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Lapsed Catholics, come back

Sheila Cassidy’s new book ‘Confessions of a Lapsed Catholic’ points to a faith that has not matured

By on Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lapsed Catholics, come back

Sheila Cassidy, the doctor who was tortured in Chile in the 1970s, has written another book. It is called Confessions of a Lapsed Catholic and although its title naturally depresses me, I thought it worth a blog – if only to disagree with her conclusions.

When I describe Dr Cassidy as a ‘liberal Catholic’ I am not launching into an ad hominem attack on her. She sounds warm, funny, kind-hearted and generous. But her thinking on matters Catholic is seriously muddled. One of the reasons she has given up being a practising Catholic is that she is angry with the Church for being – well, the Church.

She asks: “Why can’t Anglicans receive Communion?”

She comments: “Roll on the day when Catholic priests may get married and when women can become priests.”

“The Men in Rome…who work in the Vatican and who write the rules” make her furious on the subject of condoms and contraceptives: what do they know of life, love and relationships? “Where has the institutional Church gone wrong?” Etc etc.

Her problem, as is always the case with the liberals, is that they try to drive a wedge between Christ (a good thing) and the Church (a bad thing), not realising that you cannot separate the two. Blessed John Henry Newman answered Dr Cassidy over a century ago, when the liberals were beginning to raise their cacophony of voices: “And I hold in veneration/ for the love of Him alone/Holy Church as His creation/and her teachings as His own.”

We don’t go to weekly Mass to feel good; often the liturgy is patchy, the homily irritates, other people in the pews are distracting and our thoughts keep sneaking to the Sunday roast. If we have young children, the effort to keep them quiet is exhausting. What do we ‘get out of it?’ Nothing except the knowledge that we are doing what God asks us to do. One step enough for me.

The good Doctor now finds God more in other people, animals, poetry, the sunset and in life around her than in the tabernacle. Tell that to Mother Teresa: it was because she spent hours in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament each morning that she was given the strength to find God in ‘the poorest of the poor’ and doubtless in all the other places where Sheila Cassidy finds him.

Without being too psychological, I think one of Cassidy’s problems is that her faith has not matured. She rejects the God of fear who sends people to hell for eternity if they deliberately miss Sunday Mass – the God she was taught about in childhood. What she needs is time with an orthodox Catholic psychotherapist (if such a person exists) who can guide her through this distorted idea of God. And perhaps she should tune in to Michael Voris on You Tube, about whom William Oddie has blogged so well today. I have long been a follower of Michael Voris; whenever I don’t ‘feel’ like praying, going to Mass, being faithful to the other Sacraments, such as Confession, he always gives me a shot in the arm: a good, strong and succinct reason for staying with the Church.

Recently I blogged about the author Anne Rice. She, like Cassidy, is now a lapsed Catholic because the rules of ‘the institutional Church’ have offended her. I would say to both of them: Come back; the Church is much wiser than we are; she knows we need the rules in order not to fall apart; and behind the rules is the infinitely loving God that we all long to know and love in return.

  • Anne Rice

    For some of us, it is quite impossible to return to the Roman Catholic Church.
    And I certainly think it is entirely possible and necessary to separate Jesus from
    this Church. The church itself has separated itself from Jesus.
    I know no way of saying this gently: the Roman Catholic Church is immoral
    today. Whether it always was, I cannot say, but I can say that it teaches
    immoral teachings today, and I cannot support what I see as rank immorality.
    I am not speaking of the Clergy abuse scandal.
    I'm speaking of the corrupt and immoral theology written by the church
    in the Twentieth century.
    Thanks for your comments.

  • Brencel

    Jesus said “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) Going to hell for missing Mass appears to contradict this statement.

  • Rory

    But Anne, the Church's teachings of this century are the same as they were in the first century. That is the point of the magisterium…to safeguard the teaching “in season and out of season”.
    With due respect for the journey that you are on, I have read some of your reactions to church teaching and I am not convinced that you are interpreting them as they are intended.
    We miss you…and bless you!

  • EditorCT

    Any sin, to be mortal, that is, deadly to and for the soul, has to be (1) grave matter (something very serious indeed) (2) deliberate (3) committed freely, by one's own free choice.

    Given that the very first Commandment of God is to worship Him, then we have a very grave duty to worship Him. We either believe that God means what He says or we don't; we either believe that God cannot lie or we don't. If we believe the Church is a purely human institution then we can take or leave her “rules” but if we believe that Christ invested His Church with His own authority, to make and change (certain) rules (“to bind and loose”) then we must see that the Church command to attend weekly Mass in order to obey the Commandments to worship God and to keep holy the Sabbath, are very serious commandments indeed. So the “matter” – the “thing” of the sin – attending Mass – is very grave matter indeed. So, condition number one is fulfilled. Missing Mass is very grave matter.

