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No Where to Run, the Church & the World

It is argued that the Catholic Church has lost the contraception fight and now must move on. Similarly, I am today hearing the same said about other issues. Pope Francis is asked about homosexuals and he says, “Who am I to judge?” Critics rashly interpret this as a change in the Church’s stance and a leading gay magazine names the Pope as “Man of the Year.” A special synod is called on the family and revisionists suggest a coming change regarding the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics. But the Pope is still Catholic and I think the dissenters are in for a big surprise. It may be that we cannot judge the souls of individuals, but we can make moral distinctions between right and wrong. Those who commit serious sin are not in a proper disposition for the sacraments. The Pope is the servant of the Word, not its master. He cannot invalidate either divine positive law or natural law. Of course, what might happen is that many Catholics will become accustomed to an ever permeating silence— about birth control, about gay relationships, about invalid marriages, and God-forbid, even about the murder of unborn children. Here again with this last point, too many make too much of papal remarks about there being other moral concerns beyond abortion. The fact is the Church is facing conflict from every angle, including the martyrdom of Christians by ISIS swords.

An essential thrust to Vatican II was a dialogue with the world, not so that the Church might be converted to the world but that the world might be more receptive of Christ’s kingdom. Many of us feel that this remains an important mission for the Church. However, critics can rightly point at instances of impotency and weakness toward a hostile world that seems to be more successful than we are at winning hearts and minds. The Church faces a mocking atheistic secular modernity on one hand and a radical militant Islamic extremism on the other. The Church is not only caught in the middle but old friends have changed alliances.

Can the Church engage cultures that feign courtesy when we are on the same side of its agenda but otherwise find ourselves targeted for extinction? Fight against the death penalty for the guilty and we are applauded; but then we are commanded to lay down our arms in the battle against aborting children and euthanizing the sick and elderly. The bishops are praised for supporting healthcare but condemned for not wanting to provide free contraception and abortifacients. The Church was once rendered accolades for her orphanages and adoption services; but today is shut down for refusing adoptions to homosexuals and lesbians. The Islamic world once protected Christian minorities, and utilized them in government and in schools of higher learning; after all, they were the one minority that was so small it would never be a threat to the ruling powers. But today, fanatics will not rest until every drop of Christian blood is spilt or the men are converted. From the Islamic East to the Secular West, there is nowhere to run and no place to hide. It is for this reason that I fear silence. Peace today will only lead to worse wars tomorrow. Silence will be interpreted as assent, or worse still, retreat.

8 Responses

  1. http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350864?eng=y

    FATHER JOE: Sandro Magister writes a speculative article at Chiesa News that I think errs in presumption about Pope Francis favoring Holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics. The writer literally says this is the secret he keeps close to his breast, “in pectore.” Others have also suggested that a change in this regard will result from the special Synod on the Family. However, despite appearances and a brief word here or there that is sensationalized, the Pope has made not one change to our appreciation of the faith and/or moral teaching. That is why I think pro-abortionists, gays and adulterers are going to be seriously disappointed. The Church calls people to repentance and conversion. She does not pamper or enable mortal sin.

    Karl, you cannot attack the Church for what critics guess that it might do.

    Pope Benedict XVI: (SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS) When legitimate doubts exist about the validity of the prior sacramental marriage, the necessary investigation must be carried out to establish if these are well-founded. Consequently there is a need to ensure, in full respect for canon law, the presence of local ecclesiastical tribunals, their pastoral character, and their correct and prompt functioning. Each Diocese should have a sufficient number of persons with the necessary preparation, so that the ecclesiastical tribunals can operate in an expeditious manner. I repeat that “it is a grave obligation to bring the Church’s institutional activity in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful”. At the same time, pastoral care must not be understood as if it were somehow in conflict with the law. Rather, one should begin by assuming that the fundamental point of encounter between the law and pastoral care is love for the truth: truth is never something purely abstract, but “a real part of the human and Christian journey of every member of the faithful”. Finally, where the nullity of the marriage bond is not declared and objective circumstances make it impossible to cease cohabitation, the Church encourages these members of the faithful to commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God’s law, as friends, as brother and sister; in this way they will be able to return to the table of the Eucharist, taking care to observe the Church’s established and approved practice in this regard. This path, if it is to be possible and fruitful, must be supported by pastors and by adequate ecclesial initiatives, nor can it ever involve the blessing of these relations, lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage.

