Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Synod - clearing the cobwebs!

Just a few thoughts.......... 
(This post is reproduced from the Black Biretta blogsite - with acknowledgement and thanks.)

Synod Cynicism not necessary 

The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas often said: Concede parum, nega frequenter, distingue semper (never affirm, seldom deny and always distinguish). This is prudential advice we can and must apply today as we digest what the Synod of Bishops is doing, what is claimed to being done and what will be done afterwards.

First of all, using the via negativa, a Synod is not an Ecumenical Council. Only an Ecumenical Council and/or an ex cathedra papal decree on faith and morals are considered Extraordinary Magisterium.

Synods are considered Ordinary Magisterium just as are papal encyclicals. Their teachings are infallible ONLY when they affirm a teaching on faith and morals that has been consistently and perennially taught by Holy Mother Church over the centuries.  Humanae Vitae and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis are ordinary magisterial documents which contain infallible teachings since they reiterate what the Church has always believed and held quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est (everywhere, always and by all).

That being said, the current Synod of Bishops, being an exercise of the ordinary magisterium, would only issue infallible teachings if those teachings were already what the Catholic Church has always taught. They cannot undo or create doctrines. Non-infallible statements would fall into the category of non-definitive, theological speculations and pastoral prudential judgments.

                                                                        Pope Benedict XVI
When Pope Benedict XVI was still Cardinal Ratzinger and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) he clarified that synods are by their nature (defacto) advisory and consultative. They are not synonymous with Ecumenical Councils presided over by the Bishop of Rome. Synods are not parliaments, either. They are opportunities for open discussions and sharing of opinions but truth is not defined nor determined by majority rules even if it among successors of the apostles.  (Questions about the Structure and Task of the Synod of Bishops’, in Joseph Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics: New Essays in Ecclesiology. New York: Crossroad, 1988)

Hence, Synodal decrees do not possess the same magisterial authority as do statements from an Ecumenical Council or from formal Papal decrees, either. No need to worry that any doctrines or dogmas are in jeopardy no matter what any particular cardinal or bishop says.

                               Resurrection of Christ - Gerard Seghers (1620)
When you read the actual relatio of the Synod as opposed to what the secular press claims the episcopal body said, you see a more than subtle difference. While discussions and dialogues have spanned the gamut of theological opinions (from archconservative traditional to ultra-liberal progressive) most of what has been decided (to be suggested to the Roman Pontiff) has been PASTORAL RESPONSES instead of doctrinal and moral teachings.

The Synod is NOT asking the Holy Father to permit cohabitation, divorce and remarriage without annulment nor for same-sex unions. What it is suggesting is that a pastoral approach be used to encourage people in these relationships to repair their irregular and sinful situations while at the same time providing spiritual encouragement for them to persevere in that journey. In other words, just as we often have divorced and invalidly married couples attend Mass and register in parishes, likewise, we have cohabitating couples do the same. If a homosexual couple were to register and attend a local parish, they would be under the same moral and doctrinal norms as everyone else. 

The sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist and Matrimony are reserved to those who are canonically free to receive them. It is not a denial of Holy Communion, rather a postponement until such time as the individual person and couple are in full communion with all the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings and disciplines. Persons in such circumstances, though, deserve mercy and attention whenever and wherever possible. We should be approachable for counsel and advice without any fear of altering Catholic faith and morals.

Pastoral responses are precisely that. They are not a denial nor dilution of dogma. They are medicinal, remedial and therapeutic ways to assist people who have made imprudent or even immoral judgments have a conversion of heart. Just as Our Divine Lord never condoned sin, He likewise loved the sinner. His love was Divine Mercy. That also entailed a call to conversion: “go and sin no more.”

The Synod statements found online at the Vatican are significantly different from what most of secular press claim has been said and worse yet, what is being officially taught. They are not magisterial decrees per se.  Homosexual marriage and homosexual activity, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, divorce and remarriage without annulment are NOT being tolerated nor approved. The pastoral approach, however, to evangelizing and ministering to these folks, is what is being contemplated. Not carte blanche but something practical and achievable.

                        Image of Jesus, Divine Mercy, with Sister Faustina

Streamlining the annulment process by eliminating or circumventing the automatic appeal to the court of higher instance is a prudential suggestion but one that is not necessarily prudent. No one wants to return to the situation where lower tribunals granted decrees of nullity only to have a higher court overrule them. Instead of emphasizing the end of the process we need to examine the beginning instead.

