Sunday, November 02, 2014

Cans of Worms

I am confused about the whole Synod business, the reactions to it, the Pope's intentions, the role of the Bishops. I am intrigued by Benedict's reaction too.

It is true that the Churches teaching on matters sexual is confused and in tatters, it is so obvious that for all the rich teaching of Popes from the last century, very few Bishops or priests take a blind bit of notice. Some bishops and priests have good reason not to raise their personal heads above the parapet. Some priests, in some parts of the world, are living concubinage with either a female or male partner without censure from people or bishops.

Even good honest bishops  belong to families, like the Pope himself, which are broken by marital break up or where family members have 'come out'. The sexual abuse crisis which has touched all bishops through out the world has made them aware that it is impossible to merely brush human sexuality under the carpet. In a world where human sexuality seems to have evolved and the old constraints have gone there is a need to face it full on, if that is possible.

The problem is the way it which it is faced. Perhaps a Pope who boasts to have 'the humility  and the ambition' can make a difference, whereas it was something which his lesser predecessors from the time of Pius XI have shied away from.

I have to admit that I am a bit bewildered as to what the Synod was really about. In the final document there is plenty of good stuff, but was it about that or something else. There was certainly an interest in greater collegiality expressed by the Bishops but from the luxurious floor of rooms in the marble halls of the poshest 'guest house' in Rome there seems to have been the kind of renaissance princely interference that only the most Ultramontane of Popes would dare to inflict on the gathered Bishops of the Synod. It wasn't a listen exercise but a gagging one, where a few brave souls spoke out against the various lobbies that many had hoped this Papacy would control rather than fuel have been disappointed. Collegiality seems to be off the agenda.

Those who were empowered to spin the Synod focused on homosexuality and the divorced and remarried. In the popular mind, as well as the Bishops of the world this is what the Synod was about. The focus on 'where people are at' dominated whereas those who might want to focus on the vision of St John Paul for example were deliberately excluded.

The truth is whatever happened at this Synod or any further Synod will do little to change the behaviour of the priest or bishop living with his boyfriend or mistress or the sacramental welcome given by a 'merciful' cleric to those living in a second marriage, or any other strange or irregular situation. Let's face it, this already happens, any movement on the part of the Synod will merely mean it happens more often.

I have a fear, and I suppose this is the fear of many, that really what has happened was a trial, a real opening of the can of worms, which again lesser Popes have not dared to touch. What was being tried was the authenticity of the Word of God itself. Atheists and Secularists accuse us following 'bronze age goatherds' rather living in the real world, it seems to be this that was being tried. To put it simply the question seems to be can we still live according to teaching laid down some two millennia ago or should it be updated: does the word of scripture still bind Catholics or not?

It is an hermeneutic problem: how to interpret scripture. Most Protestants today enshrine the Word of God and read it reverently but actually it is dead thing, belonging to another age with teaching for a people of another world, a reference point in time which must be distilled in order to apply to our own age. They will suggest nothing has changed, the Word of God is still the Word of God but in reality it has been emptied of any meaning or traction in the real world.

The talk of changing pastoral practice but keeping doctrine is nonsensical, the Word is Alive precisely because of the pastoral practice that gives it traction. There is rather intelligent illustration here of how we have changed the Doctrine of Suppression of the Old Covenant by the New Covenant,  of the difference between doctrine, sort of, remaining the same whilst practice and words change until no-one actually believes what the doctrine actually defined.

Yes, we still believe in what Jesus says but we simply don't talk about it or use it as a way of life. Perhaps other examples could be the place of Marialogy in the lives of Catholics today compared to how it had developed from the age of the Apostles up until the 1960s, or the place of those eschatological themes like Judgement, Purgatory and Hell (has any generation ever seriously proposed that either Hell did not exist, or though Hell might exist, probably no-one goes there who were not condemned as heretical?).

It is perhaps dangerous to continue this examination too closely, but it seems that doctrines do change, not by hacking the Gospels with an axe but by changing pastoral practice. Bishop are after all Pastors not theologians, they lead people by pastoral practice. If they treat the Holy Eucharist with awe and reverence, that is how their clergy and people respond. If is treated as mere bread, surrounded by a few special beliefs, then that is how it will be responded to. Ordinary people and even the majority of clergy have never embraced the sublime theology of the Summa on the Eucharist except in the Rites and customs that the Church invites them to participate in.

