Sunday, January 05, 2014

Disappointment in 2014

Pope Francis kisses disfigured man
Just a prediction for 2014: disappointment!

I have just read the annoying Peter Stanford's article in the Daily Telegraph where he sets out his hopes for Pope Francis' pontificate. He will certainly be disappointed.

Fr Mark Drew has an article in Stanford's old paper, the Catholic Herald, in which he fears the kind of reaction we experienced in the wake of Humanae Vitae: liberals had built up an expectation that the Church would change its teaching that sexual acts should be open to life, they either left in droves or remained and seriously weakened the Church from the inside.
The Pope seems to be waiting upon the extraordinary synod on the family, convened for the coming October, before making a definitive judgment. In the meantime, he will need to steady the barque if the synodal debate is to be serene and the outcome received by the whole Church. If the debate is not well guided, there is a threat to unity. A decision for relaxing the rules would risk alienating and disorientating many who have respected and defended the present discipline, often at real personal cost.
On the other hand, a decision to maintain the status quo might unleash a storm reminiscent of the dissent caused by the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1967. That decision disappointed many who were confidently expecting a different outcome, and proved a turning point in the pontificate of Paul VI. That pope, who had been previously hailed as a confident proponent of reform, often appeared beleaguered and broken afterwards. To avoid such an eventuality, Pope Francis needs to play his role as teacher of the faith and centre of Catholic unity with clarity and courage. It is a daunting task for any human being, and the Pope needs our prayers.
Another area where perhaps there will disappointment is within the  Curia, months of harsh words and uncertainty have seriously sapped morale, many low level officials have left Rome in recent months, the careerist have stayed the pastorally minded have gone. As Fr Mark Drew draws attention to another danger: nepotism. The rigidity that is likely to come from a Curia of a particular stripe rather than of varied talents is likely to produce a certain brittleness and intolerance. A Pope who is personally laid back is likely to produce lieutenants who believe they have his mind on particular issues and push their interpretation of that position with all the force they can muster. Already we seem to have seen something of this with the Friars of the Immaculate.

There was an article I read earlier in the week in which the author stressed Pope Francis tended to be presented in terms of 'image' as opposed to 'message', the author suggested the Gospel was about 'message' rather than 'image'. Images might satisfy those on the peripheries but those closer to the centre want the message. The broad brush approach satisfies the outsider but inside detail is needed.

One of the great problems with any Pope is that the court separates him from reality, already we have seen in the reported conversations with Bishop Scicluna and Cardinal Meisner that the Pope seems unaware of the impact of his words. If Meisner was the first to have the courage to confront the Pope with the impact of his words, then it would seem that the Pope is indeed isolated, that those around him and flattering courtiers and this likely to increase.
“When I last visited Pope Francis recently I was able to speak to him very openly about all and sundry. I drew his attention to the fact that some of what he had said in interviews and short addresses had left certain questions open to debate which really needed explaining further for those not in the know,” Cardinal Meisner said.
“The Pope opened his eyes wide and asked me to give him an example. I pointed to his remark about remarried divorcees on the plane back from Rio. [when the Pope had said, “I believe this is the time of mercy.”]
“Whereupon the Pope said quite simply: ‘Divorcees can go to communion – remarried divorcees cannot.’
It is interesting that he seems to have learnt that interviews with atheist logothetes like Eugenio Scalfari  can be pretty disastrous, whether he will learn he has to speak clearly for himself is another matter.


Pater Ignotus said...

Scalfari has another wacky editorial in La Repubblica today, digging in his heals on the idea that the Pope has abolished sin. The consequences of the Pope's having sat for an interview with him are not going away easily...

Jacobi said...


I agree. Stanford will be disappointed. The divorced and remarried are objectively in a state of sin. Therefore, they cannot receive Holy Communion, end of story. Women cannot be priests. Neither the Pope, nor anyone else, can alter these facts.

What is noteworthy is that someone, so publicly involved in Catholic affairs, expresses such hopes.

That is but an indication of how far Secularism not only threatens the Church from without, but worse still, has affected some within. Yes, it rather reminds one of the “Spirit of Vat II” gang.

The interesting times we live in are, I suspect, going to get more interesting still!

Gungarius said...

