The poor we have always

Many of you will have read the lengthy interview which Pope Francis gave to the Jesuit periodicals. Or you may have seen the substantial reports in the Catholic Herald and the Tablet. I have no intention of repeating these here but I am allowing myself the indulgence of looking at a couple of points which attracted my eye.

I am struck by his suggestion that the Church must achieve a new balance. Its most characteristic and important work is be found not in our contemplation of doctrine – either faith or morals – but in discharging our faith in action. He speaks about ‘frontiers’ — those areas where we must express our Christian love in the actual circumstances of the world.

Much of that work is with the poor. But I think it is a mistake to think of the poor as only those who lack the fundamental resources of food and shelter. We meet the poor in all of those who have deep needs. The teenager who is struggling with interior conflicts is poor; the married person whose relationship is under strain is poor; the unmarried mother who cannot face the prospect of her child being born is poor; your next door neighbour who is old and lonely is poor; the homosexual who lacks self esteem is poor; your friend who is depressed and anxious is poor. Come to think of it – if we reflect on our own lives we may find periods when we too have been poor, because our need has been deep. I know this to be so because several of our friends on this Blog have generously shared with us instances of their own poverty.

Some eyebrows have been raised at Pope Francis‘s reference to abortion, gay marriage and contraception. He accepts the Church’s position on these questions but he suggests that such issues take up too much of our time and our concern. It is easy to see how this focus has come about. Their shared characteristic is that they are specific actions and easily recognised. You have either used contraception or you have not, you have either shared in homosexual activities or you have not. Sin or no sin. And such sins are further distinguished by being rated as intrinsically evil; nothing can excuse them. It is much harder to get a grasp on whether, for instance, we have behaved with full justice to another, or whether we have neglected an opportunity to show our love on occasion. Such measurements are woolly and hard to pin down.

There are worse sins than contraception, there are worse sins than giving way to a deep instinct for homosexual love. There is even a worse sin than abortion. And that is the sin of condemning out of hand someone who has had an abortion.

If I read Francis aright, and you must tell me if you disagree, we must put on the love of Christ in our prayer and in our actions and then we can largely let sin look after itself. Why pay so much attention to the Devil when he’s not worth it? Has Francis let us off the hook? On the contrary, he seeks to nail us to the Cross.

[A good link to the interview is at

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83 Responses to The poor we have always

  1. John Thomas says:

    An abortion means the total destruction of a person’s life BEFORE they have yhad chance to know Chri9st – or do Anything. Can anything, really, be worse than that?

    • milliganp says:

      Given that miscarriage and natural abortion also happen, one has to assume that God has included “death before birth” in His plan for humanity.

      • Peter Nyikos says:

        Death can come for anyone, any time. This is not a valid argument against making the killing of people, born or unborn, a sin.

      • milliganp says:

        I was hardly justifying abortion but pointing out that God already has to make provision for these who die before birth. If we make anything the “worst sin” we run the risk of justifying our own grave errors by false comparison.

  2. milliganp says:

    I immediately thought of Matthew 5:22 where Christ equates calling someone fool with the sin of murder. Surely anger and lack of compassion / foregiveness are at the root of a global structure of sin which erodes humanity.

  3. Peter Nyikos says:

    Pope Francis is correct in what I have seen him write and say. However, I am concerned about how Catholics in general will construe his message about abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. I remember all too well the widespread feeling among Catholics that Cardinal Bernadin’s phrase “the seamless garment” put e.g. abortion on the same moral footing as the death penalty.

    By the way, “gay marriage” is a misnomer. There have been marriages of convenience between people since time immemorial, and I expect that it will be no different with same-sex marriage. In fact, the main argument for same-sex marriage is the “rights” [read: privileges] that come with marriage: tax breaks such as “married, filing jointly” gives on income taxes; inheritance and adoption rights; and one that is seldom mentioned: automatic “Permanent resident alien” status for the spouse of an American citizen.

    I suspect that, some time after same-sex marriage wins out all over the USA, this last privilege will be abolished.

  4. claret says:

    I really do not think it is that easy to switch focus. Many Catholics I speak to are indifferent to the issues of abortion or gay marriage but if one has accepted the catholic Doctrine on these issues, as being born of reasoned argument based on scripture, and has actively engaged in holding to what the Church teaches, then there is a serious danger of ‘having the rug pulled from under them’ by the Pope’s comments and perhaps feel that all that they have done before is of little or no value.
    I have yet to hear of any woman being condemned for having an abortion but what is condemned is a society which champions it . A Church has to give a moral lead and to do it with certainty. Saint Paul warned against making uncertain sounds.
    How can the Church somehow not accept gay marriage but not speak out against it ?
    Our intellects are not limited. It is quite possible to be compassionate and caring and still be opposed to abortion. Does not compassion extend to the unborn ?

  5. milliganp says:

    One of Saint Augustine’s more famous quotes starts “Love and do what you will..” I suspect few outside the church identify charitable love as a primary characteristic of the Catholic Church. Redressing this perception seems to be Pope Francis’ pricipal task.

  6. RAHNER says:

    A refocusing of the Church’s mission is long overdue – the Christian faith is not, fundamentally, a matter of accepting moral teachings.

    • stormdog1 says:

      It is not only the RC Church,’s mission to focus on the Christian faith.,we are not the only Church responsible for the salvation of souls. However the RC Church is the only one as far as I can see that does speak out about the morals that are important to God..
      What about the witnesses the Catholic organisations that we have supported over the years Surely that is showing Gods Love to our neighbour..We can not go beating people around the head to believe in God if they don’t want to..

    • Ignatius says:


      “A refocusing of the Church’s mission is long overdue – the Christian faith is not, fundamentally, a matter of accepting moral teachings…”
      I completely agree with you here, we do so enjoy our moral teachings! In one of your famous nutshells what would you say it was a matter of?