  2. Sorry to say this, but there is this priest I really like. He is so humble and so good looking. I don’t know who can help me. I just don’t get sleep at night. I think about him the whole day. I am worried because I know I am wrong and I am not supposed to be liking him. Who will help me get over this craze?

    FATHER JOE: You must be young. It is infatuation. Stay busy and forget about him. Do not fantasize.

  3. By the way, there is no annulment… yet. In this second round, the first instance court decide against nullity, again, a year ago.

    FATHER JOE: This admission makes your comment even more preposterous. The Church has upheld the validity of the marriage and you talk as if she has not. There is just no pleasing you.

    I expect one to be granted because it liberates the Catholic Church from its massive irresponsibility. Certainly, there would have to be, yet another full rehearing in the event of a second instance decision for nullity. But, I am done with the process and, likely, with the Church.

    FATHER JOE: You rebuke the Church and are willing to abandon the faith when things go your way because you PRESUME they will not later on? I remember conversations with you before. There is no magic to make things the way they were before. The Church has no way to compel or force couples to get back together.

    It is unfair to expect you to recall, so I will remind you that our first case, which was initiated in January 1991 was completed in Rome in December 2002. It denied nullity.

    FATHER JOE: You led me to believe that the process was ongoing. If the annulment was turned down before, which I did not know, and now rejected again… it is pretty much dead in the water. It seems the Church sided with you. Your wife should not present herself for Holy Communion. If she does, that is her sin, not yours. You condemn the Church for an adultery that the Church does not endorse. The way you composed the last comment, it led me to believe that an annulment had finally been granted and you were mad about it. Instead, it is just the same old anger. What I said about that still holds.


  4. You are free to believe as you choose. I expect attitudes such as yours, it is no surprise to me. It is integral to the endless corruption both personal and corporate in the Catholic Church. Fortunately, I know many others in circumstances similar to mine, so you are condeming many people with your passive aggression. That, too, is evidence of the corruption.

    FATHER JOE: Nothing I am saying reflects passive-aggression. I am just trying to share a truth you resist. You attacked me and other priests as “rapists” and you want me to ignore it or say thank you? You are the one condemning everyone in sight. You have really lost it, Karl. Is the way you talk to me and about the Church the manner in which you communicated during your marriage? Or did it just emerge afterwards when you became consumed by hate and allowed the anger to take over?

    We are liars because we do not fit in the roles you have forced us into.

    FATHER JOE: Huh? I have no idea where you are going.

    You will see, on the day of your judgment, where the truth was.

    FATHER JOE: Now you are presuming how God will judge me? I am a Catholic priest who offers the sacrifice of the Mass and feeds his people with the bread of life, the Lord’s very self. I hear confessions and forgive sins. I anoint the dying. I have given up wife and children so that I might serve God in his people. I say my prayers. I try earnestly to teach the truths of Christ clearly and without compromise. I love his Catholic Church and remain true to her. When I fail I ask pardon and strength to move on. It is my hope that I will one day hear Jesus say to me, “Come O good and faithful servant.”

    Doubtlessly, you think you are merciful. To me you are not. You abuse with gentle manners.

    FATHER JOE: That is like attacking the Church for granting annulments in response to the Church agreeing with you and not granting an annulment. Are you entirely blind to your fault in this conversation? Look at what you wrote. Look at how you express your venom. I have dialogued and prayed with you when most would have deleted you tirades and counted you as lost. You belittle the Church and insult priests, but still fault me and not yourself. I feel like giving up with you. Maybe you are just not disposed for understanding and compassion? There is just no figuring it.

    Some of the most violent people I have seen dressed well and spoke elegantly. Some wore Roman Collars, but not all. So be it.

    FATHER JOE: You are among the most angry people who have commented on my blog. Are you aware of this? Even now, you are continuing to belittle the priesthood.