    And, if we deliberately refuse to attend Mass – to keep the Commandments to worship God and keep holy the Sabbath – we have fulfilled two of the three conditions for making our sin, deadly.

    Finally, if we have chosen to miss Mass deliberately and freely of our own free will, then we have fulfilled the third condition – we have, therefore, objectively committed a mortal sin. And yes, if we die with even one unrepented mortal sin on our soul, we will go to Hell. It was, remember, only one mortal sin (of our first parents) that brought God made man onto this earth to suffer and die for us.

    As for this business of not liking the rules, this growing arrogance is evident everywhere, not just in Dr Cassidy.

    The author of this very interesting article quoted John Henry Newman's beautiful hymn “Firmly I believe and Truly” in which he asserts his faith in the divine institution and authority of the Church. Here's another of my own favourite Newman quotes: “God gave us the Church to save us from unending speculations and reasonings of our own.”

    We have very limited human thinking. We don't think like God thinks. But if we did, for just a second, realise what the Mass is and its power before God, how pleasing it is to God, we wouldn't be at all surprised that one deliberate choice against giving God this perfect worship which He is owed, holds dire consequences for us. If only we understood that it only takes one occasion when we put something else before God, when we slap God in the face, so to speak, by saying “I think this is more important than You, this week” or “It's only Mass…” is enough to damn us, if that “thief in the night” comes for us before we have an opportunity to be absolved or at least make a sincere act of contrition.

    I do have to clarify, however, that I think it is much more difficult to realise this truth for people attending the novus ordo Mass. But for those of us who attend the Traditional Latin Mass, it is not difficult to understand why to deliberately miss Mass is, objectively, a mortal sin.

  • Brencel

    I am aware of all you posted. My point was that what Jesus said in Mark 2:27 appears to contradict church teaching regarding Sunday Mass attendance and mortal sin.

    When you write: “but if we believe that Christ invested His Church with His own authority, to make and change (certain) rules (“to bind and loose”) then we must see that the Church command to attend weekly Mass in order to obey the Commandments to worship God and to keep holy the Sabbath, are very serious commandments indeed” are you saying that the church has changed Jesus’ teaching in Mark 2:27 by exercising the power “to bind and loose”?

  • Samuel

    LOL Anne Rice reads catholic news sources! I wonder, are you a regular reader, or did you type your name into “Google news”, to see what would come up!

  • Ian Logan

    I can't follow this argument. Are you suggesting
    (i) Jesus founded a church, but it is not the Catholic Church. (If it isn't which Church is it?)
    (ii) Jesus founded the Catholic Church, but the church Jesus founded has fallen away, so that there is no longer any church which can be treated as the church Jesus founded. (This seems to suggest that Jesus' foundation of the Church was defective in some way, which has serious implications for how seriously we should take Jesus.)
    (iii) Jesus did not found a church, and therefore there is no significance to the apostolic success. (Presumably you think that is merely an exercise in passing the baton.) That when he says 'Upon this rock I will build my church', Jesus was not talking about a church at all?
    (iv) Jesus founded a church with 21st century liberal pretensions, but kept it hidden until now, since it is only now that we the enlightened generation can follow him as he really wished to be followed in a church which is the church he really wished to found. (There certainly seem to be some candidates for this option.)

  • EditorCT


    It is, generally speaking, a mistake to take a Scripture verse out of context. My quoting of “bind and loose” is given in the context of the entire Scripture revelation of the establishment of the Church by Christ and the various aspects of its authority to teach in His name.

    The context of the verse you quote – Mark 2:27 “The sabbath was made for man, and not for the sabbath” – is a situation in which Jesus was being criticised by the Pharisees because his disciples began to pluck the ears of corn in the cornfields as they were walking along.

    The Church's teaching on keeping holy the sabbath embodies this verse. Always, the Church has taught that it is acceptable – indeed dutiful – to do necessary work on the sabbath. Only servile work – that for which we are paid but is not necessary – is sinful. The Jewish custom of doing absolutely nothing on the sabbath, was being corrected by Jesus. He was clearly teaching them to make necessary distinctions. As long as God is worshipped, as is His right and our duty, then we can do other necessary things on the sabbath. That is the meaning of the verse you cite.

