The end of the affair

Last Saturday I attended my daughter’s silver wedding. It was a wonderful party, filled with the friends of a lifetime. Only one thing was lacking: her eldest daughter could not get leave from her voluntary posting in Zimbabwe. Instead she sent a written address, read out by her cousin. As she explained, with concrete examples, how her parents had supported her and her siblings, the tears flowed down her mother’s cheeks and, before long, I saw that the whole room was peppered with handkerchiefs. I won’t tell you whether I cried. One passage gave everyone a message:

“Our family, extended and immediate, grew out of my parents love for one another. There has never been a doubt in my mind that my parents are completely in love with each other and always will be. The love in our house emanates from their tangible and visible love for one another.”

I have heard a few sermons on marriage but never one which taught me so much about the reality and power of marital love. I don’t mean that the marriage has been sticky and sentimental – there have been the ordinary course of spats and silences – but it was plain to their daughter that the profound love that bound her parents was the foundation of the family. My granddaughter continued “I am so proud to be your daughter. If I can be half the mother and daughter you are I will be more than happy.” But she seems to be on the right course: two new Zimbabwean babies have already been given her Christian name.

But I was brought down to earth on Monday morning. My newspaper reported that shortly more than half the births in a year will be out of wedlock. In the 1970s only one child in 20 was so born, by the 1970s it had become one in 10, and it has now reached 44 per cent. And it could have been worse since non-British citizens have been much more likely to be married before having children. It strongly suggests that marriage as a background for producing a family has become a lifestyle option in our culture.

Does it matter? Clearly there are some cohabiting couples who love each other dearly, provide a secure home for the children, and provide an example of long term love. And around 45 per cent of current marriages will break down and divorce. So the problems are are not confined to cohabiters. But there is an important difference: in 2010, when cohabiting couples were 19% of parents, they accounted for 48 per cent of family breakdown cases. And couples who were not married at the time of childbirth were twice as likely to split up before the child was 15 – even if they married at a later stage.

I was brought up in a secure family so I can only apply my imagination to the tragedy of family breakdown for a child. The rows, the loss of security, the divided loyalties, the loss of parenting, the reduction of material needs – suggest to me a terrible uncertainly and pessimism which I would have carried into later life. And indeed the studies show the higher incidence of educational difficulties, mental health problems and substance abuse in the children of broken relationships. The children are less likely to make good and lasting marriages of their own.

So it would seem that our society’s slide into open relationships in which commitment is only provisional is not just a personal matter – we are all affected. An unstable, and in many instances, an unhappy society is a future which threatens all of us. If you have watched television programmes on poverty and welfare benefits you may well have noticed how often the victims of the system are unmarried singletons who cannot both earn money and provide childcare. And behind those are many who have escaped that dilemma by getting rid of the baby before birth.

So what is our society doing to improve the situation? I have not heard the politicians championing committed marriage, nor have I seen them providing tax advantages to make marriage more attractive. On the contrary their reaction has been indifference, they have gone happily with the flow. But we all know that flows tend to end in the sewer.

Can you identify the factors which have led to this situation – remembering that Catholics (perhaps some in our own families) are not so different from the general population. What actions should be taken to alleviate the situation – by others, by ourselves?

(If you think that stable marriage should be the norm I suggest that you brief yourself through It is not a religious site but it is run by people who support marriage, and do so through recording the facts and the trends. You may like to read their ‘Manifesto’ for marriage)

About Quentin

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99 Responses to The end of the affair

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    For a start we need to get rid of the fiction that sexual relationships are the business of no one but the couple concerned; their consequences have an impact of some kind on everyone else in the community. We therefore have to din into minds reluctant to recognise the fact, however unfashionable it may be, that actions have consequences that need to be addressed responsibly.

    That means we have to convince politicians that principles should be judged not by whether they are “modern” or “outdated” but whether they are valid. How do we go about that?

    • Vincent says:

      It seems clear to me that, irrespective of our dialogue here, it is important to keep the ‘faith card’ at the back of the pack. Quentin suggests that we have good evidence from sociology that the case for stable marriage can be shown from the statistics. The moment it is associated with Catholic teaching it will be written off as negligible, Catholics are seen as indoctrinated weirdos.
      I imagine that everyone has personal opportunities — conversation with friends, letters to newspapers, contributing to blogs etc. Then there are organisations to which we belong, MPs (or candidates) to write to. It might even be possible to brief a parish priest on a sermon he could give.
      But to do this I’m sure we need to brief ourselves properly, and persist. No good just having a vague intention, and sitting on one’s backside.

  2. St.Joseph says:

    P D.Wilson.
    I have been trying for the last 40 years to get rid of the fiction that sexual relationships are the business of no one but the couple concerned;their consequences have an impact of some kind on everyone in the Church.
    Since Pope Paul 6th HV, the sexual relationship between married couples have not had the teaching of Holy Mother Church on Sacramental Marriage,and it has not been taught at marriage meetings before they take their vows.
    Couples have been living together and/or using contraception, then not been in the proper disposition of Grace,when they marry.
    The Sacrament of marriage joins the couple to live in harmony with the Blessed Trinity.
    How can that be if they dont go to the Sacrament of Confession and live by the teachings of the church. It is not as though there wasn’t an answer with NFP the way the Lord made females in the first place. NFP over the years has become 100% effective if taught properly by a trained teacher.I can understand couples before we had this knowledge.
    I feel sympathy for couples who have broken marriages and those who are divorced and re-married and refused Holy Communion, I am afraid I put a lot down to the negligence of those who are supposed to be the Pastoral carers of our souls.
    This is not my opinion but my experience over 40 years.
    Bishops and Priests just did not listen, I hope the Synod on Marriage will keep this in mind and show charity to the divorced and re-married.
    The Holy Father has spoken today on Sacramental Marriage,maybe it ought have been said years ago.

  3. Peter Foster says:

    I recommend a marvellously deep analysis of this horrendous problem:
    The Fragmenting Family by Brenda Almond, OUP 2006.

    She locates the source of many of Western Society’s problems in the fragmentation of the traditional family. In the new ideology of the family, it is no longer seen as a natural procreative unit, but rather as a social construction, a set of legal and social relationships. Legal changes which weaken and discount genetic and biological parenthood threaten the parent-child link which is fundamental to human life.

    • milliganp says:

      As I understand it the accepted wisdom amongst sociologists is that the nuclear family is a post industrial revolution construct. Prior to that the extended family was the norm (2 or more generations living in close proximity). In much of the developing word the extended family is still the norm.
      It is only in the last 50 or so years that most young married couples have started living well removed from their parents and other married siblings. This social change removed much of the structure of support for a family which the extended family provided in the past.
      I think, as church, we need to seriously consider this change as it directly relates to how we present our teaching – dispersed family groups accentuate individualism.
      But there is another, more subtle and less obvious, element of collateral change. A person’s marriage or extra-marital relationships are now ‘their own business’. There is now no authority other than self and, in this system, the church finds itself without accepted authority.

  4. Brendan says:

    i will read the ” Marriage Foundation Manifesto ” shortly but here’s an ‘ entrer ‘ for now.
    I have the same thoughts as Vincent. We are living through dangerous times as we see our family members manipulated by strong anti- Catholic/ Christian forces emanating from mass media and global communications, backed up by and often part of liberalising Governments worldwide. To me liberalisation = intolerance at all levels of civil life. The Catholic Church because of its insistence on going against the flow regarding societies direction on traditional family norms and moral teaching – yes Quentin , at present the course we are taking is helping to create a very nasty, unpleasant societal sewer in the future – has and is being , stigmatised outside over its prophetic stand and most worrying , among’st its own members.
    To me it is clear that the Country through its civil structures is prepared to dump centuries of tried and tested moral behaviour ; the lynch-pin of which most people associate with having a Christian provenance ; and worship at the altar of secular liberalism . An example of this was during the same – sex ‘ marriage ‘ debate when on a ” Question Time ” a well- known pop star ( some of whom now appear to have donned the mantle of moral policemen / women ) blatantly accused those against changes in traditional marriage law , of bigotry – thereby completely silencing an otherwise very vocal panel . The shocking thing is that some if not all of them must have been Christians , and well aware of what this fundamental change would mean for present society and in the future.
    Europe and most of The West appear to be in a self- induced state of self-denial , fed from above and driven by atheistic/ humanistic reformers below. We can start by having the ‘; guts ‘ that plainly our appointed politicians have failed to show, by standing firm and quietly going about our business – the Lords business – and confronting by reasoned argument anything that is contrary to Church Teaching . If there is any conscious doubt – it is The Lords Teaching .

