Prior to the Reformation, the faithful simply prayed at Mass. They were therefore part of the Mass.

The Protestant preoccupation with understanding, now dominates our “Protestantised” vernacular Novus Ordo, and has become an obsession in participation. The idea of the Mass as a Commemorative Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for the Salvation of Mankind now hardly exists in the Novus Ordo, or the Catholic mind, and most of today’s congregations would look blankly at you if you expressed that view.

But clarity is needed now in countering the present great weapon of the Relativists, namely Ambiguity. This is their heavy artillery, the weapon which has and still does enable them to sew confusion and disarray in the minds of the Faithful.

And they will use it in the Synod. Examples are the false use of “mercy” and “pastoral”, and the attempts to tone down such “not nice” expressions such as “living in sin“ and so on.

Our counter to this, our laser/ IR Guided weapon, is clarity of word and idea, so that ambiguity is shown for the deception it is.

Annie said...

"I wasn't quite sure what to say to her, especially as she reads this blog!"

Well, you could offer the woman a "teaching moment" - after all, isn't that what Christ commanded you to do?

In other words, you could explain that the reason her mother was buried from your parish was because she accepted the teachings of the Catholic Church; that the funeral/memorial rites at St. Mary Magdeline's are made available to baptized Catholics and if she ever becomes one you will be happy to have her memorial rites said at your parish church. How hard is it to say that? If she's offended, that's her problem - not yours. Good grief!

Marie said...

I agree with Liam Ronan, Father. The quote from 1 Cor. has enough parentheticals to indicate the limits of "being everything to everybody."
I also think you should approve your visitor's request on principle. Your visitor is still alive; there's plenty of time to pray for her conversion. And the memorial she requests does not have to be a requiem Mass - maybe just a "Liturgy of the Word?"
God bless you, Father.

George said...

Two things bother me about the Synod (or more precisely, what I've heard said about the Synod):

1) No mention about the damage done to children through divorce and especially divorce and remarriage. No mention about the positive effect that the Church's powerful stance against divorce has on keeping marriages together. (The research strongly supports so-called "bad" marriages staying together are much better for children than "bad" marriages coming apart. This despite what conventional wisdom wants to tell us.)

2) No mention about the role economics plays in strengthening or weakening the institution of marriage. The problem with the likes of Burke and his fellow conservatives is that they will blame poor catechesis, gender theory, and all the usual suspects for undermining marriage and family, but they never talk about corruption of the moral economy as a contributor.

Eufrosnia D said...

Father,

Not my place to give advise considering you are a superior to me but this is my 2 cents based on what I consider as wisdom of those who went before us (some of whom that were above both you and me in the level of authority).

Clarity is a good thing. Clarity can even be said to be a gift given at the end by God for those who persevere in the faith. With this in mind, I cannot fathom how you can even consider clarity as a bad thing. God has blessed the Church with such clarity over the years regarding Divine truths. We must thank God for it rather than seek to go in to confusion.

Second, the reason for wanting to be in the confused state is that it makes you comfortable as a priest. After all, if you are confused, that excuses you from taking what might be a wrong action. But this is the wrong sort of thinking. You are a man who is dealing with souls and their salvation. It is imperative that you know clearly as to what is the sure way to salvation.

You cannot propose alternatives based on mere theological assumptions to those who seek your help. You are to deal with what you objectively know is true. Simply say that if one does not want to pursue such a path, their salvation is in jeopardy and leave it at that. You don't have to try and sugar coat it with things you don't know or on assumptions as to how God's mercy might work.

Third, your actions count. If you welcome people with diverse beliefs in to your Church, you do send the wrong message that you indeed accept them. EVEN WORSE, you send the message that any religion is as good as another as long as the adherents of a religion mean well. So you always have to draw a line. That line has in fact been drawn for you in the traditional practices of the Church.

The reason why people find the traditional practice in these matters offensive is because they communicate that their philosophies in life are wrong. Those philosophies in life (indifferentism, moral relativism, disordered views on sex) are indeed wrong. So you must expect and desire them to realize that their philosophy does not match with the Catholic one.

What you propose leads to disaster in this sense because it inadvertently makes people think that their personal philosophies have been finally accepted by the Church. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the only reason why people find Pope Francis a "good Pope" is because they get the sense that he approves or has nothing bad to say about their personal philosophies (which under Catholicism, they know to be condemned).