    Clearly, then, that verse in no way undermines the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Obviously, if someone is sick or for some other genuine and grave reason they cannot attend Mass, then there is no sin. I refer you to the conditions for mortal sin – nobody is guilty of mortal sin who does not act deliberately and out of free choice. Someone who, for whatever serious reason, genuinely cannot get to Mass does not sin. There was a time when Catholics in Japan – for 200 years – could not get to Mass. They prayed the Rosary and other prayers, catechized their children and generally kept the Faith alive until they, once again, had priests. That would be an application of the verse you cite but always, unless grave reason exists, we must attend Sunday Mass.

    And there is now, of course, the added complication for so many Catholics who, on studying the history and content of the new Mass, feel conscience bound not to attend. For them, if there is no traditional Latin Mass available, they are in something of the same condition as those Japanese Catholics.

    But that, I think, is a debate for another thread.

  • SS1

    If your devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass depends so much on the language in which it is celebrated, and various aspects of the form of the rite, rather than the unspeakably wonderful and objectively true fact that the Sacrifice of Calvary is made present to God's people, and bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, then I respectfully suggest that you reflect further on what is the essence of the Mass. Please do not use the scandal and grave sin of people missing Mass as a vehicle to further your liturgical agenda (and I write as someone who loves the Latin Mass, in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms).

  • EditorCT


    If you understand anything of the debate on the changes to the Mass, you will know that it is NOT about “language” but about doctrine. Those who changed the Mass made unequivocal statements to the effect that they wanted to change the Mass so that it would attract Protestants. The concept of the Mass as Sacrifice is, to Protestants, an abomination. Perhaps you should check out some of the facts about the Mass changes to better appreciate the problems some Catholics have with it. If you check out the Mass page on the Catholic Truth website you will find some solid information although that page is by no means exhaustive of the subject.

    And if you read, again, the conditions for mortal sin, you will have to re-consider labelling everyone who misses Mass as being guilty of scandal and grave sin. There are people who believe that it is a sin to attend the new Mass due to the changes from Catholic to Protestant theology – and if you remember that Cardinals, including the renowned Cardinal Ottaviani, described the new Mass as a grave departure from Catholic theology of the Mass, you will, perhaps, realise that it is precisely because of their belief in what is the essence of the Mass that prevents them, in good conscience, from attending the novus ordo.

    It always strikes me as curious that people can say they love the Mass in both old and new forms, when the very purpose for creating the new form was to rip out the very heart of the (old) Mass (as the Sacrifice of Calvary) so much so that, as the Consilium expert FrJoseph Gelineau, S.J. stated: “Let it be candidly said: the Roman Rite which we have known hitherto no longer exists. It is destroyed.”

  • EditorCT

    Anne Rice,

    You are entirely wrong to say that it is possible and necessary to separate Jesus from His Church. Christ Himself told his first apostles “He that hears you, hears Me.”

    The Catholic Church is NOT and CANNOT be immoral. The Church is holy because Christ is holy.

    I have no idea what “corrupt and immoral theology” you think was written by the Church in the 20th century, but you are wrong. Don't listen to the anti-Catholic propaganda which is par for the course these days. The Church cannot teach anything new. Moral teachings on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, for example, have always been held, everywhere and in every society, as being evil. Only in our times, have these things been made out to be good things, even having laws introduced to make them appear to be good. But under Nazi Germany, putting Jews and other minorities – including Catholics – into concentration camps was legal. Doesn't make something right just because it's legal.

    The Church is God's mouthpiece and you ignore it at your eternal peril.

  • EditorCT

    Excellent synopsis of the modern gobblydegook that passes for “theology.” Well said.

  • Brencel


    I must remind you that in your first post you stated:

    “if we believe that Christ invested His Church with His own authority, to make and change (certain) rules (“to bind and loose”) then we must see that the Church command to attend weekly Mass in order to obey the Commandments to worship God and to keep holy the Sabbath, are very serious commandments indeed. So the “matter” – the “thing” of the sin – attending Mass – is very grave matter indeed. So, condition number one is fulfilled. Missing Mass is very grave matter.”

    This suggests you believe that it would be a mortal sin to voluntarily miss any form of Sunday Mass authorised by the Church.

    However, you also seem to be suggesting that when it comes to the “form” of the Mass that conscience is the deciding factor not the Church on whether one should attend Sunday Mass. Is this a correct understanding of your posts?

  • EditorCT


    The Church right now is in a crisis. We are in a state of emergency. Things, therefore, are not quite so black and white as we would like.

    Who would ever have thought, in the 1950s or 60s, that the the Mass that the martyrs gave their lives for, would be discarded in favour of what Pope Benedict himself describes as “a banal on-the-spot production”?

