Synod matters

The ‘ordinary’ synod on “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World” will start on 4th October, 2015. Bishops are currently being circulated with a summary of the 2014 synod, together with some 46 questions which should be a basis of discussion not only among bishops but by the faithful in general. Presumably the bishops will be preparing documents to reflect some or all of these questions, and, we may hope, will circulate them in a convenient, professional, format.

This will lead, in time, to the working document (Instrumentum Laboris) for the coming synod.

We need, I think, to study and discuss the various key issues. So I have taken some of these from the material already available. Those who would like to know more about the material given to the bishops, should visit:

“Is the Christian community in a position to undertake the care of all wounded families so that they can experience the Father’s mercy? How does the Christian community engage in removing the social and economic factors that often determine this situation? What steps have been taken and what can be done to increase this activity and the sense of mission which sustains it?

“The Pastors at the Synod asked themselves — in an open and courageous manner but not without concern and caution — how the Church is to regard Catholics who are united in a civil bond, those who simply live together and those who, after a valid marriage, are divorced and remarried civilly.”

“With regard to the divorced and remarried, pastoral practice concerning the sacraments needs to be further studied, including assessment of the Orthodox practice and taking into account ‘the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances. What is possible? What suggestions can be offered to resolve forms of undue or unnecessary impediments?”

“The pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies poses new challenges today, due to the manner in which their rights are proposed in society,” How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies? What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate?

“What are the most significant steps that have been taken to announce and effectively promote the beauty and dignity of becoming a mother or father, in light, for example, of Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI? How can dialogue be promoted with sciences and biomedical technologies in a way that respects the human ecology of reproduction?”

“What initiatives in catechesis can be developed and fostered to make known and offer assistance to persons in living the Church’s teaching on the family, above all in surmounting any possible discrepancy between what is lived and what is professed and in leading to a process of conversion? What is being done to demonstrate the greatness and beauty of the gift of indissolubility so as to prompt a desire to live it and strengthen it more and more?”

“How can people be made to understand that Christian marriage corresponds to the original plan of God and, thus, one of fulfilment and not confinement?”

We have often complained that the faithful are not consulted on matters which concern them intimately. So how are we going to respond?

About Quentin

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108 Responses to Synod matters

  1. overload says:

    All this consideration of family and marriage (ie. the Synod, and Pyke’s recent comments elsewhere) sounds positive.
    However, considering my own circumstances (I am not married) and the circumstances of the Church at large, I am distressed particularly about the marriage which is baptism, which is apparently excluded from this synod. Thus this synod seems (to me) to be addressing some of the symptoms, or partial causes, rather than the root cause. Perhaps dealing with these marriage and family issues in pastoral care could bring about important change, however, I believe there is a much more serious family and marriage problem which needs to be addressed ASAP — ie. our true family as the Church, and our truly ‘indissoluble’ marriage with Christ, to which, conventional marriage and family are presumably subordinate / representative / supporting / prefigurative.
    Soon after I first started contributing to this blog (in August) I sent out an email, to various Roman Catholics, Anglicans and protestants — Quentin included — about what is disturbing me (both personally and more generally).

    • marywip says:

      Sorry Tyke, I’ve noticed I misspelt your name.

      Perhaps this is not the right place for a mini-rant, I apologise — or I perhaps I need to let off some steam and nowhere else to do so…
      Of 30 people I emailed (including priests and pastors), I have had only one — and it was perhaps premature — response/acknowledgement of any kind. It seems what I sent was so sensitive to those who received it that they do not know how to respond — or not interested in the content in the first place — or ignore emails with “subject: ” — or the devil is playing ‘spam’ games.
      By the grace of God, I know how to be patient now — if, that is, I have the faith that waiting passively is what God requires of me. But I also have the God given instinct — and can detect cues — suggesting that a fair few people have read some or all of my email, and they are not currently in a position to respond. On the other hand, Quentin, it seems, is not interested. Which I can accept, if I know where I stand.

      • Quentin says:

        Sorry, Marywhip, I do not recall your name nor your email. Please accept that I receive a very large number of emails every day. Were I to attempt to answer them all I would have to chain myself to my computer for 24 hours. So I have to select.

      • overload says:

        OK Quentin, not to worry.
        You are misunderstanding, my comment is a reply to myself, the alternative name I chose when I set up a wordpress account, after already choosing this name here. I used it once before accidentally.
        To give you an idea, the email I sent is the beginnings of a personal testimony (if indeed I will get any further), coupled with a query addressed to the church. And along with this is a 1968 Good Friday sermon in three parts of my later grandfather’s which I found and typed up earlier this year, with some of my own changes/additions/notes/aside-thoughts — this ties in with the query/testimony in one way and another.
        If you are not overwhelmed with busy-ness and/or gremlins, and you want to check it out, search for the subject title I gave above, in your email inbox. Or ask me if you want me to send again.

      • tyke says:


        Nothing to be sorry for. It’s basic human physiology… T gradually becoming P.

        (My sincere apologies to the whole group… I really couldn’t resist that)

        On a more serious note, the fact that ‘family ministry’ ignores the unmarried is something that has been pointed out several times to me recently. It’s all very nice to say that all Christians are members of one brother(sister)hood with a loving Father close to all of us and Jesus as our elder brother. Without denying the truth of this, sometimes we all need more immediate human comfort and friendship. And the synod document points out that solitude is one of the greatest forms of poverty in today’s culture.

        So just how far should ‘Family Ministry’ go? How can the Church offer a human sense of belonging to a family to people that are alone?

  2. Nektarios says:


    • Quentin says:

      Nektarios, Thanks for your Christmas wishes. Which I reciprocate.

      Do you have a moment to describe the Orthodox approach to remarriage after divorce?

    • overload says:

      Thanks Nektarios.
      I have an unhappy disturbance with anti-Christ Christmas the last 6 years. Though now 7th one good, it seems, Christ is easing it, Amen.

      Happy Jesus-Christmas celebration of the birth of our Lord
      Happy every-day-is-Jesus-Christ-Mass,
      — to you all and all (who will).

      A friend just sent me this, I thought it was splendid…

      Christmas – a Poem

      This world is wild as an old wife’s tale,
      And strange the plain things are,
      The earth is enough and the air is enough
      For our wonder and our war;
      But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
      And our peace is put in impossible things
      Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
      Round an incredible star.

      To an open house in the evening
      Home shall all men come,
      To an older place than Eden
      And a taller town than Rome.
      To the end of the way of the wandering star,
      To the things that cannot be, and that are,
      To the place where God was homeless
      And all men are at home.

      (G. K. Chesterton)

  3. Brendan says:

    Thank you Quentin for posting a quick website into questions to be faced during the 2015 Ordinary Synod. If I an right it is plain to me that propositions to be debated at the Synod have to be predicated on the substantive doctrinal results arising from ” Vatican 2 and the Magesterium of Pope Francis ” – Evangelii Gaudium. I note that the initial disposition of the whole Church is now and for the future to be ” pastoral ” and one of ” caution ” ….’ Inlinearmenta ‘, towards ones co-religionsts. So far so good.
    Before Nektarios gets back with an insight into the mind of the Orthodox, the point that the Catholic couple are the ‘ executors’ of the marital bond themselves ,before Gods final seal of approval, seems to me to give far greater weight to the permanence of the bond. It is the officiating priest ( attending to the legality of the vows ) on behalf of and together with the attendant community act as witnesses to the marriage bond. Whereas , in the Orthodox view as I understand it, the officiating priest ‘consecrates ‘ the couple – or presents the union as holy to God for his Divine ‘ seal ‘.
    I am not a Church Historian , but the very early ‘ orthodox ‘ understanding of marriage was as I understand it, soon supplanted by the view that prevails today in The Catholic Church. In a legal ( cautionary ) sense the possibility of ‘ recognising ‘ a second marriage – as I understand the Orthodox do given certain circumstances – seem an impossibility. However, pastorally there is a great deal that we ( The Church ) can do to catalise the situation where the ‘ couple ‘ living in an irregular relationship perhaps with children can be ‘ re- initiated ‘ into the local community of The Church. I’m still thinking about that one.

