Many writers will tell you that they never bother to re-read their published work. I am not among their number for I find few things more satisfying than reading something with which I entirely agree. This took me back to a 1966 copy of The Month, containing a piece titled “The responsible conscience.”

The burden of my article was that Catholics in general had been trained to avoid the use of their consciences in any process of moral discrimination. First, the panorama of moral teaching was so wide that the answer to any dilemma of consequence was available. Why try do-it-yourself when the answer was in the back of the book? Second, there was a particular virtue in obedience, which added an extra burnish to one’s moral act. And I quoted several authorities who bewailed the disappearance of the Catholic conscience.

The establishment attitude to teaching morals to the young was that moral education should be explicit, dogmatic and determinate. It should indoctrinate children until resistance to evil becomes almost second nature. It says to the child: you must be good in the way I teach you to be good, so that afterwards you may know how to be good. (Sorry, I should have used inverted commas. That was taken directly from a standard moral theology, Henry Davis SJ, 1958 edition.)

This former approach suggests a picture of the Christian life as a journey of great peril. We were either en route for blessedness or en route for a Hell of eternal punishment. Beheading by ISIL is positively benign by comparison. The current Catechism remains clear about this. We may rightly claim to be a religion of love, but we must also accept that in practice we were once a religion of serious psychological threat. We were controlled by menace. It is clearly stated that mortal sin requires full knowledge and consent. But we cannot escape full knowledge given our recognition of natural law and the Church’s teaching. And we do have consent because we have free will, and are assured that the grace needed to avoid sin is always available.

This will read strangely to younger generations. Vatican II reminded us that conscience takes precedence over extraneous moral teaching. We remember moral orthodoxies which have turned out to be heterodoxies. And we understand how full knowledge and full consent are more difficult concepts than we used to think. Shaw’s St Joan did not know whether she was in a state of grace: equally, we do not know if we are in a state of damnation.

Against this background we may understand better the differences of opinion which were expressed at the synod. Perforce, senior bishops and cardinals were brought up in the old school. And the earliest lessons drive deepest. There is a line of thought which says: sacramental marriage is indissoluble, remarriage is a continual state of mortal sin freely maintained with knowledge and consent, so reception of the Eucharist by someone actively at enmity with God is unthinkable.

Similarly, this reasoning goes, a homosexual couple must be aware that their relationship centres on a grave disorder (the Catechism specifically rules out ignorance of the natural law). Of course we must behave decently to them but accepting them as members of our community when they live in culpable enmity against God is many steps too far.

By the same token those couples who use contraception are in a similar case, although this subject appears to have been omitted from the discussions. I hope that the end of the world does not come when there is a queue in my parish church for Communion. I don’t think I could take the weeping and gnashing of teeth. The concept of a cycle of sin, repentance, confession, amendment, and sin again — repeated throughout a married life is, to put it kindly, bizarre.

The opposing view, sometimes described as the pastoral approach, does not, as far as I know, question the law. The indissolubility of sacramental marriage – notwithstanding the ingenious ways we have of disposing of natural marriage – is not in doubt. A mismatch between gender and sexual orientation is patent. And the Church certainly has the right to decide who should qualify for her sacraments. But human moral behaviour is deeply complex. Charting the spiritual state by measuring external behaviour was understandable in medieval terms, it is scarcely so now.

So how might we approach this? Pope Francis emphasises mercy and forgiveness. But, bearing in mind that our God is the one after whom all fatherhood is named, I find it helpful to look at the family. It would be presumptuous to reverse the metaphor and claim that human parenthood is a model of God’s parenthood. But it may be the best model we have.

Loving parents are not blind to their children’s faults or even indurated bad behaviour. We work to understand the different temperaments and motivations. We look at things from the child’s point of view. We are always searching out the good in the child, and we focus on encouragement rather than punishment. If a child offends we may have to condemn, but at the smallest sign of repentance we open our arms. We would admit the ultimate possibility, however unlikely, that a child of full age could exclude himself from the family through obstinate perversity but we would fight long and hard before we surrendered. And we would keep the door open and the fatted calf ready. Does that sound like pastoral care?

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Church and Society, Moral judgment, Philosophy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

103 Responses to Menace

  1. Brian Hamill says:

    I think you are very right in your appraisal of the attitude of many of the bishops of the recent Synod. I recognise all too well your description of living under the menace of (accidental) eternal damnation. Fortunately the Lord led me through this valley of darkness and out into ‘green pastures’. But it was the experience of family life and, especially fatherhood, which finally enabled me to appreciate the meaning of the term ‘God the Father’. Owing to the way we have evolved as humans becoming a father has the power to change, really change, one’s attitude to others. No doubt motherhood can achieve the parallel change in women. That evolutionary change is part of God’s providence and is sealed in the fact that Marriage, the natural home of parenthood, is a sacrament, which means that the spouses in their love for each other and for their children have a direct experience of ‘being God’. That is an experience which none of the bishops, I assume, have ever had and they are the worse for that lack. Only a deep spiritual prayer life can do the same for the celibate. The fact that the Eastern Churches have a married clergy and that their bishops are often chosen from the monastic orders, and so with that prayer-filled life, may be the root cause that the Eastern discipline on marriage is much more pastorally orientated than that of the West. It is interesting to note that it was a bishop from the East,Theodore of Tarsus, as Archbishop of Canterbury in Anglo-Saxon times, who allowed remarriage while one of the spouses was still living when ‘the marriage was clearly ‘dead’ owing to abduction into slavery.

  2. John Nolan says:

    Brian, did the fact that Cardinal Manning had been a married man and that Cardinal Newman had not give the former an advantage over the latter? (It is worth bearing in mind that the Church of England in the 19th century required University fellows to be celibate).

  3. In his post Quentin states :- “Vatican II reminded us that conscience takes precedence over extraneous moral teaching. In “The basic sixteen documents of Vatican Council II” I can find no specific mention of conscience. The question of conscience is, as Quentin mentions, significantly discussed in the Catechism (Article 6 – Moral conscience).

    Difficulty arises when we consider how individuals interpret the meaning of ‘conscience’.

    In the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois his Excellency Bishop Thomas Paprocki was disturbed about the numbers of Catholics who were failing to attend Mass and commissioned a survey by the Benedictine University to assess the reasons. At a subsequent meeting to discuss the results Dr. William D’Antonio said the findings of the survey showed people wanted to make up their own minds about the teachings of the Church and to decide for themselves what’s right and wrong and which teachings they will follow. This is clearly a very dangerous interpretation of ‘following one’s conscience’.

    How often have you heard it said in church that as Catholics we have an OBLIGATION to attend Mass on Sundays and ‘Holidays of Obligation’.
    This word ‘obligation’ seems to be categorised as totally unacceptable.Similarly with the notion of ‘obedience’. Again Quentin states, rather pejoratively, “ . . there was a particular virtue in obedience, which added an extra burnish to one’s moral act”.