    So, no, I am not saying what you attribute to me. What I AM saying is that in this state of emergency, those people who are aware of the seriousness of the Mass changes and who feel, therefore, that they cannot in good conscience attend the new Mass, cannot be judged in the same way as someone who just decides they don't want to attend Mass on Sundays. They are, in a sense, in the same situation as a parent with a sick child, who, in the absence of help, has to choose between attending the sick infant and going to Mass. Hobson's Choice.

    Comprenez vous the noo?

  • Brencel


    I think the church crisis concerns 1) whether people obey church teaching completely or 2) whether they use their consciences.

    If you believe 1) is correct then you must attend Sunday Mass if you can or you commit a mortal sin; no matter what form of Mass is presented.

    If you are in favour of 2) then you must inform your conscience and proceed accordingly.

    The primacy of conscience rules for non-infallible church teaching. Whether or not Sunday Mass non-attendance is a mortal sin or not depends on the fallibility of the teaching. 1) applies if it is an infallible teaching. If it is not an infallible teaching then conscience has primacy.

    Life would be a lot simpler for Catholics if a definitive list of infallible teachings could be compiled. Unfortunately, the only teachings in the last couple of centuries that are agreed to be infallible are those on the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, because they were clearly stated, ex cathedra, to be infallible. No two Cardinals or Bishops appear to be able to agree on whether other teachings are infallible or not.

  • RJ

    Sorry, I don't find this appeal to an emergency situation convincing. It seems to be a way of avoiding the authority of the Church.

  • Ratbag

    Dr Cassidy and Anne Rice take note: THE CAFETERIA HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY CLOSED FOR AGES! You can't pick and choose what you like and don't like about the Church just to suit yourselves. Leave the wisdom of what is best for the Church to The Holy Spirit – not wooly-brained trendies who follow the fashions!

    The Roman Catholic Church is more far sighted than you give it credit for.

  • EditorCT

    Well, in that case you need to write to the Vatican and get them to eliminate the possibility of an emergency situation from Canon Law. If you are serious about obeying the lawful authority of the Church, you cannot ignore Canon Law. Pope John Paul II said that “by its very nature, Canon Law demands obedience.”

  • EditorCT

    Wrong, Brencel. Our Lady appeared at Fatima in 1917 to warn us of the forthcoming crisis in the Church and she said it concerned a “diabolical disorientation” to come.

    Everything is turned upside down, which is why we now have the Vatican celebrating pagan festivals like Diwali. Considering that the apostle to India, St Francis Xaver said that all of the gods of the pagans (Hindus) were devils, this is very serous indeed and entirely contradicts what every other pope in history has said about ecumenism. Everything is turned upside down which is why the so called Catholic newspapers (and indeed others) will write about “the schismatic Archbishop Lefebvre” but then write about the Archbishop of Canterbury without identify HIM as a schismatic – the former is no schismatic, the latter is, by definition, a schismatic. That is not to get into a debate about the SSPX – their situation is now clear-cut, so no point, but to point to one of many examples of this diabolical disorientation in the Church today.

    Astonishingly, after taking the high moral ground about obedience to the Church's teaching authority, you fall into the error of believig that only infallibly defined ex cathedral statements are binding. That is not the case. When the Popes repeat a teaching always held by the Church, then that is binding. Hence contraception, abortion, homosexuality, all the old chestnuts, are infallible and binding on the faithful. Plenty more, of course, but I highlight these. Goodness, no pope has ever made an ex-cathedral statement about the Resurrection, but it is part of the Creed and binding. We cannot reject belief in the Resurrection or we automatically excommunicate ourselves.

    So, your first mistake is to write as though everything were normal in the Church. Allow me to ask you this question: is “obedience” the most important virtue? Or is there another, higher, virtue? Is not fidelity to the Truth more important than obedience? According to St Robert Bellarmine, who teaches the limits of papal authority, it most certainly is and if the Nazi soldiers who hide behind their duty of obedience to authority had understood that, they would not have obeyed the evil orders of their leader.

    We have a duty to protect our souls from danger. If someone believes, honestly, that their soul will be endangered by attending the new Mass, then they have a duty not to attend it – that is the argument and given the state of emergency in the Church, we have to respect their position. After all, if we can respect Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs, Protestants of every hue then surely that is no big deal?

  • RJ

    I am very serious about obeying the lawful authority of the Church. Also serious about not elevating my own personal judgement over that of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him.

  • EditorCT


    It is very good to want to be obedient to the lawful authority of the Church. However, it is crucial to make the distinction between true and false obedient. We are living through a particularly difficult time in the history of the Church and it is more important than ever to know the extent and the limits of papal authority in order to avoid falling into the heresy of idolising the Pope – literally. I think you might find this short article of some use

    God bless.

    ps I'm off pubbing and clubbing now, so nitey nite!

