Saturday, November 15, 2014

In The Day You Eat Thereof, You Shall Surely Die

Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
Did you ever wonder why God put the tree of good and evil in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and then told them not to eat of it?  The whole story, in many ways, seems like a set up.  If God had to leave this deadly tree right in plain sight, the least He could have done was put up big "Danger" signs, or station an angel warning of the danger. Not only didn't God put up any guard around the tree, He allowed Satan into the Garden to actually tempt our first parents to disobey. Here are poor Adam and Eve who had no personal experience of evil but only an academic knowledge which they had received from their Creator, up against the clever and evil Satan.  Adam and Eve in their innocence were no match for this malevolent creature. Certainly God knew this, so why would He allow Satan to tempt them? And if the fruit of this tree was so deadly, then why, as Eve wondered, did it look so good? Surely if something was bad for us, it would look bad. But the fruit of this tree looked as good as everything else in the garden.

On the other hand, since God had told Adam and Eve that they should not eat of the tree of good and evil, why was Eve hanging around this forbidden tree in the first place? The Garden of Eden was a pretty magnificent place with all kinds of sights, sounds and smells to delight the senses. What made her gravitate to the only thing in the entire garden which God had declared off limits?

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the ultimate symbol of sin. Sin is proclaiming that we know better than God, i.e., that we can decide for ourselves the difference between good and bad, right and wrong.  For example, God says we shouldn't lie to one another, but we know there are times when telling the truth just doesn't work, and if God was in our situation, He would agree. And why would God make sin so delightful, e.g. promiscuous sex, and then say it is forbidden? What kind of sadist is Our Creator?

God is not a sadist.  He is also not a controller, unlike our enemy, Satan.  The story of Adam and Eve portrays a God who lovingly instructed His Creation, and then allowed them to decide their own path with no manipulation on His part whatsoever.  If Eve had called out to the Lord at any time, He would have come immediately and rescued her from Satan's devices.  But instead, she chose to listen to Satan and make her own decision, apart from God.  

And so it is with Adam and Eve's progeny. Our Lord has given us minds and the ability to choose. He wants us to come to Him freely because we love Him. But because we are born into and live in a world immersed in sin and disobedience, Our Lord takes that extra step to actually come and live inside of us, showing the way to walk and follow Him. All that is required of us is our "yes", modeled for us by the Mother of God when she said yes to the Holy Spirit.  And just as our Blessed Mother did, we too must say "yes" to God every moment of our lives.  The minute we stop saying "yes" to God, we become targets of Satan.  We must say "yes" to God when we want to, and even more importantly, we must say "yes" when it goes against everything inside of us.  Our "yes" is our power over life and death.  The great Creator of the Universe, the One who gives us every breath we breathe, is powerless against our "no."  Our "no" will block God, allowing Satan to immediately fill that void.  

Mary says yes to Gabriel and the Holy Spirit
Another interesting aspect of the story of Adam and Eve's fall is the deceptive nature of sin. Evil rarely looks evil. It appears as something good and desirable, something that will in some way make us "complete." Genesis 3:6 tells us that, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it."  We should never trust appearances or our feelings. Our physical senses and unenlightened intellect, deformed by sin, will betray us more often than not.  

The Garden of Eden
Why do I bring up this story? It seems to me that the story of the fall of Adam and Eve is the story of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the Garden of Eden in a sinful world. God dwells in the Catholic Church through the Holy Spirit and through the Eucharist. It is where the angels and saints of heaven gather on earth. The Catholic Church is filled with mystical wonders and delights that can raise us up to heaven. The Catholic Church contains the tree of life, which will give us eternal life with God.

However, the Catholic Church also contains the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Our sin is that tree.  It is always there, beckoning to us, enticing us with promises of pleasure, power, security.  If we allow him, Satan will whisper into our ear just as he did to Mother Eve, "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  (Gen. 3:5)

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil comes in many forms, shapes and guises.  But it always amounts to trusting in ourselves over God, taking for ourselves the decision of right and wrong.  

Many Catholics today are looking at the Church and, following in the footsteps of Adam and Eve, deciding for themselves what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. They seem to have forgotten Our Lord's promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. They seem to have forgotten our Lord's promise that He will never leave His Church. They have forgotten that Our Lord sent the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us. They never make mention of the fact that Our Lord gave the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter without conditions, and said that whatever Peter binds on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever Peter looses on earth is loosed in heaven. It doesn't matter if Peter is the greatest of sinners. He may lose his personal salvation, but He will never mislead the Church. We have seen Popes stumble just as our first Pope did, but never have they led the Church astray.

Our Lord has given us 2000 years of saints who have led the way. He has given us His Written Word which is more accessible now than at any time in history. He has given us sacraments filled with His Grace and Mercy which cleanse our sin and draw us close to Him. Jesus Christ lives in the tabernacles of our churches, and we can visit Him every day. He promised that as long as we abide in Him, we will continue to bear fruit, and, in fact, apart from Him we will wither and die. We often hear that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. But there is one other thing you can add to that list: the Catholic Church.

Yet, not many Catholics seem to believe this.  There are many Catholics today who, to use biblical terms, tear their clothes and throw ashes on their heads, warning of doom and gloom, telling us that we cannot trust anyone but them.  They tell us that our priests and bishops and even the Holy Father are evil and enemies of the Church.  They tell us that the only thing we can rely on is "tradition."  They tell us that everything happening in the Church today is of Satan.  They tell us that it is actually imperative that we criticize those in authority over us.  

And where do these critical Catholics get their authority?  From their own knowledge and understanding.  A priest, bishop, or the Pope says something that does not fit in with their understanding and views, and they feel they have an immediate right, nay a responsibility, to call out the one who disagrees with them as a heretic and evil.  These critical Catholics feel that they, not Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, are the ones who will keep the Church on the right course.  If they don't say something, Satan will take over completely.  