The best rated comment sums it up well:

"There seems to be a certain degree of dissonance surrounding the Pope's political and theological identity - much of which can be put down to a popular (but erroneous) perception that social justice and orthodox morality on sexuality and family are two opposite ends of a spectrum, or that to hold firm to Magisterial teaching is mutually exclusive with compassion and forgiveness.

Time will, of course, tell if Francis is genuinely the theological liberal that many, including the author here, seem to think/hope he is. But for the moment, I suspect that such reviews of the Pope reveal more about their authors than they do the man they scrutinise."

Liam Ronan said...

The thing that is most worrisome to me and which, in my opinion, contributed to the 'anything goes' mentality that followed Vatican II was the world-wide liberal media coverage and rumour mill. With the media and social networks grown exponentially over the past 50+ years and with the ability now to communicate immediately all over the planet, the sheer amount of lies and misreporting likely to emerge from this Extraordinary Synod is staggering.
As Winston Churchill once said: " A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." - That's assuming the Truth knows where its pants are.

Liam Ronan said...

"“Whereupon the Pope said quite simply: ‘Divorcees can go to communion – remarried divorcees cannot.’"
I don't wish to bang on about this but this statement (as reported) is not precisely correct:
On 14 September 1994, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith with the approval of Pope John Paul II issued a document titled “LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CONCERNING THE RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION BY THE DIVORCED AND REMARRIED MEMBERS OF THE FAITHFUL” and within which an allowance is made for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Holy Eucharist under the following conditions:
“The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only “to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’”(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.”
Those who argue for the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to reception of the Holy Eucharist (to my mind) altogether ignore the remedy offered by the Church (above) because either they are ignorant of the remedy; or, they refuse to approach the Sacrament of Penance and admit they have sinned and “broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ”; or, are they are unwilling to strive to “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples”.
To receive mercy one must first admit one has sinned, ask for pardon, pray God for His Mercy, and commence the struggle against the flesh. Those who demand to be admitted to the Holy Eucharist without having first repented of their sin want to bend the Church to their will. ‘Non Serviam’.

Annie said...

Liam Ronan,

"As Winston Churchill once said: "A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

That quote has an interesting history:

Jonathan Swift, 'The Examiner', 1710: "Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping along after it."

Portland, Maine 'Gazette', 1820: "Falsehoods will fly from Maine to Georgia, while truth is pulling her boots on."

'Gems from (C.H.) Spurgeon', 1859: "A lie will go around the world while truth is putting its boots on."

Mark Twain: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes."

And so on to WC who rejiggered MT's version - perhaps to suit British sensibilities?

Pétrus said...

Mr Stanford seems to have a singularly obtuse understanding of matters.

As an example :

"Note that, when on the plane back from a triumphant visit to Brazil in July (three million had joined him in prayer on Copacabana beach), he was challenged on Catholicism’s condemnation of homosexuality, arguably the Church’s greatest “sin” in secular eyes. Francis replied with a question. “If a person is gay and seeks God, who am I to judge him?” He might have added: “as has every one of my predecessors for centuries”."

Pope Francis wasn't actually asked about "Catholicism's condemnation of homosexuality". He was actually asked a very specific question about a reported gay lobby in the Vatican.

I don't believe Stanford is stupid enough to miss this. He is simply attempting to deceive others.

Liam Ronan said...

I think it a great tragedy and a scandal that the Mercy offered by Holy Mother Church to divorced and remarried Catholics offered in the CDF Instruction of 14 September 1994 (see my previous CDF citation) is not proclaimed from the pulpits. To flatly state that “Divorcees can go to communion –remarried divorcees cannot” is to veil this Mercy and to give the impression to all remarried divorcees that their situation vis-à-vis reception of the Holy Eucharist is irremediable.
Even if the remarried divorcee is convinced their first marriage was invalid (and indeed some may well be), the remarried divorcee nonetheless sins objectively through scandal given and through pride by putting one’s own judgement ahead of the Church’s which insists that a Decree of Nullity be sought and issued before attempting a second union.
The priest, of course, consistent with his exercise of due spiritual and pastoral discernment has the authority to absolve any sin. John 20:21-23
My understanding is that ‘imperfect contrition’ is more easily excited in the soul than perfect contrition because it is accessible to all who have even the least degree of faith. Even the greatest sinners can make an act of contrition arising from the fear of God or dread of Hall. With such contrition, the pardon of sins may be obtained within the Sacrament of Penance.
I refer here to what Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote about the conditions for a good confession

You admit your sin and receive absolution. If you fall and fail you return to the Sacrament again and again (if need be) to confess your sin. There are no sins which cannot be forgiven. But one must admit one has sinned before Mercy can be given.

