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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

For Your Reading

A group of theologians has produced a scholarly, theological and pastoral response to Cardinal Kasper's proposals with regard to admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. Published in the Nova et Vetera journal, the paper is well worth reading and well worth making people aware of it. In thirty pages it not only demolishes the Cardinal's proposals, but serves as an excellent catechesis on marriage. I am including a link to the article and urge you to read it.

What is clear from this piece is that the upcoming Synod cannot diverge from current practice, for to do so would ultimately be a rejection of Jesus' clear command.

Three things which resonated with me in the article.  First, that there is a crisis of chastity in the contemporary world. That is true. The theologians correctly point out that this crisis "plays no small part in the crisis of marriage and family life".  The thesis proposed by Cardinal Kasper seems to be one which appears to me, emerges out of a spirit of despair in response to this crisis of chastity. As the Cardinal himself said, we ordinary people are not called to be heroic, it may well be impossible for us in the opinions of some; could we also say that we ordinary people are not called to be chaste - it is impossible for us? That would be a problematic opinion one which denies many teachings of Christ, but most importantly seems to deny the efficacy of God's grace. The Church will need to address the crisis of chastity in the modern world.

Secondly, the theologians note: 
"The sexual revolution has caused millions of casualties. They have deep wounds, hard to heal. Challenging as this situation is, it also represents an important apostolic opportunity for the Church. Human beings frequently have an awareness of their failings and even their guilt, but not of the remedy offered by the grace and mercy of Christ. Only the Gospel can truly fulfill the desires of the human heart and heal the deepest wounds present in our culture today."
They are correct here. We will never heal the wounds inflicted by the sexual revolution by jettisoning Christ's and the Church's teaching on human sexuality to adopt a more permissive, relativistic approach. That would simply be pouring petrol on a fire. The Church is meant to be prophetic in the world and here is her ideal opportunity. The fact that being prophetic in regard to human sexuality at this time will be extremely difficult, should not put pastors and people off. No one ever said it was easy to be a Christian, no one ever said it would not be difficult to do the right thing. But we have to, no only for Christ's sake and the sake of the Church, but the sake of those who are victims of the sexual revolution.

Finally, a point I have been making for some time, the theologians advise that "ministers of the [marriage] tribunal need sufficient time to dedicate themselves to the cases assigned to them and should not be overburdened with other time-consuming tasks". And: "Tribunals need to be adequately staffed and supported so that cases can be treated with dispatch while following sound canonical norms and procedures. Those assigned to tribunals need sufficient time to carry out their duties and should not be saddled with other time-consuming charges." 

Too often in dioceses and episcopal conferences marriage tribunals do not get the staff or resources they need to do their work efficiently and quickly. I know priests who do Trojan work in tribunals, but they are juggling that work with parish assignments and other jobs passed down from chanceries. In my view that is unacceptable, and the theologians seem to agree with me there. The work of the tribunal is an important pastoral work and deserves to be treated as such. Too many people are waiting too long for decisions from tribunals which can often be held up because those working in them can only deal with their cases for a day or two a week. No doubt someone will quote me priest shortage and finance: well I can see other projects which do not suffer from such a lack. The tribunal must be near the top of a diocese or province's priorities.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Persecution In The Middle East


As the world focuses its attention on Gaza, there is another atrocity happening in Mosul and Iraq. As you all know our Christian brothers and sisters are being persecuted - told to convert, pay the dhimmi tax, flee or die. On Christian homes the Arabic letter "n" is being scrawled to show that "Nazarenes" - followers of the Nazarene, live within. It reminds me of the scrawling of the Star of David on the homes and properties of the Jews in the 1930s. The Archbishop of Mosul said a short time ago that his diocese no longer exists.

No doubt you are praying for our Christian brothers and sisters. So far they have shown great courage and have refused to convert to Islam, remaining true to Christ. And of course we pray for peace in the Middle East - for an end to hostilities. The Israel defensive (media call it an offensive, but in reality it is a response to thousands of missiles routinely fired into Israel every week from Palestine, albeit a ferocious response) has led to the deaths of numerous Palestinians - many children among them. Some sources maintain that children and women are used by Palestinian combatants as human shields, and if that is true it is despicable. Israel herself lives under daily threat of annihilation - Hamas has as its declared aim that the Jews and Israel be wiped out. So there is plenty of fuel on both sides to keep this conflict going. And in the middle of all this are Christians.

Today is the feast of St Lawrence of Brindisi, Capuchin priest and Doctor of the Church. Lawrence, among many other ministries, was an army chaplain and he led the Christian armies against the invading Muslim Turks at the battle of Székesfehérvár, Hungary, in 1601 - it was one of the notable battles which saved Christian Europe. Armed only with the crucifix he ran out into battlefield. May this courageous saint, preacher of the Word of God, defender of Christians, intercede for our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East in these difficult times. Through his intercession may we have peace and may the Archbishop of Mosul return to his diocese with his flock to continue living the Christian faith which has been lived in that part of world since early times.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In The Service of Our Gracious Lady


Today in Carmel we celebrate our Patronal Solemnity, the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. When the first Carmelite hermits established their community, they dedicated their little oratory to Our Lady whom they invoked as Lady of Mount Carmel. Under the mantle of her motherly protection they sought to live their consecrated lives. Originally their habit was a cloak, but following the apparition to St Simon Stock, the Scapular became the habit and the symbol of their Marian consecration.