  • FrHeythrop

    “And perhaps she should tune in to Michael Voris on You Tube, about whom William Oddie has blogged so well today”……This is the Michael Voris who argues that only Catholics should be given the vote???

  • Brencel


    Where did I take the high moral ground?

    As I said, and you seem to agree, there have only been a couple of new infallible statements in the last two hundred years; three if we include papal infallibility. All three were already believed to some degree but they were given explicit statements showing all the faithful they were infallible.

    The reason they were given explicit statements is that just because the church teaches something for hundreds of years does not necessarily make that teaching infallible, as was seen in the case of slavery where the church reversed its teaching.

    We have also seen a change in the teaching on contraception in the last century with Natural Family Planning being approved, which is one form of non-abortive contraception.

    Whether voluntary non-attendance at Sunday Mass is a mortal sin is not a question of obedience or truth. It depends on whether or not this is an infallible teaching. If it is then non-attendance is a mortal sin. If it is not an infallible teaching then it is a question of conscience and at most it is a venial sin.

  • EditorCT


    I think my reference to you taking “high moral ground” is very clear in the post above – I simply said that you were one minute waxing eloquent on the importance of obedience to lawful Church authority while at the same time arguing that we only have to obey ex-cathedral pronouncements. That is a contradiction. We are not merely bound to obey ex-cathedra statements. There is plenty of doctrine infallibly defined, that is not “ex-cathedra”.

    Now, I'm very short of time but will quickly respond to the rest of your post before I go into hiding for a bit. Lots of things to do, people to see this week.

    First, however, I need to correct your statement about the Church and slavery. It is propaganda to claim that the Church EVER condoned slavery. Not so. In another hundred or so years, if the world is still around (excuse the pun!) people will be on whatever is the equivalent to blogs in that century, debating whether or not the Church ever condoned the use of contraception. As you should know, but clearly don't, the Church has consistently condemned contraception, but the fact is, that the history books will show that bishops contradicted this teaching, that priests told parishioners to ignore it and follow their “consciences” and that a majority, in some places (not traditional circles) but in some places, routinely use(d) contraception. The fact of the matter, however, will always be that the Church has NEVER taught that contraception is licit. NEVER. In one hundred years, however, it may be that a pope will issue an encyclical condemning the use of contraception and the whole world and its granny will shout about this “change” in the Church's teaching. Contrary to what you say, Natural Family Planning is not the same as contraception. Some ignorant priests and people present it as an alternative to contraception but it is not. Couples can only space families using NFP (where they are merely working with nature either to conceive or avoid conception) for a limited time, if the aim is to avoid conception, and then only in serious circumstances. That is the teaching of the Church. NFP cannot be used all the time, or for an extended period of time, as an alternative to contraception. NFP involves abstinence, so there is no way it can be considered as comparable to contraception. So, I repeat, the Church has NEVER condoned contraception and never will.

    It's exactly the same with slavery. Read this article and imbibe the facts so that you can correct others who hold to the false belief that the Church changed its teaching on slavery. NEVER. The Church has always condemned slavery and always will.

    Infallibility is concerned with the interpretation and effective safeguarding of truths already revealed. It does not extend to matters of discipline or Church governance. Attending weekly Mass is a church law, closely linked to the Commandments to worship God and keep holy the Sabbath. In ordinary circumstances, we must attend Mass. However, as I've already mentioned elsewhere, there was a period in history in Japan when Catholics had no priests and could not attend Mass, so they prayed their rosary etc. Extenuating circumstances can arise which prevent us from attending Mass or, since Vatican II (which was not a dogmatic Council but a merely pastoral Council) with the radical protestantising changes in the Mass that followed it, conscience problems can arise for many Catholics worldwide,

    God knows that none of us expected to be in a situation where the Mass we are obligated to attend would be changed almost beyond recognition in order to please Protestants, so I am not going to judge those souls who feel duty bound to avoid the new Mass. Are you? We do have an over-riding duty to protect our souls from spiritual danger. Instead of castigating those who have studied the matter and take this view, albeit with a heavy heart, Brencel, you would do well to seek to understand the issues better.

    Hence, allow to me say this: I attend the Traditional Latin Mass at an SSPX chapel every Sunday and weekdays (sometimes in diocesan parishes where the TLM is available) when I can manage. Since, therefore, this argument about missing Mass does not apply to me or to thee (I presume) I suggest we drop the matter, at least until you have had a chance to study, more closely, the reasons why some traditional Catholics feel they would be displeasing God by attending the new Mass. Here’s a link to Archbishop Lefebvre’s famous Open Letter to Confused Catholics which, I think, will help you to reflect on the seriousness of the issues. One day, Archbishop Lefebvre will be canonised – like St Athanasius, who was excommunicated not once but twice!