  5. Hock says:

    Brendan concludes by drawing attention to the Church’s teaching as being the Lord’s teaching but where is today’s evidence that they are aligned ? Was anything said from the pulpits about homosexual ‘marriage’ ? Were there Bishop’s letters circulated that expressed catholic opposition?
    Perhaps so in some circumstances but there was no evidence of a united voice from the very institution that has long championed the virtue of marriage and of its indissolubility. The Vatican did speak out but seems not to have passed this on to the Bishops, or to have left them to their own devices.
    We are now about to embark on yet another synod in which strident voices in the Church hierarchy have already made plain what there stance will be, a further weakening of marriage as ordained by God.
    Jesus showed compassion in not condemning the woman caught in adultery but his admonishment for her not to sin anymore seems to have been forgotten.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I dont believe the Church will say or ever say that divorce is acceptable.
      It is not just black and white,People are confused when statement like this are is muddying the waters.
      Annulments are not always obtained,so the innocent partner suffers and is expected to confess a sin that was not their fault
      We ought to be bringing catholics back to the Sacraments-plus the children that have already lapsed,because of the lack of understanding of the true meaning of marriage of their parents in the first place.This is down to the Church as I mentioned above,
      Jesus left the the fold of ninty nine to search for the one lost sheep,


      • overload says:

        St Joseph “We ought to be bringing catholics back to the Sacraments… This is down to the Church as I mentioned above”
        You say that the children have lapsed because they do not understand the meaning of their parents marriage. Is not rather that their parents do not understand the meaning of their child’s (and their own) baptism?

        “Jesus left the the fold of ninty nine to search for the one lost sheep,”
        Would he leave a fold of 30 sheep&goats to search for another 70 lost and scattered sheep&goats? Difficult.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Those are situation, there is no singular answer is where pastoral care is needed.
        Very often when marriages breakdown the couple althoiugh married in church and what ever reason may not have been spiritualy ready for their faith to have matured
        So when a breakdown happens one or other does not practice nor do they bring the children up in the faith..
        When one starts at the bottom of a long hill it is difficult to get to the top on their own.
        See milliganp’s comment above at

    • Brendan says:

      Hock – There has always been and probably will always be decent in The Church . We are redeemed by the Cross but we still live with the fear of its presence by refusing it ; when we know deep down that embracing it means freedom won for humanity by it , from sin. By this fear , and the over – intellectualising in the past of The Reformers we have given the ‘ devil on our shoulders ‘ plenty of opportunity to divide Christs Church. Look at the mess today. Look at the confused state of the Country’s national Church !
      Our pre-disposition to scapegoating looms ever-present in us , and blaming Bishops for our present ills ( however legitimate in some situations ) within the Catholic Church is again to deflect The Cross given to the whole Church. We are a Church of sinners and Christs words resonates down the centuries ….. ” To those who are given much ; much is expected of them . ” We can only look to ourselves first before others.

  6. Nektarios says:

    I can agree with most things you have all said, and over several topics have pointed out the dangers of humanism and secularism.
    I cannot simply see it in the context of marriage, but throughout all of society, in education, universities, Government laws, the media, in other institutions and workplaces.
    As I have stated on previous occasions the Church, as an institution is not exempt from the very powerful people and media getting their humanistic and secular propaganda across many times a day and now, various threats of legal proceedings being taken if one dares to disagree.

    What are we as Christians to do? Shall be just go political like our political or Church leaders.
    Making loud noises and statements that signify nothing? This show how spiritually weak wee have become.

    We must remember first, before all the denominational axes people grind, what we are, and whose we are as Christians true believers. Children of the Most High God, what all that means? What is does the bible teach us? What does God ask of us and how to behave?

    We are called to follow Christ our risen Saviour, to obey him, first and foremost . Yes, we all fail Him in so many ways, sins of omission, sins of commission and sins of ignorance.

    There is no point trying to argue the point with secularist and humanists as so many have done. They represent the world and the spirit of this world is at emnity with God. The two can never be compatible.
    Either we we believe in and on Christ for our Salvation to leading us, guide us and to following after Him and obey Him, or we don’t, and live according to the ways of this world. Choose whom ye shall serve?

    • Peter Foster says:

      Nektarios you say: “There is no point in trying to argue the point with secularists and humanists as so many have done. They represent the world and the spirit of this world is at enmity with god. The two can never be compatible”

      How does this relate to “Love thy neighbour”? When children, the vulnerable in society to whom we all have a duty, are hurt by the casual legal status of marriage and the resulting effect on children; surely it would be sinful, against God’s wish, not to enter into argument with our secular neighbours to try to rectify matters?

      • Nektarios says:

        Peter Foster
        I could write much on this topic, Peter, but I am constrained by limitation of words I can use.
        We agree it is right to Love thy Neighbour as oneself. But the appeal to the Law will condemn us before we can truly get started, for we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves. So, what is one to do?
        First, we must understand who it is that demands it of us, and why. God demands it of us, and it is for our happiness essentially.
        Secondly, God is clear what He wants to get across to us, it is He is Righteous, Personal and a God of Love.
        Thirdly, No matter where one is in the world, be it primitive tribes, or the modern world,
        people try to get along with each other, they help each other according to their talents.
        But that is not what Love thy Neighbour really means. Helping each other, is generally self-interest and where that is, love is not.
        Fourthly, To truly Love thy Neighbour as oneself, we must fist know something of God and relate to Him, for this is the source of true love.
        The nature of this love in action is the same as it is towards God, Righteous, Personal and God is involved.

        For that to be true of us, we need to understand what it is to be Christian.
        Now we come to the crux of your question you posed.
        A humanist and secularist may have warped ideas about what it means to Love my Neighbour, but really cannot do much about not truly loving his neighbour in himself/herself.
        We will have a consensus view what loving our neighbour is, say they, impose laws, punishments, and when it comes to marital affairs, it is clear from legislation, these humanists and secularists have made a dogs breakfast of it. They are not linked to the source of Love. They really don’t know what love is. They know what gives pleasure, they know what is politically a good sound bite. Yes they can give an impression of loving our neighbour, but it is a corruption of love based upon deceit.
        This is why it is important to understand what being a Christian means and entails, no it is essential.
        When we understand and live out that, we will understand what it is to truly love our neighbour as Our Blessed God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ intended. We will not only know what is required, but know how to act.

      • overload says:

        Peter F, “surely it would be sinful, against God’s wish, not to enter into argument with our secular neighbours to try to rectify matters?”

        I don’t think argument or trying to take matters into our own hands is the Christian way.
        1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
        I know the context is slightly different, but does it not translate easy enough?

      • Peter Foster says:

        Necktarios: Shall we agree to disagree. I believe we must live life to the full, fully interacting with our neighbours always with Christ in mind.

        Overload: I do not read 1 Peter 3:15 as a universal timeless prescription for a passive life. It relates to suffering persecution in the context of the belief, 1 Peter 4:7, that “The end of all things is near.”

        You both seem to see the Christian flock as a passive cult isolated from the society. How do you reconcile this with the successor to St Peter writing an encyclical on climate change?

  7. Brendan says:

    Having read the manifesto of ” The Marriage Foundation ” – while I perceive it to be encouraging for other man/woman states of union who fail to reach the ‘ gold standard ‘ of marriage ; I see it as sufficiently Christo- centric as to be worthy of my support as Catholic and with the confident endorsement of the strands of the political establishment ,to be deem as a ‘ charter ‘ for believers and non- believers to rally behind for now, with enthusiasm. Remembering for example that ‘ Amnesty ‘ with all its earlier moral stances is not now the human organisation perceived in its founding ‘ charter ‘. The hard fact of life is that eventually everything of human origin (excluding Christs Church ) in time is open to being high-jacked , subverted and destroyed by equally human opposing forces.

  8. Brendan says:

    As far as I am aware Pope Saint John Paul’s Catechism of The Catholic Church still stands and Pope Francis as Christ’s Vicar or has no abrogated from it or our Bishops renounced the Faith of The Church. That for me is good enough !

