VATICAN CITY, (ChurchMilitant.com) – Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, Poland is denouncing “gender ideology” and the attempt by some German bishops to split doctrine from discipline.
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki
Archbishop Gadecki is well known for his faithfulness to Church teaching. In late September, he and his brother bishops issued a statement in anticipation of the Synod on the Family reasserting Church teaching on marriage and the Eucharist, after having vowed in June to protect those teachings at the Synod.
In a recent interview, Abp. Gadecki upheld Church teaching on marriage and Communion and said gender ideology is “worse than communism.”
Speaking on the Synod, he said all talk of a consensus at the Synod among the bishops is false. There is “no way to create a compromise” between truth and untruth, according to Gadecki. “What compromise can ther already be between truth and untruth?”
Further in the interview, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference said gender ideology is similar to communism because it has “no regard for the human person” as it doesn’t recognize human dignity as Christianity does, and is even worse than Marxism because it is “a pure ideology that is actually bent on destroying marital and familial relationships.”
“By teaching gender theory, the good of having marriage and family is thrown into doubt, the institutions of marriage and family are destroyed by being labeled as ‘oppressive,’ as diminishing humanity rather than growing it.”
He said the ideology may take many forms, but it ultimately has one goal: “the pulverization of society, so that man stays alone and is more easily manipulated.”
“[Its]ideology is clear; it wishes to destroy the matrimonial union and the family,” he stated firmly. “The image portrayed of marriage and the family by the media is tragic. What is presented so many times in the media as family has nothing to do with Christianity.”
The prelate also highlighted the problem of discussing mercy, but with less emphasis on justice, sin and the notion of the truth. “That is a hermeneutic mistake,” he said. “Justice and mercy are inseparable from one another.” A person can experience mercy “by converting, by returning to the House of the Father after staring into the abyss.”
He stressed that “no matter what situation a marriage might find itself in, be it regular or irregular, they must be aware that divine mercy accompanies them, immutably, for it is only in such a setting that they will not revert to guilt but strive to extricate themselves from sin and return to grace.”
“The Church, in a way, serves like a GPS guide for humanity. This means that wherever there is man and where he is getting lost, it is enough for him to come to the Church, and the Church will show him the way to his right end, irrespective of where he is in the world, or his spiritual situation.”
Archbishop Gadecki is currently attending the Synod on the Family in Rome, and is seen by many to be a hero in the fight to uphold Church teaching.
Know the Truth: Be Prepared for a Confusing and Bumpy Ride
by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton,
The readings speak quite clearly about foundational matters of marriage. This is providential because today begins the Synod of Bishops in Rome focusing on the
“Vocation and the Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Modern World.” The readings are providential because they present some of the most authoritative and authentic foundations for our belief about marriage.
This foundation is important because of concerns and spin floating in the air from last year’s preparatory meeting of the Synod of Bishops. At last year’s meeting, as discussion points, some proposals were made that are not consistent with Catholic doctrine. The media and lobbying forces outside of the Church began their campaign hoping to change three doctrines of the Church:
- That remarriage after divorce (without an annulment) would change,
- That people in such situations might be admitted to receive Holy Communion,
- That there even might be some positive evaluation of same-sex marriages.
A serious problem is also that some high-ranking churchmen have made remarks in some cases simply vague and, in others, directly contrary to Church teaching. Add to that some reasonable signs of manipulating the outcome of the Synod by bishops in charge of running it and we had a real Church soap opera on our hands. This has resulted in a charged environment as this Ordinary Synod gets underway and runs for the next three weeks. I expect that forces outside the Church, and some inside, will make the next few weeks a confusing and bumpy ride.
Church Doctrine Cannot Change
We should be prepared. However, I do not lose hope and nor should you. Our hope is solid because it is anchored in Christ and because the Church cannot change fundamental teaching expressed in settled doctrine. To add clarity: It’s not just that the Church may not; it’s not should not; it’s not that the Church isn’t likely, but rather that she cannot change settled doctrine. She has no authority to change it. And it does not matter what color the churchman’s cassock is: black, violet, scarlet red, and even white: Settled doctrine cannot be changed. Period.
Today’s readings remind us why doctrine on marriage is so firm: We hear from Sacred Scripture, God’s Word, and still more specifically from Jesus himself in the
gospel. What Jesus says is teaching from God, the divine Master. His Church and any true disciple can only accept what the Master says and follow it. Where we don’t like or understand a given doctrine, our dislike in no way proves the doctrine needs to be changed or that it can be overlooked in some circumstances. No, where we don’t like or understand a given doctrine it is us, you and I, who need to reform and embrace the life giving teaching that keeps our souls with the Good Shepherd and keeps us on the path to Heaven. With all that being said, as the Synod unfolds, we may be disappointed at the confusion but we should still remain calm even if things look more like a Barnum & Bailey Church Circus.
Synods, because they promote open discussion, are messy things. Discussion doesn’t mean the impossible will happen. To view things positively, perhaps the confusion that is in the air is just the spark we each need to know the Scriptures and Church teaching better so that we can respond to Pope Francis’ call to go out and engage the world, even the margins, with the saving joy of the gospel!
