Thursday, September 22, 2016

Drinking to Conscience?

I haven't seen the inside but the outside of this week's Catholic Herald reminds me of the words in the document on Christian Unity about the terrible scandal of disunity. "Leaks, intimidation, claims of heresy". indeed seem to be a mark of today's Church, indeed they seem to be more obvious marks of the Church than 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic', and increasingly so, there is a brutality and anti-intellectualism in today's Church, based on ambiguity, confusion and incoherence

It is an irony that the the Pope, himself, 'the minister of unity' should become the focus and source of disunity. Perhaps that is precisely what the Conclave of 2013 desired when it elected Jorge Bergoglio, he was already known as a divisive figure in both the Society of Jesus and his home diocese of Buenos Aires. In Et in Unum Sint John Paul had recognised the Papacy. among Christians in general, was a source of division and invited a discussion on the role of the Pope in the Church of the future. After Francis the Church will need to clarify, again, for its own adherents what is the role of the Pope, in what way is Universal Pastor, in what way should he exercise his jurisdiction, or even voice his personal preferences.

We all speak infallibly when recite creed or when we speak the truth of the Gospel. With the the Orthodox I suspect Pastor aeternus, with its hedging round of and very narrow definition of Papal powers is perhaps less divisive than the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which most (all?) Orthodox would consider as unnecessary novelties. One could argue that the Great Schism only gathered theological significance with the promulgation of Ineffabilis Deus  in 1854 until then in practice Orthodox and Catholics believed that which was 'held always, everywhere and by all'.

As the headline says, "The Communion row gets nasty", I fear for many Catholics that rather than as Newman says, "I shall drink to the Pope, if you please, still, to Conscience first", we must make a conscious choice between Conscience and the Pope, and that choice will have very uncomfortable consequences for those who feel compelled to follow conscience. The Kasper doctrine which the Pope has signified he favour is for many of us a sign of the distancing of the Church from Revelation and the person of Jesus Christ, that is not what the Church is for. When we ask for clarification from the Cardinals of the Church, as we are bound to do, we are met with either silence or told, as we were in England, by many of our superiors that Cardinal Nichols 'was displeased' that we should even voice such a concern in a private communication to him and his fellow Cardinals, that is the absolute moral low ground, though maybe a not entirely unexpected response. It is certainly not what the Pope himself calls for, 'open fearless debate' nor is it inline with a Catholic search for truth and is certainly not 'pastoral' to leave Christ's faithful in a state of uncertainty and confusion. Recently someone asked, "Having divorced sixteen years ago in the light of the Pope's new rules, can I look for a new wife?
Another man was just angry that he thought his forty-five years of continence since his own marriage broke down was now considers by the Church as unnecessary.


Victor S E Moubarak said...

When I was young, I was taught that it is not the Conclave that elects the Pope, but the Holy Spirit through those who are there. Was I taught wrong?

If not, then why did the Holy Spirit elect the present Pope I wonder.

There are many confusions and inclarities in our Church's teachings these days. On marriage and divorce and re-marriage, on the Real Presence in Communion, on Confession, on which type/style/rite of Mass is best, (does God still prefer Latin I wonder), and on many other issues.

Please someone HELP. The Pope, the Cardinals, Bishops, Priests or whoever. Otherwise the laity will make up its own rules and beliefs.

God bless you.

Deacon Augustine said...

I think the importance of "unity" is grossly over-exaggerated when it is cast in opposition to truth as we have been doing since Vatican II. The current stress on unity at all costs is also grossly unscriptural.

Yes, I know that Our Lord prayed "Ut unum sint.", but before He did that, He prayed that his apostles would be consecrated in the truth. When He prayed for the unity of His followers, who was it that He actually prayed for? He prayed for His apostles and for all those "..who will come to believe THROUGH YOUR WORD." It was those who received and held the apostolic faith for whom He prayed they would be as one. He never prayed that His Church would be united with heretics, apostates and those who generally rejected the teaching of the apostles.

The same St John who recorded Christ's prayer for unity - the apostle of love - was also clear that we should come out from among heretics and he denied that they were ever really one with us. St Paul who exhorts the Corinthians to unity also insists that Timothy must "avoid" those who reject the apostolic faith. And of course there is his famous anathematization of all those who would try to bring us a Gospel which differed from that which we have received - even be they angels.

Its time that we returned to the sources and rediscovered the Scriptural context of unity and ditched the Protestant-inspired Vatican II version of unity and ecumenism. If some Cardinal isn't happy about that, too bad. We follow Jesus Christ, not lukewarm apologists for modernity.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am afraid you were taught wrongly, unless you want to say the HS appointed Bishop X, which in a sense is he does. God has a direct will and a permissive will. He can draw good out of ill. So, yes where the Church is now is in a sense God's will.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Thank you for your response, Father Blake.