We even have bishops making this claim. An article in the Catholic Herald contained an interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan [HERE]. Bishop Schneider made the pronouncement that the Church is now in her "fourth greatest crisis", comparing the current situation with the likes of the Arian heresy. Ah, but he sees a great hope for the Church. Is it the prayers, sacrifices and obedience of the faithful? Not quite. According to the article, "he has embraced cyberspace to put over a trenchant, traditional defence of the Church. 'Thanks be to God, the internet exists,' he said."
Bishop Schneider is harshly critical of many of his fellow bishops, accusing them of being "traitors of the faith",  He sees a split coming in the Church, "leading to an eventual renewal of the Church on traditional lines. But, he believes, this will not be before the crisis has plunged the Church further into disarray. Eventually, he thinks, the 'anthropocentric' [man-centred] clerical system will collapse. 'This liberal clerical edifice will crash down because they have no roots and no fruits,' he said."

As can be seen from the above quotes, Bishop Schneider denounces and condemns the contemporary Catholic Church, feeling it is headed for an inevitable collapse.  Bishop Schneider does not seem to see any conflict between his belief and the promises of Jesus Christ that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church.  Bishop Schneider puts his trust in "tradition."  According to the article, "despite his concerns, Bishop Schneider is not pessimistic and believes that there is already a groundswell of support for traditional values that will, in time, renew the Church: 'Little ones in the Church have been let down and neglected,' he said. '[But] they have kept the purity of their faith and they represent the true power of the Church in the eyes of God and not those who are in administration.' "

To be fair, after making all of these terrible predictions and condemnations, he ends the interview by saying, "I am not worried about the future. The Church is Christ’s Church and He is the real head of the Church, the Pope is only the vicar of Christ. The soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit and He is powerful.” However, I find this statement to be quite troubling, as His Excellency seems to be discounting the importance of the Holy Father.  He is quite right when He says the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church.  However, he seems to feel that that way of obedience to the Holy Spirit is through "tradition" aside and apart from the hierarchy of the Church.

Tradition is an important part of the Catholic Church, but to contend that "tradition" is the savior of the Church is putting your faith in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Some of the most "traditional" Catholic groups are sedevacantist or headed that way.  Why?  Because they are deciding for themselves what is good and what is evil.

When Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre made the unilateral decision to disobey St. John Paul II, he said it was because he had no other choice. He felt that if he obeyed the Holy Father, his Society of St. Pius X would be destroyed. That is a classic example of those hanging onto tradition and making it into the tree of good and evil. Archbishop Lefebvre mirrored St. Peter exactly when Peter told the Lord that he would not allow Him to be crucified. "Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22).  Peter was taking for himself the decision as to whether Christ should die.  Our Lord's reply to Peter was, "Get behind me, Satan!"

Is it just coincidence that so many of those who stand in opposition to Church hierarchy today look to Archbishop Lefebvre as their role model? Our true role model in following Christ is Mary, our Blessed Mother. I doubt very much that, on her own, she would have made any of the decisions in her life which were made by the Holy Spirit. Would she have thought to get pregnant before marriage, an offense then punishable by stoning? Would she have made the decision to travel from her home in Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was 9 months pregnant and then give birth in a dirty, vermin infested stable? Would she have made the decision to flee with a newborn baby to Egypt, a society hostile to her culture where she didn't even know the language? Would she have made the decision to have her Son beaten, tortured and hung on the Cross as a common criminal? Yet, to all of these things she gave an unwavering, unconditional "yes."

None of us can understand all of the events that are happening around us. We may find it very disconcerting and unsettling. It certainly isn't the path we would choose. I have used this analogy before, but I feel we are like the ancient Israelites, when Moses led them out of Egypt into what seemed a certain death trap, caught between the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army. Yet this is exactly where Our Lord wanted them because it was through this situation that He would show them His Glory.

Those who pray the Divine Office on a regular basis are familiar with Psalm 95, which is often used as the Invitatory Psalm.  Part of that Psalm says,
"Today, listen to the voice of the Lord:
Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness,
when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me,
Although they had seen all of my works."
Meriba means "quarreling" and Massah means "testing."  This refers to an event in the travels of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, as found here in Exodus 17:
"1The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

3But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

4Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

5The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
As can be seen from this passage, the Lord places extreme importance on how people act towards those He has put in authority.  The passage tells us that Israel was challenging Moses.  However, in Psalm 95, the Lord says "they challenged and provoked me."  The complaints of the Israelites against Moses seem to me to be very similar to those many Catholics make against Pope Francis, accusing him of spiritually leaving them in the wilderness to die, as can be seen in the statement by Cardinal Burke that the Church is like a ship without a rudder.

We know that The Lord interpreted the Israelites' rebellion against Moses as rebellion against Him.  How do you think He is interpreting those who speak against His Vicar?

Psalm 95 tells us the fate of those who rebelled against Moses:
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
The ancient Israelites, in rebelling against Moses, were following the example of Adam and Eve in that they took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, deciding for themselves what was right and what was wrong.  They paid for this decision by missing out on the Promised Land and instead, dying in the wilderness.

Which tree shall we choose?  The Tree of Life, or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Finding Safety in the Midst of the Storm

I have been seeing the word "schism" used on Catholic websites and blogs many times in the last couple of weeks since the Synod, and even on secular sources.  Many conservative and traditional Catholics feel that the traditions of the Church are under attack by "liberal" priests and bishops, including His Holiness, Pope Francis.  An "us versus them" mentality has truly taken hold among many who call themselves Catholic, and the tragic part is that it is Catholic against Catholic.