Clarifying Divorce and Remarriage
With God’s Word instructing us about marriage, I’ll comment briefly on only three things that are in the air these days with the Synod. Remarriage: Marriage and divorce are always public matters. They are not hidden and they affect the common good. Jesus teaches that it was hardness of heart that led Moses to permit divorce. But Jesus calls us to circumcise our hearts. He teaches us God’s mind from the beginning. Marriage models in human form, in a sacramental form, the commitment, the fidelity, and the life-giving love of God Himself. Marriage is a sacrament of Jesus’ love for the Church. Thus, since God’s love is permanent, faithful, and life-giving, so spouses must model that by understanding their covenant to be:
- A permanent, life-long commitment;
- One that requires their fidelity;
- One that is open to children and does not impede their conception.
Yes, history proves that relationships experience difficulties and suffering, and some even end in divorce. But can the first marriage be overlooked and a new marriage entered into? Jesus says no. In fact, so clear is his teaching that he says to divorce and marry another is equivalent to adultery. The Church always seeks to accompany those who have experienced divorce and to aid those who have chosen to marry without an annulment. But we must be clear that equating remarriage after divorce with adultery tells us how serious this is. Where a previous marriage exists, it simply is not possible to presume a new marriage is morally acceptable.
What about the matter of reception of Holy Communion?
Reception of Holy Communion – for every Catholic – requires the person to first be living a communion with Jesus in three key areas: (1) Living a communion by sacramental life; (2) By believing the truth of the Church’s faith; and (3) by living a communion reflected in one’s moral choices. To remarry after divorce (without an annulment) fails to observe communion with Jesus in at least two of those areas: in the moral life and in the sacramental life. Since marriage is always a public matter, when a person marries without an annulment, it is not possible to receive Holy Communion without also compromising Jesus’ clear teaching that such a situation is equivalent to adultery.
The Church takes seriously the divine teaching of Jesus and she also desires to offer pastoral help to those who find themselves having experienced divorce and who may desire to enter a new marriage. For this reason, the Church developed the annulment process. That process is a judicial process that aims to learn the truth about a failed marriage. Was that marriage valid as God designed it to be? If so, then no new marriage can be accepted. Was that marriage defective from the beginning in some significant way that strikes at the very constitution of what God revealed marriage to be? If so, then, after careful study the Church declares that she believes the marriage to be null. Such declaration means there was not an indissoluble marriage, because in fact, a true marriage did not exist. When such a declaration of nullity has been granted then a person is free to marry in the Church.
To be clear about this matter: Divorce itself is not the problem that prevents someone from taking Holy Communion. Rather, it is remarriage after a divorce when an annulment has not been granted that presents the moral problem. If a person has remarried and does not have an annulment then it is necessary to refrain from coming forward for Holy Communion and to engage in an annulment process in the hopes that the Church can find cause for an annulment. Priests assist people in this situation all the time. If this is your situation, I urge you to contact your priests and to refrain from Holy Communion until an annulment can be granted.
Mercy is not Equivalent to Tolerance
Finally, you will hear some suggest that the Church should tolerate remarriage without annulment due to an appeal to mercy. The Church is sympathetic to those in difficult situations. Many good people and good disciples face these difficulties, sometimes for no fault of their own. However, mercy is not simply equivalent to tolerance. If mercy is only tolerance then it really is indulgence and license. Mercy and truth always go together. In fact, as we approach the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy it would be good to be clear about what mercy is. The fullest image of mercy is that (pointing to crucifix). There we see the truth of what sin is and what sin does. Sin separates us from God. And there we also see the depths of God’s mercy. Namely, he dies for us so that we would choose not to go on living in sin, but rather choose to avoid those things that jeopardize our souls. Furthermore, he makes it possible for us to embrace his teaching – even difficult teaching – as a saving remedy that keeps us living in communion with the one who loves us and who saves us. Some suggest this false mercy, this tolerance, is the solution for the remarried because in history you find some cases where the Church went along with divorce and remarriage. But why might we find some instances of this? Because the Church had the challenge of bringing the gospel and its moral commands to places where Christianity had not existed.
There were social and political pressures that prevented the Church from succeeding in some situations where remarriage had taken place. But while isolated and complicated cases of remarriage can be found where the Church even accepted the less than ideal situation, the Church did this as she gradually formed the culture and shifted the expectations to the permanence and the indissolubility of marriage in accord with divine teaching. Thus, the doctrine of indissolubility advanced and progressed in a proper way. Just as Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in today’s gospel, the society was gradually transformed away from solutions based on hardness of heart in favor of what Jesus reveals about the true and full nature of marriage. It is false to hold that the challenges of the past are signs that the Church had a softer stance that can now be recuperated. Such suggestions would be going in reverse, rather than moving forward from the hardness of the human heart to the fullness of what Jesus taught.
All of these things give us a glimpse of the hard work of the Church to proclaim the gospel where it is not always welcome. This is hard work the Church did in ages past. It is clearly hard work she must continue to do today. And it begins in your heart and in mine. May we have the grace to embrace what is required to remain in the truth of Christ!