  4. Vincent says:

    Having watched that intriguing film The Imitation Game, I was reminded, and shocked to be reminded, of how it was taken for granted that homosexual activity was to be regarded with such contempt and disgust. Even a man of Turing’s importance, who made a very substantial contribution to winning the war, was bullied because of it.

    Of course I accept that homosexuality is unnatural in the strict sense that an individual’s orientation is at odds with his/her gender. But in the broader sense surely it is natural for a homosexual to behave homosexually.

    I cannot see why there should be any hesitation in welcoming homosexuals fully into Catholic society. Of course some homosexuals can behave badly in many ways. But so can heterosexuals for that matter.

  5. St.Joseph says:

    When I married in 1962 the non-catholic was expected to sign a form promising that any children born will be brought up in the Catholic Faith, Do you know if this is required?
    My husband was a lapsed Methodist and had some peculiar ideas about the RC Church, all false,
    These matters I feel ought to be sorted before any thoughts of marriage takes place.
    I felt this important and still do.Obviously mixed marriage with other Christian denomonations has to be considered,.as my daughter met a young man at College who was studying theology as my daughter was to become a religious teacher He was going on to be an Anglican Vicar His parents objected to their friendship which was becoming serious as she was a Catholic. So he broke off their friendship, she was very upset. But soon got over it as she was a firm believer in her own.Nowadays I think maybe ‘wrongly’ that religion is not taken too seriously amongst young people ,.also if they know the teaching of the Church they think it is better to have a trial live in together.Or may be one person becomes more religious and the other doesn’ in the marriage, so therefore that is where another problem lies,then leaving the wife or husband (catholic) to bring up children on there own.I know this has been discussed before, so I think there ought to be a different approach to annulments.Often that person is blamed as the guilty party when all they would be doing is what there faith tells them to do in conscience-to receive Holy Communion -after all God is judge in the end.
    I have known many cases like that and it is heartbreaking to be considered as an outcast, they end up not going to Mass at all and generations are lost to the Church!
    I pray some solution will come out of the Synod!
    A priest told me years ago that an elderly lady he knew whose husband deserted and divorced her,she later met someone else who helped her with her family, she could not receive Communion,but felt upset that couples who married in a Registry Office could get a divorce and receive Communion if they were catholics.

  6. Hock says:

    The whole of catholic marriage is riddled with inconsistences and the more the attempts are made to untangle it the more tangled it becomes! This has come about because of the failure to stick to what Jesus taught and even he cast some doubts ( for later listeners,) with the oft debated meaning of sexual deviations being a grounds for a divorce.
    In order to try and get round some of the difficulties the Church invented annulments which are devoid of any biblical basis and yet evidently very easy to obtain in the USA. Pope John Paul 2 said that the numbers granted annulment in the US were totally disproportionate to any other country with significant Catholic populations, and indeed were a scandal.
    One wonders if this has been addressed. I tend to think that once you give a freedom (to break a marriage,) then it is not so easy to mend one.
    Sadly I see no way out of the dilemma of trying to hold fast and at the same time show what is described as ‘compassion’ which, despite the good intentions, just creates more problems than it solves.
    We have all sorts of marriage and divorce statistics but one stat we don’t have is how many Catholic marriages have survived among practising Catholics, that would probably have failed, if divorce and re-marriage had been an easy option.
    If we had that statistic it might be a lesson in keeping a tight lid on Pandora’s Box.

    • St.Joseph says:

      You are quite right in what you say,but you must remember that ones vows were taken more seriously before the last last 50 years . People were more in tune with their faith than now a days.
      That is what the Church needs to concentrate on, better marriage instruction, less sex education. More talk of chastity. instead of sex education,more human dignity and self respect, less soaps to damage young peoples minds.Teaching that our bodies are the Temple of the Lord.Not to be abused by ‘ones self’! I am not speaking about masterbation! There is more than that we can abuse ourselves with..
      A clean heart create for me O God.

    • milliganp says:

      Hock, annulments are not devoid of a biblical basis since they merely state that the marriage was invalid and the grounds for nullity are entirely based on the situation at the time of the marriage ceremony.
      That the process has obviously been abused in the US does not make it incorrect.
      I think it is pretty obvious that, when a marriage breaks down, the last thing on the mind of those involved is the question of admission to Holy Communion. The healing of those who have had a failure in marriage is exactly the sort of circumstance that Christ identified as His mission and the mission of the church. Christ never started any process of engagement with sinners with a condemnation, indeed he sat at table and broke bread with them. What the church needs to rediscover is that its core mission is to those in need of a physician.

      • Singalong says:

        Milliganp, but the physician also has to say, as Our Lord said, “Go and sin no more.”
        Could that be interpreted, in the case of a divorce and a second marriage, as, “You are forgiven this time, but don’t do it again”?

        Hock, some marriages that might have ended in divorce if it had been available, could still be failures if they have continued as warring and unloving relationships. Many children have sufferred lifelong harm from being such an upbringing. The option of separation would probably be better, but hard with its own problems.

      • milliganp says:

        Singalong, you are indeed right on the eventual command of Christ, the call to conversion. However Christ also tells us to forgive 70 times 7 times. What the church does at present is essentially ignore the problems of irregular unions rather than entering into an engagement with those involved. There is no real witness to the gospel in this approach.
        I think your second point is of vital importance, a bad marriage can end up with a couple living a lie. The Orthodox thinking, as I understand it is that a marriage can die, despite the couple still being alive – so, in a different way, it is still ’till death do us part’.

  7. 1) Is the Christian community . . .?
    I do not know what this means – it perhaps refers to some existing or putative organisation which might offer accommodation to seriously poor married couples?

    2) The Pastors at the Synod asked themselves —
    Like Brendan above I was taught that it is the couple themselves who preform the act of marriage and this applies not only to marriages in Church, but also in a Registry Office – and even to the old Scottish concept of : “Marriage by habit and repute”!
    Marriage should be held as ‘indissoluble’ – except when it is for some reason invalid – say because one of the partners was under duress or does not understand what he/she is doing.
    [ I can quite understand the possibility of ‘extenuating circumstances’.]
    This, of course includes the ‘divorced and remarried’ question.

    3) Homosexuality is a longstanding problem; in some ways quite natural, in other ways unnatural and therefore to be considered sinful.
    [Did you ever watch a herd of bullocks being driven through a gate?]
    A homosexual INCLINATION is not unnatural, homosexual ACTIVITY is.
    Pastural care? There is an old story about a man who came into a church to listen to a service and heard during a sermon “We are all sinners.” and declared “This is where I could feel at home!”.
    {Parenthetically when did you last hear an expression like that in a sermon/homily?}

    4) The remaining points really concern Catechesis. Admittedly substantial numbers of Catholics do not attend Mass regularly, nevertheless the Mass is still the most reliable link between the Church and the Catholic Community so I wonder if more emphasis should not be placed on Catholic teaching during or after Mass.

    • overload says:

      “A homosexual INCLINATION is not unnatural, homosexual ACTIVITY is.”
      I suspect that both are unnatural and disordered — that is in respect of inclination towards sexual acts.
      On the other hand, same sex loving affection, holding hands, hugging/physical intimacy, (kissing?), sleeping in the same bed, and living together, are not inherently unnatural, I suspect.

      • Singalong says:

        Overload, Dec. 13 2.08 pm, homosexual affection, but possibly not “avoiding the occasions of sin” as the old catechism put it, in other words, putting ones self in a situation where temptation might be almost impossible to resist, and also maybe giving bad example, causing scandal (even these days!), which would also apply to heterosexual couples in an unsanctioned relationship trying to live celibate lives together., as is sometimes suggested.