    The Church will decay. It is inevitable and well deserved but it is tragic as well, when one has seen what I have. Please, do not pray for me, I honestly do not believe your prayers are sincere. They are biased. But, do as you will. You had me fooled for quite awhile.

    FATHER JOE: You fool yourself, Karl. And as for my prayers, you will continue to have them no matter if you want them or not. Remember, that Jesus has commanded that we pray, even for those who attack us and who would make themselves our enemies. I hope and pray that God will one day exorcize this hatred and anger in your life. It is a poison that wounds the soul and inhibits both happiness and friendship, with God and with your fellow man.

  5. Someday, when people like yourself grow up to understand that adultery is rape; Real Rape and not something one holds on to, then you might be able to begin to be humble enough, to begin to understand the violation that never stops.

    Until you and all accept and understand, exactly, what is being done to us and what you are supporting, by supporting the Catholic Church and laws that do not punish unjust divorce with immense severity and certainty, you are rapists yourselves. Yet you offer mass as an unrepentant rapist. Nice, really nice!

    I expect nothing of the sort. It is difficult for a person who has been wrong for many years to come to their senses. Sin, is fun. Rape is fun for the rapist and fun for its supporters. It is not so much fun for the victim(s).

    I guess that is why Tex Antoine, the old weatherman from my youth was fired when he said, “When rape is inevitable, lay back and enjoy it.”


    I am sorry that over the years there was nothing I or others could say to get you to “properly” move on. Instead of maturing in your faith by acknowledging a share in the Passion and finding peace in Christ, you allowed your anger to fester inside. You were wounded, I understand that. But also I think you have done much to hurt yourself. Anger can poison the person and his or her relationships, even with God and the Church. While you are presumptive about me, it takes no special gift of clairvoyance to discern this malady in your words.

    We only have your side of the story. We do not know all the factors that destroyed your marriage or why your wife felt she had to leave you. I believe in life-long marriages. But there are also cases where a spouse can abuse the beloved through actions and words. I would not counsel a person to take abuse. Marriages are annulled for many reasons: mental illness, prior addiction, lack of proper discretion, coercion, inability to fulfill the obligations of marriage, deceit, constant infidelity, etc.

    [I do not know and do not need to know what grounds were established in your wife’s case. That is your business.

    I can appreciate that you do not accept the assessment of the Tribunal. But the fact remains that once an annulment is granted, and if there is no monitum, then the people involved are free to marry in the Church and to receive the other sacraments. Obviously an annulment is not a divorce. The Church legally asserts that for definite grounds a marriage regarded as valid was not. This does not subtract from the emotional impact. Neither does it make children illegitimate. Anything that inhibits or damages the “mutual” consent or its follow through is crucial. Again, not knowing the grounds I cannot say if the fault was mutually shared or if the cause was found in you or her. While I fear that too many annulments are granted, they are what they are. My preference would be to give greater gravity to marriage preparation and counseling. I would prefer to stop a wedding from happening than to deal with an annulment of one.]

    NOTATION: I was led to believe that an annulment had been granted. It was not. This makes the comment somewhat incoherent. The tribunal sided with Karl. –FJ

    Most rapes involve women and I wonder if men can truly appreciate the volatile meanings associated with them. Obviously you still feel that she is your wife and you resent that she is with another man. She has sought to rebuild her life and move on. You feel you cannot. It is good that you have finally faced the truth that the relationship you had is irrevocably finished. It is tragic that you have allowed the situation to utterly shatter ties with other members of your family, with the Church and with God. You can feel sorry for yourself and make yourself pathetic before others, but this is only self-destructive behavior. It serves no purpose. You feel raped because you adopt a posture of weakness. You concentrate on what you cannot change instead of taking charge of your life and trying to move forward. Maturing as a human being and in the spiritual life often requires a profound LETTING GO.

    It is time to look ahead, not behind. Self-pity is not true humility. Humility, in the Christian context, is an honest assessment of our gifts and surrendering them and all that we are into the hands of God.

    The Church offers annulments because we appreciate that couples, as the ministers of the sacrament, often enter into defective unions. They say the right words and know how to give their bodies, but fail to appreciate the spirit and truth of marriage in the Christian dispensation. The Church teaches the truth that marriage is an indissoluble sacrament, as long as the spouses are alive. Annulments are an expression of compassion for those couples who share something less than valid marriages.