    • milliganp says:

      Rahner, “the Christian faith is not, fundamentally, a matter of accepting moral teachings”. Two well know Christians – Jesus Christ and St. Paul would totally disagree with you – the Gospels are full of moral teaching. The whole point of the christian life is to conform oneself to Christ who behaved in an entirely moral way.

      • RAHNER says:

        I did not say or suggest that Christianity has no moral content. I can only assume that any subtle distinctions are beyond your comprehension…

  7. St.Joseph says:

    One thing I would like The Holy Father to tell ‘the laity’- that is ‘how we can convert the abortionists’?
    Then there would not be any abortions.!
    It is in his hands now to speak about the Churches teaching on Natural Family Planning..
    Then there would be no need to talk about contraception and ,less abortions.through artificial contraception.
    He is creating an in balance that came from the misunderstanding of Vat 2 that Pope Benedict was turning around….
    We understand as Catholics what he meant but I feel his comments to the media were naive and would be taken out of context to those it would suit!! ,
    It would be good if his comments were true in reality’. We wish!

  8. Peter D. Wilson says:

    Issues surrounding abortion, homosexuality etc. have to a large extent been forced upon us, and we were morally bound to present our case on them. That said, I am probably not alone in having spent too much time in formulating arguments that will most probably never be uttered, time that would have been better spent for instance in prayer for those in difficulties outside my experience.

    • Ignatius says:

      Peter :
      That said, I am probably not alone in having spent too much time in formulating arguments that will most probably never be uttered, time that would have been better spent for instance in prayer for those in difficulties outside my experience.

      I think you are saying that it is easy but not very productive to spend time mentally arguing the toss about stuff when one could have been engaging in more fruitful activities such as prayer. I couldn’t agree more. Gradually one comes to the conclusion that its a matter of ‘sufficient onto the day’ in other words, to pray to seek God in the context of ones humdrum daily existence and to be kind to those we meet is enough. If we meet with situations that demand a response on those moral issues then fair enough but other wise just get on with it! I tend to find that the divine office (morning and evening prayer plus the office of readings on occasion) are very helpful in this regard; I often recall the psalmist:
      “Not a proud heart, not a proud eye, nor concerned with things to great for me-I have stilled my soul like a well fed child” ….something like that anyway…I have come to the conclusion that I would rather spend my inner life contemplating the wonder of God than actively ‘thinking ‘about anything at all!!

  9. St.Joseph says:

    Peter Wilson
    Do you not realise how much time pro-life workers spend in praying? .
    Also it is not a case of ‘those in difficulties.
    Abortion is a matter of convenience, women it is noted to have up to 6 or more abortions in their lifetime.
    Young glrls as young as 10 or 11 are given the morning after pill and can buy it from on the web site. And the health risks are numerous.
    Abortion is a big money business,not something that any Christian or not can turn their back on whilst they criticize child abuse, without seeing the hypocrisy of the evil that it is’
    Everyone ought do do what their capabilities are in the vocation.they feel one is called to do with the gifts God has given them.
    I don’t feel that these issues have been forced on me.nor I don’t regret the time I spend actively for those who can not defend themselves.’.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      St.Joseph – I think you see criticism where none is intended; far from it. Of course the abortion business is abominable and casual reliance on it appalling, especially when repeated time and time again. Nevertheless there are some who (wrongly and perhaps reluctantly) see it in their desperation as their only resort in a situation they find intolerable. They, and others in parallel cases, deserve a measure of sympathy rather than the smug arguments against their choices in which I am inclined at times to indulge.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Peter D Wilson
        .I am not indifferent to those girls who find themselves in the situation they find intolerable.
        I resent your opinion in the defence of the unborn as smug arguments against their choices.There is always a better choice.
        If you are inclined to indulge in them perhaps it would be kinder to the unborn child by praying outside an abortion clinic and feeling sick to the stomach at the young girls who go there,I don’t very often see something ending in joy-only faces of despair which will come back to haunt them for the rest of their lives Neither do the pro-life workers-whether they are praying or actively or financially helping to end this evil. It is not an enjoyable vocation and most times a despairing one..
        Motherhood is a precious gift from God,everyone has a mother that brings us into the world.,and ‘everyone one’ has ‘Our Blessed Mother’,if that is not respected God help us all!
        I sadly had three miscarriages so I am very much aware of would have been, so will the women who have had abortions regret it if not now,but many years later.
        I pray for the abortionists who need our prayers most of all..

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        St.Joseph – I’m sorry if you see an an admission of my own failings as criticism of yourself. Nothing was further from my mind.

    • milliganp says:

      Abortion is frequently not a matter of mere convenience to the woman involved. Many women have abortions because there are so few structures that support them in making the positive choice to have their child. This over-simplistic view of the challenge of abortion that Francis is trying to remedy. If we set up major Catholic charities to provide homes and shelter for the women involved, ant-natal care and counselling we might reduce the rate of abortion but instead we stand outside abortion clinics rattling rosary beads.

      • St.Joseph says:

        One baby killed every 3 minutes in this country-you say is frequently not a matter of mere convenience. How naive is that!!
        You as a Deacon in the RC Church perhaps as you are so concerned there are not enough ‘Life Care Pregnancy Centre’s could act for the pro-life charity as their representative maybe your Bishop too, to encourage more help-starting with your diocese!! And encourage your parishioners to give up a spare room or two or three
        As for your comment towards the ‘rattling of beads’ whilst we recite the Creed, the Lords Prayer and the prayer of The Trinity followed by the Gospel Mysteries and the Prayer of Annunciation-then the prayers of petition to Our Lady,during that time Counselling is carried to many who welcome a friendly face and go home still carrying their child.!!
        It is obvious you have never been there-perhaps you should sometime ,maybe then you would paint a different picture

      • pnyikos says:

        milliganp, have you not heard of Birthright, Rachel’s Vineyard, and other primarily or wholly Catholic organizations that reach out to women before and after abortion to lend a helping hand? There have also been shelters for pregnant women since long before Roe v. Wade.