  9. St.Joseph says:

    You are quite right about Pope John Paul’s Catechism of the Catholic Church.
    However in my experience of Natural Family Planning,Bishops and priests have been very silent!
    Except for Bishop O Donoghue.I have written to them all and received a few negative replies.
    Perhaps as we are having more married Deacons they will give them a better understanding as to why it is so important in marriage.And marriage instructions.
    Cardinal Nicholls at the time had a golden opportunity when Pope Benedict visited England and there was a discussion on the television,He never mentioned the Churches teaching on NFP. He had the golden opportunity when the subject came up.
    I wrote to him, but got no reply!
    Are they embaressed about our faith. when it comes to family planning and fertility awareness..
    America isn’t nor EWTN.
    I have never heard a sermon on abortifacients over the years.
    I dont know how many catholic homes have the CCC on their book shelf or even the Compendium of the Catholic Church of Pope Benedict..Suitable for younger children to read
    How will we know if no one tells us The.Heirarchy are sent to enlighten us on our faith,
    Sometimes the only knowledge catholics receive is on a Sunday.
    We live in the world but as Nektarios says ‘not of it’!
    We are all all called to preach the Gospel to each our own vocation. There are enough married catholic couples to do that.Perhaps then we would have less divorces.
    I know I keep on abouit it, however I would have no need to if voices from inside the Churhc did.
    People need the truth.inside and outside of season.

    • Brendan says:

      I am aware of and a have gone through the pain of some of what you are saying St.Joseph. I don’t want to go into much of my past , but in faith I firmly believe in Divine Providence to pull His Church through anything this world can through at it. Remember … ” the gates of Hell will never prevail against ….. and I will be with you ….. “.
      I read an obituary in CH today following the death of Cardinal Francis George ( a kindred spirit of both Saint John Paul and Emeritus Pope Benedict ) I was strangely enthused and accepting at some of his parting words . ” I will die in my bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr . ” I have witnessed some of that faith in Britain . We must pray that if the time comes , we will also will be prepared to give of our all .

  10. Hock says:

    I only have to read the contradictory replies on here to get a ‘flavour’ of what we are in for with the forthcoming synod and why we are in the current mess we are.
    Are the Bishops the leaders of the Church or not ? Are they bound to hold to Catholic teaching or at liberty to go their own way, including silence?
    Are there no ‘red lines’ any more? Is everything we have been told to hold to be true doctrine, as testified to in Holy Writ, open to any interpretation that different Cardinals and Bishops care to promulgate?
    I fear that the virus of Protestantism has a strong icy grip on the Catholic Church.

    • Nektarios says:

      That is not very kind, to your Protestant Christian brethren – yes they are today in a bad way too. Fancy calling your Protestant brothers and sisters a virus – dear me, a little history of why Protestantism came into being would serve you well.

      I think, the history of the RCC will tell you that it goes off the rails sometimes `big-time’.
      The true doctrine of Holy Writ lies in the application of it in our lives wherein there is truth and righteousness and love.
      It is not for me to judge your Bishops and Cardinals but the definition I have given you should inform you somewhat.

      We are all as Christians in this mess due to not applying Holy Writ to ourselves as we ought, so don’t too much from the Leaders.
      But why are you looking to them to tell you – read Holy Writ for yourself. – it is clear enough, and that just leaves us to apply it to ourselves.
      The worldly world with all its politicking, humanism, secular aand liberalism thinking with which Bishops, Cardinals and the Pope engage in and with, will not help.
      There will be a show of appearing to get to grips with the issue(s) but that will just be propaganda for the punters.

  11. Brendan says:

    Hock – I do no have the same fears as yourself. I see a fractured Catholic ‘ Culture ‘ in most societies in the West ; some more or less fractured than others by degrees. I see th damage caused by this fracture since the 1960’s as coming on apace. Should our Bishops as successors of the Apostles have seen this and dealt with it in proper ways ? Yes, Pope Emeritus Benedict has said as much – which included all ” cradle Catholics ” – when he was Pope … ” We have failed to transmit the Faith ” ( and whether one feels it makes amends – he apologised ). Some or all of the his fellow Bishops might have reciprocated ……. but they did not. )
    The Schillerbecks ‘, Currans, Gutierez’ and Kungs are a result of this fracture and resulting confusion , especially for the laity. Every Catholic knows /feels instinctively without even God-given faith and reason – even by the lesson of history only ; that cultural fracture leads to confusion , leads to dissent , leads to protest , leads to disunion – ultimately to lack of a subjective ‘ faith ‘. .. ” when the Son of Man comes , will he find any faith on earth ? ” . Luke 18:8. Because Western Society has let itself be led by a beautiful seduction , arising in the world ( specifically in denying the truth of the Cross in Christianity , and releasing the ties that bind us to the Living God ) in the form of humanistic materialism and rampant consumerism ,to take hold ; and allowing relativism to fill the void where Christianity once reigned ; the great pillars of a stable and just society – traditional marriage and family life – have been weakened almost to destruction. The Catholic Church is not immune from the ravages of this ‘ culture ‘ of death.
    That is what we are seeing in that direction now. That is why the Son of God gave His Church the guarantee ( our word, infallibility ) of right ‘faith ‘ and ‘morals’ ; known and then documented as an article of our Faith , that make up the stable earthly essence of our Catholic Culture – Because of the belief that Christ will never desert his children , I like all true Catholics
    believe , despite what has and what is going on , that even with our lamentable lack of subjective personal faith, that the ‘ guarantee ‘ is perpetuated in The Church.
    The perception that Cardinals Marx and Kasper ( who may or may not be closet Protestants ) is a challenge to our Faith and therefore further fracture of our Catholic Culture is very real. It is no coincidence that along with this perception of dissent , the the German Catholic church is more advanced in its material needs than almost any part of The universal Church ; being locked into an uneasy worldly association with its politicians. I see German Catholics as having a lot of heart-searching to do in the future within the Universal Church of Christ.

  12. Nektarios says:

    Well said!

  13. Brendan says:

    The Spirit of God is not sleeping before the next October Synod . It does well to make oneself aware then of the words of a saint of a previous ‘ fight-back ‘…. ” It is a mark of the Evil Spirit to take on the appearance of an angel of light.. ” – Ignatius Loyola.

    • Vincent says:

      I find that a central issue for the forthcoming Synod is often presented as indissolubility of marriage versus dissolubility of marriage. This is incorrect. There seems to be no movement towards dissolubility. What is argued is that those who are divorced and remarried should (presumably under sensible conditions) be allowed to receive Holy Communion. That is a pastoral matter. It is not a matter of doctrine.

      Some will remember that, following HV, many bishops conferences taught that those who, after seriously considering their consciences, could not agree were encouraged to continue to use the Sacraments. Why are ‘good Catholics’ who use artificial contraception positively encouraged into the queue for Communion when the divorced and remarried are prohibited?

      • Brendan says:

        Vincent – I agree that it is somewhat unfortunate but inevitable , given the climate in The Catholic Church today , that the issue of Sacramental Marriage should have received unnecessarily more scrutiny / attention than the main topic ; one of the pastoral dynamics between Marriage and The Family. So for me the question of the Sacrament itself is a non-issue , or in modern jargon ( which does not come naturally to me ) – a ‘ no-brainer ‘. ,,, ” What God has joined etc… ”
        On your second issue ; I believe that Humane Vitae is the infallible teaching of The Church as it emanates ‘ ex cathedra ‘ ( binding authority ) from Pope Paul vi in his teaching office as Vicar of Christ. It therefore forms part of immutable moral law . References that helped me to this informed conclusion were :-
        Humane Vitae. 14 – ( Cat. Cath. Church. ) ; The Infallible Teaching of Humanae Vita by Father Thomas Crean, O.P. ( Google ); and from a First Vatican Council Declaration – ” The word ‘ defines ‘ , signifies that the Pope directly and conclusively pronounces his judgement about a doctrine which concerns matters of faith and morals , and that he does so in such a way that each one of the faithful can be certain of the mind of the Roman Pontiff. ”
        Pastoral needs of the faithful are undoubtedly the most pressing need in the Church today . In light of this , I see the Bishops as having to make their pastoral decisions, which in light of your understanding Vincent , look to be open to question by their flock. There is as I see it the question of taking personal culpability for sin ( something I see Nektarios points to ) in approaching and reception of Our Lord in The Eucharist – but that’s enough for know. I look forward to you and others thoughts .

