Conflict in the Church

While our minds are full of Brexit and the arrival of President-elect Trump we should also be aware of another crisis which is of great interest to Catholics. As is so often the case, a point of conflict will remind us that the water has been coming up to the boil for a long time.

That is true for secular issues such as international trade or the gap between the rich and the poor. But the Church’s conflict in the matter of divorced Catholics receiving the Eucharist concerns the very nature of the Church. As we know, four senior cardinals have seriously challenged Pope Francis on his refusal to give a clear judgment about this in his encyclical Amoris Laetitia. Is he, they suggest, undoing a grave and established ruling of the Church derived from established moral doctrine? Here the flame has been under the kettle as far back as Vatican II.

Most of us, I imagine, were brought up in a powerful Church. The doctrines we learnt could be plainly understood, and left no room for private opinion. The moral law, neatly divided into mortal sin and venial sin, was abundantly clear. All we had to do was obey. I recall writing at that time that the moral law could be computerised: we would only need to type in the circumstances and the computer would produce its judgment along with the correct penance. It would have needed only a little extra work to calculate the mathematical probability of the sinner in question spending his eternity in Hell.

But Vatican II changed the direction. Instead of accepting the proposals drawn up by the Curia – which would have enabled the Council to be short indeed – the bishops appear simply to have ignored them, and to set about the task of reviewing the Church to enable the whole community to share in the work of the world’s redemption. They may have got some things wrong but they got the important things right, Chief amongst these was the declaration that even the whole Church, full of sound and fury, could not slip itself in between the conscience of the individual and God. Indeed within a very short time this principle was tested in the matter of artificial contraception. It was quickly admitted that this serious teaching, in line with the tradition of the Church going back to at least the fifth century, could nevertheless not bind the consciences of Catholics.

Of course any council of the Church takes time for all its teaching to be absorbed. Some say that a council takes a hundred years to come into full effect – so we have still some way to go. The current conflict is evidence of that.

And that’s what makes it important. Yes, we hold that sacramental marriage can only be ended by death. Yes, a second marriage expressed sexually may technically be a sequence of adulterous acts. Yes we must accept that a Catholic in such a case is living in an irregular relationship. But if he (or she), taking notice of guidance and prayerfully considering conscience, wishes to receive the Eucharist to bring him closer to God and to reinforce a virtuous family life, we must consider whether he should be allowed to do so. In our consciences we do not see God through the hazy spyglass of the Church, we hear him directly. No one can answer for us but ourselves.

This issue is important enough in itself but it also signifies our overall attitudes concerning the relationship between law and conscience. If we permit Catholics to contraceive despite the Church’s grave prohibition, why may we not apply this mercy in the matter of second marriage?

If you have a little time to review what Pope Francis has to say about the law and pastoral care, set aside a few minutes (or perhaps the rest of your life) to read the Catholic News Service story of Pope Francis’s response at

About Quentin

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84 Responses to Conflict in the Church

  1. tim says:

    “It was quickly admitted that this serious teaching [forbidding artificial contraception], in line with the tradition of the Church going back to at least the fifth century, could nevertheless not bind the consciences of Catholics.”

    Quentin, to help those as ignorant as me, can you give a reference for this admission?

    • Quentin says:

      Tim, I had in mind St Augustine who was of course the main authority on the teaching related to the use of sexuality. The focus on sexual intercourse as only justified for the purpose of reproduction in marriage is particularly attributable to him.

      • tim says:

        Thank you, Quentin. I think I have misunderstood. What I thought you were saying was that it had been recognised that the church’s forbidding of artificial contraception did not bind the individual Catholic’s conscience. I was looking for some authority for that.

      • Quentin says:

        Tim, my authority for this is quite typical of how the Church copes with ‘difficult’ positions. At the time of HV various episcopal groups, while not denying the validity of the teaching, made clear that conscience ultimately had to be respected, and exhorted their congregations to continue their reception of the sacraments. Example = Heenan for E & W. I am told that confessors ask penitents not to confess contraception if they believe that it is not a sin.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Did St Augustine believe that sexual intercourse should only take place when a husband and wife wanted to conceive a child.
        I am not sure what you mean!

      • tim says:

        Quentin, thanks for that further clarification, which is helpful. I can quite see that priests hearing confessions don’t want people to confess to things they don’t think are wrong (how could they have a firm – or any – purpose of amendment?). But how broadly can that principle be applied? If you kill someone, you don’t need to confess to it if it was purely an accident (not even culpable carelessness). But if you murder a man, surely you should confess to it even if you believe his behaviour to you justified it? The confessional is private. But marriage is public. One may not think it wrong to remarry after a divorce – but the Church does. How can the Church admit to communion someone who is publicly ignoring serious Church teaching? Pastoral concerns are case-by-case, very properly – but that does not require changing the general rule. Hard cases don’t mean that the law has to be abolished. That leads too often to disaster. We see that again and again – first abortion and now euthanasia.

      • Quentin says:

        Tim, I agree with the tenor of your contribution. You encapsulate the difficulty of squaring a firm moral teaching with mercy for the hard case. I think we have to live with both and accept the anomaly. I like to think that were I in that position I would receive only a blessing at the Eucharist as a witness to my belief in sacramental marriage. But I would not impose this on others who are in good faith despite their present condition. I need to remember that mercy is not a legal issue but a love issue. So, strictly speaking, it is not an anomaly. Francis is saying: mercy whenever possible. His opponents are saying: mercy threatens the law. We have to discern which side Jesus would be on.

        Not too sure about your murder example. Murder by definition involves injustice. But if the penitent believes he was justified then he does not believe he has committed murder. He might mention it to get counsel, but even if the priest convinced him that his action had been unjust, it can’t be applied retrospectively. It might stop him doing it again in, say, a Mafia situation.

      • Martha says:

        Quentin, your comment at 11.25. I think that is a wonderful way to look at the difficulty, a firm moral framework, and mercy for the hard cases. It must apply to other areas of life as well, like denying Christ under torture by Daesh/Isis, but without being presumptuous.

  2. Barrie Machin says:

    May I as a free church man ask the question assuming the communion is celebrated after our Lord returns would he refuse it anybody? I think not!