If I understand you correctly; the current confusion in the Church is God's will. If so, why fight it?

God bless you.

Jeremy said...

I have really tried to give this Pope the benefit of the doubt, but he is to say the least an enigma, quite traditional on some fronts and openly un-traditional on others. I have come to the conclusion that he cannot discern between good and bad advice. His alienation of those who should be his closest advisors has caused factions and dissent and the poor faithful are left to cope with the fall out. Next month he will be celebrating Luther, the chief architect of the Church's near destruction, it seems. How are we to interpret that? But, I suspect, the more he says, the less anyone listens.

WGS said...

If one is validly, legally, sacramentally married, and one's spouse leaves to enter into a legal cohabitation which comes to be recognized by the Church as "just as good as" marriage, it must be a bigamous relationship. - one spouse married to two spouses! Can this be moral in the eyes of the Church?

On the other hand, if the new relationship is deemed merely a venial sin, rather than "living in mortal sin", it seems that the venial sinner would never be able to avail himself of the sacrament of confession as long as he is unwilling to forswear that venial sin.

Catechist Kev said...

"...there is a brutality and anti-intellectualism in today's Church, based on ambiguity, confusion and incoherence."

And who is generally thought to be the one behind all that?

As Jagger said, "Hope you guess my name."

Catechist Kev

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am not saying that at all, what I am saying is Gold permits certain things, those united to him must struggle to do his will. God permits sin, we must fight against.

Maria Anna said...

Father do you really think Pope Francis was elected by the Roman Curia ( correct me if I am wrong) to bring confusion? I rather think it's because he is very appealing to agnostic youth. And people do like him. Maybe they were wrong. Or maybe he's not corrupted by power, he did also hint about the Tremendous Judgement as above our logic of time. Which today is usually considered stupid bigotry etc. He does not obviously understand the miracle of rites.. or prayer..or maybe he's just trying to "sell" it to the majority of people. The reality is most of the European civilization is not in pagantry, nor even heresy, nor atheism, nor agnosticism, but pure apostasy. We were the Christian World, now we don"t care as society. This is apostasy no? We had Christ and gave Him up. This is the ultimate sin according to the Apocalypse. To give Him up. Rome chose Francis to be able to... lure.. seduce?... people into the True reality of our spiritual position. The Church must tell people. You are the shepherds
But also do all possible to convince them. Maybe even lure or seduce.. if it is for real the end then it's emmergency... No?

Sadie Vacantist said...

People are going over the top in their hostility to this papacy. The rot set in after 1945. German theology as it emerged in the 1950's was the result of the Allied occupation and the program of indoctrination to which the German people were subject during denazification. American Catholics stupidly became obsessed with communism. Whilst Portuguese, Spanish and Irish Catholic church (bulwarks against the rot) were living on borrowed time as the reputations of Salazar, Franco and de Valera were destroyed slowly but surely after their deaths.

We are where we are.

Gary Freeman said...

Thanks for your blog, Father. And, for the picture! Check in every day. Too many want to water down the faith - in Rome and 'Germany' in particular, but also around the world - in parishes and dioceses. On the other hand, there are many very solid in the faith. We will persevere!

HPE said...

Victor, just look at the state of the world today and all the evils that men have, and are still, choosing. God has allowed us all free will and because of the evils chosen by man, (and now surrounding us) this is the result. All we can do is pray, pray, pray! St. Michael, please help us and God, forgive us, please.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I seem to have lost your comment.
I think many of Conclave Fathers elected Francis thinking the existing confusion either needed to run its course, or to be lanced. The previous Conclave elect Ratzinger who failed to fully address the problem, his runner-up Bergoglio was elected w2ih a degree of certainty that a few years of his Papacy would prepare the way for a Reformer.
As the runner-up to Ratzinger Bergoglio would have been the most widely known and promote name.

susan said...

Father, thank you (!) and God bless you richly for being a true man who puts God first...a truly good and holy shepherd. I now add you to my list of priests for whom I pray every day, and will offer many Holy Hours for you....the persecution is coming. Thank you again, and God bless you.

Unknown said...

People have turned marriage and relationships into an idol. People want to divorce and remarry so they can worship someone after a failed marriage. It's sick and people want to abandon God for a mere mortal person who they think will make them happy. No entity can ever make you happy other than God.

William Tighe said...

Ratzinger on Conclaves

Here I point the reader to a piece Catholic journalist John Allen recently published in which he cites Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on the topic:

. . . Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:

"I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit's role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined."

Then the clincher: "There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!"


Fr Seán Coyle said...