So I feel that this is what you have to consider as a priest.

princepsmilitiaecaelestis said...

Dear father,
just tell her : be baptized asap.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Princeps
But if she doesn't believe and cannot say 'Amen' to the Creed?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Euf..
Divine Truth is quite clear what is obviously not is how to deal with diabolic untruths, or at least with those who are impeded from accepting it.
Do we drive the sinner out until he repents or embrace him until he has a change of heart or simply accept him as he is, or just tolerate him? The staus quo is that we leave this decision to individual Pastors, what the Synod seem to want to do is set rules.

Eufrosnia D said...

Father,

If I may point out, Divine truth is very clear that one is to follow the ancient boundaries set by our forefathers in the faith (Prov. 22:28). Most of our confusion has arisen from the fact that we want to start from scratch on subjects like "how do we handle sin?", "how do we raise children?" etc.

We have received instruction on how to deal with those who obstinately cling to public sin in our communities from the first Apostles themselves (1 Cor 5:6, 2 Cor 6:14-15, 2 John 10-11 etc). Why are we not following these instructions today as a Church? Why is it surprising for us to radical and erroneous ideas spread like wildfire and leading to increase in sin inside the Church when most of our prelates have indeed abandoned such instructions handed down to us by the first Apostles (those who had seen Christ and learned from him directly)?

If I may also point out, the reason why many of us have abandoned such instruction is because we think we live in different times. The argument seems to be that today, we communicate differently etc. But if I may point out, the instructions from the first Apostles are not based on communication but the truth that 'a little error only grows and spreads if left to itself'. Such truths were based on human nature and such things do not change with time. Yet many today will have us believe that the first Apostles were wrong / not applicable because they had based their instructions on cultural principles of their time. That is obviously not true in this case because they based it on human nature itself which cannot change from one age to another (unless we cease to be human).

Thomas Wood said...

If she doesn't believe she shouldn't be granted a requiem mass. The Church does not pray publicly for the souls of the unfaithful departed.

Annie said...

"But if she doesn't believe and can't say 'Amen' to the Creed?"

Then you let her go her way. If Jesus could do it (John 6) then surely you can do it too. Your job is to plant the seed - you can't control the type of ground it falls onto. People - lots of them - reject Jesus. HE LETS THEM GO and you need to learn to let people go too, Father. You've been given the masculine role of - however lovingly - setting the rules and enforcing the boundaries. It's what fathers do. It's what Christ did. He loved people so much that He told them the Truth and then let them accept or reject Him. You're 'in persona Christi', Father. Jesus drove people out of the Temple who weren't there to worship God and you're letting people use your Church who don't even believe in Him? Geesh.

Liam Ronan said...

@Thomas Wood,

You said: " If she doesn't believe she shouldn't be granted a requiem mass. The Church does not pray publicly for the souls of the unfaithful departed."

The FSSP priests at my parents' parish offer the (Traditional) Mass for the repose of the soul of anyone for whom they have accepted a stipend. The name is published each week in the parish newsletter without denoting who was a believer and who was not nor do they inquire of the deceased's religious affiliation in life when accepting the stipend.

Surely they cannot be doing something wrong?

Damask Rose said...

"But if she doesn't believe and cannot say 'Amen' to the Creed?"

Then she doesn't get her funeral. Why on the earth does she want a Catholic funeral - does she just see it as some kind of just-in-case safety net? Is this not presumption on her part?

Why does the Catholic Faith have to become so cheap?

This scenario reminds me of a homily one of my parish priests gave to which he received an ovation (..lol). He recounted that when he was a young priest, he had a couple who wanted him to baptise their baby. Father said literally, that he "laid it on thick" re their responsibilities in raising the child Catholic. They in turn said "Sorry Father, we can't do that". Father said that he was so alarmed they left arranging no baptism for their baby that from that day forward he baptises any baby for parents that want it. My husband were so put out by this priests faux witness in our opinion, we refused to clap. Really, at the end of Mass, I should have tackled the priest and bluntly asked him if I should actually bother to catechise my kid in the Faith or not. Should I teach the kid anything at all? Are we baptising Protestants now? This is why Catholic parents are so ambivalent about catechising their children in the Faith now, and First Holy Communion is so useless and any non-practicing Catholics can present their children for this Sacrament. The priests will accommodate anything.