  3. Brendan says:

    We have had this kind of proposition centred around ‘ law ‘ and conscience within the Church of late on the question of the legality of certain marriages ; causing much angst probably among’st the great unheralded majority of ordinary Catholic faithful , who are perfectly aware of Church Teaching on the subject , but who wish it would just go away ! ……but of course it cannot/will not !
    On my ‘ best ‘ days I have little or no problem with Church Teaching on this issue. Other days its just ‘ wonky brain ‘ ( just short-hand which I’ve developed thanks to Quentin ) syndrome where I defer to the authority of my Church……until I ‘ come round ‘ again. It seems then that this can only be decided in the quiet calm of the place of a solitary persons decision in ‘ good faith.’….based on informed conscience . There is always that ‘ hard ‘ case ‘ , but it never makes good law for the majority. The aftermath of the great ‘ abortion debate ‘ makes that point searingly clear.
    . But here we are talking about laws emanating directly from God – absolute decrees with no possibility of change.To change would only cause scandal ; to Church members , to the Church foundation itself in the eyes of the Church and to the cause of Catholic Christianity. Scandal which invariably causes more scandal in its implications , and more and more confusion……until one inevitably faces the question .. what can one ( or should ) believe with any certainty anymore ? I for one cannot live without certainty in my ‘ weaknesses ‘ ; that’s why I am , and need , to be a Catholic Christian.
    I suspect to , neither does Pope Francis proffer change….. hence his reluctance to go further and use this ‘ fearful ‘ authority given him by Christ , and change Church Teaching.
    What I think Pope Francis is ‘ at ‘; is to try and re-orientate a bloated , two-self secured/ authoritarian Church from the top down – rightly or wrongly seen like this by its members – as pastorally sterile/or ineffective when it comes to accompanying them on the difficult journey called ‘ living ‘. Frankly , Pope Francis wants to change the way its members look too , and perceive the ‘Church.’ To this end ‘ the Cardinals ‘ are quite properly at liberty to ask for ” clarification ”. But it would be better if they could present a coherent program containing solid , viable submissions of a ‘ pastoral ‘ nature to help those estranged/ not fully practicing the Faith because of irregular marriage issues; thereby taking the wind out of the sails of those few Bishops/Cardinals whose aim is to change the Church into a ‘ different ‘ Church….not the Catholic Church.
    To prevent polarisation on this subject I have a personal experience – I always find this measure helpful – to express my meaning ; which will have to wait as my piece is proving too long already.

  4. pnyikos says:

    There is a huge difference between allowing Catholics, in good conscience, to go on living in what Canon law (and the literal words of Jesus) say is an adulterous relationship, and a allowing such people to take Communion. St. Paul specifically wrote that those who receive the body and blood of Christ unworthily eat and drink judgement on themselves. And he specifically warns that one should exercise careful discernment before deciding to receive it [I Corinthians 11:27-32].

    While the conscience of the would-be recipients may tell them that they are receiving it worthily, Catholic doctrine says that we have a moral obligation to have well-formed consciences. People cannot assume for themselves that they have this.

    I wonder: how many contracepting Catholic couples have sought out a spiritual advisor to discern whether they have well-informed consciences? and how many priests are competent enough to
    give them proper guidance to discern whether their consciences are well-formed? My guess is that 1% and 10%, respectively, is a very generous estimate. And I expect this to also apply to divorced and remarried Catholics discerning whether they are receiving the body and blood of Jesus worthily.

    • St.Joseph says:

      That also applies to those using abortifacients, more serious a sin than contraception to my mind. Or divorced remarried Catholics.
      I did not hear many hierarchy or sermons making a noise with regards to that.
      Jesus said ‘begone Ye Hypocrites’!
      Lest we forget where the responsibilities lie!
      Perhaps that is why The Holy Father is not judging. We will all be judged by what we do and what we don’t do.
      We the laity will only understand that which is taught , and if we are not taught how will we know. like closing the gate when the horses have bolted.

  5. pnyikos says:

    The link at the end of Quentin’s article takes us not to the Catholic News Service, but to The National Catholic Reporter , which has long been a citadel of dissent against the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church.

    Despite its similar name, The National Catholic Register is very supportive of them. It is on a website of the latter newspaper that I found the actual text of the letter sent by the four cardinals to Pope Francis:

    • pnyikos says:

      Minor correction: there actually is an item from the Catholic News Service further down in the linked article, but it is couched in such general terms that I cannot tell whether the four cardinals’ letter is being referred to at all. I have seen plenty of criticism from Catholics about the part of Amoris Laetitia that deals with divorced and remarried Catholics and reception of the Eucharist, and some of it is a lot more pointed than the long letter from the cardinals.

  6. John Nolan says:

    In any Catholic congregation there will be people in ‘irregular’ relationships – some indulging in sexual relations without being married, others in second marriages, and no doubt some in active homosexual relationships. There will of course be many contraceiving (great word, Quentin!) married couples. All troop up, row by row, to receive Communion since for a long time to do so has been seen as part and parcel of hearing Mass. I would also venture to suggest that the link between sacramental Confession and reception of the Eucharist was broken decades ago and is now only observed by a few devout or scrupulous individuals.

    So, if Amoris Laetitia is ambiguous and requires clarification – which it clearly does, since different hierarchies have interpreted it in markedly different ways – does this really matter? Since the actual doctrine, reiterated clearly in Familiaris Consortio, (which AL frequently references) cannot be changed, what’s all the fuss about?

    The point, I think, is this. When framing the law, or declaring the Church’s teaching, there is no room for ambiguity. If it is the result of carelessness, that is one thing, and clever lawyers will easily find loopholes and exploit them. Deliberate ambiguity is something else; it amounts to deception. One of the ‘four cardinals’, Joachim Meisner, Archbishop emeritus of Cologne, is a close friend of Gerhard Müller; the CDF Prefect preached in Cologne Cathedral last year on the 30th anniversary of Meisner’s episcopal consecration. It is for the CDF to clarify doctrinal issues; yet Müller, to whom the original letter was copied, has not done so.

    We know that a number of cardinals supported the petition but didn’t want their names made public. Perhaps Müller feels that in this increasingly maverick and unpredictable (some would say dysfunctional) papacy, his mozzetta is hanging on the proverbial shaky nail.

  7. G.D. says:

    In my early days as a scrupulous catholic convert, most times i received the Blessed Sacrament
    i knew agonisingly & truthfully i wasn’t worthy, even if i ‘d made a good (and often lengthy in those days) confession just before the mass. Which almost stopped me receiving the Body & Blood of Christ.
    I still know i (and all) are not worthy to receive God; nor can ever be worthy.
    No matter what legalistic rules are put in place to ease one’s conscience, make one so.

    The only thing that changed, was accepting/realising God doesn’t consider my unworthiness. God just gives love to heal the ‘sinner’ that i am.

    As Francis said “Those who discover they are loved very much begin to emerge from terrible solitude, from the separation that leads to hating others and oneself,” which enables a response of love from them, and to grow into the person God would have them be.

    Maybe that’s the reason for Francis’ ‘middle way’ attitude? It takes nothing of the ‘perfect’ goal of Church teaching away from them that need it as a criteria; and allows the love of God to be responded to by the sinners that know they are less than perfect.

    It’s not a quantifiable/regulatory issue.
    It is a relationship between God and those who want to respond to God’s offer of Love & healing.
    And imitate it! As Francis does.

  8. galerimo says:

    Thanks Quentin and fellow contributors – it is a great topic we address here. And here’s my take on it.

    My admiration of Francis grows every time I read him – I don’t think there is a serious threat that the Cardinals (who are acting out of their genuine pastoral concern too) will carry enough support to bring about any serious “formal act of correction” with their “dubia” letter. I think in “Amoris Laetitia” Francis shows a deep love for the Church as well as the people who desire to be part of it despite the complexities and failures in their marital relationships .

    After consulting with the Bishops in Synod as well as the Church at large over a couple of years Francis deserves to have his teaching seen in the broader context of real pastoral concern rather than just the narrow focus on “conscience” only.