Today all can share in the spirituality and privileges of Carmel through enrollment in the Scapular. We can no longer preach the Sabbatine Privilege, and as far as I am concerned it is not necessary. If those who wear the Scapular live what it symbolises, they have no need of special promises, they are already on the road to holiness because that is what the Scapular is about: consecration, living the Gospel, seeking holiness. Being clothed in the Scapular is no mere pious ceremony, it is an entering into a greater adherence to Christ and a more radical living of the Gospel. Indeed, we do not just wear the Scapular, we are to live it.

Being clothed in the Scapular is to be clothed in the mantle of Mary who is our Mother and Queen. Under her protection and her tutelage we live our lives as determined and faithful disciples of Christ. And as it is derived from an apron, the Scapular reminds us that, like the knights of old who adhered to the rules of chivalry, we who wear and live the Scapular are in the service of our gracious Lady, Mary the Mother of the Lord.

So today is a moment for all us who have been professed according to the Evangelical Counsels and consecrated in our religious life through the Scapular to be renewed in that consecration. It is a moment also for all who wear the Scapular to remember what it symbolises and reflect on how it impacts on the daily lives. It is also a day to celebrate the patronage and protection of our Holy Mother who continually prays for her children, seeking to guide us to her Son Jesus and form us according to her Immaculate Heart.

Happy Feast Day!

I will be busy today - I have an Enrollment Mass in Belfast- St Teresa's Church on the Glen Road at 7pm. If any of you are around, you're welcome to join us.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Anglican Synod


The Anglican Synod in York has voted to accept women into its episcopacy, long after the Episcopal community in the US did so, and about year after the Church of Ireland appointed its first woman bishop. The move was inevitable, regardless of what critics within the Anglican Communion said. Once women could be accepted for ordination as deacons there was no way they could be excluded from the other orders. Traditionalist and orthodox members of the Anglican Communion now have to consider their position and they are not be envied: these are hard times for them.

As Fr Z says on his blog, the Catholic Church is ready to welcome them. Thanks to Pope Benedict's founding of the Anglican Ordinariates, they can come and bring their traditions with them. We might all just offer a prayer for them at this time. Mgr Newton, Ordinary of the English Ordinariate, has issued an invitation to Anglicans to come into the Church.

As for Anglican reunion with the Catholic Church, that may well now be impossible, although the Bishops of England and Wales are still hopeful. That said, we have an obligation to maintain good relations with members of the Anglican Communion as they too are baptised and are counted among the followers of Jesus Christ, and we must find ways to work with them as brothers and sisters. Of course reunion with the Orthodox Churches is possible and to be desired. They have held to the faith, they have a valid episcopacy and priesthood, valid sacraments and we share much in common with them. Let us continue to pray for unity there. 

     

Safeguarding The Faithful

Yoga, Tai Chi and Reiki: A Guide for Christians- Br Max Sculley - Click Image to Close

I see another priest is being lambasted for warning the faithful against yoga, reiki and other such practices. As readers will know when I blogged on them there was interesting reactions from certain quarters, reactions which only confirmed what I said. 

Totally unrelated in time to the item on the Irish priest, a new book on the topic has been published. Written by a De La Salle brother, Br Max Sculley, Yoga, Tai Chi, Reiki: A Guide for Christians explores the topic in detail.  Exorcist for the Archdiocese of Westminster, Fr Jeremy Davies has reviewed the book and also wrote an article in the Catholic Herald in recent weeks. It is well worth getting Br Max's book. I would recommend it in particular to those who have to deal with such issues on the frontline. The book can be ordered directly from the publishers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The "One In Fifty" Interview


I'm not going to comment on the latest Papal "interview" fiasco. At this stage I don't know what's going on. This evening at the weekly prayer group I minister to there was a lot of confusion and upset among good people, and these people have to be cared for, led and guided. I advised them to keep praying - putting their trust in the Lord Jesus, reading their Scripture and Catechism, and to follow the example of the Saints. And to pray for the Pope. As a priest I have my own views and disappointments, and today life was a little harder than usual. But ultimately, God is in charge, so such times are opportunities to pray for and nurture faith, hope and charity.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Holiday And Feast Day Greetings


By the way, Happy Independence Day to all my American readers. Enjoy the day and never forget the noble principals on which your Republic was founded.

And to my Portugese readers and Franciscan readers, Happy Feast of St Elizabeth of Portugal. Your holy Queen, a devout daughter of the Church and faithful daughter of St Francis, remains an inspiration to us all. We would all do well to imitate her.

Fidelity And Ambiguity, Conformity Or Defiance?