True Freedom trumps Moral Relativism
by Deacon Kevin Maloney:
A college professor once began one of his classes in an unusual way. It was a class in ethics and morality. On the first day of class he asked his students what they expected from the class. And he got an earful. One student said “Don’t tell me what you think is right or wrong.” Another said “I have my own ethics and morality.” A third said “I decide for myself what is moral. It’s my choice.” The professor listened patiently and then stopped them and said, “Thank you for your input; now it’s my turn. I’ll start with my grading scale for this class. We will get to know each other through our interactions this semester, and if I like you will get an A. If I don’t like you, you will flunk.” Of course, there were howls of protest. They objected: “You can’t do that, you have to have standards and criteria to judge our work.” “That’s too subjective.” “You can’t just decide for yourself. That’s not fair.” The students were making the professors point for him, that there are standards of right and wrong that all people can recognize.
In our Catholic tradition, we call that the Natural Law, or the Natural Law dictates of conscience. C.S. Lewis, in his great book, Mere Christianity, calls it the Law of Decent Behavior. It refers to all we can know about moral behavior without the aid of Divine Revelation, For example, the Ten Commandments are expressions of Natural Law, knowable by all people, in all places, and at all times. Ethics and morality are not whatever we want them to be. We do violence to ourselves and to society when we try to define for ourselves what is good and what is true, apart from the Natural Law that God has instilled in the human heart.
That type of thinking is called moral relativism, and we saw a striking example of this in the 1992 Supreme Court decision in the case of Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. One Supreme Court justice, in favor of abortion rights, wrote this: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the meaning of human life.” In other words, “move over God, you’re in my seat.” From what is supposed to be the very seat of legal wisdom in our country, we hear that we can make it up as we go along in matters of morality, what is right and wrong. Unfortunately our nation is reaping the fruit of that type of thinking – we see in our society that what is objectively evil is called good, and even enshrined into law. And what is good, such as forms of public Christian expression, is called evil, and some forms of Christian expression today may get you charged with a hate crime.
Faith and Morals Never Change
In fact, in matters of faith and morals, truth and goodness are objective in character. They never change. While people’s perception of morality changes, that which is good and true has never and will never change. There are, in fact, objective moral absolutes. Some people think morality changes with the times, but that is not true because the source of truth and goodness is God Himself, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
We face moral decisions every day, and to make those decisions in accord with God’s will we need a moral compass, so we don’t have to grasp in the darkness when we make those decisions. So God, as a good Father, gives us law.
Remember Moses? What does he reveals to the Israelites the before giving them the Ten Commandments Deuteronomy Chapter 4? He tells them their fidelity to God’s law will be a witness to all nations. Jesus, explains why over-emphasis on external ritual, such as washing hands before eating, distorts God’s plan, and that evil and sin comes from within a person, not from outside. But, in fact, we live in a fallen world with a fallen nature, and God creates us free to choose good or evil. But we often misunderstand what it means to be authentically free as a human person.
Freedom for What?
“Freedom for what?” John Paul II
St. Pope John Paul II visited the United States in the 1980’s and was met at the airport by President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan greeted him with the phrase, “Welcome to the land of the free.” The Pope responded, “Yes, but freedom for what?” Our Holy Father was making the point that freedom means not only freedom from something (tyranny, oppression, etc.), but freedom for something. In other words, freedom is an achievement, not only a choice. For example, I can’t play the piano, and while I may say I am free to play the piano, sit down and hit the keys, I don’t have the ability. So I am not truly free to play the piano. So freedom is from something we don’t want to do, but also freedom for something we want to do. And that freedom is always for the good, the true and the beautiful, the three ideals of the human spirit. However, our culture tells us freedom is doing whatever we want to do. That, in fact, is called license, and is a type of slavery that is very different from true freedom. True freedom is having the ability to do what you ought to do. So there are limits on freedom. I am free to throw my garbage away, but I am not free to throw it on my neighbor’s lawn. That would be an abuse of freedom. I am free to surf the internet, but I am not free to surf pornography sites. In that case, I would not be free but in slavery to sin. God doesn’t give us limits to restrict us, but to truly set us free.
Why Follow Law’s and Precepts?
We often hear that our Church is about following rules; “You Catholics have to do this and can’t do that.” So a question would be, why follow the commandments, and God’s laws, and the precepts of the Church? Very simply, because they lead to happiness and joy, since they allow us to live in accord with how we were created by God. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict 16th, summarized well how we should think of God’s law; he said: It is a mistake about the nature of faith to see the Church as the arbiter of rules and laws but rather as the pathway to salvation.
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said Jesus spent 30 years obeying, 3 years teaching, and 3 hours redeeming. From those three’s came our Holy Mother, the Church. The purpose of the Church, our one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, is not just to comfort individuals, to celebrate events, or to give us laws to follow. The purpose of the Church is to tell the world, with one united voice through, with, and in our savior Jesus Christ, that there is something better and another way of life is possible that brings us joy and fulfillment. We pray today that we use our freedom to follow God’s law in achieving what is good, true and beautiful and, in the end, our eternal salvation.