    To me obedience and fulfilling one’s obligations is an essential part of moral behaviour. Admittedly Jesus did not agree with the pharisaical insistence on meticulously following complex and largely irrelevant rules of behaviour but to me this does not compromise the motto of Chandos “Fais ce que dois–adviegne que peut” (Generally translated as “do my duty, come what may”).
    My father was an Anglo-Irish Protestant but because he knew that Catholics had a duty to attend Mass on Sundays would insist that my mother and I always went to Mass on Sundays; he would drive us to the church, return home to prepare breakfast, and collect us afterwards.

    This is why statements like “We may rightly claim to be a religion of love, but we must also accept that in practice we were once a religion of serious psychological threat.” always worry me. What does this word ‘love’ mean? (Try looking it up in Wikipedia!)

    • Quentin says:

      Conscience in Vat II. “The Church in the World of Today” paras 16,17

      • I have read the paragraphs (16,17) in GAUDIUM ET SPES. To me these simply say that man has an innate perception encouraging the person to ‘turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality” but because they have ‘free will’ they may choose to ignore it.
        This indeed the point that I was trying to make, using as illustration the results of research in the Diocese of Springfield.
        It seems to me that one of the major causes of such behaviour is that ‘obedience’ seems no longer to be considered a virtue.

      • milliganp says:

        The people who ran Auschwitz claimed obedience as their justification. Without personal conscience, obedience is meaningless.

    • milliganp says:

      The word obligation can also mean “to bind by gratitude”, surely it is in this sense that we attend Mass and recall God’s great gift to us in Christ’s life death and resurrection – on Sunday we also willingly submit to Christ’s command “do this in memory of me”.
      If we make the Sunday obligation the same as the obligation to pay our taxes, we diminish rather than increase the value of our action. If you go to Mass begrudgingly because you have to rather than enthusiastically because you want to it becomes like the begrudging thank you I used to have to say to the headmaster after being caned.

    • milliganp says:

      C S Lewis wrote an excellent book on the four loves, affection, friendship, romantic / sexual love and charity. Charity is, I would guess, closest to the direct meaning (Greek Agape) of love when we talk about the Church being a Church of love. However the ancient hymn goes “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est” which tells us that the loves of friendship, affection and eros also mirror the love of God and need, appropriately to be reflected in the image of Christ in the church.

    • milliganp says:

      Horace, the story of your father makes an interesting one. At the time his church held as an article of faith that all Papists went to hell and the Catholic church affirmed hell as the ultimate destination of all Protestants. Despite this he took you to and your Mother to Mass; he was excercising exactly the same freedom of conscience and respect, out of love, for your mother and her faith which leads many today to question matters of faith that conflict with genuine love (whatever that is).

  4. Vincent says:

    My instinct is to go with Quentin, but I do have one problem. When I read the New Testament i find quite a number of passages, both in the gospels and the epistles, which sound pretty threatening to me. If the old fashioned bishops were to read this blog, I suspect they would argue their case direct from Scripture.

    • milliganp says:

      Part of the context of all revelation is the society or culture in which the revelation takes place. In the time of Christ the rule of law was enforced with brutal severity, monarch was commonplace and a state could only endure if its army was more powerful than its neighbours. Many Gospel parables are phrased in this world view but Christ said “my kingdom is not of this world”. Exageration is also a common rhetorical tool, so though I accept that Hell and damnation should exist, That does not mean I believe in fire and brimstone.

  5. Brendan says:

    Growing up as a young lad, the Penny Catechism gave me – if nothing else – a solid earthing on moral/ethical understanding which proved the lynchpin on which all my decisions ( conscience based ) were made in subsequent living. I do not feel therefore in anyway moved as such to denigrate ( perhaps too strong a word ? ) Cat..Cath.Church. Did that make me a good Christian ?… I can’t of course be sure. Maybe my generation were more like the Pharisee than the Saint.
    In that respect I will agree with Quentin’s proposition that the main thrust of Catholic daily living was preposition by the very thought of a REAL possibility of one ending up in Hell.
    But the point about the parable was that God’s order was restored not by ‘ killing the Fatted – calf ‘ but that the prodigal had found his own way , by God’s grace , back into the fold AFTER he had repented. HIs ‘ father ‘ was his reward.
    ” There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine who were saved. ” i do agree that amongst the deliberations of our Bishops at the Synod there would appear to be a caucus who lay more store over the letter of the Law than its pastoral application. After all Our Lord came not to do away with the Law but to ‘ complete ‘ – Matthew, New Jerusalem Bible.
    However the law is the law . My interpretation of this is how we apply it given today’s circumstance in a fatherly/pastoral sense. This does not mean ‘ throwing baby out with bathwater ‘ – this must be the cycle in church/world history that we must break. i have the feeling that this Pope with the Church, is the one , by The Spirits grace to set it in motion.

  6. Hock says:

    There is a lot to digest in this particular post as it covers a wide range of subjects, most of which have been debated on here before. (Conscience being a prime example, and I am still confused by it !)
    For specific generations of Catholics fear was certainly a factor , and one that was vigorously taught. I remember receiving instruction from a pp who said something along the lines of: “The highest reason for wanting to do good is love of God, the one below that is the desire to go to heaven and the lowest of them all is to avoid hell.”

    In practice it was the last that mattered most and the other two were largely forgotten.

    I also recall that one occasion I arrived in a new country by plane on what was a day of obligation in the UK. I searched high and low for a Church so as I could meet my obligations and finally found one, (by then I was worn out and wet through,) only to find it was not a day of obligation in my new country !
    It made me idly wonder if the plane had crashed en route would I have gone to hell because I had not met my obligations! More to the point was how ridiculous the teaching was. I may be wrong but were there holy days of obligation relevant to Scotland but not England?

    More practically though have not most of the days of obligation been shifted around to the nearest Sunday precisely because it was obvious that even regular Churchgoers ignored the obligation in large numbers and so as to avoid condemning them to a state of mortal sin the obligation was just made easier; (and some might say, meaningless. Others might ask : why not apply it to all of them and remove the phrase ‘Obligation’ completely?)

    NB: I formerly posted under the name ‘claret’ until the gremlins interceded on all your behalves.

    • Quentin says:

      Certainly there are some who have chosen to understand the demands of conscience as a freedom to do, or obey, according to arbitrary choice. But Vat II makes it clear, after accepting that an erroneous conscience still binds: “But we cannot say the same when men have too little care in looking for the true and for the good, or when habits of sin gradually almost blind conscience.”

      A fundamental point here is that God has given us the extraordinary power of free moral choice. And he will not take that away. So much so that if an individual chooses to separate himself from God forever, God will respect that choice. I speak in human words here, this mystery requires deep meditation.

      • St.Joseph says:

        There is nothing God would not do to save our souls even to giving up His only Son on the Cross.
        Gods Will takes priority over our own own, it is our duty to evangelize regardless of the individual conscience.
        Lord your Will not mine,

      • Singalong says:

        “Culpable ignorance of the doctrines of the Church” comes to mind, from the old catechism.

    • milliganp says:

      Your tast in wine does not match my own, or was Burgandy already taken.

