Saturday, March 22, 2014

Part II: Discussion of Mercy Versus Judgment

This is the second post I am dedicating to answering the comments left by Charlotte B to my post regarding Cardinal Dolan's "Bravo" comment.  I have actually supported Cardinal Dolan in his actions, and Charlotte, like most other Catholics it seems, is in profound disagreement.

Charlotte has asked that we only discuss one issue at a time, e.g. I Corinthians 5 in which St. Paul takes the Corinthians to task for not dispelling a morally depraved member.  I did agree but I have now decided against this.  There is really only one issue that I am interested in because I think understanding this issue is the key to understanding the contemporary Catholic Church.  That issue is "mercy versus judgment."   If we can understand this issue, I believe everything else will fall into place. I will discuss all other matters only as they relate to the "mercy versus judgment" issue.

We have seen the issue of mercy front and center and prominently emphasized in the Catholic Church in the 20th Century and on into the 21st Century in a manner never seen before in the Church's history. Both John XXIII and John Paul II made mercy a central part of their pontificate.  Certainly mercy has always been a part of the Gospel message, but as I have previously pointed out, Blessed Pope John XXIII, in his opening message to the Second Vatican Council, said he felt that mercy was the essential tool that the Church needed to use in reaching the world.  I have already quoted this, but I feel it is so important I want to bring it up again.  The following is from the opening statement of Blessed Pope John XXIII to the Second Vatican Council:
At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.
The fact that Blessed John XXIII very greatly emphasized the message of mercy is especially fascinating because the Divine Mercy message given to St. Faustina was actually suppressed in the Church at the time of Vatican II.  I think this shows the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to spread the message of mercy, a message which is needed now more than at any other time in world history.

Blessed John Paul II at
St. Faustina's tomb in 1997  
The one who was most personally responsible for bringing to the world the message of Divine Mercy as given to St. Faustina was Blessed Pope John Paul II. It was Cardinal Wojtyla's personal efforts before becoming pope that led the Vatican to lift the ban that had been imposed upon the Divine Mercy message from 1959 to 1978. It was Blessed John Paul II who fulfilled the personal command of Jesus Christ to institute Divine Mercy Sunday, an amazing day of grace given to us each year when all of our sins committed up to that time can be completely wiped away. It is no accident or coincidence that JPII died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday. And St. Faustina, the first saint named in the 21st Century, was canonized on the first official Divine Mercy Sunday in the year 2000.

When Pope John Paul II visited St. Faustina's grave in 1997, he spoke of the tremendous importance of Divine Mercy in his pontificate (you can read the entire speech HERE):
"The Message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me. It is as if history had inscribed it in the tragic experience of the Second World War. In those difficult years it was a particular support and an inexhaustible source of hope, not only for the people of Krakow but for the entire nation. This was also my personal experience, which I took with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense forms the image of this Pontificate. I give thanks to Divine Providence that I have been enabled to contribute personally to the fulfilment of Christ's will, through the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy. Here, near the relics of Blessed Faustina Kowalska, I give thanks also for the gift of her beatification. I pray unceasingly that God will have 'mercy on us and the whole world'."
In this same speech, Blessed John Paul II said
"There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy — that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God."
There are many Catholics who find themselves in sharp disagreement with what they perceive to be the erroneous path of Pope Francis, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and others in the hierarchy. One Catholic blogger, who sees herself as a very good and loyal Catholic, actually called Cardinal Dolan a "jackass." There are other Catholic blogs whose main mission now seems to be to warn us all away from the Holy Father. These are Catholics who see themselves as good and loyal sons and daughters of the Church and yet find themselves in direct opposition to the hierarchy of the Church. Sadly, most of these Catholics, rather than looking to our Lord to make things clear, instead choose to condemn those in the hierarchy who are in charge of their souls. I feel this is a very dangerous situation and is putting many souls at risk.

Many Catholics are also now voicing their strong disapproval of the upcoming canonizations of Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, feeling these two popes did more to harm the Church than any good they may have done. Many Catholics feel the Church has become soft on sin. They don't understand statements such as "Who am I to judge." (Pope Francis just recently made this statement a second time.) Isn't it the Pope's job to judge? They don't understand why Pope Francis would say we should not "obsess" about issues such as abortion and homosexuality. Aren't these issues intrinsic evils that are destroying millions, maybe billions, of people physically and spiritually? Wouldn't it be a dereliction of duty as Christians to not talk about these issues?  (There is a big difference between "not talking" and "obsessing".)

