Saturday, October 18, 2014

Synodal Document Released

Brethren, Peace be with you.

The relatio synodi or synodal document of the XIV Extraordinary Synod of Bishops was released today, as this first phase of the Synod on the Family came to an end today.

The Holy See has not released an official English version yet, but you may read a Google-translated version here.

Like I said before: the Holy Spirit is in the details. He always was, and always will be.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Don't criticize or judge other people..."

Brethren, Peace be with you.

Today, I will will share with you a thought by the late Russian Orthodox hieromonk Seraphim Rose (1934-1982). His advice is good and plenty compatible with Catholic practice, but hard to practice. With God's grace we'll be able to accomplish it. Please, treasure this meme.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

If the Council of Jerusalem had been covered by our Mainstream Media (#MSM)...

Brethren, Peace be with you. Observing the media coverage of the ongoing Synod of Bishops in Rome, I wondered how the media would have covered that first "synod" or gathering of Christians in Jerusalem in 50 A.D. Please join me in this imaginative tour as we accompany a Roman journalist in his investigation and reporting.

Conflict in Jerusalem: Conservative Palestinian Jews and Liberal Jews from the Diaspora Battle for the Soul of the Christos' Way.

Jerusalem, Saturday, eve before the XVI kalends of November, DCCCIII a. U. C. 

Representatives of the Christos' movement from Judea, Syria, and elsewhere in the empire are meeting today at their gathering place in Jerusalem's City of David, to discuss several issues affecting the very identity of their movement. I, Sergius Catullus Agrippa, make this report for the Imperial Clarion.

The Christos Movement, referred to as "Christian" by the people of Antioch in Syria and as "The Way" locally, originated in Galilee during the governorship of Pontius Pilate. It draws many of its strange doctrines from the teachings of one Yeshua bar Joseph, a man from the inconsequential hamlet of Nazareth, who became an itinerant rabbi and reputed miracle worker. Condemned by his own religious leaders as a blasphemer and executed for sedition by Pilate, his core disciples announced that their rabbi had risen from the dead and that his presence was still felt amongst them. Acclaimed as "Mashiach" which means "christos" ("anointed one") in the common tongue, his cult has persisted for 17 years until the present day.

Yet today, the Christos Movement is at a crossroads.

"We can no longer afford being a Jewish sect", affirmed Sha'ul of Tarsus, an influential leader of the Christo's movement abroad. "The Christos hinted many times at welcoming the Goyim into the assembly he gathered about himself. The Goyim will find traditional Jewish requirements such as circumcision and kosher eating as unbearable and repugnant. I believe the Christos himself would have excused the Goyim from the external requirements of our Torah", he emphasized.

"Goyim", he explained, are the rest of us, the hoi polloi, the non-Jews. It's not always a term of endearment but not for Sha'ul, who is also known as Paulos. He says even the Goyim  have a share in the "inheritance" obtained by the Christos "through his death and resurrection."

"The people gathered around Mashiach Yeshua must remember who we are", sentenced Ya'kov ha'Tzadik, whom many consider the local leader of the Christos' movement here in Jerusalem. Speaking in heavily accented Greek, ha'Tzadik (translated "the Just" in the common tongue) explained "that Mashiach Yeshua came first and foremost to rescue what he called 'the lost sheep of Yis'rael'. I know he said that because I was there. I heard him say it. Whatever we decide in this meeting will have profound consequences not only in the assembly called by Yeshua, but also for the people of the Eretz Israel now and in the future."

"Get real!" a man identifying himself as Joseph Barnabas interjected. "I used to be the mohel at the synagogue in Damascus before I became a follower of the Christos. Circumcising a baby may be cute, but not so much when you do it to a grown man. The Way of the Christos makes circumcision superfluous for Gentile believers."  They walked away arguing between themselves.

Shimon Bar Jonah's Leadership Criticized

"The reason we find ourselves in crisis mode is due to weak leadership at the top," confessed a "diákonos" or "servant" of the The Way who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He continued on: "Shimon Bar Jonah was supposed to be the foundation rock upon which Mashiach Yeshua was to build us. Would such 'foundation rock' call a meeting of heads to discuss the issue instead of deciding the matter by himself, as befits his rank? Instead, he has called this, this knesset of lunatics which surely will end in disorder and chaos. He is no rock, he is a straw, blown by the wind. He's always been that way." he muttered, as he walked away shaking his head.