  7. Ignatius says:

    I suspect there would be plenty of occasions in scripture when God did not quite respect the free choice of humans….St Paul set on persecution till struck down, Jonah fleeing the country till eaten by the whale.. Job blighted for no clear reason…Whatever God is, God is not a country gentleman.

  8. milliganp says:

    Quentin, your Jesuit formation has obviously gifted you a consistency few could match. I find myself disagreeing with statements I made last week. I agree with you fear of the second coming in the middle of Communion. On a more serious note though, this humorous (even absurd) construct does sharply focus on the implication that half our church congregations are (in the eyes of some) damned.
    The childhood act of contrition I was taught starts “O my God I am sorry, and beg pardon for all my sins and detest them above all things because they deserve thy dreadful punishments..” It doesn’t exactly echo of a loving God or allow that many minor sins are human failings rather than deliberate acts of defiance against God.

  9. St.Joseph says:

    My childhood act of contrition was .- O my God I am heartly sorrow for having offended thee and I detest my sins above every other evil because they displease thee my God who for thy Infinite Goodness art so deserving of all my love and I firmly resolve by Thy Holy Grace never more to offen thee and to amend my life Amen. No word of punishment.
    I have said that at absolution after confession since I was five.nearly 70 years ago.

    • The prayer that I was taught as a child, and regularly use to this day, seems to be a compromise between the version used by milliganp and St.Joseph :-

      Oh my God, I am sorry and beg pardon for all my sins
      They deserve thy dreadful punishments
      They have have crucified my loving Saviour Jesus Christ
      They have offended thine infinite goodness.
      I firmly resolve never to offend thee again and carefully to avoid the occasions of sin.

      • Singalong says:

        The one I was taught was almost he same, but we added “and most of all” to they have offended thine infinite goodness.
        For the last sentence I now say, “I will try not to sin again.”

    • milliganp says:

      The prayer of adoration I was taught, as a child, to say after Communion was, “Oh my God, I love You above all things because You are infinitely good and perfect”. I gave up saying it when I realised I didn’t know what the words meant.

  10. Ignatius says:

    “I will try not to sin again.”
    Yes, I say that too. I simply cannot use any other form because, in my own case, I could not stand the hypocrisy of it.

    • St.Joseph says:

      What is hypocrisy about a good act of contrition?

      • Singalong says:

        Sometimes the words of very devout prayers are, for me, more an expression of what I aspire to, than an honest expression of how I actually feel.

      • Singalong says:


      • Singalong says:

        Some very devout prayers seem to me to require a little personal amendment sometimes, the wording of the particular Act of Contrition mentioned is particularly optimistic and definite, “I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, never to sin again.”

        On the other hand, I think Our Lord takes what we say on many occasions as more of a desire, than a fact, a statement of what we aspire to.

        “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” sometimes requires a great deal of aspiration.

      • St.Joseph says:

        When I say the act of contritiom after absolution, it reminds me that I desperately need Gods Grace to never sin again. His Grace is always open for us to receive all we need to do is ask Him,it is always available,what prevents us from receiving it is our own human pride., we can go it alone! Withou tHim

        Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who ;trespass against us’.is a great help to me as it reminds me of what I need to do to be forgiven.
        Make attonement for my sins after absolution. I must learn to forgive.

  11. John Nolan says:

    The idea of ‘obligation’ became unfashionable in the 1960s when the emphasis shifted to ‘choice’. For Catholics the situation was exacerbated by the transformation, almost overnight, of a 2000-year-old supernaturally-oriented institution, the most solid and venerable pillar of civilization, into an organization where every form of disorder and disorientation in the fields of morals, faith, authority and worship was not only tolerated but encouraged. Paul VI even refused to allow the US bishops to discipline priests who openly dissented from his own encyclical Humanae Vitae.

    Obligation, of course, works both ways. The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days made sense when the Mass was more or less the same everywhere, but I for one did not feel obliged to sit through a service which was no longer recognizably Catholic. If this meant going out of my way to attend one that was, this was in itself an exercise of choice.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      Choice is not to be compared with whatever Mass you choose to attend. to obedience.
      We attend where we want.

    • milliganp says:

      Choice and obligation are not automatically natural opposites. I felt obliged as a husband and father to provide for my wife and children, I never felt I had a valid choice not to do so. However, freely accepting an obligation is different to being forced to do so. It is the element of free will that gives choice its meaning and purpose. To remove free will by force of spiritual blackmail is no different, ultimately to removing free will by force of violence. I suspect God prefers us to excercise our free will in a moral cesspit than morally enslaved in a rose garden.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Perhaps that was the thinking of Adam and Eve. .Not to be morally enslaved in a garden
        Exercising their free will!.

      • milliganp says:

        Thank God for redemption. I hope (trust) heaven will be simpler than earth and that Christ has done enough to get me there.

  12. Nektarios says:

    It seems to me an old maxim, ` the law is always tighter than the practice.’
    The way the law of the Church was/ is enforced, may well be by `menace’.
    Somehow or other, we must remember that someone or a group of people within the Church at some point in time, usually to meet a perceived threat or for political reasons, thought up all these rules, regulations and arbitary laws, forgetting whom they were dealing with – the very Children of God,the Elect of God, not of man, whom the Apostles no less, called saints or brethren.
    The approach of the Apostles towards those in the early Christian Church was very different from today. It imposes authority today, when in actuality they possess little or no authority. They are dependent on the institution of the Church to give it to them and those Christian brethern to have it imposed upon them.
    The Church cannot and does not give Salvation. Has no authority to impose anything.
    If you live the Christian life, live it, and in love and fellowhip with your Christian brethren.

    The issue of order within the Church membership is clearly defined in Scripture. Going beyond it, as is done in many instances, leads to a practice of Menace, fear, intimidation.
    It also leads to confusion and error, fear and guilt and so on.

  13. jimbeam says:

    Re. the remarried and homosexuals.

    It seems to me blatantly obvious that the administering of the Eucharist cannot and should not be withheld — except in fairly exceptional circumstances, and presumably in respect of the known-to-be unbaptised and excommunicated.
    This is generally an issue of conscience for the communicant, not for the Church. The Church’s job is to make sure the communicant’s conscience is well informed.
    Furthermore, there is an imbalance if we consider the fear and reverence applied to the sacraments of Marriage and the Eucharist, in comparison to Baptism.

    “with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Matt 7:2

  14. Ignatius says:


    “The approach of the Apostles towards those in the early Christian Church was very different from today. It imposes authority today, when in actuality they possess little or no authority. They are dependent on the institution of the Church to give it to them and those Christian brethern to have it imposed upon them.
    The Church cannot and does not give Salvation. Has no authority to impose anything.
    If you live the Christian life, live it, and in love and fellowhip with your Christian brethren.”