Last spring, Bishop Athanasius Schneider gave an interview [HERE] in which he said, "we are in the fourth great crisis [of the Church], in a tremendous confusion over doctrine and liturgy. We have already been in this for 50 years."  His Excellency said in the interview that if God is merciful to us, this crisis will only last another 20 to 30 years.

According to the linked article, Bishop Schneider "can foresee a split coming, leading to an eventual renewal of the Church on traditional lines. But, he believes, this will not be before the crisis has plunged the Church further into disarray."

It surely does seem that many conservative and traditional Catholics are itching to go up against the hierarchy of the Church.  Many on the Internet have no hesitation in calling the Magesterium of the Church "evil".  They attack the Holy Father almost with glee.

Instead of seeing the Internet fueling the growing schism, Bishop Schneider is very grateful for cyberspace.  "Thanks be to God, the internet exists."  His Excellency seems to believe that much of the salvation of the Church lies in Joe Catholic in the pew standing up for "what is right."  The problem is, everyone is convinced of his or her own rightness and the wrongness of anyone who disagrees. The Internet seems to embody the words of Judges 21:25 - "all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes."

So what is a faithful Catholic to do when bishops seem to be aligning against other bishops, and "conservatives" against "liberals"?  How do we maintain our equilibrium and not lose our faith?  Let me ask this.  When you see a storm approaching, do you run out into the storm and try to fight it?  Or do you find the safest place you can go and stay put until the storm passes?

As storms swirl around the Church, is our spiritual safety to be found in our own righteousness?  Are we competent to pass judgments on others, especially the hierarchy, and accuse them of trying to destroy the Church?  Are we able to understand the ways of God and know exactly how He is working through the Church in bringing the saving message of the Gospel to the world?  Just who can we trust?

The Church herself has given us many safe places in which to hide. First and foremost, we have Our Lord who is present in all of the tabernacles of the Catholic Church everywhere in the world. Archbishop Fulton Sheen never a let day go by without an hour in front of the tabernacle. In fact, he died while kneeling in front of the tabernacle. Bishop Sheen saw many controversies in his years as priest and bishop, and was the recipient of attacks from other prelates. But nothing ever disturbed him. He was never shaken in his faith. What grounded him?

Here are a few quotes about the benefits of adoration from Bishop Sheen:

"The holy hour becomes like an oxygen tank to revive the breath of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the foul and fetid atmosphere of the world."

"Neither theological action nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are proceeded by a personal encounter with Him in Adoration."

"During out Holy Hour we grow more and more into His likeness."

"A Holy Hour of Adoration in our modern rat race is necessary for authentic prayer."

"A Holy Hour becomes a magister and teacher.  Theological insights are gained not only from the covers of a treatise, but on two knees before the Blessed Sacrament."

Bishop Sheen was not the only one who saw the vital importance of time before the Blessed Sacrament:

St. John Paul II:  "The spiritual lives of our families are strengthened through our Holy Hour."

"The future belongs to those who worship God in silence."

St. Alphonsus Ligouri - "Our Lord hears our prayers anywhere, but He has revealed to His servants that those who visit Him in the Eucharist will obtain a more abundant measure of grace."

"Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament consoles a soul far beyond what the world can offer."

"A Holy Hour will give you more strength during life and more consolation at the hour of your death and eternity."

Father John Hardon:  "It is impossible in human terms to exaggerate the importance of being in adoration before the Eucharist as often and for as long as our duties and state of life allow."

"During our Holy Hour our souls are fed in two faculties of the spirit - the Mind and the Will.  In the Mind, we need light; in the Will we need strength."

"I strongly recommend that each of us make a resolution, no matter how much the decision may cost us, to make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. . .once a week."

St. John Bosco:  "Do you want the Lord to give you many graces?  Visit Him often.  Do you want Him to give you few graces?  Visit Him rarely.  Do you want the devil to attack you?  Visit Jesus rarely in the Blessed Sacrament.  Do you want him to flee from you?  Visit Jesus often!"

St. Padre Pio:  "A Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament is worth more than a thousand years of human glory."

St. John XXIII:  "There is no doubt that a flood of graces will descend upon your family and the world if more souls would become docile pupils of adoration."

St. Bernadette Soubirous:  "The Eucharist bathes the tormented soul in light and love.  Then the soul appreciates these word, 'Come all you who are sick.  I will restore your health."

Blessed Mother Teresa:  "In order to convert America and save the World what we need is for every parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Hours of prayer."

These are just a few quotes from saints and other holy people who so obviously benefited from following their own words.  I would offer that regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament are actually vital to our personal spiritual health and the health of the Church.  There is no safer place from spiritual storms than in the presence of Jesus Christ, which is available wherever there is a Catholic Church.

The Rosary is also another great haven in a storm.  Following are just a few quotes about the efficacy and power of the Rosary:
“Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day be led astray. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.”
Saint Louis de Montfort

“Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.”
Pope Blessed Pius IX

“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.”
Saint Francis de Sales

“When the Holy Rosary is said well, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious than any other prayer.”
Saint Louis de Montfort

“One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.”
Saint Dominic

“If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 St. Peter 5:4).”
Saint Louis de Montfort

“The Rosary is THE weapon.”
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

“You must know that when you ‘hail’ Mary, she immediately greets you! Don’t think that she is one of those rude women of whom there are so many—on the contrary, she is utterly courteous and pleasant. If you greet her, she will answer you right away and converse with you!”
Saint Bernardine of Siena

“Recite your Rosary with faith, with humility, with confidence, and with perseverance.”
Saint Louis de Montfort
“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.”
Pope Saint Pius X

“Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day become a formal heretic or be led astray by the devil.”
Saint Louis de Montfort

“Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if—and mark well what I say—if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.”
Saint Louis de Montfort

“The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
Sister Lucia dos Santos, Fatima seer
There are many other ways to stay sane in the midst of madness: go to Mass every day or as often as you possibly can. Receive the graces from the Sacrament of penance by going a couple times a month. Read the saints. Read the "Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis. This was a favorite book of St. Therese of Lisieux and many other saints. Read the Bible, the written Word of God. Ground yourself in the words of God rather than a lot of blowhards (including yours truly) on the Internet. Read the Bible.  If you can, pray the Divine Liturgy, which can be found HERE.  