The reason I want to answer Charlotte B's comments is because I feel the arguments she brings up are very typical of those used by Catholics who question the direction the Church is taking.  I am hopeful that answering Charlotte's arguments will help us see that understanding Divine Mercy is the key to understanding the role of the Church in our time, which may very well be the most evil time in the history of mankind.

As stated, this is the second post I am making in answer to Charlotte B's objections to my original post on Cardinal Dolan, which you can read HERE.  The first post in answering Charlotte's arguments is HERE.

Up to this point, I think Charlotte and I have been talking past each other. To Charlotte personally, I want to ask that you try to read my statements without any kind of prejudice. I am attempting to answer your arguments in the same way, without judgment and prejudice. Our goal here should not be to "win" the argument, but to seek clarification and to find the truth, because I feel this is essential to salvation. This is not a game or even a debate. It is a sincere search for truth.

Here is Charlotte B's response to me.  My remarks are in blue.

CHARLOTTE:  Hello there again,

I honestly did not think you will write an entire blog post in reply to me but I thank you for taking the time to address my concerns. However, I still do see some problems and I hope you will not be offended in me pointing them out in this post.

First, you said that "It is your opinion that it is bad advice. Cardinal Dolan was most definitely not condoning the sin of homosexuality.".

I think you are forgetting that Cardinal Dolan misused the phrase "though shalt not judge" here. The act of "coming out" and aligning oneself with a certain community is a morally problematic act. The Cardinal did not mention here that homosexuality is a gravely disordered state. Did he? Even if he did, what exactly is the meaning of saying being in a gravely disordered state is "Bravo!!" and "good for him!"? At the least, you would think the Cardinal would say "the person has a tough cross to carry".

So no, the Cardinal's words are guilty of omitting and misrepresenting Church teaching. Is the Cardinal fully culpable for it? That I do not know and even Cardinal Dolan does not know that. We judge acts based on objective culpability so it is irrelevant to even consider that in this case.

ME:  I am wondering if you heard the interview or read the transcript of the interview. If you are interested in reading the transcript, it is HERE.

Here is what Cardinal Dolan said in regard to Church teaching in that same interview:
[M]arriage, between-- one man and one woman forever leading to life and love, that's not something that's just a religious, sacramental concern. You bet it is that, and-- and we-- that's how God has elevated it, to making a sacrament.
But it's also the building block of society and culture. So it belongs to culture. And if-- and if we water down that sacred meaning of marriage in any way, I worry that not only the church would suffer, I worry that culture and society would.
. . .
[S]eeking God and the church, when people seek God, they wanna know what God has taught, all right. And the church's sacred enterprise is not to conform its teaching to the values of the world, all right, as rapidly as they're changing.
The church's sacred task is to call us to conform our behavior to what God has revealed. Now that is tough, especially when the tide of public opinion is against us. But it's against us in a lot of areas-- David, as you will know. You're right. From the-- from the more left side of society, we may be takin' some-- sucker punches because of our views on the redefinition of marriage and the sacredness of human life in the womb. We're takin' it from the other side when it comes to immigration, when it comes to capital punishment, when it comes to the rights of the poor.
And the church more or less shrugs and say, "Look, we don't take our agenda from the polls. We don't take our agenda from what the world is saying. Our agenda is given to us by the God who made us, and we must be faithful to him instead of what we're-- what we're hearing' from the world."
That having been said, a shrewd pastor, and we sure got one in Pope Francis, will know, yeah, but one of the ways we-- we more effectively pass on God's teaching and God's revelation is by being somewhat sensitive to what the world is saying, what the world is feeling.
And so Francis is reminding us, look, if we come across as some crabby, nay-- nay saying shrill, we're not gonna win anybody. If we come across as a loving, embracing-- mother, holy mother church who says, "Come on in. We love you. We need you. We want you. And once you get to know us, then maybe we can invite you to the conversion of heart that is at the-- is at the core of the gospel. And then maybe we can talk about changing behavior. That's a very effective pedagogy.
As you can tell from the above, Cardinal Dolan did not shy away from the teachings of the Church. But when he was asked about Michael Sam, he was basically being asked to judge an individual. What good would it do for Cardinal Dolan to call out any individual, even when he is specifically asked about it? Michael Sam, just because of the fact that he is homosexual, is a very confused and hurting individual. The gay community may talk of "pride", but we know that anyone who is trapped in a sinful life is living in misery, no matter what kind of face they put on for the world to see. Do we add to that misery by telling him he is a sinner headed to hell? All that does is harden that person's will against the truth even more. This is at the heart of the "mercy versus judgment" argument.  Maybe you think that telling someone they are headed for hell is merciful. But when someone is laying in the gutter, the first thing you have to do is help him out of the gutter.  Then you can talk about why he was there in the first place. 