    You condemn me and all priests as rapists because we acknowledge the decisions of the marriage tribunals. Most priests at communion time do not even know the names to those they give the sacrament. We presume they are in good standing with the Church. We presume that the spouses that stand by their side are truly their husbands or wives. If Catholics are married outside the Church, they are asked to attend Mass but to refrain from taking Holy Communion.

    Giving Holy Communion is a precious act where the sacrament of salvation is distributed to believers. Yes, it is true that it may also come to the judgment of some, but we leave that to God. You condemn this act as rape, and priests as rapists, an insinuation that literally fits the profile as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Karl, it seems the crime here is yours.

    Rape is not fun for anyone. It is not an analogy I would use here. The rapist is driven not just by sex but primarily by power and control over others. It is an act of violence. The perpetrator is also a victim of his wrongdoing. You posit the fault upon the Church, but the more you say the more I think you were the issue from the very beginning. Before you start condemning the Church and innocent priests, I would urge you to take a long hard look into your mirror.

  6. The game is over. Time to face it.

    In May, when communion was given to my wife and her lover at the Cathedral in Raleigh during the mass at our son’s wedding, that was my breaking point. I walked out and drove home.

    Yes, Burbidge knew ahead of time and ok’d it and Dolan agreed. I have his opinion in writing. Not worth being faithful any longer. Not to the Catholic Church or to our vows.

    I have been alone for so long I doubt my behavior will change but internally, I am no longer married, nor Catholic. It has been a long time coming with many stutter steps but that act destroyed me.

    FATHER JOE: I would not judge the whole Catholic faith by one annulment case. When the focus was on your son and his wife’s happiness, you still could not see past your own disappointment and anger. As always you remain in my prayers (want them or not).

  7. Father Joe, of course we have a place to run (as you know better than most), straight to the rest found in Jesus. As for the unsaved secular world, most (if not all) have been informed of moral absolutes. They will make their choices,right or wrong. As you have said, we can’t control them . It is a free market place of information. You have helped make this so.

    These murderous islamistists will never rest, they speak of God , but have none. They only seek to restore the military power (their power of plunder) once held by their 7th century idols. They are cowards unable to compete in the marketplace of productive ideas. In the end they will be cut down by the just sword of our Lord, his Spirit. We pray for courage , for us, and to be given to those who face that threat first hand. May the Lord Jesus hold back the hand that harms. peace.

    FATHER JOE: Yes, Jesus is always there for us. My reference to where we are to go is in relation to modernity: do we remain silent, do we fight, do we compromise, or do we surrender. I feel silence and surrender are not real choices. Indeed, I do not much like compromise, either.

  8. Fr. Joe,

    I get a little angry thinking about my own annulment. I was married for 23 yrs., and though I was the petitioner, I was upset to find out the petition was granted. During the process, I’d call to find out what stage it was in only to find out it had been pushed back because someone had all the plans in place to remarry. I think – hey, I wasn’t looking for an annulment to get remarried, I just wanted to find out if the marriage was in fact valid or invalid. Had it been valid, okay, maybe things could be put back together.

    I found out getting divorced and receiving an annulment is trading one cross for another. I see other people remarry or live with someone or go out and they complain that they aren’t supposed to receive Holy Communion and blame the Church. Some tell me that “God understands — we have an arrangement” and receive the Sacraments.

    I get bitter because I live a fairly solitary life. Though my family is broken, (and I still care for “that man” I was married to), it’s still my family.

    Your posts help someone like me who tries to live a decent life even though I’ve gone off the grid more often than I’d like to remember. It’s like being a little girl in Catholic School with the Sisters or Priests talking to us about Jesus and how wonderful that He gave us His Church.

    Thank you,

    FATHER JOE: Joanne, I often see my celibacy as a sacrifice that places me in special solidarity with those who live a solitary life as single or divorced persons. Yes, I know the annulment process has this dark side, especially when there is a part of you that wanted things to work out and then you see the beloved move on with someone else. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers today. God bless!

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