Warning: The Devil is Prowling
My dear friends,
Please entrust these vital intentions to St. Joseph: 1) The holy Father’s visit to the United States, 2) the world meeting of families, 3) and most especially for the ordinary synod on the family.
I think its a good time to write and ask you to pray. I know I have asked for lots of prayers in the past for which I am immensely grateful-BUT-this is a time in which there is need for constant prayer. If I could put an infinite number of exclamation points behind this request for prayer and that you pray I would. If we could push back evil, it will have to be with prayer, unceasing prayer.
I would ask that you pray for 3 specific events: 1) The Holy Father’s visit to the United States, 2)the World Meeting of Families, 3) and most especially for the Ordinary Synod on the Family in October.
Please consider the other wing of the spiritual life and that which gives added punch to prayer: mortification. I would suggest some fasting of this type: no seconds, no desserts, no salt, etc.
Let’s be on the alert. The “devil is prowling about” and we need to be aware of his presence and his evil work. Let’s do more than be on the defensive though. Let’s pray, pray, pray. In the month of October, and perhaps beyond, let’s say extra rosaries.
I have told many people that I am in a fighting mood and I am full of hope because I know “the gates of hell will not prevail” against out mother, the Church! The question is not whether or not we win. Of course we do!!! And big time. It’s a matter of whether or not you want to be on the winning team. We are praying that more people join us for the great victory.
Thanking you ahead of time for praying and praying and praying. You can’t take this message of prayer and fasting seriously enough.
God bless you and thank you,
Fr. William Moser
Please pray, mortify, and share!
Daily prayer for the Synod on the Family:
Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never was
it known that anyone who implored your help and sought your
intercession were left unassisted. Full of confidence in your power
I fly unto you and beg your protection. Despise not O Guardian
of the Redeemer my humble supplication, but in your bounty, hear
and answer me.
Msgr. Charles Pope, Community in Mission:
In the realm of demonology there is a cautious balance to maintain. Sadly, an exorcist must usually inflict pain upon demons in order to drive them out. This is done through the prayers of the Rite of Exorcism and through other things recommended by the rite such as the use of holy water, the use of relics, the touch of a stole, and the use of the Holy Cross.
And yet the exorcist must be careful not to hate demons or harbor unjust anger toward them. For in so doing, they would have him; he would be drawn into their territory. If they can get him to hate and to have vengeful anger then they have made him to be like themselves; he is theirs, little better than they save for the possibility that he can still repent.
Hence the exorcist and any who would pray for deliverance from demons for themselves or others, do well to stay inside the norms of the Church and Scripture. These norms warn and set limits for those who would confront demons, lest they stray by pride or anger.
What are some of these norms? Here are just a few, but they are properly cautionary to be sure.
- A lay person should never undertake to drive out demons except by the following simple formula: “I command you, all evil spirits to leave me at once in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.” At no time should a lay person ever engage a demon in conversation, ask questions, or in any way seek information.
- The same holds true for priests who engage in minor exorcisms. While they are permitted to use more elaborate imprecatory prayer found in the Manual of Minor Exorcisms, priests are not to go beyond the commands therein. They are not to ask questions or to demand names or signs from demons.
- Only appointed exorcists, delegated by the bishop, may or should inquire of the names and numbers of demons, their time of entry, why they possessed the individual, their rank, and so forth. The rite makes clear that only necessary questions should be asked. Other impertinent information is both unnecessary and harmful.
- Within the formal Rite of Exorcism, an exorcist does well to stick to the formulas, expressions, and norms of the rite. Banter, insulting language, and toe-to-toe debate are to be avoided. Good exorcists indicate that returning to the prayers of the rite is essential when demons seek to engage in debate, ridicule, and diversionary talk.Obmutesce pater mendacii (Be silent, father of lies) is a quick command from the rite to order the demons to be silent, and it is a good way to refuse to enter into pointless conversation or ridicule.
Scripture attests to the need to refrain from reviling demons:
For Even Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a reviling judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9)
Further, hate and ridicule of any person (angelic or human) whom God has created is an ungodly attitude. Scripture says,
For you O Lord love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate (Wisdom 11:24).
Therefore anyone who confronts demons or suffers their oppression is warned that hatred and unjust anger, reviling and ridiculing, is no way to fight them, for if we do so we become like them.
That said, exorcists and priests must often use strong language approved by the minor and major prayers of exorcism, most of which are drawn from Scripture or Sacred Tradition.
Consider, for example, the following rebuke of Satan from Scripture:
How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the farthest sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the lake of fire (Is 14:12-15).
These verses speak truth. They do not revile; they say what happened and they point to Lucifer’s prideful fall.