In other words, bury yourself in Jesus Christ.  He is the haven in the storm.  He will keep you safe and warm, and nothing will be able to touch you.

Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

No Conversion Without Welcome

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30
I saw an interesting blog post entitled, "The Church's Essential Mission: Conversion, Not Welcome". You can read it HERE. The blog, "One Peter 5", is written by a Mr. Eric Sammons, who has some pretty impressive credentials.  He is "father of six children, author of three books, and Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Venice in Florida."  He has appeared on "The Journey Home" on EWTN, "Catholic Answers", "Kresta In the Afternoon" "Catholic Answers" and other programs.  He hires himself out as a speaker.  Mr. Sammons is a convert to the Catholic faith from Evangelical Protestantism.

However, I must respectfully disagree with the blog post mentioned above.  Mr. Sammons' argument is stated in the first paragraph:
“All are welcome!”
You can hardly walk into a Catholic parish today without encountering this slogan. Not so long ago all the talk was about the “New Evangelization,” but that topic has been back-burnered in favor of “welcoming.” No one should feel excluded from the Catholic Church! Who is it, exactly, that has been complaining about feeling unwelcome? That’s usually left unsaid. Yet the current emphasis on welcoming people to the Church certainly implies, at the very least, that we have been in some way inhospitable in the past.
The welcome wagon movement has as a foundational principle the need for changes in the language of the Church. It posits two problems with the language of our first 1,981 years:
1) It’s too hard to understand, and
2) It makes people feel bad.
Mr. Sammons is upset with those in the Church who are "dumbing down" language to make it more understandable to people because he feels that simplifying language actually "undermines the work of salvation."  He gives an example:
They propose that the Church sought to explain the Trinity in ways people could understand, specifically by using Greek philosophical terms. However, a closer look shows that the Church was not primarily concerned with making the doctrine of the Trinity understandable. She was interested in making it precise. If the end goal is “understandable,” one usually ends up with a dumbed-down explanation which can easily lead to errors. But if the goal is precision, then although one might have to work to understand a concept, he can be assured of arriving at the correct understanding.
Mr. Sammons seems to feel that "understandable" and "precise" are mutually exclusive.  Mr. Sammons feels that the Church cannot be concerned with being "understandable" because trying to be "understandable" only leads to more error.  If people can't understand, that is their problem.  Mr. Sammons feels it is better to leave people completely in the dark than to try to speak in language to which they are more accustomed.

Mr. Sammons tells us that Jesus never tried to make things easier for people to understand.  In fact, according to Mr. Sammons, our Lord was purposely trying to hide the Gospel from certain people:
Nor do the Gospels attest that the desire to make language understandable is a priority for our Lord. After Jesus tells the story of the Sower in Matthew 13, the disciples ask him why he speaks in parables. Our Lord replies, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:11-13). Christ himself makes it clear that the “secrets of the kingdom of heaven” will not be understood by everyone, and there is nothing we can do about it. Concentrating our efforts to do so, then, appears to be for naught.
This excerpt from the Gospels has nothing to do with language. Jesus used every day language and situations in the parables which were easily understood by the people. Our Lord was hiding the meaning of these parables from the people at that time which was before His Crucifixion and Resurrection, before the Gospel was opened to the whole world. But does Mr. Sammons believe that there are groups of people in the world today from whom Our Lord is purposely hiding the saving message of the Gospel? Remember, Christ also told Peter, James, John and Andrew not to reveal His transfiguration on Mount Tabor until after His resurrection. However, this was most certainly not true after Our Lord rose from the dead. Our Lord made it very clear to the apostles, just before He ascended to heaven, that they were to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:16). The message of the Gospel is no longer hidden from anyone, as St. Paul tells us that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (I Tim 2:4).

If we are to take Mr. Sammons' argument to its logical conclusion, we would have to say that the Church should concentrate on "precision" and forget about "understandability" because (1) worrying about "understandability" will only lead to more errors, (2) if people cannot understand what the Church is saying for whatever reason, then it is out of our hands and they can all just quite literally "go to hell" and (3), there are actually people who are not supposed to understand the Gospel because Our Lord is not interested in saving them.

Certainly there have been and always will be those who will reject the saving message of the Gospel. That is a consequence of free will. But how can free will be involved if people are not even able to understand what the Church is saying? If I speak only English, and someone is trying to tell me something in Russian, is it my fault that I don't understand?

Mr. Sammons has another argument against using language to make the church more welcoming:
The second attempt to change the Church’s language is more pernicious. It aims not just to make the Church’s language more understandable to modern man, but also to make it more acceptable to him. We see this in the desire to soften the Church’s language about sin, especially in the area of sexual morality. Less than a generation ago, St. John Paul II called the attempt of those who had divorced to later marry outside the Church “evil” (Familiarius Consortio 84), yet today such language is condemned in many quarters of the Church. People will only feel welcome and thus enter our doors, it is said, if we soften our language on the “hard teachings.”
Mr. Sammons seems to feel that unless the Church uses specific, theological language, truth and dogma will be lost.  He feels it is better to leave the teachings of the Church less understandable in order to avoid the loss of "truth."  I would like Mr. Sammons to show me one passage in the Gospel where Our Lord speaks to people using "theological" language.  He always used the language of the people, always speaking with words easily understood by the people.