        I was at a huge national pro-life rally in Washington, DC in 1992 involving something like half a million participants, that rated a tenth of a page in the second section of the Washington Post. Cardinal O’Connor told the rally that he had a standing offer to any woman in the huge New York diocese, no matter what her religion, to give her all the help she needed to have a baby and bring it up herself. He prefaced these remarks by complained that he kept telling newspaper reporters what he was about to tell us and NONE of them would ever report it in their articles. When he was finished with describing the offer, the crowd broke out in a chant, “Tell the truth!” repeated many times.

        The supreme irony is that the official video for the rally, put out by a supposedly pro-life group, went as far as quoting the preamble but cut out everything up to the chanting of the crowd in response. Far too much of the video consisted of feel-good rah-rah-rah fluff.

        The moral: there is a lot going on out there of which we know nothing because it is not being properly reported.

  10. John Candido says:

    While everybody is eagerly anticipating what Pope Francis will say or do next, there needs to be a warning for all thinking members of the Church to not get too excited. The following link is quite important in this regard. A Melbourne Priest by the name of Fr. Greg Reynolds has recently been defrocked and excommunicated by the CDF, not for being a paedophile or committing any other serious criminal offence, but for his support of women Priests and gays. The link makes for some very interesting reading.

    Some anonymous individual, (not the Archbishop of Melbourne His Grace, the Most Reverend Denis Hart DD), has anonymously accused Fr. Reynolds of heresy. The case was opened by the CDF and a determination in Latin was presented to him curtly outlining that he has been both defrocked and excommunicated from the Catholic Church. This is the very first example of anyone in history being excommunicated in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

    The question that I want to ask is has Francis been aware of this determination by the CDF? Although I doubt that he has anything to do with this matter, if for no other reason in that he has got a lot on his plate as the new Pontiff; however, was Francis involved in this matter?

    • Vincent says:

      This incident raises a question. The priest in this case, an official of the Church, has spoken out very publicly and persistently about his disagreement with formal and serious teachings by the Church. We might compare him with a politician who does the same in attacking his party’s position. Such a politician would have the whip withdrawn — and we are not surprised. How, I ask John Candido, should the Church deal with rogue priests?

      • ionzone says:

        RAHNER – he means that he posted with the wrong account.

        In my opinion we spend way too much time talking about homosexuality and not enough time talking about abortion and the harm it does. I equate abortion with child slavery in other countries – people don’t see the harm it does, they don’t hear their pain, therefore they don’t care. All they see is the convenient end result.

      • ionzone says:

        In fact, they go out of their way to keep themselves from being exposed to anything that might ‘taint’ their views on abortion.

      • John Candido says:

        ‘How, I ask John Candido, should the Church deal with rogue priests?’ (Vincent)
        These following points are stolen suggestions from a newsletter from ‘Inclusive Catholics’ that has just arrived into my inbox. ‘Inclusive Catholics’ is the name of Fr. Greg Reynolds’ breakaway group of Catholics, who no longer have confidence in the official Church.
        I have not placed them in quotation marks because I have done some editing of them here and there.

        1. Stop giving money to the institutional church and take full responsibility for how you distribute your charitable donations and community building donations.

        2. Contact the Papal Nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, (he is the Pope’s diplomatic representative in Canberra). Cc to Archbishop Hart. In your own words express your concerns. You may choose to include some of the following points:

        3. I am inspired and encouraged by Pope Francis but his words are in sharp contrast with the way Fr. Greg Reynolds has been treated. His excommunication has occurred without due process or natural justice.

        4. Why was the Decree of Laicisation and Excommunication written only in Latin?

        5. Why did the Decree not include clear reasons for the decision?

        6. Who brought proceedings against Fr. Greg? Surely he has a right to know his accuser.

        7. Query the relevance and appropriateness of excommunication as a form of discipline and an aid to conversion?

        8. Fr. Greg is simply trying to minister with disenfranchised and disillusioned Catholics, and following his informed conscience. How can this be worse than sexually abusing innocent children?! Even convicted clergy don’t get excommunicated.

        9. If Pope Francis is truly keen to be inclusive and engage in open dialogue with the world surely he should be willing to speak with Fr. Greg.

        10. Discuss these issues with your local Parish Priest.

    • John Nolan says:

      The canonical penalty, dismissal from the clerical state, is the most severe that can be imposed, is rarely resorted to, and would have to be approved by the Pope. Reynolds’s excommunication was ‘latae sententiae’, in other words automatically incurred; so it was merely the formal announcement of a pre-existing condition. Because it involved sacrilege involving the Blessed Sacrament it is “reserved to the Holy See”. I don’t know the details, but at the illicit “Eucharistic gatherings” presided over by Reynolds in defiance of his Archbishop who had previously removed his faculties, the supposedly consecrated elements were “handed around” from person to person, and in one notorious case, given to a dog.

      Latae sententiae excommunications are only made public if there is a danger of the faithful being led astray, and so you don’t know how many have been incurred in Melbourne or anywhere else. For example, if a woman procures an abortion she incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, but it is reserved to the local bishop, who may delegate it to his priests. So if the said woman goes to Confession and repents of her sin, she is absolved and the excommunication is lifted.

      An excommunicated person is not, contrary to popular belief, thrown out of the Church; he is still obliged to attend Mass but may not receive the sacraments, apart from Penance, and since he has in effect excommunicated himself, he can of his own will be reconciled. Excommunication is essentially medicinal.

      I hope this answers your question. Pope Francis has confirmed Gerhard Mueller as CDF Prefect and the two men have a good working relationship and a lot in common (Bergoglio studied in Germany, Mueller was sympathetic to many aspects of “liberation theology”). Until the 1960s the Holy Office didn’t have a prefect, and was headed by the pope. Its decrees still require explicit papal approval.