The Rite of Exorcism has collected many descriptions from Scripture and Tradition.They are not intended to ridicule or revile, but rather to remind Satan of who and what he has chosen to become. They remind him of his pride, his destruction by God’s justice, his ultimate fate, and the many ways he seeks to harm us. Consider, then, some of the “titles” and descriptions of Satan drawn from both the old and new rites of exorcism:
Enemy of the faith
Foe of the human race
Carrier of death
Robber of life
Shirker of justice
Root of evil
Fomenter of vice
Seducer of men
Traitor of the nations
Instigator of envy
Font of avarice
Source of discord
Exciter of sorrows
Seducer full of deceit and lies
Enemy of virtue
Persecutor of the innocent
Prince of accursed murder
Author of incest
Leader of sacrilege
Teacher of all negative action
Teacher of heretics
Inventor of every obscenity
Every satanic power
Every assault of the infernal adversary
Legions congregations and diabolical sects
Inventor and teacher of every lie
Enemy of man’s salvation
Prince of this world
Deceiver of the human race
Ancient foe of mankind
Father of lies
All you powers of darkness
Get thee gone, Satan!
I have compiled a pdf of these in both Latin and English here: Titles of Satan from the Rite of Exorcism.
Thus, whether driving out Satan in a major exorcism or seeking to expel his oppression in a minor exorcism, all are cautioned not to stray from the understandings and descriptions of Satan that the Church provides in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Again, the reason for this is that Satan seeks to draw us into his world of hatred and revilement. Do not go there in your thoughts and surely not in your heart.
It may be hard to accept, but God does not hate Satan. God does not hate even the worst of sinners. Surely justice requires God to recognize the final disposition of a person (angelic or human). Some are justly permitted to live apart from God’s kingdom in a hellacious parallel universe; that is their choice. But God does not hate fallen angels or fallen humans. God is Love and Love does not hate—and neither should we.
We ought to be sober about what sin has done to demons, fallen angels who were once glorious. But now, through the ugly disfigurement of sin, they are in darkness and are horribly contrary to the glory for which they were made. They are to be pitied and kept at a distance. They will not change (for angels choose once and for all). Their lies are to be resisted. Though they can still appear as lightsome, it is only for a time and then their terrifying state of horror and darkness roars forth.
Do not be deceived. But do not hate, either. Be sober, watchful, and distant from the once-glorious fallen angels we rightly call demons.
Aversion to Reverence: Entitlement and Narcissism
by Fr. Chris Pietraszko, Fr. Pietraszko’s Corner:
We begin the movement of the Ark of the Covenant, 2 Samuel 6:1-23, known to be the most holy possession of Israel. The Ark itself was venerated primarily because of what it contained: the presence of God. Leaving aside the very direct application this might have to our Blessed Mother, we realize that to the Jews, the Ark was to be treated with great reverence.
Why does God expect reverence from us?
Sometimes people will suggest that God is so humble that He would never demand reverence from us. This is true, only insofar as God would never demand reverence from us out of some ego-centric motive. However, God will demand reverence from us if it is for our own good. The opposite of reverence is familiarity, whereby we seek intimacy’s counterfeit. Familiarity is reducing a mystery into an object to which we claim to know everything about. Consider couples who beginwith romance and end in familiarity; they begin with respect, but end with possessiveness and entitlement. This is an example of people who have lost a sense of the genuine mystery in the one to whom they are married to, and how much more true is it when applied to our relationship with God.
God expects reverence out of Justice. Keep in mind that God wants us to be righteous people, because that is good for the soul. Avoiding the poison of injustice helps us find inner-peace and peace with our neighbour. Therefore God wants us to be people of Justice. It is truly right and just, therefore, everywhere to give God thanks and praise. That is to say: in order for us to be “good” as far as justice goes, we need to be able to give credit where it is due, thanksgiving where it is due: and this begins with God. If it doesn’t begin with God who is responsible for everything, then our whole lives lack the proper orientation. How could we give more credit and thanksgiving to someone who is less responsible for all that is good? Would not our neglect of God become a twisted form of injustice?
Furthermore, we must understand why reverence is important from a Trinitarian perspective. The Father loves His Son, and out of that love expects us to Love him also. He does not appreciate when we defy or neglect His Son, to whom he Loves infinitely. Therefore out of love for His Son, he demands our reverence. Likewise, the Son is utterly in love with His Father, that he demands we respect Him. It is no wonder that the Father told us to Listen to Christ, and Christ told us everything He had heard from His Father. They are a united front, and expect us to respect them both. It is not as if they are seeking their own glory, but rather are seeking to glorify each other. Therefore, in this sense, out of Love for each other, the Trinity demands our respect.
Therefore, God seeks our reverence out of Love for each person within the Trinity and for our own good; thus the law of Christ (To love God and neighbour) is perfectly recapitulated in His demand for our reverence.
Spiritual Death: Entitlement to Grace
Being aware of our own motives may help us to critically examine why we may or may not be overly critical of various forms of reverence. It may simply be that we have just grown accustom to the status quo in this regard. But if we are in Love with Christ, the status quo will never suffice. Perhaps change in the way others pray is perceived as a distraction: but sometimes distractions are good when they awake us out of a spiritual sleep and spiritual deafness to God’s presence. Perhaps they seem to draw attention to ourselves, and thus people automatically consider this a vain and unproductive activity. Aha, if this is the case, you must read the office of readings we encountered today. How easy it is to fall into the same trap that Michal fell into!