        How complicated it all becomes.

      • overload says:

        Singalong, if the average clergy and communicant was setting a good example (I am talking about all dimensions of life, seeable and unseeable — ie. the unseeable but feelable — , then I would agree with you about bad examples and scandal.
        Can the Church lift herself out of sin and save her members by pursuing/clinging to the ideal of sanctified family life? I don’t think so. She wants to teach others so they can teach her? Perhaps she should sort her own household out, and those households within her household might follow the example.

        More honest and realistic — and a lighter burden for her own conscience — if she teaches what she knows — and is commanded to teach — about right and wrong (lovingly, not robotically), and openly accepts that she is not generally in a position to exercise control (since she has already torn down her own garden fence and left the front door open), then perhaps she can stop protectively/controllingly trying to take responsibility for those who have to take responsibility for themselves and their own actions. And she can stop vainly obsessing about the outside of her dish as a distraction to pretend the inside doesn’t exist.

        I can see no reason why a cohabiting hetrosexual/homosexual couple, seeking chaste love together, cannot live together chastely — let alone blend in with the average church communicant. This does not mean that I think this is generally a good idea (you mention the force of temptation, indeed). This does not mean the Church has to ‘agree’ with — and promote — this choice.

  8. overload says:

    Indissoluble? When one partner dies, the marriage is dissolved. And yet they have not died, for the “dead in Christ” are alive in Christ. So what does this say about indissolubility?

    Without full knowledge and full consent, can marriage be indissoluble?

    Regarding the circumstances of the union, in respect of full knowledge and full consent:
    What is the responsibility (conscience) of the Church, and the responsibility (conscience) of the couple?
    Brendan says that in the RCC, the couple themselves are executors of the marriage bond. Does this relieve the Church of responsibility? Presumably the priest and religious community have both an active/passive responsibility in permitting/condoning every marriage? Are they not responsible for informing the couples consciences and acting/communicating if there are reasonable grounds (inc. any instinct of faith) to suspect a marriage to be inappropriate (beyond just technical legality such as “second marriage”), or ill-prepared?

    Can anyone proposing/executing marriage have ‘full knowledge’ of what they are doing? — “‘the two will become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound” (Ephesians 5:31), so it is a mystery we are not expected to understand run-of-the-mill.
    But further, consider how St Paul continues: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
    So if we don’t quite (or hardly at all) understand Christ and His Church, what hope of understanding marriage and it’s ‘indissolubility’?

    When we are married to Christ in baptism, we presumably do not have full knowledge, but He (and She?) does. That does not mean the Church does not have responsibility (in respect of appropriateness or ‘worthiness’) in distributing this sacrament, and can set up a Catholic auto-baptism factory for the whole world — or does it? (is She invisible?)
    Without faith/belief, what can the sacrament of baptism actually promise, and what does it actually mean?
    Safety/dominion in numbers?

    • tyke says:

      “Does this relieve the Church of responsibility? Presumably the priest and religious community have both an active/passive responsibility in permitting/condoning every marriage?”

      The celebrant is the key witness of the ‘contract’ exchanged between the couple. And of course it is their responsibility to make sure that the couple understand what is behind the sacrament.

      Still most, if not all, couples will need a life-time to discover what marriage is. When I got married I certainly didn’t understand the ‘gravity’ of what I was doing. If I knew then what I feel now… I’d probably be half way to Mars by now. Since I didn’t then, I do now and I’m very happy about it. (Think that makes sense)

      However, the celebrant might also feel that there are grounds for doubt that a particular marriage is well founded. In this case, they can leave a sealed note in the archives expressing their doubts. If there is a case for annulment at a later date, such a note can help decide whether the conditions for a valid marriage were met.

  9. John Nolan says:

    The USA, with six percent of the world’s Catholics, still accounts for three-quarters of annulments. The number of annulments has in fact declined in recent years, since fewer couples are interested in remarrying in church.

    Going back to the original thread, the 2015 synod would arguably bear more fruit if it is not preceded by uninformed and unrealistic speculation, if Cardinal Kasper has the sense to keep his mouth shut, and if there is not a blatant and scandalous attempt to rig the proceedings, as happened this year. Headlines such as ‘Conservative bishops thwart Pope’s plans to welcome gays’ do no-one any favours.

    Vincent refers to Alan Turing and the recent film The Imitation Game. Whatever one thinks of the laws regarding homosexual behaviour in the 1950s, Turing’s conviction would normally have resulted in a custodial sentence. As a result of his eminence as a scientist, he was offered probation and a course of hormone therapy ‘to decrease my libido’ as he himself put it. At the time of his death he was reported by friends to have been in good spirits, and it is quite possible that his death was accidental; however the coroner at the inquest, JAK Ferns, was very prejudiced against homosexuals and recorded a verdict of suicide rather than the open verdict which would have been more in accordance with the facts.

    It would be interesting to know the extent to which male homosexual behaviour is still regarded with ‘contempt and disgust’ and how attitudes are affected by age and social class. Also, if it is natural for a homosexual to ‘behave homosexually’ this must logically apply to other sexual orientations, for example paedophilia. One thing seems to have escaped most people’s notice – Turing’s male lover was legally a minor and would have been under the age of homosexual consent even after the law changed in 1967 – it wasn’t reduced to 18 until 1994.

    • Vincent says:

      John Nolan, thank you for your reply. I turn to your comparison between homosexual behaviour and paedophilia. First, I would note that, while we do not know what contributes to a homosexual orientation, we do assume that the propensity is not itself chosen (though it may be cultivated further). Thus the orientation is in some way built into the nature of the homosexual. Whether that is also so of paedophilia I do not know — this does show characteristics which look like addiction. But more importantly paedophilia involves a breach of the rights of a minor — who is considered too immature to choose his/her involvement. We do not excuse such breaches, in any field, on the grounds of natural propensity. If not, Jack the Ripper might be a folk hero.

      • overload says:

        Vincent, my thoughts…

        “we do assume that the propensity is not itself chosen”
        Did I choose to inherit original sin?

        “natural propensity”
        It is “natural”, in a fallen, broken, lost and confused world, to be fallen, broken, lost and confused, in one way or another. One cannot be ashamed of such a propensity, that is, anymore than one is ashamed to exist in this world and need saving. Certain things that are natural (Godly / God given) within/of our self, which cannot be ignored without forced suppression&repression, may be imprisoned by or entangled with — in weakness — unnatural / disordered desires.
        For instance, I imagine that some (not sure about all) paedophile’s desires could stem from a (unrecognised?) longing for innocency and childlikeness. Wanting unity/intimacy with a child to posses that innocence, not realising that this desire is confused, comes from the devil; will not give them what they really want but take them further away from it, and will harm another in the process.
        If so, can such a paedophile, by the grace of Christ, purify this desire without having to forceably suppress&repress?

      • John Nolan says:

        Vincent, I am not comparing homosexual behaviour to paedophilia. I am simply equating homosexuality as a sexual orientation to paedophilia as a sexual orientation. When Krafft-Ebing identified ‘paedophilia erotica’ in the 1880s he identified it as a mental illness, and psychologists of his day, and for many years after, identified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Nowadays both are regarded as a sexual orientation. Paedophilia itself does not infringe anyone’s rights; acting on it either directly or indirectly (for example by downloading images which are obtained by the exploitation of children) is another matter.

      • milliganp says:

        My understanding, from people I know who are gay, is that homosexual inclination can start from a very early age – people would say they were born gay.
        By comparison the roots of paedophilia seem to be in the development of sexuality and is often the result of abuse. It is therefore important to differentiate the natures of the two inclinations.

