An Increase of Evils

Pope Francis, center, opens the afternoon session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

My mind is, if I must write the truth, to keep clear of every conference of bishops, for of conference never saw I good come, or a remedy so much as an increase of evils. For there is strife and ambition, and these have the upper hand of reason.

St. Gregory Nazianzen, Ep. 55 (as quoted in Tract 90).

Francis, Bishop of Rome.

It is not to be excluded that I will enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.

Francis, Bishop of Rome.

Pantocrator in the Monastery Church at Daphni.

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.

Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.

And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.

And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

But, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.

Jeremias xxiii, 1-8.

Vade, et Iam Amplius Noli Peccare

Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

To conclude, I feel wounded in my heart as a bishop in witnessing such incomprehension of the Church’s definitive teaching on the part of my brother priests.

I cannot allow myself to imagine as the cause of such confusion anything but the insufficiency of the formation of my confreres. And insofar as I am responsible for the discipline of the sacraments in the whole Latin Church, I am bound in conscience to recall that Christ has reestablished the Creator’s original plan of a monogamous, indissoluble marriage ordered to the good of the spouses, as also to the generation and education of children. He has also elevated marriage between baptized persons to the rank of a sacrament, signifying God’s covenant with his people, just like the Eucharist.

In spite of this, there also exists a marriage that the Church calls “legitimate.” The sacred dimension of this “natural” dimension makes it an element awaiting the sacrament, on the condition that it respect heterosexuality and the parity of the two spouses when it comes to their specific rights and duties, and that the consent not exclude monogamy, indissolubility, permanence, and openness to life.

Conversely, the Church stigmatizes the deformations introduced into human love: homosexuality, polygamy, chauvinism, free love, divorce, contraception, etc. In any case, it never condemns persons. But it does not leave them in their sin. Like its Master, it has the courage and the charity to say to them: go and from now on sin no more.

The Church does not only welcome with mercy, respect, and delicacy. It firmly invites to conversion. As its follower, I promote mercy for sinners – which all of us are – but also firmness toward sins incompatible with the love for God that is professed with sacramental communion. What is this if not the imitation of the attitude of the Son of God who addresses the adulterous woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on sin no more” (Jn 8:11)?

Robert Cardinal Sarah, L’Homme Nouveau, 21 November 2015.

Complete Immunity in Sin

Francis, Bishop of Rome.
Francis, Bishop of Rome.

It is not only one Church which is in peril, nor yet two or three which have fallen under this terrible storm. The mischief of this heresy spreads almost from the borders of Illyricum to the Thebaid. Its bad seeds were first sown by the infamous Arius; they then took deep root through the labours of many who vigorously cultivated the impiety between his time and ours. Now they have produced their deadly fruit. The doctrines of true religion are overthrown. The laws of the Church are in confusion. The ambition of men, who have no fear of God, rushes into high posts, and exalted office is now publicly known as the prize of impiety. The result is, that the worse a man blasphemes, the fitter the people think him to be a bishop. Clerical dignity is a thing of the past. There is a complete lack of men shepherding the Lord’s flock with knowledge. Ambitious men are constantly throwing away the provision for the poor on their own enjoyment and the distribution of gifts. There is no precise knowledge of canons. There is complete immunity in sinning; for when men have been placed in office by the favour of men, they are obliged to return the favour by continually showing indulgence to offenders. Just judgment is a thing of the past; and everyone walks according to his heart’s desire. Vice knows no bounds; the people know no restraint. Men in authority are afraid to speak, for those who have reached power by human interest are the slaves of those to whom they owe their advancement. And now the very vindication of orthodoxy is looked upon in some quarters as an opportunity for mutual attack; and men conceal their private ill-will and pretend that their hostility is all for the sake of the truth. Others, afraid of being convicted of disgraceful crimes, madden the people into fratricidal quarrels, that their own doings may be unnoticed in the general distress. Hence the war admits of no truce, for the doers of ill deeds are afraid of a peace, as being likely to lift the veil from their secret infamy. All the while unbelievers laugh; men of weak faith are shaken; faith is uncertain; souls are drenched in ignorance, because adulterators of the word imitate the truth. The mouths of true believers are dumb, while every blasphemous tongue wags free; holy things are trodden under foot; the better laity shun the churches as schools of impiety; and lift their hands in the deserts with sighs and tears to their Lord in heaven. Even you must have heard what is going on in most of our cities, how our people with wives and children and even our old men stream out before the walls, and offer their prayers in the open air, putting up with all the inconvenience of the weather with great patience, and waiting for help from the Lord.