My source may be on to something. My investigation reveals that this Shimon Bar Jonah, who is also known as "The Rock" - "Petros" in the common tongue - is the head of the Christos movement across the oikumené. Sources speaking on background describe him as a rude fisherman from Galilee, impetuous, speaking the first thing that comes into his head, always wearing his emotions on his sleeves. Most astonishingly, he denied and cursed away any knowledge of the Christos after his arrest by Jewish authorities when confronted by a simple maid. Ever since the Christos alleged "resurrection from the dead" and the Pentecost feast that followed it - a Jewish holiday taking place 50 days after their Passover - and after the Christos supposed "ascension to heaven", this "Petros" became the acknowledged leader of The Way. Since then, the sources whisper he has become a quieter,  more retiring person, preferring to shepherd his fledgeling flock by consensus, not by dictatorial commands. He is humored also to be a world traveler, at times rumored to have been in Antioch, Babylon, even Rome itself. An "encyclical" or "circular" letter addressed to followers of the Christos is attributed to him, but its grammar and style points to someone else as the author, and not to an ignorant, illiterate Galilean fisherman. He is here too, but he may not make any difference at a moment in time when the Christos' followers may need a firmer, authoritarian guiding hand.

An uncertain future for the Christos Movement

The self-described "Way" faces now a fork on the road. Deep divisions regarding how Jewish a Jewish sect ought to be; different interpretations of Jewish Torah-Law suffused with thick Hebrew jargon; and a weak, ambivalent top leader lacking basic religion education, bodes ill for the Christos Movement. Separation from its Jewish trunk will make this "Way" but another mystery sect of the kind that proliferate throughout the eastern Mediterranean, with its own guiding myths and secret rituals. The branch will wither for lack of attention. It would become but another straw in the hay stack of religions. However, a conservative solution to their identity problem will make the followers of the Christos Jews in everything but with the added, peculiar belief that their Mashiach has come, was rejected by his very people, and put to death for blasphemy and sedition on a Roman cross. That has got to be hard to explain to the mass of Jewish believers without recurring to their founding myths.

Given the choices they face, whatever this council of elders leading the followers of "The Way" of the Christos will result in the slow, inexorable extinction of their movement. Whether local conservatives or liberals from the Diaspora prevail, will be inconsequencial. In another 20 years the Christos' Movement will be but a memory.

I, Sergius Catullus Agrippa, make this report for the Imperial Clarion.
- Go here and read what happened at the Council of Jerusalem.

- Go here and read the first encyclical or "circular" letter attributed to Simon Bar Jonah, a.k.a. "Petros". 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Six things you need to know about the Synod of Bishops' interim report

Brethren, Peace be with you in Jesus Christ our Lord.

View of the Synod of Bishops in Rome
There's been a lot of misunderstanding regarding the interim report issued by the Synod of Bishops this last weekend. Much of the misunderstanding is due to a New York Times (NYT) article formerly titled Vatican Signals More Tolerance Toward Gays and Remarriage since renamed At the Vatican, a Shift in Tone Toward Gays and Divorce - probably because they were so far off the mark in the first place. (George Weigel's take on the NYT article dispatches the MSM approach clearly and efficiently).

Brethren, these are things you need to know about the Synod's stance regarding same-sex activity and people suffering from same-sex attractions, over and against the views reported in the MSM:
1. The Bishops have not changed Catholic doctrine regarding the moral admissibility of same-sex activity, nor will they change it, nor can they change it. Any expectations formulated and fostered by the MSM that such a change is possible or forthcoming or even desirable are false. (If you want to know or want to remember the Church's unchangeable stance, read it here).

2. The issue is one of pastoral approach to people suffering  from same-sex attractions. You can call this a "change in tone" if you like, but I've said the same thing in writing 9 years ago and then again 5 years ago (here and here). I didn't invent my own conclusions from thin air, but from reading the official Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality and chastity. If I did so, any person of good will can and must understand that all persons suffering from same-sex attractions must be treated with love and respect, and that avoiding all signs of unjust discrimination against them is our duty as faithful Catholics. The doctrine says what it means and means what it says.
3. There was no "Vatican backtracking" in the face of "conservative bishops" regarding this issue, as CNN reports. Check the Synod's working document against the official Catholic doctrine and you'll see they don't contradict each other. CNN, NYT, and other media simply failed to understand both Catholic doctrine and the Synod's working process with their reporting or worse, willfully distorted their reporting to support another agenda.

4. I'm all for "gradualism" - the Synod's "byword" - if by it we mean to say that discipleship and growth are a process, and that sinful patterns of life acquired by repeated action - we call those "bad habits" or "vices"- be they cohabitation, divorce, or same-sex activity, are not broken overnight barring a luminous miracle; and that prayer and sacramental help, as well as true friendship, mentoring, and companionship, are needed to guide others to the fullness of life in Jesus Christ our Lord. But with "gradualism" there's the temptation to compromise with mediocrity, to say "I've progressed enough, I'll stay here, I can't do no more" while the mentor, already identifying with the pilgrim, will tend to acquiesce. Many are those who hope to catch such a "break", the moral demands of the Gospel notwithstanding. If that's what "gradualism" means, we have the obligation as Catholics to reject it.