    He provides a rich spiritual and theological reflection on marriage based on a wealth of scriptural truth which the Church has been hungering for for decades. He courageously addresses an “immense variety of concrete situations” around the marital arrangements in our world and admits that the Synod nor his Exhortation “could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable in all cases”. So not everyone is going to be happy with the outcome. But God bless him for the urgent work he has done and its results around this really complex and difficult matter of marriage “irregularities”.

    The principle of “Gradualness in Pastoral Care”, the recognition that many unions are not “motivated by prejudice or resistance to sacramental union” but by “cultural or contingent situations”, and his insight that “the way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever” when discussing his “Discernment of “”Irregular””, situations” – and lots more are truly great Pastoral steps forward for the Catholic Church in the area of human sexuality and marriage.

    When talking about sharing in the life of the Church and the “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous mercy” which we all turn to her to supply He says “I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves”.

    The Church I was brought up in was never as powerful as this. Real leadership informed by solid teaching dealing with real issues that confront the Church in the world right now.

  9. Brendan says:

    Five centuries ago , the Catholic humanist Desiderius Erasmus gave his ‘ philosophia Christi ‘ to a Church in turmoil ; ‘ which he says was expressed ..” more in the emotions than in syllogisms “….and as a being matter of …” inspiration rather than reasoning ” … and its efficacy was shown not in argumentation but in the way a person lives. ‘ This was not a call for ‘ open season ‘ for heretics , but a sincere reflection on the crisis in a troubled time ….uncannily like today.
    As John Nolan confidently points out , nothing has changed ; and from my piece …nothing can change. When were the affairs of Popes and the times of man not ” dysfunctional ” ? Pope St.John Paul ii was held in disdain and admiration by ‘ traditionalists ‘ and ‘ liberals ‘ in equal amount.
    But , ” Cometh the hour, cometh the man ( ? a paraphrase of John 4:23 ) , Pope Francis – as I have attempted to point out in my earlier piece ( Nov.24, 8.45pm ) – and harkening back to a similar situation in Erasmus ‘ time – is attempting to get the Church to take to take a ‘ fresh look at itself ‘ , and steer it away from the modern obsession ( derived from / inherited in the surrounding secular Western ( political ) Culture ) with discussing itself purely in ‘ syllogisms ‘ ; and in a more ‘ pastoral ‘ approach to the needs of The Church , while still holding to the eternal Truths of the Church.
    Thus he conclude that the clergy ( meaning every station ) should be close enough to the Church to… ” smell the sheep “.. When ‘ Amoris Laetitia ‘ was released I though then that he was taking a big risk. But to really love means to lay oneself open to risks and bearing the cost . To love in Christ is costly.

  10. Alasdair says:

    Unexpectedly a sentence in the National Catholic Reporter feature raised a chuckle:-
    “Asked about critics who accuse him of “Protestantizing” the Catholic church — Francis said, “I don’t lose sleep over it.””
    Such a good put-down, and probably as good as they, the critics, deserve!

  11. John Nolan says:

    My take on Pope Francis differs considerably from that of Galerimo and Brendan (above) and I try to keep myself informed. Does that mean we are in conflict? Not necessarily – I may well have reached the wrong conclusion while looking at the same evidence; only time will tell.

    My take on Vatican II is not the same as Quentin’s. Since we are dealing with an historical event I feel I can base my conclusions on firmer ground and can cite reputable authorities in support. But then so can he, and in the end his take may prove to be more correct than mine.

    We all have prejudices which inevitably colour our arguments. But we must remember that the Church is not a debating society, and doctrine is not a motion that can be carried or defeated by a majority vote. That is why many men of principle left the Church of England when it voted to ordain women in 1993 – one of them is now Bishop of East Anglia.

  12. Geordie says:

    I find it difficult to consider Francis as a good leader. I am utterly confused by his statements. What can a priest say, when people ask for advice about receiving Holy Communion; “Follow your conscience”. That’s rather dodgy, as we are well aware how we can bend our consciences to suit our needs.
    The four cardinals asked for clarification and were ignored and one Vatican insider said Francis was “boiling with rage” that they dare to question him. Ignoring requests is a common Vatican process. Clever put-downs are not what we need. If I were Francis I think I would be losing a lot of sleep over the state of the Church.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I believe that the fact that Pope Francis says ‘follow your conscience’ is not ‘rather dodgy at all’.
      Why is it anyone else’s business if one receives Holy Communion perhaps from having a invalid marriage or non-Sacramental marriage, whether one is living as brother and sister or contracepting what ever that means.??
      The Lord is our judge, we all make a good act of contrition before receiving Holy Communion, no one is worthy ,even if we humbly crawl on our knees,
      As long as we show respect for who it Is we receive and Who it is who suffered and died for ‘our sins’.
      We also commit sins of Thought.
      Those who have lived through a broken marriage through no fault or perhaps their fault because of their relationship from their husband or wife’s behaviour, perhaps mixed marriage, one finding God with maturity, the other losing it.
      If one finds happiness from a new relationship who is willing to share the faith and their souls are saved and the children’s, ‘who are we to judge?
      It is not ‘black or white’ or a ‘Yes or a know’!
      Let us save our own soul, perhaps that is what The Holy Father is trying to teach us.!

      • St.Joseph says:

        I looked up what you said about ‘Suspense and Magisterium’ but did not find anything else that was long which you mentioned .Did I miss something, I am a little computer illiterate,
        BTW I am not Pope Francis, however I think he ought to remind the 4 or 5 Cardinals that are asking for a clarification to his silence ,,that would be to ‘consult all Bishops and Clergy’ to teach a proper instruction when marriage couples come for pre-marriage courses.
        What the Sacrament of marriage truly is, understanding the seriousness of the vow, what the Church expects of them .Fertility awareness, that which Holy Marriage teaches is all about not living in a sinful relationship using abortfacients, the proper knowledge and responsibilities needed for the vows they take.
        If they are not prepared to do that- have a civil marriage until they are willing to take marriage their vows seriously.
        The Sacrament of Holy Orders and the Diaconate are taken seriously. so why not marriage which is the footstool of our existence. Beginning with Adam and Eve our first parents.

      • ignatius says:

        St Joseph,
        ” If one finds happiness from a new relationship who is willing to share the faith and their souls are saved and the children’s, ‘who are we to judge?
        It is not ‘black or white’ or a ‘Yes or a know’!
        Let us save our own soul, perhaps that is what The Holy Father is trying to teach us.!”

        Yes, I think you have the gist of it.

  13. John Nolan says:

    The most scholarly of Catholic blogs, Fr Hunwicke’s ‘Mutual Enrichment’, has a post entitled ‘Suspense of the Magisterium’ which links to a letter by Bishop Athanasius Schneider which, though long, is well worth reading.

    It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Pope Francis, in refusing to address the ‘dubia’, is failing in his responsibility of ‘confirming the brethren’. There is a growing feeling that we may have reached the crisis point not only of the current papacy, but of the post-Conciliar Church.

    • galerimo says:

      Thanks John – it is a long letter that Bishop Schneider writes and certainly worth reading. I can only see a loose connection between the Arian debate and the request for clarity by the Four Cardinals. Like the church leaders of the fourth and fifth centuries the Four have every right to “render service to the primatial ministry’. In calling on ‘Peter to strengthen his brothers in faith’, the Four have are entitled to ask for guidance without being condemned for doing so.