No one on the blogs mentions this, but Cardinal Dolan is on the national board of Courage, the Catholic ministry which helps homosexuals live a chaste life. He has praised this ministry many times.  And I am sure His Eminence has many encounters with gay men and women because of his position. He no doubt has a much better understanding of how they suffer than you and I do.  I think Cardinal Dolan is living the words of Blessed Pope John XXIII, "Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations."

CHARLOTTE:  On the matter of the adulteress, your logic is even more problematic. You presume that you are correct in concluding lack of repentance in the adulteress because her repentance is not written down in Scripture. Seriously? So is the logic of interpreting Scripture to assume what was not mentioned to not exist?

I would think, the rule of Scriptural interpretation suggests that you interpret that passage in a way that does not contradict Church teaching. Church teaching is clear that NO ONE who does not repent can be forgiven of a sin they commit. So Jesus cannot (or more accurately, WILL NOT) forgive the sins of the adulteress if she had not repented. The idea of forgiveness of a personal sin without repentance of that personal sin nonsensical.

ME:  You say that, even though it is not stated in the passage, the woman must have repented because Our Lord could not forgive her otherwise. Your statement has forced me to give this more thought, and for that I thank you.  What actually happened?  Looking closer at this passage, I realize that Christ did not say, "I forgive you." He said, "Neither do I condemn you." That is a big difference. The woman did not receive Christ's forgiveness and absolution. She was the recipient of Christ's mercy. Christ spared her physical life in order to give her a chance to repent.

We are both wrong on this one, Charlotte.  And I think we have both missed a very important point.

When Christ extends His Mercy to us, He is repeating His actions in the story of the woman caught in adultery.  Christ's Mercy says to us, "Neither do I condemn you.  Now go and sin no more."  As you say, we cannot receive forgiveness and absolution until we repent, but Our Lord gives us a chance to repent with every breath we take.  He calls to us constantly through His Great Mercy, just as he did with the woman in the story.  Yes, forgiveness of sins does require repentance, but Christ's love and mercy are completely unconditional.  It is up to us what we do with it.  We are all, in effect, the woman who was caught in adultery. Her story is our story. 

This story actually shows even more the importance and power of Divine Mercy. We cannot even repent unless Christ gives us His Mercy first. That is how important it is. Christ gave us a beautiful definition of His Mercy with the words, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."

CHARLOTTE:  Next you go on to the bread of life discourse and speak about the lack of Eucharistic theology leading to misunderstanding. I am not sure you understand this but the Church has always used John 6 to point out that Catholic understanding of the real presence is the true interpretation. The point made by Catholics is that people left because they understood what Jesus was saying and they just didn't like it.

ME:  This is what Christ said to the people, John 6:53-58:
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Yes, of course the Church has always used this scripture to explain the Eucharist.  But we have the advantage of receiving this explanation AFTER the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  I am sure you know that Christ had not yet given the great sacrament of the Eucharist at the time He made this statement in John 6.   It is impossible that anyone could have understood the Eucharist at that point in time because Our Lord had never even talked about it.  I know if someone just out of the blue said to me, "You must eat my body and drink my blood," I would give that person a wide berth.  

You are absolutely incorrect when you say that "people left because they understood what Jesus was saying and they just didn't like it."  The people who heard Christ's statement in John 6  thought they understood what Christ was saying, and because they leaned to their own understanding instead of waiting for Christ to explain (which He did not do until the Last Supper), they left him.  

This, I think, is what is happening with many Catholics in the Church today. There are many Catholics who are convinced that they know pretty much everything they need to know and that their understanding is completely right. So when someone comes along, even a Pope or a Cardinal, and says something that doesn't fit into their understanding, they pounce on it. And they refuse to listen to any other explanation because they are so convinced of their own rightness. This is the foundation of all schismatics and heretics.

I have quoted Isaiah 66:2 many times on this blog: "to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." We need to think and meditate on these words.

CHARLOTTE:  Do you think those who understand what the Church is saying about the Eucharist would find it any less repugnant?

ME:  I don't understand this question.  Are you talking about people in our time or in the time of Christ?  You've confused me on this one.   

CHARLOTTE:  Also, if what you say is true, then Jesus himself is guilty of those who are lost. Why? Because Jesus doesn't bother to clarify himself in the first place. 