    We are in complete agreement on this.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios & Ignatius.& Jimbeam
      On whose authority do you speak.
      Do the 10 Commandments or the 6 Commandments of the Church not hold the authority anymore, do we now judge ourselves according to our conscience
      Holy Mother Church has the power to forgive sins through the Sacrament of Confession, to whom many have been saved from rhe loss of Heaven.
      Are you saying here that we live now by our own conscience and if we believe we have not sinned there is no need of repentence. God will forgive our ‘self authority’!

      Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood unlawfully etc etc.

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, it is certainly true that any paid-up Catholic must accept the authority of the Church, given to her by Christ. But the ultimate authority must be through our use of reason where we make our final decision between right and wrong. This was not a new idea in Vatican II, although emphasis was put on it, It has however always been so.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Alright I will go along with that.
        However what gives us the authority to decide which is right and wrong..
        Perhaps you will enlighten me.
        I asked Ignatious to answer that question however he declined!!!

      • jimbeam says:

        St. Joseph, “on who’s authority” do I / they speak is surely for God to say.

        Re. the authority of the Church:
        “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” Matt 23:2
        That said, the 6 commandments do not sit easily with me.

        Surely the RCC does have authority, however there is a fine line here, where the Church has seemingly both taken that authority beyond bounds, and has also severely undermined whatever is legitimate of its authority. Add to this the unavoidable reality of Schisms (Protestant, Eastern, and even Muslim). And what about the emergence of Buddhism?

        There was criteria set by the Church Father’s for the legitimacy of Catholicism. Is this met? Looking at the awkwardness of what is written here (ie. “inasmuch”, below), I suspect it not possible to make a definite judgement either way:

        from Irenaeus, Against Heresies — [indicating the] “universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”

      • St.Joseph says:

        Jesus gave Authority to Peter. ‘What ever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven.
        Perhaps you may be able to tell me as I asked Ignatius Vincent Nektarious (well maybe not Nektarious as he is of the Orthodox Church with different authority)
        I will remind you I am not speaking from my own authority but from Holy Mother Church and I ask which RULES the Catholic Church teaches can we forget and live by our own conscience and free will?
        I will name a few just for starters.Abortion, Abortafants, Holy Mass on days of obligation without good reason,Sins of the flesh, Lust excessive drunkiness, wastefull spending of money, Giving back wrong change ,keeping it thinking the shop has more money than us.
        Disrespect to other and older catholics to the way we use religious objects and our way of worship
        These will be all explained in the CCC and many more.
        ‘Be Holy like our Heavenly Father is Holy.
        We are all sinners however our conscience does not rule our life.
        Perhaps you will be kind enough to fill me in with some more’ of the Churches rulings that you object to, which is more appropriate to your lifestyle?

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, God made us in his own likeness, that is he gave us reason and freewill. Reason offers us the ability to discern right and wrong. Free will gave us the ability to choose between them.

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, if we believe we have not sinned, of what do we repent?
        Personally, I do not make a practice of trying to second-guess the teaching of the church but that does not remove from me the obligation to inform my conscience and to excercise the free will given to me by God. If I genuinely believe something the church afirms to be right or wrong is incorrect then my duty is to follow conscience.
        As an example, in the past the Church has endorsed many oppresive governments under the duty associated with the 4th Commandment, forms of government the church would not endorse today.

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        On whose authority do I speak? Jesus our Lord was asked the same question a few times by the religious authorities, was He not?
        We are not so much discussing authority as such, but its uses and abuses by Church leaders down through the centuries till today.
        You appeal to the Law, well, if you keep them perfectly from your birth, you will live, if not you will die, for the wages of sin is death.
        We conclude because all men die, all are sinners, missed the mark, fallen short of perfection or, being holy even as He is holy.
        So there is no argument about it, is there.
        But what of the practice?
        “The function of the written Law is to deliver men from passions; that of natural law is to grant equal rights to all men in accordance with natural justice. The fulfilment of the spiritual law is to attain similitude to God, in so far as this is posssible for man.”
        St. Maximos the Confessor. 2nd C.

        There is right way of religious authority practice and a wrong way. Biblical and mere religious orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.and Ignatius.
        The problem with most people who have a grudge against the Church they have to bring up the past to give strength to their greviances!!
        I am living in Hope not the despair that some on this blog who do not find Hope in the Grace that we receive from the Sacrament of recollection.and the Eucharist.
        I was taught to examine my conscience before I went to sleep by my grandmother and knew the difference between Mortal and Venial sin, and when I came from the confessional I felt the Grace of the Sacrament.Hope is something not mentioned today as it probably sounds presumptious,but it wont be if one is close to Jesus our Saviour and our Blessed Mother.
        How can we give Hope to others if we are despairing ourselves.
        Jesus said to the sinner ‘go show yourself to the priest’ , to another ‘your sins are forgiven,go sin no more-that must be our intention when we have confessed our sins!
        Jesus on earth was born a Jew, when John the Baptist came to Baptise shouting REPENT, Jesus altough sinless was Baptised too. Confession follows Baptism’ The intention not to sin ‘again’.
        We will sin again, however the intention must be not too. We must trust in Gods Grace.Absolution is the compassion that God gives us through Holy Mother Church.
        Becoming a Cathoiic in later years is no excuse for ignorance, Gods Grace can touch our heart at any time,as it did my late husbands 3 years before he died because he was open to the Holy Spirit.
        As Christians we are here to do today what Jesus would be doing -teaching, healing and evangelising, and not letting ourselves down by a lack of faith in ourselves!

  15. Geordie says:

    “I will not sin again” is not hypocrisy. The word “will” is not the future tense. It is from the verb “to will” as in free will. It means I wish not to sin again.

  16. St.Joseph says:

    Certainly-to our own chosen destiny!

  17. Ignatius says:

    What a lot of fuss you make!!

    “I will try not to sin again.”
    Yes, I say that too. I simply cannot use any other form because, in my own case, I could not stand the hypocrisy of it.

    The phrase ‘in my own case’ means ‘related to me’. In other words I was simply agreeing with Singalong that IN MY CASE I am aware of my own weakness and thus dare not apply the’ firm resolve’ because I know this would be IN MY CASE hypocrisy….gedddit? Please, people, get off my back. I know we misjudge things on the net but I thought the sentence structure did make grammatical sense. ST Joseph I don’t ‘decline to answer’ I just keep silence because I can see our conversation is at odds with itself. You and many others here have Catholic Dogma embedded in you since childhood, I do not, I see things differently than you…no crime in it I think, chalk and cheese springs to mind. Truth is we all follow the dictates of our own being within the wide fold of the Church, don’t kid yourselves that any of you do otherwise …we were made human and human we . As to ‘authority’ well it depends on what you mean and upon what you have seen. Misuse of ‘authority’ produces abuse, pure and simple.

  18. overload says:

    Singalong: “I think Our Lord takes what we say on many occasions as more of a desire, than a fact, a statement of what we aspire to”
    Psalm 119, the longest chapter of the Bible, is apparently an uncertain conversation between the aspiration and reality of ones relationship with God, and also struggle against Godlessness.
    Am I my lost and sinful self, or am I the Holy Spirit with me, or even am I who the Holy Spirit “jealously” yearns for within me — and is the difference between these three straightforward? Am I also the Holy Spirit — am I also you; am I (with you) also Mary — the One True Church (the fellowship of the Holy Spirit)?