    • pnyikos says:

      “Fr. Greg Reynolds has recently been defrocked and excommunicated by the CDF, not for being a paedophile or committing any other serious criminal offence, but for his support of women Priests and gays. ”

      Yes, and what is the problem? Had he committed some serious crime, he should have been turned over to the civil authorities who would have meted out a far more serious punishment than mere defrocking and excommunication. After all, Fr. Reynolds is perfectly free to join any number of Christian churches which have no problem with his advocacy of women priests/ministers and same-sex marriage, and would also have no problem with his wanting to marry someone of any gender he chooses.

      [Yes, let’s not pretend Fr. Reynolds confined his support to gays as persons, and had nothing to say about same-sex marriage.]

      For instance, the Anglican Church could accommodate Fr. Reynolds easily these days, even if he likes a lot of the pomp and pageantry of the Catholic Church and enjoys celebrating the Eucharist. And there should be Anglican parishes of all varieties in a city as large as Melbourne.

      Bishops have a great deal of autonomy in matters of excommunication, so there seems to be no particular reason for the Vatican to be involved in this at all. Of course, if Fr. Reynolds feels he has been dealt with unjustly, he is perfectly free to appeal to the Vatican. Not that he particularly seems to care, in the light of his own remarks, ”In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect.”

      At any rate, given Pope Francis’s words of encouragement even to atheists who sincerely follow their own consciences, he might be able to bless whatever sincere decision Fr. Reynolds might make, even if he upholds the excommunication and defrocking.

      • John Candido says:

        ‘Yes, and what is the problem?’ (pnyikos)

        There is of course several occasions when we cannot discern where exactly Francis is going to take the church. Francis says something that can be interpreted in a number of ways, and we have to bide our time before we know precisely what it is that he is saying about an issue. To be sure he has been explicit on abortion. Speaking to a group of doctors he mentioned that we presently have a ‘throwaway culture’ that treats the unborn and the elderly as inconveniences that get in secular society’s way.

        Apart from our need to wait for Francis to act, we can make some assessments where definitive action has occurred. Enter Fr. Greg Reynolds’ excommunication and defrocking. As with everything, all matters are settled by one’s set of values. A liberal, a moderate and a conservative will, by necessity, differ as to what attitude to take about Reynolds’s condition.

        As a staunch liberal (an ignorant heretic to some) I have always thought of the CDF in pejorative terms. Why? Because as a quasi theological court bounded by doctrine and canon law, it spectacularly fails to deliver reasonable standards of contemporary legal jurisprudence to those who have been accused of an offence. Fr. Greg Reynolds’ excommunication has occurred without the juridical standard of due process or natural justice, which can be found in practice in all common law countries.

        Two points need to apply here. Firstly, we know the determination or judgement of the CDF. What should have been included in the Decree are clear reasons for the decision. It is not that much to ask for, as well as being common courtesy and what happens in our courts of law every day. Secondly, who is his accuser? Fr. Greg Reynolds has a right to know who his accuser is. Again, our courts of law lead the Church in how to conduct a fair investigation with fair and transparent processes. Apart from these basic observations, it would have been common courtesy in 2013 to have produced the Decree of Laicisation and Excommunication in both Latin & the Queen’s English.

      • Quentin says:

        Leaving entirely to one side the right and wrongs of the outcome in such a case, there is no doubt that too many incidents have caused great scandal by their failure to observe the accepted principles of justice. And Jesus has said some quite powerful things about those who cause scandal.

        I very much hope, and expect, that the outcome of the reform of the Curia will correct all this, or explain convincingly why it cannot be corrected. I note that Pope Francis has been cautious about making decisive changes before matters have been examined with proper care. Of course we are impatient, who wouldn’t be in such cases? But I think he is setting about things in a way which enables people to go with him.

  11. Quentin says:

    Without distracting anyone from our current discussion (which will no doubt move on to look more fully at how the Pope is thinking about re-balancing the Church) Francis watchers may like to look at a brief report of the first meeting of the Cardinals’ committee charged with reforming the Curia. It is at

  12. St.Joseph says:

    Thank you at last I have found out the answer to it. However, it never happened before ,I never had to log in only since I had my new computer.
    Any suggestions would be welcomed..

    • ionzone says:

      I think you must have logged yourself out by posting on a different wordpress blog with a diferent username. Sometimes they can be hard to spot due to the theme changes.

  13. St.Joseph says:

    Do you believe that because it is important to live a good moral life as Christians, we do ‘not’ accept the incomprehensible Mystery of God that has been given to us by Christ.?

    • St.Joseph says:

      One good thing (not saying the only one) from Vat 2 was to get off our butt open the doors and let the Holy Spirit out,into the wide wide world, that included ‘morality’which has not really been that successful!
      Good works is a form of prayer no matter what the issue is We have spoken about the Churches ‘Social Teachings. The Bible is widespread surely people can read. study and learn’ pray and understand’! We don’t live in little boxes to be labelled and type cast!
      We each do what we can! That is why we are Christians!…

  14. St.Joseph says:

    Peter D Wilson.
    I didn’t see your comment as a criticism of myself, only my concern for the children who are not allowed to continue living.!My feelings are not that important when it relates to the life of any child whether born or unborn.They are all our brothers and sisters in Christ as is the unfortunate mother who finds herself in that situation. But abortion is not the answer.And I know you don’t believe that it is either.
    It is now the 10th day of the ‘March for Life’.all over the World.There is some exceptional things happening. Please pray for it to continue..

  15. Mike Horsnall says:


    Accepting the incomprehensible mystery of God that has been given to us in Christ……

    Yep, completely agree again. But for some this is more important than others For myself it is really the only thing that matters and I am caught up in that gaze of amazed and wondering incomprehension for much of the time….a minority pursuit I suspect. But I do think we need a bit more of it and a bit less law giving from time to time. I think mercy flows out of mystery it doesn’t neccesarily grow from logic.