      • overload says:

        “people would say they were born gay”
        I’m not sure how they could know this. From the article Quentin gives at the top of this page: “…about pastoral care for gay people, but calls them ‘persons with homosexual tendencies.'”
        This indicates a major problem of communication between Church and homosexuals. My own belief is that the Church is saying the right thing here (although perhaps not in the right way), however it is a difficult one because many homosexuals will see this as a violation of their identity, and they may strongly believe that this is their ‘born’ identity. However, the Church should not promote ‘gay pride’. How to communicate that homosexuality is confusion, but not patronise / look down upon / rob a person of their own exploration of their identity?

    • milliganp says:

      John, on your point about Cardinal Kasper, it was the Holy Father who encouraged and enabled his contribution as part of a definite strategy to keep minds open so that the will of God might be discerned. Thus, it seems, the bishops are being asked for comments not merely based on dogma. This is not about abandoning dogma but setting it to one side while attempting to take a fresh look at the challenges modern morality present.

      • John Nolan says:

        Paul Milligan

        Indeed ‘it was the Holy Father who encouraged and enabled [Kasper’s] contribution as part of a definitive strategy’. it was also the Holy Father who attempted, through his appointments, to influence the outcome. It’s strange that commentators (Quentin included) who criticize previous synods for being manipulated by ‘the Curia’ turn a blind eye to this quite blatant manipulation, presumably because they approve of the intended results. This smacks to me of intellectual dishonesty.

        By the way, dogma (as opposed to doctrine) cannot be set on one side. I’m surprised you can suggest otherwise.

      • milliganp says:

        John, it has always been standard missionary practice, when arriving in a new land, to first of all come to understand the ways and beliefs of the community to be evangelised. The church finds itself in the 21st century promoting a message defined 570+ years earlier (Trent was the last seriously dogmatic council). Eventually the church will have to discern how best to evangelise a culture it thinks it understands, but does not. The church needs to stand back from the culture and see it through the eyes of the world before it can re-evangelise it. Trent would not have happened without the reformation we need the Synod to seriously re-appraise how we engage with the culture of our age.

  10. Brendan says:

    I have some sympathy with the concerns expressed by Overload/Marywip.
    Pope Francis and the Extraordinary Synod has set us on a firm road to a complete re-evaluation of ourselves as Catholics and our relationship with and relevance to, a world largely indifferent to ‘ religious ‘ faith – led by First World Nations. Pope Francis describes the EU for example as a ” haggard elderly grandmother ” or words to that effect.
    I see that the onus through the Synod – and guided by the Spirit who moves it – has been put firmly on the worlds Bishops to be ” courageous ” and initiate in their diocese , debate at ” all levels ” and to encourage discussion and communication in a ” suitable manner” . Further , to establish the ” art of accompaniment ” through their priests and with ourselves and with each other to seek out and make known to the local ” Church ” those ” wounded families ” . These ” concrete instances ” must be recognised for what they are with mercy and love.
    I sense our society, our parishes, ordinary Catholics , those outside and those who have effectively found / put themselves outside the living body of the ” Church ” are ready and waiting for this lead. It will need courage, patience and great acts of faith to help people back from a dystopian wilderness which engulfs many. Please God, by the time of the Ordinary Synod next October these ‘ evangelical ‘ charisms ‘ – as in times past – will be activated throughout the whole Catholic Church.

    • marywip says:

      Thanks Brendan.

      From the document Quentin linked to:
      “The episcopal conferences have the responsibility to continue to examine … thoroughly and seek the involvement, in the most opportune manner possible, all levels of the local Church, thus providing concrete instances from their specific situations,”
      “Every effort should be made not to begin anew, but to continue on the path undertaken in the Extraordinary Synod as a point of departure,”

      Again, my conviction is that baptism, especially child baptism, (and in extension confirmation, especially teenage confirmation,) needs to become a central/important point of discussion for this synod. It is vital because of it’s relevance to both the church family and Catholic domestic family, and it is focally the fundamental link between the two.

      In this respect, seeking “concrete instances from their specific situations” — my own experience/circumstance in respect of domestic family and child baptism is fairly unique and extreme, and yet also broadly indicates the experiences of very many. And furthermore, the problem to which I refer it is still (I believe) unresolved.

      After getting confirmed in 2013 it seems I thought I could (rather, was expected to?) put things behind me, which is not so straightforward (although thank God there has been progressively some unbelievably positive change — also in the run up to confirmation). So — somewhat apart from other deep troubles I have been struggling with — this summer something reminded me that I was still troubled about my circumstances/communication with respect to my parents; hence the email I sent out to Quentin and others, mentioned in the first comment.

  11. Brendan says:

    Luke 12: 48., 49.,
    … ” to those who have been given much, much is demanded of them. .. i have come to bring fire [ the Spirit of God ] to the earth.. “

    • marywip says:

      My thoughts further to Brendan’s references to Luke 12.

      “Be ready for action…” Luke 12:35
      Certainly, we must be ready (seeking) to let the fire of the Holy Spirit in, to burn the whole of our being, both individually, and as the Church, which we hope and pray, might bring true revival (ie. in respect of the Synod — ie. much has been given them/us, so much is expected of them/us). However, I believe there needs to be a change (rather, deepening) of thinking; surely we must be “ready for anything”, which includes the full meaning of the passage Brendan has quoted:
      “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No…” Luke 12:49-51

      So, other than bringing the fire of His Holy Spirit to earth (to sanctify His Church) — and He had to die on the cross for this to happen — there is a second, fuller meaning, especially if one considers the context of Jesus’ conversation, Luke 12:35 onwards into the next chapter, relating to Christ’s return / judgement.
      It seems to me in this passage that Jesus speaks for both His second and final Baptism (Crucifixion), as also, in extension, Hers — ours together as the Church? Until this is accomplished, there is, in one sense, great distress: for this world has already forsaken Him, and therefore now also forsakes Her; it’s continued existence is — as I feel is suggested in Luke 12:49-51 — an abomination which God allows only for the sake of getting Her (us, and/or the yet-to-be-converted) ready for salvation. — “the righteous are barely saved” (1 Peter 4:18).

      Perhaps the correct change of thinking (praying) is something along these lines:
      “Lord, if it be your will, then may your Church be revived at the coming Synod, and bring an anticipated renewal in line with our yearnings, and her current governmental structure. Yet, not ours, but your will be done: make us, Lord, ready for anything; ready to let go of our limited conceptions of your Church; ready to forsake our visions of peace; ready for your return, judgement and salvation, at any moment.”

  12. Quentin says:

    “What are the most significant steps that have been taken to announce and effectively promote the beauty and dignity of becoming a mother or father, in light, for example, of Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI?”

    I recall contributors to the Blog chiding bishops and clergy for refraining from active promotion of HV over the last several decades. What should they do. and how effective might it be?

  13. St.Joseph says:

    I think now that we have quite a few married Deacons in the Church it will benefit the Sacrament of Marriage, It ought to effectively promote the beauty and dignity of becoming a mother or father in the light of Natural Family Planning ,In fact HV need not even be mentioned, its well known now
    that it is the proper use of family planning within the teaching of the Church

    There is no reason why they could not study and teach and get involved with their wives.with the expense financed by the parish,
    It maybe an answer for less divorce.
    This ought to be an important issue of the Synod;
    It is no good preaching without an answer,
    Deacons do witness and bless marriages and Baptise. being in the position for the life of the family.

    I may be wrong but I thought years ago that before getting married a catholic should go to Confession.
    I could not in 1962 have Holy Mass marrying a non catholic, no flowers, no hymns, just Ave Maria when signing the registry. I went to Confession on the Friday and Mass Saturday morning-
    A serous suggestion for the Synod

    • overload says:

      St. Joseph said “I may be wrong but I thought years ago that before getting married a catholic should go to Confession.”
      This makes sense, assuming they need to.
      What about confession before Baptism?
      I went to Confession at lenten penitential service before getting Confirmed, I anxiously understood this important/necessary, perhaps especially for me (and yet I could only manage what seemed inadequately incomplete, to give a one-major-tangible-mortal-sin confession, though thank God for bringing out that much at least) — no confession before getting Baptised, as far as I remember, needless to say.