    • overload says:

      Just to add that I recommend the King James Version for psalm 119.

      • milliganp says:

        Whenever I find myself in an Anglican Church I always check to see if the BCP is available to read the wonderful psalm translations. I can recommend “The Poets’ Book of Psalms” edited by Laurence Wieder or “The Psalms in English” edited by Donald Davie (Penguin Classics). The former contains psalm 119 in the KJV and the latter a poetic reflection on vv137-160 by Gerard Manley Hopkins and a modern paraphrase by Gordon Jackson.

  19. milliganp says:

    When talking of the Council and conscience, another, much vaunted, phrase was / is “the universal call to holiness”. Perhaps, in discussing the perennial challenge of irregular unions we should consider not merely their degree of sinfulness but whether they represent, in any way, a response to this universal call.

  20. overload says:

    St Joseph.
    “The problem with most people who have a grudge against the Church they have to bring up the past to give strength to their greviances!!”

    The flip side to this is that the RCC chooses to bring up the past to give strength to it’s own legitimacy. What basis is there for the claim that there has been an “unbroken” chain of Popes? Even if there has been, this does not allow for the “binding” of worldly things, or the “traditions of men”, in heaven. — “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.” (Galatians 6:7)

    Re. the grace of the sacrament of confession… thank God. (In many ways I would that I could make more use of this sacrament, yet I have only been to confession once, maybe twice. And even more so than this, I would love to see my possessed / mentally ill friend go to the sacrament of confession. But he has a problem with men, and even those men he has some trust in, seems he is unlikely to find a priest who can truly listen to him. Or maybe he doesn’t quite want to repent… this has been bothering me, considering, for instance, an empathetic affinity with Dennis Nilsen.) But is it not a “tradition of men” that says the only way to be forgiven by God is through a RC priest?

    • St.Joseph says:

      I am sorry but your post is nor for me to reply’
      Remember what you said when or if you recite the Profession of Faith at Holy Mass and Easter.
      Just one thing to remind you. ‘As a Rc you are obliged to go to the Sa rament of Reconcilation once a year.
      However like others the 6th Commandment of the Church are not applicable!

      • milliganp says:

        As I understand it the “commandments of the church” no longer hold. In particular confession once a year is no longer an obligation, unless one is concious of grave sin.

        “After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year. (CIC 989)”

  21. Nektarios says:

    St. Joseph
    I perceive you protest to loudly.
    Afterall, we are discussing does the Church use the means of menace to reach its goals.
    The means of menace is not particular to the RCC, but in other Churches, by Governments, kings, queens, business,
    in schools and universities and sadly in the home. The means of menace has been used since civilization began.
    The ways of menace are not the ways of God or Christ or the Holy Spirit, but it is the ways of Man.

    • St.Joseph says:

      You say ‘St Joseph I perceive you protest too loudly’.
      To which I make no apologies. The child Jesus was considered to be a menace by Herod,so he had to be destroyed but He escaped into Egypt!..John the Baptist was considered to be a menace, so he had to be destroyed!. Jesus was considered to be a menace, so He to had to be destroyed!. The Apostles were considered to be a menace, so they had to be destroyed!.
      To some the Churchs teachings are considered to be a menace,so She has to be destroyed!
      However Nektarios Satan will not achieve his evil works even though he is having a great deal of help especially from those who call themselves christians And we are his particular target.
      That is where the menace is!,
      Jesus said ‘ Do you suppose I am here to bring peace on earth? No I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son;son against father; mother against daughter; daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law,, daughter in-law against mother-in-law.. Luke. 12-51,53.

      So you see Nektarious, ‘we dont protest loudly enough!!!.

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, please be kinder when criticised. the whole point was that Christ allowed himself to suffer death and told Peter, when he defended him, “those who live by the sword will die by the sword”. Similarly the apostles and countless martyrs witnesess to their faith by their deaths. We are supposed to be a faith of gentleness, forgiveness and compassion. Strident words can do as much harm as physical violence.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I have seen a lot of unkindness on this blog. How dare you dictate to me for defending the faith!

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, an irrational rant is not a defence of the faith. You frequently contradict the Church’s teaching on free will and conscience.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Where is the irrational rant, please inform me.As you have accused me of that!
        I suppose the churches are full on Sundays and Confessions at Easter time is empty!
        It depends what you call a grave sin
        I suppose abortafacants are now left to ones conscience. and free will.Also Holy Mass on Sunday.
        This is a blog on faith and science and I am entitled to express my opinion as every one else does on matters that concern them, and often not very polite including yourself, at times.especially on the subject of Angels, lest we forget.

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph
        Concerning Jesus, John the Baptist and the Apostles – no, they were not a menace but were perceived as a threat.
        However somethings that are taught these days by the Churches is often little more than liberalism, Humanism or secularism with a good old dab of religiousity mixed in.
        Now, that is a menace!
        It is a menace for it leads to totalitarianism.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Check your Dictionary for the definition of menace. (Oxford English Dictionary)

      • St.Joseph says:

        Since when has abortion, the sanctity of marriage; same sex marriage or adultry etc etc etc taught by Holy Mother Church ‘to be liberalism’ humanism or everything else that you wrote.

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, I suspect we agree in different words. Confession and, with it, the idea of examining one’s conscience is almost extinct in our church communities. My concern is that menace will not restore it. We need to look at western culture and society as missionary territory and realise that, amongst those in need of evangelisation, our church communities are also missionary territory.

      • Singalong says:

        Although I have suffered personally with fear of Hell and damnation in similar ways to the accounts of several other contributors, I do think it is important to keep the right balance between despair and presumption. Our Lord Himself spoke of the possibility of punishment in very clear and direct terms on a number of occasion as well as emphasising His love and mercy and care for us, and I think there is some danger in the Church today, if we rarely mention or think of it.

    • milliganp says:

      Nektarios, you have got us back on topic. The central dilemma faced by the Synod was between those who emphasise that God is infinitely just – and must therefore eternally punish unrepented sin, and those who say God is infinitely merciful. We hold as a matter of faith that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a substitutionary sacrifice for ALL the sins of mankind and has therefore already born our punishment.
      I can only speak from personal experience but my childhood was filled with Divine menace -and it was not a good thing. Most of those I know who have converted to Catholicism have not had to go through this – and they are better for not having had the experience. Menace overwhelms free will, God’s primary gift to us. It is one thing to say to a child “if you put your hand in the fire it will burn you” and another entirely to say “if you do wrong, I’ll put your hand in the fire”.

      • jimbeam says:

        “The central dilemma… already born our punishment.”
        But this does not mean that it is OK to sin. We need to know the full gravity of our sinful nature and the fallenness of this world — and die to it, not diminish it. To know sin with Godly sorrow and fear of God, that we might have the capacity to truly love, and as you suggest, not with worldly/satanic guilt and fear, which will not help us to love God.