      • Vincent says:

        At the promulgation of HV it was clearly distinguished from an infallible teaching by citing it as the ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church. There have been plenty of opportunities in the 48 years since its publication for any misunderstanding to be corrected. One day, when it has become a dead letter, like the grave condemnation of usury, our descendants will be grateful that the Church avoided falling into that ditch.

  14. Nektarios says:

    I believe the central problem surrounding the fragmentation of society and the family in particular,
    is a little word called sin.
    Over many years various groups have looked at this issue of fragmentation and family breakdown
    and sought to address it. Many books have been written, academic studies have been done, programmes on the media, agony aunts, doctors, sociologists, philosophers, polititcians and educationalists have all sought to reverse the trend, but have failed.
    The reasons for this is really quite simple, they focus on the problem, the symptoms but fail to look at the cause. That is why their attempts fail.

    As I have said, the root cause is sin. We spend our time moaning and groaning, complaining about the situation without getting to the heart of the problem.
    I note, when the Apostle Paul deals with problems, he does not start with the problem ( as a Christian), he starts with God. How does God see it, how does God deal with it?
    Our Blessed God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ does not want His people to be sad, miserable, downcast, unable to deal with such problems as this, the direct opposite. Why are Christians so powerless it seems to overcome? God has the answers. So to God and to His Word we must go for the solutions in all of these problems of fragmentation and marriage breakdown.
    But the answer does not lie in the problem(s) but with God and His Word who desires your us to be Blessed as He is blessed.

  15. John Nolan says:

    The bishops are not going to push the Church’s teaching on sexual morality for very good reasons. Firstly, they don’t subscribe to it. This is partly due to the perception that it’s too legalistic; most people would not see masturbation and pre-marital sex as being on the same level as sodomy or adultery, and this includes quite devout Catholics. Secondly, they are aware that those who still go to Mass on Sundays (despite everything from bad liturgy to secular distractions) regard receiving Communion as integral to the experience. Were they to suggest that those who are in irregular relationships, use artificial contraception or haven’t visited a confessional in decades should refrain from doing so they would simply empty the churches yet further.

  16. Hock says:

    Vincent writes that allowing the divorced to receive communion is a pastoral question and not one of doctrine. One wonders therefore why the Universal Church, has not acted pastorally for centuries and why England was ‘lost’ to the catholic faith on the orders of Henry V111 who made a pastoral request for a divorce.
    It would have been far easier for the church to have been pastoral rather than dogmatic but it has difficulty in ignoring Christ’s words on the subject or of putting a loose definition on them.
    I have wondered if any thought has been given to those on their second and third divorces, quite a common phenomenon nowadays. I also wonder why a ‘wronged’ party in a divorce needs to seek forgiveness before receiving the sacraments if reception to the sacraments is a pastoral is a pastoral matter.

  17. Hock says:

    Having just read through my previous blog contribution I realise I have made a mistake in my interpretation of Vincent’s comment. He was , I now understand, making the point that reception to communion is a pastoral matter and not the divorce that prohibits it. I suspect though that over a period of time the divorce issue ( indissolubility ) will become blurred if the Church promulgates a relaxation of reception to communion for the divorced.
    I hope I ‘read’ Vincent correctly now and apologise for my previous wrongful interpretation.

    • Brendan says:

      Yes Hock , I perceive you to be correct in your misunderstanding of Vincent – excuse my sense of humour, but on this occasion he appears , in the words of the great bard as ‘ more sinned against than sinning ‘
      On that point is where I believe Pope Francis wants those who . ” have been given much ” .. – to get straight to the point , are to go ‘ deep down and dirty ‘ in their pastoral approach ; and has said as much. Whether our leaders , particularly the Bishops , have the appetite, temperament or inclination – and lets face it he includes us as well – The Holy Father has I believe discerned the mind of Christ in this and in leading by example expects the whole Church to follow!
      The work then of our Bishops is not just to inculcate the letter of The Law – which they are duty bound to do anyway – but in getting among’st their people , to help them discern by example , the understanding of their ‘ situation ‘ as God’s instrument of merciful healing. No one is saying this will be easy ( in light of John Nolan’s submission in this blog ) . To aid this ; it is no accident I believe that Pope Francis has designated a Year of Mercy coinciding with the feast of Divine Mercy starting December 8th ( Immaculate Conception ) to run to Christ the King next year; following the Sunday focusing on His Divine Mercy to the world. In drawing all things to Christ , in this way The Pope before the Synod wants to focus the Church – in the light of Christs instruction to .. ” take the plank out of our own eye before the splinter out of others “.. and through awareness and emphasis on His continuous and unbroken Mercy – to be reconciled with each other before approaching the altar and receiving His Body and Blood – the Life within us . For many ‘ observant Catholics ‘ particularly, who have fallen short of Christs vision for its members , it will give them a way back to re- evaluate their lives in the light of their living the Gospel of Service and Love and their acceptance and feeling accepted in the life of The Church .
      The daily taking up of our personal ‘ crosses ‘ and realising what this means in service and Love to each other , thus instilling a mirror of Christs love in us ; is essential in this process. The entreaty…. ” For the sake of His sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world “. will gradually take hold and find fruition in us , Christs living Body – His Church.

    • Vincent says:

      Hock, thank you for reviewing your understanding of my comment.

      You suggest that a pastoral approach to this question might blur the boundaries. I wonder. Francis seems to be pointing towards a Church in which the absolutes remain clear, but which accepts at a deep level that we are all sinners and so fall short. It is then that we particularly need the graces which the Church mediates to us.

      There is a second consideration. The approach to annulments can get very close to an assumption that, because the marriage broke down, the couple were not psychologically fit to marry (specifically to each other) from the very beginning. That may well be the case in some instances, but it’s a dangerous tendency — leading to a real blurring. I would rather that a divorced and remarried person should acknowledge the continuing reality of the first marriage, and accept the wrongness of the breakdown, as a condition of return to the sacraments. And only he or she can judge what responsibility they had for the breakdown, and thus their willingness to ask for sacramental forgiveness,.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I agree with you in some cases, however marriage has a good deal to do with what is expected of a couple when they marry, regarding Church teaching.
        It has not been fully explained to them about the Sacramental issues and their responsibilities regarding children, or lifestyle!
        A few years ago I read in the Universe an advert for voluntary workers for Marriage Care, in my enthusiam I rang a group about 25 miles away and mentioned I would like to answer their request. I was aked what I could do-I said I teach NFP ,I was told they dont do that, but if I would like I could go and make their tea!!
        Another case of a wife who went to marriage counciling was told not to go too often to Church.
        When I looked after pregnant girls a young pregnant girl went to a priest and asked him for help. He said to her ‘If I were you I would get an abortion’.
        I challenged him with this and he gave me no answer.
        I had no room to take her in but my brother and his wife did.
        These are just some of the attitudes I came across, which is an example of pre-marriage talks in 70s and 80s .
        Pope Francis made a statement regarding marriage last week, he said about young people not getting married nowadays as they are frightened of it breaking down, so they live together..
        So in one way it is right ‘ no divorce’ ,One has to divorce to get an annulment as we know.
        However as it is said pastoral care is the answer, but it does takes ‘two to tango!
        Especially if it is a mixed marriage,One of Our Lady’s messages was to marry into ones own religion.

      • Quentin says:

        Perhaps I should interpose here. I do not know what Marriage Care does nowadays, but when we gave marriage preparation courses under its predecessor (Catholic Marriage Advisory Council) we always devoted an evening to NFP; it was provided by an NFP trained doctor. And the late Professor Marshall (probably the most skilled NFP doctor in the country at the time) had the responsibility of publicising and assisting the method.

        We don’t know the context of marriage counsellor’s advice not to go too often to church. So we can ignore that.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Maybe I am reading this incorrectly too,but a divorced person is not prohibited from receiving Holy Communion,only if they re-marry.
      One has to obtain a divorce before applying for an annulment.
      Princess Michael Of Kent who before she moved lived near me, at that time, received an annulment,whilst married.,Then went to my local church and received Holy Communion with her family.
      Quite legitimate.

  18. Brendan says:

    Vincent 10.11am. – Can you you reveal which ‘ citation ‘ and by what authority it came from , that Humanae Vitae was not infallible Church Teaching ?

    • Vincent says:

      As it happens, you will find it as an editorial comment at the top of your own reference: ‘The Infallible Teaching of Humanae Vitae by Father Thomas Crean, O.P.’

