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Fr Blake says that in order to maintain the unity of the Church loyalty to the pope is now best expressed through silence. I fear he may be right

We are in such an atmosphere of uncertainty that even Jane Fonda can love the pope because she thinks he hates dogma: something has to give

By on Friday, 11 July 2014

There is much confusion about Church teaching ahead of the Synod (CNS)

There is much confusion about Church teaching ahead of the Synod (CNS)

I begin with a piece, spotted by Fr Tim Finigan and reported in his indispensable blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity, which had been published in Sandro Magister’s blog—not his English one, Chiesa, but his Italian language blog for L’Espresso, Settimo Cielo.

A few days ago, Magister told the story of a parish priest in the Italian diocese of Novara, Fr Tarcisio Vicario, who recently discussed the question of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. This is how he explained the Church’s teaching on the matter: “For the Church, which acts in the name of the Son of God, marriage between the baptised is alone and always a sacrament. Civil marriage and cohabitation are not a sacrament. Therefore those who place themselves outside of the Sacrament by contracting civil marriage are living a continuing infidelity. One is not treating of sin committed on one occasion (for example a murder), nor an infidelity through carelessness or habit, where conscience in any case calls us back to the duty of reforming ourselves by means of sincere repentance and a true and firm purpose of distancing ourselves from sin and from the occasions which lead to it.”

Pretty unexceptionable, one would have thought.

His bishop, the Bishop of Novara, however, slapped down Fr Tarcisio’s “unacceptable equation, even though introduced as an example, between irregular cohabitation and murder. The use of the example, even if written in brackets, proves to be inappropriate and misleading, and therefore wrong.”

Fr Tim comments that “Fr Vicario did not ‘equate’ irregular cohabitation and murder. His whole point was that they are different – one is a permanent state where the person does not intend to change their situation, the other is a sin committed on a particular occasion where a properly formed conscience would call the person to repent and not commit the sin again.”

It was bad enough that Fr Tarcisio should be publicly attacked by his own bishop simply for propagating the teachings of the Church. Much more seriously, Fr Tarcisio was then slapped down from Rome itself, by no less a person than the curial Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who said that the words of Fr Tarcisio were “crazy [‘una pazzia’], a strictly personal opinion of a parish priest who does not represent anyone, not even himself.” Cardinal Baldisseri, it may be remembered, is the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and therefore of the forthcoming global extravaganza on the family. This does not exactly calm one’s fears about the forthcoming Synod: for, of course, it is absurd and theologically illiterate to say that Fr Tarcisio’s words were “a strictly personal opinion of a parish priest who does not represent anyone, not even himself” (whatever that means): for, on the contrary, they quite simply accurately represent the teaching of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sandro Magister tellingly at this point quotes the words of Thomas, Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, who was appointed in January this year as one of the five members of the Commission of Cardinals Overseeing the Institute for the Works of Religion, and who at about the same time as Fr Tarcisio was being slapped down from the beating heart of curial Rome, was saying almost exactly the same thing as he had:

Many people who are divorced, and who are not free to marry, do enter into a second marriage. … The point is not that they have committed a sin; the mercy of God is abundantly granted to all sinners. Murder, adultery, and any other sins, no matter how serious, are forgiven by Jesus, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the forgiven sinner receives communion. The issue in the matter of divorce and remarriage is one’s conscious decision (for whatever reason) to persist in a continuing situation of disconnection from the command of Jesus … it would not be right for them to receive the sacraments….

What exactly is going on, when Bishops and parish priests can so radically differ about the most elementary issues of faith and morals—about teachings which are quite clearly explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church—and when simultaneously one Cardinal describes such teachings as “crazy” and another simply expounds them as the immemorial teachings of the Church? Does nobody know what the Church believes any more?

The question brought me back powerfully, once more, to one of the most haunting blogs I have read for some time, one to which I have been returning repeatedly since I read it last Friday. It is very short, so here it is in full; I am tempted to call it Fr Blake’s last post (one can almost hear his bugle sounding over sad shires):

It is four months since Protect the Pope went into “a period of prayer and reflection” at the direction of Bishop Campbell, someone recently asked me why I tend not to post so often as I did, and I must say I have been asking the same question about other bloggers.

The reign of Benedict produced a real flourish of ‘citizen journalists’, the net was alive with discussion on what the Pope was saying or doing and how it affected the life of our own local Church. Looking at some of my old posts they invariably began with quote or picture followed by a comment, Benedict stimulated thought, reflection and dialogue, an open and free intellectual environment. There was a solidity and certainty in Benedict’s teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood. Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.

Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church, today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.

I look at my own blogging, and see that I perfectly exemplify of this. More and more, my heart just isn’t in it; and I blog less than I did. Now, increasingly, I feel that silence is all. Under Benedict, there was vigorously under way a glorious battle, an ongoing struggle, focused on and motivated by the pope himself, to get back to the Church the Council intended, a battle for the hermeneutic of continuity. It was a battle we felt we were winning. Then came the thunderbolt of Benedict’s resignation.

After an agonising interregnum, a new pope was elected, a good and holy man with a pastoral heart. All seemed to be well, though he was not dogmatically inclined as Benedict had been: all that was left to the CDF. I found myself explaining that Francis was hermeneutically absolutely Benedictine, entirely orthodox, everything a pope should be, just with a different way of operating. I still believe all that. But here is increasingly a sense of uncertainty in the air, which cannot be ignored. “One knew where the Church and the Pope stood” says Fr Blake. Now, we have a Pope who can be adored by such enemies of the Catholic Church as the arch abortion supporter Jane Fonda, who tweeted last week “Gotta love new Pope. He cares about poor, hates dogma.”

In other words, for Fonda and her like, the Church is no longer a dogmatic entity, no longer a threat. That’s what the world now supposes: everything is in a state of flux. The remarried will soon, they think, be told they can receive Holy Communion as unthinkingly as everyone else: that’s what Cardinal Kasper implied at the consistory in February. Did the pope agree with him? There appears to be some uncertainty, despite the fact that the Holy Father had already backed Cardinal Mueller’s insistence that nothing has changed.

We shall see what we shall see at the Synod, which I increasingly dread. Once that is out of the way, we will be able to assess where we all stand. But whatever happens now, it seems, the glad confident morning of Benedict’s pontificate has gone, never again to return; and I (and it seems many others) have less we feel we can say.

  • Clarrie Grey

    But without the unnecessary apostrophes.

  • Leo Hunt

    Just one quick thought: you are right, of course, that silence may mean all of those unworthy things. And without doubt, there must be many laymen whose talents, circumstances, temperament, etc, oblige them to speak out in certain ways.
    But, for other people in other circumstances, silence does not necessarily mean that. It may instead be akin to Our Lord’s silence when tried, or at other points in His life. “He did not answer a word” is also something we may need to imitate.

  • MIKE
  • Josh

    It sure is the Church that you read about in the Church Fathers. It’s the same church you read about in the bible especially in the letter to Corinth. The church is full of imperfect people we argue, we disagree we are like any family. However the Church is perfectly holy and unblemished she just happens to be full of imperfect people. We rejoice in the fact that even in our ugliness and our sinful, in the dirt, and in the grim God comes to us. It doesn’t take any faith to believe that God could work through perfectly holy people. Where real faith comes from is to believe that God used people like me and you who are unworthy and sinful to bring his message of love and mercy to all people. This is the same church that Paul ranted about in Corinth. Its the same chruch that launched the crusades. It’s also the same church that produced great men like Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa. It’s the same church that started hospitals and colleges and serves today as the largest NGO charitable organization. We are sinners, we are unworthy but God continues to come to us in our brokenness.

  • Thomas Babbit

    Much of it post-Vatican II is NOT the Church that produced St. Benedict, Sts. Francis and Dominic or any other Saint up until the Vatican II Revolution.

    Read this.

  • Clarrie Grey

    “Have no clue what you are talking about.”