  16. John Nolan says:

    John Candido, if as a Catholic priest you form a group of “breakaway Catholics” you are ipso facto a schismatic, and possibly a heretic, and thereby incur a latae sententiae excommunication. It’s the laicization, not the excommunication, which is the penalty, and many ‘paedophile’ priests have indeed been laicized, especially since Cardinal Ratzinger expedited the process over a decade ago.

    Mr Reynolds excommunicated himself. By the way, Latin is the Church’s official language. If you are so ignorant as not to be able to read it, then get someone to translate it for you, as Mr Reynolds did. Had he been Latin-literate, he might have paid more attention to St Thomas Aquinas. Ecce panis Angelorum, factus cibus viatorum: vere panis filiorum, non mittendus canibus. Woof! Woof!

    • milliganp says:

      John Candido, your post of 10:57 was, I believe, an accurate statement but this is not. “Forming a breakaway group” is a little nebulous. My understanding was that Fr. Reynolds was excommunicated for celebrating the Eucharist after his faculties had been removed by his bishop. This is an abuse of the Sacrament, an offence reserved to the Holy See. As we offer worship to the Blessed Sacrament, we need to be sure of its validity and that is why the error of celebrating the Eucharist illicitly is considered so great.
      Also the ontological change of Ordination is irreversible. Fr. Reynolds remains a priest until he dies and, in extremis, could hear the confession of a dying person and administer the last rites if no other priest was available.

  17. claret says:

    A long list of platitudes being expressed on here. Love for everyone except the unborn. Care and compassion for the unborn can just be left unsaid. Do not challenge the morality of nine million deaths from abortion by the 50th Anniversary of the Abortion Act in this country alone.
    Too much time and effort and wasted prayer on speaking up for the Catholic Teaching on abortion and in support of the unborn who have no voice of their own.
    Much better if that time effort, time and prayer was directed somewhere else.
    Where exactly ? It would seem the unborn do not warrant it. These things can remain unsaid. Silence is a virtue it would seem and the fate of the unborn is not a matter of morality.
    As for gay marriage let us remember that we are a scriptural Church ( or should be,) and what greater authority is there than God? It was he who defined marriage in the Book of Genesis. That definition of the union of a man and a woman was repeated ‘word for word’ by Christ himself when he was asked about marriage at a time when it was being abused.

  18. Vincent says:

    Quentin is hoping that we discuss the question of re-balancing the Church. Here are my ideas on what I think Francis is trying to do.

    He is making an explicit distinction between the objective gravity of a sin and the intentions of the sinner. The latter is where he puts the emphasis.

    He is asking for a horizontal Church rather than an hierarchical one. This reminds us of St Paul’s view of the Mystical Body — it teaches that everyone in the Church has their part to play in the community. His emphasis on consultation is telling us that we have a Church which must communicate. Away with pomp and rank — we are all in it together. Since merit in the Church is related to grace, we are radically equal.

    He is intent on subsidiarity — that is, the taking of decisions at the lowest practical level. He is approaching this first by the reform of the Curia. But the principle applies throughout. Thus the pp must exercise his responsibilities in Canon Law in the light of the needs and wishes of his parishioners, with which he is in continual consultation.

    Above all, we must conform ourselves to Christ, and bring that Christ to the world and the circumstances each of us meet.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quite correct in what you say.
      However Pope Francis might be encouraged as to where he places his emphasis!!
      I think we can forgive him for one misuse of words for now.
      The teaching of our Faith in Catholic schools would perhaps be a definite improvement.

    • John Candido says:

      Francis will be a truly pastoral pontiff. He is to be applauded for seeking to expunge clericalism, reform the Curia, make the Vatican bank more transparent and accountable, and place the entire Catholic Church at the service of the world. He is truly a lovely man of great intellect and administrative acumen.

      Of course there will be limits to what he can and can’t do, in order to make his vision of the Church to be more compatible with the sentiments of the Second Vatican Council. It would be a mistake to write him off because he will not deliver whatever are our most prized reforms, exactly the way that we want them delivered. Despite these natural limits, I still believe that he will be a wonderful gift to the Roman Catholic Church and the wider world.

      I am still hoping that he will greatly surprise all thinking Catholics around the world with some major reforms, such as making celibacy optional for the diocesan priesthood, and allowing married couples to make their own decisions regarding contraception. He will not allow women to become Priests, permit abortions for serious reasons, and neither will he revise the teaching of the Church on such matters as homosexual marriage. Despite this, we are all very lucky to have him as our Pontiff.

      • pnyikos says:

        “Making celibacy optional for the clerical priesthood” blurs an important distinction. Neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Orthodox have ever allowed priests to marry; in fact, even deacons are not allowed to re-marry if their wives die.

        What the Church has allowed in the past and can allow again without breaking this tradition is for married men to become priests. In fact, some Anglican priests who have converted to the Catholic Church have been allowed to become Catholic priests even though married. I have been friends with one for almost two decades now.

      • John Candido says:

        ‘Neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Orthodox have ever allowed priests to marry; in fact, even deacons are not allowed to re-marry if their wives die.’ (pnyikos)

        I very much doubt that this passage is based on any known history of the priesthood, in either the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox churches.

  19. Ignatius says:


    “…A long list of platitudes being expressed on here…”

    “…Too much time and effort and wasted prayer on speaking up for the Catholic Teaching on abortion and in support of the unborn who have no voice of their own….”

    “…Much better if that time effort, time and prayer was directed somewhere else.
    Where exactly ? It would seem the unborn do not warrant it. These things can remain unsaid. Silence is a virtue it would seem and the fate of the unborn is not a matter of morality….”

    Nice strong words, well done……perhaps a bit of reference to the platitudes and justification of your interpretation of them?.

    • Horace says:

      Pope Francis did NOT say that the issues of abortion, gay marriage and contraception were platitudes. What he did say was
      “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…”
      To me this is a perfectly reasonable statement – almost everything that I read on the internet concerning Pope Francis these days (especially in American postings) concentrates solely on these three issues.
      It is not that they are not important [” It would seem the unborn do not warrant it.”] but these issues are – as Quentin points out – well defined, well known, and the church’s position is clear.
      The important question is “What should we do about these issues?”
      I am a little worried by Quentin’s “.. let sin look after itself.”