Before we examine Saul’s daughter’s reaction to King David dancing in the street before the presence of God, let us begin by examining what led up to such exaltation of the Presence of God. We note that Uzzah witnessed the Ark of the Covenant tipping, and so he stretched out His hands to steady it. On the surface, this might seem to be a fairly reasonable thing to do. However, God was utterly furious at Uzzah’s action that he was struck dead. Why?
Uzzah was not a Levite, and therefore not a priest. He took it upon himself to fulfill a role that God had not ordained him to accomplish. This means that Uzzah, who was not worthy of the task (election), was not permitted to take on the role of one of the priests. The priests had been consecrated to this particular task, and the whole established order that God had created around the Ark was meant to establish within the social-mindset of the Israelites a deep and profound reverence: the Ark was not something to be “familiar” with, but rather required a Divine-calling to handle. The Ark therefore became a tangible means to understand our relationship with God in a properly ordered fashion. The organization of the various roles/vocations of the Israelites became a means to teach people how to approach God, and in what spirit.
Applying this logic to the Church we realize that the way the Church organizes the liturgy has a profound impact on how we approach God. This is something few seem to grasp in our day and age, which explains why the liturgy is often reduced to a symbol in the minds of many. If we treat the Eucharist as if He is a symbol, people will naturally begin to believe it. The way we pray, shapes what we believe in. Furthermore, after Vatican II it became clear that priests reacted to clericalism by reinforcing clericalism, albeit unintentionally. Instead of approaching their office without a spirituality of entitlement they shared that spiritual sickness of entitlement with the laity. All of a sudden people began to feel as if they had a “right” to approach the sanctuary and preform duties that were strictly assigned to the priest. Therefore, instead of defacing entitlement we hid it by encouraging it in everyone. No longer was grace (gift) even in our minds: entitlement was. And as Pope Francis suggests, we priests clerlicalized the laity, passing on our own sickness, rather than building up the laity in their own vocation.
Uzzah’s extended hand did not convey a reverence for the Ark, but was actually the exact opposite: he felt entitled to approach the presence of God, something that was clearly spelled out to be forbidden. God was therefore not punishing Uzzah’s intention of saving the Ark but rather his spirit of entitlement. Consider this passage in this way: when we approach God with presumption and entitlement we are spiritually dead. We cannot receive “grace” authentically if we perceive “grace” as something we are entitled to. It will never take root in us. If this is our attitude we have reversed the entire order of justice, suggesting that God owes us reverence, and that it is truly right and just for us to be able to be in the presence of God. How spiritually twistedand vile for any human being to consider “grace” a right in the spiritual-sense. For grace is a gift, that we receive with gratitude, not possessiveness. Truly Uzzah was spiritually dead when he reached out to the Presence of God in the Ark.
King David was shaken by this experience and as a result welled up with reverence for the Presence that he could not fathom it being brought to Him in a deserving manner. In other words, David understood the pride of Uzzah and therefore sought to ground Himself in a spirit of gratitude that God had chosen Him and the Israelites to enjoy such a procession of God’s presence.
Michal and Reverence-haters
Michal is a fantastic analogy for the spirituality of many who are off-put by reverence today. As David welcomes the Ark of the Covenant into the City, he dances and seemingly makes a fool of himself. However, David is over-the-top excited that God has chosen to be present to Him, and he can only appreciate this because all entitlement within Him is entirely vanquished. His gratitude is grounded in the very fact that he is dust, but with God’s abiding presence (grace) he is elevated from dust to life. What an incredible and exciting realization to have that a self-affirming culture cannot ever comprehend. When we affirm ourselves in the right-spirit it involves giving no credit to ourselves, but rather to the one who made us. We do not make our own heartbeat, nor do we design ourselves: that is all God’s doing. Therefore, when we affirm ourselves in an inordinate way it means we confuse our behaviour with our being: we think we are responsible for creating ourselves. This narcissism will naturally lead to one conclusion: entitlement and despair.
Michal who has lost her inheritance after David replaces her Father Saul is filled with jealousy and therefore allows her bitterness to guide her interpretation of David’s leadership. She is disposed against Him, and will therefore always resent his actions and find fault with them, even when there is no fault. In this case, she accuses King David of the same thing so many nay-sayers today accuse those who demonstrate reverence: “How the King of Israel has honoured himself today.” In other words, Michal is convinced that David has honoured himself or is showing reverence to God as a façade of actually receiving honour from others for himself. While it is more than possible that false piety can be twisted in such a sense, we must keep in mind that the external action of King David was actually in synch with a proper spiritual attitude. As a result Michal is judgmental and incorrect in her judgment. David responds that he would love to be dishonoured before the presence of God if only it builds up people’s view of God’s presence. What a profoundly humbling statement for David to say: something that is stated from a man who genuinely loves God.
Michal is later said to have lived without being able to conceive until the day she died. Perhaps, interpreting this in a spiritual light, we might be able to say that because her heart was hardened against authentic reverence (borne of her hatred for King David and therefore his example), she was not able to contribute new life to the Assembly of God. Without the spiritual fruit of reverence, it is impossible to add new life to the Church, in the spiritual sense. Our love for God will naturally draw other people into a relationship with God. A love for our neighbour is secondary to a love for God, and rightfully so, lest our neighbour becomes deserving of more honour then God.