  19. St.Joseph says:

    What year are you speaking when you mentioned CMAC.?
    As a point of ‘Dont go to too often to Church was advice given to me!!
    Which I ignored!
    I am pleased I did or my children and grandchildren would probably have lapsed, or else I would be seperated! Life is not easy marrying a non-catholic,one has to believe in their faith.
    I have said this before regarding info on NFP, when a meeting on pre-marriage by Marriage Care was being given in a local parish hall, I asked for some details on NFP to be placed on the tables.
    The parish priest just looked at me ,smirked took them and went away into his presbytery as if I was stupid.
    Marriage Care sent those couple to NFP teachers,however as there were only 2 or 3 in my Diocese ,one had to travel miles to come and visit.

    • St.Joseph says:

      What is more important-staying married or living in sin and not bringing your children up in the faith-after all they are Gods children-we have a duty to The Lord not the church!

    • Quentin says:

      1960s and 70s – until I moved to remedial counselling.

      Sorry to hear about the priest and NFP. Not the least of its benefits is that it lives out the necessary relationship between our sexuality and procreation. Any priest should know that; and he should know enough to encourage couples to get proper help in learning to use the method.

  20. John de Waal says:

    My wife and I attended a CMAC course for engaged couples in the early 1970s and it did include a little on NFP – although each couple had then to ask for a more detailed follow up with a doctor, which was very useful. Later on – and this was in South London in the late 1970s – we were fortunate enough to have a very conscientious parish priest (the late Fr James Carolin) who invited speakers to our parish to talk about Billings etc. We were well-served. DG.
    Friends of ours help to run Marriage Care courses for engaged couples today and inform me that there is no mention of NFP or the opportunity to ask for individual advice. I wrote to our bishop about this last year but – given that we live in a certain southern Diocese – he was otherwise engaged. I hope to write to our bishop-elect soon.

  21. St.Joseph says:

    John de Waal.
    What does this say to us about the Sacrament of Marriage.!

  22. Brendan says:

    St. Joseph – This is an area that my wife and I have never been directly concerned or involved in. Maybe I should find out what’s about regarding NFP in my own parish. Over the years I can’t recall ever hearing a conversation or homily about its relevant Church Teaching. Why are we and our priests and Bishops so afraid to share and discuss with complete openness what’s on our doorstep , when we freely become enthused and animatedly discuss the numerous misfortunes of the world outside of ourselves ? Does it just boil down to a palpable .. ” loss of the sense of God ” …in our time , that Pope Benedict singled out ?
    I remind myself to pray continuously for The Pope , our Bishops and our Church before and during the final Synod.

    • St.Joseph says:

      The unfortunate think about the ignorance of priests is not only NFP (fertility Awareness) for couples to space their children,but also to know their fertility, as to why they are inertile,
      I taught it for that reason too.Many a couple who would be without children, some have a family of 4 or 5 now.That is the bonus side of NFP.
      I have never heard a priest speak about that either.
      My neighbours neice (not a catholic) had used IVF costing a fortune, couldnt conceive, I told her about NAPRO, she is now on her third pregnancy thank God.
      It can also be for coming off the Pill. breast feeding and pre- menopause.

      • Brendan says:

        St. Joseph – These things must be down to two things . The conscientiousness of the Bishop concerned to make sure these things are promoted in his diocese via his parish priests ( assuming all priests are in accord with their Bishop ) and the enthusiastic response by the parish faithful. Certainly, timidity plays a big part here and /or lack of delegatory trust apparent in a parish , resulting in poor or no ‘ take-up ‘ of any liturgical/social event .
        For example in our parish next Tuesday – Our lady of Fatima ; our priest has arranged a full morning of rosary/Mass , devotional prayers, Holy Hour, Confessions and Benediction for those who can attend all or some of that, with a coffee break in between. For those who choose to go to the main event in the evening from our diocese – a torchlight procession at Belmont Benedictine Abbey in Hereford in the evening.
        Your point is of course, if it is not talked about or not made available and therefore not taken up , then nothing will happen. Sometimes curiously, it needs a ‘prophet ‘ from outside to open ones eyes to possibilities / truth…. as Our Lord reminded us.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Brenda Over the last 48 years, I have always been involved in parish life, chairman on committees, organising events, leading Our Lady of Mount Carmel weekly Rosary Circle,Fetes, videos an the saints, St Padre Pio Prayer group weekly- also to his Canonization, groups to San Giovanni, The Divine Mercy Sunday and visits to Walsingham Representating the parish on the Diocese, where I was ignored mentioning NFP in the marriage and family group.I have advertised my clinic in the local newspaper and had letter in the female page, the local Family Planning Clinic wrote me a letter to say it was inconvenient- I told her no more than washing our teeth in the morning,That is only a small involvement my husband and I did together whilst running an SPUC branch and taking in pregnant girls and running a public house.
        A Parishioner who saw my poster before it was taken down for my clinic, came to me after being told by her doctor that she could not have any children,and was sending her for a hysterectomy
        She was only 21 and very upset.I studied her charts when she did them and then they were sent to Cheltenham Hospital, in the end they found out her problem, it was sorted and she now has three grown up sons and a daughterJust one of the numerous stories.I have 4 filing drawers full of info. I once attended a meeting on the Eucharist and the subject of marriage came up, I spoke my mind and a man jumped up and went to the parish priest who told me to apologise to him, I said I would never apologise for my faith, I never went back!
        In all this time parishioners knew I taught NFP, however, they were not interested and avoided the subject. Just like the SPUC pro-life paper.
        Perhaps I should have pushed it more, however people have their free-will to come to a meeting or not.I just believed in prayer and Our Blessed Mother and St Joseph, it did not help the Bishops or the Bishops Conference, parish priests or parishioners. in a small town with 5 churches.
        An Irish Priest used to come over once a year to say Holy Mass at some parishes and put posters up, they would be removed when he left.
        A local blind priest RIP always had a poster up.
        What I put it down to is lack of knowledge and understanding and faith in the acceptance of artificial contraception and the and confusing it with the old method of NFP. In fact ‘ignorance’.

        There is a saying ‘one coudln’t write it, ‘unbelievable’ I just have!

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, I have sent this info to my PP, not sure what he knows already on this subject.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Evangelization doesn’t go amiss.
        Thank you.

  23. Brendan says:

    I’m glad you did St. Joseph . It shows at least how far Catholics are falling short in their Faith …. including myself. I too have encountered such disbelief and fear . Of course in all of this we are continually called to prayer , repentance and renewal. I am truly humbled by your submission on this blog. At least we can share good as well as bad experiences.
    My younger brother took his son to Rome / Vatican over the Easter Triduum .The son ( Nicholas ) now wants to be Confirmed on returning home to their Diocese of Arundel .

  24. overload says:

    Brendan, you say: “The hard fact of life is that eventually everything of human origin (excluding Christs Church ) in time is open to being high-jacked , subverted and destroyed by equally human opposing forces.”
    Is Christ’s Church of human origin?
    As for being high-jacked and subverted, this has to varying degrees and in various ways been happening for nearly 2000 years — at least certainly in Her formal structure(s) and the doctrine they teach, such as embodied by the RCC. (I am confused how one can believe in Papal infallibility, and I see this ‘Dogma’ as a stumbling block to Church unity. Even if there is Dogma with this ‘Dogma’; is this ‘Dogma’ the same as Dogma…?)
    And elsewhere you make reference to “the gates of Hell will never prevail” — but we must understand this correctly, in context, rather than dwelling in a presumptuous faith and false hope. For instance, are you familiar with the prophesies of the Book of Daniel, which Jesus refers to, and to which the Book of Revelation is closely linked?

    • Brendan says:

      Firstly Overload ; if it’s Christs Church .. ” In whom we live and move and have our being “.( Acts).. .. then it is not human in origin and cannot be destroyed. That is the collective Faith of the Church – based on its ( my ) personal faith . Meaning therefore ; subversion and attempted destruction of Christ’s Church ( The Catholic Church ) has and will probably always ensue – but because of this belief, will not prevail…. ” I will be with you always until the end of time “… Matthew : 28; 20.
      Blessed John Henry Newman places ones personal conscience as being sovereign. But it must be informed and enlightened by moral judgement and distinguishes this from the common ( secular) conscience … ” the complete freedom of anything outside of itself… ” which he saw as nothing more than .. ” the right of self-will “. The conscience emanating from God in the nature and heart of man was the voice of gods eternal law which he termed .. ” aboriginal vicar of Christ.”
      The Pope’s authority ( infallibility in faith and morals ) as Christ’s Vicar on earth – because the Church then is concerned only with Gods eternal Truth – relies upon the authority of conscience .. ” the aboriginal Vicar of Christ “. [ Mind of God ]
      I hope my attempted response has satisfied both your posts.

