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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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A Few Thoughts about the Synod Relatio & Debates

My head is spinning about some of the things that are being seriously argued at the Vatican’s Synod on the Family. I am already concerned that a Commission was established to look at streamlining the process for annulments even prior to the start of the Synod. It seems to me that if such were a concern then the bishops would then request the Holy See to do so. Will the documents which will be formulated reflect the majority view and Catholic tradition or will there be attempts to steal the show for the minority progressives?

synod-of-bishops

What is it about this new Synod document that has critics saying it signals a revolutionary shift in favor of same-sex couples? It is acknowledged that this “relatio” urges clergy to make “fraternal space” for homosexuals. But what does it say? We read:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

Are we reading the same document? All I see are questions. Hopefully they are not rhetorical. Do we eject gay brothers and sisters from our churches? No we do not. Can we invite them forward for Holy Communion? Yes, provided that they maintain chaste and celibate lives. Can we affirm or value their sexual orientation? No, we cannot do so. Such would devalue the true meaning of marriage and human sexuality. We cannot move away from the assessment of disorientation or that same-sex carnality is mortal sin.

As a so-called case-in-point of past intolerance, the news contrasted this development with the story of Barb Webb who was fired from a Catholic school when she and her partner announced her pregnancy. Similarly, her partner, Kristen Moore was asked to resign from her post as a music director at a Catholic parish. The secular media glossed entirely over the moral issues that extend beyond same sex unions, like the freezing of embryos, donated semen and IVF technologies. All these elements are reckoned as moral evils and sinful.

This relatio is being interpreted precisely as Cardinal Kasper would suggest. The doctrinal truth is eclipsed, if it remains, for the sake of a pastoral provision or slackening of discipline. The same reasoning he uses for divorced and remarried couples is being applied to active homosexuals. I find this reckoning very disturbing. Discipline can be distinguished from doctrine but discipline is always at the service of doctrine. There are doctrinal elements that cannot be ignored. It is contradictory to say that gay acts are sinful and then to value, in any way, homosexuality. It is contradictory to say that marriage is a lifelong institution and that divorce is a sin, while inviting couples to receive Holy Communion who are living in adultery. The truths of Scripture are clear and we must always be at the service of the truth on every level: doctrinally, canonically and pastorally.

The document recognizes that same-sex couples live lives where they render “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice [which] constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.” Critics are saying that this is a crack in the door that may one day lead to full acceptance. I would say that this is not the case. The statement is one that reflects the immediate horizontal human condition but says nothing about the vertical supernatural dimension. It is a mere statement of fact that these couples support each other in their day-to-day lives. However, this does not mean that they are in right standing before God. Mortal sin is still mortal sin. I suspect that there are many “nice and pleasant” people who make good neighbors and yet will suffer damnation and hellfire. We are not saved by simply being nice but by being faithful and obedient to God. The Church can relax certain disciplines but she cannot change divine positive law. My fear is that tolerant language might enable or encourage more sinners to remain within their sins. The Church must be a place for saving truth and grace. She should never be an enabler for sinful lifestyles or blasphemous acts like receiving the Eucharist while ill-disposed or in mortal sin. This document does NOT acknowledge the “holiness” of such couples as was suggested in the Huffington Post article by Antonia Blumberg (1/13/14). It simply asks if we might tolerate with passivity and silence the situation of people living in sin.

I cannot buy this application of any “law of graduality.” No matter how slow might be the movement to holiness; the Church should never compromise on the fullness of truth. Confessors can exhibit great understanding and compassion for married couples who use artificial contraception, with the hope that they will eventually come around to the Church’s understanding of human dignity and the full value of the marital act. It is here that I can well appreciate “graduality.” However, this is not the same as cohabitating, adulterous and same-sex couples. They have no right to a shared bed.  In their regard, where there is neither contrition nor amendment of life, absolution must be withheld. Similarly, while they should attend weekly Sunday Mass, they should abstain from taking Holy Communion. The priest will not usually embarrass people in public but he fails his sacerdotal charge if he does not challenge such couples in private.