ME: Again, your question confuses me.  But I will say this.  Do you believe that we do not have to accept the teachings of the Church and of Jesus Christ unless these teachings have been made crystal clear and we have perfect understanding, and that if we don't understand something completely, it is the fault of those in charge of our souls?  If you do believe that, then you must find it very difficult to be a Christian. 

The Church talks constantly of "mysteries." A mystery is something we don't understand but in the case of Church teaching, we accept and even embrace it anyway. When Our Lord asked Peter if he was leaving with the others and Peter said, where would we go, do you think Peter understood what Jesus was talking about? Most emphatically no. This is where faith comes in. Why would we need faith if we already had perfect understanding?

Jesus did not clarify Himself in John 6, nor did He have any obligation to do so.  God has no obligation to explain anything to us.  He is God, our Creator, and if He says something, it doesn't matter what the extent of our understanding is, we must accept it.  I understand very little of the things of God, but that doesn't mean I don't believe those things.  That is the faith that St. Peter showed in John 6.  

When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, do you think Abraham understood this?  Of course not.  But because God said to do it, Abraham obeyed, and for that he is called the father of the faithful. It was only after he obeyed that Abraham understood why God told him to sacrifice Isaac.   That is the kind of faith we, as followers of Christ must demonstrate as well.

CHARLOTTE:  Now you ask me what you have done wrong with the interpretation of the thieves. What you have done, as with the case of the adulteress is assume information from what is not mentioned. You assume in both cases that repentance was lacking due to it not being explicitly mentioned. That is just as absurd as assuming there was repentance by taking the passage alone.

You have to look in to Scripture to see what are the conditions laid out for forgiveness of sins. Instead, you decide to extract conditions from ambiguous situations like the above. That is bad theology.

ME:  In Matthew 27:44 we are told, "And in the same way, the criminals on the crosses beside Jesus also insulted him."  This shows that at the beginning, both thieves were mocking Jesus.  

Luke 23:39-43 tells us of the conversion of Dismas:
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This is what I wrote in regard to the thieves on the cross:
I will give one more example from the Gospels. This concerns Christ's last moments on earth as a mortal human being. He was dying on the cross surrounded by two thieves. At the beginning of the crucifixion, both thieves mocked and insulted him. However, as the afternoon progressed, one thief, known as Dismas, had a complete change of heart. He rebuked the other thief and then reached out to the dying Christ and said, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
What brought about this complete transformation, one so complete that Christ promised Dismas he would be in heaven that day? Dismas watched as Our Lord was surrounded by those cheering on his death, and Dismas saw Christ respond not with condemnation but with love and forgiveness. And even when the thieves were mocking him, Christ did not rebuke them in any way. The only rebuke they received from Christ was the lack of condemnation. Would Dismas have repented so completely if Our Lord had instead turned to him and said, you are a sinner and you need to repent? This would have much more likely pushed him completely into his sin and he would have spiritually perished.
Everything I wrote there is taken directly from the Gospels.  I did not "extract" anything.  You may say that I am "extracting" when I say that Jesus did not rebuke anyone from the Cross. But as a Catholic, you know that among the seven last words from the Cross were, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."  That sure doesn't sound like Christ was rebuking anyone.

In no way did I say that Dismas did not repent. He most certainly did repent. But I am saying that the reason he repented is because he saw the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. As stated in my post, if Christ had turned to him with judgment and condemnation, it is highly unlikely that he would have repented.

If you think it was something other than mercy that converted Dismas, I would love to have your explanation, because there doesn't seem to be anything else in the Gospels.  

CHARLOTTE:  Now you proceed to 1 Corinthians 5 and state that the issue was that the Corinthians were proud of him. I think you are missing the point that St. Paul is mad because they were actually tolerating this person in the community. If his problem was just with them feeling proud about him, why doesn't he simply ask to refrain from taking such pride? Instead, he asks that the individual be REMOVED from the community.

Let me quote it to you.

"For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgement in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord."

Also, did you catch the word "judgement" in there?

Cardinal Dolan said a person who is suffering from a gravely disordered state as being "good for him!". Then he said it is not his place to judge. One has to wonder if he is from the same line of succession as the first Apostles if one did not know better.

ME:  In I Corinthians 4, just before chapter 5 which you cite, St. Paul wrote:
Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
It seems that the Corinthians had a real problem with arrogance and pride, because as I stated, this was a major part of the problem in how they were dealing with the sinner in their midst.  You quoted a part of this scripture passage.  These are the verses that come before your quote:
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you."
And the verses following your quoted passage:
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
St. Paul actually seems much more angry with the Corinthians and the way they handled this situation than he is with the man in question. As stated in my first answer to you, the Corinthians had actually accepted the sin of this man and were applauding it. This is the total opposite of mercy because they were participating in the man's destruction, which was leading to their own destruction. The Corinthians thought they had complete understanding. They thought they knew what was best, and it was destroying them and the man involved in the sin. The situation in the Corinthian church had degenerated into such a terrible state that everyone's soul was in peril, so St. Paul had no choice but to step in and make a judgment. As he said in Chapter 4, he would much prefer to come "in love and with a gentle spirit."