Sadie Vacantist, Yes, the Catholic Christian faith has been largely lost in Portugal, Spain and Ireland. But I'm not sure why you link Salazar, Franco and De Valera, or what their reputations have to do with the loss of faith in their countries. De Valera, unlike Salazar and Franco, was not a dictator. His government lost elections in 1948 and in 1954.

Victor, John Allen quotes the then Cardinal Ratzinger on the Holy Spirit and papal elections:

'Perhaps the classic expression of this idea belongs to none other than the outgoing pope, Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:

'"I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit's role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined."

'Then the clincher:

'"There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!"'

Source: (This is not an endorsement of the National Catholic Reporter but John Allen is a highly respected journalist).

Sadie Vacantist said...

"De Valera, unlike Salazar and Franco, was not a dictator."

Technically true but the mere fact you feel compelled to distance him from the other two is indicative of the mind set to which I refer. EDV had more in common with Franco and Salazar that he has the Irishmen who now run your country. The ultimate hate crime is to be "a dictator" so EDV's only virtue in today's categories is that of not being something (a dictator) rather than the God fearing man he, in reality, was.

John Fisher said...

Here we go the old recycled argument from conscience. It's clear a conscience can be malformed and is by sin. The reason is obvious and in psychology its called dissonance or in our language guilt. That feeling that we know something is wrong, something does not work, we feel empty and despair. To remedy this banality steps in and says there is no need to feel uneasy or pain. Just do what you feel "do what you want to do yeahhhh" without asking about right or wrong. So obviously the mortal sin on top of mortal sin is distorting and malforming the conscience by smothering or misleading it and pretending ignorance. It's called an escape clause.
Francis is typical of his 1970's generation. Always rebellion and mitigation. Always the escape clause, always freedom with no stuffy challenges from authority figures. No reminding because authenticity is doing what you feel without any asking is it right or wrong. You can have you sin enjoy it and them after you get bored move on! Francis says its ok and you can drag God down with you too!

Fr Ray Blake said...

S Simon,
I agree with your sentiments but I cannot publish them with the criticism your comment contains.

Simple Simon said...

Fr.Ray I understand completely. Thank you.

mark wauck said...

@ Sadie Vacantist

Re the rot setting in after 1945 with German theology, I just finished reading an interesting book On the Road to Vatican II, subtitled is "German Catholic Enlightenment and Reform of the Church." It covers the period, roughly of say 1648 to 1848. What is very clear is that the theological and philosophical rot was present LONG before 1945 or Vatican II. I hasten to add that I found much of the author's evaluation of what was going on fairly worthless, but there was lots of useful info.

However, re liturgical "reform," see if this sounds familiar:

"The eighteenth century was perceived by contemporaries as an epoch in which customs and morals were refined in comparison to previous more coarse centuries. This process made theologians realize that despite such changes, the liturgy had remained the same, and that a growing number of the faithful stopped participating in it, but nevertheless, still practiced superstitious rituals. The liturgy, as German Enlighteners realized, Protestant and Catholic alike, had become isolated from the reality of life. In order to reinvigorate the faith, one therefore had to reform the liturgy by reconciling it to the contemporary culture. Moreover, a renewal of the liturgy in the spirit of the first centuries, so it was believed, could also help bring the separated churches back together. Overall, one can identify three main threads among eighteenth century reformers of the liturgy: they argue for a simplification of worship, and emphasis on the community of the faithful, and an increase in the intelligibility of the devotional character of the liturgy. Wherever the liturgy could not meed the standards of reason an utility, it was made subject to the plans of the reformers. Part of the last contention is that the liturgy is not only an expression of worship, but is also in the service of moral education." (pp 172-173)

kiwiinamerica said...


Bravo, Fr. Blake!!!

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Sadie Vacantist, thank you for your reply to my comment. Yes, Eamon De Valera was a practising Catholic and the Constitution approved by the Irish people in 1937, in which he had a major hand in drafting, reflects that. His immediate predecessor as head of government, W.T. Cosgrave and his successor in 1948 and 1954, John A. Costello, were both men for whom their Catholic Christian faith came first. But I simply cannot see any connection between De Valera's reputation and the loss of faith in Ireland today. For young Irish people he is simply a name from the past, as are Cosgrave and Costello.

A small group if Irishmen connected with the party of Cosgrave and Costello went to Spain to fight for France in the Civil War there. They included a family friend of ours. The whole thing was a fiasco and De Valera certainly did not encourage the venture. (I think they nearly all returned to Ireland safely).

I grew up admiring De Valera. In those days the Irish Civil War (1922-23) was still a 'live' topic. Today, thanks be to God, it isn't. I have great admiration for both Cosgrave and Costello. I don't see De Valera as being defined by what he wasn't. I wasn't doing that. I was simply pointing out a truth. De Valera was not a dictator. He was a man who respected democracy.