      I am especially worried by the current emphasis on “love” in catachetics. This word, particularly in todays culture, has many meanings and shades of meaning.

      Take for example Quentin’s – “there are worse sins than giving way to a deep instinct for homosexual love” – as I understand it “homosexual love”, per se, is not condemned by the church; it is the actions that may follow from such emotion which are sinful.

      Perhaps I might quote here a reply that I gave recently to my catachetics teacher who had quoted to me Matthew 22:37
      “Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind.”
      Why am I worried about the emphasis on ‘love’?
      – I think that you will find that anyone who has learnt Latin at school (admittedly not very many nowadays) will immediately think of ” amo, amas, amat . . .”.
      Now when I look at your quotation in the Vulgate I find – ” diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et ex tota anima tua et ex tota mente tua . . .”.
      The word ‘diliges’ is indeed the latin for ‘love’ but does not have quite the same meaning as ‘amo’ – it is, of course, the root of the English word ‘diligent’ – ‘agape’ rather than ‘eros’ – with connotations of obligation and duty.

      • Quentin says:

        “.. let sin look after itself.” . I was perhaps unwise not to spell this out more clearly. I wanted to put the emphasis on becoming the sort of person Christ wants us to be, rather than to think of the Christian life being fulfilled by a focus on avoiding sin. Of course, the more virtuous the person the less hold sin has on him. In approaching the positive he, incidentally, avoids the negative. The whole meaning of the law, as stated in the Gospels and St Paul, lies in love. In the old dispensation, the criterion was law; in the new, it is love.

        ” giving way to a deep instinct for homosexual love” was intended to refer to expressing it within a homosexual relationship.

        There can often be a problem in the use of the word ‘love’ — it can mean both agape and eros. But it should be possible to derive the sense from the context.

  20. St.Joseph says:

    This is interesting news on Day 10 particularly Abortionists did not show up!

  21. John Nolan says:

    The Church will always be a hierarchical organization – we are not Congregationalists after all. Those who talk about a horizontal Church never seem able to spell it out in practical terms or point to any large organization successfully run on these lines. You can have democracy in a group of half a dozen people. By the time you get to twenty people you need a chairman and a steering committee (the beginnings of an oligarchy and a bureaucracy) and the group itself will have formed internal factions or parties pushing their own agendas.

    Recent events have shown that some aspects of the Church’s central organization have shown signs of dysfunctionality and require reform. But subsidiary organizations, like National Bishops’ Conferences, can also be dysfunctional and for similar reasons. Archbishop Mueller in a recent interview made it clear that Bishops’ Conferences were work groups, and unlike the pope and bishops have no divine mandate; they should not be seen as “a third authority between pope and bishops”. I think this is a hint of things to come, as was the Pope’s message to the nuncios at the beginning of his pontificate regarding their role in the selection of bishops. In any event, it’s too early to speculate.

    • Quentin says:

      Of course you’re right, John, for the reasons you say. I don’t think that Pope Francis has in mind doing away with the hierarchy. What he has in mind is a communion in which people have various different roles – which are all at the service of the community. But these offices do not make their holders superior beings. He has been very hard about narcissism in high Church office, and he has described ‘courtly’ ways as a leprosy in the Church.
      Around the time of Vatican II, people talked about two models: the existing model which was an hierarchical triangle and a community model which was a circle with the pope as the centre. That might appear to be a distinction without a difference, were it not for the fact that successful secular organisations tend towards the circle rather than the triangle. There was an immense change in organisational theory during the 20th century when it was accepted that people were more motivated by self fulfilment in the organisation than by reward/punishment. This was acknowledged by the Church when it accepted that subsidiarity was a necessary feature of organisations, and that it included the Church. Unfortunately old habits die hard and, while secular organisations changed, the Church remained essentially the same. It could happen again because it is hard to change the culture of organisations. The outcome, which is of immense significance, is far from certain.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I think the same about sin . We can get tied up with it as to where we lose the sight of what love means.if we are not carefu.l I mean by that we can be too scrupulous.This is where the spirit of Vat 2 gets lost.
        I remember many years ago I may have mentioned this before..but it was Vat 2 or when the fast was i hr I know it is still that . A friend called for me to see if I wanted to go to Mass it was a week day, so I was pleased and went but I had just eaten and knew I would be within the hour to go to Communion as Mass was quick. So I mentioned it to the priest in the porch,’if it would be Ok. He said he wished I had not asked as he would now have to refuse me.I felt so sad and thought to myself ‘I wont do that again’ that is ‘ask’ just confess.I believe that priest put the Church Law before love.
        Probably I committed 2 sins there one of disobedience and not loving God enough to trust in Him.I am sure lots will disagree with me .
        However when it comes to abortion the gravity of the sin must be more important than the intention.In those cases the decision is not ours to make.
        I hope that is clear as to what I mean.

      • Quentin says:

        No, you can’t compare the objective nature of an action with intention. For instance, if one soldier shoots an enemy soldier in a just war, it is still a terrible thing that a man should die. Yet we do not blame the shooter because his intention is good. Similarly, it is a terrible thing that a baby in the womb should die, yet the mother’s intention may not be culpable. All sorts of factors may be present — possibly sufficient to extenuate the mother’s guilt or even to excuse her. We cannot judge.