This law or better yet, theory of graduality was very much the rationale for the “open table” of Anglicanism. It was hoped that this welcoming to receive the Eucharist would draw others into greater unity. Contrastingly, the “closed table” of Catholicism sees Holy Communion as an expression of an ecclesial unity that is already realized. This is representative of the ancient tradition wherein heretics and grievous sinners were denied the sacrament or even excommunicated. The Church’s censure of interdict would also illustrate this posture. One had to be properly disposed and graced to receive the sacrament. Anything less was judged as blasphemous and scandalous. One should not pretend there is a union that is not truly there. This resonates with the current debate about divorced and remarried couples as well as with active homosexuals. We cannot allow a false compassion to tolerate normalization for the sake of public acceptance while the pastoral accommodation is deceptive to the doctrinal truth and the spiritual state of souls before God. We can move away from using pejorative biblical terms like “sodomites” and “adulterers,” but the underlying reality will remain the same. Does this really serve the summons to repent and believe?

If we change the discipline for those in serious sin and the intrinsically disordered, would we not logically have to open up Holy Communion to others (particularly Christians) who might be in ignorance of the full ecclesial reality but who live moral lives? It is a real can of worms and I would prefer to leave it closed. But that is my opinion.

Relationship between Discipline & Doctrine

It is unusual to hear a debate between bishops aired in the press and public forum. Continue to pray for all the participants in the Vatican Synod of the Family.

Cardinal+Walter+Kasper-300x229

Cardinal Kasper:

“Nobody denies the indissolubility of marriage. I do not, nor do I know any bishop who denies it. But discipline can be changed. Discipline wants to apply a doctrine to concrete situations, which are contingent and can change.”

archbishop_wuerl_elect

Cardinal Wuerl:

“The reception of Communion is not a doctrinal position. It’s a pastoral application of the doctrine of the Church. We have to repeat the doctrine, but the pastoral practice is what we are talking about. That’s why we are having a synod. Just to repeat the practice of the past without trying to find a new direction today is no longer tenable.”

“That’s going to be the challenge, and I think that’s what the Holy Father is calling us to do. He’s saying, we know this, we believe this, this is what is at the heart of our teaching. But how do you meet people where they are? And bring them as much of that as they can take, and help them get closer?”

235148-cardinal-timothy-dolan

Cardinal Dolan:

“When we talk about some time of renewal and reform of our vocabulary, we don’t mean to soften or to dilute our teaching, but to make it more credible and cogent,” he said. “It’s not a code word for sidestepping tough things; it’s more a methodology.“

Cardinal_Burke

Cardinal Burke:

“There can’t be in the Church a discipline which is not at the service of doctrine.”

“The reformers were saying: ‘Oh, we’re not questioning the indissolubility of marriage at all. We’re just going to make it easy for people to receive a declaration of nullity of marriage so that they can receive the sacraments.’ But that, is a very deceptive line of argument which I’ve been hearing more now in this whole debate.”

cardinal_pell

Cardinal Pell:

“As Christians, we follow Christ. Some may wish Jesus might have been a little softer on divorce, but he wasn’t. And I’m sticking with him.”

“We’ve got to be intellectually coherent and consistent.  Catholics are people of tradition, and we believe in the development of doctrine, but not doctrinal backflips.”

“Communion for the divorced and remarried is for some — very few, certainly not the majority of synod fathers — it’s only the tip of the iceberg, it’s a stalking horse. They want wider changes, recognition of civil unions, recognition of homosexual unions. The church cannot go in that direction. It would be a capitulation from the beauties and strengths of the Catholic tradition, where people sacrificed themselves for hundreds, for thousands of years to do this.”

muller_CNS

Cardinal Müller:

“One cannot declare a marriage to be extinct on the pretext that the love between the spouses is ‘dead.’  Indissolubility does not depend on human sentiments, whether permanent or transitory. This property of marriage is intended by God himself. The Lord is involved in marriage between man and woman, which is why the bond exists and has its origin in God. This is the difference.”