Certainly I agree with Mr. Sammons that we must not use imprecise or incorrect words in order to make spiritual concepts easier to understand.  However, our world is basically biblically illiterate. Most people cannot even name the four Gospels. Knowledge of God and salvation is as foreign to most people as knowledge of quantum physics. In addition, people are just not as generally literate as they use to be. There is a reason why newspapers are now written at an 8th grade level. The Church, in her wisdom and guided by the Holy Spirit, realizes that she cannot reach people as she once did.

In answer to Mr. Sammons, here is an interesting video which was just made at the Synod of the family in which the fathers of the Synod discuss this very issue:

These Cardinals explain far better than I can why Mr. Sammons is wrong:

Cardinal Wilfred Napier of South Africa: "I think language is something we have overlooked for a good while. We used language that is out of touch with the way people speak today. In the past, it was sufficient to say to people, "you are going to go to hell if you continue this way of life." Hell was a reality. It was something they knew, or they understood it. When you talk about hell today, people don't know what you are talking about. So I think the emphasis is shifting."

Cardinal Godfried Daneels: "We don't begin by accusing or stigmatizing but by talking. At a later stage you can take the person to a higher level. But beginning with accusation or a stigmatization is not good pastoral method."

Cardinal André Armand Vingt-Trois: "If the Church wants to address not only its members, but also others outside the Church, it must look for words and formulas that will allow it to be understood by those who are not already inside."

Cardinal Wilfred Napier of South Africa: "All kinds of people came to Jesus. What did Jesus do? He opened the doors for them. He spoke the language that they understood and He converted them out of their sin. "Woman, did no one condemn you?" He wasn't saying you are okay, you were just caught out. He said, "Did no one condemn you? Neither do I condemn you." Which means that He could have condemned her for what she had done. But He didn't use that language of condemnation. And I think that's sort of the feeling that I get. Let's put our language in a way that is going to invite people to a conversion, to an experience of Christ which is going to be realistic and is going to make a change in their life rather than leave them going away with a terrible guilt conscience or something like that."

Cardinal André Armand Vingt-Trois: "When a physician makes a diagnosis, he has terms to designate exactly the disease in question, but if he uses these terms with his patient, he will not be understood. Therefore, he must explain the meaning of the diagnosis with words that are not technical words. In theology, it is the same thing. One has a precise theological vocabulary that is a science with a technical reference, and when one addresses people to announce the goods news of Christ, one does not teach them a theology course. One tells them the contents of the theology but with a vocabulary that can be understood."

Mr. Sammons writes, "picture finding a person drowning in quicksand. Would your first concern be greeting her cheerfully and making sure she feels comfortable in your presence?" Mr. Sammons thinks the first thing we need to do is make sure they understand the correct terminology of why they are in quicksand. Mr. Sammons also writes, "Today there are countless souls lost and drowning, and the mission of the Church is to set them on the right path to salvation." I could not agree more with that statement. But when someone is drowning, as Mr. Sammons says, do we look at them floundering in the water and start lecturing them on the dangers of whatever led to them to this situation? Don't we first have to pull them out before we can do anything else? When someone is drowning, that is not the time to give them swimming lessons. 
Our world is most definitely drowning in sin, and they can no longer hear the Voice of God. Holy Mother Church, as evidenced by the above video of various cardinals, realizes that her job has become to reach out to people who know nothing of God. The Catholic Church has truly become an alien culture in the world. Since the world no longer speaks our language, we must now speak in a language that they will understand. It is a daunting task, but with God, all things are possible.

And to answer the title of Mr. Sammons's post, "The Church’s Essential Mission: Conversion, Not Welcome," the truth is there can be no "conversion" without "welcome". Why should anyone come to a Church which he or she feels is standing in judgment and condemnation, and speaks in ways that no one can understand anyway. Our Lord said, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17). That does not mean that Jesus did not show people their sins. He was always telling people "Sin no more." And certainly the Church must always define sin.

But as Pope Francis said, the Church is a field hospital. And a hospital never turns anyone away. In fact, the more ill someone is, the more right that person has to be a patient. It doesn't matter what the patient understands or doesn't understand about his illness. As Our Lord said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick." (Mt. 9:12). And as Cardinal André Armand Vingt-Trois explained, "When a physician makes a diagnosis, he has terms to designate exactly the disease in question, but if he uses these terms with his patient, he will not be understood . . . when one addresses people to announce the goods news of Christ, one does not teach them a theology course. One tells them the contents of the theology but with a vocabulary that can be understood."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Do We Abandon the Church in Stormy Waters?

This video of ships being tossed around and almost capsized by massive ocean waves is basically what many have characterized as the condition of the Catholic Church following the Synod on the Family.  With the ending of the Synod, the Catholic blogosphere and certain "catholic" media are telling us that the Church is in a major crisis and that Church hierarchy, including and maybe most especially Pope Francis, are trying to destroy the Church.  Michael Matt and Chris Ferrara put out a video in which they actually said Pope Francis may well be the "worst pope ever" and we might have to start thinking in terms of "anti pope."

Michael Voris did a video in which he reported that Cardinal Burke accused Pope Francis of harming the Church. A few days later Voris pulled the video and actually did a mea culpa, saying he did not want anyone to think he, Voris, was in any way publicly criticizing the Pope. Some of those who are normally critical of Voris were instead applauding him for this move, while the normal Voris supporters harshly criticized him. The world truly was upside down. However, both groups need to really rethink their positions. Yes, Voris said he will not publicly criticize Pope Francis, but just two days before he released a video of how Catholics should react if the entire Church hierarchy, including the Pope, is unfaithful to Christ and His Church.