  22. Ignatius says:

    “There is even a worse sin than abortion. And that is the sin of condemning out of hand someone who has had an abortion…”

    This sentence really is an example of artistic license let off its leash a little and edging into hyperbole (not to mention controversy!)
    But the point being made I think is that it is easy to become a death dealing person-religious or otherwise-if one deals only in legislation then one will be conspicuous in a lack of charity. As far as I remember Eros represents an exuberant attachment to the pleasures and delights of life-among them that love which is operative in bonding human beings together in the shared enjoyment of physical life and of the outcomes of this bonding. So Eros also includes care and love for family, children. Within Eros one might include altruism and utilitarian action see for the greater good of the ‘tribe’ where ‘tribe’ means the view of ones fellows as far as one is able to see. Eros is in a way what might be termed as an animal life force-God made Eros and it is good. Among these earthy connotations though it is worthwhile bearing in mind that along with Eros came Thanatos-death and the drive toward it expressed in destructive urges running counter to the instinctive drive to life that is Eros.
    When we come to Agape we come to the notion of ‘disinterested love’. That love which seeks the best for the other regardless of circumstance. So Christians intuitively see this love embodied in Christ and attempt to imitate it.
    My own experience is that Agape love cannot be simply be a conglomeration of good instincts and morals but is of supernatural origin. It can be imitated and it can be learned to a degree but it does seem that genuine agape arises out of religious practice because it is of God. Being made in the image of God as all humans are, Agape is present to some degree or another in all where sin and ‘death’ are not triumphant. Agape is not the preserve of Christianity alone. Having said this I must add that in my own life the contemplation of God, the eucharist, Marian devotion, long hours of prayer and a whole load of lectio divina have been utterly life changing and have caused my life to be more ‘graced’ with the presence of God and therefore of Agape. I can say this quite assuredly and happily as only the reformed sinner can because it is simply true.
    This is why I believe that a moral sense alone and the emphasis on that moral sense does not always produce good. Moral sense alone is not Agape, moral sense can become murderous but Agape cannot. Thus agape will inevitably lead to right action whereas moral sense may only pit the one against the other. I suspect something of these considerations lies in the mind and heart of Pope Francis and underlies what might otherwise present itself as contradictory thinking

    • St.Joseph says:

      Where would you find someone who aborts a baby sinless?
      I am not challenging you for an answer just would like to know a few examples out of interest.
      There are numerous sins which we call sinful an example to me would be falling in love with someone else’s husband or wife. I would believe that not to be a sin only if one did something about it! committing the sin of abortion to me depends on the circumstances and the mental condition of the mother . The main sin and all those who condemn it will blame the abortionist who commits the death of another wilfully and intentionally also those who share in the mothers state of mind.However not all are in a mental state.
      Yes I agree with you on the love of God,it does come before one commits a serious sinful
      act against Gods But allowing for the weakness of human nature we know Gods Love is so powerful to forgive we ought to be able to forgive like Him.
      I always remember a little thought (this is tongue in cheek -not meant to be true). But if St Peter does not let us in-ask Our Lady-She may let us in the back door, I know Jesus is all forgiving but God gave the authority to St Peter with the Keys-so He keeps His Word.
      (Not serious as you can guess)

  23. Ignatius says:

    ST Joseph,
    “…Where would you find someone who aborts a baby sinless?
    I am not challenging you for an answer just would like to know a few examples out of interest…”

    Sorry but its not my call. If I’m ever called to rule on such a thing I’ll let you know.

    • St.Joseph says:

      As you are a deep thinker I thought you would question Quentin;’s comment more deeply.
      Just making your comment clearer in my mind.
      Thought you would know-didn’t mean to offend!!

  24. St.Joseph says:

    I do want to get this straight in my mind.
    First of all,No one I believe was saying that we condemn the mother. or homosexuals for that matter if that’s what Pope Francis’s message was all about and would that be his ;hidden; reason for implying that the Church would collapse like a house of cards..
    As far as I believe the Church was more likely to collapse like a house of cards with the priestly child abuse..
    Was he pointing the finger of guilt towards the laity. and those people who believe homosexuality and abortion and contraception to be ok.In other words they could be hypocritical and all sinners? Like he called himself at first…. .I seem to think there is something in his mind to mention just those that would make the Church collapse. Did he want to give us a conscience,by turning the guilt around.
    A bit obscure I know but It still concerns me. his ‘reasoning’.

    • Quentin says:

      St. Joseph, we are both in the position of trying to gain a fuller understanding of where the Pope is leading us. Your guesses are as good as mine. With regard to priestly child abuse, I suspect that his concern is not so much directed at what happened in itself, but that the Church could have got into a state in which such horrific things could happen.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you, it is still a bit of a peculiar way to make a connection’. It is the clergy he ought to be addressing for the child abuse not pro-life workers who don’t condemn the mothers! It is same sex ;marriage mostly our concern It is like he is playing at ‘mind games;and is contrary to his usual messages! If he is trying to wake us up to something I don;t see he is doing it in the most perfect way Either it will make some more become involved or else those who are more disillusioned.Still we will see!!

  25. claret says:

    My reference to platitudes was in response to some of the expressions on here as opposed to anything the Pope has said recently.
    I do however hold that the Church, and the pope too if I may be so bold, has to be mindful of its leadership role.
    Its moral views are constantly challenged , as indeed they are being challenged on this blog, but the Church has to try and define the will of God and and in that regard ‘hold fast to its traditions’ which are not just ones of morals but also of humanity and not to be governed on the basis of a majority view.
    The Christian world, Catholic or not, still looks to the Catholic Church for leadership and definition of issues of today. If the Church is ‘wishy washy’ and uncertain then this casts doubt among not only Catholics but the wider Christian church as well. The Church is about a lot more than winning a popularity contest.
    It is interesting that if one reads The Watchtower how often it attacks the Catholic church and yet at the same time looks to it for guidance and authoritative teaching on things such as IVF, and genetics, embryos used in research etc.

  26. Ignatius says:

    “…My reference to platitudes was in response to some of the expressions on here as opposed to anything the Pope has said recently….”

    Yes I gathered that, perhaps you might care to elaborate on which particular expressions you found so dull and thoughtless?