      • milliganp says:

        Obviously we are called to imitate Christ, which should not leave sin as an option. However we are not called to fear punishment but know that forgiveness is always possible. Damnation is not impossible but it is, indirectly, our choice rather than God’s.

  22. jimbeam says:

    Naktarios gave us a quote from St Maximus (I think he gave the wrong dates for him!): “The function of the written Law is to deliver men from passions”.

    The written Law, is it not now — rewritten in Catholicism — rather primarily to correctly inform our consciences? In Christ we hold that it is the Holy Spirit who delivers us from unholy passions; not ritual (in itself), not blind/faithless obedience, not self-discipline (in itself) — especially not half-hearted/begrudging self-discipline.
    The Mosaic law included — and for modern day Jews who have adapted it, does include — many “schoolmaster” rules (especially in respect of “unclean” foods/things) which were implemented apparently to help deliver men from unholy passions, amongst other functional purposes — in preparation for Jesus and the outpouring of grace and power in His name.
    St Paul makes it clear that if we try and rebuild the rules in a (lukewarm?) attempt to engineer Holiness, and/or to engineer worldly (or Judaic) peace/stability/dominion (the six commandments come to mind, and with them, to a lesser degree, also the ten commandments), we are going away from Christ.

    I wonder, especially in view of the six commandments, if some of what are now rules and Law — unnecessarily putting us under the penalty of sin, and thus both imposing menace and trivialising sin — should not rather be “rules of thumb” (optional suggested guidelines to be followed), and proposals for mutual agreement?

  23. Peter Foster says:

    St Joseph says 1 December 2014 at 12.43

    Jesus gave authority to Peter. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.””

    This idea underpins the legalistic bureaucracy of the Church. Is it just a blank page or are there any constraints on what can be bound? Are we not told that matters of doctrine have to be agreed by the whole Church and specifically declared ex cathedra?

    St Joseph continues:
    “… I ask which RULES the Catholic Church teaches can we forget and live by our own conscience and free will?”

    Does the authority given to Peter support the power of rules to attribute mortal sin and damnation to those who infringe them, for example Holy Days of Obligation? Such a rule and its consequences obviously do not come through Peter from Christ.

    • jimbeam says:

      “matters of doctrine have to be agreed by the whole Church”.
      There is a problem here. Either the RCC alone is the One True Church, or she has to take into account the “whole” Church, inc. Eastern and Protestant etc.; unless she believes that the other Church’s are part of her, but inferior to her, in which case perhaps she does not need to consult them or come to agreement with them.

    • milliganp says:

      Peter, The power of the keys is always either misrepresented or misunderstood. They only bind faith and morals and only when stated as being infallible. That which has been held “from the beginning” enjoys similar status. Thus most of the church’s teaching on sexual morality would be deemed infallible (but, for instance, the exact status of Humanae Vitae is disputed, most of its content restated eternal truths).
      In the past the feasts we now call Holy Days of Obligation would have been public holidays (holy-days) and attending Mass would have been part of the celebration. Most people now have to work on these days and are excused the obligation if unable to readily attend Mass. The command of Christ was to honour the Sabbath, the extension to Holy Days was an act of the Church. We are also bound by a duty of obedience to the church.

      • jimbeam says:

        “The command of Christ was to honour the Sabbath.” This was the command of Moses. When did Christ command this?
        “The power of the keys is always either misrepresented or misunderstood. They only bind faith and morals and only when stated as being infallible.” This is confusing.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    Peter Foster.
    I gave a list of what would be considered as serious sins that seperate is from God.
    It is pathetic that the only one that has resulted is, ‘Holy days of obligation.
    If we loved God we would go to Holy Mass to honour whatever saints were on that or other church calendars Not just go because it is an obligation.That is the difference in love and ‘nit picking’!.
    The strength of Peter comes through the Chair.

    • jimbeam says:

      “If we loved God we would go to Holy Mass to honour whatever saints were on that or other church calendars Not just go because it is an obligation”
      So why is it an obligation?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Jim Beam.
        Ask your Parish Priest.

      • jimbeam says:

        He has suggested this before, it is because otherwise people don’t bother. So it seems to me coercion to love God. Perhaps this might work (as encouragement) with some people. Other people it might be unhelpful to by reinforcing half-heartedness and triviality.
        Is menace less of a problem today?
        I would not call this nit picking, rather the devil in the detail. Ultimately, in reference to the gospel, Holy Scripture, and Christian unity, is it ‘Catholic’?

    • jimbeam says:

      St Joseph says that “The strength of Peter comes through the Chair.”
      I think we are talking about the strength of the Pope, not Peter. And is it “his” seat, or I wonder, is it rather that which was “bound on earth” by Peter and Paul?
      Again from Irenaeus, Against Heresies, see my comment December 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm :—

      [The chruch’s pre-eminent authority was] “founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul… The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric.”

      Furthermore, if we hold that the Roman Bishopric is in some way “bound on earth”, does this mean that the Papacy is invincible? Consider (Paul is talking to us Gentiles with reference to Israel and her rejection of Jesus), Romans 11:17—

      “…do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
      Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!”

      • Nektarios says:

        One cannot love God or man by coercion. Where coercion is love is not.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Jesus said.
        ‘Suffer little children to come unto me for theirs is the Kingdom og Heaven ‘
        Unless you become like liitle children you can not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

        That does not mean to be childish.. I was taught to love Jesus as a child, no coercion.then one stays loving God.
        Jesus had free will, but said ‘Father not my will but yours, When He said on the Cross ‘Father forgive them they know not what they do;we have no excuse now not to know His love for us by dying on the Cross, we owe Him if nothing else an act of worship, ,Whereby by we we give ourselves to Him totally in the Sacrafice of Holy Mass.

    • Peter Foster says:

      St Joseph,
      I raised the question of days of obligation as a simple example of dreadful teachings over matters of apparently social custom, to provoke some thought as to HOW the Church arrived at that position AND, as I see the point of Quentin’s article, HOW to distinguish a way forward that both extricates us from a mediaeval mechanism of controls and gives us a valid means of addressing life’s problems in all their novel complexities.

  25. Singalong says:

    Obedience is certainly an essential element of our Christian life. Christ was “was obedient unto death, even to death on the cross.”

    Who, and in what circumstances, must we obey?

    I think it has always been rather unclear, and I do not think that the Vatican Council substantially changed our responsibilities. The application of some of the commandments to particular, individual circumstances has always, and still does, cause many controversies. Thou shalt not kill. Does this include warfare, punishment for crime, permanent vegetative state, refusal of treatment in terminal illness? Thou shalt not steal. Does this include food when starving, excessive taxation of the wealthy,
    squatting when homeless?

    Infallible pronouncements do not cover all these situations, and we would all need a very great knowledge of Church teaching to know them all anyway.

    Decisions in our own personal lives can be very difficult. Must we always send our children to Catholic schools? Is it right to spend any extra money we may have on luxuries, when we know so much about all the need there is in our own country, and across the world? When I was a child, “mixed marriages” were almost forbidden, and the non-Catholic spouse had to promise to bring up children as Catholics, as Horace reminds us in describing his father’s exemplary fulfillment of this obligation.