      The huge conflict over the divinity of Jesus that convulsed the Early Church at that time (Arian heresy), was a dogmatic issue. It represented a difficult struggle to grasp the truth of God’s revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. Bishop Schneider rightly points to the persistence of those Church leaders at the time who spoke their truth to power until a proper formula could be agreed that expressed the truth. I consider that was a genuine search for a dogma that stated the truth of the incarnation. As I am sure you would know It traveled very turbulently all the way from Nicaea through the divisions between Alexandria and Antioch, to the Council of Constantinople in 381 without resolution until Chalcedon in 451.

      When I look at it (and it is certainly worth recalling where we have come from) I am inclined to the view that it was a necessary evolution of thought required before a doctrine could be arrived at rather than a search for an improved and more relevant practice of pastoral ministry.

      Apart from the right to dissent and be heard, which is important, I cannot honestly see the parallel with our own task of pastoral enangelical support based on well founded moral theology for those in marital circumstances that put them beyond sacramental life/nourishment.

      Historically it might find a closer parallel with the ‘Humanae Vitae’ issue if any historical parallels are needed. But I could well have missed something in what the Bishop is saying about the Four Cardinals.

      • John Nolan says:


        I don’t think that Bishop Schneider is trying to make an exact historical parallel; rather he is making the point that bishops need to teach the Catholic faith clearly, fearlessly and unambiguously. The teachings of Arius and his followers hit at the core of Christianity – it is mistaken to argue that the ‘homoousios’ – the true divinity of Christ – was yet to be formulated. It was Pope Liberius’s attempt to fudge this in order to appease the Arian party that aroused the ire of St Hilary and others. One can sympathize with Liberius, forced into exile for his orthodoxy, but eventually exalting compromise over truth.

        The HV issue is almost completely the opposite; here we have a pope (Paul VI) who clearly and unambiguously restates Catholic teaching despite a widespread expectation that he would effect a compromise.

        The four cardinals (and those who have voiced the same concerns and who are not inconsiderable in both numbers and eminence) are not exercising a right to ‘dissent and be heard’. They are not dissenting from anything – they are requesting clarification since there have been a number of different interpretations of the text, some of which appear to contradict not only established teaching, but the conclusions of the synods of 2014 and 2015.

        Pope Francis was lucky to emerge from the 2014 Synod with his credibility intact when the blatant attempt to rig it backfired spectacularly. His credibility is once again on the line, and he needs to act fast if he is to salvage any of it. This is not a trivial matter.

      • galerimo says:

        Thanks for your reply John and the benefit of your knowledge. This is not an easy situation by any means.

  14. St.Joseph says:

    Perhaps Pope Francis understands we are all ‘frail’ when it come to our faith,.
    Jesus gave us that example by giving ‘Peter the Keys’, knowing that he would fail too Through our weakness we become strong.
    Jesus chose St Paul even though he tormented Christians and put them to death.
    We do not know what The Lord has prepared for those who love Him. He does not turn His back on anyone who wants to be close to Him. We can not be closer to Him than when we receive Him in Communion in Holy Mass or outside it.
    He is calling us to Himself always, at least those who receive Him are doing so and answering His Call ‘Unless you eat My Body and drink My Blood, you can not have life in you’
    It is all a Mystery and in The Lords Hands, who knows the mind of God?

  15. Brendan says:

    I feel it helpful now to bring out the ” personal experiences ” ( or one of them ) which I mentioned at the beginning of this blog , now that ‘ battle lines ‘ have been drawn in the way our differing contributions have shown how we ‘ perceive ‘ our Church and its possible direction ( God help us ! ) in future. Polarisation is good only so far as positions are retrievable to offset breaking-point. The way I interpret my Catholic experience that follows is in line with my understanding of the Holy Father’s ‘ leadership / measures to change the way we ‘ see ‘ The Church and how we ‘ act ‘ accordingly.
    It’s no coincidence of course that Pope Francis timed The Year of Mercy to follow the Two Synods in which , among other things to contemplate its deliberations and his final Exhortation ( Amoris Laetitia ) in the light of the grace of Gods Divine Mercy on the Church and its individuals,
    Its been a ‘ good ‘ year for my Parish – and of course it won’t stop there ! In light of the events of The Year our parish priest has arranged ( with our Bishops’ blessing no doubt ) a Study Day for all priests of the Deanery ( only ) to discus the Papal Exhortation and ‘ firm-up ‘ pastoral approaches and measures to deal with parishioners divorced and/or living in irregular ‘marriages ‘ wishing to receive Holy Communion. Prior to the meeting the parish was informed by bulletin about Church Teaching on marriage and the ‘ rules ‘ barring certain people from taking The Sacrament.
    Just last Sunday , our Pastor told me that the study day was very successful , and even a few days following a female parishioner , a divorcee , had approached him , not having received Holy Communion for a long time ; and having discussed her case was now free ( I assume after making Confession ) to ‘ receive . The Parable of The Mustard Seed come to mind here.
    The joy at telling me this , was palpable on the priests face. It shows by a small example what can be achieved by allowing The Spirit of God to ‘ blow where he wills ‘ after God in his Mercy has
    …” hovered ” over his People …. indeed his World. This I believe is what’s in the mind of Pope Francis for Christ’s Church on Earth.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Had this female parishioner re-married?, If she had not then there was no reason as far as the ‘Law’ is concerned for her not to receive Holy Communion in the past.
      The 4 Cardinals would not accept that as a condition to receive the Sacrament without an annulment, that is where the conflict lies .

      • Brendan says:

        St.joseph – I don’t know the details . What I was alluding to was the Church ‘opening up ‘ in a way that obviously this woman had not for some reason been exposed to before. my intent was not to
        induce ‘ legalism ‘ into the situation , although obviously our priest is duty bound to bear this in mind. If our parish priests , in many cases , could just ‘ reach out ‘ in ways that would allow The Spirit ( who underights their vocation ) to break the ‘ siege mentality ‘ that sometimes pervades parishes …then we would see a great difference. This of course would take a greater opening up to The Spirit , with the courage to be prepared to accept the probability of failiure/ misunderstandings , that inevitably ‘ dog ‘ human existence.
        From Pope St.John Paul’s…” be not afraid “…to Emeritus Pope Benedict’s… ” [ Jesus ] .. who infinitely transcends our world , but who is also totally interior to it.” ( The Kingdom of God )…. to Pope Francis ‘ .. infinite Mercy of God…” Neither do I condemn you … Go away , and from this moment sin no more.” John 8:11(NJB). This what we are in the past and at present being called to by successive Pontiffs.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I am not disagreeing with your priest, he has a very good handle on the false preaching of some liberalisation of Holy Mother Church.

  16. John Nolan says:

    So, Brendan, are we now to believe that what Our Lord said regarding divorce in Mark Ch.10 and elsewhere can be overturned as a result of a deanery study day? Or that letting the Spirit of God ‘blow where he wills’ means that someone in an adulterous relationship is not in a state of objective mortal sin?

    Not long ago the secular press came out with the headline that Pope Francis ‘had abolished sin’. He had, of course, done nothing of the sort – they had merely misinterpreted one of his characteristic throw-away comments.