    I do not want to undermine the blog writer, so I offer this link, not to divert the discussion from the topic (that infuriated me when people did that on the Catholic Truth blog) but merely to allow you a recognised source on the topic of the Mass problems, for your study and reflection. It may or may not wash with you.

    Either way, I see no point in prolonging this discussion, since – with respect Brencel – you exhibit much of the confused thinking of the modern diocesan Catholics and I have to acknowledge that, giant brain as I may be, I am not going to be the one to help you, if I haven't managed to clarify your thinking to date.

    Oh and to “giant brain” add, slim, glamorous, witty, GSOH!

  • RJ

    Yes, thanks. I am familiar with this distinction.

  • Joseph Quigley

    Type your comment here.Francis Phillips should contact Sheila Cassidy and find out how Sheila defines “. the institutional church”. She will probably find that Sheila is referring to the same sorts of people in the same sorts of positions who exist in the church today as existed when she was a schoolgirl.

    I would like to know what Francis means when she writes: the Church is much wiser than we are.

    Every Sunday our parish people reminds us that we are the Church.

    And they do exist.

  • RJ

    I think I need to add a correction to my previous comment. On reflection, after reading the article to which you referred.

    I would say that de Fide obedience is not the only form. There is a lesser obedience owed to statements which are not solemnly defined or matters of the ordinary magisterium. It is nevertheless legitimate obedience.

    I would go further: I would say that, in the sphere over which he has authority, I owe the Holy Father obedience in all things that are not sin, by which I mean things which are intrinsically evil (e.g. if the Pope told me to murder my granny). It wouldn't be enough for me, in my superior wisdom (ho, ho), to say that 'in such and such, the Holy Father is ill-advised, therefore I can just follow my own lights'.

    I would also say that it is because I have faith (in Christ's promises) that I give obedience.

    Think that just about sums it up, though, of course, should I have erred, I defer to the magisterium, and no doubt I need to check my Catechism.

  • Brencel


    You only need to read my original post to see that I was questioning church authority.

    I never said we were only bound to follow ex-cathedra statements. A strange thought. The church teaches that we should follow all church teaching unless our conscience disagrees. Our conscience will not conflict with infallible teaching as both are oriented to the truth. Even in the case of non-infallible teaching the onus is to obey and one requires good reasons to justify a properly formed conscience directing one to act contrary to a church teaching.

    However, the church teaches that you must always follow your conscience. If, as you say, attendance at Sunday Mass is only a matter of church discipline, then if one’s conscience demands you do not attend then one need not attend. This also agrees with my original post on Mark 2:27.

    Personally, I love the Mass and go daily if possible. The closer the form of that Mass is to the Last Supper the better. That is why I like Mass in the vernacular, the same as the Last Supper. I also believe that people should be able to attend Mass under any form approved by the church, even the Tridentine Mass of which I am not a fan. You obviously feel closer to Jesus with a Tridentine Mass and I would hate to see people deprived of the form of worship which helps unite them more with Jesus.However, I also believe that the church provides enough forms of the Mass to satisfy all.

    I read part 1 of Lefebvre’s letter Why are Catholics Confused? I feel he should heed your first post wherein you said “if we believe that Christ invested His Church with His own authority, to make and change (certain) rules (“to bind and loose”) “; then why argue with rule changes? The logical conclusion for his form of argument is that only male Jews should be able to say Mass, as at the Last Supper. Why does he insist on the Latin Mass, why not go back to the Aramaic Mass which the universal church once used? I would not compare Lefebvre with the great Athanasius; when Athanasius was excommunicated the majority of the laity supported him and the same cannot be said for Lefebvre.

    Regarding the article on slavery, the first condemnation of slavery it quotes is from the 15th century; what about the previous 1500 years?

    This is not the place for a discussion on contraception, but NFP is a form of non-abortive contraception, what else could it be, and is promoted as such within the church.

    It took the church 1500 years to reverse its teaching on slavery. How many years must a teaching be taught to be infallible?

    Thank you for the debate which I have enjoyed. Are we to take it then that you are not one “of the modern diocesan Catholics” and if not what are you?

  • Rosemary Keenan

    Might they not have a point though?

    Sheila Cassidy has spent years caring for the terminally ill and when she was in prison in Chile found profound reasons to “believe”. The institutional Church is becoming just that – institutional and moving away from the Jesus message of love into male message of OBEY, which so many of us object to particularly when we have learned to think and discern.

    Rosemary Keenan western Australia.