From Voris:
"So let’s just say for discussion that the pope is a bad pope and is very opposed to the traditions of the Church."
Many will say that Voris isn't actually accusing the Pope of anything. He is just proposing a scenario. Well, he then proposes more "scenarios", all of which he has stated, more times than I can count, represent the actual state of the Church:
Let’s just say there is a cabal of wicked and evil bishops and cardinals in cahoots with him to overthrow the Church.
Let’s just say there are many other cardinals and bishops who through a willful ignorance and cowardice and naïveté are going along with this because they actually believe it is better to accommodate the world than to fight the evil in it.
And let’s just say most dioceses in the world have succumbed to one degree or another to the evil and most of them are unfaithful in varying degrees.
Let’s just say most Catholics no longer believe the Catholic faith, which must be believed totally.
And let’s just say most leaders in the Church, including the pope, are no longer Catholic in any meaningful manner and want wholesale changes that touch on the very heart of the faith.

We know that Voris believes all of the above because he has certainly stated these things enough times. So it is only logical to assume that he also believes Pope Francis is a bad pope, although he refuses to "publicly" state so.  Voris somehow thinks it is okay to attack every part of the body but the head.  It is okay to cut off toes, fingers or even whole arms and legs, stab and slash at vital organs, beat with bats and sticks, etc., but just don't touch the head.  Voris actually has the gall to say the following:
"I have dedicated the remainder of my life to serving the Church and to have to consider that I did something that brought some harm to Her makes me heart sick."
Voris is the guy who told everyone to stop financially supporting their parishes and dioceses. Voris is the guy who said Cardinal Dolan is evil and going to hell. Voris is the guy who said most bishops are "homosexualists". Voris is the guy who said the average Catholic sitting in the pew is "Catholic In Name Only." It seems to me that his entire "apostolate" is all about destroying the institutional Church, which he has said is on its last legs and needs to be destroyed.

It should be pointed out that the answer Voris gives to the above "scenarios" is that we should remain "faithful." My question is: faithful to what? If we are to believe Voris, this is no Church left to which we can be faithful.

Not to fear. In a video a few days later, Voris has given us the answer. There is a group of people who can always be trusted to never go off the rails and lead us astray. It is "the faithful Catholic media" of which Voris is a proud member. Never mind that Voris' own bishop will not allow him to use the word "Catholic" in his organization's name. That guy is just part of the false "Church of Nice" anyway and no one should listen to him. In fact, the very fact that Church hierarchy rejects Voris only gives him more credibility, because "faithful Catholic media" can only be faithful if they are separate from the Catholic Church, as Voris tells us:
"You simply cannot have a Catholic Media run by the Church. It must be free and independent—a free press, a free Catholic press—beholden to nothing but the truth."

So should Catholics now fear that there is a snake under every rock threatening to destroy the Church?  Do we stop trusting the Church hierarchy and start trusting people like Michael Voris and Michael Matt and Chris Ferrara?  Has the Holy Spirit abandoned the Church and left us to fend for ourselves?

Those who say we must reject Church hierarchy need to be reminded of the words of Jesus Christ as recorded in Luke 10:16.  This is what Our Lord told not just Peter, but ALL of the apostles, of whom Catholic bishops are the direct descendants: "Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me." The "you" spoken of in this verse is not referring to "faithful Catholic media" but to Church hierarchy. Jesus Christ specifically says that to reject the authority of Church hierarchy is to reject Him. Yet, this seems to be exactly what Michael Voris is proposing.

Our Lord told us (John 15:5) that "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  For those who think they can be independent from the church, Our Lord warned in the next verse: "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." And as Luke 10:16 shows us, the only way to truly remain in Christ is to accept the authority of His Church.

Michael Voris and those who defend him would answer that they are not talking about being separate from the Church, but just from those in the corrupt hierarchy.  But is it really possible to make our own personal judgments and separate ourselves from the hierarchy of the Church and still remain in communion with the Church?

Even though they are sinful, fallible men, we cannot separate Church hierarchy en masse from Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we have to accept every word that comes from every individual bishop and priest.  But as Our Lord said, to deliberately separate ourselves from earthly Church authority is to separate ourselves from the true Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.  

We need to remember that Our Lord gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter, NOT to the laity and not to "faithful Catholic media". There was no clause to this agreement between Peter and Christ that this would be binding only as long as Peter acted in a certain way. Why? Because Peter and his successors and all of Church hierarchy are, in effect, nothing more than puppets. This is not saying that they give up their free will in their personal lives. They are still fallible human beings who are as capable of losing their salvation as any of the rest of us. (And because of their positions, they are actually judged much more severely than the laity.) But our Lord told us that the Holy Spirit is the One who is really pulling the strings in the Church, and even when it seems like He is asleep in the boat as Jesus Christ was with the apostles, He is still in charge. That is why Jesus said that when we reject Church hierarchy, we are rejecting Him. We cannot just decide on our own that we can no longer trust those put in charge by the Holy Spirit. We never have the right to become our own magesterium.

I find it interesting that none of those who are condemning Pope Francis for leading the Church astray have quoted from his final speech to the Synod. You can read the entire speech HERE, and I would strongly suggest it. Pope Francis directly addressed those statements from the Synod that seem to have been in conflict with Church teaching, and how we should deal with this. Here are just a few excerpts:

"Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.
Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).
And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.
The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.
Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.
And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.
We have been given an ironclad promise by Jesus Christ that the gates of hell will never prevail against His Church.  The night before He was crucified, just a few short hours before He was arrested by the Sanhedrin, Our Lord told His Disciples (John 14:1):
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In that same chapter of John 14, Jesus said (verses 16-18):
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you.
Many have accused me of being an ultramonatist, which means I believe the Pope can do no wrong. I do not have faith in any man, not even the Pope. But I do believe the words of Jesus Christ who told me that He gave the Keys to the Kingdom to Peter, and that He will never cease to work through Peter.  Our Lord never told me I had to rely on my own weak and sinful judgment.  He said I need to do is trust in Him, and He will never allow me to go astray.  Michael Voris is actually right - we do need to remain faithful.  But that means being faithful to Holy Mother Church, not to "catholic media" or anyone else who is apart and separate from the Church.