Liturgy, Ritual, and Worship that is Pleasing
God gives us ritual as a means to express our love for God with our entire-being. We are body and soul: therefore our worship ought to be comprised of both body-and-soul. With a purely abstract love of God, we develop spiritual disorder within ourselves, and naturally with our neighbour. Do we give God worship in our mind, but not in our body, yet we show honour and respect in both ways to our neighbour? Why would we dare to give God less than what we would give one of His creatures? Ritual and Liturgy are the very means to bestow upon God this reverence. Two friends of mine gave a perfect example of why this makes sense. For the sake of propriety I will give them other names. Matt went to mass with his girl-friend Kelly. He went to mass because he really liked Kelly, but the faith was still growing within him. One day Kelly noticed that Matt’s but was leaning on the pew during consecration (and he had no back-problems). She told him: get your butt off of that pew. His response was swift: “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care.” She gave him a head-flip, and then flipped back, and said, “If you cannot honour God, who can you honour?”
I love this true-story because it demonstrates a common attitude amongst people today, which is that God doesn’t care about our reverence. God doesn’t care about a “show” of piety, but He does want us to place Him in the highest throne in our own soul. Not because he needs such adulation, but rather, in order for us to be good, we need to place Him there out of justice. Furthermore, our love for our neighbour cannot ever be authentic, if we do not put God in the highest place first. Otherwise, we honour who we prefer, rather than who deserves it, and we cannot be grounded in justice if we are grounded in our preference over truth.
Sometimes we are like Uzzah who consider ourselves entitled to approach God with a spirit of familiarity. One might think acting with familiarity presents ourselves as “down-to-earth” but in reality we are only perceived as down to earth by the people because the people perceive what is base to be down-to-earth. Likewise, we become base and spiritually dead when we buy into such a counterfeit.
One of the practices in our diocese, for instance, is that only the ordained ministers (and those who have received the ministry of Acolyte from the Bishop) are permitted to purify the vessels used after consecration. This often is perceived as “off-putting” because people feel as if they are entitled to touch the sacred vessels whenever it pleases them. People are found to be put-off when one suggests that they are unworthy of such a task. This is the wrong attitude, and it springs from a spirituality of narcissistic entitlement.
An ordained minister who rightly understands his vocation understands this to be something given to Him as a gift and a responsibility. He should never perceive such tasks as being something He is entitled to, but rather elected to accomplish. But when a priest perceives all of ministry under the lens of entitlement he might project that into the role of the laity, and therefore relax such rules, making everyone seemingly “entitled.” The unfortunate thing about such an attitude is it ultimately never uproots the spiritual disease, it simply enables it amongst everyone.
God elects certain people for such tasks as a means to bring about humility: and so when these tasks are blurred between the laity and the clergy what happens is we remove ourselves from a very tangible method of making the Church filled with gratitude and reverence. We do not see the wisdom in the social-dynamic of allowing for such order to be supported, because we only perceive things through the lens of our fallen-nature. We also lack the prophetic vision we are to have, in how God’s little laws and rubrics are actually impactful in an authentic spirituality. We are constantly attempting to be progressive in sin, and totally unaware of this as the objective method and goal of our aims.
A priest has been made worthy, not by His own merit, but by the election and will of God. And with that gift, He is called to holiness as everyone else is: but in his particular task. If we were to internalize the Little-Flower a bit more realistically, we would come to the conclusion that such a task as handling the divine mysteries is incredibly debasing to our own ego.
The solution is in realizing that we demonstrate reverence not because we are worthy of God or showing our own holiness to others, but rather, we are debasing our pride that God may be the Rose that is noticeable amongst us, the little white-flowers that merely draw your attention to the real-deal: God.
Regardless of our vocation in life: life isn’t about any of us: it is about the glory of God. The quicker we learn this, the more abandoned we become from our own glory: the more we will experience God’s glory and all the joy that comes from such exciting love.
Statement by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki
Pope Francis’ Reform of Canonical Procedure for the Annulment of Marriage
Pope Francis issued a document, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Gentle Judge, The Lord Jesus”), on Sept. 8 calling for reform of canonical procedure for the annulment of marriage in the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. These modifications address the procedures to be followed when a person petitions for a declaration of nullity of marriage. I, along with the college of Catholic bishops throughout the world, am happy to see to it that these modifications will be put into effect in our diocesan tribunals on Tuesday, December 8, 2015, the opening day of the “Year of Mercy” proclaimed by Pope Francis.
The Catholic Church continues to teach that a marriage, once validly entered, is permanent and cannot be dissolved by the mere will of one of the parties. We understand that marriage comes to be through the spouses’ act of consent to bind themselves to one another in a marriage bond which is in accord with God’s plan for a permanent, exclusive union, open to the possibility of the generation of children. We presume in favor of the validity of all marriages, but we recognize, in our theology and law, that a party’s marriage consent may have been insufficient in some fundamental way. Therefore, we enumerate reasons for possible nullity of marriage, and we apply legal procedures by which a party, following a civil divorce, might seek to prove the nullity of a marriage and, having proved this fact, proceed to enter a new marriage which can be recognized by the Catholic Church.