  • john burger

    I believe Sheila Cassiday MD is what I would call a religious seeker. Do not be alarmed. Like many others she may just be having a 'lovers quarrel' with the Church. She has loved much and served many over the years. She found the “Audacity to Believe” and keep on believing after hearing the screams and joining the cries of torture victims in the Villa Grimaldi 35 years ago. It is my prayer and my hunch that her last chapter is not written yet.

  • EditorCT


    To argue that the Church condoned or approved slavery you need to produce a statement teaching that. You can't just keep quoting the propaganda.

    You say: “one requires good reasons to justify a properly formed conscience directing one to act contrary to a church teaching.” No properly formed conscience would ever direct us to act contrary to definitive Church teaching on doctrine and morals.

    And you are, yourself, contradicting the Church by your two assertions (a) that the Church ever taught that slavery is an acceptable practice and (b) that NFP is a form of contraception.

    You skirt round issues, such as the excommunication of St Athanasius, because it doesn't matter how many people support an excommunicate, if I am excommunicated then it is irrelevant who supports me. That's like saying because the majority of Catholics use contraception, that's OK then.

    But look, Brencel. You only read part one of Archbishop Lefebvre's letter to confused Catholics and you refer to him as “Lefebvre” refusing the respect owing to his office as Archbishop. Your bias is showing.

    You then give the Protestant arguments against the use of Latin in the liturgy. Latin is the language of the Church. If the bishops and priests obey the Pope then very soon your “vernacular” Mass will have a very large dose of Latin in it, as it was supposed to have after Vatican II. I haven't heard you lamenting the disobedience of the priests and bishops who are blatantly defying the Pope and have done since Vatican II ended, by not keeping those parts of the Mass in Latin and Greek (Kyrie) which they were supposed to do.

    So, I see no real desire on your part to reach the truth. You preach “obedience” but enjoy the fruits of the bishops' disobedience (the vernacular Mass) without any conscience problems at all.

    I've a very busy week ahead of me, starting in about ten minutes, so I will not be able to respond to any more posts for quite a while. In any case, I really believe if you wanted to learn the truth about the crisis in the Church and the Mass, you would read much more extensively from traditional sources. Truth is, as the Prophet Jeremiah said about the attitude to the peoples of his time towards bad priests, “My people love it.” Makes life much easier to go along with the flow pleading “obedience” as your excuse. It IS an excuse – it is not a reason – because faith and reason are not opposed.

    The fact that is that, while prayers have been added to the Mass down the centuries, nothing had ever been removed prior to this new Mass. Then the heart was ripped out of the Mass – but the people, a majority, it seems, prefer it.

    One protestantised Mass has resulted in a protestantised Catholic laity. Eat your heart out, Martin Luther!

  • RJ

    Seems rather anti-male.

  • Brencel


    If the church did not condemn slavery for 1500 years that is condoning slavery.

    You write that “No properly formed conscience would ever direct us to act contrary to definitive Church teaching on doctrine and morals.” Why not? Infallible church teaching and conscience will agree as both point us to truth. Conscience binds in the area of all other church teaching. If the church gives a teaching and does not declare it infallible this acknowledges that the church teaching may not incorporate all the truth. This is the reason the Catechism of the Catholic Church states we must always follow our conscience.

    As regards my contradiction of the church a) in the case of slavery see above and b) as regards NFP, if someone uses NFP to avoid becoming pregnant that is against conception which means NFP is a form of contraception; that is a fact. You can argue that NFP is natural but it is still often used as a contraceptive; if it was not we would never have heard of NFP.

    Athanasius was excommunicated during the Arian crisis because he, together with the vast majority of the laity, refused to accept that Jesus was not fully divine. This was the sensus fidei, whereby the faithful as a whole cannot err in matters of belief ( John 16:13). This demonstrates why the number of people supporting Athanasius was important. Clearly there is no comparison with Lefebvre’s excommunication.

    You claim my “Your bias is showing” because I did not give Lefebvre a title; please note I did not give Athanasius a title and his title of Saint is much superior to that of Archbishop. The omission in both cases was purely for brevity.

    The fact that I like Mass in the vernacular, and apparently Jesus said the first Mass in the vernacular which puts me in good company, is not contrary to any church teaching; I am permitted to think!

    You feel that “the heart was ripped out of the Mass” whereas I believe we have come closer to the original Mass, the Last Supper. I believe there is room for both forms of the Mass as they both include the consecration. Apparently you would like to see the demise of the vernacular Mass? This would be a great loss.

    Your last comment on the vernacular Mass reads “Eat your heart out, Martin Luther!” Perhaps it should read “Eat your heart out, Martin Luther and Jesus Christ!”