It is more than a technicality that De Valera was not a dictator. I have lived under a dictatorship here in the Philippines, under Marcos. The Church was persecuted during those years in many places, the victims being mostly poor people trying to live their faith in working for justice. And the current regime here in the Philippines is showing all the signs of being a dictatorship. The foul-mouthed president, raised as a Catholic, has stated explicitly that he doesn't believe in religions though he professes to believe in God.

The current leader of the Irish government, Enda Kenny, was also raised as a Catholic but now professes a vague wishy-washy 'spirituality'.

Two incidents involving the Irish parliament that symbolize the loss of faith are two Ash Wednesdays. One was in the 1990s, I think. Nearly all the members had ashes on their foreheads. The other was Ash Wednesday 2011 when a government lead by Enda Kenny took office. No ashes that day and the new cabinet members had dinner with the President that evening after receiving their seals of office from her. (Government members don't take any oath of office). I doubt very much that there was only fish on the menu.

Yet there are signs that the faith has not disappeared in Ireland. Earlier this week a man died suddenly on a train. While some tried to revive him and do what they could others, according to a newspaper report, began to pray the Rosary for him. May their tribe increase.

God bless.

Charlesdawson said...

"Another man was just angry that he thought his forty-five years of continence since his own marriage broke down was now considers by the Church as unnecessary." He's not the only one, Father Blake, believe me.

How much of the present move to "liberalize" doctrines such as the indissolubility of true marriage, are truly born out of a desire to reach out to those caught in intolerable situations, and how much out of a desire to improve the numbers of bums on seats? I suspect that those who have grown accustomed to living comfortably in mortal sin will not bother to return to church just because the teaching (of Our Blessed Lord) has been contradicted. Why should they bother? And those who have been living unhappily in mortal sin or in continence will justifiably resent the suffering they have undergone being devalued, "oh,we've changed our mind, so sorry!"

JARay said...

I rather object to Franco and Salazar being dismissed simply as dictators. Both were good, practicing Catholics and both came to power because of the chaos which had existed in their counties. Salazar was in power when I was living in Portugal because I was a seminarian at that time.I passed him once in the street and he turned to me, bowed and lifted his hat marking his respect towards a cleric.Can you imagine Enda Kenny doing something similar towards a cleric in Dublin now?
Both Salazar and Franco loved their countries and wanted to pass on to their sucessors a stable, prosperous country quite unlike the situations which had existed in those countries before they came to power. They loved their countries and they loved the Catholic Church.

Willard Money said...

"Another man was just angry that he thought his forty-five years of continence since his own marriage broke down was now considers by the Church as unnecessary."

Wow. Did Pope Benedict have these "good" Catholics pegged or what?

"We are staring at the trials of everyday Christianity and forgetting on that account that faith is not just a burden that weighs us down; it is at the same time a light that brings us counsel, gives us a path to follow, and gives us meaning. We are seeing in the Church only the exterior order that limits our freedom and thereby overlooking the fact that she is our spiritual home, which shields us, keeps us safe in life and in death. We are seeing only our own burden and forgetting that other people also have burdens, even if we know nothing of them. And above all, what a strange attitude that actually is, when we no longer find Christian service worthwhile if the denarius of salvation may be obtained even without it! It seems as if we want to be rewarded, not just with our own salvation, but most especially with other people's damnation—just like the workers hired in the first hour. That is very human, but the Lord's parable is particularly meant to make us quite aware of how profoundly un-Christian it is at the same time. Anyone who looks on the loss of salvation for others as the condition, as it were, on which he serves Christ will in the end only be able to turn away grumbling, because that kind of reward is contrary to the loving-kindness of God."

Sadie Vacantist said...

Trad websites are looking increasingly like fools gold especially in the Anglo-Saxon World. I was born in 1959 into an era of fools. What happened at the Council was a direct result of the War. You cannot disintegrate Japanese Catholic women and children in seconds (as happened at Nagasaki) to terminate that war and then have the temerity to demand that the Holy Spirit protect the Church from attack in its aftermath. It's not going to happen.

DJR said...

"With the Orthodox, I suspect Pastor Aeternus, with its hedging round of, and very narrow definition of, papal powers, is perhaps less divisive than the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which most (all?) Orthodox would consider as unnecessary novelties."


I didn't understand that comment.

The Orthodox do not profess belief in the Immaculate Conception as Catholics understand that belief, but they do believe in the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin (Assumption). An Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow is named Assumption Cathedral.

Can you clarify?

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think most Orthodox would have problems with both of these dogmas, 1) because they are used to bolster Papal claims, but also 2) because they have never been precisely defined by the Church before Rome decided unilaterally to do so.
Dogmas contemplated in silence become something else when anathemas are attached.