The Special Synod Faces Serious Issues

We all know that there are many people who come up for Holy Communion while ill-disposed for the sacrament. This is a deeper question than the plight of divorced-and-remarried Catholics.  There is regular scandal about pro-abortion politicians taking the sacrament.  All hell broke loose when a priest denied the Eucharist to a lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral.  This does not even take into account the many communicants (unknown to the priest) who are ill-disposed by various mortal sins and lack of prayerful preparation.  There is also the question of non-Catholic participation, and their sense of alienation and not being welcome when Holy Communion is distributed.  Given these many scenarios, it seems that part of the special synod must be on the nature of the Eucharist, its reception and how we might deal with the growing tension.

Outside of Mass attendance, the special synod will necessarily have to discuss the evolving changes in the makeup of family units: one-spouse homes, broken families, children raised by grandparents, foster and adoptive parents, families with unmarried couples and illegitimate children and same-sex unions.  There are even bizarre situations, as when I had two women and a man come see me to prepare for the baptism of two children.  One belonged to the man’s wife and the other to his girlfriend or mistress.  They all lived under the same roof.  These things are less and less rare.  They make my head hurt.  How can it be fixed?  Must we live with the messiness?

Bishop Tobin on Remarried Couples & the Eucharist

pptobin280409Has anyone else read Bishop Thomas Tobin’s letter posted on the Providence Diocese’s website?  He invites discussion.  Thus, with all due respect, I would like to share my concerns.  The bishop writes:

In my personal reflection on this dilemma, I turn to the incident in the Gospels in which Jesus and His followers were walking through a field of grain on the Sabbath and because they were hungry, began to pick and eat the grain, a clear violation of an important Mosaic Law. The offense was roundly condemned by the religious experts, the Pharisees. But in response, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:23-28).  In other words, while not denying the validity of the law, our Lord clearly placed it in a “pastoral context,” exempting its enforcement due to the human needs of the moment. Could we not take a similar approach to marriage law today?

One cannot really compare the issue of divorced-and-remarried Catholics being allowed to receive Holy Communion with the incident where our Lord’s apostles are charged with violation of the Sabbath by picking and eating the heads of grain (Mk 2:23-28).  The first is in regard to spiritual disposition and the sacrilege of taking Holy Communion while in mortal sin.  The latter simply focuses upon a pharisaical interpretation of the commandment demanding rest.  The apostles were not in any grievously sinful state.  Jesus excuses them, as a foretaste of the freedom that comes with his dispensation.  But, more than this, Jesus is God.  The lawgiver can excuse whatever laws he wills.  The Church can also make modifications, as with our keeping the Sunday Observance over the traditional Hebrew Sabbath.  However, such authority is not absolute and this juridical rendering is a far cry from trying to circumnavigate around basic objective moral norms.  The Church and the Pope do not have the authority to authorize sin and sacrilege.

What constitutes a genuine pastoral approach?  Excusing or enabling serious sin is no favor to anyone.  While we may be troubled by exclusion and feelings of hurt; how can these compare to the fires of hell and the loss of God’s friendship.  The pastoral cannot be so focused on the external situation or appearances that we neglect the internal reality.  The corollary to the assertion that “matrimony is made for man, not man for matrimony” does not find its solution in feigned second marriages but in a chaste celibacy.  Promises are made to be kept.  If the first marriage is authentic, then as long as one spouse lives, any attempted second marriage is a fiction.  That is the long-and-short of it.  There is no viable solution out of this conundrum.  This is more than “the lofty demands of the law,” but the enduring truth that the two become one flesh.  Affections might stray but one spouse continues to belong to the other.  Infidelity is stealing what is the spouse’s due and giving it to another.  There is no way that the Church could rubber-stamp such a scenario.

The bishop writes,

But at the same time, the Church has taught the pre-eminent value of receiving the Holy Eucharist, and I keep hearing the words of Jesus about the Eucharist, words that are just as valid and important as His words about marriage: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6:53).

Missing from this assessment is the ancient teaching, recited in the sequence for Corpus Christi, that the same sacrament which brings life to one, brings judgment to another.  Purposely giving Holy Communion to those who are in an adulterous situation would invite condemnation upon them and ridicule upon a hypocritical Church.