As far as using this passage to say Cardinal Dolan should have judged Michael Sam, who is not a Catholic, St. Paul wrote this in verse 13: "For what have I to do with judging outsiders." The church most definitely must deal with sinners within her midst, but St. Paul says it is not up to us to judge those outside of the church. Based on this passage, I don't think St. Paul would have judged Michael Sam any more than Cardinal Dolan did.

CHARLOTTE:  Next you try to wriggle your way out of the Pharisee dilemma. Let's get this straight. The Pharisees are your common man today. They sin but they believe they are sinless because what they are doing is not a sin.

Even if you don't understand this, the Pharisees were guilty of the sin of hypocrisy and Jesus laid in to them pretty bluntly and publicly. So that means sinners can most certainly be reproved and rebuked publicly. Jesus has set the trend himself. To go and then try to exclude the "sin of thinking I am sinless" from the list of sins to create a special privilege for the Pharisees is just deluding oneself.

ME:  It took me a while to understand what you are saying, but I think I understand now. You are saying that every one in the world is a pharisee because, like the pharisees, sinners refuse to recognize their own sin. Since everyone is a pharisee, then everyone is subject to public rebuke.  At least, I think that is what you are saying, and that is pretty much missing the point our Lord was making.

This is what I wrote:
It is interesting to note that the only ones to whom our Lord ever said any words of condemnation were the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day who held themselves out as sinless and showed no mercy or compassion to anyone else. Never once did our Lord condemn any of those we would consider great sinners, such as this woman in the story. Our Lord did not even condemn Judas, the one who betrayed him. However, you can be sure that if Christ was walking the earth in our time and acted towards "sinners" as shown in the Gospels, the Catholic blogosphere would, in no uncertain terms, label Him as an apostate who is destroying the teachings of the church.
Our Lord publicly condemned the Pharisees because of their self righteousness and lack of compassion and mercy. I added that they felt themselves to be sinless, and that was part of what our Lord condemned. But you trying to say that Our Lord will condemn only those who refuse to recognize their sin. That just makes no sense. I think it has much more to do with the kind of sin we are involved in than if we recognize it.

As Jesus told the pharisees, it will go easier for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them. Is that because those in Sodom and Gomorrah were more aware of and willing to admit their sins? I hardly think so. Our Lord was saying that sins of moral depravity and great character defects, as bad as they are, are not as evil as the sin of self righteousness. When someone is convinced of their own righteousness, then they are completely blocking God out of their lives. When the Pharisee stands before God and says, "See how great I am, not like this poor sinner," he has effectively blocked God out of his life. He does not see the need for mercy or forgiveness. As our Lord said, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." We cannot expect mercy from God unless we show it to others.

From St. Faustina's diary:
I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it (Diary, 742).
CHARLOTTE:  You also quote to me Bl. John XXIII (soon to be saint), and his opening address. Do I need to remind you that opening statements of councils are not infallible and not even meant to be of teaching or binding variety? I am sure the Council of Nicea had some Arians giving interesting opening speeches. Do you think that makes it teaching?

ME:  I have to say that I think it is highly inappropriate and disrespectful, to say the least, to compare the words of Blessed (soon to be Saint) Pope John XXIII to heretics. If you want to reject the words of a pope, and not even consider the merits of these words just because you don't like what is being said, then I just don't know what to say to you. I get really tired of hearing that the pope's words are "not infallible." This seems to be a convenient excuse for anyone who does not want to accept what a pope is saying.

CHARLOTTE:  You then go on to quote how we must not condemn the sinner. We can't condemn the sinner to eternal punishment. However, some sins require us to condemn them to temporal punishments and rebuke. Murder for an example is one of them. A person who murders without remorse cannot be allowed to roam free so that he will figure it out soon. One act of murder and act of repentance is enough to throw him in jail to safe guard others.

Same with public sins like adultery, fornication and disordered sexual activity etc. 

ME:  Charlotte, you are really obscuring the issues here.  We are not talking about what society must do to punish those who commit criminal acts.  And as far as publicly condemning those who live immoral lives, I can only repeat Christ's words, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." 