    Ambiguity and lack of clarity in speech and writing is no virtue. We expect it from our politicians; we must not accept it from our bishops, and if necessary it is our right and indeed duty as Catholics to call them out, the Bishop of Rome not excluded.

    • Brendan says:

      Certainly not John Nolan .I have just answered St.Joseph on a similar train of thought as your own ; and see no need to repeat myself on these points. Pope Francis , by his own admission is not a professional theologian ; he makes mistakes ( Cardinal Muller himself vouches for that ); and personally, I hope the Holy Father will respond to the ‘ dubio ‘.
      My previous pieces I believe , give no reason for anyone to belief that I would like Church Teaching to be changed/watered down.
      The second of my personal ‘ experiences ‘ in trying to live out my Catholic Faith gives voice to ‘ informed conscience ‘ , as necessary to act in good faith in the Community of Faith ( Christs’ mystical body ) to which we as CATHOLICS BELONG.
      I will keep the story brief , but disclosing just the relevant facts. Some years ago now , my niece married a Catholic boy with full Catholic nuptials. Of course we ( myself, my family , the Catholics who attended ) were witnesses to this union. Sadly the marriage ( having now produced children ) failed and she on finding another partner proposed a second ‘ marriage ‘. My niece apparently found a christian denomination ( Welsh non-Conformist ) who would be prepared to ‘ marry ‘ her near our home. On reflection I could not in ‘ good conscience ‘ accept her invitation , which was tantamount to blessing her new situation. This decision was the result of straight forward knowledge on my part ; and centred on the fact that she was already married in the eyes of The Church. Nothing could change that fact.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    John Nolan.
    Can we really compare marriage in today in the time of Mark Chpt 10.
    Marriage was marriage in the days before the lifestyles we have to cope with in todays age.
    A mother was a mother, a father was a father, children were brought up differently, religion was taught in the home, God was respected, chastity was important, money was less available and we were less extravagant, Church and the worship of God and prayer were essential and respect for our parents and neighbours etc etc etc.

  18. John Nolan says:

    Back in April, Professor Robert Spaemann, Germany’s leading Catholic moral philosopher, stated that parts of Amoris Laetitia could not be reconciled with Catholic teaching, something that the four cardinals do not allege. When asked about the controversial footnote 351, Pope Francis claimed not to remember it. Some commentators pointed out that large parts of Chapter 8 bore a striking resemblance to two articles written ten years before by Victor Fernandez, a second-rate Argentine theologian and Bergoglio protégé who was critical of JP II’s ‘Veritatis Splendor’ with its rejection of situational ethics. Shortly after his election Francis made him a bishop and seems to regard him as his theologian of reference.

    It has been suggested that Fernandez was responsible for considerable portions of Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si. One explanation for Francis’s refusal to respond to the dubia concerning AL is that he didn’t write it in the first place.

    • pnyikos says:

      Thank you for this news, John. When the footnote was first widely publicized by concerned Catholics, I immediately wondered whether it had been ghost-written and not looked at carefully by Pope Francis. This footnote tore our of context a statement meant for validly married Catholics. In its original context it is in the tradition of St. Paul’s advice not to deny ourselves to our spouses too long, lest by our coldness we are creating an occasion of sin for them. To apply it to divorced and invalidly remarried Catholics is downright subversive.

      This footnote was the only real problem I had with an otherwise excellent document. If I knew that Pope Francis acknowledge that it is out of place, I would recommend Amoris Laetitia to any mature Catholic; and I would also say that Pope Francis need not reply to the letter by the four cardinals. Granted, Amoris Laetitia left a great deal unsaid, but the Magisterium is never compromised by mere failure to repeat what it contains.

  19. G.D. says:

    My own ‘dubia’ questions are ……. 1. In giving guidance towards perfection to people (if that is possible) as church via dogma theology etc, is it a criteria that people must obey that guidance perfectly before they are acceptable to God?
    2. And are they allowed to accept God before they can accept the (so called) ‘perfection’ offered?

    A simple yes or no as an answer will suffice of course. As if it could!

    The fact that all of history, within the church, has been a continuous debating society for one ‘side or another’ of what actually is truth, would indicate that neither side has any credence to lay such a claim of perfection.

    It would seem God just don’t allow it to be so!

    Now, the whole church is forced to face that dilemma, by a leader (Pope) who refuses to take any ‘side’ and attempts to uphold both, as a servant of reconciliation with God and each other.

    The battle lines are becoming irrelevant – and so fundamentalists on each side of the line are incapable of forming reasons for demanding ‘justice’ for their preferred causes.
    And are forced to ask questions to which the answers have no real meaning.
    No wonder Jesus was so silent before his accusers.
    Now we just might be getting somewhere near the truth.

    Freedom is born of accepting God – not rules and rote of either persuasion.

    • John Nolan says:

      The simple answer to your questions is 1. No, 2. Yes.

      Your third paragraph suggests that truth is a relative concept and that there are two opposing sides in the Church with rival versions of it.

      Your fifth paragraph suggests that the Pope, rather than ‘holding to the truth and handing on the Catholic and Apostolic Faith’ (cf Roman Canon, 2011 translation) is attempting to synthesize two opposites. This is ontologically impossible since there can be no via media between truth and falsehood, or between orthodoxy and heresy.

      As Catholics we do not ask, as Pilate asked ‘Quid est veritas?’

      That does not mean that Church teaching amounts to a rule book (like the one governing railway practice), the strict adherence to which is the means of salvation. But we need faith, hope and – clarity. ‘If the trumpet give an uncertain sound … ‘

  20. galerimo says:

    It might be easy to lose sight in our discussion of the fact that the Church’s in this exhortation is not in any way diminishing the sacredness of marriage and it’s unceasing generous sacramental and spiritual support and blessings for all who live their Christian discipleship in this beautiful and high calling.

    Jesus came for the 100 and that includes the 99 of us.

    Those with a duty of care, whether as family members, teacher mentors, or providers of support (spiritual,psychological emotional) have a right to ask for help. Guidance is needed when courageously facing complexity. And the complications of relationships certainly arise to affect many in their attempt to humbly follow Jesus. We can’t just walk away from the “irregularities” in our world. We need help and Francis is giving a lead as he should.

    I don’t believe anyone here is disputing this.

    But for the purpose of focus, I find it helpful to look at the material in question.

    After invoking the authority of Thomas Aquinas on the application of principles to particular circumstances the Exhortation Amor Laetitia (304) says ‘ It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. At the same time, it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule. That would not only lead to an intolerable casuistry, but would endanger the very values which must be preserved with special care’.

  21. John Nolan says:

    Galerimo, I suggest that you look at the passage you have just quoted and tell me in what respect it is not an example of the very casuistry it purports to condemn. I know I rub people up the wrong way on this blog by insisting on factual accuracy and logical inference, but someone has to do so.

    • galerimo says:

      Thank you John for the review you give me to do here.

      I am not able to see any condemnation by Francis. Where he is talking about the application of general principles I understand him to mean that it is for the purpose of practical discernment rather than syllogistic argument which would serve a different purpose. And that discernment is for the purpose of Pastoral ministry.

      There might be a perception of some hidden inference that such a discernment would always result in giving people simply what they want rather than what accords with God’s will. – that is not my understanding.