5. Righteous gradualism works. Just ask the people who work in the Courage Apostolate. Non-sexual friendship and long-term mutual companionship and support between people suffering from same-sex attraction is possible with God's grace. These men and women who have chosen to live according to the Gospel in the context of their same-sex attraction need our special support, love, and respect. All this is implicit in the official Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality and chastity.

6. The interim report issued by the Synod of Bishops is just that, interim and therefore, temporary, malleable, and unfinished. It is more a summary of the bishops' views expressed the prior week - if it is even that, which I doubt. The document is just a milestone and reference point in a larger process.
Don't lose your peace before the distortions and misinformation pervading the MSM about the Synod. All is going the way it is supposed to go. The Holy Spirit is in the details. Let us continue to pray for the success of this first phase of the Synod of Bishops.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Today's Columbus Day - And I Observe and Celebrate It

Peace be with you in Jesus Christ, the Captain of our Lives.

Today we celebrate Columbus Day in the USA - October 12 in my native Puerto Rico. I observe and celebrate it with pride.

Columbus is the man the PC crowd loves to hate. In my view, he did very well for a man in his milieu. He was devout, but not a "canonizable" saint, if you get my meaning. He did much better in his vital surroundings than Thomas Jefferson did in his. Yet, we tend to celebrate the latter as a paragon of liberty which he wasn't in whole, not quite. 

I lift my glass up to Christopher Columbus and to his valiant crew: may we always have among us daring explorers, discoverers, and missionaries in a single packet.

Read also from the Fr. Hardon Archives:

Our purpose in these lectures is to develop our basic theme, which I call "The Catholic Discovery of America." Our focus will not be on the discovery of America, which is obvious. It will be on the Catholic discovery of America which, I assure you, is not obvious.

This, then, is our focus in this chapter. It is to see how God used a very human, human being, whose faith enabled him to achieve what most writers on Columbus do not recognize. It is one thing to say that Columbus discovered America. It is something else to realize that he opened the door to the most phenomenal spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul.

There are few great men in history who do not have both their ardent admirers and their virulent traducers. Christopher Columbus is no exception. But there is one main difference in the case of Columbus. We can identify his critics by their religious affiliation or ideology.

If there was one thing that stood out in the Catholic Spain of Columbus' day, it was the people's great devotion to the Blessed Virgin. It was a devotion that took almost eight centuries to mature… I wish to speak to you about "The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Catholic Evangelization of America."

This must be the strangest title for a lecture, "The Popes and the Catholic Discovery of America." What makes it strange is that for many people, the last terms they would associate are "Popes" and "America." Not only that, but the last ideas they even want to conceive is the "papacy" having anything to do with "independent" nations like the United States of America. Yet the facts of history show that the Bishops of Rome had far more to do with the New World discovered by Columbus than most people realize.

We hope to see what have been the outstanding features of the Church's history in the New World in the past half millennium. Even more pertinently, we will ask ourselves: What lessons does the Church's experience teach us today, as we begin the next five hundred years of Catholic history in the New World.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Is killing ourselves "with dignity" the answer to extreme suffering? St. John Paul said *NO*

Brethren: Peace be with all of you in Jesus Christ, the Author of Life.

You may be aware of the recent declarations by Ms. Brittany Maynard regarding her desire to end her life in order to avoid a painful death by cancer. If not, you may watch and listen to her yourself:

Beautiful, serious, composed, and still full of life, Ms. Maynard tells us why she will take her own life next month in anticipation of her death by an inoperable brain tumor. Rather than allowing nature to follow its course, she will take her destiny in her own hands in order to "die with dignity." Suddenly, Ms. Maynard has become a hero for those segments of the population wanting to escape suffering through self-imposed death and call it "merciful." Not so.

Pope St. John Paul

St. John Paul, not a stranger to suffering himself, reminded us in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris that:
... The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.
He didn't end it there. In his most important encyclical letter, The Gospel of Life, he addressed the issue of medical suicide and minced no words about it:
64. At the other end of life's spectrum, men and women find themselves facing the mystery of death. Today, as a result of advances in medicine and in a cultural context frequently closed to the transcendent, the experience of dying is marked by new features. When the prevailing tendency is to value life only to the extent that it brings pleasure and well-being, suffering seems like an unbearable setback, something from which one must be freed at all costs. Death is considered "senseless" if it suddenly interrupts a life still open to a future of new and interesting experiences. But it becomes a "rightful liberation" once life is held to be no longer meaningful because it is filled with pain and inexorably doomed to even greater suffering.