      • St.Joseph says:

        My late husband went to Confession before he became a Catholic, walking around the fields with the priest,seemed to me to be appropriate,
        He also had to be Baptised.on the evening he was received into the Church as it was not sure whether he had been !Meaning whether the Holy Water went over his forehead..
        It was very emotional for him the evening he was received into the Church.Like coming home!
        Many years ago we went to confession on a regular basis,myself personally, it kept me closer to the Lord and to the Church receiving Sanctying Grace..
        Mortal sins and venial sins were all a black spot on the soul and kept one in tune with the spiritual life of the Church.
        Now a days one maybe has to commit murder for it to be mortal, We can all conduct our conscience to suit our conscience.!

      • milliganp says:

        You cannot receive the sacrament of confession before baptism. You can talk to a priest and do a general confession of sins. However baptism, in its own right, removes not merely the stain of sin but the guilt and punishment due to those sins. The sacrament of confession is for sins committed after baptism. Any half sensible priest would know this and should have pointed it out.

      • overload says:

        St. Joseph

        “Many years ago we went to confession on a regular basis”
        I am assuming you do this no longer because of the general change of climate in the Church due to influence of modern western culture combined with changes of VII, rather than because you have less need to, as such.

        “We can all conduct our conscience to suit our conscience.!”
        People might be inclined to play this game, but really we cannot manipulate our conscience, except with grace and faith, in and according to Christ.

        Some quick thoughts on conscience (I had a disorder where battle with conscience regarding eating — what, when, how, and state of mind, and how much — was daily struggle):

        We can have a sleeping (not informed) conscience, in which case we may know we are violating something but not sure what.

        We can ignore / deny / override (/ even sever?) our conscience — but this does not save us from sin.

        We can have a numb conscience, but like a numb body, it is still subject to violation, even if we don’t feel it.

        We can have a weak / inflamed / confused / ill-informed conscience, in which case we will be succeptable to sinning in instances when there is no sin, or need not necessarily be sin.

      • St.Joseph says:

        When I was a child, I thought like a child,now that I am a man I put away childish things.!
        If we do not grow in spirituality and understand our faith properly, we have not yet put away childish things.
        One has to judge ones self, not you or anyone else we judge our conscience with what we learn from the teachings of the Church,
        The CCC is a good start, where we used the prayer book when we were children.Which was Simple as it was called. I have 73 years as a Catholic,and can appreciate those who have not
        that is why it is good to have SS, we are never too old to learn!! But sometimes too old to change!

      • overload says:

        St Joseph

        “The CCC is a good start, where we used the prayer book when we were children.Which was Simple as it was called.”
        You have mentioned the prayer section of the CCC before. I have been reading it today (in the Compendium), and also trying to read it to my confused lapsed grandmother, who is on her last legs, and today very much in la-la land! (Though she can tune-in unexpectedly.)
        — Thanks, I agree, I found it encouraging, simple, and giving strong full outline of prayer.

        God Bless you going through your treatment, whenever that is — around nowish I think you said.

      • overload says:

        Following on about the prayer section of the CCC.
        (I had another go with my grandmother on this yesterday, she seemed to respond positively — I think she was dehydrated before, so not really with-it — hope to continue today.)
        A slight quibble,
        “566. what places are conductive to prayer?” — No mention is made of nature (I am thinking not just the natural prayerfulness of nature; but also the deeper seclusion/solitude one can find there, away from man), which was clearly important for Jesus on numerous occasions (whole periods off alone, and the extended period of temptation in the desert), as with many of the prophets who preceded him.
        In extension to this point, there is little emphasis put on the value of silent prayer / meditation / contemplation.

        On a related note, there was a positive talk (and meditation) between Fr. Laurence Freeman (WCCM) and Bishop Rowan Williams at St Mark’s Islington last night, about “the gift of Christmas”.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Have you read ‘The Eucharist and Silence’ by.Lawrence Freeman OSB.
        A Lecture he gave at the School of Prayer, Archdiocese of Melbourne,20 April 2005.
        Click on to his site and you will find it.

  14. Iona says:

    Horace – “There is an old story about a man who came into a church to listen to a service and heard during a sermon “We are all sinners.” and declared “This is where I could feel at home!”.
    {Parenthetically when did you last hear an expression like that in a sermon/homily?}”

    – I heard it today! – The PP was trying to impress on his (rather small) congregation the importance of Confession; particularly in relation to Advent.

    Quentin – St. Joseph may have some ideas. Promoting knowledge of NAPRO technology would be good. But I understand that this isn’t available on the NHS, and many people haven’t heard of it at all.

    • milliganp says:

      There is another version of your story. A drunk enters a church in the middle of the homily and shouts “you’re all hypocrites”, the priest retorts “we always have room for one more”.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    I have told people word of mouth.
    It has been succesful after IVF failed, in lots of families I informed,
    I am past all this now due to my illness ,Something for married Deacons
    There is info on the web and can be sent you;

  16. Iona says:

    With family planning clinics not giving any information about it, most people are not encouraged to investigate it, and may not even have heard of it.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    The same old problem
    I wrote to every Bishop 8 years ago even the Bishops Conference on the Family.
    Also a few years ago a priest made a CD I cant remember his name (chemo brain at the moment) He sent one to every Bishop to send to every parish for information to parishoners
    It was advertised in the well known Catholic Catalogue (which again I cant remember the name),
    Nothing happened!
    etc etc etc. Time now for the Synod to act.
    NFPTA do have a web site

    • Singalong says:

      St. Joseph, I have just seen an article in the DM (apologies to some) about a fertility App which sounds a step forward in popularising NFP. I wonder what you think?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you for that,I was not able to digest it all. As you say it sounds good if it popularises NFP.
        I think women would be put off having to take their temperature every day and also having to pay £45 pounds a year if I have understood it right.
        It strikes me it is not much different to the method where a woman sticks on green and red labels when fertile and unfertile.There again the Apps would be more in line with technology today.
        The Sympton Thermal Method I taught was the mucus method and temperature and a couple more signs,, which are considered 100% effective. The unsafe days would be the same I presume.
        However it would not be acceptable by the Church to use a contraceptive on the fertile days, however an improvement to the Pill
        I believe there are many machines that can be bought which are very expensive that would be an advantage,but there again £45 per year until a women reaches menopause could work out expensive in the long run, where examining mucus costs nothing.
        Perhaps there is someone on the blog who knows more about Apps than me as I am not too sure what an App is.

        But thank you, it is interesting.!

      • Vincent says:

        Of course it is essential to have information and training on nfp available, but surely the key factor is making it attractive as an option for contraception. Reliability is essential but that is not enough — other contraceptives are reliable. So what other reasons for choosing it are there — which would appeal to the general population, and not just Catholics?

    • Brendan says:

      I identify very much with you and St. Joseph’s experience of ‘ indifference ‘ shown by senior clergy in the Church.

  18. overload says:

    This NAPRO / NFPTA sounds complicated. I read that it also can be used to identify and resolve problems of repeated miscarriages?

    • St.Joseph says:

      If I had understood the facts of NFP when I kept having miacarriages in the 60s and early 70s, I would not have been so ill.I thank God that my son who I was told had died before he was born and nealry did myself too due to Plancenta ruptures. I kept having miscarriages after that. When I studied to teach NFP I Then knew the reason.
      Knowing ones body and how it works
      That is how NAPRO works only with further knowledge. I did not wish to go into that side of it, it takes more training I(believe) I was asked.however, I did help with further research on Urine Specimans
      You say its sounds complicated- Mother Teresa taught NFP in Calcutta with coloured chalk on the pavements.It is simple when taught properly from a trained teacher-after all it is natural the way God made us
      Vincent perhaps you can tell me a contraceptive that is more convenient-this is not only a females responsibility.
      Of course there is a male Pill! And condoms, both sex, sterilisation, Caps etc, can you think of any that comes close to nature.with no side effects. It may need some abstainstence, there again it is really for married couples !!.