A better strategy is to BETTER PREPARE couples for Holy Matrimony.  Twelve months Pre-Cana is only a starting point. Mentoring with couples in the parish who have a valid and healthy marital relationship is also beneficial. Emphasizing the marriage above and beyond the ceremony is also needed. Too many weddings are elaborately planned but the lifelong covenant of marriage is placed on the back burner.  Recent studies have shown a phenomenon where most married couples who split up do so before the fourth or fifth year of marriage. Providing accessible, affordable and practical counseling is a goal every diocese should embrace.

There will always be marginalized, lukewarm and part-time Catholics who attend Mass occasionally or infrequently, who may be in an invalid marriage or living together. Persons with same-sex attraction may have succumbed to the invalid civil union and civil marriage recourse. Pastorally seeing and treating all of them as children of God and as brothers and sisters in Christ in need of moral and spiritual guidance is what the Church is about. Not denying or watering down the faith, but with mercy, encouraging them to amend their lives and rectify their relationships.

Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery - Peter Bruguel the Younger c.1600

The Synod is nothing to fear nor is it something to worry about. Suggestions will be made after discussions have ended. Implementation will be at the discretion of the Pope and how he responds is his prerogative. Prudential judgments are not doctrine or morality but the fullness of authority resides with the Bishop of Rome. We Catholics believe the Holy Spirit will prevent any false teaching to ever be imposed upon the faithful. Only Sacred Scripture has the guarantee of divine inspiration. Human beings, even those who shepherd the church, are not perfect and some can even be influenced by politics and other factors. Synods do not demand an assent of faith nor do they require complete obedience. They do deserve respect and consideration, however, and this can only be done when we the faithful read the actual documents and keep them in their proper context alongside all that has already been formally taught and held.

(Tuesday October 14, 2014.  Posted at 12.07p.m. by Rev Dr John Trigilio) - link below

Synod Cynicism not necessary

Monday, 6 October 2014

'Martyrs to the Catholic Faith' by Bishop Challoner

Extract from ‘Martyrs to the Catholic Faith’, Memoirs of Missionary Priests and other Catholics of both Sexes’ by Bishop Challoner V.A.L. (first published in 1741)
                                                             Bishop Richard Challoner
         ‘Our memoirs of the sufferings of our English Catholics begin with the year 1577, the nineteenth of Queen Elizabeth; because from this year  may properly date the beginning of the great persecution, but little blood having been shed by her before, at least for matters purely religious. 
          And it is very remarkable that this same year, a few months before the execution of the proto-martyr of the seminaries, Mr Cuthbert Maine, God Almighty seems to have warned the nation against this spirit of persecution, by a judgment (for I can call it nothing else) which can scarce be paralleled in all history; and as to the substance of the matter of fact, is attested by all kinds of records, and acknowledged by Protestants as well as Catholics.

           This was in the case of the memorable trial of Roland Jenks, a Catholic bookseller in Oxford, who, for speaking some words against the Queen’s religion, was condemned, in the Assizes held at Oxford in July 1577, to have his ears nailed to the pillory, and to deliver himself by cutting them off with his own hands.  Which sentence was no sooner passed, when immediately upon the spot, a strange mortal distemper, the like of which, as to symptoms, has never been heard of before or since, seized upon the judges, justices on the bench, sheriffs, jurymen, and hundreds of others that were present at the trial, and carried them off in a very short time. Let us hear Mr Wood, the Protestant historian of the University of Oxford, in his account of this history, in his ‘Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis'.
His words translated from the Latin, are as follows:-

          ‘It was ordered therefore, in the convocation held on 1st of May 1577, that the criminal Roland Jenks, should immediately be apprehended, and being put into irons, should be sent up in order to be examined before the Chancellor of the University and the Queen’s Council. In the meantime, all his goods are seized, and in his house are found bulls of Popes and libels reflecting upon her Majesty.
          He was examined at London, in presence of the persons aforesaid, and then was sent back to Oxford, there to be kept in prison until the next assizes, which began on the 4th of July, in the Old Hall in the Castle Yard, and lasted for two days.
          ‘He was brought to the bar, and was arraigned for high crimes and misdemeanours; and being found guilty, was condemned by a sentence in some manner
capital; for he was to lose his ears. 
          At which time (though my soul dreads almost to relate it), so sudden a plague invaded the men that were present (the great crowd of people, the violent heat of the summer, and the stench of the prisoners all conspiring together, and perhaps also a poisonous exhalation breaking suddenly at the same time out of the earth), that you might say Death itself sat on the Bench, and, by her definitive sentence, put an end to all the causes. For great numbers immediately died in the spot; others, struck with death, hastened out of the Court as fast as they could, to die within a very few hours. 