      • overload says:

        Brendan, thanks for the comments on personal conscience.

        Technical speaking I agree with: “subversion and attempted destruction of Christ’s Church ( The Catholic Church ) has and will probably always ensue – but because of this belief, will not prevail…. ‘I will be with you always until the end of time'”.
        But this gives no indication as to whether you have read and considered the meaning of the Book of Daniel or the Book of Revelation, or Jesus warnings about the “abomination of desolation in the Holy place” (Matt 24:15) which will come after “the removal of the daily sacrifice”. Unless, that is, you have heard about these prophesies, but you consider them to be merely straw in a loose bundle, whereas “I will be with you always until the end of time”, “the gates of Hates shall not prevail”, “on this rock”, and “I give you the keys”, are an immovable house made of stone, metal and precious gems?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Blessed John Henry Newmans. conscience as being sovereign I think means that also the Holy Father must consider his too.
        If the Holy Father’s conscience tells him that Bishops and Priests in his Church have been led by their conscience, and failed to carry out proper teachings of the church,to his sheep, it is up to the Holy Father to rectify that . I believe that is what he is doing,when he has made the year of Mercy.
        He is in a delicate position here, and we must pray for him, as I believe he is doing what is best for the future of Holy Mother Church!
        Making good past mistakes.

      • Quentin says:

        A summary of Newman’s explanation of conscience is to be found at .

      • overload says:

        Quentin, thanks for the link, good article. You said, in that article, “Conscience, therefore, can never be in collision with infallibility because that is concerned only with the teaching of general propositions.”
        I’m not sure I understand this, or if I do, my mind is in a twist.
        And I am wondering if the 6 commandments of the Catholic Church are infallible commandments? As I understand it, all Roman Catholics today whether lapsed or not, whether confirmed or not, are under the burden of sin (mortal sin?) to obey all these commandments…?

      • Quentin says:

        You ask an interesting question. Newman was concerned with moral decisions, and was teaching that even the pope could not override decisions of conscience. But I think it follows that dogma is in some ways similar. That is, for example, I might conclude that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not true. I would then be obliged to reject it. But in doing so I would, so to speak, excommunicate myself, by rejecting the authority of the pope and therefore the authority of the Church.

        The whole question of the infallibility of a commandment, or a teaching derived from a commandment, is a tricky one. Perhaps we should explore it, Have you (or others) got some examples of moral commands which the Church teaches explicitly as infallible? Remember Canon 749 “ §3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.”

        The six commandments of the Church carry authority – but they are just commandments, and infallibility is not an issue.

  25. Brendan says:

    Nektarios 11.53. – As a Catholic I instinctively feel uncomfortable with your answer to Peter Foster – not being exactly sure why. In philosophical terms your answer appears ” dualistic “in its approach to world order and in religious terms , dangerously close to the Manichaeism heresy. I’d like your comment on this perception.

    • overload says:

      Brendan, I was about to reply to Nektarios before I saw your reply, having a similar concern. My take is:
      Cannot Christ’s love live in and through worldly arrangements, worldly forms of peace, even in humanistic, secular society? Yes. But not freely, or anywhere near fully. Self interest can be good or at least ok. And obviously it can be bad. There may be times God wants us to be self-interested, even on a worldly level. However as Christians we must always offer up self-interest as a sacrifice to God; we must always be ready to let go of self-interest, even if it is a communal self interest (Even if it is a Roman Catholic self-interest) — More easily said than done!

  26. milliganp says:

    I attended a talk given by a priest on the Youth 2000 movement and the evangelization of youth. Their approach was to start from the basis of “settled truths” – primarily those enunciated in the creed, and, while emphasising the centrality of the Mass, to have and encourage alternate elements of worship that recognise the good elements of youth culture.
    In this context they found the young people open to contemplative prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and even, shock-horror, the sacrament of reconciliation.
    From this foundation it was then possible to start talking about the Christian vocation, which includes marriage and parenthood, but to do so from an accepted basis of faith practice and belief – a set of foundations.
    It is generally recognised that one of the challenges the church faces is that our congregations are not merely uncatechised, they have never been evangelized. Thus ‘merely’ talking about chastity outside marriage and NFP within will not work unless there is the prerequisite understanding and acceptance of the nature of our faith and the relationship between what we profess as faith and how we live our lives.

  27. Quentin says:

    At first sight, there seems to be a tension between secular love and Christian love. We have St Paul telling us that we can do all sorts of ‘charitable’ things but that, without love, they are nothing. But then we have Christ rewarding ‘charitable’ things’ which are in fact done to Christ himself even if we haven’t recognised him. So what’s the answer?

    My understanding is that the key lies in intention. If our charity is inspired by a true care for our neighbour then it is a response to Christ — whoever we are and whatever we happen to believe. Thus, as I wrote once, at the gates of heaven we may see notorious atheists being embraced and, apparently, holy nuns left outside. Only God knows the heart.

    • Martha says:

      I remember being taught that the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves self evidently means that we must have a reasonable love and consideration for our own good, some sort of self interest.surely.

      • overload says:

        Martha (and Peter F), my understanding is that to love our neighbour as ourself is to say—since we are born again in Him, and Him in us—to love our neighbour as Christ; or as belonging to Christ; or as an empty “God shaped hole” to be filled.
        With reference to consideration for our own good (and I refer also to Peter Fosters recent remark [ May 6, 2015 at 10:55 am ] that “we must live life to the full”), this of course depends on our understanding of “good” and “full”, and our knowledge of the will of God generally, and for ourselves individually.

        Our bodies are temples for the Spirit; and in our person (soul), we are instruments in service of the gospel: the growing in Christ’s love and the proclaiming of Christ’s love. Jesus sacrificed His body and life without politicking with the Jewish or Roman elite about how to come to a form of peace—even if perhaps He did yearn for this on a certain level. No he was not passive; he spoke the truth and rebuked those who opposed the truth, however He did not strive to change those who did not want to change. (Peter Forster, I hope this answers your question about the Pope’s encyclical on climate change, etc. — we are asked to consider ourselves persecuted, and that the end as near!)

        So consideration of our own good—ultimately to be brought into the glory of Christ—at it’s highest level is unlikely to be recognisable as such to most people. Likewise, to live life to the full may involve a considerable degree of freedom within society, but it could also be—and perhaps more likely to be—a life of poverty, which could include isolation and lack of mobility, yet fully awake to reality. And obviously for many such a life of poverty is not a matter of choice. Someone who spends their whole life in a solitary confinement cell is not necessarily restricted to loving their neighbour less than someone who is in constant interaction with others?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Maybe the Parable of the Prodigal Son is the true story of love.
        Unconditional Love.

    • Nektarios says:

      There is no tension between secular love and Christian Love, they are entirely different.
      God is involved in Christian Love, in secular love God does not. God’s people have always been engaged in charitable works in one form or another, but that is a far cry from the secular attitude and what is the biblical positionn charitible works.
      Many people like to interpret Scripture as they so wish – a dangerous precedent, and the secularists and the humanists do just that, not a Christian view at all. Sadly So many Christians around the world have wittingly and unwittinglyinbibed so much humanistic and secularist ideas and philosophy and think it is Christian when in fact it is not.

      The argument that Peter Foster suggests I was saying, we Christians don’t relate, so don’t love and participate. Obviously this is quite wrong, we all live in society, work in it, and inter-relate with it socially &c. However that needs some qualification.
      I said,` that the spirit of this world is at emnity with God’ – That is what the Bible says.
      For the spirit of this world proceeds from a fallen nature, and not the Spirit of Christ.
      For the Christian to relate to the world, one must first understand what he/she is as a Christian, someone with a totally new nature, born again, and operates out of that nature, which is thenature Christ in us.
      Many who call themselves believers, like to have their cake and eat it. they want the things of God, follow after Christ, and at the same time want to follow after the course of this world – it can’t be done and still be truly Christian.

      • Vincent says:

        There is an old story of the man who arrived in Heaven and asked why there was a section separated off by a high wall. The answer was “Oh, that’s for the Catholics. They believe they’re the only ones here.”