      Confession before Baptism, I suppose that is why my husband walked around the field with the priest Probably a general confession as you say..

      • Singalong says:

        Vincent, I do think having NFP available as an App does immediately make it more attractive to the present generation of parents, as it is using modern technology, and so it is not associated so much with what can be seen as dogmatism and maybe fringe thinking by some. As St. Joseph says, a completely natural approach with no chemical or technical intrusion, is a great advantage, and gives parents the certainty that no fertilised eggs are being destroyed, as can happen with some other forms of contraception

        I think, even more now, that it should be promoted by the Church at all levels, with some change of the advice about Red days, abstinence rather than condoms.

  19. Brendan says:

    A very thought – provoking article by Madeleine Teahan got me thinking.
    Our astute Holy father is releasing his personal thoughts on marriage and the family – mostly to Spanish speaking outlets – in a ‘ drip-drip ‘ way , in which he naturally feels more comfortable, after allowing the Universal Church free debate on such matters. In the same way ‘ keepng his power dry ‘ for the Oridinary Synod by working to allow the Spirit of God full reign amongst the main conduit ‘ lingua franca ‘ – the English language.
    In order for us us to consider ‘ pastoral ‘ efforts in our parishes to further ‘ integration ‘ of those living lives not in accord with Catholic beliefs eg. irregular marriages , relationships of same -sex attraction, etc., he gives example of current ‘ cultural ‘ practice which he seems to regard as virtual ” excommunication” from the Body of Christ – the worshiping community.
    For example he asks why such people are excluded from ; reading at Mass, being Godparents, taking Sunday School classes ? Pope Francis’ apparent reply to those shamed or put out at such things is…. ” my dear, I made a mistake, I was wrong here , but I believe Our Lord loves me. I want to follow God, I was not defeated by sin, I want to move on. [ Is there any thing more Christian than that ? ” ]
    This is not mere sentimentality here. The story of the encounter with Christ of the woman caught in adultery, comes to mind here. The point is SHE seeks out the cure ( the Word who is alive today in us , His Church ) . He sees this and immediately gives her the lifeline…. ” Go and sin no more “. One has no reason given the unfolding drama , to disbelieve that her life has not been ‘ irrevocably .’ changed. To the ‘ stoning ‘ crowd ( The Church ) – ” let he who is without sin cast the first stone “. – walking away and left to ponder this dramatic moment and perhaps taking to heart the ‘ saving grace ‘ of Christs word and actions……. thus opening a new chapter in their ( The Church ) lives.
    To Saint Joseph’s earlier question to us ? No, this not compromising ourselves for he sake of unity. This is realising our destiny as the Living Body of Christ.

    • milliganp says:

      Forgive me for correcting but in the Gospel account the woman is brought to Jesus by the Pharisees and teachers of the law with the specific intent of seeing if Jesus would contradict the law of Moses. The scenario is set that she has been caught “in flagrante”, so there is no possible dispute over the legal fact of the adultery, In fact we only know that Jesus tells her not to sin again – she does not reappear in the Gospel story. I share your conviction that her life was changed by the encounter with Christ’s forgiveness, but that forgiveness was not conditional on her changing her ways. I suspect, had the Pharisees returned a week later having caught her a second time Jesus would have given the same response. That is the hard fact for us to ponder.

      • Brendan says:

        that’s o.k. ,something I overlooked. But the lesson Christ teachers in the face of the self-righteous stands. I disagree with your emphasis on the ‘ hard fact ‘ of the story. and it does not matter how many times one comes back. Milligamp, it took me years of prayer personal sacrifices for the Lord, pushing myself to believe beyond hope, and personal repentance for me to ‘ find ‘ God through Jesus. In this way because the groundwork had been laid by my parents etc. my personal ‘ faith ‘ only needed my co -operation in Gods plan for me.
        I dread to think what non- co-operation would have meant for me. But I see it all around me today. Those are the ‘ hard facts ‘ of my life so far.. God never fails us and his gifts are tangible to those who ‘ recognise ‘ them.

      • overload says:

        “it took me years of prayer personal sacrifices for the Lord, pushing myself to believe beyond hope, and personal repentance for me to ‘ find ‘ God through Jesus. In this way because the groundwork had been laid by my parents etc. my personal ‘ faith ‘ only needed my co -operation in Gods plan for me.
        I dread to think what non- co-operation would have meant”

        I find much familiar in this.

        With reference to the adulterous woman and Jesus’ unconditional love (inc. mercy/forgiveness), I agree God’s love is always there for us. The problem is when we are opposed to ourself; in which case we may be inclined to shun his love (self indulgence — not interested / shut off / doubt; we have our treasure elsewhere, or nowhere). Fear/hate can work on this, such that we may come to despise (hate) our own soul, in which case we ourself judge ourself as not worthy of His love and mercy/forgiveness.

        Is there a difference between mercy and forgiveness? I have read Cardinal Vincent in the Catholic Herald — talking about remarriage and the Synod — refer to them as two separate things, I seem to remember.

    • overload says:

      Brendan Milliganp, I am confused about what you are talking about, though no worry, except to point out, Brendan said:
      “The point is SHE seeks out the cure ( the Word who is alive today in us , His Church ) . He sees this and immediately gives her the lifeline”
      Reading John 8, there is no suggestion that she was seeking anything.

      • Brendan says:

        Quite right, that’s why Milligamp corrected me somewhat in my interpretation on the adultress womans motives. But I repeat , not the potency of the point Jesus was making.

  20. Quentin says:

    I am supposing that Nektarios has not had the time to tell us about the Orthodox approach to re-marriage. Brendan has told us that the formation of marriage here is somewhat different But a good description of how this works out is at If the synod is assessing Orthodox thinking to see what it may to teach us about a pastoral approach to the remarriage issue, then we should read this.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you for your Orthodox approach on re-marriage, also Marriage.

      To me it is the right approach to Divorce. Maybe Pope Francis will see it that way too!
      I did not read anything regarding contraception,I would like that to have been included,
      it must be something the Orthodox Church teach in relation to marriage.

    • milliganp says:

      The Orthodox approach is more contemplative and admits mystery. In the west we want to rationalise and develop rules.
      However if we look at the history of the Orthodox approach to divorce it was strongly influenced by the then civil law of the Eastern Empire, which allowed divorce. It was only in 920 that the Orthodox disallowed fourth marriages and third marriages over the age of 40. It could be said they have shaped their theology to the reality of the situation rather than positing an absolute theology external to the human condition.

    • overload says:

      Reading the document that Quentin has linked to about Orthodox Marriage, I was struck to read this:
      “It is certain that the married couple have precedence above the family, however praiseworthy the purpose of family is.” (from: 3. THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE)
      I’m wondering what we / the RCC makes of this, also in reference to quote from St. John Chrysostom later in the paragraph?

      • St.Joseph says:

        The reasoning I thought about when I read that sentence and I believe it to be the same as the RC teaches and that is, when a couple get married and realise either are infertile that would not be a reason for an annullment. Just my thinking.

        I am pleased you like the CCC ref to prayer.
        Also I thank you for your kind thoughts-yes I do begin my next 9 sessions of Chemo tomorrow please God. and I ask for prayers again from SS .
        I may be quiet for a while as I do get very tired.

        I wish everyone a Blessed and Joyous Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year

      • tyke says:

        @St Joseph.

        A couple can be fertile in more ways than raising children. We have friends that are in this situation and have never felt able to adopt. However, they give so much of themselves to the community and to their wider family that their fertility can’t be questioned.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Neither should it be questioned.
        But either husband or wife may hold it against the spouse and apply for a divorce.
        I believe that is what the Orthodox was implying!
        I was not questioning it, if I had I would have done so with Quentin!