Bishop Thomas Tobin states:

And I know that I would much rather give Holy Communion to these long-suffering souls (divorced-and-remarried couples) than to pseudo-Catholic politicians who parade up the aisle every Sunday for Holy Communion and then return to their legislative chambers to defy the teachings of the Church by championing same-sex marriage and abortion.

The bishop means well and he says, honestly, that he does not know the answer to the predicament; however, sympathy for small devils while castigating large ones is no answer at all.  A man can jump from one ledge to another.  If he misses by a foot or an inch, it makes no difference.  He is still just as dead.  This is the appropriate analogy here.

Bishop Tobin echoes an article in the National Catholic Reporter by Fr. Peter Daly who suggested that annulments be simplified by handling the situations entirely at the local level.  The bishop writes:

Can we eliminate the necessity of having detailed personal interviews, hefty fees, testimony from witnesses, psychological exams, and automatic appeals to other tribunals?  In lieu of this formal court-like process, which some participants have found intimidating, can we rely more on the conscientious personal judgment of spouses about the history of their marriage (after all, they are the ministers and recipients of the sacrament!) and their worthiness to receive Holy Communion?

The true Sensus Fidelium is that collection of the laity that keeps our moral laws and regularly goes to Mass.  They would be critical of this proposed solution.  The grounds for annulments often rests in ignorance, deceit, lack of proper discretion, inability to fulfill the obligations of marriage, mental problems, prior addiction, etc.  People are often blind to their own faults and shortcomings; but here the bishop is literally saying, “Physician, heal thyself!”  Would this apply for only the second marriage?  What about the third?  What part would “the other woman” play when marriages were deliberately destroyed?  Such a measure would play into the hands of selfishness.  Many of them do not understand the difference between an annulment and a divorce.  If the bishop’s notion were adopted, there would be no difference— and a basic command from Christ would be explicitly violated.

This is all quite serious.  The marriage analogy plays a crucial part in our understanding of the Church’s relationship to Christ and the sacrament of Holy Orders.  Weaken one and we hurt the others— the dominoes will begin to fall.

Liturgical Question: Sacrifice from Your Hands

WARRINGTON’S QUESTION:

Dear Fr Joe, thanks for your blog. It’s very useful even in my part of the world!

I had a query about the words, “may the Lord accept the sacrifice from your hands…” so I went to Catholic Answers and read the explanation (attached below). But my query remains: Is not “the sacrifice” Christ himself? If so, did not God send His Son to be the “sacrifice (Lamb)” for our sins? So why are we requesting God to accept “His” Son back to Him?

Unless the “sacrifice” referred to here is “our sacrifice (good works)”? Rather than “good works” (i.e., charity), I would like to think this reference to sacrifice might refer to “our life,” particularly a call to go outside our comfort zone to live a life for Christ.

Would you please clarify whether either of these is on the right track or am I completely missing the point?  Cheers!

CATHOLIC ANSWERS

Question

Why do we pray in the third person instead of addressing our pleas and praises directly to God? For example, the priest says, “Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father” and we answer, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his Church.” Could we say instead, “Lord, accept the sacrifice offered for the praise and glory of your name, for our good and the good of all of your Church”?

Answer

We don’t pray in the third person. The Church’s liturgy is its official public worship of God. Since it is not private worship, the members who are present are acknowledged throughout the service. So every so often, the priest-presider will address them with, “The Lord be with you,” and the people respond, “And also with you.” We are communicating with each other. This is not a prayer.

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his Church is not a prayer. It is addressed to the priest as an acknowledgement of the sacred action he is about to undertake. It is a response to his request: “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” Even though he has just asked the people to pray, their response is to him and is not meant to be a prayer.

The ultimate offering prayer comes later: “Through him, with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.” Only the priest says this, and the people affirm the prayer with “Amen.” Both the priest’s words and the people’s words are prayer and are addressed directly to God.