      • Quentin says:

        Nektarios, I believe that you are profoundly wrong. Of course the ‘spirit of the world’ is lamentable, but we are now a redeemed race — every man (or woman) jack of us. When it comes to Judgment we won’t be turned away as horrible heretics or appalling atheists. We will be asked just one question, which is the whole of the law, ‘did you love me?’ And if someone replies ‘when did I see you, Lord’, he will be told ‘when you loved the least of my brothers you were loving me’.

        A God who turns away a loving person and commits him to Hell for all eternity because he has no union card is no God for me.

  28. Martha says:

    I expect we would all agree that ideally most marriage preparation should take place in the home, through the experience of living in a loving, Catholic family, and consciously and unconsciously imbibing the principles of self giving and chastity, and Quentin’s example of his daughter’s silver wedding celebration shows how wonderfully this can influence the next generation.

    Sadly, this is the exception rather than the rule, and for most families the impact of everything that Milligan and others have mentioned prevents this outcome, and perhaps other difficulties such as physical and mental health problems which do not receive enough support.

    I heard a comparison recently with the time taken to prepare monks and nuns for their consecrated life, before they take temporary and then permanent vows, which I think is useful to think about. Couples who only have the very inadequate “marriage preparation” which is mostly on offer, are expected to make a solemn commitment for life immediately.

    Annulment, as has been mentioned, can be a stumbling block. I understand that a marriage is considered to be unconsummated if there has not been any intercourse open to life, in other words if contraception has always been used. This of itself clearly shows that the couple have not understood, or have not wanted to live a true married life. It will also have made it almost impossible for them to truly grow in love, so that they will not be able to weather the inevitable problems of continuing to live happily together. However, the release given by annulment, and the freedom to marry another with the Church’s blessing, should they wish to do so, would seem to be rewarding objective sin, as a couple who have even once omitted to “take precautions” would be refused, assuming total honesty, which would be necessary.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Martha, What you say is right,hence the need for pastoral care.
      There are all sorts of situations here.
      Annulments can be easy or not easy depending on the honesty of the individuals concerned,
      In the end God will be our judge and He will not be fooled!

      • Martha says:

        I think the aim of the Synod must be to lay down the principles which should underlie pastoral care, otherwise it will continue to differ very greatly according to the understanding of individual pastors.

  29. Brendan says:

    Indeed Martha, and that’s why the world ( whether it believes or not ) waits for all our Bishops in direct line from the Apostles , supremely headed by Pope Francis ; to lay down ” the principles which should underlie pastoral care ” in light of immutable Church Doctrine on marriage and family – and not on the whim and fancy of subjective human knowledge or culture in which we live. We are called , with the ‘ guarantee ‘ of Christs promises to His Church , not just to live in our fallen world ( culture ) but to be the catalyst of reform. We are to be then .. ” Salt of the Earth…. ” Matthew : 5;13.

  30. Brendan says:

    Quentin 1.44pm
    Thanks for your reference on Newman. It may help me ‘ beef up ‘ a better response to Overload – one with which I was not entirely happy.

  31. Brendan says:

    Overload – 12.48pm
    Apologies that I can’t come back to you on my take on the O.T. prophesies of Daniel and Revelation ( which I will reaquaint myself with ) but my wife a I are going away on a short holiday. Maybe another time.

    • overload says:

      I wish you both a catholic, apostolic and holy-holi day!
      Looking forward to your ‘beefed-up’ reply.

  32. overload says:

    Quentin, May 7, 2015 at 9:10 am
    “The six commandments of the Church carry authority – but they are just commandments, and infallibility is not an issue.”
    What do you mean “just commandments”? If infallibility is not an issue then we who are informed as much are obligated to question whether the six commandments fully concur with the mind of Christ, not least because of the burden of mortal sin…? Not one of these commandments, not even the 6th, sits with me easily—which is not to say that I do not see goodness in them, but I am talking about the full picture, and in doing so also considering the Universality of the RC Church.
    Pope Francis said: “young people, don’t settle for mediocrity”, and “young people, shake things up in your Churches”. Are these not also “just commandments”, which perhaps apply to me and not to you—unless you are young at heart?

    Is it not true that Papal infallibility extends to all doctrinal matters of faith and morals which relate to our Salvation?

    • milliganp says:

      I’m not even sure the six commandments of the church still exist! As an example the phrase “rest from servile work” had an entirely different meaning to my Grandmother and nobody rests on Holydays before we even get into Sunday observance. We are no longer obliged to go to confession once a year and fasting and abstinence seem to be little more than pious advice.

      • overload says:

        Milliganp, if the six commandments do not exist, then why are they in the CCC?

        Regarding the first commandment, my belief is that the ‘Lords Day’ (the 8th and 1st day of the week—so it has been called) is the agreed day for the Church to congregate for Eucharistic celebration, and is not a burden, but a framework for us for mutual coming together in person—’mass’ing together—in faithfulness and good will. It is not, fundamentally, synonymous with the Jewish Sabbath.
        Is this merely my self-willed opinion?

        As for the 6th commandment: “what God has joined together, let no one separate”.
        Well obviously we need to know God’s standard!
        But if we cannot live to his standard then we need to consider what God wants us to do. For instance, Moses was in tune with reality (within the framework of his time), and—barring a few major mishaps—had generally a relationship of far greater power over and integrity with his people than does the Pope. He apparently understood that it was humanly right, and right with God, to have some tolerance and flexibility on this matter of divorce and remarriage. The Orthodox Church also. And even St Paul (who should be the final word on the matter!)—during the time of the Catholic Church’s greatest integrity—was apparently flexible, reminding us that “we are called to live in peace”.

  33. John Nolan says:

    Regarding Humanae Vitae, those who argue that the prohibition of artificial contraception is not part of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium (quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est) and therefore fallible, face an uphill struggle. Hans Kung was convinced that it was indeed part of the OUM and extrapolated from this that the OUM was not infallible (an objectively heretical position).

    The question remains as to why Paul VI enlarged the Pontifical Commission and tasked it with examining the issue, before issuing his encyclical which reaffirmed traditional doctrine. The so-called majority report (which should have been confidential but was deliberately leaked in 1967) could hardly have come as a surprise since he himself had appointed the Commission’s members. It gave the impression that he thought the doctrine was ‘up for grabs’ and then capriciously changed his mind having raised expectations that change was imminent. By 1968 there was a widespread feeling that anything previously taken for granted in faith, morals and worship could be changed virtually overnight.

    Alternatively (and this is the view of Germain Grisez and others) Pope Paul was canvassing a wide spectrum of opinion to see if the use of oral contraception could be reconciled with traditional teaching which he (let alone a non-authoritative body) was not competent to change. He was aware that some moral theologians were arguing that the ‘Pill’ was intrinsically different from previously existing methods.

    However, a majority on the Commission did not accept that the ‘Pill’ was qualitatively different, and the Pope concurred.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John what was not understood also in those days or taken into account were the moral issues. of contraception.
      The whole nature of family planning went right out of their heads!!.
      The Pill was the revelation of a sexual freedom for catholics.
      Even being aware of our fertility does not give us the freedom not to have children against Gods Will.

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, “Even being aware of our fertility does not give us the freedom not to have children against Gods Will.”
        Are you suggesting that with fertility awareness Roman Catholics have incurred a burden of conscience such that they can, in good faith, only have sex within the period of fertility (otherwise the intention is to be not open to life)?

      • milliganp says:

        I suspect that the majority of married couples who use artificial contraception do so primarily to not have a child at a particular moment rather than to enable sexual liberty. Outside marriage the reverse applies. We souldn’t confuse the moral quagmire of extra-marital sex with the reasonable desire of married couples to regulate their families.
        I’d love a moral theologian to clarify what ‘not have children against God’s will” would actually constitute as an objective act.

      • St.Joseph says:

        When the Pill was introduced, catholic families found it a blessing,no worries of being able to plan their families.The old method did not work effeciently.It seemed to be a gift from heaven. Not so not so,
        All their problems would be solved.
        Little was known of the abortfacient effects or the health dangers.
        Now we have the natural way 100% effective, the way God planned it.
        Are you suggesting that is not so!.