  • revolting ewe

    That actually makes sense because it is the woeful state of things in the Church that has led to a lack of understanding amongst the people. Where I would have reservations is that it seems dangerous to try to fix one problem in isolation, in fact you can’t. I would say that the problem has come from lack of clarity. Previously the Church stood firm against the attitudes of the world and people had free will….in or out. Since VII the Church has compromised with the world so confusion has been caused. It’s a case of if you don’t know the rules of the game how on earth are you supposed to play, let alone win? People have been let down by the Church. I can see the need for compassion towards those who have messed up because they didn’t understand the rules in the first place and the “extenuating circumstance” was a fault on the part of Church authorities themselves. This, however cannot be a “quick fix” without addressing the cause of the problem in the first place. This seems very symptomatic of the modern world generally….a lack of sense of cause and effect. Things start going wrong so to fix it we need more of the same on steroids….and also an attitude which tries to fix problems in isolation from the bigger picture. If there’s something wrong with the bigger picture you can’t fix isolated effects that proceed from that cause. Previously, people in the Church knew the rules. People coming from outside the Church as converts who were in irregular situations had means by which the Church could help them to regularize their situation….because they were newcomers. Now, because of the laxity of teaching etc. we have people in the Church who don’t really know the difference between the Church and the world….”aggiornamento” ?? The Church moved too close to the world so the lines got blurred. So yes, in a sense I can see the need for a sort of “amnesty” for those people…..but it can’t be done in isolation. IMHO it would have to go hand in hand with a big “mea culpa” from the Church that it has failed the people in the last 50 years and they have to put the mistakes right clearly and publicly. Fix the bigger picture first….then an amnesty for those who were caught up in the “spirit of the times” could work because it would then be in context. If an “amnesty” is given without fixing the root cause of the problem first then even that amnesty will be misunderstood and open the floodgates to more confusion and more problems.

    ps. Just as an example, I have come across Catholics who have made secular marriages with Muslims and are hurt and resentful because the Church would not allow them a Church marriage. Well, no, of course the Church will not recognise such a marriage….but when you have a document like “Nostra Aetate” and a pope kissing the Quran and now a pope calling it a “sacred” book and telling Muslims to hold on to their faith… is very understandable that people feel hurt and resentful in such a situation. They are not well catechised in their own Faith and they see a contradiction and they don’t understand why.

    It’s all as clear as mud….and then they wonder why people are not seeing clearly.

  • Andrew Milhurst

    Not at all. I’m always willing to accept your sincere apologies, Hanna.

  • Andrew Milhurst

    Are the Babbitites on the right path?

  • Andrew Milhurst

    I can find the friendship, but not the laughing and joking.

  • Andrew Milhurst

    I have read the contributions of the contributors below, and have only one question: ‘How does one describe the presence of the Holy Spirit?’

  • Andrew Milhurst

    You have been reading the passionate opinions of perhaps thirty people who claim to be Catholics. ( 30- 1000,000,000=x) is not the sum you should be doing, but (Jesus Christ+1000,000,000+/-30= The Catholic Church).

    Every second of every day you always retain full freedom to faithfully follow Christ. Be of good cheer.

  • Andrew Milhurst

    The first commandment condemns idolatry. Might I suggest removing all brains from the altar, and retaining them, with moderate restraint within the individual skull, whilst becoming aware of the existence of others.

  • Thomas Babbit

    We know him by his signs:

    Holiness, discord, confusion and barren

    None of which can be seen arising from this Pontificate. Confusion, discord, a splitting or a disunity, a barrenness, a lack of holiness (marks of the Church since Vatican II and of this Pontificate) are evidence of another spirit entirely.

  • Thomas Babbit

    Apologies for the lack of editing above.

  • Thomas Babbit

    Dunno mate, I’m a Catholic.

  • Myshkin

    Thank you for a thoughtful response. See, too, my earlier posting, two days previously. In brief: 1. fix pre-Cana, with mandated written affirmations by the parties contracting marriage that they accept as infallible all Church teaching, including the proscriptions against birth control, sterilization, etc.; it is important that this be done in writing, else no marriage in the Church is allowed.

    And, #2: We desperately need an encyclical affirming in the strongest terms the nature of a well-formed conscience, including a willing and thankful submission to ALL Church teaching, including non-dogmatic doctrine such as that against contraception.

    If the Faithful are confused, I think, it is chiefly an issue regarding a wrong concept of conscience, and it needs to be SPELLED OUT in my proposed encyclical: That there is such a thing as a “WRONG CONSCIENCE,” and how one is to reconcile one’s private feelings with Church teaching — that is, by GRATEFUL and OBEDIENT SUBMISSION to ALL that Holy Mother Church teaches, including ESPECIALLY the “difficult” doctrines in sexual ethics!!!

    An Encyclical on CONSCIENCE — THAT is what would clarify things.

    Oh, we’d lose millions upon millions of people who pridefully REFUSE to SUBMIT their consciences to anyone but “the imperial autonomous self”!! So be it!!

  • cjkeeffe

    Why is dissent and effective heresy the new orthodoxy in some areas of the Catholic Church?
    Is it really so hard to read the cathechism and fully clear catholic teaching?