St. Basil of Cæsarea, Epistle 92.

Lest My Fury Go Out Like Fire

Pope Francis, center, opens the afternoon session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis, center, opens the afternoon session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying,

Enquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.

Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:

Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.

And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.

And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.

And afterward, saith the Lord, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.

And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.

And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the Lord;

O house of David, thus saith the Lord; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the Lord; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?

But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.

Jeremias xxi.

Conculcetur ab Hominibus

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk.
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk.

The Church is called to be a luminary and beacon in the darkness of this age, and Christians to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light to the world’. We all ought to recall the Saviour’s warning: ‘If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men’ (Matt. 5: 13-14). The salt which has lost its savour are those Protestant communities which call themselves Christian, but which preach moral ideals incompatible with Christianity. If in this type of community a rite of blessing of same-sex unions is introduced, or a lesbian so called ‘bishop’ calls for the replacement of crosses from the churches with the Muslim crescent, can we speak of this community as a ‘church’? We are witnessing the betrayal of Christianity by those who are prepared to accommodate themselves to a secular, godless and churchless world.

Greetings by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk to the participants of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on the “Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World” (The Vatican. 20th October 2015).

What Concord Hath Christ with Belial?

Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Intervention of Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Ordinary Synod on the Family, October 2015

Your Holiness, Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, participants of the Synod,

I propose these three thoughts:

1. More transparency and respect among us

I feel a strong need to invoke the Spirit of Truth and Love, the source of parrhesia in speaking and humility in listening, who alone is capable of creating true harmony in plurality.

I say frankly that in the previous Synod, on various issues one sensed the temptation to yield to the mentality of the secularized world and individualistic West. Recognizing the so-called “realities of life” as a locus theologicus means giving up hope in the transforming power of faith and the Gospel. The Gospel that once transformed cultures is now in danger of being transformed by them. Furthermore, some of the procedures used did not seem aimed at enriching discussion and communion as much as they did to promote a way of seeing typical of certain fringe groups of the wealthiest churches. This is contrary to a poor Church, a joyously evangelical and prophetic sign of contradiction to worldliness. Nor does one understand why some statements that are not shared by the qualified majority of the last Synod still ended up in the Relatio and then in the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris when other pressing and very current issues (such as gender ideology) are instead ignored.

The first hope is therefore that, in our work, there by more freedom, transparency and objectivity. For this, it would be beneficial to publish the summaries of the interventions, to facilitate discussion and avoid any prejudice or discrimination in accepting the pronouncements of the synod Fathers.

2. Discernment of history and of spirits

A second hope: that the Synod honor its historic mission and not limit itself to speaking only about certain pastoral issues (such as the possible communion for divorced and remarried) but help the Holy Father to enunciate clearly truths and real guidance on a global level. For there are new challenges with respect to the synod celebrated in 1980. A theological discernment enables us to see in our time two unexpected threats (almost like two “apocalyptic beasts”) located on opposite poles: on the one hand, the idolatry of Western freedom; on the other, Islamic fundamentalism: atheistic secularism versus religious fanaticism. To use a slogan, we find ourselves between “gender ideology and ISIS”. Islamic massacres and libertarian demands regularly contend for the front page of the newspapers. (Let us remember what happened last June 26!). From these two radicalizations arise the two major threats to the family: its subjectivist disintegration in the secularized West through quick and easy divorce, abortion, homosexual unions, euthanasia etc. (cf. Gender theory, the ‘Femen’, the LGBT lobby, IPPF …). On the other hand, the pseudo-family of ideologized Islam which legitimizes polygamy, female subservience, sexual slavery, child marriage etc. (cf. Al Qaeda, Isis, Boko Haram …)

Several clues enable us to intuit the same demonic origin of these two movements. Unlike the Spirit of Truth that promotes communion in the distinction (perichoresis), these encourage confusion (homo-gamy) or subordination (poly-gamy). Furthermore, they demand a universal and totalitarian rule, are violently intolerant, destroyers of families, society and the Church, and are openly Christianophobic.