Yes. There will perhaps be those outraged by this spiritual effort to right oneself with the Father. Yes, there will be those who sneer at the possibility of striving to live together while striving for sexual continence and abstinence. The ‘nudge nudge wink wink crowd’:
“And he answering, said to his father: Behold, for so many years do I serve thee, and I have never transgressed thy commandment, and yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends:
But as soon as this thy son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” Luke 15:29 – 30
I refer to Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Dives in Misericordia for an unparalled exposition on Divine Mercy:
Do not hide the Mercy of God or His Truth from those in desperate need of it, i.e. the remarried divorcees. Give them the chance to avail of it if they choose.

Liam Ronan said...

"...WC who rejiggered MT's version - perhaps to suit British sensibilities?"

Sort of like Britain's 'God Save the King' being rejiggered into the national anthem 'America' (My Country 'Tis of Thee) - perhaps to suit American sensibilities, eh?

The Bones said...

Liam. That is a fantastic comment which puts to shame the lie that mercy does not exist for those in the situation named.

nickbris said...

Liam Ronan; who he ?

Lepanto said...

So Cardinal Meisner spoke to the Pope "recently" and the Pope claimed to be unaware that several of his comments had caused confusion (to say the least)! The word "disingenuous" seems an utterly inadequate one to describe the Pope's response.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone could translate the Stanford article into Spanish and get someone to put it on the Holy Father's desk. I am convinced he just doesn't understand secualrism and it's profound influence on Catholics in much of the world. For him the enemy is the clique of ultra rich, far right Jansensist who have run dominated both Church and State for many years across much of South America. The masses are ignorant and crushingly poor by comparison, but of full of simple devotion even tending to superstition. He really doesn't get that the real enemy is the sneeringly pseudo intellectual 'modernism' that has drained the faith of many Catholics around the world, and he certainly doesn't get the aggressively atheist social environment that dominates our secular culture. The world and the media will turn on him much more viciously than on his predecessors when they realize that he cannot and will not concede their demands for compromise with the Truth. This synod could be a real watershed for him. The Holy Father certainly needs our prayers.

Annie said...


'The Star-Spangled Banner' is the official U.S. national anthem. Its tune pebble skipped from an organist at the Chapel Royal to a British social club to the words of a young American who saw his flag still standing at Fr. McHenry.

There are several other patriotic songs: 'America' which you correctly note was written to the tune of 'God Save the Queen', and 'America the Beautiful' with a tune written by an American organist.

And then there's the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' which is sung at times of peril or remembrance. The words were written by a woman who had visited a Union Army camp during the Civil War. She set the song to the tune of another drinking song. Queen Elizabeth had this song performed at several memorial services including one for Winston Churchill and another one for the 9/11 victims.

Liam Ronan said...

Thank you, Bones, for your gracious reply. I have read many many blogs and newspaper articles which permit reader comment and am astounded at how this available Mercy of the Church (ala the CDF document) is never once mentioned. I believe this extraordinary grace must be proclaimed from the rooftops (and in the blogosphere). As matters stand now, the moral issue is wrongly put as an absolutist 'IF/THEN' proposition when it is explained to the suffering children of Holy Mother Church simply as: “Divorcees can go to communion –remarried divorcees cannot”.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Hughie, too much information, I am not sure this is the place for that.
It is an internal forum matter.

Jacobi said...


You rightly point out the “divorcees can go to Communion” statement is incomplete. And,may I say that there is nothing new in the Ratzinger Sept.94 speech. The Church in its mercy has always provided people in such a situation with a way out, the so-called “brother and sister” solution. An awful expression, I know, but there it is.

The important thing is that they must make a clean and obvious break, to avoid causing scandal.