          It may not be amiss to set down the names of the persons of greatest note who were seized by that plague, and breathed out their souls. These were Sir Robert Bell, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and Nicholas Barham, sergeant-at-law, both great enemies of the Popish religion; which perhaps the Romanists will lay hold on as an argument for their cause; but I desire them to remember not to search too narrowly into the secret judgments of God, when we are at a loss to account even for those things which the Almighty has revealed in Holy Writ. 
          To the above named must be added Sir Robert Doyley, the High Sheriff of Oxford, Mr Hart his deputy; Sir William Babington; Messieurs Doyley, Wenman, Danvers, Fettyplace, and Harcourt, Justices of the Peace; Kirley, Greenwood, Nash, and Foster, gentlemen: to whom are to be joined, to say nothing of others, almost all the jurymen, who died within two days.’

          He adds out of the register of Merton College, the following account of the symptoms of this strange disease:-

          ‘Some getting out of bed (agitated with I know not what fury from their distemper and pain), beat and drive from them their keepers with sticks; others run about the yards and streets like madmen; others jump head foremost into deep waters.  The sick labour with a most violent pain, both of the head and stomach; they are taken
with a phrenzy; are deprived of their understanding, memory, sight, hearing, and other senses. As the disease increases, they take nothing; they get no sleep; they suffer none to tend or keep them; they are always wonderfully strong and robust, even in death itself. No complexion or constitution is spared, but the choleric are more
particularly attacked by this evil, of which the physicians can neither find the cause nor cure. The stronger the person is, the sooner he dies. Women are not seized by it, nor the poor, neither does any one catch it that takes care of the sick or visits them.  But as this disease was strangely violent, so it was but of a short continuance; for within a month it was over.’

                                       Oxford Castle and Prison in 15th century.

The substance of this history may be found also in Sir Richard Baker’s ‘Chronicle’, and in Fuller’s ‘Church History’, as well as reports by Catholic writers.  Ypez, Bishop of Taracona, in his ‘Spanish History of the Persecution’ relates similar examples of like judgements upon the persecutors.

           Mr Jenks himself survived his punishment many years, for I find by the same diary he was at Rheims in 1587. But neither this remarkable warning, nor any other ensuing judgements, hindered the unhappy politicians of those days from beginning and carrying on the intended tragedy, which afforded the nation so many scenes of blood for the remaining years of that long reign; and all for fear lest ‘the Romans should come and take away their place and nation’.                                                    

                                                           Queen Elizabeth (c.1575)

It seems appropriate to remind ourselves of just a few of those many Catholic martyrs who gave their lives for their faith. These mentioned were all executed in early October, 1588, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, at different locations throughout England.  Although occurring over four hundred and twenty years ago, reading of these events has the curious effect of minimising the time scale to the extent that we could be reading of contemporary events. Human nature does not change, only the scenario.

Further extracts from ‘Martyrs to the Catholic Faith’ by Bishop Challoner  V.A.L.
         ‘Ralph Crokett was born at Barton-upon-the-Hill, in Cheshire, performed his studies at Rheims, and was an aluminus and Priest of the College then residing in that city, from whence he was sent upon the English mission in 1585. The particulars of his missionary labours, or of his apprehension and trial, I have not found, only that he was prosecuted and condemned upon the penal statute of 27th Elizabeth, and had sentence to die as in cases of high treason, barely upon account of his priestly character and functions. He was drawn, hanged, bowelled, and quartered at Chichester, October 1, 1588.'

           'Edward James was born at Braiston, in Derbyshire, and was for some time student in the college of Rheims, from whence he was sent to Rome, 1588.  Here he was made priest, and from hence he was sent upon the English mission. He was apprehended, prosecuted, and condemned, barely upon account of his priestly
character, and was hanged, bowelled, and quartered on the same day and at the same place with Mr Crokett.'
          Their quarters were set upon poles over the gates of the city, through one of which a Catholic man passing early in the morning, found one of these quarters which had fallen down, which, by the size, was judged to be Mr Crockett’s (he having been a tall man, whereas Mr James was of low stature). This quarter was carried off
and sent over to Douay, where I have seen it.’
           Mr Robinson was born at Fernsby, in the North Riding of Yorkshire.  His character in  Dr Champney, is that he was a man of extraordinary Christian simplicity and sincerity; in a word, a true Israelite, in whom there was no guile. After having lived some time in the world in a married state, becoming a widower by the death of his wife, he went over to Rheims, where the College then was; and thereto applying himself to his studies, was at length made priest, and sent upon the mission.
              He no sooner came to England than he was apprehended in the very port, and sent up to London, where, after some months imprisonment, he was brought to the bar, and condemned to die upon account of his priestly character.  Dr Champney relates of him that he was used to say that if he could not dispute for his faith as well as some others, he could die for it as well as the best. 
            He was sent down to suffer at Ipswich in Suffolk, where he was hanged, bowelled, and quartered, October 1, 1588.