Furthermore, when he denies or neglects his fundamental relationship to God, man thinks he is his own rule and measure, with the right to demand that society should guarantee him the ways and means of deciding what to do with his life in full and complete autonomy. It is especially people in the developed countries who act in this way: they feel encouraged to do so also by the constant progress of medicine and its ever more advanced techniques. By using highly sophisticated systems and equipment, science and medical practice today are able not only to attend to cases formerly considered untreatable and to reduce or eliminate pain, but also to sustain and prolong life even in situations of extreme frailty, to resuscitate artificially patients whose basic biological functions have undergone sudden collapse, and to use special procedures to make organs available for transplanting.

In this context the temptation grows to have recourse to euthanasia, that is, to take control of death and bring it about before its time, "gently" ending one's own life or the life of others. In reality, what might seem logical and humane, when looked at more closely is seen to be senseless and inhumane. Here we are faced with one of the more alarming symptoms of the "culture of death", which is advancing above all in prosperous societies, marked by an attitude of excessive preoccupation with efficiency and which sees the growing number of elderly and disabled people as intolerable and too burdensome. These people are very often isolated by their families and by society, which are organized almost exclusively on the basis of criteria of productive efficiency, according to which a hopelessly impaired life no longer has any value. 

65...Taking into account these distinctions, in harmony with the Magisterium of my Predecessors 81 and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. 82

Depending on the circumstances, this practice involves the malice proper to suicide or murder. 

66....To concur with the intention of another person to commit suicide and to help in carrying it out through so-called "assisted suicide" means to cooperate in, and at times to be the actual perpetrator of, an injustice which can never be excused, even if it is requested. In a remarkably relevant passage Saint Augustine writes that "it is never licit to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it because, hanging between life and death, he begs for help in freeing the soul struggling against the bonds of the body and longing to be released; nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live".85 Even when not motivated by a selfish refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false mercy, and indeed a disturbing "perversion" of mercy. True "compassion" leads to sharing another's pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Moreover, the act of euthanasia appears all the more perverse if it is carried out by those, like relatives, who are supposed to treat a family member with patience and love, or by those, such as doctors, who by virtue of their specific profession are supposed to care for the sick person even in the most painful terminal stages.

67. Quite different from this is the way of love and true mercy, which our common humanity calls for, and upon which faith in Christ the Redeemer, who died and rose again, sheds ever new light. The request which arises from the human heart in the supreme confrontation with suffering and death, especially when faced with the temptation to give up in utter desperation, is above all a request for companionship, sympathy and support in the time of trial. It is a plea for help to keep on hoping when all human hopes fail. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us: "It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence becomes most acute" and yet "man rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the absolute ruin and total disappearance of his own person. Man rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to mere matter"...86
Voluntarily  taking one's life in order to avoid suffering, when done with full freedom and awareness, is a grave sin, an offense to God and right reason, as well as a scandal, in that Ms. Maynard's words and actions are an evil in themselves, which will occasion another's spiritual ruin. That many are praising her determination reminds me how many times in the history of our country we have called perverse things "blessings" such as slavery, abortion, same-sex "marriage and now, this.

I call on Ms. Maynard to reflect and reconsider her course of action and invite her to make her suffering truly redemptive for herself and others. Otherwise, many more will fall in her wake and their sins will be upon her own head. Ms. Maynard, you are readying yourself to appear before the Just Judge: please reconsider your declared course of action. You will leave this world richer for it.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Thoughts on the Synod of Bishops

Brethren, Peace be with you.

As the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops focusing on the state of the family continues in Rome, we would do well to remember that the Synod is an exercise of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church and that the Holy Spirit is present guiding this assembly. There's nothing to fear and much to hope for from this assembly. As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught us:
1. Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, came that He might save His people from their sins(1) and that all men might be sanctified. Just as He Himself was sent by the Father, so He also sent His Apostles.(2) Therefore, He sanctified them, conferring on them the Holy Spirit, so that they also might glorify the Father upon earth and save men, "to the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12), which is the Church.
2. In this Church of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority over the care of souls by divine institution. Therefore, as pastor of all the faithful, he is sent to provide for the common good of the universal Church and for the good of the individual churches. Hence, he holds a primacy of ordinary power over all the churches.
The bishops themselves, however, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls.(3) Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor.(4) Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them. Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them.(5)
3. Bishops, sharing in the solicitude for all the churches, exercise this episcopal office of theirs, which they have received through episcopal consecration,(6) in communion with and under the authority of the supreme pontiff. As far as their teaching authority and pastoral government are concerned, all are united in a college or body with respect to the universal Church of God.
They exercise this office individually in reference to the portions of the Lord's flock assigned to them, each one taking care of the particular church committed to him, or sometimes some of them jointly providing for certain common needs of various churches.
Let us then pray for the successful conclusion of this Synod and of its continuation next year. We can rest assured that the Holy Spirit guides this synod as it has guided so many other assemblies throughout the history of our Church.