Speaking about “banging on “, the real problem, I think, is the post-Vatican II idea that the Mass should be a sort of Protestant communion service, with everyone receiving, and being publicly seen to do so.

This is wrong. It is the re-enactment of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, at which we can, if properly disposed, and at least once a year, receive Communion.

Lynda said...

Marriage is regarded and safeguarded by the Church as indissoluble. How is it that persons whose marriage was solemnised by the Church could then get a civil divorce, and this not be (generally, without more) an attack on their marriage, and therefore, a mortal sin (and one which is published, as presumably, they cease to live together as man and wife)?

George said...


I don't think that the remedy you advocate is as hidden from common knowledge as you suggest.

The reason it's not talked about more, in my opinion, is a prudential judgment that it's not feasible.

The Church offers a similar remedy for homosexuals. "Be homosexuals. But be chaste." I don't think this message has been hidden from the public either. But I think it has been roundly criticized and mocked and ultimately ignored by the masses. Likewise with the remedy for the "remarried."

I have to say also, you are looking at this issue (Divorce and so-called remarriage) from a purely sexual point of view. The Church takes a slightly broader approach for the institution of Holy Matrimony. Divorce and so-called remarriage affect children, families, and communities too. There is more at stake here than simply ensuring the adherence of Catholic sexual mores.

I dare say that the little children ravaged by our current divorce culture would find very little solace in a Church which made divorce even more friendly.

Woody said...

Several questions:

1. Why did the Vatileaks stop after Pope Benedict resigned? Why have there been no further such incidents under Pope Francis? What does that mean for who was behind it all and why? And please, do not bore me with the bogus "the culprits have been caught" explanation.

2. Why are the Franciscans of the Immaculate being persecuted when the more progressive groups go Scot free?

3. If, as has been discussed on other blogs, the great "sin" of the FIs was not the adoption of the Vetus Ordo but rather asking questions about Vatican II, then does the suppression of their seminary and communications, and the exiling of Father Lanzetta and others who were most vocal in that regard, mean that the Commissioner and the Pope who talks with him, believe Vatican II really was the revolution its progressive supporters said (and say) (see e.g. Cardinal Suenens) it was?

4. If Vatican II was the revolution, then cannot there be further revolutions (or really, outbreaks of the one Revolution)?

5. And most importantly then, what would that mean for the Church's truth claims? And its claims on our assent?

Liam Ronan said...

Thank you for your comments with which I beg to differ, I do not know your basis for asserting the CDF, i.e. the Catholic Church’s, remedy outlining the conditions whereupon a divorced and remarried Catholic may be admitted to the Holy Eucharist is ‘common knowledge’. I have walked this earth for 64 years and I have yet to hear word one about it from any pulpit much less propounded in other forums.
The Mercy of the Church is offered through the Sacrament of Penance for those who repent of their sin even if contrition is imperfect vs perfect.
Now sin and repentance, sin and repent again, are a life-long fact of the human condition. We resolve to amend our lives and being sinful creatures we fail in that resolve. However, repeated recourse to the Sacrament of Penance over a lifetime confers the sacramental grace which aids us more and more powerfully to reject sin and perfect our souls through God’s Grace and Mercy.
The other points you raise, i.e. the effect on children, families, the community, etc. are indeed broader pastoral concerns notwithstanding I have not addressed them in my earlier comments as they are not on point for the matter I addressed.
Forgive me, but I had to laugh when I read your observation that I was looking at this question ‘from a purely sexual point of view’. I beg to disabuse you of that if I may. I was looking at this as a legal and theological issue and nothing else hence I referred to the CDF document and various papal and scriptural sources.
I believe this question ‘can divorced-remarried Catholics receive the Holy Eucharist’ is already settled (ref. CDF instruction) and to cast it as moot is gravely misleading to the Faithful. Mercy is not to be hidden from those who are in most desperate need of it. It is incomprehensible to me that the Church, through its silence, could obscure this source of Mercy from those whose souls are in danger of damnation

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Lynda,
In my opinion you are absolutely correct in saying ‘marriage is regarded and safeguarded by the Church as indissoluble’. I would however qualify your observation by restating it as: ‘marriage is presumed and safeguarded by the Church as indissoluble’. A ‘sacramental' marriage cannot (certainly ought not) receive a Decree of Nullity.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...