  • revolting ewe

    Thanks Myshkin. I agree with a lot of what you are saying. Actually it’s more like I do agree with what you are saying, I just don’t think it goes quite far enough. For example, what about my ps regarding Catholic/Muslim marriage? Actually, yes, the Church does refuse such marriages….but people don’t understand why when the Church seems to have gone a bit “interfaith”. Also see the latest statement from the CBCEW regarding continued ecumenical relations with the C of E. Yes, wrong ideas about the primacy of conscience need to be sorted out….and yes people can be made to sign papers about their marital intentions….these are good ideas…but I am thinking the problem goes deeper. There is a whole post VII mentality that doesn’t submit to authority….and is it surprising ? On the one hand we have people with an over-inflated understanding of the priesthood of the people….and on the other hand we have an (institutional) Church which seems inconsistent with itself. I think it even (maybe even particularly) goes as deep as the Liturgical practices. How we worship has “subliminal advertising” which affects how we think, how we absorb the reality we are experiencing.

    And people leaving by the millions? I agree….so be it. But would they? Or would they just carry on and ignore? This is part of the problem. The Church seems to have done a “Henry” (the commenter, not the king) and worried more about numbers than Truth, “big umbrella” stuff. The Church needs to be the Church and people must have free will. A house divided will fall. It’s all a bit too “me and my opinion” and anything goes. Lax parenting and spoilt rebellious children.

  • Thomas Babbit

    Even the modern Catechism (not an infallible document; indeed, the most egregrious errors and some heresies had to be edited out of the first edition) is not without its serious problems.

  • cjkeeffe

    I agree re CCC but its a start in respect of something people should believe. Throuh most priests who refer to teh cathechism always say, the old penny catechism said x or y.

  • Katrina Fernandez
  • John Byde

    Yes, me too. Am starting to regret becoming a catholic. I feel closer to God and Jesus just going to church on Sunday, reading the bible and praying daily. The rest is depressing.

  • John Byde


  • John Byde

    Yes, just that now it’s especially hard to tell who is who!!

  • Dorothy

    The people who work for the Marriage Tribunal need to be paid. There’s a lot of interviewing & paperwork involved.

  • gillibrand

    The last paragraph is the most important.

  • Ioannis

    In which case perhaps it is a crisis of opportunity … an opportunity to be more faithful by resting upon silence and prayer rather than the certainty of law. By no means do I mean antinomianism. I’m speaking only to our response to uncertainty. I did not think it was helpful to use Benedict as a bully pulpit for culture wars. Presumably, all this wining will eventually give rise to the aforementioned silence, and in silence prayer, and in prayer, renewal of the Church.

  • Ioannis

    I very much doubt any of us need to fear we shall fail our calling through an excess of silence. Or prayer.

  • +<3

    A “scruple” is a conscience-issue that is in disagreement with mother church, meaning that it is not true; that did not however stop PAUL–who instructed THAT WE MUST WORK AROUND THE PERSON WITH THAT CONSCIENCE…citing the exception that proves-false the following–“These statements betray a woeful lack of a proper sense of rightly formed conscience, which is humbly, meekly, and thankfully submissive to ALL of Holy Mother Church’s teachings, whether dogmatic or not.”

    These folks are to be allowed their scruple IN OPPOSITION TO CHURCH TEACHING while they are in formation–which is not ALLOWING MURDER…for instance; such would be LOCKED AWAY.

    IT does not allow crime.

    One’s conscience may beLIEVE; one’s actions may be ALLOWED–within NON-criminal LIMITS… Yet the church will not say it is the TRUTH.<+3–THESE THINGS WILL BE MORE RIGID THAN THE CHURCH; those things clearly outside church-teaching such as fornication would result in reprimand and ejection FROM THE CHURCH

  • +<3

    ; MORE RIGID would mean abstaining from ALCOHOL totally when not required AS IF IT WERE THE TRUTH and not because of someone’s SCRUPLE for example! !

  • +<3

    Douay-Rheims Psalms 38/39–
    “38:1 Unto the end, for Idithun himself, a canticle of David.
    38:2 I said: I will take heed to my ways : that I sin not with my tongue. I have set guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me. 38:3 I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence from good things : and my sorrow was renewed.”

    King James Version Psalms 38/39–
    1. “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.
    2. “I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred.”