      Also thank you for your caveat about “rubbing people up the wrong way”, I take no offense from anything you say in the course of your argument.

      I hope you don’t mind me saying insisting on factual accuracy and logical inference is a very exhausting process and a serious burden you place on yourself- if someone really has to do it let someone else do it for you and give yourself a break now and again. Even if you do it better!

  22. Brendan says:

    St. Joseph – A blessed Advent to you and everyone on the blog.
    ” If you love me , keep my commandments “…….” love God and love your neighbour ”
    In practical terms we live with this existential tension and what it implies , throughout life… only to be reconciled at the Second Coming. The one perfect law of God; the other , states ( laws ) of imperfect man.
    Our informed conscience within Christs’ Church , our guiding star.
    Regarding my nieces marital arrangements – sadly it pains me to say , that she carried the illness of alcoholism and died under distressing circumstances about five years ago….requiescat in pace.
    I feel I should explain as this is a ‘ Catholic ‘ forum why I could not in conscience attend her second ‘ marriage. ‘ It was simply that I did not want to cause scandal to myself and the Church Community to which we belonged by denying that God had permanently sealed the first her first bond of Holy Matrimony with her and her spouse. In a way I, along with the other Catholics assembled were ‘ witnesses ‘ a well a those officially called to do so.
    ‘ Marriage ‘ is being assaulted and devalued on all sides ; and being from a very large family ( although my wife and I have no children of our own ) I have lots of cousins, nephews and nieces . What sort of message I thought , would I be sending out to them ? In the end my conscience told me it would pain God , and would be a sin against conscience if I accepted the situation my niece had presented to me. I’m pleased to say this did not cause a rift between ourselves or our family.
    It was after consulting my parish priest on the matter – who mostly listened patiently to me – who was well aware what marriage meant in Church Teaching – that my mind was set , in the confidence that it was fully informed on my my decision.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Brendan. I am sorry to hear the sad news , with regards to your neice may she rest in Peace.
      Did you understand the truth with regards to your nieces Matrimony-whether it was a Sacramental marriage or not.
      This is an important issue where by proper instruction were given by the Catholic priest before the wedding vows had taken place.
      I believe that the Church has not yet understood the necessity of being in the state of Grace if a couple are using contraception or abortafacients at the time . The marriage is legal, however not sacramental.
      One does not need to be a theologian to understand that. That is why the Sacrament of Confession is very important when a couple make their vows.
      Especially with a Nuptial Mass and the reception of The Blessed Sacrament.
      It also applies to anyone using contraception which include abortafacients.
      As I commented above, what is the difference in that and a civil wedding if a couple is living in grave sin.
      That is my conscience perhaps not everyone’s, However I respect your decision as people respect mine. Hopefully.
      I would give the person the benefit of the doubt and attend a second wedding whereby I knew was free from serious sin. None of us will be free from venial sin,
      This I believe is what the 5 Cardinals ought to be concentrating on.Or should have done years ago’
      The message of Our Lady of Fatima -regarding marriage!!

  23. Horace says:

    I totally agree with Quentin about “The doctrines we learnt . . .” but I become very worried when I read “even the whole Church . . could not slip itself in between the conscience of the individual and God. – – – (so that the prohibition of) artificial contraception. . . could nevertheless not bind the consciences of Catholics.”

    The trouble about conscience is that it is subjective rather than objective. If my conscience tells me that contraception is allowable then who can argue with me!? In the same way however, if my conscience tells me that adultery ( perhaps even murder?) is allowable then who can argue with me?

    But now we come to the “properly formed conscience”. This is commonly used to mean that a person’s conscience agrees with Catholic doctrine, but it also necessarily means that the conclusions of a person’s conscience can (and perhaps should) be determined by upbringing and instruction. So conscience is not simply an intrinsically pure internal assessment and its conclusions are open to argument.

  24. Brendan says:

    Certainly , In Amoris Laetitia , whom I imagine all interested Catholics have read ; they will have noticed contradictions , either by bad phrasing of sentences in apparent contradiction or just plain confused theology. There the ‘ confusion ‘ does arise with the ordinary ‘ Catholic ‘ reader. I agree with John Nolan that ( 304 ) does look like ( to me the untutored mind ) lazy casuistry with a puzzling ambiguity. i.e. the phrasing …” general rules ….which can never be disregarded or neglected …” …set against ( followed by )…” in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations ” the true meaning of which seems obscure and contradictory.
    There is a meaning in this passage that says ” formulation ” of rules ( Church Teaching ) is more a question of discerning through human circumstances than through moral reasoning. This cannot be right.
    If my interpretation is sound ; now whether this is deliberate a ‘ mechanism ‘ by The Holy Father to encourage ‘ change ‘ of direction ( not to include change in Church Teaching ) in the mind of The Church on the debate or just bad theology….I can’t say . We know Amoris Laetita has departed from the usual style of papal documents.

    • G.D. says:

      Is moral reasoning not through human circumstances? One in the same?
      Are we (as individuals and collectively) not called to transcend that circumstance?
      Is that all we are capable of, moral reasoning, which is indubitably bound by those situations & circumstances?
      Always remembering that God is the creator of those circumstances, of course?
      As Jesus did, and transcended them

  25. ignatius says:

    I wonder if I might ask whether any of you would baptise the child of an unmarried couple when one is not a catholic?

  26. G.D. says:

    ‘John Nolan says:
    November 27, 2016 at 10:36 am
    The simple answer to your questions’ …. [1. In giving guidance towards perfection to people (if that is possible) as church via dogma theology etc, is it a criteria that people must obey that guidance perfectly before they are acceptable to God?
    2. And are they allowed to accept God before they can accept the (so called) ‘perfection’ offered?] ….. ‘is 1. No, 2. Yes.’

    If the answer to 1. is ‘No’, and 2. is ‘Yes’ ……. Does that mean
    1. God finding people acceptable (suitable, able to be tolerated or allowed) before they are perfectly in line with church teaching , is disobeying the criteria laid down by the church?

    And 2. does it posit a further question .. … If God accepts them, how can they not be allowed (by the criteria of the church) to accept God?

    My third paragraph suggests that people make of truth a relative concept because of their own bias. Not that truth itself is conditional.

    My fifth paragraph is an ontologically (study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality) sound statement. And the Pope is attempting to mediate the truth between peoples opinionated views (including acknowledging his own i would assume) of what is actualy truth/reality.

    I always ask (as a catholic) ‘what is truth’. Which is what i believe Pilot asking ‘truth what is that?’ (saving face/without demeaning his ‘authority’) was asking out of a sense of realising ‘this man is different’.

    It’s that question that brings … clarity.
    Faith & hope can then be governed by, and given over to charity.

    The trumpet (if well made) never gives an uncertain sound ….. it’s the players that do that. All of us!

  27. John Nolan says:


    Where did you get the idea that God finds people ‘acceptable’ or otherwise? God loves us all unconditionally. How can the Church he founded be an obstacle to accepting God? That is heresy. In what way does the truth, divinely revealed and taught by the Church with divine mandate, require ‘mediation’ by the pope or anyone else?

    Pilate, face-to-face with the incarnate Truth, took refuge in relativism. His ‘Quid est veritas?’ is a rhetorical question.