It has been over a week since I blogged last. I have been busy with parish and other duties. And it seems we have just slipped into July - I didn't see that one coming, not so soon. 

But a lot has happened in that week. Poor Meriam Ibrahim is still suffering. According to news sources, she will probably be put on trial again, this time for falsifying documents, ie using a name, her name, which the Muslim authorities of Sudan do not accept. Her step-brother, who called for her execution, is also trying to have the authorities put her under his jurisdiction so he can prevent her from leaving Sudan and, I presume, force her to convert to Islam. I do not think that will happen. During all her trials, Meriam has refused to renounce Christ or the Church and I think she may well prefer to die than convert. That would make her a martyr and probably even eligible for beatification. We must continue to support her with our prayers.  At the moment I believe she is in the US Embassy: is there any way US authorities could get her out of Sudan?

I note a post from Fr Ray Blake on his blog in which he asks where all the bloggers have gone. It was reading that this morning that pushed me online now. It is an interesting post and I find myself agreeing with what he says.  A lethargy seems to have descended on many, the discussions under Benedict have now changed to fears, raw defence of Catholic orthodoxy and accusations of disloyalty whenever someone is suspected of raising a question about the present pontificate. Meanwhile the whole approach to teaching the faith has changed. Now a priest is attacked and censured for explaining Church teaching clearly, while the approved method now seems to be maximum ambiguity "clarified" only by meaningless, fuzzy language. What a strange country we are walking in now. No wonder faithful people are resorting to silence for the sake of loyalty and unity. But I wonder what will be the consequences of that?

Finally, the response to the US Supreme Court decision on the Hobby Lobby case is very interesting. The wave of anti-Catholic rage has been most enlightening. The New York Times ran a one page ad which is reminiscent of the old days of anti-Catholic bigotry. The guys over in Creative Minority Report point out that the ad features a large image of Margaret Sanger, the mother of eugenics. There is also a good article in The Federalist by David Marcus in which he wonders if it is possible for Catholics to serve in the US without being accused of being intolerant. Strange times indeed. 

I think Pope Benedict said once that the Church may well have to go underground again, and that time may not be too far off. Reading the signs of the times I think he might be right. But I do have to wonder, if such a time is coming, is our response as a persecuted people one of ambiguity and fuzzy language, or should it be that of Meriam Ibraham: of faithful defiance in the face of those who would have us conform, silenced or dead?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Meriam Charged Again


The story of Sudanese Catholic Meriam Ibrahim has taken another twist as the authorities have now charged her again, this time with document fraud. Authorities have claimed that her travel documents have been falsified: because she uses her Christian name rather than the Muslim name she had when a child, the authorities claim this is fraud. It may well have been lack of prudence on her part, but these charges seem as ridiculous as the original ones which saw her condemned to death. She will not be permitted to leave Sudan and will probably face trial again. She's out on bail for now.

The authorities in the Sudan are determined to get this woman one way or another and it seems to me, and to many others, that the source of their animosity is her being a Christian. The extreme Islamic regime in Sudan will not permit freedom when it comes to religion, and certainly not to those Muslims who hear the call of Christ and seek to enter into his Church. Meriam's story is just another example of what many Christians are suffering in many parts of the world. 

Let us continue to remember her in our prayers. For us in countries where many Catholics drift through their lives barely acknowledging what Christ has done for them, Meriam's faithful witness to the Lord and his Gospel is a wake up call. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Meriam Arrested Again

Meriam Ibrahim with her husband (L), children and legal team after her release in Khartoum on 23 June 2014

Just hours after she was released, Catholic woman Meriam Ibrahim has been arrested again, this time with her husband and their children, son Martin, 21 months, and month old daughter Maya, born in prison. The family had been waiting at Khartoum airport for a flight out of Sudan. According to reports the family were taken into custody by forty National Intelligence and Security Service agents, dubbed the "Agents of Fear".

As you know Meriam was condemned to death by a court in Sudan having being found guilty of apostasy and adultery. Meriam's father was Muslim, and even though she was baptised and brought up as an Orthodox Christian, under Islamic law she is considered a Muslim and so she is considered an apostate. For marrying a non-Muslim man, she is considered an adulteress. Meriam entered the Catholic Church prior to her marriage to American Daniel Wani.

No reason has been given for the family's arrest. Let us pray for this poor woman, our sister in faith, who has given tremendous witness to her Catholic faith. Whatever is going on, let ask Our Lady to assist this family and ensure that they can get out of Sudan and back safely to the US. We should also invoke St Josephine Bakhita, Sudan's Saint.

Following this story over the last number of months I am puzzled by one thing: why the silence from the White House? Given Barack Obama's concern for human rights, why has he and his wife, also well known for her activism, particularly in area of women's rights, said nothing? See Fr Longenecker for some thoughts on this one. I presume now that an American citizen has been taken into custody someone in Washington will have to do something.

UPDATE: News is coming through that Meriam, Daniel and their children have been released. Let's pray that they will be free to leave the Sudan as soon as possible. A prayer of thanksgiving to Our Lady and St Josephine, and continued petition for their safe exodus.