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, I think the Orthodox approach has grown out of accepting concrete situations. Thus a man’s “need” for an heir might well have been accepted as a reason to separate from a wife “unable to bear him children”. That was one of the root causes of Henry VIII’s seeking a divorce.
        In my view the Orthodox practice may have some benefits when a marriage genuinely “fails” but leaves open the possibility of other abuses, particularly against the female partner.

  21. overload says:

    “baptism, in its own right, removes not merely the stain of sin but the guilt and punishment due to those sins. The sacrament of confession is for sins committed after baptism.”

    I attended RCIA last night (5th year running now). Topic: 7 sacraments. Mostly discussed Baptism and Confirmation, and a bit Confession.
    On Baptism, I was asking about a problem, that we are in Baptism promised: dying with Christ, rebirth in Christ’s resurrection: forgiveness of sins, power of the Holy Spirt, newness of life. The problem is that many who are Baptised don’t experience this at Baptism, nor afterwards.
    For instance, ones sins are forgiven? — Is this because the Scriptures and the Church ‘says so’, or because the person themself finds/receives the faith/knowledge in their own heart that this is so?

    In the discussion we had, I was reminded that there is a general notion that Baptism, apart from entrance into the Church, is some kind of momentary grace for forgiveness of Original Sin (or the slate wiped clean), and that all sins thereafter are somehow a new issue. This seems confused.
    I understand Baptism to be a mystery in some sense outside of time in its action. (ie. the believing Baptised have been saved, are being saved, and shall be saved). So with Baptism we are to die to our sinful nature, but our sinful nature does not necessarily die — so if we “fall asleep”, then we are reverting to our sinful nature and have “forgotten” that we are Baptised and cleansed.
    I also think that to give/receive Baptism with a true living faith is essential. ?
    What if we were Baptised when we (or our parents) were asleep, and/or were given it by a sleeping priest?
    To experientially (as Jesus did when baptised) receive the Holy Spirit — with forgiveness and new life — at that moment — seems highly desirable, and profitable for the integrity of the Church.

    • milliganp says:

      Overlord, your RCIA group does seem overly confused. One of the great joys of Catholicism is that we don’t have to be confused, Holy Mother Church has pondered and defined our faith in Dogmas and Doctrines. There is no “sort of like” to Baptism, real things happen.
      In baptism the stain of all sin prior to baptism is washed away (i.e. not merely the guilt but the punishment due to Divine Justice); thus if a mass murderer is baptised and dies without further sin he would go straight to heaven. In baptism we are born again or, using the language of Easter, we die and rise with Christ. We become adopted children of God and co-heirs with Christ to the promise of eternal life.
      Like all sacraments, Baptism does not rely on the disposition of the recipient to be effective – thus if our mass murderer didn’t really believe in Christ but was baptised out of fear of eternal punishment, his baptism would still effect his redemption.
      Baptism removes the guilt and stain of all sin, including original sin but still leaves us with free will and a fallen nature – so how we respond and live out our life of faith is up to us.
      Adults baptised at Easter receive the sacrament of Confirmation immediately after baptism and it is this sacrament that bestows the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Again it is important not to confuse the sacraments.
      Finally, Jesus did not receive the Holy Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan by John, this event was a theophany –a manifestation of God, the Father and the Holy Spirit witnessed to Jesus’ own divinity. Jesus was Divine, the second person of the Trinity, from the moment of his conception in the womb of Our Lady (having pre-existed for all time with the Father), whom we rightly call Mother of God. John, for his part was baptised in the womb when Mary visited her kinswoman Elizabeth.

      • overload says:


        Thanks for your reply, though this does not clear up my concerns — your other comment just now, in reference to the council of Trent, about the need for the Church to evangelise in the context of here-and-now reinforces my point.

        “Like all sacraments, Baptism does not rely on the disposition of the recipient to be effective”
        This I do not believe, nor, as I understand it, is it what the Church teaches. (I’m also confused about the disposition of the one Baptising.)
        “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16
        (just to add here, as I imagine you already know, but others may not? that the CCC teaches Baptism with water, and also two alternative forms of Baptism).

      • overload says:

        There is much in what you said that is wishy-washy / doesn’t quite add up, to my mind.

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, I’m afraid to say the lack of clarity is entirely on your part. There is a clear explanation of the effect of Baptism at and of the validity at quoting from which ” The minister’s intention simply “to baptize” and the recipient’s intention (or, if an infant or child, his or her parents’ and godparents’ intention in his or her name), simply “to be baptized” is sufficient to meet this test, even if none of the parties had a full theological understanding of the sacrament of Baptism. ”
        If the church did not have this rule we would never be sure that any person was validly baptised. Similarly for teenage confirmation, if we relied on the disposition of the recipient 30%+ of these would be invalid.
        You may not believe it but it is what the Church teaches and has taught for nearly 2000 years.

  22. Brendan says:

    Three years ago my wife and I were holidaying in Sharm-el sheikh, South Sinai. There being no Catholic Mass – Roman or Coptic – available in the region I thought to attend a Coptic ( Oriental ) Orthodox Divine Liturgy. With the indispensable help of my Egyptian guide and taxi driver I arrived at the Church. I haven’t the space to relate what a moving experience the ‘ mass ‘ proved to be and the devout attentiveness of the congregation assembled , which seemed to range from ‘townsfolk ‘ to ‘ desert – people ? Oh, I could join in with the ‘ Kyrie eleison ‘. and that’s all. Perhaps apart from myself , another European I deduced could have been Russian. There are a lot of Russians in Sharm.
    Thanks to Father Tim Finnigan of CH , I new what and what not to expect from the Copts i.e. Holy Communion. Although I had a good working knowledge of my own , I felt humbled and overjoyed when the ‘ archpriest ? ‘ motioned to a young priest ( whom I have made myself known to before the service , and who had studied in Bristol at some stage ) to receive the ‘unconsecrated’ bread with a ‘ blessing ‘ before the assembled Communicants received The Holy Eucharist.
    My immediate thoughts were ….. Here was I , an outsider not as they saw it possessing the ‘ ‘right ‘ disposition ‘ to receive their Eucharist , but both belonging to the Living Body of Christ by Baptism being ‘ WELCOMED ‘ by their company. I distributed ‘ western ‘ devotional cards depicting our Lady and gave the young priest a rosary with directions on how to say it. He was visibly moved. I was so elated and taken away by it all that , not thinking , I spontaneously offered a Muslim man the ‘ bread ‘ offering which of course he declined with a smile ! I returned to my patient wife and we shared the rest .
    Is there any reason why this practice cannot be introduced in our parishes as a visible sign to the worshipping community that we are all prone to sin and are at varying stages of our relationship with God ? Not being completely cut off , but at a stage of ‘ acceptance by ‘ and ‘ integration back into ‘ Christ’s Church. This act of real pastoral concern would transform our whole understanding of what it means to be Baptised Christians as we move towards The Eucharist …. ” the source and summit of the Christian life “: CCC – Lumen Gentium.

  23. overload says:

    Brendan, thanks for your story.
    “I spontaneously offered a Muslim man the ‘ bread ‘ offering which of course he declined with a smile ! I returned to my patient wife and we shared the rest .”
    I assume you are talking about the (leavened) host? If so, this sounds like a family meal, that you can yourself distribute what you have been given (by the priest?) — the potions must be going on snack size, at least.
    I wonder why the Muslim man was in the congregation in the first place?