Question is, did you at least try and convert her? Offer her a simple book to read re the Faith, a book on saints' lives at most?

This is the same as the discussion of the Synod discussing Communion for adulterers without the adulterers having to make an effort and repent.

As for your comment re "Do we drive the sinner out until he repents or embrace him until he has a change of heart". Depends on the situation entirely, ie if they're giving scandal or you know you can achieve a conversion slowly.

"...or simply accept him as he is, or just tolerate him?"

These two suggestions don't even come into the equation.

Damask Rose said...

"...we lost sense of other sacramental acts, for example we focus on the sacrament of Marriage and ignore the once sacramental acts leading to it and following from it, for example the rites that once surrounded betrothal, or the exchange of dowry and marriage contract, the blessing of the newly married or yet to be married's bed or hearth, or the grace said at the wedding breakfast or the blessing of the cake."

As you say Father, this is such a loss. I would have loved to have these little services around the time of my wedding. I'm sure they would strengthen a marriage at the very beginning. I think the "Churching of women" is another good one too. Blessing the women in her great responsibility as a mother, the way I see it. I wonder if it would help with post-natal depression too?

Damask Rose said...

" Reflecting on the words of the Australian couple who spoke of welcoming their homosexual son and his companion for Christmas dinner, I am sure Pope Francis would be proud of me, I've never turned anyone away, nor actually do I know any priest who would,..."

Um, not sure I get this....

"What I find difficult is warning a son that certain sexual practices might endanger not only his and his friend's spiritual health but their physical health too. Like many parents today we want to avoid conflict, even if in a real loving family, truth and frankness is necessary and welcome."

You find that difficult Father? I'd have no difficulty with this whatsoever. And in the Christmas context, I wouldn't want this demonic mockery in my home. I think it's called 'tough love'.

You're a spiritual father, Father Ray. Would you like it if a couple of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence sat in your pews or two gays kissed during the 'Sign of Peace', brought their children for baptism and First Holy Communion in front of your congregation, in front of the parents and their children? Would you like your parishioners little kiddies seeing this deviation? And what about those parents/parishioners who don't like being surrounded by unrepentant gays? Are they going to have to get with the programme?

Please don't tell me you're into 'gradualism'?

gemoftheocean said...

Re: "By tightly defining the sacraments, limiting them to seven we lost sense of other sacramental acts,"

-- I think you more or less have to!!!

According to the Baltimore Catechism " a sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace."

Gets too nebulous if you take it down to blessing cakes.

If you want to include all that other stuff, then there are idiots who won't know the difference between eating blessed cake and communion. Nope. 7. Just...7.

As far as the lady goes...invite her to RCIA.

Jacobe: Why is it "protestant" to follow the mass, assuming one isn't illiterate, you SHOULD "follow" what the priest is doing and not off on your own little rosary crusade. Rosary before or after Mass?

Excellent. But the mass is THE most excellent prayer. One thing to watch mesmerized in thought about what the priest is doing, but thinking about the words the priest is actually saying deepens the faith.

Damn good thing the first mass wasn't a "silent canon." Phooey to that. It is one thing about the EF I intensely dislike.

Nicolas Bellord said...

George: You are absolutely right. Here we have a Synod that has supposedly been called because of the crisis in the family. Yet we have Cardinals prepared to undermine marriage even further by suggesting that divorce and remarriage without an annulment are really okay - a policy that will discourage people from trying to soldier on in a marriage in difficulties. Marriage is not a personal contract but a public institution of great importance particularly for children. You only have to look around you to see the effects of encouraging divorce or making it easier e.g. the children who run away because they cannot relate to their latest stepparent etc.

Genty said...

First of all, in charity the lady concerned needs to be reminded gently that a Requiem Mass is not a memorial where a glowing eulogy is given for the deceased, but a solemn plea for God's mercy for a sinner.
Perhaps, Father, you might instead offer to say a Mass for the repose of her soul.
If her mother was a Catholic and she has been baptised, but lapsed or never brought up as a Catholic, there is work to be done. If she is open to it, this is the time for a sit-down chat.
But the answer to your dilemma may not come until the lady is in extremis.