The argument that all this follows Newman's theory of 'development of doctrine' - acorns to oaks - is somewhat tenuous. Remember, the Orthodox continually state 'doctrine does not change', that it is simply built up by the action of the Spirit


Anonymous said...

There is no other way to preach the truth in Faith and morals for the salvation of sous except as Our Lord told his apostles to preach it - boldly, fearlessly, unequivocally. No compromising with evil or giving in to evil forces by being silent or conciliatory, which conduces to the loss of souls, including the bishop/priest himself.

People are more mired in sin than ever before, have turned their back on God and His Commandments, while our bishops and priests (the majority) fail to teach them, admonish them, bring the truth of the Gospel to them, but just abandon them to the Devil.

Blessed Michael defend us in battle.

Donna Bethell said...

Ven. Fulton Sheen, an American bishop who had the most popular TV show in the country in the early '50s, used to say, "Live as you believe or you will believe as you live." We are seeing it all around us.

Physiocrat said...

Fr Martin Thomson gave a sermon in your church about this while on a visit from his mission in Albania. He said - this is what the church teaches, we know it is hard and that you will not be able to keep it all the time and the confessional box is over there (pointing to it).

Why is this so hard to accept?

Nicolas Bellord said...

I doubt whether anyone other than a very few will read the final document coming out from the synod session that has just happened. If there are any good things in it they will be lost. What will be remembered is that there were two "progressive" ideas which were put forward and knocked out (not even by a simple majority) by some "conservative" Cardinals. It will be seen as merely a temporary setback for these "progressive" ideas. One can see the results already. On page two of last week's Catholic Herald the headline reporting Cardinal Nichol's assessment of the Synod reads "Cardinal: let's see the goodness in cohabitees" - the casual reader will interpret that as "Let's see the goodness in cohabitation" in much the same way as they will see the suggestion that there are gifts peculiar to those indulging in sodomy. They will be encouraged to try things out.

On the other hand us oldies seeing the results of our own sins and the sins of others will continue to belief in the truth of the Gospel. Perhaps this is a time when the wheat will be sorted out from the chaff.

It was nice to have a mass to-day at our local convent for All Souls. However it is Monday so our Parish Church does not have Mass. I mean why bother - All Souls are just those ordinary souls who have not yet made it and can be safely ignored and certainly not prayed for.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mr Bellord! Yes, the wicked results of the Synod are more or less as planned. We are just a remnant and we need to support each other and not give in to the pressure to ignore or downplay the blatant wicked apostasy and heresy and promotion of evil by our leaders in the Church. I just received a request to pray for a young priest who is suffering terribly, feeling distraught by what's happening in the Church. St John the Baptist, St John Vianney, St Turibio Romo, protect and fortify our good priests and bishops.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Lynda: I got very distraught during the Synod thinking about what on earth was happening. I found comfort in meditating on what Christ must have suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane when I guess he contemplated all the sins and all the heresies in all the ages and yet went on to redeem them.

Fr Ray Blake said...

A bit too blunt!

Long-Skirts said...

Sorry, Father, but I just don't know what else to say.

Thomas Travers said...