  24. Brendan says:

    Indeed , Eastern Orthodox and Catholics use leavened bread to represent the ‘ risen ‘ Christ. To me it is baked to look like naan bread – a staple of Middle eastern and Asian diet. It may be the vestiges / or have a connection with the ‘ meal ‘ that the earliest Christians ate in their meeting houses before partaking of the Eucharist. After all the Copts are the direct descendents of St. Mark the Evangelists’ missionary activities – some of its liturgy must have had its roots in Jerusalem…… Isn’t it fascinating ?
    It’s a pity that Nektarios isn’t available. As Quentin hinted at, the Orthodox world is diverse and not all in union with each other.

    • milliganp says:

      The Orthodox churches are generaly considered “autocephalous”, i.e. Each Patriarch and Bishop exercises their own jurisdiction; however they are (in general) united in accepting matters of faith defined at Ecumenical Councils.
      In the West we often confuse practice with belief (orthopraxy vs orthodoxy). The teaching of the church on contraception does not have the same standing as the Divinity of Christ or the doctrine of the Assumption.

  25. Quentin says:

    Anyone who is interested in the rights of conscience with regard to abortion should go immediately to

    • jimbeam says:

      “Can. 871 If aborted fetuses are alive, they are to be baptized insofar as possible.”

      • To repeat an earlier comment:-
        [When I was a medical student around 1950 I had the job of clearing up after a delivery or miscarriage on the district. (The fourth stage of labour!)
        One day I found a tiny egg-shaped object – a sparkling translucent gel encased in a transparent membrane.
        When I drew the attention of my midwife colleague to it she insisted on cutting it open to baptize the tiny primitive streak.
        For some reason I felt this to be almost a desecration.]

    • Singalong says:

      This is very bad news, no recognition of indirect participation as real involvement, and breaking faith with all the assurances originally given. It foreshadows the same approach to cooperation with assisted dying.

      I remember a young couple, desperate to arrange an abortion, lots of problems, mixed race, not married, strict parents, who somehow came to the Life Cares centre, and begged to know where they could go. To my shame, I eventually suggested the phone book, and still regret doing even that. I suppose they would have done that anyway, perhaps they were testing us.

      • Singalong says:

        I hope it is in order to quote the following from Fr. Hunwicke’s blog 17 December 2014

        “What a shame these judges were not around in time to defend that poor Adolf Eichmann when the Israelis so unfairly tried and hanged him for organising the transportation of Jews to the Death Camps. And they would have been really in their element during the Nuremburg trials, defending the bureaucrats who masterminded the war crimes.

        But stay: it is not too late. If the International Criminal Court ever finds itself trying former tyrants who gave orders for genocide, these judicial jokers will be invaluable to the defence teams.

        Memo to all those contemplating crimes against humanity: OK, dears, as long as you aren’t HANDS ON.”

      • Quentin says:

        Could you give us a link? Most bloggers are delighted to be quoted if only because people learn about their blog. So giving a link is appreciated.

      • Singalong says:

        This is the link

        It is headed Fr. Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment. He is a scholarly Ordinariate priest with his credentials on the website.

  26. Iona says:

    To go back for a minute to Brendan’s experience at the Coptic “divine liturgy”. – St. Terese of Lisieux, in “The Story of a Soul”, describes how families took their own bread to Mass to be blessed by the priest. This was not the bread to be used for Holy Communion. When she herself was still too young to be taken to Mass, she appreciated this “pain beni”, and would run to her sister Celine as she returned from Mass, saying “Quick, Celine, give me the blessed bread!”… “I could not go without it, for this little feast was my Mass”.
    Maybe something like this could be reinstated, and people in “irregular unions” could feel that they were still taking part in the Mass and being “given something” even though not taking Communion.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona .
      My Mother used to bring back Blessed Ashes on Ash Wednesday in her prayer book, we lived in the country in Ireland so they would cycle to the 3 oclock Good Friday service.Also if she did not go we would all kiss the Cross at 3 0clock.
      I wonder if that is permittted now.

      • Brendan says:

        Nothing wrong with that – mothers are very good at distributing their ‘ milk ‘ – its what keeps us men alive, St. Joseph ! We must keep something of our cerebral understanding of our Faith and make sure it is not passed on to the next generation as adulterated ‘ folk – religion ‘ My maternal great- grandfather – so I’m told – used to drop to his knees when the Angelus ‘ tolled ‘. What a stir that would cause today. The Secular Society would be positively apoplectic !

    • Brendan says:

      Now we’re getting it Iona ! As Milligamp said earlier… ” in the west we want to rationalise and develop rules. ” Maybe an unfortunate ‘ fixation ‘ due to the Western thought developing from medieval scholasticism ( angels on pinheads ) – not affecting Eastern Christian spirituality. maybe the Holy Spirit is moving the Church through Pope Francis to a less cerebral mode somewhere between Catholicism and Orthodoxy through our system of parish ‘ governance ‘ requiring a whole new mindset.

    • overload says:

      This analogy with the nan-like bread and the “risen Christ” sounds to me like a bit of a joke.
      Putting aside the brief parable alluding to the Kingdom of Heaven being like a woman who mixes in leaven with some flour until it is fully leavened; we know that the passover sacrifice — which prefigures the paschal mystery of Christ — used unleavened bread. And we have this from St Paul (1 Corinthians 5:6):
      “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

  27. Iona says:

    With regard to Quentin’s link: What it amounts to is that Catholic midwives cannot work in NHS hospitals and maternity departments. If they are to work as midwives in the UK, it can only be within privately-run hospitals which are presumably able to offer maternity care and to refuse to carry out abortions (except in such cases as ectopic pregnancies).

  28. overload says:

    Quentin, I realise this comment is over the ‘word limit’ — unfortunately I am not in the position, as you are, to set the agenda for discussion (ie. post an article). Neither can I easily orchestrate peoples attention. So what can I do?

    Milligap, thanks for the links re. Baptism.

    • Quentin says:

      Yes I fear you have met the grim reaper. Rules are rules. And I sympathise because in my writing I often have to tackle difficult subjects to an exact wordage. However I have usually found that a bit of editing tends to improve what I have written. Why not start your own blog? That gives you the freedom to publish what you like. I would be happy to note your blog address on Secondsight, once it’s up and running.

      • overload says:

        Is this what could be known as the ‘lukewarm shoulder’?

      • Quentin says:

        No, this is a blog which has been very successful for a number of years. And it is my intention that it should continue to be successful. If you wish to contribute to a blog with different rules then I am sure you can find one. But if none exists then you will need to start your own.

  29. Brendan says:

    Re: Quentin’s latest link, Dec. 17- 6.56PM.
    There we have it. Is there any more evidence needed that we are about to enter another Dark Age under the auspices of ‘ the Law of the land. ‘ Remembering the part played by the Judiciary in the Third Reich exposed at the Nuremberg Trials, we should mark this day. We will need more than two courageous midwives too stem this unfolding menace, God help us . The line has been firmly drawn…. ” mercy certainly, capitulation, NO !”

    • Quentin says:

      Yes, it is a very serious matter. You make like to visit Neil Addison’s site at Addison is a Catholic barrister who has special knowledge in such matters. Here he examines and criticises the judgment.

      • Brendan says:

        Yes, Thanks for the reminder of Neil Addison – your links are indispensable to the uninitiated. This is worse than the re- definition of marriage debacle. Saint Teresa ( Mother Teresa ) words come to mind…. ” you won’t have peace in the world until there is peace in the womb “.

      • overload says:

        “you won’t have peace in the world until there is peace in the womb”
        Surely we are not looking for peace in the world, that is, anymore than it flows naturally to do so in accordance with Christ, and so much as Christ wants to give it for His reasons. In which case all we have to do is listen to Him and obey Him, rather than battle/tango with and get depressed about this world.
        If God is for us, who can be against us?
        God’s Kingdom is in our midst, but it is not of this world, and we await his return, so who are you following if you are pursing/clinging to a vision of peace in this world?
        Seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all the rest shall be given unto you (so much as you then, having your treasure in heaven, still want/need it — or He wants to give it anyway).

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