FATHER JOE:

I would take exception with the assertion that the words in question are not prayer. Even the dialogue sections between the priest and people are parts of the great prayer of worship that is the Mass. The Mass is the Church’s most important communal prayer and it contains within it all other forms of prayer: praise, thanks, contrition, petition, and in a unique manner, propitiation. Let us look at the words that confuse you:

Facing the people, the priest says: “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”

The congregation responds: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.

The priest then says his prayer over the offerings to which the people respond, “Amen.”

The priest is calling everyone to focus on the Eucharist. Implicit in the dialogue is the hope and expectation that God will accept us and our offering.  The celebrant addresses the people but he knows full well that our offering will only be received if God sees it as pleasing and desires to accept it.  We cannot force the hand of God.  The people respond to the celebrant by acknowledging his priestly work in union with Christ.  Yes, they are talking to the priest, but as with any intercessory prayer, its proper object is almighty God.  They are making the priest’s prayer and the work of Christ into something of their own.  This sacrifice is to the honor and praise of God.  It is also deemed efficacious for the local church at prayer and for the universal Church.  The corrected translation makes a distinction between the priest’s sacrifice and that of the people. It does not represent good works as such but targets the work of the Mass. This segment no more stands alone than any other part.  It leads us to the meat of the oration, the Prayer Over the Gifts.  The great High Priest of the liturgy is Jesus Christ. However, the celebrant at the altar participates or shares in this one priesthood through his ordination. While they cannot preside at the Mass, the laity is connected to Jesus and his sacrifice through their baptismal priesthood. Priests may take a stipend for a Mass they offer each day. The fruits that come to the priest may be applied to this intention, for anyone living or dead. You may note these names in the bulletin for the Masses said. This reflects the sacrifice and its benefits that come to the priest at the altar. The laity may come with their own intentions, which they are to bring to mind at the beginning of the Mass prior to the Opening Prayer or Collect. The people participate with their priest who makes possible the Mass and they benefit with fruits of grace. The reference to sacrifice is a direct acknowledgment that the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the bloody oblation of Christ on Calvary, albeit in an unbloody or clean manner upon the altar. The sacrifice of Jesus is not locked into time and place. At the words of consecration, Jesus is made REALLY present in Holy Communion— both in his full identity and person as well as in in saving activity. The only difference between Calvary and the Mass is OUR participation. Now we can offer ourselves grafted to Christ (the Lamb of God) as one perfect sacrifice to the eternal Father. The Mass surrenders to the heavenly Father the only gift that makes a difference and that earns our redemption, his Son, Jesus Christ.

The Mass enters us into Christ’s one-time offering of himself.

Women Bishops – The Lights Go Out for Anglicanism

5f0c3e5657ed3b8229685eac8a081987The General Synod of the Church of England voted on Monday to consecrate priestesses as women bishops. Well, there’s the nail to the coffin for the home of Anglicanism. Ecumenism with them will be restricted to soup kitchens, sharing contributions from C.S, Lewis, and appreciation for perfecting the English language. The bridges have been burned to most else. Since women cannot be ordained in truth, this makes arguments about their Masses and the Eucharist mute. Fake priests can only give you a counterfeit Holy Communion. When it came to morality, our ships passed in the night a long time ago. They disregard both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, wrongly approving homosexuality and dismissing the indissolubility of marriage. Abortion is reduced to a personal choice, far from the Catholic stance that sees it as an assault upon the heart of the Gospel of Life. Their last convention in the States could only agree about how terrible landmines were, as if that is a big issue in suburbia. This is what happens when morality collapses and an “everything goes” mentality takes over. Public opinion and modernity is given preference over divine revelation. Instead of obedience to God, the human becomes the measure of all things— and people are fickle and frequently wrong. The Orthodox churches are lamenting that years of work toward a common faith and even levels of recognition have been thrown upon the garbage heap. Anglicanism, except as a small group received by the Holy See, is destined not to be counted as a branch of the apostolic and “catholic” family of churches. The “reapproachment” with them since Vatican II is now a dismal failure because the Anglicanism of even half a century ago no longer exists. It has been replaced by a mutated structure that will continue to devolve and crumble. Australian Anglicans are arguing that priests might be optional and that the laity can offer the Mass. Fragmented, one segment fights with another, and there is no contemporary pretense of a world Anglican order. Certain traditionalists among them refused the offer of Pope Benedict XVI, hoping to rebuild with a union of conservative African bishops. But how long will it be until modernity will invade that new structure? Ironically, some of them attack the Anglicans who accepted the special offer from the Pope in becoming Catholics. They still buy the prejudices against Rome which were initially an element of their split. Catholicism has its dissenters; but they will have no official weight in the practice of our sacraments and doctrines. The accidentals may change, as with language, but the deposit of faith is safe and sound. As for the Anglicans, could they even agree as to what this deposit consists?