  • Jamie MacNab

    A thoughtful blog post, but overall rather depressing. I should hate to think that I were attending Mass every week because I feared being sent to hell if I didn't. Now, I know that I am simplifying the argument here, but I want to make the point that, if you wish to bring people back to the Church, or wish to encourage new members, then you must be careful how you do it. First impressions are terribly important.

  • David Armitage

    “The good Doctor now finds God more in other people”. So did Jesus, and look what happened to him!Shameful and condescending. People like Sheila Cassidy don't so much leave the Church as see the Barque of Peter sailing away from them. Far from indulging in the personality cult so dear to the geriatrics running the institutional Church, they obey and listen to Jesus of Nazareth: As long as you did it to one of these the least of my brethren…This obedience leads to unimaginable suffering, and depression: My God, why have you forsaken me? What in God's name is an orthodox Catholic psychiatrist, please tell me Francis Phillips. When Chilean refugees came to Bradford,after the Pinochet coup, exiled, tortured, homeless, I turned to trade unionists to clothe and give shelter. Sheila Cassidy would have approved, not withstanding her muddled ideas. If the Mass is to have any sense it should lead to people saying:This is my body, for you.

  • Gordon

    But Rory, many of the Church's teachings are not the same as they were in the first century. The teachings evolved and changed throughout the ages my friend. Many changes with the first council under Emperor Constantine and other Church councils after that including Vatican Council 2.

    You might be surprised to find that even the scriptures changed. A good example of this occurred in the eleventh century, when Bishop Lanfranc said sometime between 1005-89 that together with his pupils he engaged in correcting the Bible. This statement can be found on page 141 of the Cambridge History of The Bible. You can find this in your local library. Just some examples Rory. None of it has really been carved in granite and much has been changed and much can still be changed… blessings my friend… Gord

  • Gordon

    I would say just the opposite Francis. Their faith has matured. Her faith has grown just like the other areas of her life. Our faith must grow and mature along with the other ways we look at things now. We are not a child in grade school just learning our catechism. We must all come up higher. Let go of our childhood faith, because there is so much more… blessings… Gord

  • Gordon

    Editor you are wrong! Many of the things like contraception have not and are not considered an evil in society. And my friend not even in the Catholic Church would say contraception is evil. Humanae Vitae, was qualified by many bishops around the world after it came out. The bishops of Canada and elsewhere left the decision up to the married couple.

    Homosexuality is not considered an evil ether, but by some churches an orientation from birth and therefore a gift of God.

    Mr. Editor don't mix apples and oranges- don't put the evils of Nazi Germany in this category.

    I'm glad your not God my friend, because I'm afraid you would have us all in hell! … Gord

  • Jane Printer

    I wonder why bother to read a book of which you have obviously decided to disapprove before even opening the covers? And write a blog that does not really address the content of the book? For example, I believe Dr Cassidy objects to 'the church being the church' as you decide to see it, also on the basis of the institutionalised abuse, including but not restricted to, the sexual abuse of children and subsequent hiding of the abuse that has not only been part of the history of the Catholic Church but continues in its present.

    I suppose that when one has been subjected to abuse themselves, however that is presented, like Dr Cassidy has been, and has suffered the resultant trauma for years, then it is their own privilege to choose how they see God. It is truly a miracle that after everything she has been through, that Dr Cassidy has not turned from God entirely, and instead has always walked with him, choosing to spread the word in different ways. If you want Dr Cassidy, Anne Rice or anyone else to 'come back', I suggest there should be something to make that worthwhile, but as yet I see nothing that suggests that will be the case. If that were God's will, surely He would make it so? How does the Catholic Church, for example, explain the abuse in its own religion over centuries? Has this been God's will? What rational human being would think this OK? I use the word 'rational' in its proper psychological sense, being a qualified therapist, I say that anyone who seeks to bring others, old or new, into a Church which does not condemn abuse of others, is not thinking or acting rationally or in a way that can be accepted by society generally, nor certainly by my God.

  • Marnichols

    Michael Voris makes me sick. He reminds me of when I was a young [25] returnee to the Catholic church and had to tell my friends who had left the church that they were wrong, etc. etc. What a Prig! Ugh!

  • Justimax

    Mr. Phillips,like Mr Oddie, has but one theme: do what the Big Boys tell you ( I thought Newman advised conscience first, if necessary, before Pope ? ) Every tinpot bishop or journalist is to be obeyed without question by us pathetic layfolk. Hopalong to church, Cassidy, and you’ll be o.k.

  • Philomena Ewing

    Michael Voris is not someone I find agreeable. Please see the latest statement on this man from here