Proverbs 3:5-8:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
We live in very evil times, and the Barque of Peter is thrashing wildly on the troubled seas. Now is not the time to decide the Church is not seaworthy. Now is just when we should be trusting even more deeply that Our Lord is in charge and will not allow His Church to be destroyed, either from within or without. It is not up to us to stand in judgment of those in authority. If we really feel they are not fulfilling the duties of their office, as St. Paul wrote in I Timothy 2:1-3:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Our first Pope, St. Peter, wrote (I Peter 1:5-6)
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
As Pope Francis reminded us at the Synod:
So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).
When you are feeling lost and afraid, go before the Blessed Sacrament and realize that there is nothing to fear.  Our Lord has conquered all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Synod: Fasten Your Seatbelts

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Words Of Jesus Christ (Mark 2:17)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Words of Jesus Christ, (Matthew 11:28-30)

Imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm.
Relatio post disceptationem (working document from the Synod on the Family) Paragraph 23
As I suspected would happen, this past week the Catholic blogosphere has been apoplectic about the Synod on the Family in Rome. The Synod is an opportunity for bishops and others to meet in Rome and express their opinions and views about the current state of the family which, any way you look at it, is pretty sad. The Extraordinary Synod taking place in Rome is basically a gabfest.  The Pope is giving people from all sides of the various issues concerning the family the opportunity to air their views.  However, it is vital to note that there will be no decisions made this year. 

This fact makes no difference to the Catholic blogosphere.  The consensus among the blogosphere seem to be that Church hierarchy has fallen completely off the rails and is no longer under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Many of those viewing the Synod have become hysterical and worse.

Pope Francis, in his opening remarks at the Synod, did his best to tell us what the purpose of these meetings is.  The meetings taking place in Rome are not about redefining doctrine or dogma.  The Extraordinary Synod is not about changing the direction the Church has taken for 2000 years.  It is about defining the problems that the family faces in the 21st Century and how the Church should address these problems.

In St. Peter's Square on the eve before the beginning of the Synod, Pope Francis said:
"Let us invoke openness to a sincere, open and fraternal exchange of views, that it might lead us to take pastoral responsibility for the questions that this changing time brings with it, Let them fill our heart, without ever losing peace, but with serene trust that in his time the Lord will not fail to lead us back to unity."
Notice the words of the Holy Father which imply that the Church is not walking in unity on many of these issues right now, but as His Holiness says, we should never lose peace but have "serene trust that in his time the Lord will not fail to lead us back to unity."

"Doesn't the history of the church perhaps tell us of so many analogous situations, that our fathers knew how to overcome with stubborn patience and creativity?" 
We must lend an ear to the rhythm of our time and perceive the odor of people today, that we might be imbued with their joys and hopes, their sadness and anxiety: at that point we will be able credibly to propose the good news on the family.
Pope Francis wants everyone to have their say, even and maybe most especially those whose views do not conform to Church teaching.  He admonished those who do stand by Church teaching to listen with "humility."

Pope Francis continued this theme on the first day of the Extraordinary Synod in his opening message.  From a portion of his opening remarks [HERE]:
A basic general condition is this: to speak clearly. No one must say: “This can’t be said; he will think of me this way or that …” It is necessary to say everything that is felt with parrhesia [to speak boldly]. After the last Consistory (February 2014), in which there was talk of the family, a Cardinal wrote to me saying: too bad that some Cardinals didn’t have the courage to say some things out of respect for the Pope, thinking, perhaps, that the Pope thought something different. This is not good; this is not synodality, because it is necessary to say everything that in the Lord one feels should be said, with human respect, without fear. And, at the same time, one must listen with humility and receive with an open heart what the brothers say. Synodality will be exercised with these two attitudes. 
Therefore, I ask you, please, for these attitudes of brothers in the Lord: to speak with parrhesia and to listen with humility.
And do so with much tranquillity and peace, because the Synod always unfolds cum Petro et sub Petro, and the Pope’s presence is the guarantee for all and protection of the faith.
With that last statement, Pope Francis is reminding the Church that no matter what may be said, we should not allow this to distress us in any way because through the Pope, the Holy Spirit will still be there guiding and leading the Church, "and the Pope’s presence is the guarantee for all and protection of the faith."  The approach that Pope Francis is taking seems to me to be that of a doctor who wants his patient to describe all of his symptoms, not holding anything back.  Like a good doctor, Pope Francis realizes that the Church cannot help people heal if she does not understand exactly what is causing their illness.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Catholic blogosphere seem not to believe this.  They feel that if everything is not going just as they feel it should, then the Pope is as far off the rails as the rest of Church hierarchy, and we don't even have to listen to the Holy Father.

The blogosphere has now concentrated their criticism of the Synod on the working document that was released, the "Relatio" as it is being called. You may read the entire document HERE, and I would suggest you do so. Yes, there are some very controversial statements in it, which Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa has said, "The message has gone out that this is what the synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying. It's not what we're saying at all."[HERE]   However, along with these controversial statements are also some very profound statements, such as that quoted above.

How can there be such disparity in this document? Because this document is essentially a very broad summary of the different topics discussed so far at the Synod and the views and opinions of those involved in the discussion. It is in not in any sense an official document of the Church. Yes, the secular media is running with it, but that still does not give the document any true authority. This document is essentially talking points, the basis for discussion, just as requested by Pope Francis. 