CHARLOTTE:  Your idea of Divine Mercy is fine but you don't seem to understand the distinction between temporal decision making and judging the eternal fate. There is no issue in being severe temporally and leaving judgement to God.

ME:  From the diary of St. Faustina:
Today – Jesus told her – I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. It is not my desire to punish hurting mankind, but to heal it, press it to My merciful Heart (Diary, 1588)
You have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for granting mercy. (Diary 635).
“My daughter. Speak to the world about My Mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end of times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them.
“Tell My priests that hardened sinners will repent on hearing their words when they speak about My unfathomable mercy, about the compassion I have for them in My Heart. To priests who proclaim and extol My mercy, I will give wondrous power; I will anoint their words and touch the hearts of those to whom they speak.” (1521)
CHARLOTTE:  You also conclude with a long description of how "this is the time for mercy". It is always and has always been a time for mercy. The issue here is that you have framed "mercy" as "not upsetting sinners" which is a novel concept that the Church has never held in the past. How did that come about? How is it even possible to reconcile with the Jesus that rebukes Pharisees or John the Baptist that rebukes Herod in public? Are we better than Jesus and St. John the Baptist now?

ME:  I think the best answer to this is from the encyclical on mercy by Blessed Pope John Paul II entitled, "On Divine Mercy". You can read the entire encyclical HERE.
It is significant that, when the messengers sent by John the Baptist came to Jesus to ask him: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk 7:19) Jesus answered them by referring to the same testimony with which He has begun his teaching at Nazareth: “Go and tell John what it is that you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the good news preached to them.” Then he concluded: “And blessed is he who takes no offense at me!” (Lk 7:22-23).
Especially by His life-style and His actions, Jesus showed that love is present in the world in which we live. This love is an effective love, a love that turns to man and embraces everything that makes up his humanity. This love is especially recognized in contact with suffering, injustice and poverty encompassing the whole historical “human condition,” which in various ways shows man’s limitation and frailty, both physical and moral. It is exactly in this way and with this scope that love is revealed and called “mercy” in the language of the bible.
Christ then reveals God, who is Father, who is “love,” as St. John will express in his letter (1 Jn 4:16); Christ reveals God as “rich in mercy,” as we read in St. Paul (Eph 2:4). This truth is not just the subject of a teaching, but its a reality made present to us by Christ. Making the Father present as love and mercy is, in Christ’s own consciousness, the fundamental proof of His mission as the messiah. He points this out by the words He uttered first in the synagogue in Nazareth and later in the presence of His disciples and the messengers of John the Baptist.
On the basis of this way of making present God who is Father of love and mercy, Jesus makes mercy one of the principal topics of His preaching. As usual, He primarily teaches “in parables,” because they best explain the essence of things. It is enough to recall the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32) or the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37), but also by way of contrast, consider the parable of the merciless servant (Mt 18:23-25). However, there are many passages in the teaching of Christ that show love –mercy under some ever new aspect. We need only consider the Good Shepherd, who goes in search of the lost sheep (Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:8-10). St. Luke is the evangelist who distinguishes himself in the number of times he treats mercy in the teaching of Christ and so his Gospel has earned forever the title: “The Gospel of Mercy.”
CHARLOTTE:  Mercy requires you to upset sinners. In fact, sometimes it requires you to do so for the sake of others so that others may not be mislead. [I understand what you are saying, but this does not conform to the definition of mercy given by Jesus Christ.]

I think what needs to happen is that you need to realize the great Saints and Popes of the past were actually merciful. What is new today is that people are trying to invent a new concept of Mercy and equate it with "though shalt not upset others". That is not Mercy but a recipe to cater to ones own egotistic self esteem and pride. [You are twisting my words, Charlotte.]

If a person has an adverse reaction to being rebuked, I think you are forgetting that the person is then guilty of the sin of pride as well. The correct thing to do is to humbly accept criticism even when it may be overblown. But no, you insist that we cater to this pride and build it up even more and THAT is "Mercy". [Again, you are twisting my words.  I am not implying this in any way.]

I hope you at least write a post to back up the idea that Mercy = "Though shalt not upset" because that it not intuitive to me and I am sure to many others.  [Read the Diary of St. Faustina.  That will give you answers if you are really seeking for them]

ME:  Charlotte, I think I could write until I dropped, and you would just keep bringing up the same arguments as you have been doing. You won't even accept the words of a pope because you claim they are not infallible. You accuse me of twisting scripture. And you even try to twist my own words against me. It doesn't matter what I write, you will reject it because you already have your mind made up.