           Concerning him thus writes the Rev Mr Haynes:-  ‘Mr John Robinson, a secular priest, being in the year 1588 prisoner in the Clink at London, when the rest that had been there prisoners with him (whom he called his bairns, and they, for his age and sincerity, called him father) were for the Catholic faith sent into divers parts of the kingdom to be executed, the good old man, being left alone, lamented for divers days together exceedingly, until at last a warrant was sent from the Council to execute him also;  the news whereof did much revive him and to him that brought the warrant he gave his purse and all his money, and fell down on his knees and gave God thanks. 
            Being to set forward in his journey, they willed him to put on boots, for it was in winter, and as far as Ipswich in Suffolk where he was to suffer.  ‘Nay’, said the good man, ‘these legs had never boot on yet since they were mine, and now surely they shall perform this journey without boots, for they shall be well paid for their pains.’ 
          He left behind him a son, Francis Robinson, who was also a priest, and a true heir of his father’s virtue.

                               be hanged, bowelled, and quartered

The next that occur in the catalogues of those that suffered this year, 1588, are Mr Hartley and Mr Weldon, of whom Mr Stow in his Chronicle writes thus:- ‘The 5th October, J Weldon and W Hartley, made priests at Paris, and remaining here contrary to the Statute, were hanged, the one at the Mile’s End, the other nigh the theatre; and Robert Sutton, for being reconciled to the See of Rome, was hanged at Clerkenwell.’

          William Hartley was born in the diocese of Lichfield, performed his higher studies in the College of Rheims, from whence he was sent priest upon the English mission, anno 1580.  Mr Stow says he was ordained at Paris, which may very well be, for the superiors at the College had an indult from the Pope to present their alumni for holy-orders to any of the bishops of the province of Rheims or Sens, one of which the Bishop of Paris was at that time.
          Mr Hartley had not laboured above a twelvemonth in the vineyard of his Lord before he was apprehended in the house of the Lady Stonor, and carried prisoner to the Tower, the 13th August 1581, together with Mr John Stonor and Mr Steven Brinkley, lay gentlemen. Here he was confined till September 16, 1582, and then was translated from the Tower to another prison, where he remained till January 1585, when with about twenty other priests, he was shipped off into banishment.
          Upon this occasion he returned to Rheims to the College; but after some short stay there, set out again for England, being more afraid of being wanting to the cause of God and the salvation of souls than of a cruel death, which he was certain to look for if he fell again, as most probably he would, into the hands of the persecutors. In effect, he was again apprehended some time in or before the year 1588, and then brought upon his trial, and condemned to die upon account of his priestly character. 
          He was executed near the theatre, October 5, 1588, his mother looking on, as Raissius relates, and rejoicing exceedingly that she had brought forth a son to glorify God by such a death.

          On the same day John Weldon, priest of the College of Douay, according to Champney and Molanus, condemned for the same cause, was drawn to Mile’s End Green, and there executed.          
          About the same time, some say the same day, Richard Williams, a venerable priest who had been ordained in England before the change of religion, was also for religious matters hanged at Holloway, near London.

          Robert Sutton, layman, suffered on the same day at Clerkenwell. The cause of his death was purely his religion, viz. because he had been reconciled to the Church of Rome. His life was offered him at the gallows if he would acknowledge the Queen’s ecclesiastical supremacy, as I learn from the copy of a letter which I have in my hands, written by Mr William Naylor, who was an eye-witness of his death. ‘I saw’ says he, ‘one Mr Sutton, a layman and a schoolmaster, put to death at Clerkenwell
in London, to whom the Sheriff promised to procure his pardon if he would but pronounce absolutely the word all; for he would that he should acknowledge the Queen to be supreme head in all causes without any restriction; but he, ‘Mr Sutton’ would acknowledge her to be supreme head only in all causes temporal; and for that he would not pronounce the word all without any restriction, he was executed. This I heard and saw.’
Ack. ‘Martyrs to the Catholic Faith’ by Bishop Challoner V.A.L.

               Execution of Fr Garnett S.J.(1606) at St Paul's, London.

‘Holy English Martyrs pray for us, and for the conversion of England’

'Holy Mary, Seat of Wisdom, guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Francis.'