One of those leading the charge against the bishops at the Synod is, as could easily be predicted, Michael Voris. In his reports so far concerning the Synod, he has described the bishops there as "assorted wicked bishops, bishops who wear the robes but are, as Our Blessed Lord said, 'ravenous wolves.'" He is telling us that there is a "Holy War in Rome", with bishop against bishop.  He slandered specific bishops, such as Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who Voris says "is no friend of the Church’s teachings regarding the reception of Holy Communion by Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried without having their previous marriage annulled."  

Voris assails and condemns the bishops with the following:
There is no doubt about it—no denying it any longer, Church-of-Nice defenders—the homosexual agenda has arrived full throttle in Rome, carried in by various bishops under the guise of mercy, charity, welcoming, etc. in their modernist baggage.
And this also must be said very clearly: There are bishops and cardinals in this Synod who no longer believe the Catholic Faith. They don’t sound Catholic, they don’t speak Catholic, they don’t think Catholic.
What purpose does this rhetoric serve except to divide brethren and turn them against those appointed by the Holy Spirit to watch over their souls? It would seem that Michael Voris has no interest in listening to anything or anyone that might suggest that the Church is not in a death spiral. He picks and chooses his facts. He made the following comment:
There hasn’t been one word here of sin, the need to take up one’s cross, sacrifice, conversion, confession, or anything of the like.
First of all, Michael Voris has no idea what specifics have or have not been discussed in the Synod because the discussions have all been behind closed doors.

Secondly, the document release by the Synod, proves him wrong.

Paragraph 14 specifically mentions the Cross:
14. Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross.
Paragraph 12 quotes Pope Francis about the great need to turn towards Christ:
12. In order to “walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ, to pause in contemplation and in adoration of His Face. ... Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (Pope Francis, Address of 4 October 2014). Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God.
The need for conversion is mentioned in paragraph 28:
28. For this reason, what is required is a missionary conversion: it is necessary not to stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people’s real problems. It must not be forgotten that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in matrimony and the family and, as a result, the transmission of faith from parents to children has often been interrupted. Confronted by a strong faith, the imposition of certain cultural perspectives that weaken the family is of no importance.
Paragraph 35:
The importance of family spirituality and prayer needs to be underlined, encouraging couples to meet regularly to promote the growth of the spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. Meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families, were mentioned as vital in favoring evangelization through the family.
The concluding paragraph puts everything in perspective.  This paragraph tells us that the points raised in the document were from discussions that "took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening."  These discussions were not about answering questions but just the opposite, "to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer..."
58. The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view. All the same the collegial path of the bishops and the involvement of all God’s people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all. This is the wish that from the beginning of our work Pope Francis has extended to us, inviting us to the courage of the faith and the humble and honest welcome of the truth in charity.
Despite this, we have Michael Voris and others telling us that the Church is at war with herself and we will basically have to choose which side we are on.  As Voris says,
If there is anything good to come out of this event so far, it would be that the battle lines are being drawn clearly and that Satan is being exposed.
 And how does Voris know that "Satan is being exposed"?
You know the Enemy is present here, precisely because his name never comes up in anything told to the media, in any documents, speech summaries—anywhere. It’s as though to many of the Fathers of the Synod, he simply doesn’t exist.
Michael Voris is not privy to any of the numerous private meetings that are being held in the Synod. Yet he makes this horrendous accusation because "Satan" is never mentioned in any media documents or summaries. Hey Mikey, these are "summaries", not blow-by-blow descriptions.    Pope Francis told us that we can absolutely trust that the Holy Spirit is very active in Rome right now because "the Synod always unfolds cum Petro et sub Petro, and the Pope’s presence is the guarantee for all and protection of the faith."  I think I will believe the Vicar of Christ before I believe Voris or any of his cohorts.  

Voris tells us:
This isn’t Catholic by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, it doesn’t even rise to the level of bad Protestantism.
Again, Voris makes this horrific accusation based not on any actual knowledge but on reports and summaries, and as I have shown, he has misrepresented even those things which have been made public.  Voris completely discounts the words of Pope Francis and the promise that the Holy Spirit will not desert the Church.

Who is really doing the work of the devil?

Below is a wonderful video by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales of a press conference he did shortly before the Extraordinary Synod began.  He gives an excellent explanation of the process which we are watching:
Could I present you with an image to begin with? The first serious public discussion of the themes of this Synod took place last February at a meeting of the Consistory of Cardinals to which I was admitted as a newly nominated cardinal. I said after that the discussion there had been like an overture. It was something that signaled many of the themes that would be developed in due course. So it moved quickly from theme to theme.

This Extraordinary Synod, I would like to suggest to you, is a first movement of a piece of music. Only a first movement. What will happen after this Synod, there will be a second movement. And that will be the 12 months in between the two Synods of Bishops. Now those of you who know classical movement format, second movements are often more meditative, they're quieter. They're to be listened to perhaps more intently. And I think what goes on throughout the Church worldwide between these two Synods is a very important part of the overall composition.

The third movement, which as you know is often quite dramatic, will be the Ordinary Synod in October 2015. That will be attended by elected members of bishops' conferences.

And then in musical terms there will be a finale, which will be whatever the Holy Father concludes if this Synod follows the normal pattern. So in due course there will be an Apostolic Exhortation such a Evangelii Gaudium. And that will express the mind of the Church through the Pope on the matters that have been talked about.

So it's very important that we understand where this Extraordinary Synod sits in the whole process the Catholic Church worldwide is embarking on.

I would suggest watching the whole video.  It is very enlightening.

Interestingly, today is the feast of the great Saint Teresa of Avila.  One of her most famous quotes is:
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.
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