  27. John Nolan says:

    One man’s platitude is another’s truism. Pope Francis, like John XXIII, has what might be called the “common touch”. Yet Pope John revelled in the trappings of the papal liturgy, unlike his predecessor Pius XII who had little time for it and preferred the Low Mass. Deliberately dressing-down might occasion whoops of delight from the ignorant, but shows a lack of courtesy (and I am not going to take advice from a Latin American as to what ‘courtly’ means, but the etymology is fairly obvious).

    Anyone who reads the history of the Church knows that reform meant identifying what was amiss and taking bold steps to redress it. The second half of the eleventh century and most of the sixteenth century show reform in action. It is not ideologically driven, nor is it a question of applying 20th century business models in the hope that they might ‘work’. Vatican II was a monumental failure in that the Pope who summoned it seemed to have only a vague idea of its remit and died before he signed off a single document emanating from it.

  28. St.Joseph says:

    Those who would like to share in the Prayers of the 40 days of Life in you area.
    This is all of the places over the world maybe one near you!

  29. John Nolan says:

    John Candido, why do you make a statement to the effect that the prohibition of marriage after ordination in the Eastern and Western Churches is not supported by historical evidence, and then link to an article which supplies abundant evidence to refute your claim? Those Latin priests who, before the 11th century, took wives or concubines were breaking the rules. The reform movement from St Leo IX (1049-1054) onwards recognized it as an abuse and moved to rectify it. The popes were not making new rules, merely ensuring that existing ones were obeyed. Not for the first time I wonder where you get your ideas from; you seem to inhabit a parallel universe.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      Something I have often wondered about, and I am sure you will tell me the answer.
      ‘It is better for a man to marry than to burn up with passion.’
      If priests later on in life find they fall in love and can not control their passions is it not better for them to marry than leave the priesthood?
      Is there a special reason,why it would not be Gods will like married Anglicans.
      The reason why I ask is because ‘although said with tongue in cheek’ my eldest grandson 24 said a couple of years ago when discussing the subject,said he would not mind being a priest when he was 50.He is now engaged to be married.I had a pretty good idea what his thinking was. that being a priest interested him but so did marriage and a family.
      I understand the Churches teaching on celibacy but now we have married Anglican priests I am not too sure. Why wait until he is 50 .Its a difficult choice to make for a young man. It is not as if Married life is sinful.It sounds as though one is competing against the other for holiness.After all we have married deacons, so why can not be ordained to celebrate Holy Mass.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      Something I have often wondered about, and I am sure you will tell me the answer.
      ‘It is better for a man to marry than to burn up with passion.

      If priests later on in life find they fall in love and can not control their passions is it not better for them to marry than leave the priesthood?
      Is there a special reason,why it would not be Gods will like married Anglicans.
      The reason why I ask is because ‘although said with tongue in cheek’ my eldest grandson 24 said a couple of years ago when discussing the subject,said he would not mind being a priest when he was 50.He is now engaged to be married.I had a pretty good idea what his thinking was. that being a priest interested him but so did marriage and a family.
      I understand the Churches teaching on celibacy but now we have married Anglican priests I am not too sure. Why wait until he is 50 .Its a difficult choice to make for a young man. It is not as if Married life is sinful.It sounds as though one is competing against the other for holiness.After all we have married deacons, so why can not be ordained to celebrate Holy Mass.

      • John Nolan says:

        St Joseph
        If the Latin Church were to conform to Greek practice and ordain married men as a matter of course, there would be practical difficulties. Bishops have to deploy priests at very short notice to parts of the diocese where they are needed, and if the priest were married with children at school, this would present difficulties. If, however, the priest were old enough to have no dependent children this would be less of a concern, but most men by the age of fifty already have a career. To discern a vocation at 20 and then put it off for another 30 years sounds like a case of having your cake and eating it. Also, in the Latin Church a bishop need not be a monastic (in the Eastern Church this, and the celibacy which goes with it, is a requirement). If a young man knows he may not marry after diaconal ordination, and wants the best of both worlds, he might be in too much of a hurry to tie the knot, and the axiom “marry in haste, repent at leisure” still applies.

        An Anglican priest knows he can marry at any time (provided he has the means to support a wife and family) without jeopardizing his promotion prospects. And he is freer to seek preferment than his Catholic counterpart. The idea of a priest marrying after ordination is a Protestant concept which does not obtain in the Apostolic Churches, and therefore is not an option. I would not be against the idea of ‘viri probati’ who were mature married men with a career behind them (and a pension which would give them financial security) being ordained. They could say Mass and administer the sacraments without having to shoulder the administrative burden of a PP (although they might well be qualified to help him).

  30. St.Joseph says:

    John Nolan.
    That sounds half understandable.But just a couple of doubts.(Bishops not included)
    First moving about. My fathers job was moving about and from the age of 5 to 14 & half I went to many many school sometimes only 6 months in each the longest one was 4yrs.(That’s why I did not learn much I suppose!)
    Secondly There is always home schooling which is happening today for a lot of Catholics.
    Thirdly I did not think promotion came into the picture for the priesthood.Perhaps single priests.
    There is more of a chance of priests sticking to their vocation to the priesthood if married with a wife to support him spiritually, also children would be more involved in the religious life of the Church.
    I am not against the way it is at the moment I am quite pleased with the thought of celibacy for the priesthood ,to me it is the Pearl of great Price, once found not to be lost and I love all the Monastic beauty of our faith,(although I feel the Ordhodox Church has kept it) Maybe I am just a romantic!! but I cant help but think about it sometimes with the view of the last 40 or so years of ‘unsettlement’ but I suppose that is something that will never go away.I have my doubts at the moment.!!
    Thank you for you comments.

    • John Nolan says:

      I suspect that many priests might envy their Ordinariate brethren not so much for their having wives, but for their having the option, in addition to both ‘forms’ of the Roman Rite, of a vernacular Mass which has the Tridentine prayers at the foot of the altar, Offertory prayers and Last Gospel, and which comes with a recommendation for ad orientem celebration.

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