  28. G.D. says:

    So, loving all unconditionally, God accepts all. Which is my point.
    God accepts all.

    The church, founded by God, and God’s truth in it, isn’t an obstacle at all.
    The biased mediation (‘peoples self opinionated views’) man has (does) often placed between that truth and other men is the obstacle.

    As you said ‘If the trumpet give an uncertain sound … ‘

    That’s one way of interpreting Pilot’s response.
    There are others, as i indicated.
    But i don’t know for sure; i wasn’t there.

  29. G.D. says:

    What I’m trying to get at is what i see as a contradiction; ‘paradox’ even.
    Some church people say that others are ‘outside’ of God’s church, but God, accepting all unconditionally, includes them.
    Some say ‘Others are damned because they do not accept my dogma rites & religion, ‘my institution’; but God accepts them as they are. And gives all to them.

    I don’t believe God wants coverts to any particular institutional truths, only to embrace that unconditional love, and imitate it as much as they are able.
    Did not Jesus witness to such in the gospels more than once? Aginst And Paul?

    Granted they might not be members of my physical institutional church; but God’s church, or truth is not limited to any institution, religion or faith. No matter how divinely inspired.

    Who knows, maybe all ‘seriously loving institutions’ were divinely inspired? They all certainly contain people that are truly loving and seeking truth.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I wonder sometimes if we as Catholics who are given the Truth are offending God more than those whose beliefs of other Christian Churches or none, is it our duty to teach them. ? Are we missing the point. Will we be judged for the neglect.
      How much more will the hierarchy be judged. We are all in The Lords hands.
      Perhaps that is why Our Blessed Mother appears to innocent young children.
      Out of the mouth of Babes!

      • G.D. says:

        St J. I’m not saying we shouldn’t tell others of our way of Faith and the teachings of the Jesus and church. Yes we have a duty to witness to it all, live it in love the best way we can.
        It’s just the elements of ‘exclusiveness’ that seem to be rampant in the messages of some
        God just doesn’t ‘treat’ me that way.
        I can’t reconcile that attitude with freedom and love.

  30. St.Joseph says:

    You are right in what you say.
    I would say that ‘sympathy ‘ is often confused with ‘freedom and love’
    We may believe that woman’s Ordination is freedom and love. People become confused with what is Truth and what our Catholic Church teaches.
    We have found this liberalisation since the ‘freedom of will’ since Vatican 2. and the feminist movement. according to our conscience-if our conscience says it is alright, it must be with God.
    This is one of the causes of the accepting of contraception- then furthering on to abortfacients, then on to the legalisation of abortion from 28 weeks down now to 24 or full term. Assisted suicide
    what next! It is not surprising that marriages have failed.
    An ex Nun said at a meeting years ago that Jesus gave His Body and Blood to the women in the kitchen at the Last Supper first ,to prove a point. Ok however they were not sitting at His table being Ordained. If He wanted that they would have been, Jesus, was not afraid of Truth.
    The Holy Mass is a Sacrifice first, lest we forget and not a ‘party’ a jolly one at times!
    I sometime feel that the Holy Mass is undermined when the Holy Father visits countries and Holy Mass is offered up, do those millions of people worship God or the Pope . Do some of them really
    understand the significant of Calvary.
    I stand to be corrected!

  31. John Nolan says:


    Beware of skirting too close to relativism, indifferentism or syncretism. Catholicism is not one denomination among many. If it were, why did you bother to convert?

    Newman possessed a very subtle intellect, but it led him to embrace the one true Church. His theology of conscience is a powerful antidote to those who would confuse it with private judgement.

  32. Brendan says:

    G.D. – I echo John Nolan’s note of caution . Try this as a break from what you see as Catholic exclusivity… from one Cathholic to another.
    A reflection ( part of ) on the Advent Season by Pastor Iuventus from this week Catholic Herald.
    ” Faith tell us that the progress of history is that Christ will be all in all. Optimism says that things will turn out all right even though I can’t quite see how. Christian hope teaches that when I hope for fulfillment , this hope is not deceptive , it is directed towards Christ’s saving action. Itsays that Christ is in the midst of my history , and that when I seek him and enthrone him , there I am welcoming the very fullness of who and what I can be, the fullness of what existence has to offer .”

  33. G.D. says:

    St J. Your post has no corrections from me. Abortion is murder at any stage; women priests just don’t sit right with me either.
    That’s my (our) belief. And i will (do!) say so to others. But if others don’t believe it, i still can’t consider them ‘condemned’. Or try to force it upon them.

    John, i have no problem with being Catholic – i didn’t convert from anything i was an unbaptised ‘pagan’ with no belief. A series of ‘events’ that happened to me (beyond my ken still) and has kept me. Won’t let me go!

    syncretism – much too opinionated to be so inclined.
    indifferentism – much too clear about what i believe to be so; all of which i have learned, studied and prayed over, living the catholic sacraments through the church.
    relativism – um .. will need to think on that one; more to it than the obvious, i feel.
    Although i do KNOW there is an ‘absolute truth’ that is unaffected by little me. & a God that embodies it.

    My personal belief is sure; but am aware others outside the church are just as (if i may use the term in a relative way!) ‘godly’ as myself, many a lot more so!
    relativism … um ….. ?

    • John Nolan says:


      That’s a good answer which I cannot quarrel with. On a legal note, abortion is abortion and can be legal or illegal. Murder is a common law offence and is understood as the unlawful killing of a person who is in being and under the Queen’s peace, with malice aforethought. ‘In being’ is held to mean completely extruded from the mother.

      So abortion cannot be murder.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John is murder not is the taking of ones life, as we believe as Christians the unborn child who has a soul from conception.
        It may not be under the Queen’s peace, but it is under the King’s, our King Who is greater than the Queen.
        Just in case anyone might get the wrong idea!

      • G.D. says:

        Legal – applied to man’s law is relative to man. Legal applied to God is absolute.
        Any unlawful act is illegal according to both.
        Murder is the taking of one life by another. If a human life is from conception (debatable, but i know it is) then abortion is murder. No matter what man’s law says.
        In extreme cases justifiable maybe, but still by definition murder.
        A relative term?

        Just goes to show how man’s (relative?) rational logic or definitive meanings are often of no use when applied to absolute metaphysical truths such as ‘in being’.

        That line in the psalm about God knowing the person before in the womb springs to mind; gives me an heretical idea the life is possibly prior to conception even, in some ‘metaphysical’ form relative to God.

        Um .. i do like this ‘relativism’ puzzle! Thank you.

  34. John Nolan says:

    ‘Murder is the taking of one life by another’. That is too wide a definition. What about killing in self-defence, in war, or capital punishment? There is also the lesser offence of manslaughter. The unborn child has a legal entity and so child destruction and abortion are illegal unless abortion is carried out in accordance with the 1967 Act (as amended).

    Recently a mother was jailed for aborting her own child. I know that the 1967 Act is abused (with the connivance of the authorities, both legal and medical) but that’s a different matter.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John I agree with what you say, only it may be the Law of the Land, but it is not Gods Law only when there are certain circumstances when the baby will die anyway etc.
      That is what I mean. God over rules mans law .
      A baby is an individual with an individual soul to its mother , not an arm or a leg etc.