  • revolting ewe


  • djohns

    Don’t give up on the Catholic Church. This is the church that Christ founded. We have to stay with the church no matter what we see. We need to pray and we are not to follow the heretic ideas that are being thrown at us. If you get confused go back to the church Fathers for the answers. Stick with tradition and ask the Holy spirit to give you strength.

  • kentgeordie

    Pray. Fast. Stay.

  • revolting ewe

    John Byde and burchgsb: Please don’t ever regret becoming Catholic. It’s the only place to be and you are in the right place. The Church is in crisis at present and yes it is confusing and depressing….but it’s still the right place to be. Sit tight and learn more. Try this site for starters:

  • revolting ewe

    It is indeed. I would suggest the following means of attempting to decide…1. Truth doesn’t change. 2. if the CC is true it can’t change. 3. everything that is consistent throughout Church history (i.e Tradition) is true, anything that conflicts with Tradition is false. 4. Those who tell you the same as the Church has always taught are sane….those who tell you things which conflict with what the Church has always taught are bonkers.

    5. It doesn’t matter if it’s an average pew-sitter or a cardinal….if it conflicts with Tradition there’s something wrong.

    6. The hermeneutic of continuity was a very nice try….good luck with it.

  • Darren

    Catholics must never stop proclaiming the truth in love. We must not allow the dire circumstances we are in to make us lose faith and stop the supernatural power of hope from operating in our lives. Even though our hero Papa Benedict is no longer on the chair of Peter and it seems that we have a Pope who is prone to making heretical statements and having no love for the liturgical renewal, we must remember we are the Church Militant. Please don’t fall for the devil tactics into leading you into a state of ‘why bother, we can never win’, we need to continue to love the lost and save them from the fires of hell.

  • Susan McGuinness Getzinger

    Satan, like any adversary, tries to weaken his competition by any & all
    means of inserting doubt. Play devil’s advocate and then do the opposite.
    He wants us all out of Jesus’ church. His goal is a skeleten bride with
    “nobody” in the church. The more he creates division (or the facade) the more
    with cling to Peter’s ark and the fast approaching date of Our Blessed Mother’s
    anniversary of 100 years of Her Ark of the living covenant of Fatima, May 13, 2017, the 2nd
    month and 17th day on the Hebrew calendar, coinciding w/Noah’s ark, the day God
    shut the door after those 100 years of warning. Cast your net on the right side of the boat
    -Mary’s Rosary- 153 -fish/souls/Hail Mary’s to convert sinners. The Queen is on the right side of
    the King. The King is on the right side of The Father. JP II hid in plain sight what is coming when he: 1) made Sister Faustina the 1st Saint of the new millenium, or early the 3rd day since the resurrection and 2) added the luminous mysteries-pointing to the need for daily Rosary and pointing to the need for the sacraments, the upcoming transfiguration of the resurrection of the dead, The Wedding of Christ and His bride w/the wedding at Cana -1st miracle and soon last -Alpha and Omega – and the 6 vessels/days of creation/end of 6th day w/ water “filled to brim” , and the coming of the Kingdom. 17 minutes to pray a decade. Mary was probably 17 when Herod killed the innocents. 2017 Fatima anniversary (2015/2016 anniversary of Saint Michael before Mary). A week after 2015’s last blood red moon (scriptural) is St. Faustina’s feast day which is three and a half years after Easter/Nisan 14 2012. St. Michael’s Feast is the last blood moon 2015.

  • Charles Lewis

    So Jane Fonda says the pope hates dogma? With friends like these the church needs no enemies. This is not Francis’ fault it’s the fault of a society whose ignorance of religion is profound and the fact that whatever nonsense comes out of the mouth of a celebrity is taken seriously. Jane: READ A BOOK – AND NOT THE DAVINCI CODE.

  • Netmilsmom

    Amen, If good and holy people are left hanging and confused, with not a faithful blogger to help them work through this, the sede sights are happy to step in. Don’t leave us to be led astray. We need you.

  • Stephen

    So did Joan of Arc. But I’m no saint – just someone who believes in sound prophecy and believes Sacred Scripture when it says that the man of sin will enter the temple of God during the Apostasy in the Church ( Schism).

  • Stephen

    Says Jesus Christ who warned the Pharisees of His day that because of their
    sin of pride they could not discern the sign of His coming and Who it was that was speaking to them. Present day Pharisees ( the tares that have grown up with the wheat in the Church) are similarly blind to His Second Coming. This is why before He comes to judge the world he will give us a great grace in The Warning to wake up the world to repentance.