“We are not contending against creatures of flesh and blood ….” We need to be inclusive and welcoming to all that is human; but what comes from the Enemy cannot and must not be assimilated. You can not join Christ and Belial! What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion Ideologies and Islamic Fanaticism are today.

3. Proclaim and serve the beauty of Monogamy and the Family

Faced with these two deadly and unprecedented challenges (“homo-gamy” and “poly-gamy”) the Church must promote a true “epiphany of the Family.” To this both the Pope (as spokesman of the Church) may contribute, and individual Bishops and Pastors of the Christian flock: that is, “the Church of God, which he has obtained with his own blood” (Acts: 20:28).

We must proclaim the truth without fear, i.e.  the Plan of God, which is monogamy in conjugal love open to life. Bearing in mind the historical situation just recalled, it is urgent that the Church, at its summit, definitively declare the will of the Creator for marriage. How many people of good will and common sense would join in this luminous act of courage carried out by the Church!

Together with a strong and clear Word of the Supreme Magisterium, Pastors have the mission of helping our contemporaries to discover the beauty of the Christian family. To do this, it must first promote all that represents a true Christian Initiation of adults, for the marriage crisis is essentially a crisis of God, but also a crisis of faith, and this is an infantile Christian initiation. Then we must discern those realities that the Holy Spirit is already raising up to reveal the Truth of the Family as an intimate communion in diversity (man and woman) that is generous in the gift of life. We bishops have the urgent duty to recognize and promote the charisms, movements, and ecclesial realities in which the Family is truly revealed, this prodigy of harmony, love of life and hope in Eternity, this cradle of faith and school charity. And there are so many realities offered by Providence, together with the Second Vatican Council, in which this miracle is offered.

Translation from Italian by Diane Montagna.

No Power to Change the Doctrine of the Church

The Holy Family by Juan Simón Gutierrez, 1680.
The Holy Family by Juan Simón Gutierrez, 1680.

Intervention at the 6th general session
Saturday, 10 October 2015.
+ Stanisław Gądecki, Metropolitan Archbishop of Poznań
President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference

To begin, I want to emphasize that the following intervention reflects not only my personal opinion, but the opinion of the entire Polish Bishops’ Conference.

1, There is no doubt that the Church of our time must—in a spirit of mercy—help civilly remarried divorcees with special charity, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, while they may indeed, as baptized, participate in Her life.

Let us, therefore, encourage them to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show Herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope (cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 84).

2, Yet, the Church—in Her teaching on the admission of remarried divorcees—cannot yield to the will of man, but only to the will of Christ (cf. Paul VI, Address to the Roman Rota, 01.28.1978; John Paul II, Address to the Roman Rota, 01.23.1992, 01.29.1993 and 01.22.1996). Consequently, the Church cannot let Herself be led by feelings of false compassion for people or by modes of thought that—despite their worldwide popularity—are mistaken.

Admitting to Communion those who continue cohabiting “more uxorio” [as a husband and wife] without the sacramental bond would be contrary to the Tradition of the Church. The documents of the first synods of Elvira, Arles and Neocaesarea, which took place in the years 304-319, already confirmed the Church’s doctrine of not admitting the divorced who have remarried to Eucharistic Communion.

This position is based on the fact that “their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 84; 1 Cor 11:27–29; Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 29; Francis, Angelus, 16 August 2015).

3, The Eucharist is the sacrament of the baptized who are in the state of sacramental grace. Admitting the civilly remarried divorcees to Holy Communion would cause great damage not only to family pastoral ministry, but also to the Church’s doctrine of sanctifying grace.

In fact, the decision to admit them to Holy Communion would open the door to this sacrament for all who live in mortal sin. This in turn would lead to the elimination of the Sacrament of Penance and distort the significance of living in the state of sanctifying grace. Moreover, it must be noted that the Church cannot accept the so-called “gradualness of the law” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 34).

As Pope Francis reminded us, we who are here do not want and do not have power to change the doctrine of the Church.