    A number of saints had to hold to their consciences despite opposition from very senior clergy, like St Joan of Arc, and St. Bernadette, though I don’t think they actually disobeyed specific instructions. Most of us do not receive private revelations, and some who may think they do, suffer from mental health problems, but I think we all sometimes struggle with our response to the graces we are given to increase our love of God and our neighbour in practical ways.

  26. milliganp says:

    One of thie matters we could consider is that spiritual menace is no longer an effective tool in western culture.However, in Africa, it still works a treat. In my own Archdiocese the solution to the shortage of priests has been “solved” by importing priests from Africa and we now have at least 10 parishes run by African priests. In over half of these parishioners complain that the priests have returned to the fire and brimstone of a previous era, but that this falls on deaf ears. The only net result is that people feel disconnected from the church.

  27. Ignatius says:

    having spent the last 6 years either training as a catechist or in diaconate formation and having nattered to or sat at the feet of many people ordained or not I can safely say that the Catholic Church in England is a far broader place than one may think. Usually there is a tendency to keep ones mouth shut and as has been said, not disobey instructions directly. I think ‘fire and brimstone’ has had its day and I am personally quite allergic to any sniff of authoritarianism in the church especially when it is backed with hints as to who loves more than who and how this fidelity may show itself.

    We could do with remembering that Jesus seemed in the main to be of the opinion that if people loved him they would do what he asked. Whether or not going to a holy day of obligation is a demand made by God through his church and one which carries the risk of damnation may be debatable but personally I think it highly unlikely. We need to remember that love is shown by the way we lay down our lives to serve each other, also that our service in this manner may be largely invisible to others.

    To think that God marks attendance on holy days with an axe in his hand seems to me rather extreme and to run counter to the whole point of a freely given dignity. I have a marvellous Spiritual Director who, when I taxed him with some similar questions explained that though God did indeed subsist within the Catholic Church no one knew at any give time quite where!

  28. overload says:

    Singalong brings up the ambiguity and political complications of the commandment “thou shalt not kill”. Further, is it “thou shalt not kill”, or “thou shalt not murder”? Disciples of the Buddha apparently followed the former, to the extent of not taking animal life (this is not necessarily the same as not eating animal flesh!) and not uprooting plants.

    St Joseph, you refer to Church doctrine and the sanctity of doctrine on faith and morals, and the need to preserve this. For instance, in reference to abortion, the Church teaches that the unborn child, from conception, is a dignified human being, independent of the mother. I agree.
    The Church teaches that abortion is murder. I went off on one about this in the discussion ‘the right to be right’, suggesting that it is certainly taking life, and that it is also likely to be murder. Then, suggesting that if this is true then this would indicate (perhaps serious) Church error in “matters of faith and morals”, I felt I may have overstepped the mark. Is this not a complex political dilemma? And if it is always murder, does that mean that the aborting mother is always a murderer? — For a murder to take place, there must be a murderer(s).

    This returns to the subject of menace, in respect of worldly/satanic fear and shame/guilt/stigma.
    I grew up (as an atheist) conditioned to believe that a baby is only independent of its mother once born, so before then it is a part of its mother. It was not then intuitive for me to think that abortion was wrong. Many pregnant women (inc. some Catholics?) may be very confused about this; their consciences may be very confused?

    I say all this in view of an article I read recently from the “other side”. I do not ‘agree’ with the thrust of it, however, it is a good article, and brings up some issues which might be neglected on “this side” (because the fear and defensiveness this debate seems to ignite on both sides?). It refers to the polarised problem in America, polarised also on a national political level.
    One abortionist referred to in the article, with a Christian background, was apparently influenced to go the way he went because of the effect upon him of having, when younger, witnessed a school friend “forced” to carry an unwanted baby against her will.
    The article also talks about some pro-life Christians committing hate crimes against practicing abortionists.

    • St.Joseph says:

      We are not ignorant of scientific knowledge today, If one wilfully kills their child they are guilty , unless of course .they deciede to be ignorant
      The alternative is adoption. With the scientific knowledge of fertility awareness how God made females since Eve, ,no change there.

  29. milliganp says:

    I’d like to comment, and suggest we build on, your last two paragraphs. There is no doubt that much of the Old Testament in anthropomorphic, people believe that a flood or earthquake is an intervention by God to indicate God’s anger, a good harvest means God is pleased and a lot of the sexual ethics of Deuteronomy and Leviticus are the projection onto God of the internal rules of a clan or tribe.
    When God becomes man in Christ we see, perhaps for the first time, genuine compassion and care and an implicit acceptance by God of the fallen human condition. In eating and drinking with publicans and sinners Christ accepts that conversion always starts with an encounter “where the person is”, he doesn’t even presume conversion but is happy to use the encounter.
    When we come back to parenthood, we get, in humanity a glimpse of the parental love of God. The reality is that a hundred years ago “hard parenting” backed up with severe force, was often considered the norm. Today we would count as child abuse any regular use of corporal punishment, even by a parent.
    If we have changed the way we parent children, surely we have also to change the way we pass on the faith. Children who see God as a perfect parent are more likely to want to keep the faith than those who see God as an eternally irritated patriarch.

    • overload says:

      On the other hand…

      From Hebrews 12:

      “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
      and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
      because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
      and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

      Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

    • overload says:

      “There is no doubt that much of the Old Testament in anthropomorphic, people believe that a flood or earthquake is an intervention by God to indicate God’s anger, a good harvest means God is pleased and a lot of the sexual ethics of Deuteronomy and Leviticus are the projection onto God of the internal rules of a clan or tribe.”

      I think you imply that it is archaic and non scientific to consider disasters as coming from God? Adam and Eve were, presumably, free from disasters. The Israelites were told by God: if you obey my commands, I will drive away your enemies, give you abundant harvests; care for you in every way — the promised land. If you disobey me, I will send the sword, famine, disease. He was, to them, surely talking in a literal material (worldly) sense. Was he lying?

      God accommodates for our current state of being, thus, yes, the Israelites lived in a world of tribal customs, competition and struggle for survival, war, idolatry, etc., which they did not suddenly jump out of and land in Melchizedek’s Salem.
      However, we should be careful not to assume that any of the Mosaic laws are “traditions of men” — especially since these laws were given at one time, when Moses was in close “face to face” communication with God.

      We must be careful not to reduce God (love) according to mans ways of thinking — we are whimsical and hopeless (and entertain false hopes) in the face of suffering, and things we do not understand (including good things such as the gospel). God wants us to transform to his way of thinking (and being), via Christ.

      • milliganp says:

        Do you think God directly told Moses that fornicators, adulterers and homosexuals should be stoned to death? This is before we consider whether or not Moses actually existed. As a Christian I accept as truth that which Christ considered true, but, for example, Jesus contradicts the Mosaic law on divorce.
        What I feel is important is that we realise that the people of Israel developed in their understanding of God and that, in a similar way Christianity is taking time to understand Christ.
        As to Adam and Eve being free from disaster, allowing some element of literal interpretation, there are amny places on earth where life is abundant and disasters rare.