There was a time when I would have been in complete agreement with you.  I felt that sinners needed to be hit over the head and shown their sin, that this was true mercy.  But I put aside my prejudiced thinking and started humbling listening to the Church.  I had to admit that I was wrong and now find that I am no longer angry or upset.  I believe the words of Jesus Christ to St. Faustina when He said that He is extending His Mercy to everyone who will listen and He wants His Church to do the same in preparation for the day of His Great Judgment, when there will be no mercy.  

Our Lord, in his messages to St. Faustina, made it very clear that now is a time of mercy in the world.  He said the time of judgment is coming when there will be no mercy.  The Church, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is proclaiming this mercy. You have to make the decision for yourself which way you will go.   I know you completely disagree with me, but I do hope you will look deeper into the concept of Divine Mercy as given to St. Faustina.  I think it will help you greatly.

You did make me rethink my words, Charlotte and that is always a good thing.  For that I do thank you.  

You may make further comments, which I am sure will not be in agreement with anything I have written, but as far as I'm concerned, our discussion is done. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

My Response to A Comment Regarding Cardinal Dolan

Charlotte B left a comment on my post dealing with Cardinal Dolan's "bravo" comment.  The post is HERE. Below is her comment, with my responses in blue.

I came here from the blog of Elliot Bougis and after reading your conversations with him on the blog.

I want to, out of Catholic charity, point out some problems in your reasoning. 

1) You assert that the Cardinal's comments are fine because none of the prominent gay news outlets seem to think positively or have noticed it. 

But this is a misunderstanding on your part. The fact that the Cardinal gave some bad advise/comment does not suddenly become neutral advise or good advise depending on how the people react to the comment. If anything, you should be thanking God that they did not use his words to further justify sinful acts.

Just as me blaspheming is a bad thing regardless of whether someone gets offended or picks up on it, bad advise is bad advise regardless of ones reaction to it.  

It is your opinion that it is bad advice.  Cardinal Dolan was most definitely not condoning the sin of homosexuality. He made that clear in other parts of the interview. But he said we are told by the Bible that we are not to judge. The gay community knew exactly what Cardinal Dolan was doing. His point was not to condone homosexuality but to not condemn an INDIVIDUAL about whom he knows nothing, and by doing so, the worst that can be said is that he overcompensated. It is amazing that so few Catholics can understand this. 

2) Jesus acted like Cardinal Dolan in the case of Adultery

Here there are lots of misunderstandings.

You claim that the Adulteress did not show signs of repentance. Well, does the gospel describe her attitude to you? That she seemed pretty obstinate about carrying out her adulterous ways and had identified herself with a community that is out to justify the act of adultery around the world as a good thing? All I see here is you reading back your own views in to the gospels. 

There is nothing in story to indicate that the adulterous woman had repented in any way. This is a story of great mercy shown by our Lord who refused to condemn a sinner.  Cardinal Dolan who, as stated, made it very clear in the rest of the interview that he does not condone homosexuality, nonetheless showed mercy and compassion to an individual trapped in this sin.  As I have written, the gay community got this message loud and clear. Many Catholics, who are suppose to be channeling the mercy and love of Jesus Christ to the world, seem totally unable to understand this great message. 

You do the same with the thieves during the crucifixion. 

You need to expand on that.  Just making a statement as  you have makes it impossible to respond. What have I read into the story of Dismas that is not there?

Yet, you also forget the positive examples of public rebuke by St. John the Baptist of Herod. You are forgetting that this is the man who Jesus hailed as the greatest prophet. But you have forgotten these passages.

John the Baptist is hailed as  the last of the Old Testament prophets. At the time John the Baptist preached, the Old Covenant was still in force.  That is not to say that his message is to be dismissed. Sin definitely needs to be pointed out, and there are times when a sinner has to be publicly called out. But there is something new which Christ instituted in the New Covenant, and that is mercy, which He exercised constantly in His earthly ministry. There was no mercy under the Old Testament. Our Lord brought a new way, a way of mercy and forgiveness. I think some Catholics feel we are still under the Old Covenant, and that sinners should be at least spiritually stoned.

We can also look a little deeper in to the New Testament. You seem to have missed St. Paul's chastising of the Corinthian community in 1 Corinthians 5 regarding their inaction toward the sinner in sexual immorality. 