I enjoyed the humour of the Halloween blog. As regards the Synod perhaps the upshot is that new ‘traditions’ will be produced? Perhaps a new form of ‘inclusiveness’ of those divorced, co-habiting, gay? Tradition is often spoken of in a way that suggests it bolsters and supports doctrine but I wonder if there is another angle and whether the formation of new traditions might risk undermining doctrine and the truth of the gospels? It seems all the more important to find out what tradition means and to start not from the context of the 21st century but from the 1st. I am still exploring ‘tradition’ and thank you to Fr Ray and Lynda for earlier pointers. But it seems it may be more complicated than just saying ‘tradere’ means to ‘hand on’ and that is it. Words have context that has to be explored and ‘tradere’ is given different translations in the gospels. Where it is used for example in 1 Thess 2:8 ‘volebamus tradere vobis’ it is translated as [we were willing] ‘to share’ [with you]. It is of course a verb whereas the ‘traditiones’ to which I was referred in 2 Thess 2:15 is a Latin noun and a translation of a word ‘paradoseis’, a Greek noun, that itself has a specific meaning in context by reference to Jewish traditions of interpreting the law. In trying to discern the concept and nature of tradition I am seeking to find out what it can add to my understanding of the truth that is Our Lord Jesus Christ particularly as he, while maintaining tradition, paved the way for us to follow a path that did not include Jewish traditions which he followed. And without cluttering up Fr’s blog, this was an issue of concern to the early church as appears from the Acts of the Apostles. It is a concern again now, in a different context, with the Synod. Although ‘tradere’ the verb does not mean the same thing as ‘traditiones’ the Latin noun – they are cognates not synonyms – the concept of ‘handing on’ requires someone to ‘hand on to’, that is someone willing to accept what is ‘handed on’ and it does not preclude, as the Church has amply demonstrated, the creation of new rituals and practices that themselves, handed on and received, become ‘traditions’ for future generations. Nor does it preclude the non-reception of tradition. It can be seen that ‘tradition’ is not a word with a single meaning and context is all. For example, there are often mentions in Fr Ray’s blog to the Novo Ordus that replaced a ‘traditional form’ of the Mass which, no longer being in common use, is an example of a ritual that was formerly a tradition and is no longer one in the general sense. Yet in referring to the ‘traditional form of the Mass’ is it meant to say that it remains a tradition in some Dei Verbum sense (though not participated in by the majority of Catholics)? Can we ignore an emotive undercurrent to the adjective ‘traditional’ as it has a connotation in modern English of ‘betterness’ – the traditional way of doing things, the tradition loaf of bread, poultry reared in the traditional way, a school with traditional values, a tradition you can trust?

James said...

"It is perhaps dangerous to continue this examination too closely, but it seems that doctrines do change, not by hacking the Gospels with an axe but by changing pastoral practice."

## How is that a good reason for not "continu[ing] this examination...closely" ? It's easy to ask that now, when the laity are unlike to attract any penalties - let alone the attentions of the Inquisition ! - but should such questions not be asked ? Or is the Church not able to cope with honest & searching questions ? If not - why not ? Is shne trying to hide something ? If so, then what ?

"Yes, we still believe in what Jesus says but we simply don't talk about it or use it as a way of life."

## In which case, it may be canonical on the page, but if it it does not function as canonical in everyday life, it is for all practical purposes not canonical in effect. And might for all practical purposes not be in the Bible at all. Conversely, if someone lives by the ethical insights of (say) "The Lord of the Rings", then TLOTR, or parts of it, is in effect canonical for that person. A canon that is not functional as one, might as well not exist.

If "we still believe in what Jesus says but we simply don't talk about it or use it as a way of life", how is that different from atheism ? A Jesus Who is of such minor effect on us cannot be a very important person, and is probably best forgotten, or shunted onto the same shelf as Plato, Confucius, Marcus Aurelius & other great names who are known to many but read by few. I can't imagine an Evangelical saying "we still believe in what Jesus says but we simply don't talk about it or use it as a way of life" - Jesus meant His words to be heard, & obeyed. How is a Church that has a merely cerebral belief "in what Jesus says" a Christian church in any sense worth discussing ? If the quotation is true - and God forbid that it should be ! - that explains a lot about the Church's behaviour: if the Church is not much bothered by (say) Matthew 25.31-46, then the recent scandals are to be expected.

FWIW, the Church is selective as to what it in Scripture it regards as binding. Jesus forbade the use of oaths - the Church defends the use of them. The prescriptions in the Torah regarding the Israelite priesthood were set aside en bloc by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. It is certainly not clear from the NT that the Christian Church was intended to have a corpus of 27 additional sacred books - Jesus was content with the "OT", yet went beyond it by teaching in parables. (That is why the constant use of Leviticus against same-sex practice is so unconvincing - those two verses are ripped out of the book as though they were free-standing and not part of a detailed code of holiness for Jews in particular. That they may in addition embody universally valid ethical prohibitions needs to be made explicit, and is totally independent of their presence at those points in that book for that people.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr Bellord. The suffering is made so much worse because it is not alleviated, not even recognised, but rather actively contributed to or caused by those who ought to be our spiritual leaders giving us solace and support. The Church leaders not only do not fight against the evil powers that are tyranically forcing evil onto us, but they are actively enabling the secular powers in persecuting those who refuse to bow to the evil doctrines , to oppose them as is their moral duty. Diabolical disorientation is everywhere, and throughout the Church to the very top. Dear Lord, save us. Help us to endure, and to remain faithful to Thee.