      • Vincent says:

        I am not a theologian, but I think an orthodox one might say that God’s law is written in created human nature. We sometimes call it natural law. The sexual act has two purposes: one is concerned with reproduction (from which it takes its structure) and the other with the bonding of marriage (two in one flesh). There is nothing wrong with using the infertile time to avoid conception when there is good reason for doing so. But to modify the act directly, say, using a barrier. or indirectly, say, using the pill for temporary infertility, is to act against the fundamental nature of the act by removing its potential to bring about reproduction.
        An ‘unorthodox’ one might say that our created nature is certainly an important guide, but we were given intelligence and reason to modify human activities. And, providing we maintain our openness to life as an important but broad principle, we are right to modify natural outcomes when we have good reason. There is no real moral distinction between systematically using the infertile time and the avoidance of conception by deliberate means.

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, I didn’t mention the pill specifically, I only talked about peoples motivations. I suspect you could start an argument in an empty room. The alleged abortifacient effect of the pill is generally accepted as a canard dragged out by those who want to deliberately confuse contraception and abortion. And NO contraceptive method is 100% effective.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I find your remarks quite insulting, and imature.
        You must be very insecure to have to call my comment an argument.
        You ought to show a bit more respect when discussing serious matters regarding church teaching being a Deacon.
        I have taught enough couples in 30 years to say that NFP is 100% effective if taught by an experienced teacher..

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, I repeat no one, not even the experts on the subject, would hold 100% effectivity for NFP since it depends on human beings who are prone to errors. Too often, on this blog, you criticise those who support Catholic teaching with less single minded zeal than yourself. The church has sufficient problems without driving away those who struggle in good conscience with our teaching. I have consistently defended church teaching on contraception and was actually removed from the marriage formation team because I objected to the relativist presentation on contraception given by our NFP practitioner. In the consultation for the Synod on Marriage and Family Life, 90% of the Deacons of my Archdiocese supported a change in church teaching on contraception and I suspect 60%+ of priests and Bishops hold a similar view. However my experience is that those who speak stridently do more harm than good.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I can see you have no understanding of the subject of fertility awareness.
        Would you prefer that the church taught that the Pill was alright. and that a baby is not human until it attachs to its mothers womb.
        In case you dont know the Pill makes the lining of the mothers womb thin so the baby is aborted down the toilet!.
        Tell me if you find that acceptable. and that to be a perfect contraceptive.
        Just to remind you that you dont know what you are talking about!!!
        Now if you wish in your capacity as a deacon to ignore this,and find the need for the church to change Her teachings on contraception then let it be on your conscience!
        Just look on the instructions inside the Pill packet.
        Perhaps you would like to describe to me the errors that apply to NFP. that you said?
        If used properly and taught by an experienced teacher ,it can be used succesfull for coming off the Pill, breast feeding, and menopause, and can bring to ones notice early illness.

        If catholics wish to use condoms or any other contraceptive that does not harm the baby, that is their conscience.! Not mine
        If you remember it was the Pill that I said was the sexual reveloution for catholics I mentioned.
        Dont twist my words and back track, because of you and all other deacons and priests and Bishops, who you say want a change on church teaching..
        What would they like to change tell me?

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, you are stone mad! I’ve just told you that I have consistently defended church teaching on contraception despite being at odds with 90% of deacons and most of our priests and bishops and you criticize me. With friends like you the church has no need of enemies. I’m well aware of the thinning of the endometrium and the possibility of what might be called passive abortion. However the commission of evil requires intent and those who, in ignorance, are unaware of the details of all the details of how artificial contraception works cannot be accused of being passive abortionists. The primacy of conscience means that people can make erroneous decisions but still not commit sin. We also need to accept that God, through nature, allows large numbers of non-viable pregnancies, miscarriages and natural abortions. When I talk about life matters I admit these complexities but hold to the position that life is sacred from conception to natural death.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Backtracking again.See your comment on 7th May 7.55. .
        I may be stone mad as you say. one thing I can say about you and that is you are definetely not a gentleman!!,
        If you were my son,,,,,,,,,,I would be ashamed of your choice of speech.
        If your defence is attack by insults, it does no justice to your vocation.
        Also you are wrong when you call NFP contraception

    • Quentin says:

      John, I cannot find in the Catechism any reference to the infallibility of the Magisterium in matters of general morals, other than those which qualify as a ‘saving truth of the faith.’ It does of course in addition have authority to pronounce on moral questions that fall within the natural law and reason, but there is no suggestion of infallibility here. And that’s lucky because natural law and reason are, in principle, always open to revision. Indeed even the moral theologians who took the conservative view on contraception admitted that they could not demonstrate its truth of their views through reason. Please enlighten me.

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, the infallibility of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium was reiterated by Vatican II (LG 25). If Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 1994 falls into this category (and the CDF response to a dubium in 1995 makes it quite clear that it does) then the same applies mutatis mutandis to Humanae Vitae – unless strong evidence can be adduced to the contrary. In both cases the Church’s teaching conflicted with the fashion of the age, and we can expect that it will increasingly do so.

        Of course we can ignore all this and make our own private judgements regarding faith and morals; but can we do so and still regard ourselves as Catholics in any meaningful sense of the word?

      • Quentin says:

        Thanks for the reference. We could get quite complex here, couldn’t we? LG 25 is a longer account, well summarised in my Catechism reference. The ruling on contraception comes into the category of moral questions that fall within the natural law and reason, to which infallibility cannot apply. The Magisterium here teaches with authority of course, but not infallibility.

        We could swap texts here until Domesday. But, being a simple soul, I would suggest that in such a vital and controversial matter – in which uncertainty brings great harm to the Church – her reluctance to correct the impression held by many, including bishops, that the teaching is not infallible tells us all we need to know.

  34. St.Joseph says:

    overlaod .
    Sexual intercourse is a gift from God within marriage, between male and female. There is a time for everything
    Men are fertile all their life ( if so that is}
    Women ovulate once a month, twice within 24hrs if twins.
    God would have made women fertile all the time.If that is what He wanted.
    But we do have to respect those times that the Lord gave us and not interfere with it.
    It is for conceiving.
    The Lord said ‘Go and multiply and fill all the earth’ Children are blessings,and Gods knows we can judge within reason how many children we can take care of. and bring them up as children of God!

  35. Peter Foster says:

    John Nolan, I suggest the question of the infallibility of the Church is more subtle than you propose. Here are two pieces from Bishop Butler’s review of Hans Kung’s book on the subject. The whole articles are well worth study.
    The Tablet The Limits of Infallibility 1 p.4, 17 April 1971
    Clarification of the doctrine, ‘Bishop Butler holds, is of prime importance in face both of those who seek to dilute it and of others who encourage what has been called ‘creeping infallibility ‘. The latter approach, says Bishop Butler, is not only an offence against truth but is pastorally disastrous.

    The Tablet The Limits of Infallibility 2 The Tablet p.6, 24 April 1971
    Evdokimov, wrote: “In Orthodoxy, the consensus of the People of God comes into play after the definition (of a council), to attest, if such be the case, the divine character of the dogma which has been formulated ex consensu Ecclesiae” (L’Orthodoxie, p. 150). I suggest that there is no difference of substance between this view and a perfectly tenable Catholic view. In order that we may be sure that an alleged infallible definition is in fact an infallible definition, the subsequent consent of the Church is necessary (and Vatican II assures us that it will not be lacking). The consent of the Church does not make the definition infallible; it recognises that infallibility already inheres in the definition. If the alleged definition failed to win the Church’s subsequent consent, this would prove that the definition had not in fact fulfilled the requirement for an infallible definition—the Pope had not really been speaking ex cathedra. In other words, an infallible definition is preceded and also followed by the consent of the Church. When a council or a pope defines what all have thought but none so well expressed, the Church welcomes this definition as an expression of her own mind. It should be added that the history of the theological struggle after AD 325 is sufficient to show that we are here dealing not with juridical rules of thumb, but with the untidy drama of human living.

    • John Nolan says:

      An ex cathedra pronouncement is by definition part of the Extraordinary Magisterium rather than the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. I’m not sure that subsequent consent has anything to do with it – after all we can’t predict the future. I am no advocate of legal positivism but have to reluctantly accept that Catholic doctrine cannot be wished away simply by an exercise in casuistry. If this were the case we would all be off the hook – a comfortable enough place to be for the time being but the time being is unfortunately overtaken by events, death in particular.

      It would be nice if Catholicism were a cultural construct where one could sing Gregorian chant at EF Masses and visit great cathedrals in Europe in the comfortable knowledge that one is diachronic unity with one’s ancestors in the faith. But there is always the nagging doubt that it is not enough.

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