That is a good point, but look at the passage, I Corinthians 5, especially verse 2:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?
The Corinthians were actually celebrating this man's sin. There is a huge difference between showing mercy and celebrating sin. That is not mercy at all but actually joining in the destruction of a sinner. This is what St. Paul was condemning.  This man's sin had infected the rest of the congregation to the extent that they no longer recognized that the actions of this man were wrong.  The Corinthians had in effect become part of the sin.  When it gets to that point, there is no choice but to put such a sinner outside the congregation.  You could argue, and of course many have argued, that Cardinal Dolan's "bravo" was a celebration of sin. However, LifeSiteNews, in an article entitled, "Cardinal Dolan applauds football player for ‘coming out’, but didn’t back homosexuality: Diocese", reported the next day:
"The Archdiocese of New York has told LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Timothy Dolan's decision to congratulate a homosexual football player for coming out of the closet did not mean the cardinal “was unconcerned about Church teaching on homosexual activity.”

This is far different from the incident reported by St. Paul in I Corinthians. Cardinal Dolan has most definitely distanced himself from the sin of homosexuality, and the gay community knows it.  

As I pointed out in the comment section of Elliott's blog, Blessed Pope John XXIII made a rather astounding statement in his opening message to Vatican II:
"At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations."
This is where I say we need to look at the message of Divine Mercy. This does not mean condoning sin, but it does mean NOT condemning the sinner. As shown in the example of the thieves crucified with Jesus, not everyone will respond to mercy, and Our Lord says through St. Faustina that those who do not accept His Mercy will then have to face His terrible judgment. But He is the judge, not us.

We can also look at the history of the Church and find ample examples where heretics were rebuked publicly by the Saints when to do so threatened their own life.

See above.

There is also an elephant in the room that you are missing. You have conveniently forgotten about the Pharisees in the gospels. Perhaps you conveniently identified them as "NOT SINNERS". So you forgot how Jesus himself very publicly rebuked them multiple times.

You need to re-read my post. I said the Pharisees identified themselves as sinless. Our Lord, in contrast, said they were the greatest of sinners. And they were the only sinners He ever publicly condemned. He most definitely rebuked them many times. That was my point entirely.

I think it is safe to say that you are lacking some understanding here and trying perhaps a bit too hard to justify what is clearly scandalizing.

The mercy of God is all about separating the sinner from the sin.  It is saying that what you are doing, the sin you are involved in, is wrong.  If you persist in this sin, you will be condemned.  But Our Lord offers you His Loving Mercy and Forgiveness.  I like the way Cardinal Dolan put it:
"And so Francis is reminding us, look, if we come across as some crabby, nay saying shrill, we’re not gonna win anybody. If we come across as a loving, embracing holy mother church who says, “Come on in. We love you. We need you. We want you. And once you get to know us, then maybe we can invite you to the conversion of heart that is at the core of the gospel. And then maybe we can talk about changing behavior. That’s a very effective pedagogy."
3) Jesus spoke in a confusing way as well.

Hmm, did he? The bread of life discourse in John 6 was pretty straight forward. Jesus meant what he said and people left because they couldn't accept it. If he was misunderstood, why did he not stop them and explain?

The statement of "eat my body, drink my blood" was easily understood at the time Jesus said it?!  Are you serious?!  No one had any concept of the Eucharist at that time. Our Lord had not even introduced it yet. This statement was completely incomprehensible at the time Jesus said it, and those who stayed did so despite the fact that they did not understand. Jesus did not expect anyone to understand this at the time He said it because it was not possible.  But he knew that those who truly had faith in him would not leave despite the confusing nature of his statement.

Second, Jesus has already given the revelation to the Church. The duty of these men is not to give you some new revelation that has not yet been understood. It is to rather pass down and explain what has already been said. To that extent, the Cardinal (and many others prelates in our age) failed because he seemed to not explain Church teaching too well. 

You are pointing to one part of the interview where Cardinal Dolan refused to condemn an individual. He made the teachings of the Church very clear in rest of the interview. As stated, the gay community got the message loud and clear. Why don't you?

Divine Mercy is not new. As I have abundantly shown, Our Lord exemplified this in His earthly ministry. There is no new teaching. What is new, as Blessed Pope John XXIII explained, is how the Church relates to sinners, and this great message was given by Jesus Himself to St. Faustina, who was then to give it to the world.

I have truly come to believe that the reason so many Catholics do not understand the Church of our time, and the reasons why so many find statements by Pope Francis and here by Cardinal Dolan so confusing is because they do not understand that now is the time of Mercy, as Our Lord explained to Sister Faustina.  Our Lord told St. Faustina that He is returning soon as judge, but before that terrible day of judgment, He is giving us a time of mercy, when all who come to Him will be forgiven their sins.  No one is denied mercy at this time.  

"Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than asked. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice. . ." (Diary 1146)

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