The Anglicans feel that immutable doctrine can be changed by ballot. Here is the vote approving women bishops:

  • House of Bishops: 37 to 2 with 1 abstention
  • House of Clergy: 162 to 25 with 4 abstentions
  • House of Laity: 52 to 45 with 5 abstentions

This move goes against the teachings and pattern passed down from Jesus. There was no woman among the twelve apostles. Jesus did not worry about stereotypes. But this one, he did not break. It was God’s will. Anglicans no longer care. I guess they would say that Jesus was wrong. Of course, this change was anticipated. A long time in the mix, the first ingredient was added back in 1994 when they began ordaining women as priestesses (women priests). Error breeds error. The United States made a woman its chief Episcopalian bishop some years ago, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Before her they elected their first gay bishop. Australian, New Zealand, and Canada also have women bishops. The show continues but it no longer matters. They can wear their pointy hats and play-act all they want— these women are neither true priests nor bishops. Both Orthodoxy and Catholicism are in agreement here. There is no third tier to the Church. Without a valid hierarchy, there can be no true priests. If there is no priesthood, then there can be no Eucharist (sacrifice of propitiation and real presence). If there is no Eucharist, the ecclesial community is not really a CHURCH.  End of Story

Communion in Orthodox Churches? Same Catholic Faith?

QUESTION:  As a Catholic can I receive Communion in an Orthodox Church? Aren’t our beliefs essentially the same?

ANSWER:

You cannot generally receive Holy Communion in an Orthodox church. The only exception is when it is physically impossible for you to participate at a liturgy in a Roman Catholic or Eastern rite in union with the Holy See. However, please note, that not all Orthodox churches would want Latin rite Christians taking the sacrament from them, either. We should also try to respect their laws. Having said all this, we recognize the validity of the seven sacraments in the Orthodox churches.

The Orthodox churches are national churches and Roman Catholicism has always been in tension with such embodiments of faith communities. This is true in the East and West. Gallicanism placed great stress upon the unity of the Church in France just as Anglicanism signified a juridical breech. Political reasons related to Church authority are still very much part of the problem that must be resolved. What is the extent of papal power and the unity under the Petrine see? This brings with it the debate over the status of the small Eastern rite churches in union with Rome. The Orthodox churches tend to look down upon them as traitors. The Orthodox churches regard the Pope as “the first among equals.” Such is not how we regard the universal see.

Besides ecclesiology, there are also some doctrinal interpretations which divide us. The most famous of these is the Filioque debate in the Nicene Creed: both the authority of the Pope to add to the profession of faith and the understanding of the eternal generations or relations of the divine Persons in the Blessed Trinity. Given pressure from worldly monarchs, Protestant influence and secularism, the second or penitential marriages of divorced persons is also a divide. We cannot readily forgive that for which we were willing to allow the entire English church to slip away— a marriage that is no marriage but adultery. Orthodox churches transplanted into the West are increasingly adopting elements of Lutheranism (emphasis upon Scripture over tradition and the value of faith over works) but these eccentricities are also placing stress upon their loose inner unity worldwide. Indeed, some communities have split as have several of the Russian Orthodox over the fragmentation of the old U.S.S.R. and what was seen as complicity with communism. Indeed, it appears that some prelates might have been KGB plants. Indeed, the recent news has detailed a public rift between the Orthodox patriarchs in Russian and the Ukraine.