Anonymous said...

Confusion and doubt regarding the fundamentals of the Faith and the moral law are being actively sown as evil ideas prevalent in the world are being pushed within the Church too with almost no one in authority prohibiting it, nor even denouncing it. It is diabolical. This is clearly a time when Satan is ascendant in the world.

My Blog said...

Will the Son of Man find faith on Earth when He comes back?

Those who were given a lot will be required to give back a lot and will be the first to be judged.

Beware you wolves in sheep's clothing.

No worries, even if there is a majority of clergy who are abandoning the faith, Catholicism will never die because God never dies and He is not the God of the dead.

Thomas Travers said...

Is Canon law part of Tradition and Magisterium? Why is it in conflict with the clear statements in the Gospels? Example: Jesus said, in defiance of Jewish tradition about the divorced woman being given a certificate of divorce, that if a person gets divorced the spouse being divorced is made an adulterer and marriage of such person is adultery. The only exemption is if the divorce is for reason of infidelity. Yet under Canon law ‘annulment’ is possible on grounds additional to infidelity. Why? And why are the grounds vague by contrast to civil law? ‘Annulment’ in civil terms is the cancellation of a marriage ex post facto on the basis that the marriage was not validly contracted or perfected. In England under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 a marriage is void (never existed) on specific grounds (e.g., consanguinity, one party under 16, one party already married). A marriage is voidable (can be declared never to have existed) on specific grounds (e.g. inability or refusal to consummate, no valid consent, woman pregnant at time of marriage by another man). These grounds are clear and readily intelligible in most cases. Further, there are restrictions on seeking to annul a voidable marriage including a 3-year time restriction for certain of the grounds. By contrast what does Canon law have to say? Just a couple of points out of many, using English translations: Canon 1096. For matrimonial consent to be valid it is necessary that the contracting parties at least not be ignorant that marriage is a permanent consortium between a man and a woman which is ordered toward the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation. If the spouse, after 6 children, decides she cannot handle any more (though physically capable of doing so) then she can have her marriage annulled and be dumped for non-procreation? And what is ‘ignorance of permanent consortium’? By virtue of the provisions of Canon 1095 (mental capacity) a psychiatric report showing that the husband had a latent ‘psychiatric illness’ at the time of marriage, which finds expression in middle age when he takes to dressing in women’s clothing, will stand a good chance of securing an annulment. How can there be grounds for annulment of long marriages after children other than for infidelity as mentioned by Jesus? Canon law permits deviation from the clear Gospel statement and defies the word of God that marriage is not to be put asunder.

Happy Jack said...

"My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, so that to all eternity they can never be lost; no one can tear them away from my hand."
(John 10:27-28)

The Church will always have tares among the wheat. So let's be of good cheer, fight to preserve Truth, be confident she will survive and know Our Lord brings His own safely home.

Anonymous said...

Mr Travers, without going into the current system and practice regarding annulments declared by the Church - an annulment is not a divorce. There can be no divorce where there has not been a marriage, and there can be no declaration of nullity if there subsists a valid marriage.

Thomas Travers said...

That is correct, Lynda. My point is that the grounds for civil annulment of a marriage are clear and are referenced to specific objective circumstances at the time of the 'marriage' such as a party being underage, already married etc. The Canon law grounds for annulment, like the civil grounds for divorce, are in part subjective and, despite their apparent outward intent, effectively allow habits and conduct developed or uncovered many years into a marriage, and after children, to be grounds for annulment if they can be related back to state of mind or lack of intention at the time of the marriage. PB XVI made some comments about annulments and requested the procedure be 'tightened' with efforts being focused on saving marriage. I believe he was conscious of 'annulment' in some dioceses beginning to segue into divorce.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Interesting about annulments. I always understood that English civil law on annulments was based on that of the ecclesiastical courts which in turn based their law on that of the Catholic Church. But perhaps Canon Law has diverged from that original model?

Nicolas Bellord said...

Thomas Travers; There is a problem in that "tradere" has many meanings e.g. "Sciebat autem et Judas, qui tradebat eum, locum: quia frequenter Jesus convenerat illuc cum discipulis suis." i.e. betray and then there is "given up" as in the words of consecration. It is interesting that the same word gets so many different translations in English!

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