      • overload says:


        “Do you think God directly told Moses that fornicators, adulterers and homosexuals should be stoned to death? This is before we consider whether or not Moses actually existed.”
        It seems to me very possible that Moses existed, and that God gave these commands to Moses.
        St Paul commanded “expel the wicked person from among you”, and showed the loving kindness of this command in practice in how he dealt with the man in Corinth who slept with his own fathers wife.
        Apparently we do not have the option to obey this this today (except in exceptional circumstances, ie. Mafioso), unless we want to do so hypocritically, for appeasement, or to clean the “outside of the dish”. It seems to me we must — beyond our imagination — know Christ and adapt to the circumstances. And remember that “the time is short”.

        “Christianity is taking time to understand Christ.”
        Surely the early Church of the Apostles understood Christ intuitively very well.
        Christianity / Catholicism today is taking time to adapt to the circumstances of here-and-now, and wake up?

        “Jesus contradicts the Mosaic law on divorce.”
        Since the Mosaic law has ended for us, thats OK then. However,
        I found an article, I have only got round skimming it, you might be interested? Divorce and remarriage in the old testament
        From the introduction: “This article will limit itself to the most seminal passage dealing with divorce and remarriage, Deuteronomy 24:1-4. It contains far-reaching implications for understanding New Testament passages on the subject and for properly recognizing the interpretive relationship between Old Testament and New Testament divorce/remarriage legislation.”

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, there are a number of Christian sects that practice excommunication or shunning, if we could find a way of being fair and charitable it might act positively to bring people to their moral senses. The problem is deciding who has the speck and who the beam. I will read the article and am sure in advance it will shed a different light on the law of Moses.

      • overload says:


        I hope the article lives up to its introduction.

        Speck or beam?…

        a) The Church (ie. us her members) does not benefit from being constituted of sinners (“leavened bread”); the sanctity of Holy Mass — is it not desperately defiled by priests, ministers and congregation partaking in the Eucharist unworthily?
        Don’t misunderstand what I am getting at; I am mindful of the parable of the field of wheat and tares, and it’s implications.
        — Again don’t misunderstand what I am getting at; I certainly do not mean to judge those who have-gone / do-go / might-go to the Eucharist unworthily as ultimately belonging to the devil.
        However, is it not necessary for us to really wake up to reality, and adapt, anew? I think the Church has already had to adapt in the past — ie. why do you think the Church and/or God changed the administering of the host onto the tongue, however many centuries ago it was? (I cannot conceive that this could have been the practice of the early Church.) But, you see, whether you like it or not, and choose to do it or not, now there is wine for the congregation, and bread in the hand — so what does this mean, for better and for worse?

        b) Perhaps you do not know the story of the man in Corinth, or at least not the full story? In the first Epistle he is rejected as an accursed outcast (yet with true hope of salvation), then in the second Epistle, truly repentant, he is to be comforted back into the community.
        It can be abusive (menacing) to mollycoddle children. I would rather be rebuked kindly and harshly than be comforted in superficial/false righteousness. I would rather die outcast by Church & mankind, repentant before God, than die suffocated under a blanket of numb mediocrity — accepted by Church & mankind but guilty before God.

        Please do not assume that I am necessarily talking about the remarried in any of what I have said above.

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, I found the article very informative. It also helped with recognising that the modern view of the practice of stoning to death fails to understand the culture and society in which the practice originates.
        Your following comments do resonate with me. Christ uses many parables each of which emphasises a different aspect of the relationship between God and humankind. There are several stewardship parables in which stewards who fail in their responsibilities are punished and, as has been said elsewhere, the prodigal son had to turn back to his father as part of the process of his reconciliation.
        I met with a fellow contributor yesterday and, in our general conversations, we came to the same conclusion about minimalist dumbed-down presentation of our faith. It is possible to state a truth clearly in a way that disturbs but does not alienate our communities and recognises the pursuit of virtue and the call to holiness.

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, my understanding of the move to communion on the tongue was that it, in part, derived from the development in understanding of the nature of Christ. It was only in 431, at the Council of Ephesus, with the declaration that Mary was the mother of God that our current Christology became fully defined. Also with the conversion of Constantine in 312 and the Edict of Milan, Christianity moved from being a persecuted minority to the mainstream faith; this had to have an impact on the way the church organised itself. The exact history is, I believe, unclear and disputed. Athanasius Schneider raises the possibility that Christ placed the consecrated bread of the Last Supprt directly on the tongue of the Apostles though this view is not supported by any historical evidence; John Chrysostom’s instructions for reception of Communion in the hand date from the late 4th Century so the practice existed at least up to that time.

  30. overload says:

    I have been with a Jehovah’s witness this morning, discussing scripture etc.
    He is an 80 year old Irish man, he told me that as a nine year old he remembered evangelists coming to Church to coerce money: “if you don’t have enough money to give to give the Church you will Burn in Hell!!!”. He tells me he knew this was not right, at that age.

    • overload says:

      But still in your cupped palm to feel
      The chunk and clink of an alms-collecting mite-box,
      Full to its slotted lid with copper coins,

      Pennies and halfpennies donated for
      “The foreign missions”… Made from a cardboard kit,
      Wedge-roofted like a little oratory

      And yours to tote as you made the rounds,
      Indulged on every doorstep, each donation
      Accounted for by a pinprick in a card—

      A way for all to see a way to heaven,
      The same as when a pinholed camera
      unblinds the sun eclipsed.

  31. John Nolan says:

    There is an interesting paper ‘What is the Catholic doctrine of religious liberty?’ by Thomas Pink, professor of philosophy at King’s College, London. As well as arguing that Dignitatis Humanae (1965) is in line with traditional Catholic teaching (something both its supporters and critics would deny) he has much to say on the subject of coercion. The paper in its 2012 form can be read at

  32. tyke says:

    A point that does not seem to have been raised (either that or I skimmed through the comments too quickly) is that, yes, we have to follow our conscience before the laws around us (whether the laws of the church or state), BUT, at the same time we must form our conscience, train it based on Scripture and the teaching of the Magesterium (who are ‘configured’ by and to Christ in order to proclaim and interpret the word of God).

    For me that means that (1) it’s not enough to just blindly apply laws without understanding about what is behind them — I must be convinced that applying this or that law is right at this time ; (2) the criteria of ‘what is right’ is not subjective but based on objectively studying Scripture and Church teaching as well as possible ; (3) discerning to what extent which teaching applies to the current context (because in many cases there are several complementary (perhaps, dare I say, even contradictory) teachings). In short, making a moral decision ain’t easy.

    Perhaps a good rule of thumb I’ve found is to consider which action will be the most effective in bringing the Kingdom Of God closer. (Which of course raises the whole question of what the Kingdom of God means to me, and in what way can any action of mine bring it closer — but that’s another question 🙂 )

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