      • G.D. says:

        Taking St. J’s point into consideration … Does not God’s command ‘Thou shalt not kill’ need some consideration?
        And linking it to my premise ‘Legal – applied to man’s law is relative to man. Legal applied to God is absolute.’ override man’s definition of lawful killing.

        John, i did qualify my ‘definition’ by saying … ‘In extreme cases justifiable maybe, (i.e no foul no blame) but still by definition, according to the commandment of God, killing is unlawful, therefore is murder.

        The dictionary includes ‘unlawful’ to ‘taking of life’. So man understands, in good conscience, some killing is lawful, then, in good conscience there is no blame to be had.
        Relative to mans understanding.
        No blame from man. Nor, as far as my shortsightedness allows me to see, from God.
        But that doesn’t change the absolute truth of a commandment of God.

        Capital punishment – is ‘state murder’. Cold bloodied.
        Manslaughter – no intent no blame for the killing.
        War & Self defence – in good conscience, and humane, no blame.

        Because of the way i see the above i couldn’t kill in any circumstance (i hope). But!! have never been put to that test – thanks be to God!
        I would, i hope, willingly wear the biggest ‘red cross’ i could find, and do whatever bit ‘at the front line’. Probably be one of the first to die. The bigger the cross the better the target!

        Just wish & pray no one else did kill.

        And … contrary confused person i am … i can honestly say i am truly grateful there are some who can, in good conscience, kill! If it wasn’t for them i’d have been decapitated by an ISIS controlled England by now. Or, more likely having been born after WWII, would have been indoctrinated by a post war Third Reich world. …. Horrible thought!

        Abortion …..
        If we hold that from conception life is, then abortion is killing at whatever stage. According to God’s commandment – unlawful. Therefore murder.
        Again in some extreme cases ‘no blame’ could be justified (i guess?).

  35. John Nolan says:

    Abortion is evil, whatever the law allows. However, to call it murder is terminologically inexact and unnecessarily emotive. Nor can it be seriously maintained that John Reginald Halliday Christie (whose story airs this week on television) was ‘murdered by the State’, whatever one’s views on capital punishment.

    Animal rights extremists claim that ‘meat is murder’. Let’s not go down that path.

    • Vincent says:

      Worth noting here that the word used in the Commandments can mean killing as in war, or killing as in murder. It’s a question of context. Exegetes claim that it’s murder which is intended here. And murder is used in many translations.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Does it really matter what killing a defenceless baby is called, when we all know that it is a very grave mortal sin.
      It is just splitting hairs over a name .

      • John Nolan says:

        St Joseph

        A woman procures a (legal) abortion. She later repents and confesses it, and is granted absolution. Contrary to what Pope Francis seems to think, (see ‘Misericordia et Misera’)any priest with faculties to hear confessions can absolve someone guilty of abortion.

        There remains the censure (excommunication latae sententiae) which is usually reserved to the bishop, although he may delegate it to his clergy. A source close to Pope Francis has hinted that the 1983 CIC might be amended to remove the automatic excommunication at present incurred by anyone who procures an abortion.

        Since you would consider her a murderess, it would appear she gets off lightly, don’t you think?

  36. St.Joseph says:

    John I am not here to judge anyone ‘I am are here to pray for sinners including my own soul. I am also here to uphold the Truths of what Holy Mother Church teaches, and to teach that which my calling is in this life even if it hurts. First of all to my own children,
    We will all be judged when we meet our Maker to each our own conduct in life.
    I don’t know anything about excommunication , that is not my calling in life That is the clergies duties.
    I know what a unborn baby looks like, I have seen my own, having so many miscarriages, and to think that a mother would allow someone to take their babies life so easily, must be one of the greatest sadness to Our Blessed Mother.
    So if I am able help the pro-life cause for the least of these little ones I do it for Her and for The Lord.

  37. G.D. says:

    Bottom line for me is …. If any one upholds laws that kill another ….. they support the intention, of the killer to kill another. Call it whatever …. legal in mans judgement or not.
    That intention to kill breaks God’s command not to.
    Am sure, God doesn’t punish it and forgives unconditionally all who do so.
    As i try to myself.
    The act itself is the punishment & punisher.
    Lets pray people will forgive themselves unconditionally too.
    And be free from the burden of it.

  38. Hock says:

    Within the teaching of the Catholic Church there can be no such thing as a legal abortion except in extreme cases of medical necessity but this blog subject seems to have digressed considerably from its origins.
    Coming in at this late stage I have doubts about Quentin’s assertions of what he seems to argue as the primacy of conscience. This too is something that has been argued about at length at other times on this blog.
    What can be attractive to people who are not Catholics but subsequently come into full communion with the Church is its certainty, (I accept this can conversely be a put-off for those already in the Church!)
    Once though we begin to eat away at the certainties we are in danger of kicking all the props away that uphold the Church.
    Personally when I see parishioners queuing up for a Blessing at communion time I am humbled by their obedience to Church teaching as I suspect they do so, in most cases, because of irregular unions of some description. Besides being humbled it is also a time of sadness but I wonder how they feel when holding onto the faith in adversity they see that all they had to do was in fact take communion and wait for the rules to be relaxed.
    I am reminded of a former Prime Minister, who was not a Catholic but attended a Catholic Church and took communion.
    If my memory of this is correct it was not the clergy that put a stop to it but scandalized parishioners, and eventually the recipient himself.
    How did the Catholics in the congregation who came for a Blessing feel about it I wonder.

    • John Nolan says:

      Actually, Hock, I believe it was Cardinal Hume who wrote to Tony Blair asking him to stop presenting himself for Communion. Blair’s peevish reaction was characteristic – he said he wondered what Jesus would have made of it.

      This ‘going up for a blessing’ in the Novus Ordo is a nonsense, particularly so as the person distributing Communion is quite likely not a priest. We are all given a blessing at the end of Mass. It is silliness like this (and there are other examples) which make one grateful to be able to attend Mass in the classic Roman Rite.

  39. G.D. says:

    John, it might be ‘silliness’ to you, not being accurate or logical to your intellect as it is. Which may be ‘strictly correct intellectually’ to your way of seeing things. Which is fine.
    But is it of some benefit to the person(s) making the prayer, in a physical (to them) sacramental (not Sacrament) action, and asking for a blessing? From God! Would that not please God?
    The action In itself, if done reverently, causes no offence.

    Ministers of communion can give a blessing. It’s part of the ministry of the priest, who sanctions the minister to do so. Just as the priest is sanctioned by the Bishops ministry to allow it to happen.

    Besides, we can all give a blessing to each other at all times. A verbal prayer wishing someone God’s grace. And where better to pray that than the Mass?

    Not an holy hierarchical ordained priest’s blessing, but does that make it invalid or silly?
    Now walking about patting each other on the back at the ‘sign of peace’, now that’s silly!!

    May God bless & keep you.

  40. John Nolan says:

    We can and should bless each other, but, in the context of the Mass and the Ritual, blessings are reserved to the priest, who cannot delegate this function to a lay person. Thanks for highlighting other sillinesses in the Novus Ordo, such as the ‘holy handshake’ which is liturgically anomalous even when it isn’t carried to absurd extremes. God bless!

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