Our current procedures are designed to allow parties to proceed carefully toward determining the truth about a marriage which has broken up, and with the protection of the rights of both parties. In our diocesan tribunal, we have for over thirty years made use of a provision which is now being made normative for the whole world: that cases are usually to be judged by a single judge who is an ordained person, instead of by a panel of three judges. Our procedures are to be streamlined further as the directives of Pope Francis take effect. One outstanding new provision is the sufficiency of one decision in favor of nullity; no longer will there be a requirement for two decisions in favor of nullity from two Church courts. Our system of courts of appeal will, however, remain in place.
Pope Francis has directed local tribunals to provide their legal services at no cost to parties. We are happy to do this. Formerly, we have had the custom of asking petitioners, as far as they are able, to contribute to the meeting of the expenses of the diocesan tribunal, and we have never delayed the administration of justice because of non-payment on a petitioner’s part. We rely upon the continued generosity of Catholic Christians so that we may meet the expenses associated with this judicial work.
The directives of Pope Francis will require careful study by our tribunal officials as we prepare to put them into effect. As we do so, we recognize and hold in prayer the numerous people who have endured great pain as the result of the break-up of a marriage. We pray that the whole People of God will be dedicated to the task of fostering healthy marriages and encouraging the healing which we all require, as we rely upon the Lord Jesus, the Judge who gently leads us into growth as human beings.
Dear Human Life International Subscribers,
When the Obergefell v. Hodges decision was announced, HLI’s statement reflected the obvious consequences that would follow, and that we are now seeing play out with an innocent county clerk being thrown in jail. At the time I said:
Let this be remembered as the day that it became official: The United States is no longer a nation of laws, but a nation of the will of the powerful. When duly passed state laws can be reversed on a whim, giving the government power to redefine an institution that preceded it by thousands of years, we are a deeply, and now perhaps irrevocably, broken nation.
With the same political powers who have been forcing this absurd redefinition of marriage now openly expressing their unwillingness to protect religious freedom, the stage is set for a cold civil war, with the battle lines running not from north to south, but through families, communities, businesses and institutions. This is not the first time the courts have rejected the law of nature and nature’s God, but it is perhaps the most flagrant such rejection, and it is time for Christians to realize that if they do not unite and fight now, that their very beliefs will be outlawed.
Now Kim Davis sits in a Kentucky jail for refusing to sign the marriage application of two men, and for refusing to allow her deputies to do so as well. Based on many of the opinions written, Mrs. Davis is in violation of the law.
There is a lively debate among Christians about whether Mrs. Davis has done the right thing. All respect her right to not comply with the unjust law, but some think she should have allowed her deputies to sign the license if they could do so without compromising their beliefs, or she should have simply resigned. Others think she is right to not only refuse to cooperate in an unjust law, but to also obstruct the process of its implementation at her level as a means to draw attention to the attack on religious freedom.
Others point out her supposed hypocrisy in being remarried four times and then standing up for the Christian definition of marriage. First, since most of those criticizing her on this point were celebrating the right of county clerks to violate the law by illegally issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples just a few months ago, they should really be more careful about raising the charge of hypocrisy.
As every Christian knows, it is not hypocritical to undergo an authentic conversion, as Mrs. Davis apparently has, and look back at the errors of your own past life and denounce them as such. The God of infinite mercy forgives the repentant sinner. We shouldn’t tire of repeating this reality. And either way, it isn’t to us to judge about the state of one’s soul. We can affirm that Mrs. Davis’s position on marriage is eminently worthy of support, and her past problems do not change that fact.
On the most superficial level, putting Mrs. Davis in jail for violating a court order has a certain consistency to it, especially since she also had recourse to quit her job, which would have been a morally justified option.
But what next?
Will all faithful Christians have to quit their jobs in government? Because that is exactly where this is heading. And when the same injustices multiply post-Obergefell and creep into employment law, will all Christians be dismissed from their jobs if they fail to sign statements on “tolerance” required by the State? Have we already forgotten the battle for religious freedom in Indiana earlier this year?
Mrs. Davis may not be the perfect Christian, but which one of us is perfect? She has chosen this fight and has forced a conversation that this country needs to have. Her jailing is unjust not because the specific laws about obedience to court orders are themselves unjust, but because they have been employed to support a much higher and absolutely unjust ruling. The Supreme Court ruling is an abomination of the law in the eyes of God, and ignores the clear language of our Constitution and Bill of Rights—which until a short time ago upheld freedom of speech and exercise of religion.
When the highest authorities in the government flagrantly reject the law, why would they expect low level employees to obey the law?
We should consider the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput from a CNSNews.com interview in February of 2014, when he prophetically warned that religious freedom in the U.S. is “at risk,” and that “the more government mandates evil action, the more likely civil disobedience becomes.”
May God bless and protect Kim Davis, and may He use this battle to awaken Christians to the threats against them in this Culture of Death. The time has come for civil disobedience—it will not be easier next month or next year.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Shenan J. Boquet
President, Human Life International